Monday, March 28, 2005

Isaiah 43

Currently, my favorite Scripture is Isaiah 43:25 - "I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more."

A few months ago, this scripture struck me with particular force. I was wrestling, and continue to wrestle, with the idea of grace for a long time. This scripture hit me particularly because in this word I see that God forgives us because he desires to. Of course, I don't want to take this too far, and devlope a hedonistic theology based on one verse in scripture (can we say "Jabez?") but I do think that God's forgiveness of my sins is as much a result of his desire to forgive me as it is a result of my desire to be forgiven. (Hence the incarnation of the Christ.) This mutual relationship regarding the nature of justification is something with which I am currently struggling back and forth. What does it mean that God forgives me for his own sake? I don't know. Maybe this is one of the mysteries of the Gospel that I will never understand.

Whatever the case, I have been forgiven. And before I went to deeply into the unanswerable, I wanted to take a moment and place that scripture in context. So this morning, I re-read through Isaiah 43. I have read this particular chapter several times in the past few months because of the impact that verse 25 has had on me. This morning, I was equally struck by the chapter as a whole. Rather than copying the entire chapter here, I will focus on a few key points. If you are interested in reading the whole chapter, then I recommend you read it. In fact, I recommend you read from verse 30 through to the end of Isaiah in one sitting. You'll have a much clearer picture of the Messiah when you have finished.

Anyway, in Isaiah 43. I was struck by how clearly God told the Jewish nation that the Messiah would not be a person, but rather, would be God incarnate. I may be reading a bit into this, you be the judge. But when Jesus came and told Israel that He was the Messiah, they said He couldn't be because He wasn't a governmental king as they suspected. And to this day, many Jews disbelieve in Jesus because they say that God promised to raise an Earthly king. He did not say that He would incarnate Himself. To that objection, I turn now to Isaiah 43.

In verse one of the chapter, Yahweh indicates who is speaking. "But now, this is what the LORD says- He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine." How beautiful is that?

So we know that it is God speaking. Then in verse ten He very clearly states: "You are my witnesses," declares the LORD , "and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe me and understand that I am He." Is this God saying that He, himself, will be the Messiah? Let's read on.

The second half of verse ten. "Before me no god was formed, nor will there be one after me." Right. You are God, and you are the only God. Verse eleven... the money ball. "I, even I, am the LORD , and apart from me there is no savior." Wow. What can that mean other than God will be the Messiah?

Keep going. Verse 12: "I have revealed and saved and proclaimed- I, and not some foreign god among you. You are my witnesses," declares the LORD , "that I am God. "Yes, and from ancient days I am he."

He goes on in verse 14: "This is what the LORD says- your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: ... your Holy One, Israel's Creator, your King." ...

Verse 18: "Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! How it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." Is this a prophecy to John the baptist? Well, probably not directly. In the following verses, he goes on to explain how he is making the desert bloom with wildlife.

Then He explains how He has done such a miracle in the desert in spite of the fact that Israel has refused to offer Him the correct sacrifices. Then He makes the unforgettable statement toward the end of verse 24, and in verse 25. "But you have burdened me with your sins and wearied me with your offenses. I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more."

He goes on from there in verse 26 and 27 to remind Israel of their sins. "Review the past for me, let us argue the matter together; state the case for your innocence. Your first father sinned; your spokesmen rebelled against me." Certainly Israel is not deserving of the forgiveness that God is offering, but remember it is offered not for the sake of Israel, but rather for the sake of God.

He then finishes the chapter with this powerful statement. "So I will disgrace the dignitaries of your temple, and I will consign Jacob to destruction and Israel to scorn." I wonder if that is a prophecy to what occured at the trial of Christ. These verses are all speaking about the Holy one of Israel, the Messiah. And in this verse He says that "the dignitaries of the temple" will be "disgraced." Were they not disgraced when they sentenced God to die?

The last thing I want to come across here as is Anti-Semitic. I do not blame the Jews for the crucifixion of Christ any more than I blame Pharoah for the exodus of the Jews. I don't know how these things came about, or who is responsible for the crucifixion of God. What I do want to point out, is that maybe in these scriptures, God is saying to Israel, "I will come. I will be your Messiah. I will forgive your sins, and you will not recognize me."

Maybe that's a bad summation of the chapter. Maybe not. I would love someone to help me with this, I'm not claiming to have the answers here, I'm merely wrestling with a portion of the word. If you have thoughts on this issue... I'd love to hear them.

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