The first half of this chapter is about real and fake, truth and lies, life and death.
To put our hopes and dreams into any other power or strength than Almighty God is to set ourselves up for heartache and ultimately death. Only God is the source of life, only God is perfectly and forever trustworthy, God is the ultimate and complete reality, and to God goes all the glory, power, honor, and might.
The second half of this chapter addresses God’s longing for the people of God to enjoy God, and to enjoy God’s blessing.
Humankind Is Made in God’s Image
O that you had paid attention to my commandments!Isaiah 48:18 (NRSV)
Then your prosperity would have been like a river
and your success like the waves of the sea
This has been God’s purpose for humankind from the beginning, from the days of Eden.
God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.”Genesis 1:28 (NRSV)
Human beings were to be God’s representatives on earth, bearing God’s image and sharing, as God’s servants, the Lord’s kingly rule over the earth. People are meant to be stewards, not to exploit or waste God’s beautiful creation, but instead to bear responsibility to manage earth’s resources, to rule with benevolent care in God’s service and to God’s glory.
And through this wise management of the whole earth, humankind would enjoy the flourishing abundance of earth’s resources, and the transcendent joy of life in harmony with all God’s creation.
Made for Eternal Fellowship With God
People are made in God’s image, uniquely designed for eternal fellowship with God.
We Are Like God in Spirituality
God gave some animals the ability to think and feel in a limited ways, but only humanity received God’s breath, or “Spirit.” Humans have an awareness of the spiritual realm, of spiritual things, the unseen. And Paul began his letter to the Romans explaining that all people have the capacity to be aware of God and God’s presence, to even know God.
From knowing God and living by faith in God – as the Hebrew scriptures describe – the Lord Jesus Christ brought in a new era in which human beings can be made one with God in very real ways. Through the Holy Spirit’s synergistic bringing to new life those who have to come to God through faith in Jesus, God now fills – totally saturates and permanently alters – believers with God’s Holy Spirit.
This is what Jesus meant by being born anew from above, and what theologians term “regeneration.” People are designed to contain God’s Holy Spirit in the most intimate communion possible.
We Are Like God in Personality
People have intelligence, the ability to think and to know, to understand ideas. We have the ability to think God’s thoughts with God, to share in the Mind of Christ. We also have feelings and emotions, specially designed to experience God in a different way than thoughts:
- adoration of God’s beauty,
- reverence towards God’s holiness,
- awe at God’s power and perfection, a
- response of love to God’s own loving kindness, compassion and mercy.
People have a will – the ability to make choices.
God gave people the gift of language, the ability to communicate with God and to understand God’s unique revelation of God’s Self.
We Are Like God in Morality
Every person has the innate ability to tell right from wrong, called the “conscience.” From the beginning God has always given each person a simple test, to teach us how to know, and understand in an experiential way, the difference.
- Right is obedience to God’s principles and ways, written in scripture and in our hearts, and interpreted by the Holy Spirit.
- Wrong is choosing something apart from God’s will.
Made to Correspond With God
God made humankind in God’s own image, to fit with God in a perfect way. Humankind began life filled with the very breath of God, sculpted by God’s hands, walking in perfect communion with God.
God loves people with infinite and eternal depth, in ways we can hardly imagine, having designed us to be God’s intimate companions. The intimacy is so profound, we are compared to being the bride of God, intended to be so united with God that just as the first man and woman were formed from the same lump of clay, and were indeed “one flesh,” so we are to be one with God.
God humbled God’s Own Self to the point of utter vulnerability to humankind by becoming a three-dimensional skin-on-flesh-and-bone human being. Then God the Son submitted Himself to be nailed to a cross, to be led into death for the sake of love, for the sake of rescuing and restoring us to intimacy as God’s beloved.
Made to Glorify and Enjoy God Forever.
Because we are made in the image of God, our original purpose was to mirror God’s holiness, to reflect God to each other. Being in loving fellowship with God is every person’s greatest purpose, every person’s greatest good, deepest fulfillment, pleasure, happiness and satisfaction. So the greatest tragedy ever in human history was the loss of this fellowship with God. Without God our lives lose their meaning and purpose.
This was God’s lament to God’s people
your offspring would have been like the sandIsaiah 48:19 (NRSV)
and your descendants like its grains;
their name would never be cut off
or destroyed from before me.
But God would give them another chance. When their release came, they were to head straight back to Jerusalem, leave Babylon far behind, and shout with joy along the way. They were to proclaim the gospel!
declare this with a shout of joy; proclaim it;Isaiah 48:20 (NRSV)
send it forth to the end of the earth;
say, “The Lord has redeemed his servant Jacob!”
Just as God had cared for God’s people in the great Exodus from Egypt, so now God would cause the water to flow for them, both physically and spiritually, as living water, the split rock symbolic of the Lord Jesus.
They did not thirst when he led them through the deserts;Isaiah 49:21 (NRSV, emphasis mine)
he made water flow for them from the rock;
he split open the rock, and the water gushed out.
God does not love humankind, and you and me specifically, because we are obedient to God. God loves because it is God’s nature to love (this is basically what the whole book of 1 John is about). It is our reasonable response to love God back. Our response of love begins a powerful transformation that brings a profound union with God, so that what might be called “obedience” is in fact the evidence of our transformation.
God alone is worthy of highest honor and deepest respect
The downfall of Babylon was not due simply to their culture becoming complacent in wealth, arrogant in their assumption that they would always be a world power, decadence and decline. Babylon’s downfall cannot be simply explained by the cyclical nature of history, that empires inevitably rise and fall. Babylon’s downfall cannot be dismissed as a coincidence that just happened as natural events happened to converge at about the time that Jeremiah’s prophecy said it would.
Almighty God worked in all the intricate details of human decisions, natural forces, and spiritual and physical laws. Over all these things, God was and remains sovereign, just as God is making history happen today.
You and I are not to fear national and cultural powers. Nations, like individuals, face judgment in the plans of God. God will not overlook the evil of nations, though God certainly works through events at that level to accomplish God’s own purposes.
The only one to hold in that high of esteem, to reverence, is the Lord of the Heavens.