Lord, help me to remain compliant and suppliant in Your sight.
Read ISAIAH 48:1–11
“Listen to this, you descendants of Jacob,
you who are called by the name of Israel
and come from the line of Judah,
you who take oaths in the name of the Lord
and invoke the God of Israel—
but not in truth or righteousness—
2 you who call yourselves citizens of the holy city
and claim to rely on the God of Israel—
the Lord Almighty is his name:
3 I foretold the former things long ago,
my mouth announced them and I made them known;
then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass.
4 For I knew how stubborn you were;
your neck muscles were iron,
your forehead was bronze.
5 Therefore I told you these things long ago;
before they happened I announced them to you
so that you could not say,
‘My images brought them about;
my wooden image and metal god ordained them.’
6 You have heard these things; look at them all.
Will you not admit them?
“From now on I will tell you of new things,
of hidden things unknown to you.
7 They are created now, and not long ago;
you have not heard of them before today.
So you cannot say,
‘Yes, I knew of them.’
8 You have neither heard nor understood;
from of old your ears have not been open.
Well do I know how treacherous you are;
you were called a rebel from birth.
9 For my own name’s sake I delay my wrath;
for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you,
so as not to destroy you completely.
10 See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.
11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.
How can I let myself be defamed?
I will not yield my glory to another.
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“‘God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.’ Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Pet. 5:5,6).
After Babylon’s downfall, you might think that Israel would be found rejoicing. Instead, we find her being dressed down by God himself, who exposes her own sinfulness. Her election never did guarantee her privileges free from corresponding responsibilities. She may boast of her status (1) and that her people are “citizens of the holy city” (2), but they have failed to live as if they were and seemed to disregard their obligations to their covenant God.
Two themes contend with each other throughout this poem. In theme one, God exposes Israel’s sin in harsh terms (3–8). The people are stubborn and stiff-necked, refusing to submit to him. They are deaf to his voice and blind to his interventions, deliberately attributing the fulfillment of his prophetic words to their own idols. Though he’d made himself evident to them, they ignore him and refuse to admit their errors. Put simply, they are disloyal rebels.
In theme two, God reveals his own nature in remarkable ways. We encounter his timelessness as he predicts the future, the way he had done many times
before (3). We encounter his sovereignty, as he brings to pass that future. He’ll go on telling his people things in advance (6; perhaps a reference to Cyrus and their return home) so they couldn’t possibly attribute them to other deities (6,7; 2 Pet. 3:8,9). We encounter God’s patience (9) and his commitment to them, since his good name is intricately tied up with them. In the eyes of others, destroying them would leave his own reputation in tatters (9–11). Underneath it all, God’s very honor is at stake, something that we, like Israel, being so wrapped up in ourselves, tend perilously to underrate. Let’s mean it when we pray, “Hallowed be your name” (Matt. 6:9).
Have you experienced the “furnace of affliction” (10) in your life? If so, did it refine you or make you more stubborn towards God?
Lord, keep me always aware of my responsibility to guard the integrity of Your name before the unsaved.