THE BOOK OF ISAIAH
The Knowledge of the Lord
Isaiah 45 SCC 11/3/13
1. In this passage we have the report of the direct prediction that the Lord called Cyrus (Persian King conqueror of Babylon) to be His servant to deliver His people Israel, in order that all might know that the Lord is God. Isaiah 45:1-7 stresses the sovereignty of God with several ‘I’s’ noted. God was raising a pagan king to destroy the pagan empire of Babylon so that Israel could be set free and start again; all of this was done that the world might know that the Lord is the true God, and that by recognizing that they might turn to Him and be saved.
2. Isaiah has in mind deliverance from bondage in exile as the primary meaning; but that cannot be separated from spiritual deliverance--it was salvation because sins were forgiven, punishment completed, and God was delivering. But some rescued from exile were already believers; some came to faith at that time; and some came home without fully believing. But the fulfillment, the final restoration when all Israel will be saved (Rom. 11) will be both a physical deliverance and spiritual. Likewise, when the true Church is rescued from this world at the end of the age, only true believers will be included.
3. The primary focus of the theology is to know the Lord. "Knowing the Lord" involves both the realization and apprehension of facts about who He is and what He has and can do. It may also involve an act of the will by faith, an acknowledgment that the Lord is God. At the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, "every knee shall bow and tongue confess" that He is Lord--some as believes in joy, others in forced recognition at judgment. In the rest of the chapter the prophet will describe the sovereign work of the Lord in bringing nations into submission to His plan.
(1). After an initial key summary statement of His plan for righteousness and salvation to fill the earth 8; (2). Isaiah announces woes on the critics who reject the Creator and His choice of Cyrus; God’s right to do as He pleases 45:9-13.
(3). This Lord will bring the Gentile powers to bow down to Israel in humiliation and to worship with them in Jerusalem; God as Savior 45:14-19.
(4). Consequently, the nations should pay attention to these prophecies and be saved 20-25.
God makes Himself known through history’s record 45:1-7
A. That He is the sovereign Lord of history 1-3
Verse 1: introduces the call of Cyrus, using the Word of the Lord as the introduction.
1. Cyrus is called "His anointed" a term usually reserved for the believing and/or Israelite kings. Here it carries its widest meaning of being set apart for a task. Moreover, the king is said to be strengthened by the Lord: "whose right hand I made strong" the "right hand" being used for "power". So God strengthened Cyrus because he had a task that God wanted him to perform.
2. The purpose of God's calling Cyrus was to "subdue all nations"--as an empire builder Cyrus would put down all rebellious states and unify the Fertile Crescent. The language here says that the Lord will subdue the nations, strip the kings, and open the doors for the Lord would enable Cyrus to do it by taking His right hand—empowering Cyrus to do so. In addition, each of these activities represents more than what they merely express. "Stripping kings of armor" would be the effect of defeating them. "Opening doors" would be the effect of surrendering army.
3. So according to the message of the prophet, the Lord God of Israel did all this. All along the way God raises up pagan kings and powers to serve His purpose; (1) Daniel’s song (in Daniel 2) declares that God sets up kings and removes kings--they are at His beckon call. (2) Deuteronomy 32 said that God arranged the boundaries of all the nations with the number of the tribes of Israel in mind. (3) To Pharaoh the word was, "For this cause I raised you up." So throughout the Bible God uses pagan nations and pagan leaders for divine purposes. Believers need not fear when they hear the international news for God is sovereign over all the players on the international scene.
Verse 2-3: God would precede and prepare the way for His conqueror.
1. Cyrus was empowered by the Lord to do what was to be done v 2. “Mountains" imply obstacles or opposition, which most likely will be overcome militarily. "Breaking down the gates" and "cutting bars" God would bring down any opposition that Cyrus might meet. The iron gates would be actual gates of iron--there were 100 such gates leading into Babylon; the Lord opened the way for Cyrus to parade into the city without even a fight, which is how he entered according to archeological documents. Here it stresses about the Lord ‘I will go before you’ and ‘I will shatter’ and ‘I will give’.
2. The Lord would also give Cyrus the treasures these being the wealth that Babylon stored up in the vaults and archives v 3. "Darkness" and "secret places" would refer to the inner vaults would be in dark and secret places where the treasure was kept. He would ‘know’ in the sense of intellectual assent, that is, to know or realize facts. Beyond that we do not know what happened to Cyrus. So God would at least make His point with this king, but maybe more.
B. That He controls history for His own purpose (4-6).
These verses clarify that God summons and enables such individuals for the good of His people Israel, to fulfill His plan for them, that all may know the Lord. Here we find the main purpose of this whole section. God was doing all this for the sake of Israel. He had a plan for Israel, and that plan involved all nations, whether as the means of discipline or the means of restoration. God also had a plan for Cyrus. So God could work through a pagan king who had not known the Lord nor acknowledged Him.
Verse 4: The focus of the divine plan is on Israel, not on Cyrus. God had chosen Israel as His people. They did not choose God but God chose them to be His servant nation in the world. And because of the covenant promises to Israel, God would arrange the history of the nations around Israel's situation. God chose Cyrus for the sake of Israel, even though Cyrus did not know the Lord. God gave him both a mission and a reputation with a call and a title.
Verse 5: Isaiah reiterates the sovereignty of the Lord in spite of the fact that Cyrus was ignorant of Him. The Word of the Lord is, "I am the Lord and there is no other God besides Me." The Lord claims absolute and exclusive authority. So it is only the Lord who could strengthen Cyrus. In this case God ‘armed’ him with full capability for the mission.
Verse 6: forms a parallel with verse 3, which also stresses this same purpose for Cyrus. "From the rising of the sun" is for either the east or the morning; likewise, "setting" could be for either the west or the evening. A double meaning here involves both ideas--all day and everywhere. They will all acknowledge that there is no God beside the Lord. "There is no other." God demands absolute allegiance; He claims exclusive rights to this by virtue of creation and redemption.
C. That God is sovereign over all creation (7)
So the Lord is the sovereign creator and powerful controller of all aspects of life. The relationship between the pairs: light and darkness, peace and disaster, in the context of the book indicate having been exiled into Babylon was a disaster, but being restored to the land was peace. Here the Lord is saying that He controls these kinds of prospects. So He might also be saying that He is sovereign over all the forces of good and evil in this creation. God uses pagans, evil kings, demons, and even Satan, in the outworking of His sovereign purposes.
(1). God expects acknowledgment by faith of His sovereignty in the universe and in history. For instance, Babylon was the paradigm of the "anti-kingdom." In Genesis 11 the people settled in Babylon after the flood in rebellion against God; they came together to unite and to become famous. God judged them by confusing their language and then eventually scattered them across the face of the earth. Thus with the antagonism that would grow, God chose to use war as a means of holding nations in check--war and conflict was better than collective apostasy. Babylon teaches us that unity of people is a disaster unless it is a unity with God. If unity, or community, is going to work at all, God has to do the uniting and the changing of people; for even in Christianity unless the participants are humble servants of the Lord, there will be difficulties. So Cyrus' coming would be seen as a part of God's plan to overthrow the evil empire.
(2). Every one must admit the Lord is the true God either now in faith for salvation, or later in humiliation when they realize He is the Lord of creation, the Lord of history, and the Lord of all nations. God's plan of redemption seeks to overthrow this work by re-gathering His people, that is, believers, who will acknowledge His sovereignty in word and deed, so that He can re-unite and restore and renew His people to their calling. God was raising a pagan king to destroy the pagan empire of Babylon so that Israel could be set free and start again; all of this was done that the world might know that the Lord is the true God, and that by recognizing that they might turn to Him and be saved.