Our Blessed Redeemer.
Isaiah 47-48, Revelation 7
Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen. – Revelation 7:12 ESV
Israel got exactly what they deserved: defeat at the hands of their enemies and a humiliating deportation and exile in the land of Babylon. God had warned them repeatedly. He had told them what was going to happen if they continued to rebel against Him and refuse to obey His commands. He would send His prophets with words of warning and calls to repentance, but the Israelites would remain obstinate and refuse to listen. So God did what He had to do. He punished them, but not without purpose or for a good reason. “For my name’s sake I defer my anger, for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction” (Isaiah 48:9-10 ESV). God would protect the integrity of His name. He would not allow His character to be defamed by those who were called by His name. Their actions reflected poorly on God, but if God were to destroy them completely, His reputation would be damaged. He had made promises to Israel and He would not and could not fail to keep those promises. The Israelites did not deserve God’s redemption, but they would receive it nonetheless. “Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ‘I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go’” (Isaiah 48:17 ESV). They would once again experience the redemptive work of God in their lives. They would learn the reality of His power revealed in their deliverance. They would come to appreciate His wisdom revealed in His sovereign plan. They would eventually express gratitude to Him for their restoration to the land and the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem and the temple. But because their deliverance was temporal and not eternal, they would find themselves falling back into old habits, and giving in to their sinful natures.
What does this passage reveal about God?
God is the creator of the universe. He made all that we can see and all that remains unseen to the human eye. And when He had made it all, He declared it good – including man. But sin marred His creation. What God had created as good became stained by sin. The peace or shalom which originally marked His creation was shattered and the result was that sin spread like a cancer through the land, infecting man and the world in which he lived. But God, because of His character, was not willing to leave His creation in a less-than-perfect state. So God has had a plan in place, developed before He even made the first star or formed the first blade of grass. He has had a divine strategy to deal with man’s sin and its devastating aftermath. He was not surprised by man’s fall, but already knew what He was going to do in order to reestablish order and redeem His creation. All that we see taking place in the Old Testament between God and His people Israel is simply a foreshadowing of what is to come. His patience and persistent determination to keep His covenant provides us with a glimpse into His character and a reassuring confirmation of just how faithful our God is. God’s choosing of Israel as His people was so that He could one day bring about the redemption of all men through a solitary descendant of Abraham, the father of the people of Israel. God was going to use this obscure nation to accomplish His redemptive plan for mankind.
What does this passage reveal about man?
Israel deserved God’s punishment for their sins, but they did NOT deserve His selection of them as His people. God made that perfectly clear to them. “It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the Lord set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8 ESV). God didn’t choose Israel because they deserved it. He chose them because He had a greater purpose in mind. He was interested in more than just the redemption and restoration of a single people group. He has always had the complete restoration and redemption of His creation in mind. God is a loving, covenant-keeping God. He is faithful, holy and righteous in all that He does. He always deals rightly and justly, even when He has to punish those He loves. God’s anger is never unjustified or without purpose. He uses it to teach and refine those He loves. The people of Israel loved their unique position as God’s chosen ones. They put high stock in their one-of-a-kind status as God’s people. But their relationship with Him was strained and marked by lip-service, rather than true devotion. “Listen to me, O family of Jacob, you who are called by the name of Israel and born into the family of Judah. Listen, you who take oaths in the name of the Lord and call on the God of Israel. You don’t keep your promises, even though you call yourself the holy city and talk about depending on the God of Israel, whose name is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies” (Isaiah 48:1-2 NLT). They were unreliable, undependable, unfaithful, and for the most part, unrepentant. But God would still redeem them.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
The beauty of studying the Old and New Testaments together is that it presents us with the bigger storyline of God’s redemptive plan. God’s choosing of Israel had a much greater purpose than just the temporal blessing of a particular people group for a specific time period. God had a much greater, richer, and far more comprehensive plan in mind. His strategy has always been the ultimate redemption of mankind and the complete restoration of His creation. He was not interested in a temporal or partial fix, but a permanent one. And in the book of Revelation we are given a vision of just what that is going to look like. John is allowed to see what God has in store for the future. And the amazing thing is that God is not done with His people Israel. While His eternal plan involves far more than just the nation of Israel, it does not leave them out of the storyline. They will continue to play a significant role in God’s redemptive plan, even during the time of the great tribulation that marks the end of the age. God will miraculously redeem 144,000 Jews and bring them to a saving knowledge of His Son during one of the most difficult times of persecution and trial that has ever faced mankind. Those 144,000 Jews will then become His witnesses on the earth, leading “a great multitude that no one could number” (Revelation 7:9 ESV) to faith in Christ. They will evangelize throughout the world, resulting in the conversion of people “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (Revelation 7:9 ESV). But all of this will be the work of God. It will be part of His grand plan, as He faithfully and methodically brings about the final chapter in His story of man’s redemption and His creation’s restoration. God will redeem 144,000 from the nation of Israel. He will redeem countless more from every tribe, nation and tongue. Not because they deserve it, but because it is part of His unstoppable, irreversible plan for the world He created. Which is why we should say, “Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen” (Revelation 7:12 ESV).
Father, it is so easy to lose sight of Your bigger plan of redemption. You didn’t choose Israel and stop there. You fully intended to make Your grace, love and mercy available to men from every tribe, nation and tongue. You didn’t relegate Your plan of redemption to just one nation, but intended to make it available to all. Your plan is greater than my own salvation and bigger than my ongoing sanctification. You have something far greater in store for me and for all mankind that just a slightly better life on this earth. You have eternal life waiting for us. Your salvation ends with our glorification and the complete restoration of Your creation. May you bring Your divine plan to a close soon. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men