The purpose of signs, wonders, and prophecies is to create faith in God: “Wow, only God could do something like that!” But our problem as humans is that we seem to be perpetually trying to find ways to explain them away. “It wasn’t really God that divided the Red Sea, it was a natural effect of the explosive volcanic activity of Santorini. Yeah, yeah, that’s the ticket!” But in today’s reading God had something that He definitely didn’t want Israel to miss — that He Himself had planned and would execute the destruction of Babylon, the nation who would be punishing Israel for their sins. So, God was telling Israel a long time beforehand, “Don’t even think that this was something that your idols pulled off. I’m telling you right now, I’ve planned it and will do!” And while He’s at it, God will be telling us something about His Messiah — some 700-800 years before it will happens. For those who see the fulfillment, there should be no — absolutely no — doubt that the LORD is God; this was no coincidence or the hand of man or some so-called god. Let’s take a look…
Your wisdom and your knowledge, they have deceived you — 47:10
Babylon was known for their learning. This was the land of one the earliest forms of writing, cuneiform. The Chaldeans were renowned from the Indus River to Egypt for their knowledge and wisdom. Daniel was one of them in his day. The Magi (the wise men) of Jesus’ day were none other than the learned Chaldeans. But knowledge often puffs up the knowledgable and has been known to blind us to some of the more important things. That’s what God is telling the Babylonians; their knowledge of their gods, of reading omens, of magic, of spells, and of dream interpretation was going to deceive them rather than truthfully inform them. And it wouldn’t hurt for us to pay attention to the principle here. I am not — let me repeat, I am not — anti-science, but the history of science is absolutely replete with examples of firm but false conclusions, skewed results, recalibrations, and embarrassing assertions. One of the most infamous is evolution, which has been the foundation of many an unbelievers creed. Truth has nothing to fear from real science. But the eternally important truth is not found under a microscope, or behind a telescope, or inside a science book — it’s in the Bible.
Behold, I have refined you…in the furnace of affliction — 48:10
Precious metals are found in nature mixed in with plenty of impurities. Making it pure and valuable takes refining, smelting. The metal is heated to separate it from it’s impurities, and then heated again, and again, and again. Each time a little more impurity is removed. Each time the metal is a little more valuable. It’s a process. God sees men as also full of impurities that must be eliminated, in need of refining. But the heat that refines men is affliction. We humans hate it, question God’s existence because of it (because surely God wouldn’t allow this sort of thing to happen to me or those I love), we ask God to spare us, we resist, we try to wriggle free. We resist purification. But it’s what makes us what God wants of us, precious, valuable, pure, holy, strong, wiser, and faithful. “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4, NAS95.
If only you had paid attention — 48:18
Here’s an interesting thought: how much better would your life and mine be, if only we had paid attention (listened and obeyed)? Israel’s life was about to get really, really rough. It didn’t need to have been so. How many more examples could be cited (tons) of judgments on Israel for unfaithfulness? There are consequences for our foolish moral choices. We make things so much harder for ourselves than they need to be.
I will make You a light of the nations — 49:6
This comes, of course, from another great Messianic prophecy. He would be (is) the light of the nations! Not just of Israel, but of the nations! God isn’t interested in just the Jews; He’s interested in the Gentiles, too. He’s not interested in just nice people; but not-so-nice people, too. He’s interested in the rich and the poor, the skinny and the fat, the quiet and the loud, the black and the white, the tall and the short, ancient men and modern men, the old and the young, men and women, the educated and the uneducated, and the smart and the slow — in short, everyone. Thank you, Lord.
Those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame — 48:23
The chief operative word here is “hopefully”. Hope is a confident expectation that something will happen. God’s people are a people of hope and it is the hope that enables us to wait and have endurance. Such people will not be standing in the end with “egg on their face” — as the saying goes. They will be the ones cheering!
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.