Wednesday, January 24, 2024

2024.01.24 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 41:1–7

 Isaiah 41:1–7

Questions from the Scripture text: What does the Lord command whom in Isaiah 41:1a? And what does He invite the inhabitants to do (verse 1b, cf. Isaiah 40:31b)? To what sort of gathering does He call them (Isaiah 41:1b–c)? From what direction is the person in the question of Isaiah 41:2a raised up? What do verse 2a–b ask about him? In what did the Lord call him (verse 2b)? What did He call him to do (verse 2c–d)? With what effect upon them (verse 2e–f)? And what effect upon himself (Isaiah 41:3)? What else has the One Who called him ordained (Isaiah 41:4a–b)? What answer do verse 4c–d give to these questions? What does He remind us about Himself, that should have made this obvious? Who see the summons and answer in Isaiah 41:5? But with what attitude? In whom do they try to find comfort (Isaiah 41:6)? What solution do they come up with for this courage (Isaiah 41:7)? But whose skills make it? And how does the last line mock this?

What are we to think when great powers arise? Isaiah 41:1–7 prepares us for the first serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these seven verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that we must remember that the Lord is sovereign over all and praise Him Who is our hope. 

Divine Invitation. Many believers memorize Isaiah 40:28–31, or even just Isaiah 40:31, and well do they do so, for it is full of the comfort of faith in such a God as we have! But let them respond to it by heeding the invitation that we find now in the very next verse (Isaiah 41:1). Isaiah often uses “coastlands” to refer to the farthest reaches (cf. Isaiah 41:5a–b); the Lord is inviting the people of all the earth to enjoy the renewed strength of those who wait upon Him (Isaiah 41:1c). 

Divine Initiative. But men do not like God’s way of salvation. For He raises up a great king to rule over all others (Isaiah 41:2a–d). From where Israel sat, “one from the east” was generally bad news. That’s the direction from which Mesopotamian conquerors come—most recently Assyria, and soon Babylon. 

In the near history of this passage, however, the Lord would raise up Cyrus the Persian from the east, and he would act as deliverer for Israel and executioner of Babylon (chapters 45–46). Ultimately, Cyrus is a type (forerunner, foreshadowing) of Christ; but, his conquest would be frightful (much as the Lord’s second coming will be)!

The conquests described are devastating: sword and bow bringing enemies to dust and stubble (Isaiah 41:2e–f). But the conqueror is untouched: passing safely (Isaiah 41:3a), seeming not even to leave footprints (verse 3b). This is reminiscent not so much of Cyrus’s victories, great as they were, but of the One on the white horse, Who slaughters all the hordes of the enemy by Himself, with just the sword which proceeds from His mouth (cf. Revelation 19:21). 

At that time, the Lord will glorify Himself in His Son. At this time, He glorifies Himself as the sovereign God of history. The big question is: who has raised him up (Isaiah 41:2a)? Verse 2b has a dead giveaway (similar to the clue “in hope” in Romans 8:20), for this conqueror has been called “in righteousness.” There is only One who could have done that! 

But the Lord adds to the “whodunnit” question (Isaiah 41:4a), including now not only Cyrus but all the generations of history from the beginning (verse 4b). It can only be YHWH: Alpha and Omega. There (and sovereign, of course!) at the beginning (verse 4c), and there (and sovereign!) at the end (verse 4d), and there-and-sovereign everywhere in between. What a God! And what an invitation to wait upon Him and have strength renewed! Wonderfully, Jesus identifies Himself as YHWH God from Isaiah 41 (cf. Revelation 22:13).

Human Innovation. But the response of the nations is to tremble at this conqueror (Isaiah 41:5a–b) and draw near (verse 5c)—not to God but to each other (Isaiah 41:6)?! How dreadful is the sin and folly of the unbelieving world, that they hope in each other rather than God, Who has invited them to have Him as their hope! Unity for unity’s sake is worse than worthless; it is wicked. True unity comes from that true reconciliation in which men are brought near to each other by being brought near to God in Christ (cf. Ephesians 2:11–18). In a season in the church in which much nonsense and evil parades itself as a virtue in the name of “reconciliation,” we desperately need to learn the lesson of Isaiah 41:6, in context.

And it is weak. Pathetically, ridiculously weak. For help, they go to what they can construct. It’s a group effort: craftsman and goldsmith (Isaiah 41:7a), hammering smoother and anvil striker (verse 7b), rounded out by the fifth man: soldering man who fastens it with pegs (verse 7c–d). The worthlessness of the wickedness is completed with the comical “that it might not totter.” Dear reader, are the days of such idolatry ended? Behold how now, more than ever, men trust in their togetherness and look to the work of their hands for help! But the Lord continues, even now, to beckon to the people to come to Him, even from the ends of the earth. Come, and renew your strength!

In what ways do you need your strength renewed? What has the Lord invited you to do for that? What powers have arisen in the world that threaten to terrify? What does this passage remind you about their rise? What is wrong with unity for unity’s sake? 

Sample prayer:  Lord, thank You for the glorious invitation to have You alone as our strength. And thank You for the reminder that You are Alpha and Omega and rule over all of history and this moment of history. But forgive us, O Lord, for we much more easily draw near to each other than to You. And we much more easily trust in the work of our hands than in Your almighty hand. Turn us from such worthless wickedness, we pray, through Christ, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP18A “I Love You, LORD” or TPH228 “Hast Thou Not Known, Hast Thou Not Heard”

No comments:

Post a Comment