The reading today begins with “But now…” Remember that yesterday the LORD had reminded Israel of His sovereignty, His selection of them, their rejection of Him, and finally His release of them to be plundered. “But now…” says the LORD, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name, and you are mine.” This is comfort, but there is much more.
For the past few chapters, the LORD has been building His case on two complementary fronts. First, that He, the LORD, is the only God worth paying attention to, and, second, that idols have not proven their effectiveness. This sermon – and a thousand years of religious history – achieves a crescendo where these two points intersect in chapter 44, verse 6: Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of Hosts: “I am the first and the last; beside me there is no god.”
To Abram the LORD said, “Go where I tell you.” In the Sinai covenant He commanded: “Put no other gods before Me.” Now through Isaiah, at least ten centuries after Abram was promised a great nation…at least six centuries after Israel was set aside for the LORD as “… kingdom of priests and a holy nation…” Israel is definitively told: there is no other,“…and you are my witnesses!”
This pronouncement cannot be overstated. The LORD had allowed Israel – and the nations – to witness both His own strength and idols’ impotence. Not only has the prophet delivered a sermon, but history has delivered a sermon. The LORD reminds Israel of their experience: “Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and set it before me, since I appointed an ancient people. Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.” Therefore, He insists that they: “Fear not, nor be afraid…” This is as bold and unequivocal a statement as you’ll find in the Bible. The LORD, calling on anyone to prove Him otherwise: “Is there a God beside me?” He asks. “There is no rock; I know not any.”
Our verse for this week is 1 John 1:9: If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Isaiah 43 and 44. Now let’s read it!
Isaiah 43 - 44
43:1 But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.
Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you.
I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”
Bring out the people who are blind, yet have eyes,
who are deaf, yet have ears!
All the nations gather together,
and the peoples assemble.
Who among them can declare this,
and show us the former things?
Let them bring their witnesses to prove them right,
and let them hear and say, It is true.
“You are my witnesses,” declares the LORD,
“and my servant whom I have chosen,
that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor shall there be any after me.
I, I am the LORD,
and besides me there is no savior.
I declared and saved and proclaimed,
when there was no strange god among you;
and you are my witnesses,” declares the LORD, “and I am God.
Also henceforth I am he;
there is none who can deliver from my hand;
I work, and who can turn it back?”
Thus says the LORD,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel:
“For your sake I send to Babylon
and bring them all down as fugitives,
even the Chaldeans, in the ships in which they rejoice.
I am the LORD, your Holy One,
the Creator of Israel, your King.”
Thus says the LORD,
who makes a way in the sea,
a path in the mighty waters,
who brings forth chariot and horse,
army and warrior;
they lie down, they cannot rise,
they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:
“Remember not the former things,
nor consider the things of old.
Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
The wild beasts will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches,
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people,
the people whom I formed for myself
that they might declare my praise.
“Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob;
but you have been weary of me, O Israel!
You have not brought me your sheep for burnt offerings,
or honored me with your sacrifices.
I have not burdened you with offerings,
or wearied you with frankincense.
You have not bought me sweet cane with money,
or satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices.
But you have burdened me with your sins;
you have wearied me with your iniquities.
“I, I am he
who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,
and I will not remember your sins.
Put me in remembrance; let us argue together;
set forth your case, that you may be proved right.
Your first father sinned,
and your mediators transgressed against me.
Therefore I will profane the princes of the sanctuary,
and deliver Jacob to utter destruction
and Israel to reviling.
44:1 “But now hear, O Jacob my servant,
Israel whom I have chosen!
Thus says the LORD who made you,
who formed you from the womb and will help you:
Fear not, O Jacob my servant,
Jeshurun whom I have chosen.
For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour my Spirit upon your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants.
They shall spring up among the grass
like willows by flowing streams.
This one will say, ‘I am the LORD's,’
another will call on the name of Jacob,
and another will write on his hand, ‘The LORD's,’
and name himself by the name of Israel.”
Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel
and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts:
“I am the first and I am the last;
besides me there is no god.
Who is like me? Let him proclaim it.
Let him declare and set it before me,
since I appointed an ancient people.
Let them declare what is to come, and what will happen.
Fear not, nor be afraid;
have I not told you from of old and declared it?
And you are my witnesses!
Is there a God besides me?
There is no Rock; I know not any.”
All who fashion idols are nothing, and the things they delight in do not profit. Their witnesses neither see nor know, that they may be put to shame. Who fashions a god or casts an idol that is profitable for nothing? Behold, all his companions shall be put to shame, and the craftsmen are only human. Let them all assemble, let them stand forth. They shall be terrified; they shall be put to shame together.
The ironsmith takes a cutting tool and works it over the coals. He fashions it with hammers and works it with his strong arm. He becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!”
They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”
Remember these things, O Jacob,
and Israel, for you are my servant;
I formed you; you are my servant;
O Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.
I have blotted out your transgressions like a cloud
and your sins like mist;
return to me, for I have redeemed you.
Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it;
shout, O depths of the earth;
break forth into singing, O mountains,
O forest, and every tree in it!
For the LORD has redeemed Jacob,
and will be glorified in Israel.
Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer,
who formed you from the womb:
“I am the LORD, who made all things,
who alone stretched out the heavens,
who spread out the earth by myself,
who frustrates the signs of liars
and makes fools of diviners,
who turns wise men back
and makes their knowledge foolish,
who confirms the word of his servant
and fulfills the counsel of his messengers,
who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited,’
and of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built,
and I will raise up their ruins’;
who says to the deep, ‘Be dry;
I will dry up your rivers’;
who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,
and he shall fulfill all my purpose’;
saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’
and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’”