Isaiah 48:1. Hear ye this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, which swear by the name of the LORD, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth, nor in righteousness.
There always were false professors, and I suppose there always will be till Christ comes. A Judas was among the twelve apostles, and we cannot wonder that we find such in every church, but what a dreadful thing it is to wear the name of God, and yet not really to serve him, to be called Christians, and yet not to be like Christ! It must be a very God-provoking thing to be called by his name, and then insult it by not being true to it.
Isaiah 48:2. For they call themselves of the holy city, and stay themselves upon the God of Israel; The LORD of hosts is his name.
They profess to trust him, but they do not love him; “they call themselves of the holy city,” but they certainly are not holy citizens. Ah me that God should have to speak to men upon such a matter as this! It is self-evidently wicked, but they will not see it.
Isaiah 48:3. I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of my mouth, and I shewed them; I did them suddenly, and they came to pass.
There is no better proof that God is God than that his prophecies have been fulfilled. Only the eternal can see into the future. He has done so, and every word of his either has been fulfilled, or will yet be fulfilled.
Isaiah 48:4-5. Because I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass; I have even from the beginning declared it to thee: before it came to pass I shewed it thee: lest thou shouldest say, Mine idol hath done them, and my graven image, and my molten image, hath commanded them.
See the care of God towards the most obstinate of men. He knows that they will pervert things, so he prevents them as far as it is possible to do so. He tells them what is to happen, that they may not afterwards say that their idol gods have done it. Ah, dear friends, God has taken great interest in many of us! He has, as it were, laid his plans to keep us out of sin; and yet often we have broken out, and have gone over hedge and ditch in the ways of sin. We have seemed resolved to do evil; we have been desperately set on mischief; hence he speaks of us as being “obstinate.” “Thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass.” Will God ever speak in mercy to such people as these? We shall see as we read on.
Isaiah 48:6-8. Thou hast heard, see all this; and will not ye declare it? I have shewed thee new things from this time, even hidden things, and thou didst not know them. They are created now, and not from the beginning, even before the day when thou heardest them not; lest thou shouldest say, Behold, I knew them. Yea, thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not; yea, from that time that thine ear was not opened: for I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the womb.
What a description! Treacherous, false, yea, very treacherous, beyond the usual degree of treachery; transgressors from our very birth, inured in sin. The very heart is wrong, and all that comes out of us is, therefore, wrong. And now, what follows?
Isaiah 48:9. For my name’s sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off.
“I cannot spare thee for thine own sake; but I will spare thee for my name’s sake. I cannot spare thee because of anything good in thee; but I will spare thee because of good in myself.” If God can glorify himself by your salvation, he finds a blessed motive for saving you, and, since there is no desert in you, he will fall back upon his own glory, and save you for his own name’s sake.
Isaiah 48:10. Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.
Thou sinful one, yet one of his own children, he will refine thee again and again, and he will glorify himself by saving thee.
Isaiah 48:11. For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another.
This verse ought to ring like music in the ear of one who is seeking mercy, and who cannot find out how mercy can come to him.
Isaiah 48:12-13. Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last. Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together.
What a great God is he whose right hand spanned the heavens, making the arch of the sky, as it were, with the span of his hand!
Isaiah 48:14. All ye, assemble yourselves, and hear, which among them hath declared these things?
He still dwells upon prophecy. God claims that he is God because he foretold all that happened, which the idol gods could not do.
Isaiah 48:14-15. The LORD hath loved him: he will do his pleasure on Babylon, and his arm shall be on the Chaldeans. I, even I, have spoken; yea, I have called him: I have brought him, and he shall make his way prosperous. Come ye near unto me, hear ye this, I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord God, and his Spirit, hath sent me. Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. I am the Lord thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go. O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments!
God again breaks out in lamentations over his wandering people! Not only is he ready to forgive them; but he grieves to think that they should have brought so much sorrow on themselves.
Isaiah 48:18-19. Then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea: thy seed also had been as the sand, and the offspring of thy bowels like the gravel thereof; his name should not have been cut off nor destroyed from before me.
All manner of possible good would have been yours had you not rebelled against God; and as you have lost it, God grieves that it should be so.
Isaiah 48:20. Go ye forth of Babylon, flee ye from the Chaldeans, with a voice of singing declare ye, tell this, utter it even to the end of the earth, say ye, The LORD hath redeemed his servant Jacob.
What a grand message for anyone to tell! Tell it, tell it, tell it everywhere, that Jehovah hath redeemed his people.
Isaiah 48:21. And they thirsted not when he led them through the deserts:
Neither shall you thirst, O redeemed one, when you are in the desert!
Isaiah 48:21. He caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them:
Most unlikely places shall yield you succour.
Isaiah 48:21. He clave the rock also, and the waters gushed out.
And yet, to finish up the chapter, stands this remarkable sentence: —
Isaiah 48:22. There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked.
O God, have mercy upon us, and let us not be numbered with them!