Like the layers of an archeological site, this passage of scripture requires some real digging to understand its context in all of its complexity. However, to get a sense of the context is to unearth the real treasures stored in this small microcosm of God’s beautiful plan for our lives. So, roll up your sleeves for a moment, this is worth the work!
In this section of the book of Isaiah, God warns his people that their sin is leading them to a future of captivity under the Babylonian Empire. He is calling out for them to understand their sin and to change their ways, saying in 42:18, “Hear, you deaf, and look, you blind, that you may see!” But the people of God refuse to listen, and look, and see. So, many years later, God’s people are conquered by the Babylonians. But, in this prophetic summary we learn of God’s plan for the future rescue of his people from that same bondage after some 70 years. In our verses, God is telling his people not to remember the former rescue that he gave them from Egyptian bondage (see verses 43:16-17). He is going to rescue them in a new way from the slavery they will experience in the future. In a very real way, God’s people were released from physical bondage both in the times of Egyptian and Babylonian captivity. But, that would be too simple to just end there. We learn later in the book of Isaiah that these physical rescues from captivity are but a shadow of the great and final spiritual and holistic rescue that God has in store for his people. God speaks again and again in Isaiah about his coming Servant who will suffer for his people and save them in totality from the bondage of sin and death. The New Testament reveals Jesus as that servant.
Are you starting to see the layers here?
But, there is one more layer. God is calling out to the modern reader (to you and me) to listen, and look, and see what he is doing in our lives. He is asking us to turn towards him for his loving salvation. He is asking us to give up our selfish ways and pursue his loving rescue plan for our lives. In Isaiah 43:25 God says, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” What a depth of unspeakable riches are revealed in this treasured truth: God wants to save his people (including us) from our bondage to sin and death.