|<< Isa 43|
Isaiah 44-48 Listen
1 Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen:
2 Thus saith the LORD that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen.
3 For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:
4 And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.
5 One shall say, I am the LORD’S; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the LORD, and surname himself by the name of Israel.
These first five verses continue the thought of Isaiah 43 (see notes), describing the restoration of Israel. As stated in the notes of chapter 43, there was a return to the land under the Persian King Cyrus who began his reign in 538 B.C. However, this passage, along with chapter 43, seems to point to a time when Israel will be revived abundantly, both physically and spiritually. That leads us to conclude that the Messianic Kingdom is being referenced here rather than the mere return of many of the exiles to a land still under the dominion of foreign governments, as was the case beginning in 535 B.C. when the first first exiles began returning back to Judah. The historical account of that return is found in Ezra 1 (see notes).
Incidentally, "Jesurun" in verse 2 is a poetic name for Israel.
There is no other God but Jehovah (Isaiah 44:6-8)
6 Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.
7 And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people? and the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them.
8 Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it? ye are even my witnesses. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any.
These verses assure Israel that there is only one God - their God. Had they embraced this reality, the fall to the Assyrians and Babylonians would not have taken place.
9 They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed.
10 Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing?
11 Behold, all his fellows shall be ashamed: and the workmen, they are of men: let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they shall fear, and they shall be ashamed together.
12 The smith with the tongs both worketh in the coals, and fashioneth it with hammers, and worketh it with the strength of his arms: yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth: he drinketh no water, and is faint.
13 The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man; that it may remain in the house.
14 He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak, which he strengtheneth for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and the rain doth nourish it.
15 Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto.
16 He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire:
17 And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god.
18 They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.
19 And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination? shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?
20 He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?
Of course Israel's problem throughout their history was their continuous return to the worship of idols and the strange gods they represented, despite the fact that this was a direct violation of the Law of Moses. Isaiah goes into detail regarding the process of building these idols in verses 10-14, apparently to point out the great care and workmanship required to produce them. Just as Moses didn't buy Aaron's story that he threw the gold into the fire and a calf came out, so does the process of verse 10-14 demonstrate that a cooperative effort on behalf of craftsmen brought the actual idols to the people.
Is it the epitome of stupidity or is it the epitome of rebellion against God himself that they could not lay off their idol worship for any extended period of time? Even in Babylonian captivity, God warns them of this pitfall. Let's face it, sin is sin. All God ever wanted from man is captured in what observant Jews know as the Shema found in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (see notes), the essence of which is found in Deuteronomy 6:5, "And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might." And that is all God really wants from us today. When asked by a lawyer to reveal what was the greatest commandment, Jesus replied in Matthew 22:37 (see notes), "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." When one has that relationship with God, everything else properly falls into place.
These verses describe in great detail the idolatrous practices of the Jewish people. No one could have accused Isaiah of not clearly stating his case here.
21 Remember these, O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me.
22 I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.
23 Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.
24 Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;
25 That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish;
26 That confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof:
27 That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers:
28 That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.
God will forgive Israel and restore them - the message of these verses before Isaiah drops a very heavy prophecy on them in verse 28 regarding Cyrus. This Persian king, Cyrus, is mentioned here over 150 years before he would even be known to the Israelites. He's the king who would one day facilitate their return from exile.
To properly appreciate this prophecy of Isaiah, consider the following dates of occurrences:
Incidentally, the mention of Cyrus in verse 28 here and again in chapter 45 is used by liberal scholars to insist that, beginning with chapter 40, this portion of Isaiah was written much later...and not by Isaiah. On the other hand, I persist in the integrity of scripture and believe that Isaiah was the author of the entire Book of Isaiah. God gave him this prophecy regarding Cyrus over 150 years before he came on the scene.
More about Cyrus (Isaiah 45:1-4)
1 Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut;
2 I will go before thee, and make the crooked places straight: I will break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut in sunder the bars of iron:
3 And I will give thee the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places, that thou mayest know that I, the LORD, which call thee by thy name, am the God of Israel.
4 For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.
This prophetic subject continues from chapter 44. Remember, Isaiah is writing this prophecy before the Babylonians were to even overthrow the Assyrians. Jerusalem has just been delivered from the conquering Assyrians, as we saw in II Kings 18:13-19:37; II Chronicles 32:9-22; Isaiah 36-37 (see notes). Isaiah has already prophesied that the Assyrians would fall to the Babylonians, and Jerusalem would too. Now he's prophesying that the Babylonians will fall to the King of Persia, Cyrus, a king and an empire which does not even exist at the time of this prophetic writing (see the dates in the section above). That's what makes this passage so remarkable. For a clearer perspective, read Esther 1-5 (see notes) regarding Cyrus and Persia.
Verse 1 has a startling prophecy regarding King Cyrus, "Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him;" He was first mentioned, but not by name, in Isaiah 41:2 (see notes) as "the righteous man from the east." Here's a king who is not a believer in the one true God, yet he is considered anointed by God. That scenario occurs only one other time in the Old Testament, and that's I Kings 19:15-16 (see notes) regarding the King in Damascus. The context in which the word "anointed" is used here is that he is appointed by God for the purpose of bringing the Jews back to their homeland from Babylonian exile. God even uses non believers to impact his people. A universal appeal to turn to God dominates the last half of this chapter.
In 1879 a clay tablet was discovered which now resides at the British Museum. In this tablet, Cyrus' allegiance to the god, Marduk, is clearly stated. So, here was an instrument of God who facilitated the Jews' return to their homeland in the name of human rights, but without an allegiance to the one true God.
The sovereignty of God seen in the choice of Cyrus (Isaiah 45:5-13)
5 I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:
6 That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else.
7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
8 Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the LORD have created it.
9 Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?
10 Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth?
11 Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me.
12 I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded.
13 I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the LORD of hosts.
Isaiah's prophecy transitions from specifics about Cyrus to God's sovereignty and his ability to use whom he likes to impact his people, the Jews. The essence of these verses is captured regarding Cyrus in verse 13, "I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the LORD of hosts."
14 Thus saith the LORD, The labour of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over unto thee, and they shall be thine: they shall come after thee; in chains they shall come over, and they shall fall down unto thee, they shall make supplication unto thee, saying, Surely God is in thee; and there is none else, there is no God.
15 Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour.
16 They shall be ashamed, and also confounded, all of them: they shall go to confusion together that are makers of idols.
17 But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.
18 For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.
19 I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth: I said not unto the seed of Jacob, Seek ye me in vain: I the LORD speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.
20 Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, ye that are escaped of the nations: they have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image, and pray unto a god that cannot save.
21 Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.
22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.
23 I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.
24 Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.
25 In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.
This chapter concludes with a word about the Gentile submission that one day will take effect. These verses must be looking toward the millennium itself in light of Isaiah 45:17, "But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end." Not only so, but we see an invitation that extends to Gentiles as well in verse 22, "Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else."
Here's the message again: Stay away from those idols! (Isaiah 46)
1 Bel boweth down, Nebo stoopeth, their idols were upon the beasts, and upon the cattle: your carriages were heavy loaden; they are a burden to the weary beast.
2 They stoop, they bow down together; they could not deliver the burden, but themselves are gone into captivity.
3 Hearken unto me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, which are borne by me from the belly, which are carried from the womb:
4 And even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you.
5 To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?
6 They lavish gold out of the bag, and weigh silver in the balance, and hire a goldsmith; and he maketh it a god: they fall down, yea, they worship.
7 They bear him upon the shoulder, they carry him, and set him in his place, and he standeth; from his place shall he not remove: yea, one shall cry unto him, yet can he not answer, nor save him out of his trouble.
8 Remember this, and shew yourselves men: bring it again to mind, O ye transgressors.
9 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,
10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:
11 Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth my counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.
12 Hearken unto me, ye stouthearted, that are far from righteousness:
13 I bring near my righteousness; it shall not be far off, and my salvation shall not tarry: and I will place salvation in Zion for Israel my glory.
As we said, Israel always had a problem with idolatry. In verse 1, Bel is the Aramaic form of Baal, the national god of the Babylonians, and Nebo was a Chaldean god whose worship had been introduced into Assyria. Isaiah makes an appeal to them regarding the ungodly practice of idolatry in this chapter again. Notice the question posed to Israel by God in verse 5, "To whom will ye liken me, and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be like?" He challenges them to look to God where true salvation is. Notice Isaiah's call back to their roots in verse 9, "Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me,"
The destruction of the Babylonian Empire (Isaiah 47)
1 Come down, and sit in the dust, O virgin daughter of Babylon, sit on the ground: there is no throne, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called tender and delicate.
2 Take the millstones, and grind meal: uncover thy locks, make bare the leg, uncover the thigh, pass over the rivers.
3 Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen: I will take vengeance, and I will not meet thee as a man.
4 As for our redeemer, the LORD of hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel.
5 Sit thou silent, and get thee into darkness, O daughter of the Chaldeans: for thou shalt no more be called, The lady of kingdoms.
6 I was wroth with my people, I have polluted mine inheritance, and given them into thine hand: thou didst shew them no mercy; upon the ancient hast thou very heavily laid thy yoke.
7 And thou saidst, I shall be a lady for ever: so that thou didst not lay these things to thy heart, neither didst remember the latter end of it.
8 Therefore hear now this, thou that art given to pleasures, that dwellest carelessly, that sayest in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me; I shall not sit as a widow, neither shall I know the loss of children:
9 But these two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day, the loss of children, and widowhood: they shall come upon thee in their perfection for the multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great abundance of thine enchantments.
10 For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness: thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee; and thou hast said in thine heart, I am, and none else beside me.
11 Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know.
12 Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries, wherein thou hast laboured from thy youth; if so be thou shalt be able to profit, if so be thou mayest prevail.
13 Thou art wearied in the multitude of thy counsels. Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee.
14 Behold, they shall be as stubble; the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame: there shall not be a coal to warm at, nor fire to sit before it.
15 Thus shall they be unto thee with whom thou hast laboured, even thy merchants, from thy youth: they shall wander every one to his quarter; none shall save thee.
Even though Babylon is only a vassal state under the Assyrians at the time of Isaiah's writing, he prophesies the destruction of the Babylonian Empire - their fall to the Persians under King Cyrus in 538 B.C. Isaiah addresses the Babylonian Empire in verse 1 when he cries, "O virgin daughter of Babylon." This whole chapter is all about their future fall; notice the phrases in the following verses:
Isaiah 47:3 Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen: I will take vengeance, and I will not meet thee as a man.
Isaiah 47:9 But these two things shall come to thee in a moment in one day, the loss of children, and widowhood:
Isaiah 47:11 Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth: and mischief shall fall upon thee; thou shalt not be able to put it off: and desolation shall come upon thee suddenly, which thou shalt not know.
And then...there's your bright spot in verse 4, "As for our redeemer, the LORD of hosts is his name, the Holy One of Israel." Although Babylon will conquer the Assyrians and rise to the top, they aren't to stay on top. Total destruction of the Babylonian Empire is in their future.
More on Judah and Israel's Babylonian captivity (Isaiah 48)
1 Hear ye this, O house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel, and are come forth out of the waters of Judah, which swear by the name of the LORD, and make mention of the God of Israel, but not in truth, nor in righteousness.
2 For they call themselves of the holy city, and stay themselves upon the God of Israel; The LORD of hosts is his name.
3 I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of my mouth, and I shewed them; I did them suddenly, and they came to pass.
4 Because I knew that thou art obstinate, and thy neck is an iron sinew, and thy brow brass;
5 I have even from the beginning declared it to thee; before it came to pass I shewed it thee: lest thou shouldest say, Mine idol hath done them, and my graven image, and my molten image, hath commanded them.
6 Thou hast heard, see all this; and will not ye declare it? I have shewed thee new things from this time, even hidden things, and thou didst not know them.
7 They are created now, and not from the beginning; even before the day when thou heardest them not; lest thou shouldest say, Behold, I knew them.
8 Yea, thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not; yea, from that time that thine ear was not opened: for I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the womb.
9 For my name’s sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off.
10 Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.
11 For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another.
12 Hearken unto me, O Jacob and Israel, my called; I am he; I am the first, I also am the last.
13 Mine hand also hath laid the foundation of the earth, and my right hand hath spanned the heavens: when I call unto them, they stand up together.
14 All ye, assemble yourselves, and hear; which among them hath declared these things? The LORD hath loved him: he will do his pleasure on Babylon, and his arm shall be on the Chaldeans.
15 I, even I, have spoken; yea, I have called him: I have brought him, and he shall make his way prosperous.
16 Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the Lord GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me.
17 Thus saith the LORD, thy Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; I am the LORD thy God which teacheth thee to profit, which leadeth thee by the way that thou shouldest go.
18 O that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments! then had thy peace been as a river, and thy righteousness as the waves of the sea:
19 Thy seed also had been as the sand, and the offspring of thy bowels like the gravel thereof; his name should not have been cut off nor destroyed from before me.
20 Go ye forth of Babylon, flee ye from the Chaldeans, with a voice of singing declare ye, tell this, utter it even to the end of the earth; say ye, The LORD hath redeemed his servant Jacob.
21 And they thirsted not when he led them through the deserts: he caused the waters to flow out of the rock for them: he clave the rock also, and the waters gushed out.
22 There is no peace, saith the LORD, unto the wicked.
Through Isaiah, God exhorts Israel/Judah to turn to God. The time will come under Cyrus when they will return to their homeland (after 538 B.C.), and they need to be spiritually prepared for that occasion. They need to have learned their lesson about serving and loving the only true God. Israel knew from Deuteronomy 30:1-5 (see notes) 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 obstinate practice by Israel toward God in verses 4-8. So where do we go from here? There's your answer in verse 9, "For my names sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off." God will deliver Israel because God keeps his promises - even when they don't. So...when Israel failed to keep their end of the bargain with God, what did God do about it? Notice verse 10, "Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction." 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 (see notes) 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 verses 20-22 they are encouraged to flee Babylon. That, of course, was only made possible after Cyrus issued the edict for their return in Ezra 1 (see notes).