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Bible Commentaries

F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary

Isaiah 45

 

 

Verses 9-14

In spite of the fact that the revelation of the glory of the Lord brings to light, as nothing else does, the sinfulness and frailty of man, there is also brought "good tidings," and this it is which furnishes the "comfort" for "My people." Zion and Jerusalem are represented as lifting up the voice and saying to the cities of Judah "Behold your God!"

About the sixth hour on the day of the crucifixion Pilate brought forth Jesus, and said to the crowd in Jerusalem, "Behold your King!" (John 19:14). This provoked the violent cry, "Away with Him, crucify Him." In our Scripture the prophet sees the same wonderful Person, but coming in the splendour of Deity with "strong hand." This will be good tidings indeed, after the painful display of sin and utter weakness on the part of men.

It is the Lord Jehovah who is coming with might; but it is "His Arm" who will rule for Him. As we go through these later chapters of Isaiah we shall find the Lord Jesus presented as the Arm of Jehovah some ten or twelve times. In this character He is seen as the One who executes in power all the will and purpose of Jehovah. He is also presented as the "Servant," who is to carry out the yet more wonderful work of sin-bearing and suffering. In the passages that speak of Him as the Servant we see predictions that view Him in His first advent in grace: in those that present Him as the "Arm" our thoughts are carried on to His second advent in glory.

It is so here in verse Isaiah 40:10. The Arm is going to rule for Jehovah rather than suffer for Him. He will dispense reward and recompence to others in the day of His glory; and at the same time He will be a tender Shepherd to those who are His flock, gathering even the lambs to His bosom. In other words, while ruling in power at His second advent, He will display to His own; all the grace which shone forth in Him at His first advent. As we look abroad in the earth today, we see how badly needed is the ruling power of a strong hand, and men desire to grasp that power so as to rule in their own interests. The Arm of Jehovah will rule "for Him," and what a day that will be when the will of God will be done on earth as it is in heaven!

The verses that follow present to us the greatness and glory of the Creator-God in the most exalted language. So great is He that the mighty oceans lie in the hollow of His hand like a few drops of water; the expanse of the heavens, illimitable to us, is but the span of His hand; the dust of the earth as well as the mountains and hills are but small things, weighed in His scales. As to understanding, the Spirit of the Lord is far above taking any counsel from man.

We live in a day when nations are rising up and asserting themselves, and arming to the hilt, in order to enforce their will. What are they in the presence of God? They are like a small drop which may hang on a finger-tip, when taken out of a bucket of water; or like the small dust left on the scales when the substance weighed therein has been removed — so insignificant that no one pays attention to it. The nations that look so imposing and threatening to us, are counted by Him as "less than nothing, and vanity." It is good for us to measure them by God's standards and not by our own.

God then is great beyond all our thoughts, as verse Isaiah 40:18 indicates, and in the presence of His glory how foolish and contemptible, as verses Isaiah 40:19-20 say, are the makers of graven images that have not even the power of motion. And further, how feeble and insignificant are men, who appear but as grasshoppers, and their princes and judges but as nothing and vanity, and as stubble in the face of a whirlwind. We may also lift up our eyes and behold the mighty creation outside our little earth; all numbered and named by Him, and upheld by Him too, so that not one fails. He who created them has no equal and cannot be likened to any other. We do well to ponder this magnificent passage, for this God of ineffable power and majesty has been made known to us in Christ as our Father.

The closing verses of the chapter, while not revealing Him as Father, do make known His care and support for those who trust in Him. Where all human power fails He gives strength to those who express their trust by waiting upon Him. As they wait their strength is renewed, and granted as it is needed. Some may need the strength that elevates, others the strength that runs the errands appointed of God, and others again that which enables for the steady and continuous walk through life for the pleasure of God. As we wait on God each shall receive the needed strength. The greatness of our God, as well as His goodness is the guarantee of it.

In view of this disclosure of the glory of God a call goes out to all mankind as chapter 41 opens — for the word "people" in verse Isaiah 40:1 should really be in the plural "peoples." God will reason with them as to His governmental ways in the earth. Verse Isaiah 40:2 mentions a king, coming from the east of Palestine, who should be a conqueror, ruling over kings. It seems that this is a prophecy as regards the day in which Isaiah wrote, and was fulfilled in Cyrus, who is named in the verse that opens Isaiah 45:1-25. God raises up whom He pleases to carry out His designs in the earth. In contrast with this men in their folly and blindness manufacture their idols, as stated in verses Isaiah 40:6-7. This controversy with Israel as to their persistent turning to idols continues till we reach the end of Isaiah 48:1-22.

In verses Isaiah 40:8-9 of our chapter Israel is reminded that as the seed of Abraham, who is honoured as "My friend," they are a chosen people and called to be the servant of God. How foolish then this turning to idols! And in the succeeding verses we find the most assuring words of encouragement and support which, if only received in faith, would have lifted them far above any reliance on idolatrous things. They should be upheld and their enemies confounded. The Holy One of Israel would be their Redeemer, and make them like a threshing instrument scattering their foes. Moreover He would be as a fountain of water to them, meeting all their needs.

In the light of this comes the challenge to the idols and their followers. Let them produce their cause; let them foretell the future and "declare things for to come." This they could not do, and an abomination were they and their votaries. A further reference to the coming conqueror from the north-east is found in verses Isaiah 40:25-26, and the chapter closes with words of contempt for the men who supported the idols and the counsels they gave.

This throws into relief the opening of Isaiah 42:1-25, where the prophecy turns from Israel, as the failing servant of God, to introduce the Lord Jesus as the true Servant of God. Our attention is to be fixed on Him for He is the chosen One in whom the delight of God rests. He it is, who will bring forth judgment for the nations, and not only for Israel. Here again we find a prophecy which was fulfilled in part at His first advent, but awaits His second advent for the fulfilment of other details.

The prophecy is quoted in Matthew 12:14-21, as showing the lowliness and forbearance of His coming in grace. The Pharisees were indeed as unreliable and worthless as a bruised reed, and as objectionable as smoking flax, yet He neither broke nor quenched them. He was not an agitator, inflaming the multitude. The powers that were against Him were calculated to make any servant of God be discouraged and fail, yet He carried on His service to the end. He brought forth judgment according to truth by His sacrificial death and resurrection, though we must wait for the second coming to see the public establishment of judgment in the earth, so that the most distant isle shall wait for His law.

Our attention having been called to this true Servant, we have in verses Isaiah 40:5-9, words prophetically addressed to Him. In verse Isaiah 40:5 the acts of God in creation are stressed. Not only are the heavens and the earth the work of His hands but mankind also. He has given us not only the breath of our bodies but also the spirit, that is man's distinguishing feature in contrast to the beasts. Now this mighty Creator has called His true Servant in righteousness and established Him as a covenant to the people and a light to the nations. In verse Isaiah 40:9 Jehovah is presented as declaring new things, so we may discern that the new covenant is predicted here, though not stated with the fulness found in Jeremiah 31:1-40.

We may note that Ezekiel 36:1-38 predicts the new birth, which is needed if the blind eyes are to be opened, as in verse Isaiah 40:7 of our chapter, to "see the kingdom of God," (John 3:3); whilst in Jeremiah we have predicted the new covenant, under which the kingdom will be established. In Isaiah we have many of the new things predicted, that will mark the kingdom when it is finally established under the rule of Christ.

These new things will move those who enter into them to "Sing unto the Lord a new song;" and the thought, of how the glory of the Lord will be manifested and His praise be sung, fills verses Isaiah 40:10-12. But the next verses show that what will bring blessing to His people will mean judgment and destruction to His foes. While the call will come to many who once were deaf and blind, that they may hear and see, the folly and judgment of those who turned to idols will be revealed.

The chapter closes with an appeal to those of Isaiah's day in view of these things. Israel had been called as God's servant and should have been a messenger to the nations on His behalf, yet they had been blind in all essential things. As to privilege they were "perfect," as to their moral state they were blind. Still, as verse Isaiah 40:21 indicates, God is not thereby defeated. His righteousness will be established and His law magnified and made honourable — doubtless in connection with His true Servant. But for the present all was failure on the part of Israel and consequently they were spoiled and robbed, and the law dishonoured by their disobedience.

We might have expected therefore that Isaiah 43:1-28 would have contained further warnings and judgments, but it opens rather on a note of grace. The Apostle Peter wrote to the scattered Jewish believers of his day how, "the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you," which grace meant "salvation" (1 Peter 1:10); and here is a case in point. In the presence of their evil God falls back upon His original purpose and His redeeming work. Redemption by power was what the people looked for, and was mainly the theme here, as the succeeding verses show; but presently there will come before us the far deeper work of the suffering Servant — redemption by blood.

The whole chapter is characterized by two things. First, by the declaration of what God will do in His sovereign mercy for His poor blind and deaf people, who were set up to be His witnesses to the other nations. He will bring down their foes, be they Babylon and the Chaldeans or other peoples, and He will deal with their sins, as indicated in verse Isaiah 40:25. How He will do this in righteousness is not revealed in this chapter; but the result will be that this people whom He had formed for Himself will ultimately show forth His praise, as stated in verse Isaiah 40:21.

But second though all this grace is so strikingly promised, the existing state of the people in rebellion and sin is not glossed over. They are again made to face their fallen state. There is the promise of a re-gathering of their seed from the east and west, from north and south, but at the moment they had turned from the Lord, as verse Isaiah 40:22 says; they did not honour Him with offerings and sacrifices, but wearied Him with their iniquities. As their first father — Adam — had sinned, so they had-followed in his footsteps. Because- of this the curse and reproach lay upon them, imposed by the hand of God.

But yet again, Isaiah 44:1-28 opens with a word of mercy. In spite of his crookedness Jacob was God's servant, chosen by Him, and God is always true to His purpose and able to carry it out. This fact should bring comfort and strength to every believer today. The history of the church, like that of Israel, is one of failure and departure from the Divine call and way, yet the purpose of God for us will stand no less securely than His purpose for Israel. The failure and sin is not excused, though in the presence of it the sovereign grace of God is magnified.

The first eight verses of this chapter breathe out that grace in no uncertain terms. The sovereignty of God is declared, for He is the First and He is the Last, and beside Him there is no "God," or, "Rock," as the margin reads. Consequently, though He will chastise in His holy government, He will ultimately bless according to His original purpose.

But at the time when Isaiah wrote there was among the people this persistent tendency to turn to their idols and false gods. Hence once more, in verses Isaiah 40:9-20 of our chapter, God reasons with the people about their folly in this matter. The work of smith and carpenter are described, as a result of which an image is constructed, "according to the beauty of a man," which can be kept in the house. Then our thoughts are carried to the work of planting trees, or hewing them down, and then the absurdity of using some of the wood for warming oneself, or baking bread and roasting meat, and then out of the remainder fashioning a "god," before which one falls down and asks for deliverance!

The folly and absurdity of such doings should have been plain to all the people, but it was not. How was it that their eyes were closed and their understanding darkened? The trouble lay in their hearts, which were deceived. Hence they were unable to consider and discern the lie in their " right hand." The position today is just the same. Why do so many take up the erroneous religious cults that abound? The trouble lies not so much in their intellects as in their hearts. It is true for them as for Israel of old that, "a deceived heart hath turned him aside."

Having thus reasoned with the people, once more the prophet announces the merciful interposition of God, both in its ultimate display, which is still future, and in its more immediate display in the raising up of an eastern monarch, who should be favourable to them. As to the future, they would yet be the servant of God, their transgressions and sins blotted out. This would be accomplished on the basis of redemption so that the very heavens as well as the earth will break into song, and the Lord Himself be glorified.

Then in the closing verses a deliverance that reached them about two centuries later is predicted, and Cyrus is named long before he was born The statement that Jerusalem and the temple should be rebuilt clearly indicated that they should be destroyed, and this would confound the tokens of the lying diviners, who were always saying smooth and prosperous things, as other scriptures show. Judgment would fall, but mercy would in its season be shown, and the man through whom it would reach them is named.

In the opening verses of Isaiah 45:1-25, the prophet speaks to Cyrus on God's behalf, though as yet he had no existence. He was to be raised up as anointed for this particular service and his hand would be holden of God till it was accomplished. The details given in verses Isaiah 40:1-3 were strikingly fulfilled, as we find recorded in the book of Daniel, though Darius the Mede is the conqueror mentioned there. He was the commander of the Medo-Persian army, but the rising power of Cyrus the Persian lay behind him. As we read these verses, we see Belshazzar, and "the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another" (Daniel 5:6). We see the great gates of Babylon open and broken; and then, as a result of the fall of the great city "the treasures of darkness, and hidden riches of secret places" are in the hands of Cyrus. We see here an allusion to the vessels of the house of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had carried to Babylon, being restored, as recorded in Ezra 1:7-11.

Here then is a remarkable prophecy that was literally fulfilled within two hundred years of its utterance. God called him by his name, and surnamed him, though Cyrus had not known Him. Yet the words of the decree of Cyrus, recorded in 2 Chronicles 36:23; and again in Ezra 1:2; would make it likely that in some way Isaiah's prophecy was brought to his notice.

With Israel's penitent idolatry still in mind, Jehovah declares in the succeeding verses His surpassing greatness. All things are in His hands. He creates the light and the darkness, the peace and the "evil," in the sense off disaster. Man is but a potsherd of the earth — the broken piece of a pot! Let man recognize his own littleness. Let him strive with another potsherd like himself if he will, but let him not strive with the Creator. It is not fitting that a man should strive with his father or mother, much less with his Maker. Verses Isaiah 40:5, Isaiah 40:13-14 again refer to Cyrus and the way in which God would raise him up. It would be "in righteousness," for he would carry into effect the will of God; and to do the will of God is righteousness.

The raising up of Cyrus and the granting to him such wide dominion was a surprising act, in view of the previous power and magnificence of Babylon. We need not wonder that it is claimed as a display of the surpassing power of God, in the presence of which idols are nothing.


Verse 14

The power of God, that, by the raising up of Cyrus, would accomplish His purpose to release those whom He calls, "My captives," would only be perceived by faith. Therefore the prophet exclaims "Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself." A servant of God has very truly and aptly remarked, "God's ways are behind the scenes, but He moves all the scenes which He is behind."

Men may act to achieve their own purposes without any thought of God and yet God may be behind their doings, overruling them to serve His own ends. Israel is to know God as Saviour and be delivered from their idols. This was in part accomplished when by the decree of Cyrus a remnant returned to their own land; for after that deliverance the demon of idolatry was cast put of them, and outwardly they served the God of their fathers. But the everlasting salvation mentioned in verse Isaiah 45:17 is not yet theirs. Each "salvation" as yet granted to them has only lasted for a time. When it does come by the advent of Christ, it will abide "world without end," or, "to the ages of ages."

This promised salvation is guaranteed most solemnly in verses Isaiah 45:18-19 by Jehovah Himself who is the Creator. As Creator He had formed the earth for mankind to inhabit it. He did not create it "in vain," or "as waste;" an allusion doubtless to Genesis 1:2 where the earth was found in a condition described as, "without form," or "as waste;" the same expression being used there as here. When the earth, subsequent to its original creation, had become waste, He reduced it to form and order for the use of man. He who had done this now guaranteed salvation for Israel. He promised openly and in righteousness. This made it certain that the salvation when it arrived would be accomplished in a righteous way; just as the righteousness in which every believer now stands before God is brought to pass on a righteous basis.

So the call of God to the seed of Jacob had not been in vain. But not only Israel is in view but Gentiles also, as verse Isaiah 45:20 shows. The call is to those that are, "escaped of the nations," which shows that judgment will fall on the nations, and only those that escape it will enter into the blessing that is promised, just as it is only the remnant of Israel that will be saved. The nations had been full of idolatry, praying to "a god that cannot save," so they are called, that they may know a God who can save.

Verses Isaiah 45:21-25 furnish a remarkable forecast of the Gospel, as it is unfolded in Romans 3:1-31. Against the dark background of idolatry the Lord presents Himself as "a just God and a Saviour." The law had revealed Him to Israel as a just God who judges all their ways. Only in the Gospel is He declared to be God, who saves in righteousness. Christ has been "set forth... a propitiation through faith in His blood... to declare... at this time His righteousness; that He might be just, and the Justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (Romans 3:25, Romans 3:26).

In our chapter, not only are justice and salvation brought together but faith is also indicated, though not mentioned, for the way in which the salvation is to become effective is stated as, "Look unto Me." No works of law are demanded but the look of faith, for beyond all contradiction in an emergency we look to someone in whom we believe, and hence in whom we trust. And again, the call goes out far beyond the bounds of Israel, for any to "the ends of the earth" may look and be saved. In Romans 3:21, this righteousness of God apart from the law is said to be "witnessed by the law and the prophets," and the verses we are considering are certainly one item of witness furnished by the prophets.

Verse Isaiah 45:22 then conveys an invitation to faith, but verse Isaiah 45:23 shows that God in His majesty must be acknowledged by all, though many may not have answered the invitation in faith. And how is this bowing of the knee and the swearing of the tongue to come to pass? Philippians 2:10, Philippians 2:11, answers the question conclusively. The Person of the Godhead, to whom the obeisance and confession will be universally made, is no other than the Lord Jesus, who accomplished the righteousness by His obedience unto death. Righteousness and strength are found only in Him, and as the last verse says, it is "the seed of Israel" who will glory in Him as a justified people. Many who are "seed of Jacob" according to the flesh, are not "seed of Israel" according to God.

Before leaving this chapter notice how in the latter part of it the exclusive claim of Jehovah is emphasised again and again. Beside Him there is "none else." The faith of Christ, and the Gospel which proclaims it, have today just this exclusive claim, as witnessed in such scriptures as John 6:68; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Galatians 1:8, Galatians 1:9. There are today men who would go to the Buddhist or Confucian acknowledging their religions as ways to God and only claiming that "Christianity" offers them a rather superior way. In so doing they bung themselves near to, if not actually under, the apostolic curse of Galatians 1:8, while they avoid the reproach that the Gospel brings. It is this exclusive claim, inherent in the Gospel, which provokes the opposition.

The opening verses of Isaiah 46:1-13 pick up the theme that runs through these chapters — that of the persistent idolatry of the people. Bel and Nebo were two of the idols of Babylon, and the prophet sees the images representing them placed upon beasts ready for flight, just as at the beginning of the last chapter he had seen Cyrus taking the city. The word translated, "carriages," means "things lifted up to be carried," not the vehicle on which they are placed.

So verses Isaiah 45:1-2 are really ironical. The heavy images were placed on the backs of oxen, that staggered and finally collapsed, unable to deliver the gods into safety. Bel and Nebo could not even deliver themselves; much less anyone who trusted in them!

Hence the appeal of verses Isaiah 45:3-4. It is made, notice, to "the house of Jacob," in contrast to "the seed of Israel," mentioned previously, even if amongst them were to be found a remnant of the house of Israel. In contrast to the Babylonian gods that had to be borne on the backs of weary beasts so ineffectually, here is One who would support and carry, from their birth to the grey hairs of old age, those who trusted Him; One who would never let them down but deliver them. How great the contrast!

The contrast exists around us today. It is still a pertinent question — Do you go your way, carrying the things that you idolize, or does your God carry you? The idols of the modern English-speaking world are not images but more subtle things, such as money, pleasures, lusts; yet as life draws to its end they let you down. The God, whom we know, revealed in our Lord Jesus Christ, carries us through to the finish, for we are in the embrace of the love that will never let us go.

Hence, as verse Isaiah 45:5 declares, God stands out alone, beyond all comparison with any other. This fact is supported by a further reference to the follies that are inherent in idolatry. Here are men falling down and worshipping a god, fashioned by their own hands, which is a stationary object, unable to move or speak or save. And here is the true God, who acts and speaks, and foretells things that presently come to pass. The "ravenous bird [bird of prey] from the east," is doubtless another allusion to Cyrus, whom He would raise up to execute His purpose in the near future. Then from that which was comparatively near the prophecy passes to the ultimate purpose of God, which was remote. At last God will place salvation "in Zion," which speaks of His intervention in mercy, and the redeemed Israel who will enjoy it, will show forth the glory of the God who has accomplished it.

Isaiah 46:1-13 commenced with a forecast of the Babylonian gods falling into ruin and captivity. Isaiah 47:1-15 from start to finish pronounces judgment on Babylon itself. Just as the mystical Babylon of Revelation 17:1-18; Revelation 18:1-24 is viewed as a woman, so here, only the picture is not so dark. Babylon here, for instance, is addressed as "virgin daughter," and not as "the great whore," and as "the mother of harlots." It is a solemn thought that the mystical Babylon, to which an apostate Christendom is working up, is more filthy in the eyes of God than the literal Babylon of Old Testament times.

The ancient Babylon was indeed for a short period "the lady [mistress] of kingdoms," but her downfall is foretold. Verse Isaiah 45:6 strikes us as very remarkable, inasmuch as the things alleged against her had not actually taken place and did not come to pass till the days of Nebuchadnezzar. Then the wrath of God against the evils of His people condemned them to be carried away, and His inheritance polluted by the temple being destroyed. God permitted it; the Babylonian monarch did it with a heavy hand, and upon Babylon will come the heavy hand of God's judgment, in a day when there should be executed "the vengeance of the Lord our God, the vengeance of His temple" (Jeremiah 50:28).

So Isaiah was led to prophesy what Babylon would do to Jerusalem a century before it happened, and to foretell also how Babylon later should be overthrown, since Jehovah is "our Redeemer... the Holy One of Israel" (verse Isaiah 45:4). He spoke too of the unexpected way in which the destruction would come upon them, as we see in verse Isaiah 45:11, the fulfilment of which we find in Daniel 5:1-31.

Verse Isaiah 45:13 speaks of the men who practised the dark arts of spiritism, in which Babylon trusted, for that city was apparently the original home of idolatry, which means the worship of demon powers. All such evil powers collapse when God acts in judgment. But it is this feature, we believe, that accounts for Babylon, rather than any other ancient city, being carried into Revelation with a spiritual application; for of that Babylon we read it had "become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit," and again that by its "sorceries were all nations deceived."

Having pronounced judgment against Babylon, the prophecy turns again in Isaiah 48:1-22, to the "house of Jacob, which are called by the name of Israel." The fact that they were thus addressed constituted a rebuke. Israel was the new name given to Jacob when God blessed him, as we learn in Genesis 32:28. The people claimed the new name, but were displaying all the ugly features of the old crafty, scheming Jacob. Outwardly they paid lip service to Jehovah and stayed themselves upon the holy city and the God of Israel, but without reality. They deceived themselves but not God, for He saw it was "not in truth, nor in righteousness."

This kind of thing has always been a great snare to the professed people of God. It came to a head, particularly in the Pharisees, when our Lord was on earth, and His most searching words of denunciation were directed against such. It is very prevalent today, for 2 Timothy 3:5 shows that "a form of godliness" may cover up hideous depravity. Let every reader of these lines, as well as the writer, beware of it. Spiritual pretension is a peculiar snare to those who are well instructed in the things of God, for they know the right and appropriate and even beautiful thing to say, and they may claim much without any heart and reality in it.

So the first eight verses of this chapter are filled with solemn words of exposure and warning. Here they were, trafficking with their idols, as verse Isaiah 45:5 indicates, and giving them credit for anything favourable that came to pass, while still professedly serving God. And all the time it was God who was able to speak in advance and show the former things, and then suddenly bring them to pass, as verse Isaiah 45:3 states. The fact was that their ears were closed to God's word so that they did not hear. They were marked by treachery and transgression as verse Isaiah 45:8 declares.

Once more the obstinate sins of the people are thus exposed — so what then? Just when we might have expected further announcements of coming judgment, God states what He proposes to do for the sake of His own Name and praise. He will defer His anger and not cut them off entirely, though He is going to pass them through the furnace of affliction. He will consider not only their ultimate good as a nation but also His own glory and the honour of His own Name.

In verse Isaiah 45:12 God Himself is still the Speaker. He presents Himself, saying, "I am He," or, "I am THE SAME," for it is really a name of God. He is not only "the FIRST" but also "the LAST." When we reach the book of Revelation, (Revelation 1:17 and Revelation 22:13), we find the Lord Jesus claiming these august designations for Himself; and indeed we may discern Him as the Speaker in the Old Testament passage before us, for it was His hand that, "laid the foundation of the earth," and "spanned the heavens," as Hebrews 1:2 assures us. He who had so wrought in creation would not fail to work out His purpose and pleasure on Babylon and the Chaldeans, and in favour of His people.

We may discern the same Speaker in verse Isaiah 45:16. There may have been a more immediate application of verses Isaiah 45:14-15 to Cyrus, who was destined to overthrow Babylon and grant a respite to the Jews, but the full and lasting fulfilment is only found in Christ, who is the Sent One of the Lord Jehovah; and that, whether we read the end of the verse as in our Authorised Version, or that the Lord God "hath sent Me and His Spirit," as in other Versions. In John's Gospel particularly is the Lord Jesus presented as "the Sent One." In the Acts we have the sending of the Spirit. We may call the closing words of verse Isaiah 45:16 a preliminary intimation of the Trinity, though the real revelation of it awaited New Testament days.

The coming of Christ having thus been forecast, the "Holy One of Israel" is presented as Redeemer and the One who will ultimately teach and lead the people in the way that will be for their profit and blessing, though for the moment they were not hearkening to His Word. The blessing they were missing by' their inattention and disobedience is strikingly pictured in verses Isaiah 45:18-19. There would have been peace based on righteousness. What they missed then, in a more material way, is now being proclaimed in a spiritual way in the Gospel.

Yet, as verses Isaiah 45:20-21 show, God will work in days to come for the redemption of Israel from their foes, and do for them again what once He did when under Moses He brought them through the wilderness and into the land.

But this does not mean that God is going to condone evil. Far from it. To reach the blessing Israel must be delivered from their sin, since there is no peace for the wicked, as verse Isaiah 45:22 asserts. This verse marks the end of a distinct section — the first 9 chapters of the closing 27 chapters — in which the main offence alleged against the people is their persistent idolatry. Against that dark background the only bright light shining is the predicted advent of Christ.

So as we commence Isaiah 49:1-26, and so pass into the central section, we immediately hear His voice in the spirit of prophecy, calling upon us to listen to Him. In the Gospel of John He is introduced to us as "the Word," the One in whom the whole mind of God is expressed; and at the transfiguration the voice out of the cloud said, "Hear ye Him." So we are not surprised that prophetically He should say, "Listen... unto Me." What might surprise us, and might well surprise an attentive Jewish reader is that He should address His call to the "isles," and to "peoples from afar," for the word, we understand, is in the plural, indicating the distant nations, and not the people of Israel. But so it was; and thus at the start of this new section it is intimated that what He has to say, and what He will accomplish, will be for the benefit of all men and not only for the people of Israel.

His words will cut like a sword and pierce like an arrow when He comes forth from the Divine quiver, for He shall appear as the true Servant of God and the true Israel; i.e., "Prince of God." As the earlier chapters have shown the national Israel had been called to serve God but had failed completely. This true Israel is declared to be called from the womb, made a "polished shaft" to fly unerringly as directed, and in Him, Jehovah says, "I will be glorified." We can now say, In whom He has been glorified, and in whom He will yet be glorified in a supreme and public way.

And then, in our chapter, comes verse Isaiah 45:4. How often it has been the case in this fallen world that the servants of God have had to taste the bitterness of defeat and apparent failure. Indeed it seems to have been the rule rather than the exception. The supreme example of this is found in our Lord Himself. He came, as the Apostle Paul states, "A Minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm The promises made unto the fathers" (Romans 15:8); but, rejected by "the circumcision," His mission from that standpoint was marked by failure. He did indeed labour, but it was "in vain." His strength was put forth, but "for naught." Thus it was to all appearance, and according to the judgment of man.

"Yet" says the Messiah, "surely My judgment is with the Lord and My work with My God." His labour, His work, the exertion of His strength was not in vain, for God had entrusted to His Servant a task far deeper and wider and more wonderful than being just "a Minister of the circumcision," as we shall find intimated in our chapter, though we must travel into the New Testament to get a full view of its greatness.

Into that full light we today have been brought, so that with full hearts we can take up the little hymn that begins,

His be "the Victor's name,"and go on to sing,

By weakness and defeat,

He won the meed and crown;

Trod all our foes beneath His feet,

By being trodden down.

 


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Bibliography Information
Hole, Frank Binford. "Commentary on Isaiah 45:4". "F. B. Hole's Old and New Testament Commentary". http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/fbh/isaiah-45.html. 1947.

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