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Isaiah 48-53: The Great Redeemer: Chapter 6: The Way Out of Babylon

Isaiah 48:12 says,

12 “Listen to Me, O Jacob, even Israel whom I called; I am He, I am the first, I am also the last. 13 Surely My hand founded the earth, and My right hand spread out the heavens; when I call to them, they stand together.”

Here God repeats for emphasis the fact that He is the alef-tav, the One who knows the beginning and the end, the One who was at the beginning and will be at the end of the story. He said so earlier in Isaiah 41:4 and again in Isaiah 46:10.

There should be no doubt that God will succeed and win. Paul asserts in Rom. 11:36 that all things have come out of Him, they go through Him, and they go back to Him. Nothing has come out of Him that will not go back to Him.

Isaiah 48:14, 15 then presents the great Deliverer, the Messiah, saying,

14 “Assemble, all of you, and listen! Who among them has declared these things? The Lord loves him; he will carry out His good pleasure on Babylon, and His arm will be against the Chaldeans. 15 I, even I, have spoken; indeed, I have called him, I have brought him, and He will make his ways successful.

Cyrus, of course, was the first “messiah” and deliverer from the Babylonian captivity. On the surface, the promise here is that Cyrus “will carry out His good pleasure on Babylon,” because “I have called him.” But this is also an end-time prophecy of Christ, who will also be “successful” on a greater scale by overthrowing Mystery Babylon.

Christ’s first work on the cross provided the legal basis for this deliverance, making us legally perfect by covering our sin. Christ’s second work completes this deliverance by overthrowing the beast systems, by removing authority from Mystery Babylon, and by giving authority to the overcomers. The success of this plan was assured by Christ’s death on the cross.

The Voice of the Messiah

In Isaiah 48:16 the Messiah speaks through the prophet, saying,

16 “Come near to Me, listen to this: From the first I have not spoken in secret, from the time it took place [hayah, “exist, become, come into being”], I was there. And now the Lord God has sent Me, and His Spirit.”

Was this the prophet or the Messiah speaking? The answer is both. On the surface, the prophet tells Israel to “come near to Me, listen to this.” But like Cyrus, Isaiah too is a type of Messiah. Whereas Cyrus was a type of Messiah in his role as the Conqueror of Babylon, Isaiah was a type of Christ in his role as the Savior of all men, for that was the meaning of his name and the core of his revelation.

The Lord of the Earth

Both Cyrus and Isaiah could say, “the Lord God has sent Me, and His Spirit.” Here Isaiah uses the term Adonai Yahweh, translated “the Lord God.” The title Adonai comes from a root word that means “to rule.” It is Christ’s title as the ruler of all things. In the end, all things will be put under His feet, “for He has put all things in subjection under His feet” (1 Cor. 15:27).

The rabbis later stopped using the name Yahweh for fear of taking His name in vain. They inserted vowel points to the name in 134 different places in order to read Adonai instead of Yahweh. For this reason, most translations render Yahweh as “Lord,” which is actually the translation of Adonai. The Greek translation (Septuagint) renders it Kurios, “Lord,” and the New Testament writers follow its lead.

Some object to the use of Adonai on the grounds that it was originally derived from the mortal god called Adonis, who was the lover of Aphrodite (or Venus). The name is derived from a Canaanite word that means “lord.” Adonai means “my lord.”

The prophets use the term Adonai Yahweh many times. It is Ezekiel’s favorite term when referring to God. In such cases, the rabbis could not alter Yahweh to read Adonai, because both terms were already used by the prophets. So while the rabbis altered Yahweh 134 times, there were other times when Adonai was the word used by the prophets to refer to the God of Israel. Its meaning, “lord,” or, more properly, “Landlord,” refers to the Creator’s right of ownership to rule the earth.  This applies to both the Father and the Son (Messiah).

The Truth Declared Publicly

Speaking for the Messiah, Isaiah 48:16 tells us that He has “not spoken in secret,” but openly, for Psalm 19:1, 2 also tells us,

1 The heavens are telling of the glory of God, and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. 2 Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.

Though men rebel against this knowledge to their own detriment, the truth has been proclaimed everywhere from the beginning. Truth as a whole is progressively revealed in Scripture, but virtually all truth is in some way set forth in the book of Genesis. Much is obscure and much is revealed in the form of prophetic types and shadows; nonetheless, it is there, waiting for further clarification in the law, the prophets, and the gospels and epistles.

The Messiah also claims (through the prophet) that He was there at the beginning “from the time it took place,” that is, when the Logos was first spoken—when the word came into being (hayah). John 1:9 and 9:5 says that He was the Light that God spoke into being in Genesis 1:3. Isaiah affirms this, thus establishing the Messiah’s pre-existence “with God” (John 1:1).

Further, the Messiah asserts that “Adonai Yahweh has sent Me, and His Spirit.” This appears to mean that Adonai Yahweh (the Father) sent both the Son and the Holy Spirit. The KJV gives us a slightly different meaning: “Adonai Yahweh and His Spirit hath sent Me.”

I think that Jesus’ teachings on the Holy Spirit in John 14-17 make it clear that the Father sent the Son as His Agent, and that after Christ’s ascension, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper” (John 14:16). Again, Jesus said in John 16:13, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth.”

This shows that the Spirit was sent after Jesus’ ministry, which contradicts the KJV rendering of Isaiah 48:16 and confirms the NASB. In other words, the truth that was proclaimed from the beginning was that Christ pre-existed when the word of truth was first spoken (as “light”), that Christ was sent to dispel the darkness in the world, and that the Spirit of truth was sent at Pentecost to be Christ’s Agent to continue His work in dispelling the darkness.

The Benefit the Spirit Brings

Isaiah 48:17 says,

17 Thus says the Lord [Yahweh], your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit [ya’al, “ascend, rise above, gain, benefit”], who leads you in the way you should go.”

By sending the Holy Spirit to teach us and guide us into all truth, we “profit,” that is, we learn to rise above our circumstances on earth and ascend to the throne, as Paul says in Eph. 2:6,

6 and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

This is the benefit of ascending with Christ. The work of the Holy Spirit is to turn us into divine Agents with authority to rule the earth, though not on the same level of authority as Christ was given. This authority is given to those who are in agreement with Him. In fact, even while we are still learning and growing during our Pentecostal experience in the wilderness, we are given partial levels of authority according to the measure of God’s will. This delegation of authority comes with each individual calling and gifting.

Many believers, however, are hindered, even as Israel was hindered. Isaiah 48:18, 19 says,

18 “If only you had paid attention to My commandments! Then your well-being [shalom] would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea. 19 Your descendants [zera, “seed”] would have been like the sand, and your offspring like its grains [meah, “grains of sand”]; their name would never be cut off or destroyed from My presence [paniym, “face, presence”].”

The Israelites had rejected the word of the Lord at Mount Sinai when they refused to hear God’s voice for themselves (Exodus 20:19-21). Hence, they could not experience the benefits of Pentecost, the feast which celebrated the giving of the law. The Holy Spirit was withheld from the nation as a whole, so that the law remained external on tablets of stone and was not written on their hearts. The benefits of Pentecost were delayed until Acts 2.

Isaiah saw the results of Israel’s refusal. Israel’s refusal to pay attention to the commandments of God made it impossible for them to come into agreement with His law. Hence, they went into exile—national death—to be reversed only through a New Covenant with the Messiah as its only Mediator.

Further, if they had heeded God’s commandments, their seed would have been as numerous as the sand of the sea. This refers to God’s promise that the seed of Abraham would be “as the sand which is on the seashore” (Gen. 22:17). In other words, though Abraham had many descendants, only the few who followed in their father’s footsteps were counted as the seed (Rom. 9:8). The seed of Abraham are not children of the flesh, but the children of Abrahamic faith.

The Benefits of Obedience

Isaiah foretells the blessings and benefits of paying attention to the commandments, and so Jesus told His disciples in John 14:15,

15 If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.

Again, He says in John 15:10, 12,

10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love… 12 This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.

Paul defines this in a clearer way in Rom. 13:9, 10,

9 For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

Some say that the law of love supersedes the commandments given at Mount Sinai, but Paul tells us that the commandments are the summation of love. The law is based on love, because God is love, and the commandments were given by the God of love. There is no commandment that falls short of the love of God. The law defines love and instructs those who do not know love’s parameters.

When our minds are fully renewed (Rom. 12:2), the work of the Spirit through Pentecost will be evidenced by our agreement with His love-commandments. Most of us have mastered the art of loving in some ways, for generally speaking, we know better than to commit adultery, murder, steal, or covet (Paul’s list above). But there are subtleties in each of these commandments that an unrenewed mind does not yet understand. These are the things that the Holy Spirit must teach us by experience (through Pentecost) in order for us to come fully into agreement with God (through the feast of Tabernacles).

By following the commandments of the Messiah (in full agreement with the commandments of His Father in heaven), our “well-being” (shalom) will be “like a river.” This “river” springs up from within us, as Jesus said in John 7:38. Our “righteousness,” which is imputed to us by faith, would be perpetual, “like the waves of the sea.”

Fleeing Babylon

Isaiah 48:20 says,

20 Go forth from Babylon! Flee 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.”

In Isaiah’s flow of revelation, we should understand this not as a new topic but as a continuation from the previous verse. Fleeing Babylon is departing from the ways of Babylon and pursuing the values of the heavenly Jerusalem. To follow His commands is to “flee from the Chaldeans.” What we are admonished to do as individuals will finally take place as a group. The overcomers are the first group, the church is the second, and the world is the final group.

The message is that “The Lord has redeemed His servant Jacob.” This redemption means that Jacob has become Israel. No longer a usurper and a deceiver, Jacob finally recognizes that “God rules,” for this is the meaning of Israel.

21 They did not thirst when He led them through the deserts. He made the water flow out of the rock for them; He split the rock and the waters gushed forth.

We should see how God provided for Israel in the wilderness after they were redeemed from the land of Egypt, and we should know that Jacob again was redeemed from the bondage of Babylon when Jesus paid the penalty for sin by His death on the cross. During the church’s journey in its own wilderness in the past 40 Jubilees, God has again provided for them in similar fashion.

Isaiah 48:22 closes this section, saying,

22 “There is no peace [shalom] for the wicked,” says the Lord.

Recall that Isaiah 48:18 tells us that those who pay attention to God’s commandments will have shalom like a river. Verse 22, speaking of their Babylonian taskmasters, says that the wicked have no shalom. Paul says in Rom. 3:17, “the path of peace they have not known.” Again, Paul tells us in Col. 3:15, 16,

15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you…

Those who accept the word of Christ also receive His peace.