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ISAIAH - CHAPTER 41
ISRAEL’S DELIVERANCE AND RESTORATION
Though this chapter is widely considered to point to deliverance from the Babylonian captivity, some aspects of it require a far more extensive view. In his monumental work entitled "The Theocratic Kingdom", George N. H. Peters views this chapter as describing "the advent of Christ, the confederacy sustained by image worship, their overthrow, the restoration of God’s people and the millennial glory that shall follow", (Vol. 2, p. 769). Some are inclined to ignore the fact that the "times of the Gentiles" has now extended over a period of 2,500 years. Nor will Gentile ascendancy be easily surrendered. Only through a terrible conflict will the Davidic throne and kingdom be re-established and its rule yielded to the absolute authority of the long-expected Messiah. Though the nation once rejected Him, Israel will ultimately receive Him with joyful and grateful hearts.
1. Having shown what comfort, renewal and peace is given those who "wait on the Lord", the idolators, of the nations, are now summoned to: strengthen themselves, draw near and vindicate their choice of dumb idols over the true and living God, (vs. 1-4; comp. Isaiah 1:18; Isaiah 34:1; Isaiah 48:16; Isaiah 50:8; Isaiah 43:26).
a. Do they know who has raised up the man from the East, whose actions are rooted in righteousness? (vs. 2, 25; Isaiah 45:1-2; Isaiah 46:11; Judges 4:10) the one before whom kings and nations bow; their armaments being like dust to His sword (Isaiah 29:5; 2 Samuel 22:43; 2 Kings 13:7) and like stubble before the wind, (40:24)?
1) In a typical sense this refers to Cyrus, who had not yet been born at the time Isaiah wrote, (2 Chronicles 36:23).
2) But, the larger, fulfillment will be realized only in the second coming of Jesus, the Messiah.
b. Do the nations know who has done all this - "calling the generations from the beginning"? (vs. 4a; Isaiah 44; Isaiah 7; Isaiah 46:10)
c. They must realize that all this is the work of Jehovah -Israel’s covenant God - "the first, and with the last", (vs. 4b; Isaiah 43:10; Isaiah 44:6).
2. Idolatrous nations, to the ends of the earth, recognize the Lord’s challenge, and tremble, (vs. 5-7; Ezekiel 26:15-16; Joshua 5:1; Psalms 67:7).
a. In fear they unite and try to encourage each other, (Joel 3:9-11).
b. The manufacturers of portable gods place their workmen on overtime; they will greatly increase the number of gods to whom they may look for help, (Isaiah 40:19; Isaiah 44:13).
c. Declaring the work of their own hands to be "good", they then fasten their deities securely with nails - lest they fall over and be unable to arise, (Isaiah 40:20; Isaiah 46:7), so different from our living God, Psalms 115:5-9; Acts 17:24-30.
Vs. 8-16: GOD’S CARE FOR ISRAEL, HIS SERVANT
1. With what tender affection does the Lord address His own people, (vs. 8).
a. Israel is His "servant" - a word that is used very flexibly (of the patriarchs, of Job, Moses, David, Cyrus, Israel and the remnant; but, pre-eminently of the Messiah) - something that must not be overlooked, (Isaiah 43:10; Isaiah 44:1-2; Isaiah 44:21; etc.).
b. Jacob is His "elect", or chosen, people, (Isaiah 45:4; Isaiah 65:9; Isaiah 65:22).
c. That relationship is strengthened, and sustained, by the fact that they are the "seed" of Abraham, God’s friend, (Isaiah 29:22; Isaiah 51:2; Isaiah 63:16; James 2:23; Hebrews 2:16).
2. On His own initiative, God has called them from the ends of the earth, saying: "You are my servant, I have chosen you, and not cast you away" - though He surely would have been justified in doing so, (vs. 9; Isaiah 11:11; Isaiah 43:5-7; Deuteronomy 7:6; Deuteronomy 14:2; Psalms 135:4).
3. They are not to fear, or be dismayed; their God is with them - to strengthen, help and uphold them with the right hand of His righteousness, (vs. 10, 13-14; Isaiah 43:2; Isaiah 43:5; Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1; Joshua 9; Psalms 27:1; Romans 8:31; Isaiah 44:2; Isaiah 49:8; Psalms 89:13-18).
4. All who have been incensed and raged against God’s elect people will be ashamed, confounded and brought to nothing; though a search .be made for them, they will not be found! (vs. 11-12; Isaiah 45:24; Ezekiel 23:22; Psalms 37:35-36).
5. Though her enemies regard her as a despised and helpless "worm", Israel will be comforted and sustained by "the Holy One of Israel" (vs. 13-14).
a. Again and again He affixes His name to His declaration of intention concerning the welfare of His people - this name appearing 25 times in this prophecy, and only 6 times elsewhere in the entire Old Testament.
b. He will hold her hand and calm her fears, (Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 42:10).
c. The Holy One of Israel is also her Kinsman-Redeemer, (see Leviticus 25:48-49; Isaiah 43:14; Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 48:17; Isaiah 49:26; Isaiah 54:5; Isaiah 54:8; Isaiah 60:16).
6. In the Lord’s hand Israel will become a disciplinary instrument toward her foes and those of her God, (vs. 15-16).
Vs. 17-20: RIVERS OF REFRESHMENT
1. When the poor and needy thirst - seeking water - the Lord will not fail them, (vs. 17).
2. He will provide rivers on the bare heights and pools in the valleys, (vs. 18).
a. This language, suggesting refreshment and prosperity after affliction, is designed to encourage the exiles in Babylon - for Isaiah well knew that his brethren were going there.
b. But the language may be applied only in a limited sense to the return from Babylon; no miracles are recorded in connection with that Exodus.
c. The fuller realization is to come through the Messiah (comp. Isaiah 30:25; John 7:37-39; John 4:14) - especially when the spirit is poured upon them at His second coming, (Isaiah 32:15).
3. When the nations see what blessings the Lord bestows upon Israel, at the time of her restoration, they will also see Him, (Vs. 19-20; Isaiah 2:3, Zechariah 8:21-23).
Vs. 21-24: A CHALLENGE TO THE IDOLS
1. In the presence of the nations Jehovah (the King of Jacob)
openly challenges the idols to justify their existence, vs. 21).
2. He challenges them to foretell future events, or even to explain from the past, things over which they exercise control - if they have any power at all! (vs. 22; comp. Isaiah 43:9; Isaiah 44:7; Isaiah 45:21; Isaiah 46:10-11).
3. If they are truly gods, surely they have both intelligence and authority!
a. Let them declare some future event if they want men to know that they are gods, (Isaiah 42:9; Isaiah 44:8; Isaiah 45:3; John 13:19).
b. Or, let them perform some act - either good or evil (Jeremiah 10:5-6); either action would cause all observers to look at each other in surprise! (cs. 29; Isaiah 37:18-19; Isaiah 44:9).
4. Then the Lord flatly declares them to be worse than nothing (1 Corinthians 8:4), their effect worse than a viper; whoever chooses them is an abomination to the Lord! (Proverbs 3:32; Proverbs 28:9; comp. Deuteronomy 18:12).
Vs. 25-29: THE SUPREMACY OF JEHOVAH
1. One hundred fifty years before the event, the Lord alluded to the coming of Cyrus, the Mede, (vs. 25; Isaiah 45:1-3; Isaiah 46:11).
a. He will raise him up in the north (from Babylon) - Media, (Jeremiah 50:3; Jeremiah 50:9; Jeremiah 51:11; 1 Samuel 13:17-20).
b. Yet, his coming will be from the East (the rising of the sun); from Persia.
c. With the suddenness of a comet; he will come against Babylon to destroy it - something the idol makers have not anticipated.
d. Yet, this only pre-figures the coming of a Conqueror far greater than Cyrus.
2. The Lord has declared this beforehand that men may know His deity, righteousness and power, (Isaiah 44:7; Isaiah 45:21).
a. Idols show nothing, declare nothing and hear nothing! (Habakkuk 2:18-19, Psalms 115:5-9).
b. And Israel has become like her idols, (Isaiah 48:3-8).
3. With regard to the future, the Lord sends His messenger, with good tidings, to Jerusalem, (Isaiah 40:9; Isaiah 44:28; Nahum 1:15; Ezra 1:2-3; comp. Numbers 24:14).
4. But, there is no word of comfort for those who bow before idols that their own hands have made (Isaiah 46:7; Isaiah 44:9); they are all vanity, nothingness, wind and confusion - an utter waste! (vs. 28-29).
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on Isaiah 41". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Sunday after Epiphany