The Final Overthrow of Babylon and Israel's Complete Deliverance by Her Messiah
By Dr. Goldberg
Babylon is an extraordinary symbol of a world gone mad with idolatry and disobedience. Isaiah 46-48 is a vivid description of God’s displeasure and the impending punishment God has prepared for Babylon. The Babylonian gods are mocked for their impotence in Isaiah 46. The mighty Babylonian Empire’s destruction is predicted in Isaiah 47. Even Israel sacrificed great opportunities and is reprimanded in Isaiah 48.
JUDGMENT ON BABYLON, THE GREAT OPPRESSOR OF JUDAH (Isaiah 46, 47)
Babylon’s downfall should be viewed in the light of Israel’s deliverance, which is the general theme of Isaiah 40-48. Israel is commanded to remember her history (Isa. 46:8-9). Remembering her history especially includes her deliverance from Egypt.
Babylon, the “queen of kingdoms” (Isa. 47:5), had been used by God as an instrument of judgment on Israel, God’s own people. Now God brings judgment upon Babylon for her mistreatment of God’s people. The nation of Babylon was teeming with idolatry—pagan priests, astrologers, soothsayers, charlatans, including demon-inspired religions.
Even though the nation had a high state of civilization, being advanced in mathematics, astronomy and literature, the moral character of the empire was evil. She mirrored the Babylon in the End of the Age, which will be destroyed without a trace (Isa. 47:5-11; Rev. 18:17-24).
THE FIRST APPEARANCE OF ISRAEL’S REDEEMER AND MESSIAH (Isaiah 48)
Through Isaiah, God reminds Israel how He spoke through the ancient prophets and caused those events to take place (Isa. 48:3). Peter indicates the prophets spoke concerning the time of the Messiah (1 Pet. 1:10-12). God knew his people would fail to recognize the source of their provision and protection; therefore, He reveals future events before they occur to protect the nation from attributing their deliverance to false idols (Isa. 48:4, 5). When Israel as a nation refuses to acknowledge their deliverer, God still promises to respond with mercy and defer His anger (Isa. 48:9). This is also the case when Israel does not embrace her Messiah.
When His people rebel against Him, God seeks to restore His people when He allows Israel to pass through the furnace of affliction. As a silversmith refines silver, God purifies His nation through the furnace of affliction (Isa. 48:10). The prophet Jeremiah speaks about the future refinement as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7). The speaker in this text is none other than King Messiah Himself (Isa. 48:12).
Isaiah makes it clear that God the Father Himself has planned and prospered the coming and appearing of Israel’s Messiah (Isa. 48:15). What a great testimony we see in the Hebrew Bible in Isaiah 48:16, declaring the triune nature of the God of Israel: “from the time that it was, there am I, and now the Lord God and His Spirit, hath sent me.”
THE FUTURE REVIVAL OF BABYLON AND THE FINAL CALL FOR ISRAEL TO DEPART (Isaiah 48:20-22)
A future, revived Babylon is predicted in Isaiah 48:20. The Jewish people are exhorted to begin their long journey back to the land of their fathers with the Lord’s assurance that it will be just as in the time of the Exodus from Egypt when, “they did not thirst when He led them through the deserts; He caused the waters to flow from the rock for them; He also split the rock, and the waters gushed out” (Isa. 48:21).
Isaiah closes his discourse of chapters 40-48 with this somber declaration, “There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked” (Isa. 48:22).
God does not provide peace for those who produce evil. The enemies of Messiah will face judgment and the eternal fire “prepared for the devil and his angels” (Matt 25:41). There is only one way to live, and that is for God, accepting Jesus the Messiah and becoming a new creation in Him. Then, by His grace, we will serve and honor Him throughout life and He will receive us into immortal glory.
Dr. Goldberg serves as International Ministries Representative for Chosen People Ministries and lives in Pineville, North Carolina with his wife, Madeline.
Books At a Glance interviewed Dr. Darrell Bock regarding his book, which he edited with Chosen People Ministries’ President, Dr. Mitch Glaser, The Gospel According to Isaiah 53, Kregel Academic, 2012. Below is a transcript of the interview.
Few chapters in the Bible are more familiar to the Christian ear than Isaiah 53 (Is. 52:13-53:12), and certainly few are more beloved. And judging by the number of quotations and allusions to it we find in the New Testament, this has long been the case!
There have of course been other books dedicated to this passage of Scripture, but The Gospel According to Isaiah 53by Darrell Bock and Mitch Glaser (eds.) does have its own contribution to make. If you’re intending to study this wonderful passage of Scripture in any depth, then this is a must read book. Darrel Bock is here to give us just a taste of what they offer.
Books At a Glance: First, tell us about this book and how it came about – how is it unique? What are your goals? How is the book structured?
Bock: We perceived a need for a detailed treatment of Isaiah 53, which is a significant text in sharing about God’s program to Jewish people who question the idea of a Messiah who suffers. It is a careful look at Isaiah 53 in its OT context as well as in Jewish interpretation and its use in the NT.
Books At a Glance: In broad terms, at least, describe for us the "Servant" of the Lord as he is presented in the book of Isaiah.
Bock: Well that depends on where you are in the Servant Songs. It is Israel as a nation in some texts such as Isaiah 49, but when we get to Isaiah 53, It has narrowed down to an individual who can deliver on what Israel has failed to be as Servant.
Books At a Glance: What indications are there in Isaiah that the Servant of the Lord is a personal and not only a corporate figure?
Bock: The idea of being a sacrifice and the first person language on behalf of his own points to an individual, not a corporate figure for Israel. The perspective looking at outside kings (note the “them”) is not the nations speaking, but a perspective from within Israel. This makes the “we” Israel speaking about he Servant. The rebellion of his own people caused him to suffer. All these point to an individual who goes through what he does on behalf of his people.
Books At a Glance: What considerations lead us to understand the “Servant” as Messianic?
Bock: The context of the book of Isaiah as a whole points to a Messianic figure for he both proclaims and brings deliverance according to Isaiah 61:1-2. The first part of Isaiah (chapters 1-39) also looks for a king as the key figure (see especially Isaiah 7-11).
Books At a Glance: In terms of the identity of the Servant, was there a common interpretation of Isaiah 53 among the Rabbis before the time of Christ, a general consensus? Did they understand it as Messianic?
Bock:Though some Jewish rabbis saw an individual, most interpret it either as Israel or as a remnant in Israel. They did not see the text as messianic. This explains why some were slow to understand the idea of a suffering Messiah.
Books At a Glance: Is there a common interpretation among the Rabbis and Jewish theologians today?
Bock: No. It runs very much like the older rabbinic options.
Books At a Glance: How might we best use Isaiah 53 in Jewish evangelism?
Bock: The simplest way is to hand a Jewish person the text or read it to them and ask who does this sound like. Many Jewish people do not know about this text as it is not read regularly in the synagogue. So this is a way into a conversation. If they do not know or have a suggestion you can still make the connections to Yeshua (the Jewish name for Jesus).
Books At a Glance: Isaiah 53 reads like a lament, a confession of those who rejected the Servant and now understand better. Who is the “we” that express this lament? And is there a specific time-frame in view?
Bock: This seems to be from a “prophetic” perspective of a group within Israel. The kings are “them” and it is what “we” did to him that is lamented. There is no specific time frame in view. It is simply clear he provides a way for deliverance. The description fits Jesus of Nazareth very nicely.
The Gospel According to Isaiah 53 is an great resource for evangelists, pastors, teachers, seminary professors, and para-church organizations and all those who want to learn more about the Suffering Servant. Listen to three of the scholars who contribute to the book talk about it.
By Alan Shore
I am grateful to have been raised in a Jewish home where Jewish heritage was prized and Jewish values stressed; religious faith—not so much, although my parents made sure I went to Hebrew school and had my bar mitzvah. One thing I more or less took for granted is that Jewish people didn’t believe in Jesus. If you asked me why, the one thing I would have said was, “I guess we Jewish people don’t believe that a holy, invisible God, if He existed at all, could ever become a man.” That was for Christians, not for us. But I had other problems with religious faith. They were not particularly original, but they mattered to me. The main objection to God was the problem of suffering. How could a just and loving God stand by and watch the unspeakable catalog of horrors that human beings are either afflicted with or else inflict upon one another?
Where Was God?
God seemed to me to be indifferent to our plight, the senseless and terrifying physical and/or spiritual pain we must endure. And for Jewish men and women who saw the struggle for faith as a lost cause from the beginning, the biggest question of all was, “Where was God during the Holocaust?” The implied answer to this was, for so many of us, “nowhere.”
Or was it?
I had heard the case for unbelief loud and clear. But was there another side to the question? Although, like so many in my generation, I had fooled around with Eastern mysticism and had searched in all the wrong places for some kind of spark to kindle hope, none of it seemed to reach to that deep and inconsolable place of loneliness. Yet there came a time when
I began to sense I was a little too complacent in my glum atheism. It was time to ask a new set of questions.
The Suffering Servant
I went back to square one—the problem of human suffering. Did God care? If there was a God, and He did not care, then it made no sense to pursue the question any further. But if God did care, that changed everything. And if God cared, how could we tell?
To find out, I turned again to the root that had somehow nourished me all along—Jewish identity. Where, if not there, was the mixture of God, suffering and human destiny most deeply entwined? And it was there I found something so unexpected and unimaginable that all of my preconceived ideas of God and the universe were turned completely upside down.
As my thoughts were turning in this new direction, I discovered that one of the most startling claims that the Bible makes, a claim that originates in the Hebrew Scriptures and is repeated throughout, is that the Creator of the universe has willed a special, irrevocable, covenant relationship with human beings, starting with the Jewish people. Moreover, the Scriptures inform us that the God of the Jewish people also has compassion for us. He has determined to heal the deep, appalling wound that sin has inflicted upon His creation and the disfigurement it has wrought upon the humanity that was originally created in His own image and likeness.
But how? It was in the one way, it seems, I had been taught was impossible—by becoming one of us. I saw it, first reluctantly and later clearly, in the moving and unforgettable passage about the Suffering Servant in the prophet Isaiah 53:4-5.
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.
Immanuel: God with Us
It was then that I made a life-changing connection—the claims concerning Jesus in the New Testament did not stand alone. They were firmly based on prophetic groundwork that had already been laid in the Hebrew Scriptures. The New Testament proclaims that God has taken the almost inconceivable step of coming among us: by entering our world—as a human being—to share our condition, shoulder our burdens, to suffer on our behalf and to suffer with us.
So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet [Isa. 7:14], saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us” (Matt. 1:23).
Through this unimaginable act of love, we now dare to speak of God as though He were at our side, in our world, closer to our soul’s need than we can possibly be aware. To this day, as I reflect and marvel, I am drawn into what is perhaps the greatest mystery of all—what believers in Yeshua (Jesus) call the incarnation.
If the Lord’s presence was found by Moses in the burning bush or by Job from out of the whirlwind, why not in the form of a human being, as the Scriptures proclaim? Why not, indeed?
Alan Shore is a Jewish believer from New York City who has served with Chosen People Ministries for over fifteen years in a number of capacities including staff writer, ministry representative and as part of the Shalom Brooklyn Evangelism Team. He is also working on a doctorate in Modern Jewish History and Culture.
Gospel Literature Leads to Faith Decision for Jewish Man in Berlin
There are some who think that giving out tracts is old-fashioned and ineffective. But then along comes a story that makes you think again. Mendel,* an Orthodox Jewish man, received an evangelistic brochure on the main street of Berlin. As he tells it, at first he thought to get rid of it, but he could not. A desire to attend the Chosen People Ministries Messianic worship service grew strong in his heart. He came the very next Saturday. He was impressed. The Spirit of God was touching him, and he came to Yeshua (Jesus) one week later at the next service. Praise the Lord!
Jewish Woman in Hospice Care Affirms Faith in Messiah in the Blink of an Eye
Responding to a request from Darlene,* a Jewish believer, to visit her dying mother, Carole Bahm arrived at a hospice center in Boynton Beach to minister to a woman she had never met. Darlene was concerned that although her mother had prayed the “sinner’s prayer” years ago, she later said it was all “a lot of nonsense.” Although Lois* was close to death, she could hear and her mind was clear. Carole said, “I want to ask a question. If the answer is yes, I want you to blink your eyes—“Lois, do you believe that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah, and do you believe that He is your Savior and Lord?” She blinked yes! Darlene was so relieved that her mother had at last accepted the Lord.
Holocaust Survivor Believes and is Baptized in Israel
Eugene L. is rejoicing over fruit reaped from the Bible study he teaches at the Jerusalem Messianic Center. Elisheva,* who survived the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp as a child and later immigrated to Israel, has become a believer. When Chosen People Ministries opened a food distribution center in Jerusalem, Elisheva got to know Eugene and his coworkers, Maxim and Vicka. She not only gratefully received help, but also became a faithful volunteer. Soon, she began to attend Bible study. Now, after two years of studying the Scripture, several personal meetings and many prayers, she has received the Lord. When she asked to be baptized, Eugene and Maxim gladly completed the Lord’s command at the Jordan River. Elisheva told Eugene that it was probably the happiest day in her long life.
From Russia With Messiah’s Love
Although Shalom Brooklyn is some weeks past, staff member Mira Gracheva, who traveled all the way from Moscow to assist with the outreach to the Russian Jewish community, has this lovely report—“Shalom Brooklyn is a very blessed time for all. As I ministered, 38 Jewish seekers gave me contact information and 36 people received the Lord—31 of them Jewish! Now that I am home and resting from this difficult battle, from the hot sun, I feel how great the joy in heaven is! It is impossible to describe all of the wonderful encounters the Lord gave me. Before my eyes, a Jewish husband and wife prayed together to receive Messiah in their 92nd year!”
Orthodox Jewish Rabbi Sees Messiah Through Isaiah 53!
During Shalom Brooklyn, one of our volunteers was passing out tracts on the streets of Manhattan, while wearing his Isaiah 53 T-shirt. He was approached by a Jewish woman who asked him if he was with Chosen People Ministries. Our volunteer answered that he was. She then went on to tell him that she grew up an Orthodox Jew and years ago received Messiah Jesus as her Savior through reading Isaiah 53. After this took place, she was sadly shunned by her community and family, forced to get a divorce from her husband, and was not allowed to see her children—all because of her faith in Yeshua! Her son, now grown and an Orthodox rabbi, recently contacted her and expressed that he wanted her to be a part of his life and that of his wife and children. This woman was not shy about sharing Yeshua…even after her previous experience! She had many conversations with her son regarding Yeshua being the Messiah, and she gave him a copy of Isaiah 53 Explained. After reading the book, and through the witness of his mother, this Orthodox rabbi has placed his faith in Jesus as his Jewish Messiah! Praise the Lord!