THE QUESTION OF ULTIMATE CONTROL BEGINS AND ENDS WITH THE SUPREME “I AM”
Max Lucado: The House of God
Every time Satan sets out to score for evil, he ends up scoring a point for good. Consider Paul. Satan hoped prison would silence his pulpit, and it did, but it also unleashed his pen. The letters to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians were all written in a jail cell.
Satan is the Colonel Klink of the Bible. Remember Klink? He was the fall guy for Hogan on the television series, Hogan’s Heroes. Klink supposedly ran a German POW camp during World War 2. Those inside the camp, however, knew better. They knew who really ran the camp: the prisoners. They listened to Klink’s calls and read his mail. They even gave Klink ideas, all the while using him for their own cause.
Over and over the Bible makes it clear who really runs the earth. Satan may strut and prance, but it is God who calls the shots.
The people of Judah were about to enter into a period of 70 years of Captivity under the oppression of the pagan Babylonians. They would be tempted to doubt the covenant love of the God of Israel. They would be tempted to doubt the promises of God’s providential care and future blessing. Pagan gods would be paraded before them and extolled while the one true God was mocked and despised.
But Isaiah wanted to encourage God’s people ahead of time not to panic or fear. Remember who it is that is in ultimate control. GOD CALLS ALL THE SHOTS
THE QUESTION OF ULTIMATE CONTROL BEGINS AND ENDS WITH THE SUPREME “I AM”
Wiersbe: This section speaking of the Greatness of God
1. God is Greater Than Our Circumstances (40:1-31)
(:1-11) COMFORT FOR ZION DERIVES FROM THE SALVATION AND GOVERNING BLESSINGS ASSOCIATED WITH THE PROMISED COMING OF MESSIAH
(:12-31) WE CAN PATIENTLY WAIT ON THE LORD FOR SUSTAINING STRENGTH AND PERSEVERANCE BECAUSE OF HIS ULTIMATE SUPREMACY AND SIGNIFICANCE
2. God is Greater Than Our Fears (41:1-44:28)
3. God is Greater Than Our Enemies (45:1-48:22)
4 Acts in This Courtroom Drama – Ultimate Showdown between the One True God and the Pagan Nations with their False Idols
I. (:1) COURTROOM SETTING –
CALLING ALL NATIONS TO ACCOUNTABILITY – DIVINE INTIMIDATION
Courtroom setting where Judgment will be rendered
A. Pagan Nations Need to Listen to God in Silence
“Coastlands, listen to Me in silence,”
“Coastlands” — Speaks of the ends of the earth – those locations farthest away from the land of Israel – thereby signifying the whole earth
Guzik: The Hebrew word translated coastlands is also translated islands or isles in other passages, such as Isaiah 11:11; Isa 40:15. It is also translated with broader words like territory in passages like Isaiah 20:6. The idea is probably best expressed as “distant lands.”
Don’t try to argue your case before the Lord until you first listen to Him in silence; God has something significant to say
Job learned this lesson – cover my mouth and remain quiet before you
Big showdown coming
Grogan: Although in form this verse is an address to the nations, the message of the chapter is of course intended for Israel. The discomfiture of the nations and the demonstration that their gods are impotent is intended to encourage God’s people to trust in him.
Young: God addresses the isles with the voice of absolute authority; He commands them to turn unto Him in silence. They are to listen to Him and not to the verdict of some third party. Before His words there can be no answer. . . Let the Nations renew their strength to plead their cause before Me, it will be of no avail.
Oswalt: Thus the nations are called to approach in awed silence, listen to God’s evidence, and then gather what strength they can to make a response.
B. Pagan Nations Need to Rally Their Strength
“And let the peoples gain new strength;”
Have already seen in verses above that only the Lord can renew our strength
Beall: here, the term is used in an ironic manner, as a deliberate contrast to those who truly would renew their strength in the Lord.
Where will they turn for strength?
C. Pagan Nations Need to Make Their Case Before God
“Let them come forward, then let them speak;”
Now is the time for the nations to make their case; Can they tell the future; can they prophesy of events yet to come? Can they control their own destiny as a kingdom?
D. The Evidence Must Be Examined and a Verdict Delivered
“Let us come together for judgment.”
Is. 1:18 – let us reason together; what can we conclude from this showdown?
II. (:2-4a) CENTRAL QUESTION THE NATIONS NEED TO ASK –
WHO IS IN CONTROL? – DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY
A. (:2a) Question of Control
“Who has aroused one from the east
Whom He calls in righteousness to His feet?”
The future is here prophetically represented as present or past.
Nations must learn from history the lesson of the Succession of Kingdoms; no kingdom lasts forever; no kingdom is invincible; You see the seed of that lesson in the Succession of Kings – no one lives forever; they all die
The Babylonians will take the southern kingdom of Judah into captivity in 586 B.C. for a period of 70 years; but God will rise up Cyrus and the Persian Empire will supplant the great Babylonian Empire
Oswalt: a movement from general to specific is apparent. For instance, a very general reference to the deliverer in ch. 41 (vv. 2-4, 25) is made much more specific in 44:23-45:8. In the same way, the references to the futility of idols in 41:6-7 are greatly amplified in 44:9-20 (and also 46:5-6).
Motyer: conquests of Cyrus well known for their ease, speed and the panic they created
Constable: The four Mesopotamian kings who invaded Canaan in Abraham’s day and took Lot captive were the prototype of this invader, as were Sargon, Sennacherib, and Nebuchadnezzar. Jesus Christ will be the ultimate fulfillment when He returns to the earth east of Jerusalem (on the Mount of Olives), and overcomes His enemies, who will have assembled in Palestine. Cyrus came from Persia (modern Iran), which was east of Mesopotamia. This invader would proceed safely over previously unused routes.
Beall: Cyrus was the Persian ruler who first conquered the Median empire in 550 B.C., then the empire of Croesus of Lydia in the west (Asia Minor) in 547, and finally crossing the Tigris and entering Babylon from the east, subdued Babylon without a struggle in 539 B.C. He then issued an edict which permitted the Jews to return to their homeland.
Parunak: The usage of the noun צדק “righteousness” elsewhere in Isaiah strongly suggests that “righteousness” here is a personified attribute of the Lord, not a title for the coming invader . . . Righteousness will call him to his foot. — Here is the answer to the previous question. Who has raised up Cyrus? God’s righteousness has. Cyrus is not righteous. But God, to accomplish his righteous purposes, summons Cyrus, who comes as a servant to his foot. Compare 1 Sam 25:42, describing Abigail’s handmaidens as “going at her feet,” following her every step to be ready to attend to her commands. Even today we say that a dog “heels” its master.
Delitzsch: Righteousness was always raised up from the East. Paradise was east of Eden. The cherubim were at the east of the garden. Abraham was called from the East. Judea, the birthplace of Messiah, was in the East.
B. (:2b-3) Evidence of Control
1. Conquering Powerful Nations
“He delivers up nations before him,
And subdues kings.”
2. Carving Them Up With Weapons of Mass Destruction – His Sword and His Bow
“He makes them like dust with his sword,
As the wind-driven chaff with his bow.”
Primary characteristic of this individual is that he is a conquering warrior-king (could not be an appropriate reference to Abraham)
3. Chasing Them With Speed and Impunity
“He pursues them,
Passing on in safety, by a way he had not been traversing with his feet.”
Oswalt: although pursuit may involve many dangers for the pursuer, there will be none in this case
Motyer: refers to the serenity and satisfaction of the conqueror compared with the havoc he has left behind
Parunak: The idiom probably refers to the speed of his advance. Compare the image of Alexander as a he-goat in Dan 8:5, moving so rapidly that “he touched not the ground.”
C. (:4a) Question of Control
“Who has performed and accomplished it,
Calling forth the generations from the beginning?”
God is the Author and Finisher of this delivering work of righteousness
God is the one who can accurately predict the future because He controls the future
God calls all nations into existence – this has been true from the beginning of time; no nation exists apart from God
Guzik: This is always a relevant question. Is there a point, a direction to human history? Is it just a random, meaningless combination of undirected events? Is it a cycle, fated to repeat itself endlessly? Or, is there a God in heaven who directs human events, always moving to a final resolution and fulfillment? Our answer to this question influences almost everything in our lives.
The issue of predictive prophecy seals the case for the Lord God – He controls all things so He alone is able to call all the shots
S. Lewis Johnson: Now, before we look at this prophecy, remember. Isaiah is writing from about 740 to 700 B.C. These prophecies are probably given during the reign of King Hezekiah and so of course they are given somewhere around 700 BC. Now he is going to prophesy the rise of Cyrus, the Persian. Now Cyrus came on the scene in the middle of the 5th century before our Lord. It was in 549 B.C. that Cyrus made his first great conquest when he overcame Croesus, the king of Lydia. So the Prophet Isaiah is, by the spirit of God, looking into the distant future, approximately 150 years from his own time and he is going to prophesy the rise of Cyrus, the king of Persia. . .
Cf. My trying to call the outcome of a Ravens game – “putting the hay in the barn”
Who Besides The Lord Can Bring Into Being What Does Not Exist And Foretell The Future?
III. (:4b) COMPREHENSIVE ANSWER THE LORD PROVIDES – DIVINE ETERNAL SELF-EXISTENCE
A. Comprehensive Answer When Viewed From the Perspective of Time
“I, the LORD, am the first, and with the last.” Rev 1:17; Rev 22:13
Jim Bomkamp: He is outside of time and in all points of time at once.
S. Lewis Johnson: Moses one day saw a bush that was burning and not consumed, that’s an illustration of God of course. And so he took off his shoes from off his feet for that ground was Holy and he was told “I am who I am.” That’s God. That is, it’s impossible for man to define God because He is the absolute being. Once we define God then we limit God. That’s what definition means. So there is no way to define God. He is God, that’s all. So when your children say, who made God or who was there before God was, there is no answer you can give to that. Don’t rush to your preacher and ask for the answer, there is no answer to that. He is the great uncaused being. There is no one behind Him. So an absolute definition of God is impossible. Now we may have a relational definition and Moses remember was given a relational definition. When he said, “who shall I say sent me when I go,” He said, “tell them I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.” That’s a relational definition, that’s the definition of God in his covenant relationship to Israel.
B. Comprehensive Answer When Viewed From the Perspective of Causation
“I am He.”
Outside of Isaiah, only other OT usage:
Deu 32:37-39 “And he shall say, Where are their gods, their rock in whom they trusted, 38 Which did eat the fat of their sacrifices, and drank the wine of their drink offerings? let them rise up and help you, and be your protection. 39 See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god with me: I kill, and I make alive; I wound, and I heal: neither is there any that can deliver out of my hand.”
Delitzsch: “the full meaning of the name Jehovah which is unfolded here; for God is called Jehovah as the absolute I, the absolutely free Being, pervading all history, and yet above all history, as He who is Lord of His own absolute being, in revealing which He is purely self-determined; in a word, as the unconditionally free and unchangeably eternal personality.
Young: God is the first in that He antedates all these idols and gods that are being condemned; inasmuch as He is the director of human history, He antedates all history. God, therefore, is the first in the sense that before all human history began to run its course, He IS. The language stresses His independence of human history and movements. He is above history; He is above His creation.
IV. (:5-7) COOPERATIVE REACTION OF THE NATIONS – DIVINE SUBSTITUTION
A. (:5) Fear That Intensifies Their Ecumenical Cooperation (Human Solidarity)
1. Universal Fear
“The coastlands have seen and are afraid; The ends of the earth tremble;”
It looks like we might be making progress here; But fear needs to lead to the right type of action
Beall: [note the word play in Hebrew between War” (“they saw”) and War”yyIw> (“they feared”)]
2. Universal Ecumenical Cooperation
“They have drawn near and have come.”
Not drawing near to the Lord God . . . but drawing near to one another to try to reinforce one another in a defensive posture
The destiny of the mission of the United Nations
Oswalt: Unfortunately, their terror moves them to turn not to God but to the gods. But before the gods can help them they have be made! What a tragedy! To respond to the activity of the Creator in history, these humans must create gods in history to protect them.
Brian Borgman: Unbelievers are never argued into the kingdom by simple weight of the evidence; the heart of man is at enmity with God and he suppresses the truth in unrighteousness; not all fear and trembling leads to repentance; can lead to a hardening; they draw near to one another – not to God;
B. (:6-7) False Courage of Fleshly Partnership with Futile Efforts
1. (:6) False Courage
“Each one helps his neighbor,
And says to his brother, ‘Be strong!’”
World offers all types of encouragement with messages of False Courage and Self Confidence:
Nike: “Just do it”
Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.”
Norman Vincent Peale: “What the mind can conceive and believe, and the heart desire, you can achieve.”
“Believe in yourself! Have faith in your abilities! Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.”
Joel Osteen: “I believe that God has put gifts and talents and ability on the inside of every one of us. When you develop that and you believe in yourself and you believe that you’re a person of influence and a person of purpose, I believe you can rise up out of any situation.”
Miley Cyrus: (I decided every sermon needs a Miley Cyrus reference) “If you believe in yourself anything is possible.”
My favorite is Home Depot: “You can do it; we can help”
Cf. defensive mechanism of Israel in the face of hard times – let’s make a golden calf
Scott Grant: Idolatry-dependence on gods other that the Lord-is a fear-based attempt to meet needs and defend against threats, such as the appearance of “one from the east.” What do you do when one from the east shows up and it looks as if he might destroy your world? Sometimes, we crank up the idol-making machine. We hope that the gods we trust in-power, money, success, sex, nature, food and drink, intellectualism, whatever-will stand up to the inevitable invasion. In that we constantly strengthen ourselves; invest more effort in our idols; attempt to convince ourselves with words such as, “It is good”; worry whether our idols will totter and crash to the earth, we demonstrate the insecurity we feel in our idolatry. Better to worship a God who meets actual needs and truly defends us.
2. (“7a) Fleshly Partnership
“So the craftsman encourages the smelter, And he who smooths metal with the hammer encourages him who beats the anvil, Saying of the soldering, ‘It is good’;”
Oswalt: Pieper seems to be correct when he sees a chiastic arrangement of the terms for the craftsmen in v. 7. The outer terms (i.e., the first and last) apply to the rougher work, while the inner ones (the second and third) refer to the finer. The first, the molder, casts the rough form of the idol; the second, the smelter, prepares the precious metals with which the idol will be plated; the third, hammers the gold leaf or silver plate into place; the fourth fashions the nails that will hold the idol in place.
3. (:7b) Futile Efforts
“And he fastens it with nails, That it should not totter.”
Oswalt: 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. Another purpose may be to point out how dependent the gods are. They cannot be created by just one person; it takes a whole host of people to keep them going.
Guzik: People still see something of God’s power and glory, reject it, and then make their own god. This is Paul’s whole message in Romans 1:18-25.
The Jews in Captivity in Babylon would function much like the prisoners in Colonel Klink’s stalag in Hogan’s Heroes. Despite their weakness, God would work through them to glorify Himself. The enemy were the ones who should be in panic and fear. They would find out that their confidence in their man-made idols had been futile and vain. They would ultimately stand before God to give an account of their sins and would learn the lesson that God calls all the shots. We can take courage and fear not, because God is ultimately in control and working out everything for his glory.
THE QUESTION OF ULTIMATE CONTROL BEGINS AND ENDS WITH THE SUPREME “I AM”