Chapter 42 ended with a harsh admonition for Israel. Chapter 43 softens the blow with comfort and love, as Isaiah assures Israel that God will never forsake them. He again uses both names, Jacob and Israel, so there is no question as to who is being addressed. Yet some still don’t get it.
By the end of the first century, anti-Semitism may have already been creeping into the church. Some believe that the reference to Diotrephes in 3 John is an example of this: I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. (3 Jn 9) By the second century, the ‘allegorical method’ of interpreting scripture was introduced. According to Dan Gruber, author of The Church and the Jews, “In this allegorical system, when the text said ‘Israel’, it meant the Church and not the Jews, so long as the promise or comment was good. If the promise or comment was not good, then ‘Israel’ still meant the Jews and not the Church.”(1) The allegorical method is still used today by the Catholic Church and even by some Protestants, particularly those of the Reformed persuasion.
Let me give you a key to understanding the Bible. When the text says ‘Israel’, it means Israel. When the text says the church, it means the church. When the text says Gentiles, it means Gentiles. (1 Cor 10:32) If you don’t confuse these three distinct groups of people you will have a better understanding of Scripture than a lot of theologians who have PhD’s. Concerning Israel, all I know is the Bible says God will bless those who bless them and curse those who curse them. (Gen 12:3; 27:29; Num 24:9) It also says to comfort them (Isa 40:1) and pray for them (Ps 122:6).
Father, give us understanding as we read thy word, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
1 But now thus saith the LORD that created thee, O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.
2 When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.
Throughout history the Jews have had to go through the fire, so to speak, yet they are still here. Despite their troubles with the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Seleucid empire, the Romans, the ‘Holy’ Roman Empire and others, the water has not overflowed them and the fire has not burned them. The Jews are still alive and well today. This is how the rabbis interpret the burning bush that God used to speak to Moses. The rabbis say the bush is the nation of Israel, always afflicted by the fire, but never being consumed. (In Fiddler on the Roof, Tevye said, “I know, I know. We are Your chosen people. But, once in a while, can’t You choose someone else?”) The good news for Gentile believers is that when trials come our way we can claim this promise too, because through faith in Messiah we are graffed in to the olive tree of Israel. (Rom 11:17) Of course, with the shared blessings come shared trials. For example, believers in Messiah were victims of the Inquisition just as the Jews were. Christians have been persecuted throughout history and still are today in many countries.
3 For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.
I believe that when it says God gave Egypt for Israel’s ransom it means that God destroyed Egypt in the Exodus to save Israel. In the case of Ethiopia and Seba, God crushed them to save Israel in 2 Chronicles 14. (Seba was a son of Cush, who populated what we know as Ethiopia.) There are other examples as well.
4 Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.
5 Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west;
6 I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth;
We have been witnessing the fulfillment of Isaiah 43:5,6 ever since the late 1800s. From all around the world, east, west, north, and south, Jews have been returning to Israel and continue to do so. Ezekiel develops this further in Ezekiel 37.
7 Even every one that is called by my name: for I have created him for my glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.
8 Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears.
9 Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this [ie make a prophecy like this one], and shew us former things? let them bring forth their witnesses, that they may be justified: or let them hear, and say, It is truth.
Here we have a reference to the last days. The nations of the world gather together at the United Nations and try to figure out how to run the world without God. They have their own ideas about history and how mankind got here. For more information on the evidence for creation watch this.
10 Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me.
11 I, even I, am the LORD [Jehovah]; and beside me there is no saviour.
12 I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God.
By my count, it says that Jesus is God at least five times in this chapter, albeit indirectly.
13 Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?
14 Thus saith the LORD, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; For your sake I have sent [Cyrus] to Babylon, and have brought down all their nobles, and the Chaldeans, whose cry [or crying] is in the ships.
The founder of Babylon, Semiramis, was said to have had a fleet of 3000 ships. Being situated on the Euphrates, Babylon had access to the Persian Gulf. It is thought that Babylon had a great many ships that they used to engage in commerce before being conquered by Cyrus. Afterward, however, their sea trade was cut off. They were no longer known for commerce.
15 I am the LORD, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King.
Jesus is the King of the Jews. (Lk 23:3)
16 Thus saith the LORD, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters;
17 Which bringeth forth the chariot and horse, the army and the power; they shall lie down together, they shall not rise: they are extinct, they are quenched as tow.
18 Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.
19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.
20 The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.
21 This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.
If you have ever doubted that the Jews are God’s chosen people, here is a clear declaration that they indeed are.
22 But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel.
23 Thou hast not brought me the small cattle of thy burnt offerings; neither hast thou honoured me with thy sacrifices. I have not caused thee to serve with an offering, nor wearied thee with incense.
24 Thou hast bought me no sweet cane with money, neither hast thou filled me with the fat of thy sacrifices: but thou hast made me to serve with thy sins, thou hast wearied me with thine iniquities.
25 I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.
26 Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified.
27 Thy first father [Abraham] hath sinned, and thy teachers [the judges, prophets, priests, and kings] have transgressed against me.
28 Therefore I have profaned the princes of the sanctuary, and have given Jacob to the curse, and Israel to reproaches.
Isaiah gives both comfort and rebuke in this chapter. A thoughtful parent will always give his child a hug after he spanks him. God tells Israel that He is going to discipline them, but He also says that He will save them. Although they are going to suffer, God says He will preserve them and be with them every step of the way.
(1) As cited in Ray Bently, The Holy Land Key, p 82.