Text: Isaiah 48
If I were going to give today’s teaching a title, it would be, “If Only They Had Listened.” It is the deep heart cry of the Father and the Son, and the deep heart cry of those whom He has called and equipped to teach and preach!
The LORD sent prophets to His people, again and again. But they refused to listen. It is the same in much of today’s church. So, I will speak from the perspective of today’s believers and from my own testimony.
Verse 1 —
The LORD says through Isaiah, “Hear this, O house of Jacob, who are named Israel, and who came forth from the loins of Judah, who swear by the name of the LORD and invoke the God of Israel, but not in truth nor in righteousness.”
Again, the LORD speaks to members of the twelve tribes who are living in Judah. They were named by Him — literally, He called them all of by the name Israel.
They swear by His name, and invoke (recognize) Him. But their hearts are not His, How do I know? They are rebelling against Him. So all of their words are empty. All the things they say are simply lip service. They draw near with their words, and honor Him with their lips, but they remove their hearts far from Him. Their reverence toward Him consists of tradition learned by rote; that is, they go through the motions, but their heart is not “in” what they do (see Isaiah 29:13).
Therefore, their worship is a lie. They say what they are supposed to say, and then go away and worship false gods. Their hearts are not right before God. The god of self is behind every false god, and the sin nature is its root.
It is the same today, and it was the same with me. All through my childhood and teens, I was one who went through the motions, but did not have a heart for the Lord. I sinned when I was not in church or youth group, but because I had a good singing voice, I was invited to be a member of the church choir. It is the same in today’s church — there are many rebellious ones in choir lofts and even on church boards, pulpits, and even denominational headquarters!
But when I returned to church 18 years later, I already knew I had missed God, and needed to know Him. So church was no longer just a place I went on Sunday. It was a place where I came in order to seek the Lord. The Lord rewarded my diligent seeking (Hebrews 11:6). I pray the same for all believers who are like I was!
Verse 2 —
Like God’s people at the time of Isaiah, many today call themselves Christians, and lean on the LORD of hosts, Jesus Christ, when they are in trouble. Yet they do not obey Him.
I called myself a Christian, though I had a vast mixture of beliefs, and therefore was not a Christian at all. But because I was a churchgoer until I graduated from high school, I considered myself to be a Christian. I did not lean on Jesus Christ when I was in trouble, but in an act of faith, I cried out to God when I was in ruins from drug abuse and an abusive first marriage. And He answered — even though I was still far from Him. Oh, His mercy!
Verse 3 —
The LORD says, “I declared the former things long ago, and they went forth from My mouth, and I proclaimed them. Suddenly (instantly, in a moment of time) I acted, and they came to pass.”
Again, He reminds His people then and now that He knows the end from the beginning, and everything happens according to His plan. He carries it out, in a moment of time. Such things are impossible for the false gods that His people rely on then and now.
I repented. And suddenly, instantly, in a moment of time, He carried out His plan in me, first saving me and then healing me and then filling me! He will do the same for you, if you will believe His words.
Verses 4-5 —
The LORD knows His people, then and now, are obstinate (they are stubborn, hard), their neck is an iron sinew (they do not submit to His Word), and their forehead is bronze (so His words bounce off and never penetrate!).
Stubborn, hard, unbending, and hard-headed! That was them, that is many in today’s church, and that was me, before I diligently sought the Lord.
Because He knew they would sweep His words to the side, He declared His words to them long ago. He proclaimed (declared) them to His own rebellious people. Therefore, when He fulfills what He long ago declared and proclaimed, they will not be able to say that their false gods were the ones who did it. They will not be able to say that their graven image and molten image — their idol — did it. They will not be able to say that the god they fashioned with their own hands did it. He will do what He declared long ago, so they will know that He is God alone!
I used to sweep His words to the side. They used to bounce off my bronze forehead! But now I know that He is God alone. Not only did He allow me to find Him when I diligently sought Him with all my heart (Jeremiah 29:14), but when I cried out to be filled with His Holy Spirit, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit came to indwell me fully and permanently (John 14:23). He did just as He declared long ago (Ezekiel 36:26-27).
And He did it suddenly, instantly, in a moment of time! Now, Christianity is no longer just a religion, nor is it an ideology or a philosophy. Those things can be argued. But it is a living, continual, glorious fellowship with the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit! No one can “argue me out of” what he has done! I pray all believers would do as I did!
Verses 6-7 —
The LORD continues, “You have heard; look at all this. And you, will you not declare it? I proclaim to you new things from this time, even hidden things which you have not known.”
God’s people, then and now, have heard His words through His prophets, although they have not heeded them. Now He commands them to look around them — it has happened just as He said long ago! They are rebelling, just as He said they would.
And now, by His Word, He will reveal the work of Cyrus, and the Servant of the LORD to His people (see verses 14-16, and Isaiah 49:1-7).
Until now, the generation that lived at the time of Isaiah refused to understand these things He had announced long ago. They made themselves deaf to His words. He knew their rebellious hearts. Had they understood, they would have boasted that they knew these things would happen, as if they themselves had greater wisdom and knowledge than Him!
Therefore, what He now says He is about to do will be a surprise to them. And certainly, He is about to do what He warned He would do — the rebellious will be exiled from His presence!
He surely had proclaimed to them and still proclaims God the Son, the Messiah. The revelation of Jesus Christ begins in Genesis and continues throughout the Old Testament. It is glorious news, if you have ears to hear it! But if you are rebelling against Him, you cannot hear. Listen to the LORD’s next words!
Verse 8 —
The LORD tells them why these are new things to them. “You have not heard and you have not known; even from long ago your ear has not been open.”
Why do they not hear and know? They have made themselves deaf to His words, listening to false teachers and prophets. They have rebelled against Him! May you have ears to hear, O church!
He knew they would not hear and know. He tells His own people that they see His actions as “new” because they did not listen to His prophets, who declared them long ago.
He declared these “new things” along ago! Why? The LORD says, “Because I knew that you would deal very treacherously (very deceitfully, very unfaithfully), and you have been called a rebel (transgressor, sinner) from the belly.”
They are deaf because they are rebellious, and it is no surprise to the LORD that they rebel. Their sin nature is alive and well. They lust after the world and the things of the world. They do not love Him. They go after other lovers. They commit spiritual adultery.
It is the same today! All Christians who have not obeyed Jesus Christ’s commands to stay and wait (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5) will rebel just as Judah did in the days of Isaiah! Why? Their sin nature is alive and well, instead of crucified. But hear Paul’s words to the church at Galatia —
Galatians 5:24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Verse 9 —
Yet He has not poured out His wrath upon His people. Why not? Because He has said Israel is His. And He will be praised because Israel will never be obliterated. Though many died in the desert because of their rebellion against Moses and the LORD, He still brought a remnant into the promised land.
He will always preserve a remnant, because He promised that they would be His people. But remember that His remnant is composed of those who repent and turn back to the Lord.
It is the same today. Many in the church sin greatly against Him, but He has not yet poured out His wrath.
Yet He has promised that if they repent and return to Him, He will receive them again. It is His church, and He will have a church, as He has promised. But His church will be composed only of those who are spotless and blameless and unable to be accused (Ephesians 5:27). Then His name will be praised, indeed, for He will do just as He says He will do!
I rebelled greatly against Him. But because I repented and returned to Him, He saved me and filled me with His Spirit. He made me spotless and blameless and unable to be accused. He made me — even me, the one who rebelled against Him so greatly — His bride-to-be, His beloved! I am awestruck and greatly humbled!
Verses 10-11 —
“Behold,” says the LORD! Pay attention! “I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act, for how can my name be profaned, and My glory I will not give to another.”
A refiner of silver applies heat in order to purify the silver. But the LORD applies affliction to His people, to put them through the trial of exile so they turn back to Him.
Twice, He says, “For My own sake.” It is not for their sake, for they have proven themselves to be very treacherous and very deceitful. But He acts because He has chosen Israel. His reputation is at stake. He will not contradict His own word.
In the same way, He has formed the church, He will yet have a repentant remnant. He will act, and purify the heart of any who will believe, stay and wait! His reputation is at stake. he will not contradict His own word.
For His own sake, He will have a repentant remnant, so that His name is not wounded, as if a wedge was driven into Him. He will not give His glory (His praise and honor) to another. His people will praise Him and Him alone!
No one else will be able to rescue them, but He will rescue a repentant remnant, and they will praise and honor Him and Him alone! It is the same for you, beloved, and for today’s church!
Verses 12-13 —
The LORD of hosts, God the Son, Jesus Christ is speaking now, for He is the First and the Last (Revelation 1:17, 2:8, 22:13).
Again, He says, “Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel, whom I called (literally, My called one). I am He, I am the first, I am also the last. Surely My right hand founded the earth and My right hand spread out the heavens. When I call to them, they stand together.”
He is the one who has power over all of the earth, and of the universe that He has created with His own hands. Again, from Hebrews 1:3, it was through Jesus Christ that God the Father created everything.
The universe that He created answers His call and stands together before Him, but His people whom He created and called do not answer! They do not stand together before Him! Instead, they go their own way, rebelling against Him!
How foolish I was, in my rebellion! How foolish all Christians are, in their rebellion! How foolish all humans are, to refuse Him!
Verses 14-15 —
They do not stand together before Him as the universe does when He calls, so once again, He calls them! “Assemble, all of you, and listen! Who among them (all your false gods) has declared these things?”
And now He declares what their false gods cannot declare. “The LORD loves him, and he will carry out His good pleasure on Babylon, and His arm will be against the Chaldeans.” Who will He love? Cyrus, king of Persia!
When Judah has been exiled for 70 years, He will raise up Cyrus, king of Persia. And Cyrus will carry out the LORD’s good pleasure on Babylon — Cyrus will destroy them. The LORD’s own arm (His power) will defeat them.
Long before Cyrus was born, the LORD called him by name. The LORD speaks as if it has been accomplished — “I have brought him, and he will make his ways successful.” He will do it because he is called by the LORD to be His servant.
But these verses are also a reference to God the Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords, whom He will send to carry out His good pleasure, destroying Satan’s power by His death on a cross and His resurrection, ascension, glorification, and His Holy Spirit’s infilling of the hearts of every Christian who obeys and stays (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5)! Surely, His Servant Son’s ways were then and are now successful!
Verse 16 —
These words cannot possibly be from Cyrus. They are from God the Son, Jesus Christ. He says, “Come near to Me, listen to this: from the first I have not spoken in secret, from the time it took place, I was there (seated with His Father, and often speaking, as the LORD of hosts). And now the Lord GOD has sent Me, and His Spirit!”
Jesus Christ speaks as if it has already happened, because He was seated above time, with His Father, and knows the end from the beginning, like His Father.
The Sent One says He has been sent! The Sent One says the Holy Spirit had been sent. And as of the day He was glorified at the right hand of His Father, the Holy Spirit was sent, to fill believers’ hearts, if they will obey His command to stay and wait!
Verse 17 —
Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, the Christ of God, “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you to profit (literally, to be valuable, useful, good), who leads you in the way you should go.”
He is the Good Shepherd who leads His flock! But some do not hear His words, nor do they follow His commands, both then and now, O believer! It is because they do not know His voice! (See John 10:4-5, 27.)
Verses 18-19 —
He laments, “If only you had paid attention to (regarded and done) My commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea. Your descendants would have been like the sand, and your offspring like its grains; their name would never be cut off or destroyed from My presence.”
Had they not scoffed at His commands, had they done according to what He spoke through Isaiah, they would have had peace — peace with Him! It would have flowed like a river. And they would have had within them His righteousness, continually coming forth from them like the waves of the sea!
They would have had many offspring! Their name would never have been cut off or destroyed from His presence!
I tell you the truth, many who claim to be His are not at peace with Him. They still sin against Him. There will be no river of peace within them until they repent and obey His commands to stay and wait! They will not have His righteousness indwelling them and coming forth from them in endless waves. They will not have spiritual offspring.
But if they obey and stay and wait, He will fill them with His living water, with His Holy Spirit. Then they will continually have peace with Him, for they will no longer disobey Him. Then their sin nature, the root of all sin, will be crucified!
And because of these things, the names of those who stay and wait will not have their name cut off or destroyed from His presence. Jesus Christ warned the church at Sardis that many of them were in danger of having their names erased from the Book of Life (Revelation 3:5)! He exhorted them to repent, or He would do it!
Verse 20 —
To His repentant ones, He says, “Go forth from Babylon! Flee (bolt) from the Chaldeans! Declare with the sound of joyful shouting, proclaim this, send it out to the end of the earth. Say, “The LORD has redeemed His servant Jacob!”
You cannot bolt unless you have been set free from your chains! Bolt from them, go forth from them, He says! He sets them free, by way of Cyrus His Servant!
I have redeemed you, He says! Proclaim it to the end of the earth!
Oh, beloved! You are in captivity, exiled from Him. But if you repent, He will set you free from your chains of sin, and you will bolt from your captor, Satan. And you will be His witness — a living representation of Him — to the ends of the earth, when you stay and wait! You will not be able to stop speaking about what you have seen and heard (Acts 4:20)!
Verse 21 —
The LORD reminds His people of all that He did when He freed them from Egyptian slavery and brought them into the desert — they did not thirst, He led them He made the water flow from the rock and the water gushed forth — and that rock was Jesus Christ, per Paul in 1Corinthians 10:4!
I cannot help but ask — do you not know, beloved, that when you stay and wait, the water of the Holy Spirit gushes forth into you, and then from you (Romans 5:5)? He will do it, if you will obey Him!
Verse 22 —
But I tell you the truth, there is no peace for the wicked — His people who refuse His words and continue to willfully disobey Him and follow the false teachers/preachers/leaders who call evil good and good evil (see Isaiah 5:20)! The LORD says —
Isaiah 57:20 But the wicked are like the tossing sea, for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up refuse and mud. 21 “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”
O believer, repent! Ask the Lord to heal you of your rebellion! Stay and wait! He will do it!
Lord Jesus, may today’s believers hear and heed Your words. Let it be so, I pray. Amen!