THE BOOK OF ISAIAH
God Will do it
Isaiah 41 SCC 10/6/13
GODíS PROVIDENCE ASSURES US WE HAVE NO NEED TO FEAR ANY THREATS 1-7
A call to judgment
The courtroom setting in verses 1-7 enabled Isaiah to make Godís providence clear and compelling:
41:1: The coastlands were the farthest reaches of the Gentile world, the ends of the earth. By summoning them to be silent the Lord was appealing to all the Gentiles to listen to Him. By heeding Him they would gain new strength, the same strength that was Israelís privilege.
Godís case: his acts in history 2-4
41:2-3: The Lord asked the nations a question. Who had righteously summoned a conqueror from the East who would defeat nations and overcome kings as easily and swiftly as one blows away dust and chaff? Later Isaiah would identify this conqueror as Cyrus the Persian (44:28; 45:1), but here the emphasis is on the one who providentially called him into action, namely, The Lord. Cyrus came from Persia that was east of Mesopotamia. This invader would proceed safely over previously unused routes.
41:4: The Lord has always been the one who has called forth such conquerors to carry out His will in the world. The military history of the world is simply the outworking of Godís sovereign plan. God is the ultimate strategist who controls history. It has always been so, and it will always be so because no other god preceded The Lord nor will any other succeed Him. He has no genealogy.
The frightened response of the Gentile nations
41:5-6: Upon hearing this message of The Lordís sovereignty, the nations fear and try to encourage each other. They do not bow before the Lord but gather together and quake trying to hold each other up.
41:7: Furthermore they proceed to build idols. Rather than turning to the Lord they make gods to whom they turn. It is not these idols who strengthen their worshippers but the worshippers who strengthen their idols. The purpose of all this detail is not clear, but the prophet may want to heighten the ironic effect by showing what a complex and arduous task idol making is. Thus he is implicitly asking his hearers if simply trusting the sovereign Lord is not a great deal easier.
FEAR IS GROUNDLESS BECAUSE GOD IS COMMITTED TO HIS PEOPLE 8-20
Regardless of the nationsí refusal to acknowledge The Lord, He would intervene in history for the welfare of His people. Israel would not need to fear like the nations because the Lord would be with them and protect them.
41:8: The Lord turned from addressing the nations to speaking to Israel. God had chosen the Israelites for special blessing because He chose to lavishly love them. The reference to Jacob recalls the unworthiness of the Israelites (Eze 16), and the mention of Abraham who loved God is the proper response to electing love. Both references also connect to Godís covenant with the patriarchs. God had called Israel to be His servant. Abraham is also called Godís friend in II Chr. 20:7; James 2:23. To comfort His people:
41:9: (1) The Lord employed a first picture: God reminded His people that He had called them from the remotest part of the earth to be His servant. He did this in Abrahamís case when He called him out of Ur into the Promised Land, and He did it in Jacobís case when He brought him back into the land from his sojourn near Haran. God had determined not to reject His people. Israel had nothing to fear.
41:10: Moreover the Israelites did not need to fear because God was with them, and He had committed Himself to them. They need not look one way and then another trying to find safety. Furthermore their God promised to help them in every way with His powerful right hand, a symbol of strength, and to do what was right. Even though no exiled nation had ever before in history been brought back to start life anew in their ancestral homeland, and even though the Gentile government would have no practical means of inducing the Jews to return home, nevertheless God would bring this impossibility to pass.
41:11-12: ďBeholdĒ urges continued attention to more promises. The anger of Israelís enemies against her would prove to shame them. Their claims against Israel would come to nothing, their opponents would vanish, and their enemies would cease to exist. Increasing opposition would become increasingly ineffective. Those nations that would meddle with this servant would have to contend with an all-powerful master. Though the odds against them, God would make the difference.
41:13: The Lord restated His promise and His exhortation from verse 10. Israelís God would strengthen, encourage, and help His people. He would stand with them while He defended them because He was The Lord their God. The mindset that ĎGod will help meí is difficult to cultivate since unbelief overwhelms.
41:14: (2) The Lord employed a second picture to comfort the Israelites. He would enable what was essentially weak to be strong. Israel was like a worm in that she was insignificant, despised, weak, and vulnerable (Eze 16). However, she had a next of kin in the Holy One of Israel who would take on her care and provide all she, His family, needed and more.
41:15: The Lord would transform the helpless worm, a tiny thresher of the soil, into a powerful threshing sledge by giving her His power. Seems to be a metaphor for his helplessness without God's aid. Threshing sledges were heavy wooden platforms fitted with sharp stones and pieces of metal underneath. Farmers dragged them over straw to cut it up in preparation for winnowing. The sledge that The Lord would make of Israel, however, would be so good that it could chop down mountains and hills, not just straw. The modern equivalent would be giant earth-moving equipment.
41:16: Yet this sledge would do more. It would winnow the nations as well as threshing them. The strong wind that God would provide would drive Israelís enemies away, as the wind separated the wheat from the chaff and blew the chaff away. Every hindrance to Godís ultimate purposes in the international scene is overcome through a judgment executed through Israel. Israel would then rejoice and make its boast in its great God who had both empowered it and removed its enemies.
41:17-18: (3) A third picture unfolds. It is of Israel thirsting in the wilderness. The Lord promised to answer the prayers of His crushed and helpless people for their need Himself. He promised to come to their aid and not forsake them because He is their God. He would provide by innovation (water where it did not usually appear, on hilltops), multiplication (more water where there was some, in valleys), and transformation (water where it never existed, in deserts).
41:19-20: He would also provide the other necessity in the wilderness of lifeís experiences beside water, namely, shade. All the trees mentioned were shade trees, but they did not normally grow together. This enhances the picture of God working wonders to provide for His people. The emphasis on water and trees also marks Genesis 3, suggesting a return to Edenic conditions. The Lord would do this so the afflicted and the needy v 17 would reflect and learn that their God had done a powerful creative work for them.
GOD HAS NO COMPETITION ABLE TO DEFEAT HIM AND RENDER HIS PROMISES NULL AND VOID 41:21-29
How is it clear that the Lord and not the idols, directs world history? The Lord alone can predict the future and then bring it to pass 41:21-29. The court case with the nations begun in verse 1, but interrupted with comfort for the Lordís servant Israel in verses 8-20 now resumes.
41:21: The Lord, through Isaiah, challenged the idolaters to prove that their gods were truly deity. The Lord presented Himself as the King of Jacob, from the nationsí perspective no more than one national god among many, but He is really the King of Kings. So the judge requests evidence that idols are competent:
41:22-23: †(1) He ordered the idolaters to bring their gods in and have them explain the flow of past history. Can they explain history? Are they able to explain how past events will unfold into the future?
(2) Can they predict the future and bring it to pass? This would prove that they were really gods. Indeed, the Lord challenged, have them do anything, good or bad, that they might have some real effect on people.
41:24: Since these challenges go unanswered, the Lord judges the idols as nothing, and their supposed work amounts to nothing. Furthermore, people who worship them are an abomination because they follow such nonentities and because in doing so they become like their gods.
41:25: The Lord, in contrast to the idols, claimed that He would do something in the future and predicted what it would be. He would arouse a conqueror from the north, one who was presently dormant, as if sleeping. This individual proved to be Cyrus the Persian (who originated in the East and the North in reference to Palestine). He would call on the Lordís name in that he would proclaim the reputation of the Lord by fulfilling His prophecy not by worshipping The Lord exclusively and defeat his enemies.
41:26: The Lord is the only predictor of Cyrus, and His prediction proves Him unique among the ďgods.Ē In Isaiahís day the pagans claimed that their gods sent them messages, but these messages were vague and not specific. The fulfillment of this prediction would prove that The Lord was the true God. He is a jealous God reserving our exclusive commitment to the reality of His existence and providence.
41:27: The Lord had announced to His people that Cyrusí invaders would come. Cyrus would be a messenger of good news in two senses:
(1) His coming would validate the truthfulness of Isaiahís prediction of his coming,
(2) And his coming would mean return from captivity for the Jewish exiles.
41:28-29: When the Lord looked for a messenger from another god who predicted the coming of Cyrus, He could find none. Not one of them could give any information about his coming. So He concluded as He began v 24 but this time passing judgment on the idolaters rather than on the idols. ďBeholdĒ ends each subsection v 24, 29. The idolaters are false in the sense of being untrue and delusive. Their works, the idols, are worthless, and their idol images amount to nothing.
1. Since fear constantly threatens us, meditate on Godís providential care as a cure. God not only looks ahead and attempts to make provision for his goals, but infallibly accomplishes what he sets out to do. Providence, then, is the sovereign, divine superintendence of all things, guiding them toward their divinely predetermined end in a way that is consistent with their created nature, all to the glory and praise of God.
2. Come to terms with the commitment God has to you. That commitment encompasses all of the privileges of sonship. There is no one in the universe that has a higher more lofty commitment to you than the one who created you and then recreated you in Christ. Let that impact your soul. Take it top the bank everyday.
3. It is absolutely impossible for anyone anywhere and at anytime to mess with the ability for God to stay true to His promises. We can never do so to ours and should not make them since we cannot control circumstances that those promises precariously are attached to. But God in charge of the circumstances will never allow them to thwart His will or purpose. So His promises are connected to His character. Since he has no rivals in person or circumstances then he can be relied upon for what he has promised.