Last week we entered the New Testament section of Isaiah. The rabbis call this section (Ch 40-66) ‘the book of consolation’. Warren Wiersbe believed that Isaiah wrote this section mainly to comfort Israel in the future after their captivity in Babylon. The Babylonian captivity was still around one hundred years away, but before we are done Isaiah is going to make some specific predictions about how God will comfort his children when the captivity comes to pass.
Father, thank You for the prophet Isaiah. Help us to understand all he has to tell us, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
1 Keep silence before me, O islands [Heb iy (ee)]; and let the people renew their strength: let them come near; then let them speak: let us come near together to judgment.
The word for islands can also mean coastlands or countries. As Isaiah begins the chapter, God tells the people of the world to be quiet (cf Ecc 5:2). Everyone will get their chance to speak on judgment day. (Matt 25:31ff) God will give the nations of the world an opportunity to make their case. In Chapter 1, Isaiah described a courtroom situation as Israel was charged with crimes against God. In Chapter 41 we have similar situation, with charges being brought against the entire planet.
2 Who raised up the righteous man from the east, called him to his foot, gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings? he gave them as the dust to his sword, and as driven stubble to his bow.
3 He pursued them, and passed safely; even by the way that he had not gone with his feet.
I believe verses 2, 3 to be Isaiah’s first allusion to Cyrus. God predicted the rise of this Gentile king and even calls him by name later in Isaiah’s prophecy. (Isa 44:28 – 45:4)
4 Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he.
It is Jesus who created all things. (Eph 3:9 KJV) God gave the first gospel presentation immediately after the fall in Genesis 3:15. Jesus is Alpha and Omega (the first and last letters in the Greek alphabet). It is God who deserves the glory. However, the people did not respond accordingly:
5 The isles saw it, and feared; the ends of the earth were afraid, drew near, and came.
6 They helped every one his neighbour; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage.
7 So the carpenter encouraged the goldsmith, and he that smootheth with the hammer him that smote the anvil, saying, It is ready for the sodering: and he fastened it with nails, that it should not be moved.
The people turned from God to idolatry. However, God chose a people for Himself that He would use to work out his plan of reconciliation:
8 But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.
In the Old Testament, only Abraham is called the friend of God. In the New Testament, Jesus tells us all, Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. (Jn 15:14)
9 Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth [Israel], and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away. [Replacement theology is a big lie.]
10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
God knew that after the times of the Gentiles began with the Babylonian captivity, when Israel would suffer under the yoke of various Gentile nations, they would need a lot of encouragement. They would wonder why these nations that worshiped pagan idols were able to rule over them? It was because Israel began to worship idols as well. God is reminding them that He is still their God. Although He had to correct them for their disobedience, He would still protect them and see them through their trials.
11 Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish.
Gentile kingdoms rise and fall, but in the end, Israel will come out on top. Again, replacement theology is a big lie. The word of God refutes this satanic doctrine throughout the entire Bible.
12 Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought.
13 For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.
14 Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
Our redeemer lives (Job 19:25); therefore we have nothing to fear. If you are Jewish, consider the words of Isaiah. It is not enough to be chosen. You need your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. More here.
15 Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff.
16 Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the LORD, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel.
17 When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
Have you ever noticed how many promises there are in the Bible that are given specifically to the poor? For example: Blessed be ye poor: for yours is the kingdom of God. (Lk 6:20) The second part of verse 17 is the Old Testament version of Hebrews 13:5: I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.
18 I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.
19 I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together:
20 That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.
Verses 15 – 20 look forward to the millennium. Now Isaiah turns his attention back to the Gentile nations:
21 Produce your cause, saith the LORD; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob. [Jesus]
22 Let them bring them forth, and shew us what shall happen: let them shew the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come.
God challenges the idols that the nations worship to speak of history or foretell the future. Their idols cannot do that. Only God can do that. The Bible gives us a perfect record of things past, as well as an accurate account of things to come. In the nineteenth century, much of the history of the Old Testament was thought by academia to be nothing more than Hebrew mythology. Entire civilizations, the Hittites, the Assyrian Empire, and others were thought to be pure fiction. About this same time, however, the field of archeology was starting to take off. As the archeologists uncovered the past, the attacks leveled against the history of the Old Testament were proven wrong one by one; the historicity of the Old Testament has been vindicated. For more on this, I recommend Halley’s Bible Handbook (Zondervan, 1924). Likewise, as history progresses, the prophecies of the Bible continue to be proven accurate. Only the Bible has this perfect track record because the Bible was written by the one true God.
23 Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye are gods: yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold it together.
Their idols cannot foretell the future, neither can they perform miracles. The God of Israel can do all these things.
24 Behold, ye are of nothing, and your work of nought: an abomination is he that chooseth you.
This is the Old Testament version of 1 Corinthians 8:4: an idol is nothing… Isaiah says he who chooses an idol over God is an abomination. Behind every idol is a devil waiting to be worshiped. (1 Cor 10:20; Rev 9:20) Thankfully, idolatry is not an unpardonable sin. Jesus died for idolaters.
25 I have raised up one from the north, and he shall come: from the rising of the sun shall he call upon my name: and he shall come upon princes as upon morter [or clay], and as the potter treadeth clay.
I believe this is another reference to Cyrus, the Persian ruler. His kingdom extended from Persia through Armenia to Asia Minor, which are both north of Israel. Persia would have been from the rising of the sun—ie from the east.
26 Who hath declared from the beginning, that we may know? and beforetime, that we may say, He is righteous? yea, there is none that sheweth, yea, there is none that declareth, yea, there is none that heareth your words.
God predicted the rise of Cyrus and called him by name over 150 years before he conquered Babylon. (Isa 44:28 – 45:4) The point Isaiah is making here is that their idols could not make such predictions. Have you ever stopped to consider that only Jesus was predicted in advance? Where He was born, when He was born, how He would live, how He would die, how He would rise from the dead. All these things were spoken by the prophets before Jesus was born. No other founder of any world religion was expected to arrive in any way whatsoever.
27 The first shall say to Zion, Behold, behold them: and I will give to Jerusalem one that bringeth good tidings.
Jesus is the first (and the last). He is telling Zion (Jerusalem) to take a good look at the prophecies they have been given. Like Isaiah, more prophets were coming, and ultimately Christ Himself. He is the one who would bring good tidings, or what we more commonly call good news—the gospel.
28 For I beheld, and there was no man; even among them, and there was no counsellor, that, when I asked of them, could answer a word.
29 Behold, they are all vanity; their works are nothing: their molten images are wind and confusion.
Isaiah ends the chapter by telling them someone was coming with good news. Why? Because they (we) needed Him. Somebody had to do it. Isaiah 59:15,16 further develops the chapter’s closing remarks and brings them a little closer to home. Tell me if this does not describe us today: Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment. And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him.
When we read a passage like Isaiah 41 we may be tempted to think Isaiah was only talking to the people of his day. The exegetical axiom goes like this: Not all scripture is written to us, but all scripture is written for us. (Rom 15:4; 1 Cor 10:11) Americans may not worship graven images but idolatry is everywhere in our culture today. Past generations honored God, family, and country. Today it seems to be me, myself, and I. Many worship the god of chance—evolution—which is really just a cheap excuse to ignore God. In the spirit of 2 Corinthians 13:5, ask God to reveal to you whether you have any idols in your life, anything that you are placing before your relationship with Him. Maybe you are questioning whether you are good enough to make it into heaven. Trusting in your good works is a form of idolatry. God is teaching us all to trust Him—trust Him and nothing else. Isaiah 41 makes the case that it is folly to trust in anything other than Christ.
On Christ the solid Rock I stand; all other ground is sinking sand, all other ground is sinking sand.
— Edward Mote (1834)
Father, I pray all who read this will put their full trust in You. I pray all who read this will turn from anything they have deemed more important than your Son, and trust in Him alone. Thank You, Father, for your Son. Thank You for the precious blood He shed for us at Calvary, in Jesus’ name. Amen.