Isaiah 48 Commentary

The past and the future (48:1-22)

Before returning to their homeland, the people are reminded of the sins that led the nation into captivity. They must not repeat former errors. The people’s chief failing was that they honoured God with their words but not with their conduct (48:1-2). Knowing their tendency towards idolatry, God gave his people advance revelations of his will, to prevent them from turning to idols for guidance. But they still stubbornly rejected his teaching (3-5).

Nevertheless, God once again tells them his plans in advance, namely, that he is going to lead them back to their land. But he makes the announcement at the last minute, as it were, for their previous history has shown that they cannot be trusted. God is not going to give them the chance to claim that idols have brought them this deliverance (6-8).

God has been very patient with his people. He likens his work with them to that of a refiner, who puts silver in the fire to burn up the rubbish and leave the metal pure. In the same way God has ‘refined’ the people of Israel, but they have proved worthless. However, for the sake of his own honour, God does not destroy them (9-11).

The God who called Israel to be his people still looks after them. The God who made the world still controls its history. He brings Cyrus to Babylon to conquer Israel’s oppressor and free the captive people (12-15). God has always spoken openly with his people, and now he does so again, by sending his messenger the prophet to make his plans known to them (16).

Because God wanted only the best for his people, he was saddened to see the suffering they had brought on themselves through their stubborn disobedience. If they had paid attention to his instruction, they would have enjoyed unbroken peace and prosperity (17-19). God is now delighted that they are about to leave Babylon and return to their land. He will protect and provide for them, but if they want to enjoy peace in their land they must live uprightly (20-22).

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