The people of Judah should pay attention to what the Lord is saying to them. God identifies them as the House of Jacob which means “deceiver, cheater.” God tells them they only have the name Israel but not the character. Israel means “governed by God.” God then tells them they come from their father Judah. This also is not a compliment to the people of Judah. Judah was noted for his cruelty, (Genesis 37:26-27) and his immorality. (Genesis 38)
God then exposes there faults. They swear by the name of the Lord but not in truth and righteousness. They identify with the Holy City of God and give the appearance that they place their trust in the Lord. Yet it is only the image they give and not a reality. God speaks of what they have, “An honored name, an impeccable pedigree, a true religious allegiance, a privileged citizenship and a mighty God to rely on – but it is all unreal. There is no genuineness (truth) in it, nor does it satisfy the standards of God (righteousness).” (Motyer)
Time and again the Lord has shown His power and declared the future with His prophets. The Lord God did this because He knew they were an obstinate people. He knew of their love for idols and He has given them proof by evidence. Judah then is without excuse. For they knew the power and greatness of their God. Yet they lived in the image of their religion without a spiritual reality.
The Lord seems amazed that the people have seen His power and His glory and still are in rebellion against Him. The Lord knows that His people are deeply sinful. They were sinners from the womb and their sinful behavior is deeply entrenched. It is difficult to accept that we are sinners from the womb. Yet we inherited a sin nature from Adam and were born into sin. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12) It is not only that we sin but that sin proves that we have been transgressor from the womb.
It is hard to comprehend the mercy God has for His sinful people. The Lord God does it for His name’s sake. His mercy is not given because people deserve mercy, there are none of us that deserve mercy. God shows His mercy to glorify Himself and to advance His eternal purpose. God’s people have been refined by Him that they be as precious metal. But it is not for their sake alone but for His honor and glory, as they are created in His image. When trials come upon us as a refining fire we should not ask God why He has done this to us. We are the ones who fell into disobedience and must suffer its consequences. If we would but trust in Him God would use these trials to strengthen us and build character. “And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-4) God does this for His sake, as everything God does is to further His eternal purpose.
If there is any resentment, then be reminded of who God is and allows these things for His glory and praise. He is the only True God, the God of all glory, the God of all eternity, the God of all Creation. He is our heavenly Father and He disciplines whom He loves. “For whom the LORD loves He reproves, Even as a father corrects the son in whom he delights.” (Proverbs 3:12)
Even as the Lord is the God of all power and glory His motivation is His love for His people. It is His love for us that makes Him desire for us to obey and praise Him. His love for us desires things work according to our design and purpose. Man’s chief end is to glorify God and to give Him praise. God calls us to submit to Him and to honor Him for our own good and not to satisfy a need for His. It is for the love of His people that the Lord will do His pleasure upon Babylon. God will punish this nation that set itself against His people.
The Servant of the Lord speaks, the Messiah Himself who is from the beginning is now pleading with His people. “Finally (Isaiah48:16) another speaker mysteriously enters the prophecy. This verse has a number of features that have mystified commentators, who have been puzzled particularly by its final couplet. Young, Kidner and other conservative commentators have argued that the new speaker introduced here (or in the whole verse) is, in fact, God’s Servant, the Servant of the songs . . . Perhaps he is introduced here because Cyrus’ work is in fact simply a harbinger of the much greater deliverance he would bring to God’s people.” (Grogan)
God laments the unfulfilled potential of His people because of their disobedience. If they would have been obedient to the Lord God, then peace would have flowed as a river and their righteousness would have been as the waves of the sea, and if they had obeyed their descendants would be as the number of the sands. “Yes, I am deeply impressed with the simplicity of the road to revival. Just twenty-four hours’ obedience in our lives, and we would be living in such a flood tide of Holy Spirit blessing that there would not be room enough to contain it!” (Redpath)
In spite of the unfulfilled potential and disobedience of His people, the Lord will still deliver them from their captivity in Babylon. When they leave Babylon there will be joy in their hearts and song in their mouth. The Lord has redeemed the House of Jacob and they are to proclaim His praises to the ends of the earth. The world should know how great and merciful our God is.
The contrast to the peace that the Lord gives is the misery that the wicked are destined for.
“Isaiah 48:22 is a refrain that occurs again in Isaiah 57:21, and both times it comes at the end of a nine-chapter section.” (Wolf) The broad section of Isaiah 40 through 48 focused on the promise of God’s deliverance of His people from their captivity in Babylon, and the specific prediction of the Gentile king who would deliver them, Cyrus. Through the section, God shows that His desire to deliver His people proves His love, His ability to deliver His people proves His power, and His prophetic knowledge of the deliverer proves His uniqueness among all gods. Starting with Isaiah chapter 49, there is no longer a mention of Cyrus, now the focus is on the ultimate deliverer, the Messiah. Though there is still reference to the deliverance from Babylon’s captivity, the real focus is on the ultimate deliverance the Messiah will bring.
Isaiah deals with the theme of God’s Servant in chapters 40-66. The Servant proclaims the new order of justice and righteousness to the world. He serves as God’s instrument to prepare the world for God’s coming.
Who is the Lord’s Servant? Isaiah identifies the Servant with 41:8; 44:1-2, who serves as God’s witness and is a light to the Gentiles. Yet Isaiah could not fulfill this mission: Israel was deaf, blind, and in need of God’s forgiveness. Isaiah failed again and again. By contrast God’s servant faithfully witnesses, proclaims and waits for the coming redemption. He represents the godly in Israel. Isaiah portrays Him as an obedient individual who suffers. The Servant is God’s faithful witness to humanity and stands in opposition to the idolatrous practices of paganism.
One Israelite, in particular, was perfectly faithful and suffered on behalf of others: Jesus Christ fulfilled the role of the righteous Servant. By His suffering, God’s benefits came to many, including other nations. In union and fellowship with Him, the Apostles ministered as servants of Jesus Christ to both Jews and Gentiles.
Though Israel first received the message of the Servant, this message is still relevant to all who have faith in Jesus Christ. They share in the mission of the Servant and fulfill the role of God’s servants in the world.