A Study in the Word – Isaiah 48:1-22


Judah is descended from Jacob and included in the name “Israel” that Jacob received (Gen. 32:28). Nevertheless, Judah is Israel in name only (48:1-2). (Her lack of matching character was nothing new to Yahweh, 48:4). He announces events well in advance to help them with their “hearing problem.” Such advance notice was intended to show clearly how He had cared for and protected them, and would do so again (48:3, 5a). He demonstrated that idols could not be responsible for what happened (48:5b). If Judah understood this intention, they kept quiet (48:6a).

God’s patience is not thwarted, however. He continues to teach Israel of His loving care (48:6b-8). He will exercise patience and spare them judgment - for now (48:9). Past efforts at changing the nation have not borne fruit, though His punishment has been severe (48:10). A delay should be a sign to them of His grace, but delay of judgment never means cancellation. God’s holiness cannot be compromised for any reason. He will act in wrath for the sake of His name, and He will not allow the honor due Him to be claimed in the name of a lesser god (48:11).

How the “grace delay” will work out refers to exile in Babylon. God summons Israel to hear His plan (48:12-13). In 48:14 “you” means Judah and “them” means the idols of the nations. “Him” can refer to Cyrus or to the Servant of the Lord. The point is that the Lord will accomplish Babylon’s downfall and Judah’s liberation. The repeated “I” makes this very clear; “I” refers to the Servant of the Lord (48:15-16; 40:9-11; 42:1-4).

These plans and efforts are intended to shake Judah out of her deafness. God desires to lead Israel in profitable ways (48:17). If only they listened as God intended, His blessings of righteousness would be uncountable (48:18-19a) and the coming exile would be completely unnecessary (48:19b).

Though more than a century in the future, release from exile is so certain that it is proclaimed as a present event. Liberation is the work of the Lord entirely. Yahweh is superior to idols and idol makers. These cannot deliver, but Yahweh can (48:20). He will lead them in a new Exodus, supplying their every need along the way (48:21). Nevertheless, sin remains present and will lessen what could have been (48:22). Hence the need for Isaiah’s present generation to listen.

Dr. David Moore is a Baptist preacher in Pampa and an online instructor in Bible and theology for Taylor University and Nations University. Email: dm5867se@outlook.com