God Pours Out His Love
God pours out his love for his people in Isaiah 43. Here are a few of the opening statements.
1 … “Fear not, for I redeemed you. I called you by your name, for you are Mine.
2 If you pass through water, I am with you; and the rivers shall not overflow you. If you pass through fire, you shall not be burned up, nor shall the flame consume you.
3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, who saves you…
4 Since you were precious in My sight, you became glorious, and I love you. I will give many men for you and rulers to lead you.
5 Fear not, for I am with you; I will bring your seed from the east, and gather you from the west.
6 I will say to the north, “Bring them,” and to the south, ‘Do not keep them back. Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth–everyone called by My name.’
7 For in my glory I prepared him, and formed and made him.” (SAAS) (1)
Question: Do the Above Verses Apply to Christians?
First, there is no doubt that God speaks to Israel in Isaiah 43:1-7. But does he also speak to Christians in these verses? A first response would be that Christians all over the world do apply these verses to themselves. Hallelujia! But under what warrant?
Yes, I believe that Christians are justified in applying these verses to themselves. The reason is that Gentiles have been included in God’s olive tree, Israel.
- First, God’s prophecy concerning a Savior applies to all humankind (Genesis 3:15).
- Second, God made Abraham the father of many nations (πατέρα πολλῶν ἐθνῶν) (Genesis 17:5). Israel after Solomon consisted of only two kingdoms, whereas Gentile nations fill the world. They are indeed a multitude of nations.
- The language of Isaiah 43:5-6 indicates Israel’s seed will include people from all over the world. But the various captivities by Assyria and Babylon didn’t carry Israelites to the “ends of the earth.”
- Many of Jesus’s parables indicate a broadening of God’s people (Matthew 21:33-41; 22:1-10). Jesus also spoke the following words in reply to some Greeks (Gentiles) who wanted to meet with him, “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself,” (John 12:32).
- The Apostle Paul expounded in detail how the Gentiles would be grafted in to Israel’s tree (Romans 9:22-26; 10:11-13; 11:17-24).
- Jesus commanded his original disciples to “ 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)
- Jesus, the Father, and the Spirit are One. God said to Israel, “I am with you,” (Isaiah 43:2, 5). Jesus said to his disciples, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Because the seed of Israel includes the church, God’s statements to Israel in Isaiah 43 must also include the church.
Obviously, these verses are very important to Christians.
Do These Verses Apply to Israel?
Clearly, the words God spoke to Israel through the prophet Isaiah apply to the seed of Israel. How can two groups–Christians and Israelites–receive the same promises from God? The answer is, when Israel and the church become one. And when will that happen? It has already happened in Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul explains it most fully in the verses quoted in point number six above (Romans 9:22-26; 10:11-13; 11:17-24). Paul also speaks clearly in Ephesians.
Ephesians 2:14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, (ESV)
The “law of commandments expressed in ordinances” is the Mosaic law in all its fulness. This was the first covenant. Israel broke that covenant by their disobedience (Jeremiah 31:32; Isaiah 43:28; Hebrews 8:6-13).
Hebrews 8:13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
But God’s promises still stand. Jesus Christ is the seed of Abraham in whom every promise of God is yes and amen (Galatians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 1:20).
The Church Is Israel
The first Christians were all of Israel. Christ came to minister to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel,” (Matthew 10:5-7; 15:24). The first Christians, and Christ himself, were Israelites. But the bulk of Israel did not believe. The Apostle Paul mourns the tragedy of Israel’s having rejected her King.
Romans 9:1 I am speaking the truth in Christ– I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit–2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh. (ESV)
Yet the gospel message is joy and hope, not sorrow. Paul finds joy in knowing that a remnant of Israel has believed. This is what Isaiah prophesies throughout (see Isaiah Devotional 2.14). The believing remnant of Israel is the holy root of the olive tree to which the non-native Gentiles have been grafted. The church began as the believing remnant of Israel. God fulfilled his promises and prophecies to them. Isaiah 43 has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. By God’s grace alone we Gentiles have been blessed by God’s grafting us into that holy root to share as newcomers in those promises.
Paul also expresses his hope for all of Israel to be saved.
Romans 11:24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree. 25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; 27 “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” (ESV)
Attention should be drawn to three points in the above verses.
- Notice the manner in which Israel will be saved. Verse 24 states that “the natural branches [will] be grafted back into their own olive tree.” The manner of this grafting back will be by God’s removing the hardness of their heart (verse 25). That is, their hearts will be softened to receive Jesus Christ as their Messiah King, which indeed he is. And we know that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God (Romans 10:17). Therefore, people of Jewish faith need to be evangelized, along with everyone else in the world.
- The tree is Israel’s own native olive tree. That is, the olive tree is Israel. This is the same Israel that was born and raised in the Old Testament. But the point to note is that the tree onto which Israelites will be grafted–their very own native olive tree–has changed. How has their tree changed? Simply this, myriads of Gentile believers in Israel’s Messiah King have been grafted onto that same tree. Many siblings have been born. Israel is no longer an only child. (Oh Israel, please do not be like the elder brother in Jesus’s parable of the prodigal son.)
- Paul’s phrase, “all Israel” stands in contrast to “partial hardening,” and alongside the “fullness of the Gentiles.” Paul seems to be saying that in contrast to the remnant which is currently saved, the fullness of Israel–“all Israel”–will be saved.
Amen! So may it be.
The thrust and conclusion of the argument (presentation) of this post can be arrived at by means of an entirely different biblical pathway. That pathway is through the Psalter. The Psalter contains a series of five psalms that work together in chronological order (Psalms 56-60). They tell the story of Israel’s rejection and slaying of Messiah, her King, her God in human form. God in turn rejects Israel. The King, however, is resurrected. The prophetically resurrected King then prays that Israel would receive a temporary punishment. This punishment would be for God to scatter them. The alternative punishment would be to annihilate them. The risen King prophetically prays for Israel’s forgiveness, and ultimately her restoration (2). The last post of this series can be accessed here: Restoration of Israel. The interpretation of these Septuagint psalms (56-60) agrees closely with the argument concerning Israel that Paul presents in Romans 9-11.
A Peek Ahead
Now that this groundwork has been laid, the next post, Lord willing, will demonstrate the various ways in which Isaiah 43 is fully Christian. And please remember that Christian = Israel + Gentiles.
1 SAAS: “Scripture taken from the St. Athanasius Academy SeptuagintTM. Copyright © 2008 by St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”
2 The “prophetically resurrected” King “prophetically prays” because the psalms were written centuries before the incarnation.