Isaiah part 33 - The Consolation of the World, part 2 (chapters 40-42)Posted: Fri. Dec, 4 2020
*** Last time I mistakenly published “part 31” which should have been “part 32”. ***
Last time we covered chapter 40. Now we continue into chapter 41-42.
Remember, we are in the second book of three in Isaiah, the Book of the Servant (chapters 38-55)
God comforted His people though the judgment upon them was to come through the tool that God would use, the Babylonians. God spoke comfort to Israel and now He invites the Gentile nations (“Coastlands”) to listen to Him. He asks them to be silent while they listen, good advice for us all.
"Coastlands, listen to Me in silence,
And let the peoples gain new strength;
Let them come forward, then let them speak;
Let us come together for judgment.
2 "Who has aroused one from the east
Whom He calls in righteousness to His feet?
He delivers up nations before him,
And subdues kings.
He makes them like dust with his sword,
As the wind-driven chaff with his bow.
3 "He pursues them, passing on in safety,
By a way he had not been traversing with his feet.
4 "Who has performed and accomplished it,
Calling forth the generations from the beginning?
'I, the Lord, am the first, and with the last. I am He.'"
We’re not particularly told who is the “one from the east whom He calls in righteousness to His feet.” It actually could be Abraham as much as it could be Babylon. Isaiah is making the point that God alone controls all the events in history. Remember that the next time the news makes you angry or scared. “I, the Lord, am the first, and the last. I am He.”
Here, as in 19:24-25; 27:13, God reveals His desire for the Gentiles to be fellow heirs with Israel. (something it took the early church years to understand, ACT 11:19) It is hoped that their response would be to take refuge in Yavah Elohim, but instead they run to idols. God attempts to comfort them, as He did to Israel, but their response is to fly to idolatry.
Essentially, idolatry is the love of self in the place of the love of God. The ancients who worshipped little, lifeless graven images got nothing from the images themselves. What they did receive were promises, hopes of self-gratification: fulfillment of personal desire.
The coastlands have seen and are afraid;
The ends of the earth tremble;
They have drawn near and have come.
6 Each one helps his neighbor,
And says to his brother, "Be strong!"
7 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";
And he fastens it with nails,
That it should not totter.
They actually encourage one another (“be strong”) with idolatry. What they are saying is, “Let’s keep working different ways to gratify our lusts and eventually we will find completeness. Be strong. Keep working. Eventually we will find true happiness.”
God points out to them that the idol god, to which they are looking for protection from the juggernaut coming from the east, will itself fall over if they don’t nail it to the table. Will not their kingdoms topple? Will not their fear be justified?
Next, Isaiah provides three pictures of consolation. Despite the uselessness of people and their idols, the promises of the Lord as the world Ruler can be trusted. The first consolation is to Israel whose enemies will forever be vanquished.
"But you, Israel, My servant,
Jacob whom I have chosen,
Descendant of Abraham My friend,
9 You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth,
And called from its remotest parts,
And said to you, 'You are My servant,
I have chosen you and not rejected you.
10 'Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'
11 "Behold, all those who are angered at you will be shamed and dishonored;
Those who contend with you will be as nothing, and will perish.
12 "You will seek those who quarrel with you, but will not find them,
Those who war with you will be as nothing, and non-existent.
13 "For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand,
Who says to you, 'Do not fear, I will help you.'
The Israel spoken of here (the remnant of faith) are not slaves in the way most think, but in the way of a slave who loves his master, and even given the choice to be free, remains (EXO 21:5). These are truly descendants of Abraham, not only genetically, but in loving faith, the friend of God who was willing to even sacrifice his beloved son Isaac in obedience to his Lord and Master. Such people of God should fear nothing from men; even powerful, looming, large military machines on the threshold.
The second consolation is again to Israel. The worm Jacob will become a threshing sledge that will crush all her opposition.
"Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel;
I will help you," declares the Lord, "and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
15 "Behold, I have made you a new, sharp threshing sledge with double edges;
You will thresh the mountains, and pulverize them,
And will make the hills like chaff.
16 "You will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away,
And the storm will scatter them;
But you will rejoice in the Lord,
You will glory in the Holy One of Israel.
The “worm Jacob” signifies one hopelessly inferior to the task. A worm cannot crush mountains, but when the Lord makes it into His threshing sledge, it can do all things God wills.
The third consolation is the desert traveller who is miraculously provided for.
"The afflicted and needy are seeking water, but there is none,
And their tongue is parched with thirst;
I, the Lord, will answer them Myself,
As the God of Israel I will not forsake them.
18 "I will open rivers on the bare heights,
And springs in the midst of the valleys;
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
And the dry land fountains of water.
19 "I will put the cedar in the wilderness,
The acacia, and the myrtle, and the olive tree;
I will place the juniper in the desert,
Together with the box tree and the cypress,
20 That they may see and recognize,
And consider and gain insight as well,
That the hand of the Lord has done this,
And the Holy One of Israel has created it.
When we go through wilderness experiences, having deep needs, God will answer us Himself. Our Lord was forty days in the wilderness and became hungry. Instead of food there was satanic temptation, yet still He did not despair. Though it was difficult, it never crossed His mind that His Father would desert His need.
Three comforts: Our enemies will eventually be vanquished. Though we are worms, by His power we will level mountains (overcome all things). And though our tongues are parched (feel deep need) we will find that the Lord Himself has slaked our thirst.
Do something! Anything! - You are nothing! But I AM everything.
God calls the idol-gods into court.
Any of the gods could claim to direct world history as the God has. Anyone can say it. So, God calls them into court for a test case: predict an event and then fulfill the prediction. Right off the bat in this stanza, God subtly derides them. “Bring forth your strong,” [“arguments” is not in the original] throwing light on the fact that the idols would have to be carried into court by those who worship them because of the (hopefully) obvious reason that they can’t walk.
"Present your case," the Lord says.
"Bring forward your strong [arguments],"
The King of Jacob says.
22 Let them bring forth and declare to us what is going to take place;
As for the former events, declare what they were,
That we may consider them, and know their outcome;
Or announce to us what is coming.
23 Declare the things that are going to come afterward,
That we may know that you are gods;
Indeed, do good or evil, that we may anxiously look about us and fear together.
24 Behold, you are of no account,
And your work amounts to nothing;
He who chooses you is an abomination.
“Present your case” - the prosecution rests.
“Bring forward your strong [idols]” - carry in your gods to defend themselves.
The invitation is to explain the flow of history and the tendency of past events. Can they tell where the past is leading? Can they foretell the future? In fact, they can’t even talk. “Do good or evil,” is “Do something, anything!”
Case closed - you can do nothing, and he who chooses you is an abomination.
The court case points overwhelmingly to God who has spoken in the past. God explained where the past promises, covenants, and events surrounding them were leading to. God also predicted the future. And, this is not a pointless showing off of omniscience. There is a point to God’s control of history, His promises from the past, and all events leading to the future - the Servant is coming and He is going to make all things new and right. God not only controls history and makes certain the future; He is going to do something that is beyond the scope of man to fully comprehend. He is going to save sinful, hopeless mankind by the sacrifice of His obedient and perfect Servant. The Servant is the coming Lord Jesus Christ.
"Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold;
My chosen one in whom My soul delights.
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the nations.
2 "He will not cry out or raise His voice,
Nor make His voice heard in the street.
3 "A bruised reed He will not break,
And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish;
He will faithfully bring forth justice.
4 "He will not be disheartened or crushed,
Until He has established justice in the earth;
And the coastlands will wait expectantly for His law."
**This stanza needs a blog all its own. It needs a room in our souls all its own. It is the first of four wonderful Servant Songs in Isaiah. I cannot comprehend the grace, love, and depth of strength that Jesus Christ possessed.
Still, it is more than predicting what will happen, it is making what will happen.
"I have aroused one from the north, and he has come;
From the rising of the sun he will call on My name;
And he will come upon rulers as upon mortar,
Even as the potter treads clay."
26 Who has declared this from the beginning, that we might know?
Or from former times, that we may say, "He is right!"?
Surely there was no one who declared,
Surely there was no one who proclaimed,
Surely there was no one who heard your words.
27 "Formerly I said to Zion, 'Behold, here they are.'
And to Jerusalem, 'I will give a messenger of good news.'
28 "But when I look, there is no one,
And there is no counselor among them
Who, if I ask, can give an answer.
29 "Behold, all of them are false;
Their works are worthless,
Their molten images are wind and emptiness.
God makes the movement of the invader from the north [Cyrus]. “Call on My name,” doesn’t mean that Cyrus, mighty king of Persia, was a believer. Evidence points negative to that question. It more likely means that the rise and career of this great monarch matches God’s predictions and so he proclaims the name of the Lord by fulfilling God’s promise of him.
“I said to Zion,” - “I the Lord predicted it to happen.” Yet then in vv. 28-29, the idols have said nothing. “When I look, there is no one, … who can give an answer?” Silence from the idols. They are worthless.
Application to us in the church is clear. Remember that the greatest graven image is self. The old self has been (Col 3) and must be (Eph 4) put off, i.e. detached from completely. God alone moves all history towards His good pleasure. Self is not a part of that program, but the new man is one of its permanent features. Deny all sin and evil daily and pick up your cross and follow Him.
To His glory,
Pastor Joe Sugrue