Is this world depressing to you? Do you lament over wars, violence, immorality, corruption, sickness, and poverty? Do you long for Jesus to return to take you to the Promised Land? If so, today’s passage is for you.
Isaiah 63:7-14 prophecy God’s people looking to God for deliverance as they live as captives in Babylon. Isaiah foretells what they will say and how what they say will help them to persevere as they spend time in captivity.
Let’s put ourselves in the shoes of God’s elect as they spend their days in Babylon. As we do, let’s put think of our situation as we live out our lives as God’s chosen people.
God’s chosen people living in Babylonian captivity must eat foreign food and speak a foreign language. Babylonian government is corrupt. Their religion is not accepted. The people of Babylon worship false gods and live immorally. God’s chosen people long to live in Jerusalem. They long for the days of being in God’s presence and living in holiness and goodness.
We are God’s people living in a modern-day Babylon. This world is not our home. When we listen to people in our culture, they might as well speak in a foreign language. The government is corrupt, and it does not pass legislation favoring God. Christianity is not well accepted. The people in our modern-day Babylon worship false gods. They live immorally. They slay innocent children and make a mockery of marriage. We long for the day when our Savior will bring us to the New Jerusalem, where we will live in peace in the presence of God.
We can learn from the cries of God’s people in Babylon. These verses instruct us on how we ought to think as we live in our modern-day Babylon.
Hope in God’s Hesed
The main idea of the passage is that we are to let God’s hesed by our hope and motivation to persevere through the challenges and afflictions of life.
The word hesed is the Hebrew word that we translate as lovingkindness. It is a word that carries a much deeper meaning in Hebrew than the word lovingkindness in English.
Hesed is a word that speaks about covenantal love. It is a love that is loyal and faithful. God’s love is hesed love. God is in the position of power in our covenant with Him. God is always faithful to fulfill His covenant. God’s hesed love is faithful, despite even when we sin and do not fulfill the covenant of Christ.
When God passes before Moses and declares His glory, He declares that He is abounding in hesed. We put our faith in the character of God. God promises us that He will love us. He loves us even though we have days in which we do not love Him as we should.
Our hope is firmly in God’s faithfulness to love us and save us. We know He will because His love is not like ours. Our love is wavering, but God’s love never changes. He loves us with an everlasting love.
Praise God’s Hesed
I shall make mention of the lovingkindnesses of the Lord, the praises of the Lord,
According to all that the Lord has granted us,
And the great goodness toward the house of Israel,
Which He has granted them according to His compassion
And according to the abundance of His lovingkindnesses. (Isaiah 63:7)
The passage begins by saying that the people in Babylonian captivity will make mention of the lovingkindnesses of the Lord. They will praise the Lord for His hesed love.
They will praise the lovingkindnesses according to all the Lord has granted. Has the Lord granted us much? Then we are to praise Him in accordance with all that He has granted.
They will praise the lovingkindnesses according to God’s great goodness toward them. Has the Lord been good to us? Then we are to praise Him with the same measure, greatly.
They will praise the lovingkindnesses according to God’s compassion. Has the Lord been compassionate to us? Then we are to praise Him accordingly.
Lastly, the people will praise God’s lovingkindnesses according to the abundance of His faithful and loyal love. Has the Lord proven faithful in loving us? Then we are to praise Him with the same measure.
In Babylon, there were Israelites by blood and nationality, and there were God’s chosen people. The way to tell the difference is the praise of their lips. It is the same today. There are people who claim to be God’s people, but they do not praise Him accordingly. Our measure of gratitude for God’s goodness is found in the words we speak. If we are grateful for God’s compassion, goodness, and mercy, then we will praise Him accordingly.
The people in Babylonian captivity will not stop praising God just because they are in Babylon. Their perseverance and faith begin with praise. Out of the abundance of our heart, we will praise God. Like the people in Babylon, we must never allow the circumstance of life stop us from praising God for His lovingkindnesses. Our praise is what gives us strength. As we praise, others who hear us are encouraged and their hearts are lifted.
Let us praise God without measure. Let us praise Him accordingly.
Remember that we are God’s chosen
For He said, “Surely, they are My people,
Sons who will not deal falsely.”
So He became their Savior. (Isaiah 63:8)
As God’s people are in Babylon, they remember what God has said. They remember that God chooses them. They didn’t choose God. The nation of Israel is a nation of God’s choosing. God chose Abraham from among all the other people on the earth. God chose Isaac, not Ishmael. God chose Jacob, not Esau.
As God’s chosen, they remember God’s saving work. They look to God and know He is their Savior. No other people on the earth look to God in that way.
Because they are a chosen, saved people of God, there is an assumption that the character of God will show in their lives. They are chosen to be a people of God’s ways. The Mosaic Covenant tells them to live separately from the world. Every aspect of life for the Israelite is different. They eat, dress, do business, and worship in a way that God chooses.
We also are God’s chosen. God, in His grace, gives us faith in Christ. We believe in the Messiah, and we become God’s people. We belong to Him. God is our Savior. The New Covenant is different from the Old Covenant. We don’t need to eat or drink different from the world (we may enjoy bacon!). But we are to live differently. We are to be holy and set apart. We are to display the inward character of God, outwardly.
What we share with the Israelites in Babylon, is the joy of knowing we belong to God. Babylon is not our home. We are heavenly citizens belonging to God’s kingdom. Our afflictions in Babylon are short-term. We are pilgrims. God will save us from today’s present reality because He chose us.
Believe in God’s deliverance
In all their affliction He was afflicted,
And the angel of His presence saved them;
In His love and in His mercy He redeemed them,
And He lifted them and carried them all the days of old. (Isaiah 63:9)
God knows our afflictions. In all of our affliction, God is afflicted. The truth that God feels our afflictions is amazing. When we cry, God cries. When we have pain, God feels our pain. God shares our sorrow.
Imagine God not understanding our pain and sorrow. We might feel alone. We will wonder how God can care for me if He doesn’t feel my pain. But, God does feel our pain. And, because He shares in our afflictions, He desires to save us.
The Israelites praise the presence of the angel of the Lord. It is believed they are speaking about the Messiah. The Messiah is God’s right arm who intervenes for God’s people.
The Israelites are in Babylon, and they think back to the days of old. The days of old is a reference to their time in Egypt. God’s people cry out to God in their afflictions. And, God sends His presence to lift them and carry them out of Egypt.
The Israelites in Babylon look back to God’s deliverance from Egypt. They take assurance in knowing that if God felt their affliction in the days of old, He feels their afflictions today. God saves His people. He saved them then, and He will save them again.
Their trust and faith in God are not in their worthiness to be saved but in God’s hesed love. God’s love is unconditional. God is loyal to His people in the past, and He will remain loyal to help His people.
We also share the same faith that God will save us because of His hesed love. We have the assurance that God’s love and tenderness in our afflictions will bring about His determination to deliver us.
Jesus says, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33). We are in the world, we experience affliction and tribulation, but we are to persevere courageously. Jesus overcame the world, and Jesus will deliver us.
Humbly recognize we grieve God’s Spirit
But they rebelled
And grieved His Holy Spirit;
Therefore He turned Himself to become their enemy,
He fought against them. (Isaiah 63:10)
The Israelites in Babylon know that the reason they are in captivity is not God’s fault, it is theirs. Their rebellion brings about their affliction. The human condition of suffering is never God’s fault. God is not to blame. They know that God turns against Israel, as a nation, and allows her to be brought to Babylon.
They humbly recognize that if they are suffering, it is of their own doing. They grieve His Holy Spirit.
We must remember that the Babylon captivity and the suffering they undergo is an Old Testament reality. Our situation is different. We were once God’s enemies, but when we put our faith in God, we are no longer His enemies, but His children.
We must also recognize that we may grieve God’s Spirit. The result is different. God will punish us as a Father, but God will never punish us as His enemy.
The point we need to take away, as people of the New Covenant, is that we need to remain humble before God. We always have the potential to grieve God’s Holy Spirit. Paul tells the Ephesians that when we speak unwholesome words and not words of edification, we grieve the Holy Spirit of God (Eph. 4:29-30).
In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul warns those in Corinth that they grieve God’s Holy Spirit when we defile our bodies with sin because our bodies are the temple of God (1 Cor. 3:16).
God’s Holy Spirit fills our heart. The love of God is poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who is given to us (Rom. 5:5). Therefore, let’s live humbly before God, recognizing that we may easily sin and grieve the Holy Spirit.
Another point we need to remember is the fact that we live in a modern-day Babylon is not because of our sin. It is because God chooses to keep us here. Jesus prays to God and says, “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep us from the evil one” (John 17:15). Jesus says, “As You (God) sent Me (Jesus) into the world, I also have sent them into the world” (John 17:18). We live in Babylon for a purpose, and that is to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
Look to God’s Saving Work
Then His people remembered the days of old, of Moses.
Where is He who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of His flock?
Where is He who put His Holy Spirit in the midst of them,
Who caused His glorious arm to go at the right hand of Moses,
Who divided the waters before them to make for Himself an everlasting name,
Who led them through the depths?
Like the horse in the wilderness, they did not stumble;
As the cattle which go down into the valley,
The Spirit of the Lord gave them rest. (Isaiah 63:11-14a)
As the Israelites live in a foreign land, eating foreign food, and serving as laborers to foreign people, they think back on their history. They remember the days of old and the time of Moses, almost 800 years earlier. They compare their plight to the Israelites of 1300bc with their present situation. The Israelites captive in Egypt, pray for God to bring them to the Promised Land. The Israelites in Babylon, pray the same.
They know their God is the same God who delivers the Israelites from Egypt. They begin to ask questions. Where is He who brought them up out of the sea with the shepherds of His flock? Where is He who put His Holy Spirit in their midst? Where is He who was at the right hand of Moses? Where is the God who divided the waters, led His people through the depths of the Red Sea and who brought His people through the wilderness and gave them rest?
The Israelites in Babylon only have one hope, and that is for God to bring them home. They do not trust in their armies. They don’t put their faith in a mass escape. They know the only way they may return is if God intervenes.
Here we are today, living as sojourners and pilgrims in a foreign land. Like the Israelites, we do not live in the Promised Land. The enemies of God surround us. There is killing in shopping plaza parking lots and the schools. Innocent children are murdered for the sake of convenience. The people of our modern-day Babylon flock to watch entertainment steeped in violence and immorality. Wars rage. By all indications, today is not much different than before the flood in the days of Noah or the streets of Sodom and Gomorrah.
The Israelites in Babylon put their hope in the hesed of God. They believe God will remain loyal. We share the same hope, but our hope is based on much greater evidence.
The Israelites in 750bc look to the rescue from Egypt, but we look to something greater.
The Israelites ask where He is who put His Spirit in the middle of their encampment. When will He return and be present with us again? We say He is here. God’s Spirit is ever-present in our hearts. The Spirit of God is a down-payment guaranteeing our future rescue from this world. Our hope in our rescue may not be more secure because of the surety of God’s Spirit.
The Israelites ask, where is the Arm of God who brought us out of Egypt? When will He rescue us? We look to the cross of Christ and say, I know where He is. He did rescue us. He rescued us from this evil age. He rescued us from sin and death. We know where He is, He is seated at the right hand of God in Heaven, forever interceding on our behalf.
The Israelites in Babylon look to the Exodus for assurance of God’s hesed. Today, we look to the cross. We have great assurance in God’s future saving work!
Take Comfort in God’s zeal for His glory
So You led Your people,
To make for Yourself a glorious name. (Isaiah 63:14b)
The Israelites in Babylon make another declaration which assures them of God’s deliverance. They say that when God led His people from Egypt and delivered them to the Promised Land, God did so to make for Himself a glorious name.
Their faith is in God’s glory. Whenever the Bible talks about God doing things for His name, it is the same as saying God is doing things for His glory. God does all things for His glory. Jesus came, lived, and died to glorify His Father in heaven.
Today, we put our faith in the Bible’s declaration that God will glorify His name. Our faith is in Jesus Christ, whose name is above all names. At the name of Jesus Christ, every knee will bow, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
When Moses asks God to show Him His glory, God declares to Moses that He is abounding in hesed. God is abounding in mercy, forgiveness, compassion, and love. God will fulfill all His promises to us because it is His nature to be loyal to His covenants. His covenant to us is not based on what we do, but upon His character. God’s hesed is on display to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. We are the objects of God’s hesed.
Our hope of being taken from this world of war, violence, immorality, and evil corruption is abounding. Our hope is the anchor for our soul. When people ask us why we persevere, what motivates us in this present evil age, we respond with the answer which speaks about the hope that is within.
We don’t hope that the government will fix the world. We don’t hope in economic security. We don’t hope in education, better healthcare, or any other man-devised system. The only hope we have is God being faithful to fulfill His promises to us. All of God’s promises find their answer in Jesus Christ.
The Israelites in Babylon captivity, God’s chosen, ultimately hoped to be in heaven with God. We share the same hope.
Turn to Psalm 63.
O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly;
My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You,
In a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2 Thus I have seen You in the sanctuary,
To see Your power and Your glory.
3 Because Your lovingkindness is better than life,
My lips will praise You.
4 So I will bless You as long as I live;
I will lift up my hands in Your name.
5 My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness,
And my mouth offers praises with joyful lips.
6 When I remember You on my bed,
I meditate on You in the night watches,
7 For You have been my help,
And in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy.
8 My soul clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me.
9 But those who seek my life to destroy it,
Will go into the depths of the earth.
10 They will be delivered over to the power of the sword;
They will be a prey for foxes.
11 But the king will rejoice in God;
Everyone who swears by Him will glory,
For the mouths of those who speak lies will be stopped.