Through Isaiah, God instructs Israel/Judah to turn back to Him. The time will come under Cyrus when they will return to their homeland, and they need to be spiritually prepared for that occasion.The people of Israel need to fully understand the importance of serving and loving the only true God (and not putting other idols before Him). Israel knew from Deuteronomy 30:1-5 that it was prophesied, before they even occupied Canaan in the first place, that their rejection of God would result in their captivity. Isaiah writes regarding the history of Israel’s obstinance toward God in chapter 48 verses 4-8. Isaiah 48:4 even goes so far as to call the people stubborn with heads as hard as bronze! So where do we go from here? The is answer is in verse 9, God will deliver Israel because God keeps his promises - even when His children don't. So, when Israel failed to keep their end of the bargain with God, what did God do about it? God will keep his promises to Israel, but not without affliction for their wrongdoing. God will destroy Babylon, the future (at that time) conquerors of Jerusalem.
Israel knew from God's covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15 that they would be restored to that land. The lesson for them to learn from this particular prophecy of Isaiah is to use this ordeal as a learning experience to make them stronger as a people under God. In Isaiah 48 verses 20-22 they are encouraged to flee Babylon. That happened after King Cyrus issued the edict for their return to Jerusalm in Ezra 1:1-11. In chapter 48 verse 17 the Lord says, "I am the Lord your God, who teaches you for your benefit, who leads you in the way you should go." When God allows us to experience adversity in our lives, He uses it for our benefit to refine us and make us more like Christ. At the end of the day, we know that God is faithful and that we can trust Him to keep His promises. Any hardship we have as a result of our sin is ultimately for our good and for God’s glory.
The Fall of Babylon
47 “Go down and sit in the dust,
Virgin Daughter Babylon.
Sit on the ground without a throne,
For you will no longer be called pampered and spoiled.
2 Take millstones and grind flour;
remove your veil,
strip off your skirt, bare your thigh,
wade through the streams.
3 Your nakedness will be uncovered,
and your disgrace will be exposed.
I will take vengeance;
I will spare no one.”[a]
4 The Holy One of Israel is our Redeemer;
The Lord of Armies is his name.
5 “Daughter Chaldea,
sit in silence and go into darkness.
For you will no longer be called mistress of kingdoms.
6 I was angry with my people;
I profaned my possession,
and I handed them over to you.
You showed them no mercy;
you made your yoke very heavy on the elderly.
7 You said, ‘I will be the queen forever.’
You did not take these things to heart
or think about their outcome.
8 “So now hear this, lover of luxury,
who sits securely,
who says to herself,
‘I am, and there is no one else.
I will never be a widow
or know the loss of children.’
9 These two things will happen to you
suddenly, in one day:
loss of children and widowhood.
They will happen to you in their entirety,
in spite of your many sorceries
and the potency of your spells.
10 You were secure in your wickedness;
you said, ‘No one sees me.’
Your wisdom and knowledge
led you astray.
You said to yourself,
‘I am, and there is no one else.’
11 But disaster will happen to you;
you will not know how to avert it.
And it will fall on you,
but you will be unable to ward it off.[b]
Devastation will happen to you suddenly
12 So take your stand with your spells
and your many sorceries,
which you have wearied yourself with from your youth.
Perhaps you will be able to succeed;
perhaps you will inspire terror!
13 You are worn out with your many consultations.
So let the astrologers stand and save you—
those who observe the stars,
those who predict monthly
what will happen to you.
14 Look, they are like stubble;
fire burns them.
They cannot rescue themselves
from the power[c] of the flame.
This is not a coal for warming themselves,
or a fire to sit beside!
15 This is what they are to you—
those who have wearied you
and have traded with you from your youth—
each wanders on his own way;
no one can save you.
Israel Must Leave Babylon
48 “Listen to this, house of Jacob—
those who are called by the name Israel
and have descended from[d] Judah,
who swear by the name of the Lord
and declare the God of Israel,
but not in truth or righteousness.
2 For they are named after the Holy City,
and lean on the God of Israel;
his name is the Lord of Armies.
3 I declared the past events long ago;
they came out of my mouth; I proclaimed them.
Suddenly I acted, and they occurred.
4 Because I know that you are stubborn,
and your neck is iron[e]
and your forehead bronze,
5 therefore I declared to you long ago.
I announced it to you before it occurred,
so you could not claim, ‘My idol caused them;
my carved image and cast idol control them.’
6 You have heard it. Observe it all.
Will you not acknowledge it?
From now on I will announce new things to you,
hidden things that you have not known.
7 They have been created now, and not long ago;
you have not heard of them before today,
so you could not claim, ‘I already knew them!’
8 You have never heard; you have never known;
for a long time your ears have not been open.
For I knew that you were very treacherous,
and were known as a rebel from birth.
9 I will delay my anger for the sake of my name,
and I will restrain myself for your benefit and for my praise,
so that you will not be destroyed.
10 Look, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tested[f] you in the furnace of affliction.
11 I will act for my own sake, indeed, my own,
for how can I[g] be defiled?
I will not give my glory to another.
12 “Listen to me, Jacob,
and Israel, the one called by me:
I am he; I am the first,
I am also the last.
13 My own hand founded the earth,
and my right hand spread out the heavens;
when I summoned them,
they stood up together.
14 All of you, assemble and listen!
Who among the idols[h] has declared these things?
The Lord loves him;[i]
he will accomplish his will against Babylon,
and his arm will be against the Chaldeans.
15 I—I have spoken;
yes, I have called him;
I have brought him,
and he will succeed in his mission.
16 Approach me and listen to this.
From the beginning I have not spoken in secret;
from the time anything existed, I was there.”
And now the Lord God
has sent me and his Spirit.
17 This is what the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel says:
I am the Lord your God,
who teaches you for your benefit,
who leads you in the way you should go.
18 If only you had paid attention to my commands.
Then your peace would have been like a river,
and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
19 Your descendants would have been as countless as the sand,
and the offspring of your body like its grains;
their name would not be cut off
or eliminated from my presence.
20 Leave Babylon,
flee from the Chaldeans!
Declare with a shout of joy,
let it go out to the end of the earth;
“The Lord has redeemed his servant Jacob!”
21 They did not thirst
when he led them through the deserts;
he made water flow from the rock for them;
he split the rock, and water gushed out.
22 “There is no peace for the wicked,” says the Lord.
The Servant Brings Salvation
49 Coasts and islands,[j] listen to me;
distant peoples, pay attention.
The Lord called me before I was born.
He named me while I was in my mother’s womb.
2 He made my words like a sharp sword;
he hid me in the shadow of his hand.
He made me like a sharpened arrow;
he hid me in his quiver.
3 He said to me, “You are my servant,
Israel, in whom I will be glorified.”
4 But I myself said: I have labored in vain,
I have spent my strength for nothing and futility;
yet my vindication is with the Lord,
and my reward is with my God.
5 And now, says the Lord,
who formed me from the womb to be his servant,
to bring Jacob back to him
so that Israel might be gathered to him;
for I am honored in the sight of the Lord,
and my God is my strength—
6 he says,
“It is not enough for you to be my servant
raising up the tribes of Jacob
and restoring the protected ones of Israel.
I will also make you a light for the nations,
to be my salvation to the ends of the earth.”
7 This is what the Lord,
the Redeemer of Israel, his Holy One, says
to one who is despised,
to one abhorred by people,[k]
to a servant of rulers:
“Kings will see, princes will stand up,
and they[l] will all bow down
because of the Lord, who is faithful,
the Holy One of Israel—and he has chosen you.”
8 This is what the Lord says:
I will answer you in a time of favor,
and I will help you in the day of salvation.
I will keep you, and I will appoint you
to be a covenant for the people,
to restore the land,
to make them possess the desolate inheritances,
9 saying to the prisoners: Come out,
and to those who are in darkness: Show yourselves.
They will feed along the pathways,
and their pastures will be on all the barren heights.
10 They will not hunger or thirst,
the scorching heat or sun will not strike them;
for their compassionate one will guide them,
and lead them to springs.
11 I will make all my mountains into a road,
and my highways will be raised up.
12 See, these will come from far away,
from the north and from the west,[m]
and from the land of Sinim.[n][o]
13 Shout for joy, you heavens!
Mountains break into joyful shouts!
For the Lord has comforted his people,
and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.
14 Zion says, “The Lord has abandoned me;
the Lord has forgotten me!”
15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child,
or lack compassion for the child of her womb?
Even if these forget,
yet I will not forget you.
16 Look, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.
17 Your builders[p] hurry;
those who destroy and devastate you will leave you.
18 Look up, and look around.
They all gather together; they come to you.
As I live”—
this is the Lord’s declaration—
“you will wear all your children[q] as jewelry,
and put them on as a bride does.
19 For your waste and desolate places
and your land marked by ruins—
will now be indeed too small for the inhabitants,
and those who swallowed you up will be far away.
20 Yet as you listen, the children
that you have been deprived of will say,
‘This place is too small for me;
make room for me so that I may settle.’
21 Then you will say within yourself,
‘Who fathered these for me?
I was deprived of my children and unable to conceive,
exiled and wandering—
but who brought them up?
See, I was left by myself—
but these, where did they come from?’”[r]
22 This is what the Lord God says:
Look, I will lift up my hand to the nations,
and raise my banner to the peoples.
They will bring your sons in their arms,
and your daughters will be carried on their shoulders.
23 Kings will be your guardians
and their queens[s] your nursing mothers.
They will bow down to you
with their faces to the ground
and lick the dust at your feet.
Then you will know that I am the Lord;
those who put their hope in me
will not be put to shame.
24 Can the prey be taken from a mighty man,
or the captives of a tyrant[t] be delivered?
25 For this is what the Lord says:
“Even the captives of a mighty man will be taken,
and the prey of a tyrant will be delivered;
I will contend with the one who contends with you,
and I will save your children.
26 I will make your oppressors eat their own flesh,
and they will be drunk with their own blood
as with sweet wine.
Then all people will know
that I, the Lord, am your Savior,
and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”
Christian Standard Bible. (2017). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.