This chapter portrays God speaking to today's Jews, announcing their end-time Exodus, and revealing Jesus to them as their God and Messiah who will lead them out of Mystery Babylon, back to victory in the promised land.
In the previous chapter, Isaiah proclaimed the end-time fall of the Daughter of Babylon (Arabia). This chapter addresses the descendants of Judah (the Jews) who are in exile in Babylon. As in chapter 46, this chapter is a dual-prophecy with dual-fulfilment. At one level it speaks to the generation of Jews in exile in Babylon during the 6th century BC. God tells them he is raising up his chosen ally (literally his 'beloved') to carry out his desire against Babylon. This was fulfilled in 539 BC when Cyrus the Persian defeated the Babylonian Empire, and then allowed the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.

There are good reasons why Cyrus is portrayed in Isaiah as a type of messiah for Israel (appointed by God as a 'shepherd' in Isaiah 44:28; called God's 'anointed one' in Isaiah 45:1; and literally his 'beloved' in Isaiah 48:14). Ultimately, Cyrus is a prophetic picture of Jesus the Messiah who is the Great Shepherd and God's beloved Son. Ultimately, this chapter speaks to the end-time generation of Jewish exiles in Mystery Babylon (Arabia), who will be delivered by Jesus. In verse 20, they are told to flee Babylon, implying that it is about to be destroyed, as described in chapter 47. This command to leave Babylon is equivalent to the command 'Come out of her my people' as found in Jeremiah 51:45 and in Revelation 18:4 "Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues". Verse 20 proclaims a new Exodus for the Jews. This is called a 'new event' in verse 6, and is also described in 43:18-20. Micah 4:10 also describes God's rescue of end-time Israel from 'Babylon'.

How is it that the end-time Jews end up as exiles in Mystery Babylon (Arabia)? According to Zechariah 14, when Jerusalem falls to the Antichrist, half the city will go into exile. As they flee Jerusalem, Jesus sets his feet on the Mount of Olives and divides it like an end-time Moses, facilitating their escape through a mountain valley that extends to Azal. So great will be this new exodus event that Isaiah 43:18 tells Israel they can forget the crossing of the Red Sea, implying that it simply won't compare to its end-time equivalent. Azal was the ancient name for Sana'a, the capital of Yemen, suggesting this valley runs all the way from Jerusalem down to the south of the Arabian Peninsula. Revelation 12:14 tells us Israel will be carried on eagle's wings (like in Exodus 19:4) to a place of safety in a desert location prepared for her by God. There she will be taken care of for three and a half years, the duration of the Great Tribulation. At the end of that period, before God releases plagues on Mystery Babylon (see Revelation 16 and 18:4), Jesus will lead them out in a new Exodus back to the promised land of Israel. In Psalm 68:17, he is portrayed coming from Sinai, with an army of countless chariots to deliver Jerusalem. Given the biblical comparisons between the original exodus and this new exodus, my guess is that God will take the Jews back to Sinai, and that Sinai is their place of safety. There Jesus will reveal himself to Israel as the God of Sinai and prepare them for a new return to the promised land. Speaking of this time in the desert and the end-time exodus, in Hosea 2:14-16 God says to Israel, "However, in the future I will allure her; I will lead her back into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. From there I will give back her vineyards to her, and turn the “Valley of Trouble” into an “Opportunity for Hope.” There she will sing as she did when she was young, when she came up from the land of Egypt. “At that time,” declares the LORD, “you will call, ‘My husband'; you will never again call me, ‘My master.'"

Understanding Isaiah 48 in that context:

God addresses today's generation of Jews who live in the holy city of Jerusalem (v2). They invoke the God of Israel, and trust in him, but not in 'truth or righteousness' (KJV) - (v1). Events are about to suddenly take place that God announced beforehand (through his prophets) - (v3). He announced them beforehand because they are stubborn, and he doesn't want Israel to be able to explain away what happens (v4-5). God calls Israel to examine the evidence (of prophecy already being fulfilled) before the new events takes place that God is about to do (the new Exodus) - (v6). These are events that cannot be explained away as having been fulfilled in the past (v7-8). God is angry with Israel, but for the sake of his reputation, he is not going to let Israel be destroyed (v9). Instead, God is about to refine and purify Israel in a furnace of misery (v10). As Jeremiah 30:7 says, "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" (KJV). God is going to act on Israel's behalf so that his name is not defiled (v11). He is going to give Israel a fresh revelation of himself as Jehovah "I am", the First and the Last (v12), the creator of the earth (v13), who has announced the future beforehand (v14). Having got Israel's full attention, God the Father then presents Jesus, his 'beloved', who will carry out his desire against Arabia, and exert his power over the Arabs (v14). God commissions Jesus in the presence of Israel and promises his success (v15).

The Father then calls Israel to come closer, to listen to what Jesus has to say (v16a). Jesus says, "From the very first I have not spoken in secret; when it happens, I am there.” So now, the sovereign LORD has sent me, accompanied by his spirit" (v16b). This is an Old Testament revelation of the Trinity, of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is equivalent to several New Testament verses including John 1:1-2, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was fully God…"; together with Luke 4:18 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me…"; and also John 8:58 "…before Abraham was born, I am".

Jesus continues to speak in the first person, as God, "This is what the LORD, your protector (redeemer) says, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you how to succeed…" (v17). In other words, Jesus says "I am Jehovah".

Jesus continues "If only you had obeyed my commandments, prosperity would have flowed to you like a river, deliverance would have come to you like the waves of the sea…Their name would not have been cut off and eliminated from my presence" (v18-19). This is similar to the sentiment Jesus expressed in Matthew 23:37, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those who are sent to you! How often I have longed to gather your children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you would have none of it! Look, your house is left to you desolate!"

Having fully revealed himself to Israel and restored her in the wilderness as in Hosea 2:14, it is now time for Jesus to lead the Jews back to Israel and establish his victory over the Antichrist. By now it is time for the last trumpet to sound, when Jesus will reveal himself, not just to Israel, but to the whole world. After the last trumpet sounds, it is time for the bowl judgments to be poured out on Antichrist's empire, and for Mystery Babylon to be struck with plagues (Revelation 18:4 and Jeremiah 51:45). Therefore, it is time for the Jews to flee from Arabia before the plagues begin, and head back to victory in Jerusalem (20). On this Exodus journey back to the promised land, Jesus is their end-time Moses who splits the rock and makes water flow (v21). This is the end for the wicked (v22).
Places: Babylon, Saudi Arabia, Arabia, Mystery Babylon, Israel, Judah, Sinai, Azal, Sanaa, Yemen
Tags: Mystery Babylon, Fall of Babylon, Restoration of Israel, Great Tribulation, God as Trinity, Israel escapes to place of safety, Jesus as Jehovah, Cyrus as a type of messiah, God uniquely predicts the future, End-time exodus, Plagues, Bowl judgments, Jesus as the Rock, Jesus as the first and last
The Lord Appeals to the Exiles
1 Listen to this, O family of Jacob, you who are called by the name ‘Israel,’ and are descended from Judah, who take oaths in the name of the Lord, and invoke the God of Israel – but not in an honest and just manner.
2 Indeed, they live in the holy city; they trust in the God of Israel, whose name is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.
3 “I announced events beforehand, I issued the decrees and made the predictions; suddenly I acted and they came to pass.
4 I did this because I know how stubborn you are. Your neck muscles are like iron and your forehead like bronze.
5 I announced them to you beforehand; before they happened, I predicted them for you, so you could never say, ‘My image did these things, my idol, my cast image, decreed them.’
6 You have heard; now look at all the evidence! Will you not admit that what I say is true? From this point on I am announcing to you new events that are previously unrevealed and you do not know about.
7 Now they come into being, not in the past; before today you did not hear about them, so you could not say, ‘Yes, I know about them.’
8 You did not hear, you do not know, you were not told beforehand. For I know that you are very deceitful; you were labeled a rebel from birth.
9 For the sake of my reputation I hold back my anger; for the sake of my prestige I restrain myself from destroying you.
10 Look, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have purified you in the furnace of misery.
11 For my sake alone I will act, for how can I allow my name to be defiled? I will not share my glory with anyone else!
12 Listen to me, O Jacob, Israel, whom I summoned! I am the one; I am present at the very beginning and at the very end.
13 Yes, my hand founded the earth; my right hand spread out the sky. I summon them; they stand together.
14 All of you, gather together and listen! Who among them announced these things? The Lord’s ally will carry out his desire against Babylon; he will exert his power against the Babylonians.
15 I, I have spoken – yes, I have summoned him; I lead him and he will succeed.
16 Approach me! Listen to this! From the very first I have not spoken in secret; when it happens, I am there.” So now, the Sovereign Lord has sent me, accompanied by his Spirit.
17 This is what the Lord, your protector, says, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you how to succeed, who leads you in the way you should go.
18 If only you had obeyed my commandments, prosperity would have flowed to you like a river, deliverance would have come to you like the waves of the sea.
19 Your descendants would have been as numerous as sand, and your children like its granules. Their name would not have been cut off and eliminated from my presence.
20 Leave Babylon! Flee from the Babylonians! Announce it with a shout of joy! Make this known! Proclaim it throughout the earth! Say, ‘The Lord protects his servant Jacob.
21 They do not thirst as he leads them through dry regions; he makes water flow out of a rock for them; he splits open a rock and water flows out.’
22 There will be no prosperity for the wicked,” says the Lord.