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43. Israel's Only Savior

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. 2When 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. 3For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. 4Since 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. 5Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west; 6I 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; 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.

8Bring forth the blind people that have eyes, and the deaf that have ears. 9Let all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled: who among them can declare this, 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. 10Ye 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. 11I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no saviour. 12I 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. 13Yea, 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?

14Thus saith the Lord, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; For your sake I have sent to Babylon, and have brought down all their nobles, and the Chaldeans, whose cry is in the ships. 15I am the Lord, your Holy One, the creator of Israel, your King. 16Thus saith the Lord, which maketh a way in the sea, and a path in the mighty waters; 17Which 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.

18Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old. 19Behold, 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. 20The 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. 21This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.

22But thou hast not called upon me, O Jacob; but thou hast been weary of me, O Israel. 23Thou 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. 24Thou 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. 25I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. 26Put me in remembrance: let us plead together: declare thou, that thou mayest be justified. 27Thy first father hath sinned, and thy teachers have transgressed against me. 28Therefore I have profaned the princes of the sanctuary, and have given Jacob to the curse, and Israel to reproaches.

19. Behold, I do a new thing. This shews more clearly what the Prophet meant in the preceding verse, for he declares that there shall be “a new work,” that is, a work unheard of and uncommon, and which, on account of its greatness and excellence, shall throw into the shade the reputation of all other works; in the same manner as the brightness of the sun, when it fills heaven and earth, causes the stars to disappear.

Now it shall arise. He means that the time shall not be long. Yet these things were not so speedily accomplished; but, if we look to God, four hundred or even a thousand years are counted as a moment before him; how much less ought a delay of seventy years to wear out and discourage them? When he adds, Shall ye not know it? this question is more forcible and impressive than a bare affirmation, and this form of question is more frequently employed by Hebrew writers than in the Greek and Latin languages. When he promises a way in the wilderness, he alludes to that wilderness which lay between Judea and Babylon; for he speaks of the return of the people. Accordingly to the way he adds rivers; for in travelling through a dry country they might have been parched and died of thirst. On this account, the Lord says that he will supply them with water and everything that is necessary for the journey; as if he had said, “I will furnish you with provisions, so that under my guidance you shall return to your native land.”

But it may be thought that the Prophet is excessive, and that his language is altogether hyperbolical, when he extols this deliverance in such lofty terms; for we read that rivers were turned into blood, (Exodus 7:20,) the air was covered with darkness, (Exodus 10:22,) the first-born were slain, (Exodus 12:29,) insects were sent forth to destroy the whole country, (Exodus 10:15,) and that other prodigies of the same kind happened in Egypt, while nothing of this sort was done in Babylon. What then is meant by this new redemption? This consideration has compelled almost all Christian commentators to interpret this passage as referring absolutely to the coming of Christ, in which they are undoubtedly mistaken; and the Jews are also in the wrong, when they limit it to the redemption from Babylon. Accordingly, as I have frequently remarked, we ought here to include the whole period which followed the redemption from Babylon, down to the coming of Christ.

The redemption from Egypt may be regarded as having been the first birth of the Church; because the people were gathered into a body, and the Church was established, of which formerly there was not the semblance; but that deliverance is not limited to the time when the people went out of Egypt, but is continued down to the possession of the land of Canaan, which was delivered to the people, when the kings had been driven out. (Joshua 11:23.) We ought to take the same view of this new birth, (περὶ ταύτης παλιγγενεσίας,) by which the people were rescued from Babylon, and brought back to their native land; for that restoration must not be limited to the departure from Babylon, but must be extended to Christ, during the whole of which period great and wonderful events undoubtedly happened. Was it not astonishing that a captive people, whom all despised as some contemptible slave, and who were even held to be accursed, should receive freedom and liberty to return from heathen kings; and not only so, but should be furnished with provisions, and with everything else that was necessary both for the journey and for settling at home, for rearing the city and for rebuilding the Temple? (Ezra 1:2.)

But far greater events followed, when but a few persons were willing to return, and the greater part were so discouraged as to prefer wretched bondage to blessed freedom. When, in comparison of that vast multitude which had been carried away, a few persons returned to Judea, still greater obstacles arose. Conspiracies were formed, the people formerly abhorred became the objects of keener resentments, the work was interrupted, and every method was tried for putting a full stop to the design. (Ezra 4.) Thus it appeared as if in vain the Lord had brought them back, for they were exposed to dangers much greater than before. When the temple had been built, they did not enjoy greater peace; for they were hedged in on all sides by very cruel and deadly enemies, from whom they often sustained great hardships. They were afterwards afflicted by distresses, and calamities, and various persecutions, so that they were supposed to be struck down and overwhelmed, and utterly ruined. And yet, in the midst of fire and sword, God wonderfully preserved them; and if we consider their wretched and miserable condition, and the grievous persecutions of tyrants, we shall wonder that even a single individual of them could survive.

In order that we may understand how great was the excellence of this latter redemption, and how far it excelled the former, we must: continue and bring it down to the time of Christ, who at length gave an immense addition to the former benefits. Thus, beyond all question, the second redemption leaves the first far behind. There is nothing forced in this interpretation, and it corresponds to the ordinary language of the prophets, who always have the Messiah for their end, and keep him constantly in their eye. But this will appear more clearly from what is related by Haggai; for, when the Temple began to be rebuilt, the old men, who had seen the glory of the ancient temple, mourned, and were not far from thinking that God had forsaken them, and that his promises had failed. But Haggai, in order to comfort them and to prove that the glory of this second would be greater than the glory of the first, though the structure of the building was far inferior, leads them to the Redeemer.

“Thus saith the Lord of hosts,” says he, “Yet once, and within a short time, I will shake the heavens, and the earth, the sea, and the continent, and all the nations; and the Desire of all nations shall come; and I will fill this house with glory, saith the Lord of hosts. The silver is mine, the gold is mine, saith the Lord of hosts. The glory of this latter house shall be greater than the glory of the former.” (Haggai 2:6-9.)

Thus, as Haggai brings the restoration of the Temple down to Christ, and refers to him its true glory; so this deliverance (for the two things are connected, or rather they are the same) extended even to Christ. Consequently, we need not wonder if it surpassed the Egyptian deliverance in every respect.

20. The beast of the field shall honor me. He adorns the preceding statement; for, amidst such a desperate condition of affairs, it was proper that magnificent language should be employed in extolling the power of God, that words might supply what seemed to be wanting in the reality. The meaning is, that the power of God will be so visible and manifest, that the very beasts, impressed with the feeling of it, shall acknowledge and worship God. This prediction corresponds to the song,

“The sea saw and fled, Jordan was driven back. The mountains leaped like rams, and the hills like lambs. At the face of the Lord the earth trembled.” (Psalm 114:3, 4, 7.)

Isaiah here ascribes the same feeling to brute animals, because by a secret impulse they shall be constrained to retire, so as to allow his people to pass safely. And yet the cause assigned is more extensive, that they will stand still, as if in astonishment, when they see the miracles. In a word, God declares that he will not suffer his people, in their journey homeward, to be destitute of the means of subsistence, but describes in exaggerated language his love toward the Jews, that by the height of their hope they may rise above the world. When we hear these statements, let us also not measure the power of God by the nature of things, but let us be exalted by faith above all that can be seen or known.

My people, my chosen. That these wretched exiles may not be driven from the hope of heavenly grace and assistance, he reminds them of their adoption; as if he had said, that amidst this ruinous and melancholy condition they still continued to be the people of God, because he who once chose them does not change his purpose. Accordingly, whenever we need to be excited to cherish favorable hope, let us remember God’s calling; for, although we are unworthy, still it ought to be reckoned enough that the Lord has deigned to bestow on us so great an honor.

21. This people have I created for myself. The Prophet means that the Lord will necessarily do what he formerly said, because it concerns his glory to preserve the people whom he has chosen for himself; and therefore these words are intended for the consolation of the people. “Do you think that I will suffer my glory to fall to the ground? It is connected with your salvation, and therefore your salvation shall be the object of my care. In a word, know that you shall be saved, because you cannot perish, unless my glory likewise perish. Ye shall therefore survive, because I wish that you may continually proclaim my glory.”

When he says that he has created the people, let us learn that it proceeds from supernatural grace that we are the people of God; for we must remember that principle of which we have formerly spoken, that he does not now speak of the ordinary nature of men, but of spiritual regeneration, or of the adoption by which he separates the Church from the rest of the world, and that with everything that belongs to it. Let no one therefore ascribe his regeneration to himself or to any human merits; but let us acknowledge that it is entirely to the mercy of God that we owe so great a favor.

They shall declare my praise. Though it is the design of the Prophet to shew what I have said, that his people shall be saved because it concerns the glory of God, yet we also learn from it, that the end of our election is, that we may shew forth the glory of God in every possible way. (Exodus 14:4, 17, 18.) The reprobate are, indeed, the instruments of the glory of God, but it is said to shine in us in a very different manner; for “he hath chosen us,” says Paul, “that we might be holy and without blame before him through love, who predestinated us that he might adopt us to be his children through Jesus Christ, in himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace by which he hath made us accepted through the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:4-6.) Such also is the import of the words of Peter when he says, that we were brought out of darkness into the wonderful kingdom of God, that we may declare his perfections, (1 Peter 2:9;) and likewise the words of Zacharias,

“That, being delivered out of the hand of our enemies, we may serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness, all the days of our life.” (Luke 1:74, 75.)

This, then, is the end of our calling, that, being consecrated to God, we may praise and honor him during our whole life.


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