Isaiah’s Second Exodus

In Isaiah 43:16-21, the prophet envisions the return of the Judean exiles as a second Exodus. He begins by recalling the Lord’s triumph over Pharaoh’s army at the Red Sea.

Thus says the LORD, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:

The God who drowned Pharaoh’s army is about to do something even more remarkable.

Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

As in the days of Moses, the Lord will lead his people from captivity safely through the desert, providing for their needs during the journey, and returning them to their home in the land of promise.

I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself so that they might declare my praise.

Using picturesque language, the prophet describes how even the wild animals of the desert will praise God for his mighty deeds. The beasts and great birds of the wilderness will be able to drink from the same life-giving waters that God provides for his people. Judah’s salvation brings blessings to the world.

For Christians, Isaiah’s language looks forward to an even greater Exodus of God’s people. Our deliverance has begun in Christ’s death and resurrection. Those who belong to Christ are now sojourning in a different kind of wilderness, sustained by the power of God until the day when we reach God’s promised rest.