Tapestry of Restoration
The history of Israel is a beautiful tapestry woven with intricate detail, where all possible frays are held together by the providence of God. When Israel worshipped the golden calf at Mount Sinai, the Lord did not utterly destroy the nation, but rather through Moses’ intercession forgave and renewed the covenant. When Israel chose to follow after the gods of Canaan, the Lord allowed them to be oppressed by the surrounding nations, but after He heard their cries, He sent forth deliverers/judges to redeem His people. This cyclical nature of Israel’s history continued to occur with each successive generation.
The long-suffering and gracious nature of God toward Israel is without compare. There was no god among the nations like Israel’s God (cf. Exodus 15:11; Deuteronomy 32:29; 2 Chronicles 6:14; etc.)! The Lord extended an arm of forgiveness toward Israel throughout their history, but His hand ultimately grew short because of Israel’s constant and impenitent sin (cf. Isaiah 59:1-2). The Lord allowed the northern kingdom, Israel, to be taken into captivity by the Assyrians and the southern kingdom, Judah, by the Babylonians. The Lord’s long-suffering had reached its limit, and the holiness/justice of God was demonstrated by their captivity.
In the midst of Israel’s captivity, the Lord did not leave Israel without hope, but continued to send prophets to His chosen people to deliver a message of restoration. The majority of Israel may have been sinful and rebellious, but there was always a faithful remnant who desired to fulfill their God’s call to faithfulness. The work of the prophets was to call the nation of Israel to repentance and to offer them glimpses of the coming Messiah and His kingdom. The Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, wrote more concerning the Messiah and His kingdom than any other. This great prophet revealed to Israel, even in the midst of their captivity, the promises of God and the beautiful tapestry of His restoration.
In the fortieth chapter of Isaiah, the prophet is called to give comfort to the nation of Israel. The iniquity of Israel’s sins were removed/forgiven through captivity and now God promised their restoration/redemption from the nations of Assyria and Babylon (Isaiah 10:24; 48:20). The Lord also prophesied through Isaiah the work/ministry of John the Baptist (cf. Matthew 3:1-3). The one whose voice would cry in the wilderness – “Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God” (40:3). The “way of the Lord” has always made the impossible, possible through God. When Israel was trapped between the Egyptian army and the Red Sea, the Lord made “the way” through the water (cf. Isaiah 51:10). The same will be experienced through the Messiah. What is impossible for man to accomplish alone through faith in God has been made possible (Matthew 19:26; Ephesians 2:8-10).
Next, the prophet Isaiah emphasized that the “glory of the Lord will be revealed” (40:5). The “glory of the Lord” was first manifested in Israel’s history during their exodus from Egypt (cf. Exodus 13:21-22). The “glory of the Lord” was now promised to bring Israel back from their captivity, and then it would be manifested fully in the coming of the Messiah. As the apostle John wrote – “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (1:14). Jesus is the fullness of God in bodily form (cf. Hebrews 1:3; Colossians 2:9). Jesus came to provide the way for man to be forgiven of his sins and be restored to a righteous standing before God.
The final thread of Isaiah’s tapestry is the promises concerning Israel’s future king and shepherd (40:10-11). Where Israel’s kings and shepherds were generally motivated by selfishness and self-indulgence, the kingly Shepherd prophesied by Isaiah would be completely selfless and compassionate toward His flock. The prophet wrote – “Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arms He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes” (40:11). The good Shepherd did precisely these things in His ministry. Jesus called for the little ones and took them into His arms (cf. Mark 10:14-16). Jesus gently called for those who were weak and heavy laden to follow Him (cf. Matthew 11:28-30). In the midst of captivity, Israel was being shown a glimpse of their future King who would restore the people, not to a land, but rather to their God. The prophet Isaiah called for Israel to trust and hope in these promises of God.
The tapestry of God’s restoration has been woven throughout the history of mankind and God’s own chosen people – Israel. The Lord never left Israel without the promise of hope in their future King. While Israel would ultimately reject their King who had been sent by God, this did not detract from the Father’s will being accomplished. The kingly Shepherd came not only to lead His flock, but He willingly sacrificed Himself on their behalf. The good Shepherd through His own death, burial, and resurrection brought salvation and forgiveness to every nation. When Jesus ascended to the Father, He delivered to Him the ultimate sacrifice of Himself (cf. Ephesians 5:1-2; Hebrews 9:23-28). What a tremendous blessing it is to draw near to the bosom of our great King and Shepherd! May we never forget the beautiful message of restoration which God made possible through the history of Israel.