God will pour out his Spirit on end-time Israel to bless and re-establish her in the land as his witnesses. Idol worshippers will be put to shame, and God will reveal his glory through his deliverance of Israel.
The previous chapter ended with God warning Israel that he will again allow the temple to be desecrated and Israel to suffer humiliation for failing to honour him. But this chapter starts with God once again reassuring Israel, poetically called Jeshurun (v2). She need not be afraid, for God has chosen her (v1). God will pour out his Spirit on Israel, and he will restore the nation and the land (v3-4). They belong to him (v5), their protector (kinsman redeemer), the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the First and the Last, the only God (v6), the only sheltering rock (v8). In the New Testament, Jesus is identified as Jehovah God in each of these ways. Jesus is Israel’s rock (1 Corinthians 10:4).

In verses 6 to 8, God once again offers a challenge, as though in a court or debate. He is the only one who proclaims the future and then fulfils it. The people of Israel are witnesses that he is the only God, the one who has re-established an ancient people because he decreed beforehand that he would do so (v7). The following video is an example of Israel fulfilling this witness role today:
Note in the above video how God’s healing of the land is emphasised, which is a fulfilment of verse 3 of this chapter. God is Israel’s only Rock (v8).

In verses 9 to 20, God is still speaking, and launches into the longest attack on idolatry to be found in the bible. God highlights the uselessness (v10) and absurdity (v19-20) of idolatry, warning that everyone associated with it will be put to shame (v11). Men, who are made in the image of God, create something in the image of man and bow down to it (v12-13). It is made of wood or metal, and can never rise above the material from which it is created (v14). A carpenter uses half a piece of wood to light a fire and warm himself, and from the other half of the same piece of wood creates a god to worship (v15-17). Idol worshippers are blind and deluded (v9, 18-20). In the New Testament, Paul attributes this blindness to the work of Satan (2 Corinthians 4:4). Today, it might seem that idolatry is no longer a relevant problem in Israel. Today, most people don’t literally bow down to idols. But we do materialistically run after created objects, serving them with our time and resources. And in the Great Tribulation it is clear that there will be gross idolatry taking place in Israel, when the Antichrist sets up the image called the ‘abomination that causes desolation’ (Matthew 24:15).

In verses 21 to 28, God reaffirms his promise to redeem Israel. He calls Israel to remember that he formed her to be his servant and he will not forget her (v21). He will remove her guilt, and he calls her to come back to himself for he will protect (redeem) her (v22). God is intervening for Israel, and he calls all of nature to shout with joy. By redeeming and delivering Israel, God will reveal his splendour (glory) (v23). God affirms that he, the creator of the universe, formed Israel in the womb (v24). He frustrates and overturns the ways of the wicked and those who are seen to be wise but are actually fools (v25). But he fulfils the words of his prophets. And his prophetic word says that Judah will once again be inhabited and its towns rebuilt (v26). He commands the deep sea to be dry (figuratively implying there will be a new Red Sea crossing type experience) – (v27). And he commissions Cyrus as his shepherd (king) to carry out his decree that Jerusalem and its temple be rebuilt (v28). This is Cyrus the Persian, who conquered Babylon in 539 BC and allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. Such mention of Cyrus certainly points to the 6th century fulfilment of this prophesied deliverance. However, taken in its wider context of Isaiah 40 to 55, this chapter also points to an even greater deliverance of Israel in the end times.
Places: Israel, Jeshurun, Judah, Jerusalem
Symbols: Rock, Kinsman redeemer
Tags: Healing of the land, Restoration of Israel, Holy Spirit outpouring, Jesus as the Rock, God as the kinsman redeemer of Israel, Court scene, Israel as a witness, Israel as a blind witness, Idol worshippers humiliated, Absurdity of idolatry, Cyrus, God uniquely predicts the future, Deliverance of Israel
The Lord Will Renew Israel
1 “Now, listen, Jacob my servant, Israel whom I have chosen!”
2 This is what the Lord, the one who made you, says – the one who formed you in the womb and helps you: “Don’t be afraid, my servant Jacob, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen!
3 For I will pour water on the parched ground and cause streams to flow on the dry land. I will pour my Spirit on your offspring and my blessing on your children.
4 They will sprout up like a tree in the grass, like poplars beside channels of water.
5 One will say, ‘I belong to the Lord,’ and another will use the name ‘Jacob.’ One will write on his hand, ‘The Lord’s,’ and use the name ‘Israel.’”

The Absurdity of Idolatry
6 This is what the Lord, Israel’s king, says, their protector, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies: “I am the first and I am the last, there is no God but me.
7 Who is like me? Let him make his claim! Let him announce it and explain it to me – since I established an ancient people – let them announce future events!
8 Don’t panic! Don’t be afraid! Did I not tell you beforehand and decree it? You are my witnesses! Is there any God but me? There is no other sheltering rock; I know of none.
9 All who form idols are nothing; the things in which they delight are worthless. Their witnesses cannot see; they recognize nothing, so they are put to shame.
10 Who forms a god and casts an idol that will prove worthless?
11 Look, all his associates will be put to shame; the craftsmen are mere humans. Let them all assemble and take their stand! They will panic and be put to shame.
12 A blacksmith works with his tool and forges metal over the coals. He forms it with hammers; he makes it with his strong arm. He gets hungry and loses his energy; he drinks no water and gets tired.
13 A carpenter takes measurements; he marks out an outline of its form; he scrapes it with chisels, and marks it with a compass. He patterns it after the human form, like a well-built human being, and puts it in a shrine.
14 He cuts down cedars and acquires a cypress or an oak. He gets trees from the forest; he plants a cedar and the rain makes it grow.
15 A man uses it to make a fire; he takes some of it and warms himself. Yes, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Then he makes a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it.
16 Half of it he burns in the fire – over that half he cooks meat; he roasts a meal and fills himself. Yes, he warms himself and says, ‘Ah! I am warm as I look at the fire.’
17 With the rest of it he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships it. He prays to it, saying, ‘Rescue me, for you are my god!’
18 They do not comprehend or understand, for their eyes are blind and cannot see; their minds do not discern.
19 No one thinks to himself, nor do they comprehend or understand and say to themselves: ‘I burned half of it in the fire – yes, I baked bread over the coals; I roasted meat and ate it. With the rest of it should I make a disgusting idol? Should I bow down to dry wood?’
20 He feeds on ashes; his deceived mind misleads him. He cannot rescue himself, nor does he say, ‘Is this not a false god I hold in my right hand?’
21 Remember these things, O Jacob, O Israel, for you are my servant. I formed you to be my servant; O Israel, I will not forget you!
22 I remove the guilt of your rebellious deeds as if they were a cloud, the guilt of your sins as if they were a cloud. Come back to me, for I protect you.”
23 Shout for joy, O sky, for the Lord intervenes; shout out, you subterranean regions of the earth. O mountains, give a joyful shout; you too, O forest and all your trees! For the Lord protects Jacob; he reveals his splendor through Israel.

The Lord Empowers Cyrus
24 This is what the Lord, your protector, says, the one who formed you in the womb: “I am the Lord, who made everything, who alone stretched out the sky, who fashioned the earth all by myself,
25 who frustrates the omens of the empty talkers and humiliates the omen readers, who overturns the counsel of the wise men and makes their advice seem foolish,
26 who fulfills the oracles of his prophetic servants and brings to pass the announcements of his messengers, who says about Jerusalem, ‘She will be inhabited,’ and about the towns of Judah, ‘They will be rebuilt, her ruins I will raise up,’
27 who says to the deep sea, ‘Be dry! I will dry up your sea currents,’
28 who commissions Cyrus, the one I appointed as shepherd to carry out all my wishes and to decree concerning Jerusalem, ‘She will be rebuilt,’ and concerning the temple, ‘It will be reconstructed.’”