Isaiah (Part 48): Rescue Revelation Shown (Ch 42c-43a)
In verses 10 through 16, we see the normal order of activity and victory reversed. Normally, we would view God acting, and then in victory, we would rejoice. But we view this scene from God’s perspective. In keeping with his declaration that he is able to “announce [these events] to you before they occur” (42:9), God already sees the victory even before he moves to act.
God’s eagerness and excitement about his rescue revelation is evident in this text. He speaks, first, of the restraint that he had placed on himself through ages past. But now that the cork is released, he describes the revelation flow from himself as a woman in labor, having strained to restrain (holding her breath in the struggle) but then gasping in the sudden release. Again, this is not the description of a deistic, non-involved, distant watch winder. Our God is intimately and emotionally involved in our rescue. He bursts forth with revelation as he rescues his people from the prison of sin and death.
In our praise of God, we must see him not only high and lifted up, but sweeping his arm to catch us in his embrace. John Piper has said in his blog (speaking of Paul): “His ministry reaches its goal when God's glory is exalted. When all eyes are off of man (the earthen vessel) and on God, mouths agape, and holy hands raised in praise, then the apostle's work is done.” From the context of Piper’s article, we understand well that the statement is motivated in a contrast from setting ministry sights merely on serving humanity. But it is not an either-or approach. Some people, taking Piper’s statement alone, could (as many Christians often seem to do) use it to disdain humanity, grinding them under the foot so that their picture of God is not sullied with human interference. That, however, is an unbiblical approach. God shows us his glory over and over IN his rescue and relationship WITH us. To remove God’s embrace from the view of his glory is to remove the very heart pictures he wants us to see.
The next section takes us through three perspectives of those to whom this rescue revelation comes:
God’s caregiving revelation among the distrustful (Is 42:17-25)
God’s caregiving revelation among the fearful (Is 43:1-7)
God’s caregiving revelation among the ineffectual (Is 43:8-13)
Each of these perspectives is presented in chiastic form. The first one—God’s caregiving revelation among the distrustful is structured like this:
--42:17 Rebels – utterly shamed
-------42:18-19 “Listen! Pay attention!” God’s servants do not see commands
------------42:20 God’s servant sought his own way
-----------------42:21 God magnified his instruction (truth)
------------42:22 Jacob was in prison
-------42:23-24 “Who among you will pay attention?” God’s servants do not listen to instruction
--42:25 Rebel Jacob received anger
Notice that God begins in verse 17 saying that those who rebel will be shamed. The chiasm ends with Jacob, acting as a rebel, being shamed. The next level mentions the lack of attention. The following level emphasizes that although they are servants, they sought their own way instead of God’s, and thus ended in prison. The highlight of the chiasm is that amid this distrust, God magnified his instruction.
The next chiasm—God’s caregiving revelation among the fearful—shows God’s care even when events threaten.
--43:1 God formed his servant
-------43:2 God is with them as they had moved about
------------43:3 God gave Egypt for them
------------43:4 God will give people/nations for them
-------43:5-6 God is with them as they are gathered in
--43:7 God formed his servant for God’s glory
The fearful ought to gain confidence in the fact that God formed them and is with them. In the first part of the chiasm—the ascending three points—we see God’s care for his people in the past. In the last three points, we see God’s promised care in the future. The climactic idea is that God will give up those who refuse relationship in order to hold those needing rescue who trust him.
The third chiasm shows God’s caregiving revelation among the ineffectual. This message is for his servants, using the ineffectual idols as teaching tools.
--43:8-9 All others are unable to rescue
-------43:10a God’s servant will see this and understand
------------43:10b There is no other god
------------43:11-12a There is no other rescuer
-------43:12b God’s servant will see this and understand
--43:13 God is able
The central, climactic points of all three chiasms are that God is the only rescuer/caregiver, God has provided and will provide, and God will magnify this very truth of his care and rescue.