In Isaiah 44 we encounter a passage which is full of assurance of the love, sovereignty, and justice of God. The prophet has demonstrated that Israel has been justly judged by God and their time of exile is a result of their own sinfulness, but here he shows that God has not cast off his people but rather is loving towards them. In some ways, there is a tension in this chapter between grace and judgement but in the end grace triumphs. God never takes sin lightly and he, therefore, speaks strongly against it but this is not the end of the matter because He is a gracious God. We can never take God’s grace for granted and the effect of that grace is shown in transformed lives. The God of the Bible speaks to bring comfort to those who are fearful, to bring hope in times of darkness and difficulty. Let us now look at how God speaks through Isaiah to his people.
“But now listen, Jacob, my servant,
Israel, whom I have chosen.
2 This is what the LORD says—
he who made you, who formed you in the womb,
and who will help you:
Do not be afraid, Jacob, my servant,
Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.
3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
and my blessing on your descendants.
4 They will spring up like grass in a meadow,
like poplar trees by flowing streams.
5 Some will say, ‘I belong to the LORD’;
others will call themselves by the name of Jacob;
still others will write on their hand, ‘The LORD’s,’
and will take the name Israel.(Is 44:1–6).
The reason the Lord says that they are not to fear is because he is their God, who formed the nation in the first place and has cared for it ever since. Notice how he reassures them of his love, he is going to help them. they have felt distant from God and they feel as though they are dry ground, parched by the constant scorching of the sun, how can anything grow in these circumstances. God makes the promise to water the ground of their lives by pouring out His Spirit on them. This coming of the Spirit brings his blessing with it, notice that the promise is made to the offspring as well. the result of this outpouring is that people are able and willing to identify themselves as followers of God. There is a deep and profound assurance in their hearts which gives them the ability to stand firm as the people of God. This passage should encourage us to turn to the Lord at all times, confessing our sins before a gracious and holy God.
6 “This is what the LORD says—
Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty:
I am the first and I am the last;
apart from me there is no God.
7 Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it.
Let him declare and lay out before me
what has happened since I established my ancient people,
and what is yet to come—
yes, let them foretell what will come.
8 Do not tremble, do not be afraid.
Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago?
You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me?
No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.” (Is 44:6–8)
The LORD proclaims his own sovereignty and uniqueness, he is the one in control of all things, the Lord of all history. The Lord knows what is going to happen and is the only one who can reveal it exactly. These statements make good theology but more importantly, they make a solid foundation for the believer’s life of faith, This God is our God and he can be trusted he is our Rock.
9 All who make idols are nothing,
and the things they treasure are worthless.
Those who would speak up for them are blind;
they are ignorant, to their own shame.
10 Who shapes a god and casts an idol,
which can profit nothing?
11 People who do that will be put to shame;
such craftsmen are only human beings.
Let them all come together and take their stand;
they will be brought down to terror and shame.
12 The blacksmith takes a tool
and works with it in the coals;
he shapes an idol with hammers,
he forges it with the might of his arm.
He gets hungry and loses his strength;
he drinks no water and grows faint.
13 The carpenter measures with a line
and makes an outline with a marker;
he roughs it out with chisels
and marks it with compasses.
He shapes it in human form,
human form in all its glory,
that it may dwell in a shrine.
14 He cut down cedars,
or perhaps took a cypress or oak.
He let it grow among the trees of the forest,
or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow.
15 It is used as fuel for burning;
some of it he takes and warms himself,
he kindles a fire and bakes bread.
But he also fashions a god and worships it;
he makes an idol and bows down to it.
16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire;
over it he prepares his meal,
he roasts his meat and eats his fill.
He also warms himself and says,
“Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.”
17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol;
he bows down to it and worships.
He prays to it and says,
“Save me! You are my god!”
18 They know nothing, they understand nothing;
their eyes are plastered over so they cannot see,
and their minds closed so they cannot understand.
19 No one stops to think,
no one has the knowledge or understanding to say,
“Half of it I used for fuel;
I even baked bread over its coals,
I roasted meat and I ate.
Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left?
Shall I bow down to a block of wood?”
20 Such a person feeds on ashes; a deluded heart misleads him;
he cannot save himself, or say,
“Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”. (Is 44:9–20)
The prophet then addresses the folly of idolatry in the light of the revelation of who God is, this is a scathing critique but it is a necessary warning given Israel’s propensity to go after false God’s. He hammers the point home and shows how false worship can come about in an unthinking way. We need to be careful that we also avoid the idols of our own time because we are just as likely to put other things in the place of the living God.
21 “Remember these things, Jacob,
for you, Israel, are my servant.
I have made you, you are my servant;
Israel, I will not forget you.
22 I have swept away your offenses like a cloud,
your sins like the morning mist.
Return to me,
for I have redeemed you.”
23 Sing for joy, you heavens, for the LORD has done this;
shout aloud, you earth beneath.
Burst into song, you mountains,
you forests and all your trees,
for the LORD has redeemed Jacob,
he displays his glory in Israel. (Is 44:21–24)
The Lord once again reminds his people of their love for them and his gracious forgiveness of their sins. The LORD insists that he will not forget his people. He calls them to return to him, they need to repent of their sins and receive his forgiveness and then they will be able to praise the Lord along with the created order.
24 “This is what the LORD says—
your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb:
I am the LORD,
the Maker of all things,
who stretches out the heavens,
who spreads out the earth by myself,
25 who foils the signs of false prophets
and makes fools of diviners,
who overthrows the learning of the wise
and turns it into nonsense,
26 who carries out the words of his servants
and fulfills the predictions of his messengers,
who says of Jerusalem, ‘It shall be inhabited,’
of the towns of Judah, ‘They shall be rebuilt,’
and of their ruins, ‘I will restore them,’
27 who says to the watery deep, ‘Be dry,
and I will dry up your streams,’
28 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd
and will accomplish all that I please;
he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,”
and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.” ’ (Is 44:24–28)
God has decided to bring about blessing for his people and as the creator of the earth, he is more than able to do this thing. He will overturn the teachings of false prophets and the statements of the wise, he will remain faithful to his promises and therefore he can be relied upon. The promise of these verses was fulfilled literally.
22 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing:
23 “This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:
“ ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up, and may the LORD their God be with them.’ ” (2 Ch 36:22–23)
Ezra also records this in the first chapter of his book, the fact that God is a God who keeps his word should be a tremendous comfort to us. The sovereign Lord is on the throne and we are his children, he cares for us greatly and will use his sovereign power to protect us and bring us to the place of blessing.