Wednesday, March 06, 2024

2024.03.06 Hopewell @Home ▫ Isaiah 45:9–46:13

Read Isaiah 45:9–46:13

Questions from the Scripture text: What is Isaiah 45:9a pronouncing? Upon the one who does what? With whom may a man strive (verse 9b)? How do verse 9c–d describe the impossibility of striving with God? How does Isaiah 45:10 add immorality to impossibility? What is the Lord pushing back against in Isaiah 45:11? What has He done (Isaiah 45:12)? What will He do (i.e., with Cyrus, Isaiah 45:13)? Who speaks in Isaiah 45:14a? Who will come in what manner (verse 14b–g)? And saying what (verse 14h–j)? How does Israel respond to God’s plan of worldwide salvation (Isaiah 45:15)? What else will be the case at the last (Isaiah 45:16)? But what will happen with this new, worldwide Israel (Isaiah 45:17)? Whom will the Lord display Himself to be by this salvation (Isaiah 45:18)? What does He say (Isaiah 45:19) in response to their “surprise” (cf. Isaiah 45:15)? What point is He making by drawing attention to His divine revelation in Isaiah 45:20-21? Whom does He invite to this assembly for salvation (Isaiah 45:22)? What form of speech is Isaiah 45:23? What shall be done to YHWH (Isaiah 45:23-24, cf. Philippians 2:9–11)? Who will be included in this worldwide church, and what will they do in Whom (Isaiah 45:25)? How “helpful” are the Babylonian idols against Cyrus (Isaiah 46:1-2)? Instead of having to carry their gods like the Babylonians, what is the circumstance with whom in Isaiah 46:3? How does Isaiah 46:4 describe the persistence and faithfulness of this carrying? How ridiculous are the alternatives (Isaiah 46:5-7)? What are they to remember in order to be brought to repentance (Isaiah 46:8-9)? How, especially, does God show that He is the only true God (Isaiah 46:10)? Where does the Cyrus plan fit into this (Isaiah 46:11)? How will some Israelites respond to this (Isaiah 46:12)? But toward what ultimate end is the plan working (Isaiah 46:13)?

Why mustn’t we question God’s providence? Isaiah 45:9–46:13 prepares us for the first serial reading in public worship on the Lord’s Day. In these thirty verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that the only God Who can save is that unquestionable God Who carries us, and not the other way ‘round. 

Who are you to question God (Isaiah 45:9-13)? Isaiah 45:13 and Isaiah 46:11 refer to the anointing of Cyrus to overthrow Babylon and bring Israel into the land. Isaiah 45:9-11 make it plain that the Lord is answering the complaints of His people’s hearts. Surely they desired a deliverer with a name more Davidic-sounding and not so Persian-sounding as “Cyrus.” Questioning God is as impossible as a potsherd questioning the potter (Isaiah 45:9) and as immoral as a brand new baby questioning father and mother (Isaiah 45:10, cf. Isaiah 20:12). And God, Who has determined to take sons for Himself (Isaiah 45:11, cf. Romans 8:28, Ephesians 1:5), is the great Creator (Isaiah 45:12). Surely, He knows what He is doing, if Cyrus is part of that plan (Isaiah 45:13). 

The only God, the worldwide Savior (Isaiah 45:14-25). God isn’t just saving by means of other nations. God is saving men of other nations. Egyptians, Cushites, and Sabeans are going to be willing captives who recognize that YHWH is the one true God, and who desire to follow with/behind Israel (Isaiah 45:14). This announcement of worldwide salvation brings the Isaiah 45:15 response of wonder at the inscrutable wisdom of God, together with the Isaiah 45:16 denouncement of anyone who worships another. The worldwide-Israel of Isaiah 45:17, the ones who put their trust in Him, will surely be saved.

If we have been paying attention, we would remember from Scripture that God has created the world in order for it to be inhabited by His children (Isaiah 45:18). He gave His words through Israel, inviting sinners to seek Him and receive righteousness (Isaiah 45:19). Idols cannot save, just like they could not tell the end from the beginning (Isaiah 45:20-21). But YHWH, Who has promised this worldwide salvation from the beginning (cf. Genesis 3:15, Genesis 12:3), shall surely save all who trust in Him. This invitation goes out to all nations (Isaiah 45:22), and the ones who are going to be saved are those who take the “YHWH oath” in Isaiah 45:23. Of course, that ends up being a Jesus oath in the end (cf. Philippians 2:10–11), scriptural proof that Jesus is YHWH. All the saved will swear, “surely in Jesus I have righteousness” and “surely in Jesus I have strength” (Isaiah 45:24). This is the oath of a Christian, overcoming all of his guilt and all of his weakness. Is it your oath, dear reader? All the descendants of worldwide Israel, who swear this oath, shall be justified and glory (Isaiah 45:25).

Other gods are useless folly (Isaiah 46:1-7). The “best” gods in the world at the time would have been thought to be Bel and Nebo, the chief gods of the new world power, Babylon. But it turns out that big metal idols are so heavy that idols, carriage, animals, and owners all go into captivity together (Isaiah 46:1-2). What a tragedy to worship anything that man has made, for then it must be carried by man! Again, the “god” in Isaiah 46:6-7 is the “best” man can do. No expense is spared in gold or silver, or even for the best goldsmith available. But this god has to be carried, and it is a great accomplishment when it “stands” (Isaiah 46:7, cf. Isaiah 41:7). YHWH, on the other hand, is the God Who carries. This is the great theme of Isaiah 46:3-4. Obviously, we had to be carried when we were brand new infants, but even when we are old, we still need to be carried. Never worship a god who needs you.

Redemptive remembering (Isaiah 46:8-13). It’s one thing to know all of this truth about God. But then we end up in circumstances in our lives and forget that these circumstances have been ordained by the God Who made everything and is saving us. Certainly some Israelites had forgotten the truth about the saving, Sovereign God, when they heard about the “bird of prey from the east” (Cyrus, Isaiah 46:11). But God’s pleasure, which He does (Isaiah 46:10), is a saving pleasure for those who remember Him, who have faith in Him. Questioning Him is stubborn-heartedness, the unbelief that is the opposite of the faith through which we may be righteous (Isaiah 46:12). But to those who “Remember… Recall… Remember” (Isaiah 46:8-9), He brings near His righteousness, salvation, and glory (Isaiah 46:13)! Remember your God!

In what circumstance in your life have you been tempted to question God? What do you need to remember about Him? When have you most needed to swear, “Surely in Jesus I have righteousness”? When have you most needed to swear, “Surely in Jesus I have strength”? In what way might you be hoping in what you can carry instead of in Him Who carries you? How does the Lord bring you to being more remembering of Himself?

Sample prayer:  Our gracious God, truly You are the only Savior. Whether in using Cyrus, or in any other circumstance of Your providence, You are perfectly wise and good. Grant that our knees would bow and our tongues confess that Jesus is YHWH—that He is all our righteousness and strength. Grant that we would never hope in what we can carry, but would only ever hope in Your carrying us. And give us to remember Your creating power and purposes, so that we will trust in You and never be put to shame, but saved through Christ, through Whom we ask it, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP138 “With All My Heart, My Thanks I’ll Bring” or TPH256 “God Moves in a Mysterious Way”

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