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Isaiah is the prophet of Salvation. He is also known as the truly "Universalist" prophet, by which is meant that He makes it clear that salvation is extended equally to all nations and not just to Israel. He lived to see the fall of Israel and the deportation of the Israelites to Assyria, and he prophesied of their "return" to God (through repentance). He is truly a "major prophet" whose prophecies greatly influenced the Apostle Paul in the New Testament.
Category - Bible Commentaries
In Isaiah 43:8-13 God sets forth a hypothetical court case to prove His sovereignty, and Israel is called as His prime witness. Isaiah 43:8, 9 begins,
8 Bring out the people who are blind, even though they have eyes, and the deaf, even though they have ears. 9 All the nations have gathered together so that the peoples may be assembled. Who among them can declare this and proclaim to us the former things? Let them present their witnesses that they may be justified, or let them hear and say, “It is true.”
The main difference between the God of Israel and the gods of the nations is that the God of Israel has vowed to save mankind, while other gods make men save themselves by their own will and works. In practice, this means that God serves our best interests, while the foreign gods expect to be served. In other words, if you serve those gods well enough, then you might be saved. And, of course, since no one is perfect, they must be reincarnated again and again in order to move up the ladder of righteousness until, hopefully, they are finally perfected.
The New Covenant vow of God is unique to (true) Christianity. It is what sets Christianity apart from all other religious models. We have a God who has taken the responsibility upon Himself to save us by His sovereign will, which guarantees success in the end. Israel is called to testify in the divine court as God’s prime witness.
Because God relies upon His own will and power to save mankind, He can guarantee success. This is the reason He can prophesy the future, for in His eyes, the future is already accomplished. His word brings things into existence (Rom. 4:17). Even if He were to prophesy something that is false, it would immediately become true by virtue of His word. No other god guarantees salvation.
Israel is said to be God’s “Hellen Keller,” the blind and deaf woman who learned to communicate by sign language. It seems absurd that a blind man could be an eyewitness of what he has seen, or that a deaf man could be an earwitness of what he has heard. But in God’s court, Israel’s salvation is evidence that God alone has done it. Israel, being greatly handicapped, was incapable of salvation by the will of man. Israel was too blind and deaf to find his way to the Promised Land. Hence, God proves His sovereignty by making it happen.
God calls all the nations into court to give them opportunity to prove the power of their gods. He tells them to “present their witnesses that they may be justified,” i.e., win their case. If they have no credible witnesses, then let them concede the case and affirm, “It is true.”
It is guaranteed that God will win this court case. Hence God is “justified” and the other gods condemned. This is a good example of the New Testament meaning of justification. When we win our case in the divine court against the accusations of the devil, we are said to be justified. Whoever loses his case has not yet learned how to present his case in the lawful manner that the Comforter teaches.
Isaiah 43:10, 11 continues,
10 “You are My witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me. 11 I, even I, am the Lord, and there is no savior besides Me.”
How can Israel bear witness as a blind and deaf servant? The fact that Israel is saved in the end gives them a testimony just by showing up in court and being presented as alive. Isaiah has no other testimony. Israel cannot claim to have given assistance to God, for what assistance could a blind-and-deaf person give?
Realize, of course, that many have considered themselves to be Israelites, while failing to recognize the sovereignty of God. They present their own works to the divine court, claiming that they did these things by the power of their own will. They claim that they would not have been saved apart from some decision or statement that they themselves declared.
They fail to recognize that unless God speaks, no man can have faith, for “faith comes by hearing” (Rom. 10:17). Man cannot take credit for any faith that depends fully on the voice of God. And it is only when God removes blindness and deafness that we hear and see.
Some do not like this, because it gives them a helpless feeling. But that is the whole point in Isaiah’s revelation of truth.
Many agents have been sent by God to do His work and accomplish His will. None of those agents can claim credit for the work that they do. They are mere messengers of truth or servants doing what they are told to do. When an agent obeys and does the work of God, God is the One who must be given the credit. When an army wins a battle, the victory is attributed to the general or to the ruler of the nation.
We know that Jesus is our Savior and that His Hebrew name, Yeshua, means “salvation.” So if “there is no savior besides Me,” as the prophet says, we see that Jesus is Yahweh in the flesh. Jesus is the Son of El Elyon, the Most High God (Luke 1:32; 8:28).
This gets into the topic that I covered in The Theology of the Logos, where I showed how Jesus did nothing of His own initiative (John 5:30; 8:28, 42; 10:18; 12:49; 14:10). As an Agent, He did only what His heavenly Father did, never taking credit for it Himself.
In other words, Jesus and His Father were “one” (John 10:30) in purpose, having identical wills and desires, for He came as “the express Image of His Person” (Heb. 1:3, KJV), or “the exact representation of His nature” (NASB).
Jesus was the mirror image of His Father. But while a mirror reflects the precise image that is seen in it, it is not the person himself. The person and the image are not “one” in that sense.
So when Yahweh says that “there is no savior besides Me,” we should not read this to mean that Jesus and El Elyon are the same Person but that Yahweh, the Logos, became flesh and is our Savior.
Since the purpose of Christ was to be the Mediator between God and men, and because Christ was sent to reveal the Father in human flesh, it was indeed Jesus Christ (known as Yahweh) who spoke to the prophet. Nonetheless, the Father must still be given credit, because the words were His.
Isaiah 43:12, 13 continues,
12 “It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed, and there was no strange god among you; so you are My witnesses,” declares the Lord. 13 “Even from eternity [yom, “day, year, time”] I am He, and there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?”
The NASB reads, “from eternity I am He,” as if to say that God has existed eternally. But the KJV renders it, “before the day was, I am He.” The word that God actually used was yom, which means “day” or “year.” This dual meaning of yom is how the prophetic concept of “a day for a year” came about (Ezek. 4:5, 6; Num. 14:34).
The KJV has translated Isaiah 43:13 more accurately and literally. The NASB has taken some liberties in rendering it “eternity” according to their particular bias. We do not doubt that God is “from eternity,” of course, but that is probably not what He was asserting in this verse. In my view, God was asserting that before “the day” (of reckoning in the divine court), He existed in a timeless realm as the “I am,” knowing the end from the beginning.
From such a position of power over creation, and being the Lord of Time, “I act and who can reverse it?” No man and no false god can reverse God’s decisions. Though men may imagine themselves to have the power of “free will,” they cannot reverse or change either the beginning of history or its end.
In the days of Noah, God vowed to save the whole earth (Genesis 9), and He repeated this in greater detail to Abraham, Moses, David, the prophets, and the apostles. Most of these covenants were based on God’s vows or promises; hence, they were based on the New Covenant.
The point is that God’s vows cannot be reversed by the will of men. Although the will of men may oppose the will of God, in the end God wins. He wins, not by destroying “lost sinners,” but by finding a way to change their hearts so that they may be reconciled to Him. Few seem to understand the wisdom of God, but that is part of the blindness and deafness inherent in God’s servants.