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Lowell Brueckner

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Rebels since Conception


44. An expository study of Isaiah, chapter 48

I am more convinced every day that Christians need to come under the influence of expository teaching of the Bible. Once again, I invite anyone, who chances to read this article, to join us in this verse-by-verse study of the book of Isaiah. I am learning and I am sure that you will learn, as well.

Jacob and Israel

One thing that we must do in an expository study is to define the terms that are used. Generally, the people in Bible times understood these terms, but often, we might look in a very different way than that, which was intended by the inspired writers. We dare not interpret them in “our way”! For example, Isaiah in verse 1 addresses the house of Jacob. Early in the book, in chapter seven, we read about the house of David and saw that this phrase referred to the descendants of David. Simply then, the house of Jacob refers, in a natural and general sense, to the descendants of Jacob.

However, when Isaiah writes, “who are called by the name of Israel”, he is being more specific and spiritual. This clause reminds us of a crisis experience in Jacob’s life, when God worked a transformation in him and called him by a new name, which meant prince of God. His name is included in Israel’s. God expects that Jacob’s descendants be a transformed and spiritual people, representing His own nature. There is another term that requires an explanation… who came from the waters of Judah. This is more specific yet and denotes a fountain, as a source from which waters flow.

The southern kingdom took its name from Judah to distinguish itself from the northern tribes. Their people intended to be more loyal and faithful to Jehovah, the ones “who swear by the name of the Lord and confess the God of Israel.” It is the ministry of Isaiah to uncover superficial claims and discover the heart. Their confession, he writes, is “not in truth or right”. These two necessary qualities… truth and righteousness… must be present in order for a claim to be genuine.

The emphasis on truth among the people of God cannot be exaggerated. Over all other attributes, truth must take its place in the heart of God’s people, wherever and whenever we find them. Truth can take second place to nothing! Bring up all the wonderful ingredients that have been worked into Christianity; speak of love, unity, happiness and knowledge… truth is of top priority. Anything else can be falsified and deceive; truth stands alone, as the banner, which best represents Christianity. Paul declares to Timothy that the church is “a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Ti.3:15). Before we can consider calling any group of people a church, we must know their stand for and loyalty to the truth. 

Then, any group or person that represents the Lord on this earth must stand for righteousness: “Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God…” (1 Jn.3:10). “They call themselves after the holy city, and stay themselves on the God of Israel” (v.2) Let them confess whatever they will, call themselves Jacob, Israel, Judah, Christian or evangelical, and claim to rely upon the God of Israel. It means nothing, if they do not walk in truth and righteousness.

Our concept of God

One reason for which God must reveal Himself, is in order that we may know those, who are truly His people. They will represent Him. Another reason is to give to us the potential by which we can live true Christianity. Everything in our life depends upon our concept of God. A. W. Tozer said, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us… A right conception of God is basic… to practical Christian living.” If we have a low concept of Him, our lifestyle will also be unworthy of Him. Tozer also stated, “This is true not only of the individual Christian, but of the company of Christians that composes the Church

Who is God? He is the one, who forms substance, life and history by the power of His word and He speaks of them, before they come to pass: “The former things I declared of old; they went out from my mouth, and I announced them; then suddenly I did them, and they came to pass” (v.3). For this reason, the Bible is called the Word of God; it is a word that promises and then delivers. There is nothing comparable in this world.

We are learning something about prophecy, especially in these last chapters. Here is another characteristic: There may be a long period of waiting on His promise, but when fulfillment comes, it comes suddenly. Many examples can be given, but let me point you to one, classic example: “I am sending the promise of my Father upon you, but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Lk.24:49). They waited in the upper room, and then, Suddenly there came a sound from heaven… and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ac.2:2). The next time that you read through Mark’s Gospel, notice how frequently the word immediately appears.  This is God’s way and His word reveals to us the God of the word.

The pride of wisdom and opinion

In verse 4, we read that God is dealing with a hard-headed and stiff-necked people that have two other characteristics: they are also proud and unbelieving. Unbelief will give credit to anything or anyone else, but the Lord (v.5). It is not so much the product of a scientific or materialistic mind, but it stems from a calloused heart towards God. Atheistic scientists are quite willing to believe that the universe is eternal, but unwilling to believe that there is an eternal God, who created it. I heard the famous unbeliever, Richard Dawkins, give an explanation of life coming to earth possibly through a visitation of aliens. Dawkins has no problem believing in aliens, his entire problem is with God.

Hard-hearted Pharaoh had his magicians standing by to duplicate, if possible, anything that God might do through Moses and Aaron. They gave up on the third or fourth plague. God’s work is so unique that no scientific or psychological explanation can be given to it, and credit cannot be given to the powers of darkness. Dr. Lloyd-Jones said that if there is an explanation for our religious experience, it was not a genuine work of God. It is also true that there is no way to explain prophetic utterances. “From this time forth I announce to you new things, hidden things that you have not known” (v.6).

The pride of man manifests itself in his accumulated knowledge and his opinionated conclusions. God’s creative abilities keep producing things fresh and new, to prevent man claiming that he had already “been there and done it”, as we frequently hear (v.7). When the paralytic was healed, the crowd admitted, “We never saw anything like this!” (Mk.2:12).  

The Scriptures show that God is not passive or tolerant about the wisdom that proud man professes. Let’s look at the Amplified translation of 1 Corinthians 3:19: “This world’s wisdom is foolishness (absurdity and stupidity) with God, for it is written (in Job 5:13), He lays hold of the wise in their (own) craftiness.” In verse 8, God says, “You have never heard, you have never known, from of old your ear has not been opened.” He understands the treachery and rebellion in man’s wisdom.

Rebels from conception

“From before birth you were called a rebel.” This is one of the scriptural proofs of man’s depravity and shows that not only is man born in sin, but he is conceived in sin. Do a little study on this essential doctrine, because unless we accept the biblical diagnosis of man’s sinful condition, we will never take the cure. We will likely develop a humanistic mentality. “In sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps.51:5)… “The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies” (Ps.58:3)… Paul brings together a number of Old Testament verses in making his case concerning innate human wickedness: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Ro.3:10-12, read on to verse 18; see also Dt.9:7-24; Eze.16:3-5).

“For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you”, He begins in verse 9 and continues in verse 11: “For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned?” In no case can God be legitimately defamed. His glory shines brightly and securely, and no enemy can subtract from it. John MacArthur comments: “The nation Israel had no merit to prompt God’s favor toward them. They deserved wrath and death, but His mercy toward them originates in His desire to be glorified and His desire to display the integrity of His own name.” He will not allow foreign gods to receive credit by totally destroying His people. His glory is at stake. This fact of working for His own sake, totally independent of human worthiness, gives weight to the promise of deliverance.

I would only add that this statement not only applies to Israel, but all mankind. “We all… were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph.2:3). The only reason that man still exists and has not been utterly destroyed, has nothing at all to do with his value or worthiness. Having established the depravity of all humankind, we must remember that this prophecy is directed especially towards Israel. All it needs for confirmation is a short study of its history. Begin in the Old Testament, then go on to the Roman invasion in 70 A.D. Follow it through the centuries, where the flame of affliction has burned hot, even literally in the Nazi incinerators during World War II.  

Capability to deliver

Notice the distinction between Jacob and Israel. Go to the beginning of this chapter again to understand why He calls to both. Through Isaiah’s writings, the Lord calls to a people of the future and sometimes His call echoes down through millenniums to the last days, when His people are in the grips of the Great Tribulation. He reminds them again that He is the first and the last, the one who has spoken the universe into existence and who will bring all things to conclusion (v.12). 

“My hand laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand forth together.” (v.13) This is a declaration of His ability to end the period of judgment. Is it anything to be compared with His creative work? Bring the entire company together to listen to His promise. It has occurred to no other in the world to predict the uprising of Cyrus and the fall of Babylon. God focuses His attention on this man and the work that he accomplishes will please Him. This is a biblical definition of love and to ignore means to hate. He loved him in His purpose of defeating Babylon (v.14).

God declares Babylon’s downfall, before it reaches its peak of power. The Maker of heaven and earth determines the course of history. He promises and calls Cyrus and assures his success (v.15). It is no secret what God can do. He makes His predictions in writing and never fails to perform. Get close to Him, in order to hear His word. “And,” Isaiah adds, “now the Lord God has sent me, and his Spirit” on this particular mission but, in a higher and greater mission, he refers to the Word, who was made flesh (v.16). “The Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.” God has combined these same titles in chapter 43… the Sovereign Lord, the One who buys Israel from bondage, and does so to the hallowing of His name. The message that follows the titles is that of profitable guidance in a good and right way (v.17).

“Oh!” A passionate interjection

“Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments!” There is pain and passion in the “oh” expressed, because, in order to receive the good that God intends, Israel must come near and pay attention. They must take His commandments seriously and act, but they did not do them (Please notice, Psalms 81:13-16). The profit, which they failed to obtain, is described as peace like a river and righteousness like waves of the sea. The river brings a full flow of well-being, a friendly relationship with God and an absence of calamity. The waves of the sea bring continuous blessing, one following another, where purity and holiness prevail (v.18). Instead of the decimation brought about by war and captivity, the numerous population would fill the land (v.19), dwelling in the presence of the Lord, who would never have cut them back or brought destruction in such major proportions.

The written word is carried with the captives into Babylon and, at the right time, in the context of what is promised in this chapter and previous ones, “Go out from Babylon, flee…” This is joyful, good news, and it was written in earlier verses that this was unexpected and unpredicted, except by those, who were playing close attention to the word of God. Now it is broadcast and in testimony to the faithfulness of God, declared to the end of the world. It continues to be proclaimed: “The Lord has redeemed his servant Jacob!” (v.20)

It is the continuation of His faithful care from the time that He brought them out of Egypt and gave them water in the wilderness in supernatural ways, which defied the barrenness of the land. Water came from the rock, which, said the apostle, was Christ (1 Co.10:4). Neither this writer nor any other writer, can talk of true deliverance, supernatural supply, and full salvation, without pointing to Christ. All else is temporal and “all other ground is sinking sand”. For the wicked, who have not obtained the favor of the Lord Jesus Christ and have not drunk from His living river, “There is no peace, says the Lord” (v.22). The deliverance from spiritual slavery, the waves of righteousness, and the river of peace, flow from His cross.


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