Isaiah 43:9. “Which of them foretold this and proclaimed to us the former things? Let them bring in their witnesses to prove they were right, so that others may hear and say, ‘It is true.’”
Exegesis and Application
The setting of Isaiah 43 is a court room in which are assembled two sides: believers and unbelievers. The believers are the “sons” and the “daughters,” who are the “blind” and “deaf.” (vss. 6, 8) The unbelievers are “the nations.” (vs. 9). Isaiah has already used the courtroom as a setting to declare Yahweh’s message (chp. 41) and will again use the stark setting (chp. 50). It is a common theme to present the gospel in legal terms with prosecution and defense bringing their own witnesses before the court.
The historical circumstances are the exile, return and restoration of the nation of Israel. What were the events and which divinities correctly foretold the events? Isaiah had foretold the exile and restoration with clarity and precision in such a way that verification of supernatural foresight was possible. He was now putting his prophetic gifts to the test.
What the two parties are called to witness and testify to is a bit unclear in this passage. That is, we are not sure what “this” and “former things” refer to. It seems that the best antecedent of “this” is the entire situation that Israel finds itself in, i.e., exile, return and restoration. “Former things” seem to refer to past prophesies that have been fulfilled. It is all rather unclear in the specifics but understandable in the general: Are the false prophets telling the truth or is Isaiah telling the truth?
In order to settle the issue, Isaiah gives the “nations” an opportunity to justify themselves for their past conduct. If they have any witnesses who can testify that their prophets have predicted events which came to pass or that their gods have explained life to them in “former times,” then now is the time to present those witnesses for confirmation of the truth of their prophetic ability. If they can’t produce such witnesses, then the “nations” should accept Yahweh as the one true God who does bring to pass what He says He will.
Christian journalist, the newsrooms are full of people who deny and denigrate the God of the Old Testament who always fulfills his promises. It is easy to be taken captive “to hollow and deceptive ideas” when all those around you subscribe to these “basic principles of the world” (Col. 2:8). You must remember that the God whom you serve is faithful to accomplish that which he promises. We are his witnesses to his faithfulness and it is our obligation and privilege to be his ambassadors in the newsrooms. The indwelling God will convince us to “believe,” “know” and “understand.” (43:10). Surely, there are no better eye witnesses to his ability “to save completely” all those who call upon his name (43:1-3, cf, Heb. 7:25).
It is worth mentioning that the challenge Isaiah throws down to the prophets of Baal has an element of danger: What if the pagan prophets produce such witnesses for their god? But Isaiah is bold and serene in the challenge because he knows that Yahweh alone is sovereign and faithful and thus will produce what he promises every time. Isaiah’s certitude is wonderful and encouraging for us in Baal country.