THE BOOK OF ISAIAH
Lesson 18: Chapters 48-49
Part III: Prophecies of Consolation (Chapters 40-66)
You sent God the Son to bring eternal salvation to Israel and to all mankind. He is the messianic Servant that Isaiah prophesied. It is because of the Christ and the gifts of divine grace that You give through Him that all of us who are His disciples are also Your divinely ordained servants. Help each of us who are the people of the new Zion that is the universal Church to realize our divine destinies to take up our missions to carry forth the Gospel of salvation. Like the Israelites of old, we also have Your promise of liberation, but our liberation is from death and the grave and our hope is Heaven and union with You in the life of the Most Holy Trinity. It is the destiny You have planned for all of us so long as we are not rebellious or stubborn and accept Your gift with grateful hearts that are full of love and compassion. Please send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our study concerning Israel's stubborn refusal to be obedient by continually breaking Your gentle yoke of the Law, and Your stubborn desire to bless them in spite of themselves. May You be as patient with all of us! We prayin the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Stephen in his turn says to the Jews, "You stiff-necked, uncircumcised in heart
and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your ancestors did, so do
you." And also through the mouth of the prophet Jeremiah, the God of the
universe has declared to them, "You have had the appearance of a prostitute;
you refuse to be ashamed." It is this shamelessness that Isaiah likewise
alludes to by the phrase "brazen forehead." The forehead of a brass statue
does not blush. Similarly, you no longer blush when you commit evil or when you
are confronted or chastised...In this way he has described with greater clarity
their spirit of disobedience. For they voluntarily refused to listen, because
they did not ever desire to hear the words of God.
St. Theodoret, Bishop of Cry (c. 393-466), Commentary on Isaiah, 15.48.4-8 (quoting Acts 7:51; Jeremiah 3:3, and Isaiah 48:4-8)
After listing the
sufferings the Israelites were to endure if they were unfaithful to His
covenant, God told His prophet Moses: "Yet, in spite of all this, when they
are in the land of their enemies, I shall not so utterly reject or detest them
as to destroy them completely and break my covenant with them; for I am Yahweh
their God. For their sake I shall remember the covenant I made with those
first generations that I brought out of Egypt while other nations watched, so
that I should be their God, I, Yahweh."
The focus of chapter 48 is the contrast between Israel/Judah's stubbornness versus God's even more stubborn determination to bless His covenant people with His grace. It is God's grace that will suppress Israel's obstinate refusal to believe in God's promises. One of the key words in the Book of Consolation is the Hebrew word shema/listen (hear/harken). It is used at least thirty times in the first two parts of Isaiah and is found another thirty times in this third part of the book. Throughout the Book of Isaiah, God has continually called the people to "listen" but, as you will recall when Isaiah was called to his ministry by Yahweh, he was told to command the people to listen, but he was also warned that the people would not listen and because they would not listen they would not understand (Is 6:9-10).
Isaiah 48:1-6a ~ Israel's Obstinacy
1 Listen to this, House of Jacob, you who are called by the name of Israel and issued from the waters of Judah, who swear by the name of Yahweh and invoke the God of Israel, though not in good faith or uprightness; 2 for they call themselves after the holy city and rely on the God of Israel, Yahweh Sabaoth is his name. 3 Things now past I revealed long ago, they issued from my mouth, I proclaimed them; suddenly I acted and they happened. 4 For I knew you to be obstinate, your neck an iron sinew and your forehead bronze. 5 As I told you about it long before, before it happened I revealed it to you, so that you could not say, "My statue did it, my idol, my metal image, ordained this. 6a You have heard and seen all this, why won't you admit it?"
In Isaiah 48:1-5 the prophet highlights three aspects of the covenant people's relationship with God:
Question: In verse 1 Isaiah identifies the covenant
people in what three ways and how do these names/titles reflect upon the
history of the covenant people and their divine election going back to
Abraham? See Gen 17:1-3, 7; 28:13-15; 29:23, 35; 32:29 (28); 35:9-12;
2 Sam 5:1-5.
Answer: The three ways Isaiah refers to the covenant people in 48:1 are:
Isaiah does this to emphasize how God had chosen this people by divine election centuries earlier. The names/titles also show the progression in the history of the people. God established a covenant with Abraham that continued through his son Isaac and then through Isaac's son Jacob. When God continued the covenant with Jacob, He changed his name to "Israel." Then, Jacob's fourth son Judah became the ancestor of the tribe of Judah. The tribe of Judah, with the other eleven tribes of Israel, were chosen by divine election and called into covenant with God at Mt. Sinai. It was the tribe of Judah ("waters of Judah") that produced David, God's anointed, with whom God made an eternal covenant and through the "issue" of David that the Messiah is destined to come.
The eternal covenant that God made with David continued with David's heirs, the Davidic kings and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. It is to the descendants of Judah and the tribe of Benjamin that remained loyal to the Davidic kings that God is now promising restoration and redemption since they are the remaining remnant of the chosen people of Israel.
In 48:1b-2 Isaiah accuses the Judahites, the only
remaining remnant of Israel, of insincerity in only going through the motions
of faithfulness to Yahweh in their religious observances.
Question: What are the accusations Isaiah makes against the people?
The people may have sworn public allegiance to Yahweh, but their sinful hearts betray them. They do not have the virtues of faith and righteousness that they need to worship a righteous and holy God.
4 For I knew you
to be obstinate, your neck an iron sinew and your forehead bronze.
From the very beginning of God's relationship with the children of Israel in the Exodus out of Egypt, they resisted His divine plan and refused to repent. A neck that is as stiff as an iron sinew is a neck that does not bow down in repentance, and a person with a forehead of bronze is one who refuses to be ashamed of bad behavior and to acknowledge personal sin. In his commentary on this passage, St. Theodoret, Bishop of Cry (c. 393-466) wrote: "It is this shamelessness that Isaiah likewise alludes to by the phrase "brazen forehead." The forehead of a brass statue does not blush. Similarly, you no longer blush when you commit evil or when you are confronted or chastised... In this way he has described with greater clarity their spirit of disobedience. For they voluntarily refused to listen, because they did not ever desire to hear the words of God" (Commentary on Isaiah, 15.48.4-8).
5 As I told you
about it long before, before it happened I revealed it to you, so that you
could not say, "My statue did it, my idol, my metal image, ordained this. 6 You have heard and seen all this, why won't
you admit it? "
Isaiah chastises the people for their failure to admit that God has ordained their destiny as well as for their failure to admit their sins and to repent. Verses 1-6a are as much a warning for us to avoid the sin of insincere worship as a condemnation of the practices of those who professed belief in God in the Old Testament:
Do you just "go through the motions" when you attend the Sacrifice of the Mass? Do you really believe what you profess to believe in the Creed when you repeat those words with the assembly of believers at the celebration of the Mass, and do you invoke the name of Jesus with the sincerity of faith in your prayers and submit your life to Christ?
God told the people through Isaiah in verse 5 that the
things He revealed in the past will come to pass just as He foretold them. This
is proof that He is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do.
Question: What things did Jesus foretell that came to pass historically after His Ascension, and what things have yet to be fulfilled? See Mt 24-25; Jn 14:15-17; Acts 1:4-5 and 2:1-4.
Answer: Just as Jesus foretold, God sent the Holy Spirit (the Paraclete) to fill and indwell the Church after His Ascension. The city of Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD, just as Jesus had predicted. The prophecy that has not yet been fulfilled is Jesus' Second Coming that will take place at the end of the age.
Isaiah 48:6-11 ~ The Promise of a New Revelation
6b Now I am going to reveal new things to you, secrets that you do not know; 7 they have just been created, not long ago, and until today you have heard nothing about them, so that you cannot say, "Yes, I knew about this." 8 No, you have not heard, you have not known, for a long time your ear has not been attentive, for I knew how treacherous you were; you have been called a rebel since the womb. 9 For the sake of my name I shall defer my anger, for the sake of my honor I shall be patient with you, rather than destroy you. 10 Look, I have purchased you, but not for silver, I have chosen you out of the cauldron of affliction. 11 For my sake and my sake only shall I act, for why should my name be profaned? I will not yield my glory to another.
God tells the people through His prophet that despite Israel's stubbornness God is determined to bless His people. In the promise of God's future acts on behalf of His people, in verses 6b-22 Isaiah stressed three aspects of God's grace:
In verses 6-11 God promises to reveal to them "new things" not previously made known to them, and He also puts Israel's actions in perspective: 10 Look, I have purchased you, but not for silver, I have chosen you out of the cauldron of affliction. 11 For my sake and my sake only shall I act, for why should my name be profaned? I will not yield my glory to another. The Israelites had been rebellious and disobedient from their creation "from the time of their exodus out of their affliction of slavery in Egypt when God transformed them into a free nation; they had constantly complained and resisted God's "yoke of grace" (see Ex 14:10-12; 17:1-3; Num 14:1-4; etc.). In spite of all their failures, God had not abandoned them. He has chastised them but for the sake of His divine plan and Israel's role in it, as well as His promises to bless Israel as His covenant people. God withheld His divine wrath with the intention of displaying both His glory and His grace toward His covenant people. The future exile in Babylon was to be a time of atonement and a time for Israel's refinement as a covenant people in the crucible of suffering to separate out the faithful remnant of Israel and to strengthen them in their faith.
St. Paul and St. James both wrote about the potentially
positive side of sufferings and trials in the faith journey of a believer who
puts his hope and trust in God.
Question: What did they write in Romans 5:2-4 and James 1:2-4? Can you apply what they wrote to your life?
Answers will vary.
Isaiah 48:12-15 ~ The God of Creation chose Cyrus to do His Will
12 Listen to me, Jacob, Israel whom I have called: I, and none else, [I] am the first, I am also the last. 13 My hand laid the foundations of the earth and my right hand spread out the heavens. I summon them and they all present themselves together. 14 Assemble, all of you, and listen; which of them has revealed this? Yahweh loves him; he will do his pleasure on Babylon and the race of the Chaldaeans; 15 I, I have spoken, yes, I have summoned him, I have brought him, and he will succeed.
That Yahweh is "the first and the last" is repeated from Isaiah 41:4 and 44:6. It is the quality of God that identifies Him as the originator/creator of all things (verse 13) and which is transferred to Christ "the Alpha and Omega" "the first and last letter in the Greek alphabet signifying the "first and the last" in Revelation 1:8, and the same concept is repeated in Revelation 17; 2:8; 21:6 and in 22:13 at the end of the Book of Revelation.
14 Assemble, all
of you, and listen; which of them has revealed this? Yahweh loves him; he will
do his pleasure on Babylon and the race of the Chaldaeans;
Question: Who is the "you" and the "them" and what is the answer to the question in verse 14a? Answer: The "them" refers to idols and the "you" to those who worship idols. The answer to the question is "none."
Question: Who is the "him/he" who God "loves"
in verse 14b?
Answer: The one who Yahweh loves is Cyrus who will fulfill God's mission (his pleasure) to subdue Babylon and the Chaldaeans.
Isaiah 48:16-19 ~ Israel's Destiny
16 Come near and listen to this: from the first, I never spoke obscurely; when it happened, I was there, and now Lord Yahweh has sent me with his spirit. 17 Thus says Yahweh, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: I am Yahweh your God and teach you for your own good. I lead you in the way you ought to go. 18 If only you had listened to my commandments! Your prosperity would have been like a river and your saving justice like the waves of the sea. 19 Your descendants would have been numbered like the sand, your offspring as many as its grains. Their name would never be cancelled or blotted out from my presence.
The prophet reminds the people that he is anointed with
the Spirit of Yahweh to speak the words of God to them. He asks them to
consider what the destiny of Israel would have been had they had remained
faithful by following Yahweh's teachings and the path He set for them by being
obedient to the Law of the Sinai Covenant.
Question: If they had been obedient what does Isaiah say would have been different?
These were the promised God made to Israel for obedience to the covenant in Leviticus 26:1-13 and Deuteronomy 28:14. Instead they suffered God's warnings of judgment for the failure to remain faithful to the covenant in Leviticus 26:14-43 and Deuteronomy 28:15-68. But in spite of the warnings of the judgment that they would suffer for unfaithfulness, in Leviticus 26:44-45 God told the people through His prophet Moses: "Yet, in spite of all this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I shall not so utterly reject or detest them as to destroy them completely and break my covenant with them; for I am Yahweh their God. For their sake I shall remember the covenant I made with those first generations that I brought out of Egypt while other nations watched, so that I should be their God, I, Yahweh." This is the same promise Isaiah is relating to the people.
Isaiah 48:20-22 ~ The Promised end of the Exile
20 Come out from Babylon! Flee from the Chaldaeans! Declare this with cries of joy, proclaim it, carry it to the remotest parts of earth, say, "Yahweh has redeemed his servant Jacob." 21 Those he led through the arid country never went thirsty; he made water flow for them from the rock, he split the rock and out streamed the water. 22 There is no peace, says Yahweh, for the wicked.
Once again Yahweh promises to redeem His covenant people from the Babylonian exile in a hymn of liberation. He commands them to "come out" of Babylon in the same way He commanded them to come out of their Egyptian exile. And He will redeem them and care for them in the journey out of Babylon in the same way He led Israel on the journey out of Egypt and across the Sinai desert when He provided for them by giving them water from "the rock." Two such events of this miracle are described in Exodus 17:1-1-7 and in Numbers 33:12-14. In Exodus 17:1-7 God commanded Moses to strike the rock and water miraculously flowed out (also see Ps 78:15-16). God is reminding the people, if He provided for their needs then, He can also provide for their needs in the Babylonian liberation. But in verse 22, the hymn concludes with a warning: God rewards the righteous but there is "no peace for the wicked!" In this sense the word "peace" refers to the peace that comes from a relationship with God.
This song concludes the first section of the "Book of Consolation."
Chapter 49 begins the second part of the "Book of Consolation," that forms the third part of the Book of Isaiah (see the summary outline of the Book of Isaiah in handout 1 of Isaiah Lesson 1). The three parts of the "Book of Consolation":
In the "Book of Consolation," Isaiah presents prophecies concerning Yahweh's ordained "Servant" in a series of four passages that are called the "Songs of the Servant." We read the first "Song of the Servant" in Isaiah 42:1-4 (5-9). The mysterious Servant was presented as a prophet/messiah with a sacred mission to fulfill a divine destiny. Isaiah 49:1-6 is the second "Song of the Servant":
All the "Servant Songs" are messianic prophecies that are fulfilled in the mission of Jesus the Messiah. See handout 4 from Isaiah Lesson 1.
Isaiah 49:1-7 ~ The Second Song of the Servant
1 Coasts and islands, listen to me, pay attention, distant peoples. Yahweh called me when I was in the womb, before my birth he had pronounced my name. 2 He made my mouth like a sharp sword, he hid me in the shadow of his hand. He made me into a sharpened arrow and concealed me in his quiver. 3 He said to me, "Israel, you are my servant, through whom I shall manifest my glory." 4 But I said, "My toil has been futile, I have exhausted myself for nothing, to no purpose." Yet all the while my cause was with Yahweh and my reward with my God. 5 And now Yahweh has spoken, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him and to re-unite Israel to him. I shall be honored in Yahweh's eyes, and my God has been my strength. 6 He said, "It is not enough for you to be my servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel; I shall make you a light to the nations so that my salvation may reach the remotest parts of the earth." 7 Thus says Yahweh, the redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, to the one who is despised, detested by the nations, to the slave of despots: kings will stand up when they see, princes will see and bow low, because of Yahweh who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen you.
As noted earlier, the term "servant" is found in the Book of Isaiah forty times. Thirty-one of those times occur in the Book of Consolation in Isaiah chapters 40-66 (see the chart in Lesson 16 or the handout for that lesson).
In the first Servant Song (Is 42:1-7) God presents an individual as His Servant and describes him as:
The choosing of the Servant is accompanied by an outpouring of the Holy Spirit; this special outpouring of the Spirit is not mentioned in 41:8 for Israel who is God's servant collectively. But for this individual who is God's chosen Servant, he will be anointed with God's Spirit like God's prophets, priests and kings (Ex 29:7; Lev 8:12; 1 Sam 9:16; 10:1; 11:6; 16:1, 12-13; 1 Kng 1:39; 19:16; 2 Chr 20:14).
In the Second Servant's Song in Isaiah 49:1-6, unlike the first song in 42:1-4, it is not God who is announcing His Servant but the Servant is speaking about himself and his divine mission. He demands that all peoples listen to him and then the servant describes himself and his future coming in 49:1-2, 5:
First, the Servant describes himself as being set apart for his mission from the beginning of life "literally from the womb. That God chose his name means more than labeling someone with an identifying name. One's name reflected the true essence of the person, but we are not told what name was divinely selected.
Question: God choosing His servant before his birth is like the
choosing what other "servants" of God? See Jer 1:4-5; Lk 1:13-17, 31-33.
Which of these servants were named by God?
Answer: Those chosen servants selected by God before they were born are identified in Scripture as the prophet Jeremiah, St. John the Baptist, and Jesus Son of God son of Mary. St. John the Baptist and Jesus were named before birth.
St. Paul also writes in Galatians 1:15 that he was set apart by grace from his mother's womb as Christ's apostle to the Gentiles. He means this in the same sense that all Christians answer a divine calling which he writes about in Ephesians 1:4-6a, He chose us in Christ before the world was made to be holy and faultless before him in love, marking us out for himself beforehand, to be adopted sons, through Jesus Christ. Such was his purpose and good pleasure, to the praise of the glory of his grace... It is our destiny to become servants of Christ; everyone is called but not everyone accepts that calling.
Second, the expression "like a sharp sword" emphasizes the authority of the words spoken by the Servant. The inspired writer of the Letter to the Hebrews (believed by many to be St. Paul) wrote: The word of God is something alive and active: it cuts more incisively than any two-edged sword: it can seek out the place where soul is divided from spirit, or joints from marrow; it can pass judgment on secret emptions and thoughts (Heb 4:12). And, in the Book of Revelation, St. John used similar imagery to describe the divine authority of Jesus Christ:
The servant says that he was hidden until it was time for him to begin his mission, and like a "polished arrow" he would perform his mission free from imperfections and would not be turned from his divinely appointed mission. The expression "concealed me in his quiver" suggests the symbolism of God saving His chosen Servant for just the right moment in time in the battle to win the hearts and souls of those called to salvation. Both Jews and Christians see this as a messianic promise, but since the earliest centuries, the Church has applied these verses to Jesus the Messiah.
The problem with the interpretation of this passage comes in verse 3 when
God says to the Servant, 3 He
said to me, "Israel, you are my servant, through whom I shall manifest my
glory." Then the Servant answers God, saying, 4 But I said, "My toil has been futile, I have exhausted
myself for nothing, to no purpose." Yet all the while my cause was with Yahweh
and my reward with my God.
Verse 3 appears to identify the "Servant" as Israel and not a single individual as suggested in verses 1-2 and 5. However, Isaiah/God may be referring to the individual servant by his ethic origin as a surname by giving the reader the information that the Servant is of Israel.
And then verse 4 suggests the servant was frustrated and that his mission was in some way thwarted, and yet he placed his trust in Yahweh and only sought God's reward. It is possible that in verse 3 that Israel is being spoken of as a collective, but there is a problem with that interpretation placed in the framework of the description of a collective people for verses 1-2 and especially in verses 5-6 that again suggest the individual chosen Servant is only "of Israel" and is not Israel as a collective: 5 And now Yahweh has spoken, who formed me in the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob back to him and to re-unite Israel to him. I shall be honored in Yahweh's eyes, and my God has been my strength. 6 He said, "It is not enough for you to be my servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back the survivors of Israel; I shall make you a light to the nations so that my salvation may reach the remotest parts of the earth. 7 Thus says Yahweh, the redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, to the one who is despised, detested by the nations, to the slave of despots: kings will stand up when they see, princes will see and bow low, because of Yahweh who is faithful, the Holy One of Israel who has chosen you.
Question: In verse 5 the Servant is speaking again, but it is
God who speaks in verse 6. God adds what additional information about the
If Israel is collectively the "Servant", then in what womb was Israel formed and how does Israel save itself and bring itself back to Yahweh? And, the Servant's ministry is said to be not just to Israel but to redeem the faithful remnant of Israel and to bring salvation to the nations of the entire earth (see verses 1 and 6) "a mission the old Israel never fulfilled or even sought to fulfill. There is the question of Cyrus being this particular servant, but this passage and the earlier passage is only partially fulfilled in Cyrus who is not "of Israel", didn't "know" God in the sense of covenant, he did not speak the "word of God", and he did not bring salvation to the nations. However, the description of the servant in verses 1-2 and in 4-6 is perfectly fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah:
Some have suggested that "Israel" in verse 3 is the gloss of a later scribe to make the passage agree with "Jacob my servant" in 44:1. One copy of Isaiah has been discovered in which the word "Israel" is not found in this verse. But the key to this dilemma may lie in what St. Simeon prophesied about Jesus in Luke 2:30-32 and what St. Paul and St. Barnabas testified to the Jews of Antioch of Pisidia in Acts 13:14-50. In baby Jesus' presentation at the Temple, Simeon held baby Jesus and prophesied: ... for my eyes have seen the salvation which you have made ready in the sight of the nations; a light of revelation for the Gentiles and glory for your people Israel (Lk 2:30-32). And Sts. Paul and Barnabas told the Jews that since they rejected the word of God that they brought, they, as the Lord's "faithful remnant of Israel", were fulfilling Isaiah 49:6 in carrying the Gospel of salvation to the Gentiles: For this is what the Lord commanded us to do when he said: "I have made you a light to the nations, so that my salvation may reach the remotest parts of the earth" (Acts 13:47). Therefore, it can be said that Jesus is the promised "Servant" of the Servant Song in 49:1-7, and the redeemed "new Israel" of His apostles and disciples are Christ's agents who were commissioned to carry His Gospel message of salvation to Jews and Gentiles and "to the ends of the earth." Therefore, Isaiah's prophecy finds its fulfillment in both Jesus and His Church.
Isaiah 49:8-26 is the continued description of Israel's joyful return to the Promised Land. In this passage Isaiah focuses on three aspects of the return:
Isaiah 49:8-13 ~ Israel's Joyful Return
8 Thus says Yahweh: At the time of my favor I have answered you; on the day of salvation I have helped you. I have formed you and have appointed you to be the covenant for a people, to restore the land, to return ravaged properties, 9 to say to prisoners, "Come out," to those who are in darkness, "show yourselves." Along the roadway they will graze, and any bare height will be their pasture. 10 They will never hunger or thirst, scorching wind and sun will never plague them; for he who pities them will lead them, will guide them to springs of water. 11 I shall turn all my mountains into a road and my highways will be raised aloft. 12 Look! Here they come from far away, look, these from the north and the west, those from the land of Sinim. 13 Shout for joy, you heavens; earth exult!
In the language of poetic imagery Isaiah describes God's marvelous guidance of Israel on their return journey to the Promised Land, once again using imagery that recalls the Exodus liberation in which Israel was called to "come out" of Egypt. Verses 9-11 resume the theme of the blessed "highway of the return" that was described previously in Isaiah 35:5-10; 41:17-20 and 43:19-20. The exiles will return not only from the east but from the north and the west. Sinim is probably a reference to the Jewish community in Syene, Egypt; it was known as Elephantine to the Greeks and today as Aswan. In verse 13 Isaiah asks all of creation to join in the joy of Israel's return.
Isaiah 49:14-21 ~ Zion's Doubt and God's Response
14 Zion was saying, "Yahweh has abandoned me, the Lord has forgotten me." 15 Can a woman forget her baby at the breast, feel no pity for the child she has borne? Even if these were to forget, I shall not forget you. 16 Look, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands, your ramparts are ever before me. 17 Your rebuilders are hurrying, your destroyers and despoilers will soon go away. 18 Raise your eyes and look around you: all are assembling, coming to you. By my life, declares Yahweh, you will put them all on like jewels, like a bride, you will fasten them on. 19 For your desolate places and your ruins and your devastated country from now on will be too cramped for your inhabitants, and your devourers will be far away. 20 Once more they will say in your hearing, the children of whom you were bereft, "The place is too cramped for me; make room for me to live." 21 Then you will think to yourself, "Who has borne me these? I was bereft and barren, exiled, turned out of my home; who has reared these: I was left all alone, so where have these come from?"
Despite all God's promises through His prophet, the people will still doubt the promise of deliverance, and they will accuse God of abandoning and forgetting them during their seventy-year exile.
Question: How does God respond to their doubts and what imagery
does He use?
Answer: God gives two reasons why He cannot forget Israel:
The promise to "never forget" His covenant recalls God's oath to Israel in Leviticus 26:44-45 and in Deuteronomy 4:29-31. Then in verses 17-21 Isaiah challenges Israel to look and see the day of their salvation when their children will return from every direction. Israel's enemies will be far away or far removed by God, and the people will be astounded at the number of citizen that will return to rebuild the nation and the number of children to be born in spite of the days of exile and suffering "so many that the land will seem crowded.
Isaiah 49:22-26 ~ God's Hymn of Vindication
22 Thus says Lord Yahweh: Look, I am beckoning to the nations and hoisting a signal to the peoples: they will bring your sons in their arms and your daughters will be carried on their shoulders. 23 Kings will be your foster-fathers and their princesses, your foster-mothers. They will fall prostrate before you, faces to the ground, and lick the dust at your feet. And you will know that I am Yahweh; those who hope in me will not be disappointed. 24 Can the body be snatched from the warrior, can the tyrant's captive be set free? 25 But thus says Yahweh: the warrior's captive will indeed be snatched away and the tyrant's booty will indeed be set free; I myself shall fight those who fight you and I myself shall save your children. 26 I shall make your oppressors eat their own flesh, they will be as drunk on their own blood as on new wine. And all humanity will know that I am Yahweh, Your Savior, your redeemer, the Might One of Jacob.
It is God's promise that He will bring about Israel's day of salvation Himself. He will raise the standard or signal that will allow the return of Israel (verse 22). The imagery of foreigners and their kings bowing down to Israel recalls Isaiah 2:1-4 where Isaiah described foreigners streaming to Jerusalem to learn how to worship Yahweh in the last days. On the day of Israel/Judah's return, Yahweh will be vindicated when all nations will witness the miracle of the reinstatement of the covenant people and will know that Yahweh reigns as Israel's Savior and Redeemer—He who is the "Mighty One of Jacob."
Questions for reflection or group discussion:
What is the difference between merely "listening" and genuinely "hearing" a message? What is your attitude of being attentive in the Liturgy of the Word and in your response to the homily that follows? Do you seek out other resources to help you understand what you have heard more fully? Why is this extra effort an obligation of faith? We recommend the Sunday Readings and Holy Day teachings on the www.AgapeBibleStudy.com website and the short summary on the Agape Bible Study Facebook site.
One test of your understanding is whether you can explain Catholic beliefs and traditions to your children? Can you explain the meaning of the words we repeat at every celebration of the Mass "words like Hosanna, Amen, and Alleluia? If not, you need to put more effort into understanding and explaining your faith.
The answer is:
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