Our passage today starts with a “but.” Yesterday, we saw that physical Israel was indicted for their failure to be the servant God called them to be, but instead made themselves blind to Him. BUT now God says to Israel whom He created that He will redeem them (43:1). God then expounds His calling of a particular people. He called only those people by His name. Only they have God in their midst to protect them (v. 2). He is their God and Savior (v. 3). He chose them alone out of all the earth. The reference to Cush and Seba being exchanged is a reference to God allotting gods to every nation (see Deut 32:8) but choosing a people for Himself (see Deut 32:9). That Egypt was given s a ransom speaks to the judgment of their gods (Ex 12:12). This is precisely where physical Israel failed (see Deut 29:22-28). Yet, God still has a people that are chosen out of the whole earth (v. 4). And rather than come from one particular land, we come from the ends of the earth (v. 5-6). We are the spiritual people called by God’s name, vessels of mercy created for glory (v. 7 – see Rom 9:22-26).
The people who are blind yet have eyes (v. 8) is physical Israel (see 42:18-22). They are the people God gave eyes to see with, and they made themselves blind. Now, God gives sight to those who were formerly blind (all the nations). Here, God is back in the courtroom with the self-blinded. He calls on the world to bring their witnesses against God (v. 9). Physical Israel should have been God’s heralds and His servants (v. 10). He saved them by grace and performed wonders before their eyes (v. 11-12). Note that this was when there was no strange god among them, implying that there now are strange gods among them.
In verse 14, God speaks of the coming Babylonian captivity. He says for “your sake” He is sending Israel there. Who is the “your” here and in verse 15? Well, in verses 16-17, we have a reference to the Exodus. Then, God says not to remember former things (v. 18) because He is doing a new thing (v. 19 – see 42:9 about Christ). Then He refers back to the way in the wilderness (also about Christ – see 35:8 and 40:3). So this Exodus is not the “old” one. He is speaking of the “new Exodus.” He is speaking of that “do over” of the restoration of the remnant. He again uses the imagery of the overgrown and dangerous wilderness yielding to a safe and desirable dwelling place (vv. 19-20). This is for His chosen people, whom He formed for Himself (v. 21 – see v. 7). The “your” is the spiritual people of God.
So God addressed His true chosen people in verses 1-7. Then He addresses physical Israel in verses 8-13. Then, He comes back to His church in verses 14-21. Now He turns His attention back to physical Israel. The Exodus language of verses 16-17 and the provision in the wilderness of 19-21 also has application to Israel. God had already done these things for the physical people He called. And yet, they turned from Him (v. 22). They have not offered Him the worship due to Him (v. 23). Instead, they have burdened Him with their sins (v. 24). In verse 25, God tells them that the forgiveness He offered them was of His grace, not because of the inherent value of the sacrifices He gave in His Law (see Heb 10:4). God then calls them again to testify against Him (v. 26). He compares the failures of Israel’s leaders to that of Adam (v. 27) and pronounces judgment (v. 28).
Chapter 44 begins with that “but” again (44:1). We again have that language of creation and formation (see 43:1, 7, 21) and choosing (43:20) in verse 2. “Jeshurun” means “upright one” and is the name used by Moses for Israel in his songs (Deut 32:15, 33:5, 26). Verse 3 again uses the imagery of a wilderness being made inhabitable, but here, it is paralleled with God pouring His Spirit out on the offspring of His people. The Spirit will enable God’s chosen people to call on Him and become His (v. 5). Note the “one…another…another.” This is speaking of all peoples being included in this salvation.
In verse 6 we see that “the first and the last” language we saw in 41:4 that is applied to Christ in Revelation 1:17 and 22:13. But note here Who this is applied to. It is YHWH, the King of Israel and His Redeemer, Who is also called YHWH. Then, God says that besides Him there is no God. We have here the mystery of the Persons of the Godhead. Who is like Him (v. 7)? The answer is: no one. Only He has declared what is to come from eternity (vv. 7-8). There is no other God but Him (see 1 Cor 8:4-6).
In light of Who God is, idolatry is all the more foolish. Those who make idols are no creators, they’re nothing (v. 9), and so are their idols (v. 10). God then expounds the foolishness. The smith carefully makes his idol, and yet he is a “creator” that has no strength if he doesn’t eat or drink (v. 12). The carpenter takes such care to craft his idol that is made in his own image (v. 13). Yet he uses wood that God supplied (v. 14). And he takes a piece of wood and destroys some to keep himself warm, and some to make a so-called god that he worships (vv. 15-17). This is foolishness (v. 19) and self-deception (v. 20).
In verse 21, God again addresses spiritual Israel, the servant of the Servant. God has taken away our sin (v. 22). God then calls on all creation to sing His praises for redeeming a people that glorify Him (v. 23). God then expounds Who He is: Redeemer and Creator (v. 24), the Sovereign Who turns the wisdom of the world into folly (v. 25 – see 1 Cor 3:18-20) and ordains what comes to pass in His creation (v. 27) and with men (v. 28).
The mention of Cyrus in 44:28 needs an explanation. We get it in chapter 45. God is going to sovereignly raise Persia to power to judge Babylon (45:1-3). God says that Cyrus will know that YHWH is calling him, which comes to pass, leading to the release of the remnant from captivity (see 2 Chr 36:22-23, Ezra 1:1-4). This is the reason God will call Cyrus (v. 4). It is the reason He will first raise him up (v. 5). God is indeed sovereign over all (vv. 6-7). And this is reason for hope for His people (v. 8).
God then pronounces woe on those who oppose Him Who created them (v. 9). It is like the lump of clay questioning the potter. Paul uses this as part of his “no one has the right to question God” argument in Romans 9:20. It is like an unborn child questioning his parents (v. 10). God dares anyone to ask Him why He is dealing with His people as He is (v. 11). God is sovereign Creator (v. 12), and He will use Cyrus to set His people free (v. 13).
In verse 14, God refers back to Egypt, Cush, and Seba (43:3). These are those that were allotted other gods. But they will join themselves to God and His people! In verse 15-17, we see the sovereignty of God over the salvation of men. It is He Who confounds the lost who are stuck in their idolatry. But He will save His people with an everlasting salvation. And yet, His call to salvation is a real call. He does not call men to seek Him in vain (v. 19). The Gospel call is a universal call, and men must respond to it. We see the interplay between God’s sovereignty and human responsibility in salvation.
This continues in verse 20, where we return to the courtroom. God calls the nations once again – the idolaters – to plead their case (vv. 20-21). God is the sovereign One who declares the end from the beginning as Savior (v. 21), and yet He puts out that universal call of the Gospel (v. 22). Because in the end, everyone will acknowledge Him as God (v. 23 – see Phil 2:10-11). Then it will be known that God is righteous, and those who opposed Him will be ashamed (v. 24). But those who God has called and who answer the call of the Gospel will be justified and, in the end, glorified (v. 25).