Isaiah part 37: God delivers from captivity (44:24-48:22)Posted: Fri. Apr, 30 2021
The logical next step in Isaiah’s presentation is deliverance from captivity. In their near future the deliverer will be Cyrus, king of Persia, who is anointed by God though a pagan who does not know God. That is followed in Isaiah’s presentation by the promised deliverance of the Servant (49-53). Cyrus will solve their immediate national problem, while the Christ shall solve their eternal spiritual problem. God beautifully conveys His revelation of salvation of Israel and the world.
In the previous section, Isaiah diagnosed a double need in the Lord’s people, national bondage (42:18-43:21) and sinning against their spiritual relationship to God (43:22-44:23). God now turns to how these needs are to be met, initially by Cyrus and then by the Messiah as an eternal deliverance unto the nation and their very hearts. Cyrus is an unlikely but clear type of Christ.
“It is I who says of Cyrus, 'He is My shepherd!
And he will perform all My desire.'”
Thus says the Lord to Cyrus His anointed,
I send you away, but I will not forget you.
As the prophet wrapped up the last section of Israel’s problems and God’s promise of comfort, God tells them, as they go into captivity, that He will not forget them.
“Remember these things, O Jacob,
And Israel, for you are My servant;
I have formed you, you are My servant,
O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me.”
God is going to anoint a pagan from amongst Israel’s enemies to deliver the captives from Babylon. The captives in Babylon, however, seeing an even greater and more powerful conqueror take Babylon, would only fear even greater bondage, but Isaiah assures them that He alone is greater than all accompanied by the promise of deliverance and the rebuilding of the Temple and Jerusalem. History runs in the interests of God’s people, even when it doesn’t seem so on the surface.
And he declares of Jerusalem, 'She will be built,'
And of the temple, 'Your foundation will be laid.'"
They don’t like God’s choice of deliverer.
God anticipates that there will be many in Israel who will disagree with His choice of deliverer. If a pagan king sends them home rather than a hero from the royal line of David, then they would have no sovereign state and no Davidic revival in Jerusalem. And they would be right. The times of the Gentiles, when Gentiles would rule Jerusalem, began when the glory of the Lord left her at captivity and will continue until the Lord’s second coming. We have the benefit of hindsight and know that this had to be the case. Yet still, God would deliver them to their home and would eventually send them His Servant. They had nothing to complain about. When they do, God responds tersely, “It’s none of your business.”
"Woe to the one who quarrels with his Maker —
An earthenware vessel among the vessels of earth!
Will the clay say to the potter, 'What are you doing?'
Or the thing you are making say, 'He has no hands'?
10 "Woe to him who says to a father, 'What are you begetting?'
Or to a woman, 'To what are you giving birth?'"
11 Thus says the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker:
"Ask Me about the things to come concerning My sons,
And you shall commit to Me the work of My hands.
12 "It is I who made the earth, and created man upon it.
I stretched out the heavens with My hands,
And I ordained all their host.
13 "I have aroused him [Cyrus] in righteousness,
And I will make all his ways smooth;
He will build My city, and will let My exiles go free,
Without any payment or reward," says the Lord of hosts.
This is a great lesson for us all. We must accept the way that God says is right through His word, no matter how much it may divert from our preconceived notions.
God’s sovereign purpose is wonderfully on display in this section. He is going to do what He pleases to do as seen in the following passages.
“Even to your old age, I shall be the same,
And even to your graying years I shall bear you!
I have done it, and I shall carry you;
And I shall bear you, and I shall deliver you.”
“Remember this, and be assured;
Recall it to mind, you transgressors.
9 "Remember the former things long past,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is no one like Me,
10 Declaring the end from the beginning
And from ancient times things which have not been done,
Saying,'My purpose will be established,
And I will accomplish all My good pleasure';
11 Calling a bird of prey from the east,
The man of My purpose from a far country.
Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass.
I have planned it, surely I will do it.”
“But these two things shall come on you suddenly in one day:
Loss of children and widowhood.
They shall come on you in full measure
In spite of your many sorceries,
In spite of the great power of your spells.”
“For My own sake, for My own sake, I will act;
For how can My name be profaned?
And My glory I will not give to another.”
“I, even I, have spoken; indeed I have called him [Cyrus],
I have brought him, and He will make his ways successful.”
The captives from Judea will be released from Babylon. Babylon itself will be taken captive by Cyrus. Yet, Isaiah relates to us the reaction of God’s people. The Lord’s plan to use Cyrus, a Persian pagan rather than a Jewish hero, is greeted with hostility, and the hearts of the people harden towards it upon which they are called rebels, stubborn-hearted, and far from righteousness.
“Remember this, and be assured;
Recall it to mind, you transgressors [Hebrew pasha - rebel].”
"Listen to Me, you stubborn-minded,
Who are far from righteousness.”
Chapter 48, the very chapter that announces their liberation, is a storm-center of denunciation, accusing them of being without title to the name of Israel (vs. 1), stubborn (vs. 4), idol-loving (vs. 5), opinionated (vs. 7), treacherous (vs. 8) and having forfeited peace (vs. 18). Thus, when they finally leave Babylon they do so with the Lord’s sad comment that “there is no peace for the wicked.”
Liberation from Babylon solves only one problem. We find in the later prophets and in Ezra and Nehemiah that Judah fails to obey God after their home is restored to them. There is a need for a solution to the deeper problem of sin, the cancer of their spiritual lives, and that becomes the one urgent need. So Cyrus enters and leaves the stage of history having completed the lesser task; while the greater task awaits the greater Servant.
State-craft, nationhood, land, walled cities, money and influence all mean nothing in the face of man’s real problem - his lack of spirituality. We find the same thing played out when the people wanted to make Jesus king after He fed the 5,000, but Jesus withdrew Himself from them.
Jesus therefore perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force, to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.
Their minds were on the lesser solution and not the greater. Jesus revealed this to them when they met up again the next day on the other side of the sea. He told them:
“Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled.”
They looked for fulfillment of the physical. The miracle (signs) meant that One was in their midst who could solve the spiritual problem as well as the physical, but the greater must happen before the lesser.
"Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you, for on Him the Father, even God, has set His seal."