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A refiner’s fire removes all of the dross and waste material so that only the precious materials are left.  Israel and Judah experienced God’s refining work through their suffering and captivity so that all of their false worship and shallow claims were removed leaving behind only true worship. That’s what God does with us too, he purifies us so that our worship is pure and true.

Read Isaiah 48

The descendants of Jacob, particularly the tribe of Judah, are using the covenant names. They identify as Israel, they claim to worship Yahweh, they associate with Jerusalem as the place where they worship and find security. However, their claims are hollow, they are not true (v1-2).

Because they do not speak the truth, God chooses to act and to bring about the judgement he hard warned them about. The warnings go all the way back to Moses’ day(v3).  This is because they people have been stubborn and unrepentant.  God compares their stubbornness to metals, resistant to bending and shaping, so that they are proud, or stiff necked, as though their necks were made of iron (v4). By announcing in advance, things that will come to pass hundreds of years  later, God prevents the people from seeing these events as being evidence of their idols at work, so that they will fear him and not idols (v5).

Now, God uses Isaiah to declare new things. If the former things were warnings concerning judgement, the new things are to do with coming salvation. He has waited and has kept them from seeing and hearing these things, again so that they will know that this good news comes from hi, it’s not stuff their gods have promised, it’s not stuff they already knew (v6-9).

God acts in compassion and mercy, at this particular time (during the days of Hezekiah), holding back his final judgement.  This is for his own name’s sake, not for the benefit of others but so the world around and his people will see something of his patient character and learn to glorify him (v10). However, God is still at work, refining his people, not in the same way silver is refined, with a literal furnace but the furnace is the suffering and trials they experience (v11-12).

God calls the people to assemble, to hear him speak. They can trust his faithful word.  At a time when they might be tempted both to look to Babylon for help and at the same time fear them, they are to do neither.  Babylon only acts as God’s agent, as YHWH permits and they too will be subject to the lord’s judgement (v13-16).

It is regretful that the people have failed to listen to God’s warnings and promises. If they had heeded him, they would have experienced peace and prosperity, instead they must suffer war, judgement and exile (v17-19).

Verses 20-22 act as a closing bracket to chapters 40-48, bringing us back to the opening promises that God would deliver the people from Babylon. A day will come when they are to flee Babylon and return to Jerusalem, repeating the original exodus.


Meditate on v10.

Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
    I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.

  1. How is God refining you?
  2. What is it that God’s refining is removing from your life and worship?
  3. What does pure and true worship look like?

Lord God, please forgive us for those times when we only pay lip service to you.  Help us not to be those who take the name “Christian” but lack Christlikeness.  Refine us, purify us and make us more like you.

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