This is a Bible study on Isaiah 43:22-44:28.

5 pages.

Isaiah 43:22-44:28 - A Word to Christians Estranged from God

Read Isaiah 43:22-44:28.


A few centuries ago the French had a unique way of handling convicts and criminals: they shipped them to Devil’s Island. If a man were a convicted criminal he would be hauled away in chains to a French vessel and then transported across the Atlantic to a penal colony located on a wild and desolate island off the coast of South America; he would be banished to Devil’s Island, never to return to France again.

The fate of those French convicts fits the description of ancient Israel as presented in this present passage of Isaiah. As the prophet Isaiah looks into the future, he sees that the nation of Israel has been carried away into exile because of their sins (Isa. 43:27-28); now they find themselves to be captives in a foreign land (Isa. 44:3). But there is one key difference. Whereas those French convicts were banished forever, the LORD, in His covenant faithfulness, calls His people to return to Him (Isa. 44:22b).

Has there ever been a time in your life when you could identify with those French convicts and with those people of ancient Israel? Has there ever been a time when you felt like a spiritual castaway, banished from the presence of God because of your sins? If you find yourself in that condition right now, the LORD seeks you out and says, “Return to me.”

Return to the LORD, Because You Belong to Him🔗

In Isaiah 43:27, the LORD brings this charge against His people: “Your first forefather sinned, and your teachers have transgressed against me.” The charge is that His people have had one solid record of offenses, inherited from their first father (Jacob) and taught by their teachers throughout the generations. Therefore, continues the LORD, “I made the princes of the sanctuary profane; I consigned Jacob to the [covenantal] curse, and made Israel an object of scorn.” The LORD informs His people that in consequence of their disobedience He has brought upon them the curse of the covenant: banishment from the land of Canaan and the presence of His sanctuary.

Even though Israel has been banished from God’s presence, the LORD still identifies the people as “Jacob, my servant, and Israel, [the one] whom I have chosen” (Isa. 44:1). He informs them that they are His possession whom He will not give up; and He once again reminds His people that He made them and He will help them (vs. 2a). The LORD exhorts His people, “Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant; [do not be afraid], Jeshurun, [the one] whom I have chosen.” “Jeshurun” means, “the righteous [nation];” the people who possess God’s righteousness and who shall be made righteous by God; the LORD views His people in their final state of being transformed into His divine righteousness.

In verse six the LORD identifies Himself as “the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: I am the first, and I am the last.” The LORD alone is the true and rightful king over His people. Although they may find themselves presently given over into the hand of the king of Babylon, the LORD shall yet reclaim them and exercise His sovereign kingship over them, for He is our “Redeemer,” and as “the LORD of hosts, the First and the Last,” He has the power to redeem us and finally bring us under His holy rule.

To demonstrate that He alone is God, the LORD challenges any other “god” to come forth and show themselves to be comparable to Him: “Who is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before me what has happened from the time I established the ancient people. Furthermore, let them announce the things that are still to come—the events that are going to happen” (vs. 7). Let such gods prove themselves by reciting an account of all that has happened since the time the LORD began history and first created men on the earth, (such seems to be the sense of the phrase, “the ancient people”), and then let those “gods” declare all that is yet to happen in the future. But none can come forth to meet the LORD’s challenge. The LORD now proceeds to exhort His people, “Do not tremble and do not be afraid,” assuring them that He, indeed, is God and there is none beside Him (vs. 8).

In verses 12-17 the LORD provides a detailed description of the construction of the pagan idols, to graphically show His people that they have nothing to fear from such "gods." The blacksmith forges an idol—this is hard work (he becomes weary), but he persists and is dedicated to his task (vs. 12). Although some idols were made of metal, (the work of the blacksmith), most were carved of wood, so the LORD now gives a description of the carpenter and his labor (vs. 13). Note the sinful perverseness of idolatry. According to Genesis 1:26-27, it was God who created man in His image:

And God said, 'Let us make man in our image, in our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the heavens, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.' 27So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.

But in idolatry we find men making “gods” in the image of man! The craftsman “shapes [the idol] into the form of a man—of a man in all his glory—so that it may dwell in a shrine” (vs. 13).

We are made to accompany the craftsman as he goes to the forest to select a sturdy tree from which he will eventually fashion his idol, perhaps a tree he himself planted as a seedling and has carefully cultivated (vs. 14). After chopping down his tree, the craftsman will use the wood to build a fire over which he will warm himself and roast his meat; and from the scrap of wood that is left over he will fashion his idol! (vs. 15) Verses 16-17 express the incredible folly that a man should take the residue of the wood and use it to fashion an idol before which he bows down and to which he calls for help.

Again, why does the LORD present such an elaborate picture of the folly of idolatry? He does so to further emphasis the fact that He alone is the true and living God, the LORD over all. It was the LORD who gave Israel into the hands of the Babylonians, not the idol/gods of Babylon. Furthermore, it is the LORD who will redeem Israel from their captivity—and none of the idol/gods of the world can prevent Him from doing so!

As noted in our study of Isaiah 41, the Apostle Paul does acknowledge the spiritual presence and power of the devil behind the idols: “Now then, what do I mean? [Am I saying] that meat offered to idols has [any] special significance? or that an idol is anything? 20[No!] But [what I am telling you is] that the sacrifices of the Gentiles are being offered to demons, not to God; and I do not want you to have communion with demons” (1 Cor. 10:19-20). But, according to our Lord’s teaching, “the strong man” (i.e. the devil) cannot stand before the power of the LORD of hosts who is identified as the one who is stronger: “When the strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. 22But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils” (Lk. 11:21-22). (The Study on Isaiah 41 also contains a note on The Theology of Idolatry.)

In verse twenty-one the LORD exhorts His people, “Remember these things, O Jacob and Israel, for you are my servant. I have formed you; you are my servant. O Israel, I will not forget you.” Israel is to remember that the LORD alone is God, in distinction from the lifeless idols, and that Israel belongs to the LORD as the people He has formed for Himself. As a Christian, this also is our identity, and our great comfort: “he [God the Father] chose us in him [Christ] before the creation of the world in order for us to be holy and blameless in his presence” (Eph. 1:4).

Do you feel like one of those French convicts banished to Devil’s Island? If this describes you, you need to hear this word from the LORD: “Return to me.” Return to the LORD, because you belong to Him.

Return to the LORD, Because He has Good Plans for You🔗

In Isaiah 44:3-5 Israel is portrayed as a man dying of thirst in a dry, desolate wilderness where there is no water. But the LORD declares, “I will pour water upon the thirsty land, and streams upon the dry ground.”

Not only does the LORD promise the provision of life-sustaining water, He also promises that there will be a most abundant provision: He will pour out water upon the thirsty land and cause streams (plural) to flow upon the dry ground. The imagery of providing water for the thirsty gives way to the spiritual reality: the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the LORD’s people. As a result of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit there will be an abundance of spiritual fruit and blessing (vs. 4) that shall also encompass the Gentile nations, bringing many of them to the LORD (vs. 5):

I will pour out my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing upon your descendants. 4They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees beside flowing streams. 5One will say, I belong to the LORD; another will call himself by the name of Jacob; and [still] another will write on his hand, I belong to the LORD, and will take for himself the name of Israel.

Be assured that the LORD has good plans for you, and may that encourage you to return to Him.

As the people of Israel/Judah were carried away into captivity, they witnessed the desolation of the city of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple of the LORD. But the LORD declares that Jerusalem will once again be inhabited and the temple shall be rebuilt (vs. 26-28). Having affirmed that Jerusalem shall again be inhabited (vs. 26b), as a means of assuring them of His ability to make good His promise, the LORD now reminds His people of how He dried up the waters of the Red Sea at the time of the Exodus (vs. 27): ”[I am the one] who says to the depths [of the sea], Be dried up; indeed, I will dry up the rivers that flow into you.”

In this passage of Isaiah 44, written some 150 years in advance of the event, the LORD declares that He shall raise up the Persian king, Cyrus, as His shepherd who shall do His bidding of releasing His people from their captivity and commission the rebuilding of the holy city of Jerusalem and the LORD’s temple (vs. 28): ”[I am the one] who says of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and he will accomplish everything that I desire. He will say of Jerusalem, Let it be rebuilt, and of the temple, Your foundation shall be laid.”

Be assured that the LORD has good plans for you, which He is fully able to fulfill, and may that encourage you to return to Him.

Do you feel like a castaway? A castaway who would love to return to the heavenly Father, but is fearful to do so, expecting the worst? If this describes you, you need to hear this word from the LORD: “Return to me.” Return to the LORD, because He has good plans for you! What the LORD declared to captive Israel has spiritual application for us as well:

This is what the LORD says: 'When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place; 1for I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14I will be found by you,' declares the LORD, 'and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,' declares the LORD, 'and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.' Jer. 29:11-14

Return to the LORD, Because He has Redeemed You🔗

The LORD invites and commands His people to return to Him because, He declares, “I have redeemed you” (vs. 22b). The LORD calls upon His people to return to Him, and it is possible for us to respond to such a call, because He has provided a Savior. Cyrus conquered Israel’s Babylonian captors and set the people free. All the more, the Lord Jesus Christ has released us from the penalty of our sins. As Revelation 1:5b proclaims, “[Christ] has released us from our sins by his blood.” Note, too, our Lord’s testimony recorded in John 8:34,36, “Jesus replied, ‘I tell you the truth, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin...if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.’” The Lord has released us from the debt incurred by our sins, paying that price in our stead and on our behalf.

The LORD proclaims, “I have swept away your transgressions as though they were a thick cloud; and your sins, as though they were the morning mist” (vs. 22a). Just as He sweeps away the clouds and the morning mist, restoring the clear blue sky, so has the LORD disposed of the sins of His people. Consider the words of the prophet Micah, “Who is a God like you, who pardons sin... 19You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl our iniquities into the depths of the sea” (Mic. 7:18-19).

Sometimes when we consider the sins we have committed they appear to us as a huge barge piled to overflowing with putrid garbage. But then the LORD’s tugboat pulls that barge away from the dock and out to the open sea. Now our perspective is changed: that barge-load of garbage is swallowed up by the vast ocean. The prophet Micah assures us, when we return to the LORD, confessing our sins and turning them over to Him, He will “hurl our iniquities into the depths of the sea.”

Do you feel like a castaway? Do you acutely sense the guilt of your sins and the justice of God? Do you struggle with the dilemma of how God in His justice can forgive you and receive you back into fellowship? If this describes you, you need to hear this word from the LORD: “Return to me.” Return to the LORD, because He has redeemed you, He has paid the price at Calvary:

God presented [Christ] as a sacrifice of atonement...He did this to demonstrate his as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Rom. 3:25-26


Have there been times in your spiritual life—you may even find yourself in the midst of such a time today—when you could identify with those French convicts who were banished to Devil’s Island or those Old Testament people of Israel who were carried away to Babylon? You felt like a castaway banished from the presence of the LORD because of your sins.

Even as a Christian, indeed, precisely because you are a Christian, (with a sensitive conscience, a heightened awareness of the justice of God, a taste of how sweet and wonderful is the fellowship of God), you may acutely sense God’s displeasure with sin and the separation/alienation that it causes between you and your God.

If you have ever found yourself in that condition, if from time to time you struggle with that burden, if that is where you are right now, this message is for you: the LORD declares, “Return to me; for I have redeemed you.”

Discussion Questions🔗

  1. What does the LORD assure His people that He has not done to them? See Isa. 43:23b. As a Christian, do you ever burden yourself with scruples that the LORD has not required of you? What did Eve do? Cp. Gen. 2:16-17 with Gen. 3:2-3. What does the Apostle Paul say about such scruples? See Col. 2:20-21, 23. Can you identify any such scruple in your life? What liberating word is given to us in Isaiah 30:21? How should the fact that the Holy Spirit is watching over you to guide impact your life and free your conscience from self-imposed scruples?

I have not burdened you [by requiring excessive] grain offerings, nor wearied you with [excessive demands for] incense. Isa. 43:23b

16And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, From every tree of the garden you may freely eat; 17but you shall not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die. Gen. 2:16-17

And the woman said to the serpent, We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; 3but concerning the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, God has said, You shall not eat of it, neither shall you touch it, or else you will die. Gen. 3:2-3 you subject yourselves to regulations: 21Do not touch, do not taste, do not handle....23These things, indeed, have an appearance of wisdom in self-imposed religion, and humility, and severity to the body, [but are] of no value against the indulgence of the flesh. Col. 2:20-21, 23

And when you turn [aside] to the right or to the left, with your ears you will hear a voice behind you saying, This is the way, walk in it. Isa. 30:21

  1. What charge does the LORD bring against His people? See Isa. 43:24b. As Christians, do we realize that when we choose sin, we bring grief to the LORD’s heart? How should this awareness affect that way we view sin? How can we bring joy to the LORD our God? See Jn. 15:10-11,

You have not bought me any fragrant calamus with your money, nor have you filled me with the fat of your sacrifices. On the contrary, you have burdened me with your sins; you have made me weary with your iniquities. Isa. 43:24

10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love; just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. 11I have told you these things so that my joy may be in you and your joy maybe made full.Jn. 15:10-11

  1. What has been true of the covenant nation’s spiritual state from the time of their “first forefather” (i.e. Abraham) right up until the time of their deportation into Babylon? See Isa. 43:27. What motivates the LORD to restore His people? See Isa. 43:25. As Christians, to what do we owe our salvation? And how should we respond to this great truth? See 1 Cor. 1:30-31,

Your first forefather sinned, and your teachers have transgressed against me. Isa. 43:27

I am the one who blots out your transgressions for my own sake; and I will not remember your sins. Isa. 43:25

30It is because of [God] that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God: righteousness and sanctification and redemption; 31in order that it may be just as it has been written, He who boasts, let him boast in the LORD. 1 Cor. 1:30-31

  1. What does the LORD exhort His people to do? See Isa. 44:2b. What would cause them to tremble with fear as they found themselves exiles in Babylon? Note Isa. 41:2. What reason does the LORD give to encourage His people to heed His exhortation given in Isa. 44:2b? See Isa. 44:28. What precious promise has been given to us as Christians? See Rom. 8:28. In what ways have you experienced the truth of this promise in your life?

But now listen, O Jacob, my servant, and Israel, [the one] whom I have chosen. 2This is what the LORD says—[the one] who made you, [the one] who formed you in the womb, [the one] who will help you: Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant; [do not be afraid], Jeshurun, [the one] whom I have chosen.Isa. 44:1-2

Who has aroused a ruler from the east, one whom [God’s] righteousness summons to his service? He hands nations over to him, and subdues kings before him. He turns them to dust with his sword, to windblown chaff with his bow. Isa. 41:2

The “ruler from the east” is a reference to Cyrus, the King of Persia.

[I am the one] who says of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and he will accomplish everything that I desire. He will say of Jerusalem, Let it be rebuilt, and of the temple, Your foundation shall be laid. Isa. 44:28

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those that are called according to his purpose. Rom. 8:28

  1. As the covenant nation contemplates the possibility of extermination at the hands of the advancing Persian conqueror, what assurance does the LORD provide? See Isa. 44:3b-4 (note Hab. 1:12a) What assurance do we, as Christians, possess in Christ? See Jer. 29:11; 1 Pet. 1:3-5; Lk. 12:32,

I will pour water upon the thirsty land, and streams upon the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit upon your offspring, and my blessing upon your descendants. 4They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees beside flowing streams. Isa. 44:3-4

Are you not from everlasting, O LORD my God, my Holy One? We shall not die...Hab. 1:12a

For I know the thoughts I think towards you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of calamity, to give you a future and a hope. Jer. 29:11

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who in accordance with his great mercy has begotten us for a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4for an inheritance that is imperishable and cannot spoil and is permanent, reserved in heaven for you 5who by the power of God are being preserved through faith for the salvation that is ready to be revealed at the last time. 1 Pet. 1:3-5

Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Lk. 12:32

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