Israel is obstinate. They always have been. Just think back to their time in the wilderness after coming out of Egypt. Just peruse the pages of the Old Testament. This is a stubborn, stiff-necked, rebellious, hypocritical people. They sound alot like us! Well, at least they sound a lot like me!
Chapter 48 began with God's calling them out on the carpet for their hypocrisy. These folks continually fall back into idolatry. They continually want God on their terms rather than on His. Again, it all sounds way too familiar.
In verse 3 of this chapter God, once again, beautifully paints for them how foolish it is to trust in dumb idols. What graven images have "declared the former things long ago?" What created gods sent prophecies "forth from [their] mouth, and proclaimed them?" What man-made idols "acted and they came to pass?" Not a single one! They can't even speak, much less speak prophetic truths and bring them to fruition. Yet, this is exactly what Jehovah has done. Not a single major event happened in the life of Israel that was not foretold by God - their captivity in Egypt, it's length to the day, their wandering in the wilderness, the positioning of their tribes, their current captivity, their future release through Cyrus. Dumb, created idols can do none of these things, but the Living and True God can. It would be wise to listen to Him.
Israel has found herself in trouble. She's a captive, she's a prisoner, all seems lost and hopeless! But light is about to shine upon the dark backdrop of frowning providence. That shining light will come through the revealed knowledge of God's purposes in their difficult days and through His declared end to their difficult days.
Israel is in bondage because of her stubborn sin. God was disciplining His people for their iniquity. They have been "rebels from birth" (vs 8), "obstinate" (vs 4), and stiff necked as iron (vs 4). Thankfully, God loves us too much to leave us in our sin and therefore He sends refining fire. "Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you with the furnace of affliction." They were corrupt and crooked, but God would make them pure and straight. He would fit and fashion them for the service He had created them for. Is that not exactly what He does for us today? The trials and distresses I am facing are part of his Fatherly love and discipline to straighten that which is crooked in me, to burn off the dross, and to make me beautiful and useful.
"In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ." (1 Pe 1:6-7)
God is refining us into gems and jewels of infinite worth. And why? Not because of any intrinsic value He sees in the lump of coal that I am, but "for the sake of [His] name...for [His] praise...for [His] own sake." Again, life is about Him - as well it should be for He alone is holy, righteous, good and beautiful. We only own and exhibit holiness, righteousness, goodness, and beauty when, by the refining flames, we being to reflect Him. That is the purpose of Israel's trials - to make them holy as He is holy, to make them lovely as He is lovely. That is His purpose in my trials. Do I trust Him enough to take the necessary refining heat?
That is the reason for their captivity, next Isaiah holds forth the certain hope of their release. Israel was held by a strong man. Babylon was no weak nation. This was a great and powerful land. Yes, they were held by a strong man, but they were loved by an omnipotent God! That omnipotent God is my God too!
"Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called; I am He, I am first , I am also the last. Surely My hand founded the earth, and My right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand together." God could do what needed to be done - He is God! He's the God who founded the heavens and the earth. He's the God who created Babylon and every single individual in it. He is the God who's "right hand spread out the heavens" and "if the palm of His hand has gone so far as to stretch out the heavens, what will He do with His outstretched arm?" (Matthew Henry)
God's arm is about to be outstretched. Israel need not fear. Israel needs to trust. So do I. I am an adopted child of the King of Kings, the LORD of hosts is my Father, the Sovereign Creator of the heavens and the earth is in covenant with me. He loves me more than I love myself. He is refining me into a glorious creation. Why should I fret and fear? My Father's hand will never cause a needless tear.
Losing a little dross each day,