In this chapter, God encourages the Jews to return to the land of Israel in the end times, and promises to save them as they pass through the flood and the fire. He promises them a new Exodus that will be greater than the crossing of the Red Sea.
In this chapter, God encourages the Jews to return to the land of Israel in the end times, and promises to save them as they pass through the flood and the fire. He promises them a new Exodus that will be greater than the crossing of the Red Sea.

The Jews should not be afraid because God calls them by name and will protect them (v1). They will pass through waters but not be overwhelmed, and through fire but not be burned (v2). Revelation 12:15-16 portrays Satan trying to drown Israel in the end times by spewing water at her like a river. But the earth opens up and swallows the river before it overwhelms her, and she escapes to a place of safety for the rest of the Great Tribulation. In verses 3 to 4, God promises to deliver (save) Israel, and as a ransom to hand over Egypt, Cush and Seba in her place. Egypt and Cush are two of the nations that Antichrist will conquer according to Daniel 11:42. Cush is modern-day Sudan. Seba was a south-Arabian kingdom. In verses 5 to 7, God reiterates that the Jews should not be afraid to return to the land, for he promises that he will bring them back from north, east, south and west, even from the remotest parts of the earth. For God created them for his glory (v7).

In verses 8 to 13, God calls the nations to another court room scene, and he calls the people of Israel forward as his witnesses before the nations. Just as in chapter 41, God is portrayed as Israel’s defence lawyer in this scene. God calls the people of Israel blind and deaf (v8), and yet they are also his chosen servant (10), just as in 42:18-19. They are witnesses that God proclaimed these end-time events beforehand, and that God has delivered Israel just as he promised. In verse 9, God challenges the nations to produce their own witnesses if they can prove that they also predicted such events. The resulting verdict is that Jehovah is the only God (v12), and apart from him there is no deliverer (saviour) (v11). God has been Israel’s saviour from ancient times, and when he chooses to deliver, no-one can prevent him (v13). Today, although Israel is still largely blind to Jesus as her Messiah, the Jews are already entering into this role as God's witnesses, proclaiming that God is fulfilling prophecies made long ago. Watch the video below as an example:
In verses 14 to 21, God promises that ‘Babylon’ is going to fall, the ‘Babylonians’ will all become refugees (v14), and Israel will experience a new Exodus (v16-21). God reminds Israel that he is their creator and king (v15), and that he is the one who made a way for Israel through the Red Sea and defeated Pharaoh’s army. He then tells them they can forget the crossing of the Red Sea (v18) the implication being that it will not compare to the new thing he is going to do (v19). The enormity of this statement cannot be over-emphasised. The parting of the Red Sea was the key event in Israel's salvation story, delivering them from darkness in the kingdom of slavery that they might enter into the promised land. Next time, when God does this new thing, he will make a way through the wilderness, and God asks, “Do you recognise it?” (v19). It is not unreasonable to see this speaking figuratively of the Cross, by which God parted the curtain in the most holy place, and made a way for Israel to enter into the heavenly promised land - but they didn't recognise it! However, this new thing will be fulfilled more literally at the second coming when Jesus divides the Mount of Olives, as prophesied in Zechariah 14:4. And that time, they will recognise him (Zechariah 12:10). It will be a massive geological event, with tremors experienced around the world, and will be even more dramatic than the parting of the Red Sea. Almost certainly it will also be broadcast on TV around the world. The Jewish refugees from Jerusalem will escape through the valley that Jesus creates by parting the mountain, and will escape to a place of safety where God will care for Israel for 1,260 days (Revelation 12:6). Verse 20 portrays the wild animals honouring God for his provision for the people of Israel on this Exodus journey. Although ancient Babylon fell in 539 BC, and Cyrus allowed many of the Jews to return to Israel, there was no dramatic Exodus event in the way that Isaiah describes here. So although there was partial fulfilment of this prophecy in 539 BC, the main fulfilment of this prophecy will occur in the end-times. In verse 14, therefore, Babylon should be understood as ‘Mystery Babylon’, which is in Arabia (Isaiah 21, Revelation 17-18).

In verses 22 to 28, God once again rebukes the people of Israel for failing to honour and obey him. So God says in verse 28, “I will disgrace the dignitaries of your temple, and I will consign Jacob to destruction and Israel to scorn” (NIV). The NET bible translates this literally in the past tense, but it is the prophetic past tense, as seen from a future perspective after the event has taken place. The temple dignitaries ('holy princes' in the NET bible) will be disgraced when the Antichrist sets up the abomination that causes desolation (Daniel 9:27). However verse 25 speaks of God's forgiveness. God says he has not burdened Israel with demands for offerings (v23), but they have burdened him with their sins (v24). However, he will blot out their sins and remember them no more (v25). The apparent contradiction of God's forgiveness, yet end-time punishment, is reconciled by Jeremiah 30:7, "Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble; but he shall be saved out of it". Israel's punishment will really be discipline from the Lord in order to save her.

This is a challenging chapter. On the one hand, God encourages the end-time Jews to return to Israel, and he promises to protect them so that the flood won’t overwhelm them or the fire burn them. But because Israel must also be refined and saved from her sins, they must certainly pass through the flood and the fire. In Matthew 24:21, Jesus tells us the Great Tribulation will be a time of suffering like never before. Jesus will dramatically intervene to rescue the Jews, and the nation of Israel will be saved through it (Jeremiah 30:7). But if I were a Jew living in somewhere like America, I might take a bit of convincing that I should emigrate to Israel, given all that is about to happen in the Middle East. However, it is possible that during the Great Tribulation there will be great anti-Semitism worldwide, and that Israel will actually be the safest place to be. If you are Daniel and are called to enter the lion’s den, you had better do so. Or if you are Shadrach, Meshach or Abednego, you have a destiny in the fiery furnace and you much trust that you won’t be burned by its flames.
Places: Israel, Egypt, Seba, Cush, Sudan, Babylon, Mystery Babylon, Arabia
Symbols: Mystery Babylon
Tags: Great Tribulation, Jesus as Saviour, Israel as the blind servant, End-time exodus, Jesus divides Mount of Olives, Jews encouraged to return to Israel, Abomination that causes desolation, Temple desecrated, God as the defence lawyer for Israel, Court scene, God uniquely predicts the future, Israel chastened, God allows Israel to be humiliated, Israel saved through the Great Tribulation, Nations conquered by the Antichrist
The Lord Will Rescue His People
1 Now, this is what the Lord says, the one who created you, O Jacob, and formed you, O Israel: “Don’t be afraid, for I will protect you. I call you by name, you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters, I am with you; when you pass through the streams, they will not overwhelm you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not harm you.
3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your deliverer. I have handed over Egypt as a ransom price, Ethiopia and Seba in place of you.
4 Since you are precious and special in my sight, and I love you, I will hand over people in place of you, nations in place of your life.
5 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. From the east I will bring your descendants; from the west I will gather you.
6 I will say to the north, ‘Hand them over!’ and to the south, ‘Don’t hold any back!’ Bring my sons from distant lands, and my daughters from the remote regions of the earth,
7 everyone who belongs to me, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed – yes, whom I made!

The Lord Declares His Sovereignty
8 Bring out the people who are blind, even though they have eyes, those who are deaf, even though they have ears!
9 All nations gather together, the peoples assemble. Who among them announced this? Who predicted earlier events for us? Let them produce their witnesses to testify they were right; let them listen and affirm, ‘It is true.’
10 You are my witnesses,” says the Lord, “my servant whom I have chosen, so that you may consider and believe in me, and understand that I am he. No god was formed before me, and none will outlive me.
11 I, I am the Lord, and there is no deliverer besides me.
12 I decreed and delivered and proclaimed, and there was no other god among you. You are my witnesses,” says the Lord, “that I am God.
13 From this day forward I am he; no one can deliver from my power; I will act, and who can prevent it?”

The Lord Will Do Something New
14 This is what the Lord says, your protector, the Holy One of Israel: “For your sake I send to Babylon and make them all fugitives, turning the Babylonians’ joyful shouts into mourning songs.
15 I am the Lord, your Holy One, the one who created Israel, your king.”
16 This is what the Lord says, the one who made a road through the sea, a pathway through the surging waters,
17 the one who led chariots and horses to destruction, together with a mighty army. They fell down, never to rise again; they were extinguished, put out like a burning wick:
18 “Don’t remember these earlier events; don’t recall these former events.
19 “Look, I am about to do something new. Now it begins to happen! Do you not recognize it? Yes, I will make a road in the wilderness and paths in the wastelands.
20 The wild animals honor me, the jackals and ostriches, because I put water in the wilderness and streams in the wastelands, to quench the thirst of my chosen people,
21 the people whom I formed for myself, so they might praise me.”

The Lord Rebukes His People
22 “But you did not call for me, O Jacob; you did not long for me, O Israel.
23 You did not bring me lambs for your burnt offerings; you did not honor me with your sacrifices. I did not burden you with offerings; I did not make you weary by demanding incense.
24 You did not buy me aromatic reeds; you did not present to me the fat of your sacrifices. Yet you burdened me with your sins; you made me weary with your evil deeds.
25 I, I am the one who blots out your rebellious deeds for my sake; your sins I do not remember.
26 Remind me of what happened! Let’s debate! You, prove to me that you are right!
27 The father of your nation sinned; your spokesmen rebelled against me.
28 So I defiled your holy princes, and handed Jacob over to destruction, and subjected Israel to humiliating abuse.”