THE UNIQUENESS OF GOD DETERMINES THE EXCLUSIVITY OF SALVATION
Our culture of pluralism with its naïve foundational tenet of tolerance for all religions finds the Christian doctrine of an exclusive gospel to be absolutely repugnant. How can you say that there is only one way to God . . . or even that your concept of God is the only correct one? Yet didn’t Christ Himself testify: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life; no man comes to the Father but by Me.” Sounds pretty narrow to me … and that should be expected if there is one true God and He is the one who dictates the pathway of salvation.
Our passage in Isaiah 45 today hammers away again at some of the common themes that have been recurring throughout the book –
– God declares that He is the Lord and there is none else
– God presents Himself as the absolute Sovereign of the universe since He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things
– God presents Himself as the only Savior of men – the Savior not only of the Jews but of the Gentiles as well … if they will but turn and look to Him alone for salvation
THE UNIQUENESS OF GOD DETERMINES THE EXCLUSIVITY OF SALVATION
Two sections – each begins with the same announcement formula: “Thus says the Lord”
I. (45:14-17) THE EXCLUSIVITY OF SALVATION LEAVES MANKIND WITH ONLY TWO OPTIONS: SUBMISSION (AND EVERLASTING SALVATION) OR SHAME (AND EVERLASTING SUFFERING)
A. (:14) Confession of Gentiles Who Submit to the God of Israel in the Day of the Lord
1. Impressive Gentile Nations Will Ultimately Submit to the God of Israel
“Thus says the LORD,”
Beall: In v. 14 a new section begins (again with “Thus says the Lord”), essentially an outworking of the Cyrus section. The basic idea of this section is that the work of redemption and release of God’s people Israel begun by Cyrus would be completed one day (in the Millennium), and all the other nations would recognize Israel’s God as well. . . The same three nations were mentioned in 43:3. Isa 60:1-7 also notes that the Gentile nations will bring their wealth to Israel in the Millennium.
These Gentile nations that will ultimately embrace the salvation the Lord offers are viewed as impressive from 3 different perspectives:
a. Impressive Achievements of Gentile Nations
“The products of Egypt”
No matter how impressive your works … the testimony of Solomon in Ecclesiastes = “Vanity, vanity” apart from obedience to the God who transcends all things
b. Impressive Wealth of Gentile Nations
“and the merchandise of Cush”
No matter how impressive your business empire … what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses his soul?
c. Impressive Reputation of Gentile Nations
“And the Sabeans, men of stature,”
Sabeans = those who dwell in “Upper Egypt” between Egypt proper and the Lower Sudan
No matter how impressive your fame and popularity . . . it is more important to please God than to be a slave to human opinion
“Will come over to you and will be yours;”
Quite a different orientation towards the God of Israel and towards His chosen nation Israel then what we see on the world scene today; all of these Arab nations who spew hatred towards Israel will eventually bow the knee and embrace the God of Israel after the great purge of the Tribulation Period
2. Images of Subjection and Worship Involved in This Confession
“They will walk behind you,
they will come over in chains And will bow down to you;”
Young: acknowledging that only in Israel is the true God to be found
Images of vanquished enemies – yet in this case they will willingly submit to the one true God by grace through faith
3. Identifying with the One True God of Israel
“They will make supplication to you:
‘Surely, God is with you, and there is none else, No other God.’”
They completely embrace the message of God’s Uniqueness and hence the Exclusivity of the salvation which He alone can offer; no longer pleading for the recognition of their pagan gods and false idols; they have repented and rejected their former gods in favor of embracing the one true God; they had found it futile to make supplication to their gods
B. (:15) Concealment by God of His Ultimate Purposes as He Sovereignly Works in Secret
“Truly, Thou art a God who hides Himself, O God of Israel, Savior!”
Difficult verse – some take this in a negative sense as a complaint against God who has not been forthcoming with His gospel message – thus they would see God responding in vs. 19 by contradicting this complaint
I think this is more of a positive statement of God working behind the scenes without explaining the ultimate purposes behind His actions at the time … so that we need to be careful not to complain against God’s providence in our lives – we don’t see the whole picture … yet God is operating as the Savior of His people
Beall: In v. 15 the prophet exclaims that God is one who hides Himself, i.e., that God’s ways are known only through His revelation, not through man’s efforts; but in truth His revelation is marvelous, since He is not only the God of Israel, but the Savior (note that both “hide” and “savior” are participles, in parallel with each other: the God who hides is the God who saves).
Young: God keeps hidden under the clouds of the contemporary situation the purposes of mercy He is about to reveal.
Constable: The nations that will come to God, or perhaps Isaiah himself or Israel, observed that God hides His acts of salvation so they are not obviously apparent. They become clear to those who carefully observe what He has done, and whom God enlightens, but they do not inevitably impress every single individual. One might say the same thing about Jesus’ claims. They could have been clearer, but to those who really considered them, and whose eyes God opened, they were clear. This is essentially a testimony to God’s transcendence (cf. Rom. 11:33).
The Weaver – Poem by Anonymous Works
My life is but a weaving, between my God and me,
I do not choose the colors, He worketh steadily.
Ofttimes he weaveth sorrow, and I in foolish pride
Forget He sees the upper, and I the underside.
Not till the loom is silent, and the shuttles cease to fly,
Will God unroll the canvas, and explain the reasons why
The dark threads are as needful in the skillful weaver’s hand
As threads of gold and silver in the pattern He has planned.
C. (:16-17) Contrast Between Shame and Everlasting Salvation
1. (:16) Idol Worshipers Will Be Shamed and Humiliated
“They will be put to shame and even humiliated, all of them;
The manufacturers of idols will go away together in humiliation.”
Both those who make the idols (a sarcastic indictment of idol worship) as well as those who worship them will know only shame and humiliation
2. (:17) God’s People Will Enjoy Everlasting Salvation
“Israel has been saved by the LORD With an everlasting salvation;
You will not be put to shame or humiliated to all eternity.”
Emphasis on the eternal nature of the salvation of God’s people
II. (45:18-25) THE EXCLUSIVITY OF SALVATION DERIVES FROM THE UNIQUENESS OF GOD
A. (:18) Declaration of the Uniqueness of God
“For thus says the LORD,” — takes Him the rest of the verse before He makes His statement
1. Credentials for Making the Claim of Uniqueness
a. Sovereign as the Creator of Heavens and Earth
“who created the heavens”
(He is the God who formed the earth and made it,”
Created (bara) out of nothing;
b. Sovereign as the Intelligent Designer – Creating with a Purpose
“He established it and did not create it a waste place,
But formed it to be inhabited),”
How do you reconcile this with the statement in Gen. 1:2 that “the earth was formless and void”?
Constable: God’s intention in Creation was not to create something permanently without form but to create an environment for His creatures that He suitably formed for their habitation. Thus this verse says nothing about the steps God may have taken in creating the cosmos. It rather explains His purpose in creating the cosmos.
2. Claim of Uniqueness
“I am the LORD, and there is none else.”
B. (:19) Disclosure of Truth by God Openly – in Contrast to the Occult
1. Clarity and Accessibility of God’s Revelation
“I have not spoken in secret, In some dark land;
I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek Me in a waste place’;”
2. Content of God’s Revelation
“ I, the LORD, speak righteousness
Declaring things that are upright.”
C. (:20-21) Daring the Gentile Nations to Dispute with God
1. (:20a) Challenge
“Gather yourselves and come;
Draw near together, you fugitives of the nations;”
2. (:20b) Condemnation
“They have no knowledge,
Who carry about their wooden idol, And pray to a god who cannot save.”
3. (:21a) Challenge
“Declare and set forth your case;
Indeed, let them consult together.”
4. (:21b) Coronation – God affirms His own Supremacy
“Who has announced this from of old?
Who has long since declared it?
Is it not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me,
A righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me.”
God was the one who had prophecied ahead of time about all of the events of the conquest of Cyrus
D. (:22) Demanding the Only Response That Leads to Salvation
“Turn to Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth;
For I am God, and there is no other.”
Beautiful offer of the gospel to the Gentile nations –
What is involved in Turning to God?? Looking to God in faith – cf. Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness – even so must the Son of Man be lifted up – John 3
Borgman: people complain how narrow the message is; but how much broader can you get than this invitation? God doesn’t put any restrictions on this invitation; why turn to somebody who can’t save? You will never be saved apart from repentance; turn from idols to serve the living and true God; not just offered to Israel but to all the ends of the earth; fulfillment of promise to Abraham – in your seed all the families of the world will be blessed
If God is the only Creator; He must be the only Savior . . .
John 4:42; 1 Tim. 4:10 – understand these passages in light of Is. 45 – there is no other savior in the world for men; sounds very narrow to our modern culture; people are very tolerant today – a more important virtue than purity or self-sacrifice or truth; we have exalted tolerance to place of chief virtue for modern man; but absolutely intolerant of message of exclusivity of the gospel – makes them red-faced and angry; there is no other God and there is no other way; that is exactly how it was in Paul’s day; Romans did not have a problem with Jesus; but they wouldn’t also worship Caesar! You can’t tell people they should only have one Lord; God did not have to open any way; certainly He can dictate the way He chooses to open;
Constable: Since Yahweh alone saves, people and nations around the world should turn to Him for salvation (cf. Num. 21:8-9). In so doing they could experience the same salvation that Israel would enjoy. Yahweh is the saving God of the whole earth, not just Israel, so salvation is available to all, not just Israel. God used this verse to bring the light of salvation to the English preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon when he was a youth.
THE UNIQUENESS OF GOD DETERMINES THE EXCLUSIVITY OF SALVATION
E. (:23-25) Destiny Depends on Submitting to the Exclusivity of Salvation
1. (:23a) The Exclusivity of Salvation is Non-Negotiable
“I have sworn by Myself,
The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back,”
God will never change His mind or renege on His universal offer of salvation or on His threat of judgment to all who will not turn to Him
Don’t try to debate God on this
2. (:23b-24a) The Goal is Universal Submission and Allegiance to the Lord
“That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.
“They will say of Me, ‘Only in the LORD are righteousness and strength.’”
Paul quotes this verse in Phil. 2
Conclusion: Jesus Christ is Jehovah
Borgman: rebels will not continue in their rebellion; there will only be saved rebels and damned rebels – but all will be in subjection to King Jesus
Why not submit in faith now and enjoy the blessings of salvation rather than submit by force when Jesus returns and suffer the punishment of hell
3. (:24b-25) The Response to the Gospel Determines Destiny of Shame or Salvation
“Men will come to Him, And all who were angry at Him shall be put to shame.
In the LORD all the offspring of Israel will be justified, and will glory.”
Any rebellion against God’s ruler of your life is an expression of anger
Look at the doctrine of justification by grace through faith as presented here in the OT
God turns sinners and rebels into worshipers who praise Him and reflect His glory
Man should not be complaining against God because of the narrowness of the gate that leads to salvation. Man should be praising the mercy of God that He has provided such a universal offer of salvation by appointing Jesus as the Door through which all men have access to salvation.
It would be folly to turn to anyone else for salvation when God has clearly revealed that all other paths lead to eternal shame and humiliation and suffering.
But for all who will look to Christ alone for salvation, there is joy and praise for all eternity.
What a Wonderful Savior is Jesus my Jesus
What a Wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord.