“Look to Me, and be saved,
All you ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other."
Luke here again. My read-the-Bible in a year plan has recently taken me through the book of Isaiah. The above verses really stood out to me, perhaps because I really enjoy Old Testament verses that speak of salvation for the Gentiles (i.e., the rest of the world apart from Israel).
But before I talk about these verses, a bit of context is in order. Isaiah's prophetic career took place in the late 8th and early 7th centuries BC, during the reigns of four kings of the southern nation of Judah. It was during Isaiah's time that the northern kingdom of Israel was conquered by Assyria. Isaiah directed much of his writing towards the issues of empty religious ritualism and idolatry that pervaded Judah.
The entire section of Isaiah that I have just been reading, including the section above, focuses on comparing the true God of the universe with idols. In these chapters, God consistently reminds the children of Israel that He created the earth and heavens, whereas idols are useless blocks of wood or metal that are incapable of doing anything. Because the Lord is the only true God, and because He is almighty, He is the only one who can save Israel. This is a key point, repeated again and again (e.g. 44:21-22, 45:17): God is the Saviour of Israel. In chapter 45, we see a lot of the themes in Isaiah. Just before the above passage, there is a section describing how God created the world and how He is trustworthy and truthful (45:18-19). Following this, God challenges the makers of idols to have their false gods demonstrate knowledge or power to save, if they have any (45:20-21). Then, the above passage shows that God is the only Saviour.
When Isaiah says God is Israel's Saviour, he means it both in a temporal and spiritual sense. In a temporal sense, God would save Israel from oppression by other nations - e.g. the Babylonians - just as He had done so many times before. In a spiritual sense, God would save Israel from their sins, as stated in 44:22 - "I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, And like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you." This looks forward to the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, whose death made a way for not only Israelites but the whole world to be saved - as proven by verse 22 above.
But what about people today? Most of us aren't worshipping stone or wooden images in our homes. However, the core issue is sin, as shown in 44:22. God has given us His law to show us what sin is. According to Jesus Himself, the most important law is: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind." (Matthew 22:37) How many of us can say we keep this law for even one minute - let alone perfectly, all the time? I know that I love and focus on so many things apart from God. So this one law demonstrates that we are all convicted sinners. And there are other laws - read the Ten Commandments in Exodus 20.
What this shows is that we are sinners and deserve only God's wrath. Although God is loving, He is also holy and righteous, and cannot overlook sin - or He would be going against His holy nature. But the good news is that God did something about this. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for our sin. Because Jesus was fully God, He was without sin. During His life on earth, He kept God's moral law perfectly. Jesus was also fully man, so he could stand in our place as a substitute, to take the punishment that all humans deserve. For all those people who trust in Christ for salvation, God placed the judgement they deserved on Christ, and applied Christ's righteousness to them. In order to be saved, we must repent - that is, turn from our sins - and trust in Jesus Christ alone to save us. Then we will have His righteousness and eternal life with Him, not by any good works of our own but rather by His grace.