God’s Promise to a Rebellious People
What promise did God make to His rebellious people?
Isaiah 48 begins with a vehement attack by the prophet on God’s people. The prophet accused the people of Judah of claiming to be God’s people but not living like God’s people in truth and righteousness (48:1-2). Their genealogy was right but their theology was wrong. The people were insensitive, unresponsive, and uninterested in the new things God was doing for them (48:3-4).
The prophet reminded the people of the things God had done for them in the past (48:3-6a). In the past God announced events and caused them to come to pass. These were things God, and not any idol, did. In the present, God was preparing to do new things which they knew nothing about (48:6b-7).
The new things are likely a reference to Cyrus’ conquest of Babylon, the release of the exiles and their return to their homeland. Israel would witness the fulfillment of these things (declared by God) in her history.
God would do these new things in spite of the disappointing behavior of His people (48:8-11). God would do these things for His own sake and that His name might be glorified.
God, the creator of heaven and earth (48:12-13), chose Cyrus to be the instrument to carry out His purpose (48:14-15). The prophet exhorted the people to listen to his message from God who has spoken plainly to His people and fulfilled His words to them throughout their history (48:16).
Isaiah 48:17-19 served to remind Israel of her history of wasted opportunities because she failed to heed the word of the Lord (48:17). God Himself had been their faithful teacher, but they refused to listen to and learn from Him. Her history would have been different had she been obedient to God’s word (48:18). They forfeited many blessings because of their stubborn refusal to listen to God. Among the benefits the people forfeited are:  peace or “well-being”,  “righteousness”, (which included victory and salvation) and  the fulfillment of God’s promise to make them as numerous as the sea (48:18-19).
Practical Consideration: Disobedience is costly.
The history of God’s people was filled with accounts of wasted opportunities and forfeited blessings because of their disobedience. Disobeying God may give us what we want but will rob us of what God wants to give us.
Isaiah 48:20 contains the long-awaited call to return home. The prophet shouted the call and invited the people to rejoice and join him in spreading this good news of God’s deliverance to the ends of the earth. The prophet assured the people that God would make adequate provision for their return home just as He did for their forefathers in the first Exodus (48:21).
The words of verse 22 serve as a warning to any who might choose to stay in Babylon and not undertake the journey home. Josephus writes that many Jews did remain in Babylon, “being unwilling to leave their possessions.” For these, there would be no peace.
Practical Consideration: If we cling to the old things we will miss out on the new things.
Josephus records that many Jews did not leave their Babylonian homes because they were attached to their possessions. They refused to return to their own homeland because they had become possessed by possessions and enslaved to comfort. Their possessions robbed them of the real peace and security that God wanted to give them. They missed out on the wonderful new thing that God was doing because they refused to give up their old things.