In some ways, the end of Isaiah 42 and the beginning of Isaiah 43 seem like opposites, don’t they? We start off hearing about God’s servant Israel - and it’s all bad news. Israel is pictured as deaf and blind, as one who “sees many things, but does not observe them; his ears are open, but he does not hear” (Isaiah 42:20).
When God delivered His people from Egypt, He proclaimed that they were to be a kingdom of priests and
a holy nation - a light to the world. They were God’s firsthand witnesses and received the personal
revelation of His word (Exodus 19:5-6).
And yet they haven’t lived this way, have they? They’ve lived as if they were deaf and blind, unhearing and
uncaring when it comes to the things of God. They had the privilege of hearing God’s word but didn’t heed
it. And so God gave them up to captivity and allowed them to be exiled to Babylon. It seems that all hope
would be lost - and it would be, except we have this short and beautiful first phrase of Isaiah 42 - “But now
thus says the LORD” (Isaiah 42:1).
God declares that He will redeem the Israelites and promises that He will not forsake them; in fact, even as
He punishes them with the refining fire of exile (Isaiah 42:25), He promises to walk with them through the
same fires (Isaiah 43:2). Why won’t they be consumed? Because He is their God. Notice all of personal
pronouns “you” used in verses 1-7. God speaks personally to the Israelites, encouraging them that He is
present with them. God cares intimately for them and knows them by name.
The “but” of verse 1 here in Isaiah reminds me of Ephesians 2:1-10. In Ephesians 2:1-3, Paul reminds us
how, like the Israelites, we were also “dead in the trespasses and sins in which [we] once walked.” And yet
God was rich in mercy and made us alive in Christ - He saved us by His grace (Ephesians 2:4-5). Have any of
us done anything to deserve such redemption? Just like the Israelites, we can’t earn our way back into
God’s graces - and yet God still shows us grace. Our God is a God who keeps His part of the covenant
even when we have repeatedly broken our promise to be faithful to Him.
While our troubles may look different than the exile of the Israelites, we all walk through difficulty, pain, and shame. We mourn the consequences of our sin and brokenness. This passage is an encouragement to me
and a reminder that, just as God promised He would not abandon the Israelites, He also promises that He
will not abandon us. He walks closely with us. He knows us by name, and we are His.
Isaiah 42:18-43:7 (ESV):
18 Hear, you deaf,
and look, you blind, that you may see!
19 Who is blind but my servant,
or deaf as my messenger whom I send?
Who is blind as my dedicated one,
or blind as the servant of the LORD?
20 He sees many things, but does not observe them;
his ears are open, but he does not hear.
21 The LORD was pleased, for his righteousness' sake,
to magnify his law and make it glorious.
22 But this is a people plundered and looted;
they are all of them trapped in holes
and hidden in prisons;
they have become plunder with none to rescue,
spoil with none to say, “Restore!”
23 Who among you will give ear to this,
will attend and listen for the time to come?
24 Who gave up Jacob to the looter,
and Israel to the plunderers?
Was it not the LORD, against whom we have sinned,
in whose ways they would not walk,
and whose law they would not obey?
25 So he poured on him the heat of his anger
and the might of battle;
it set him on fire all around, but he did not understand;
it burned him up, but he did not take it to heart.
43:1 But now thus says the LORD,
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
“Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
3 For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
4 Because you are precious in my eyes,
and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
peoples in exchange for your life.
5 Fear not, for I am with you;
I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you.
6 I will say to the north, Give up,
and to the south, Do not withhold;
bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the end of the earth,
7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made.”