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The Spirit Poured Out
The infinite grace of God is beautifully demonstrated in the opening verses of this chapter. The reproaches and accusations of Isaiah 43 are directly followed by certainty and promise, based on God’s intended councils and acts of creation concerning the people. It is evidence that in wrath He remembers mercy (Habakkuk 3:2).
The chapter begins with a Divine “but” (Isaiah 44:1), after He announced in the last verse of the previous chapter the judgment on the persistent sinfulness of the people (Isaiah 43:28). This corresponds remarkably with the “but” of the beginning of Isaiah 43 (Isaiah 43:1) which in the same sense follows on from the last verse of the chapter preceding that chapter (Isaiah 42:25).
Here the LORD repeats His gracious statements from the beginning of Isaiah 43, to which He adds that He has “chosen” Israel. In both parts He uses for the birth of His people words which also appear in the account of the creation of man: creating (Genesis 1:27), making (Genesis 1:16) and forming (Genesis 2:7). It makes His intention and promise to Jacob unchangeable, despite the great decay of His people.
He even calls them “Jeshurun” (Isaiah 44:2), a Hebrew word that means “sincere” and in the Septuagint – the Greek translation of the Old Testament – is translated as “beloved”. It is a name previously used by Moses (Deuteronomy 32:15; Deuteronomy 33:5Deuteronomy 33:26) and looks forward to the future state of righteousness of Israel. However, this name is in great contrast to the name “Jacob” which means “heels holder” (Genesis 27:36; Genesis 32:28). The LORD makes them the “sincere ones” and therefore He can save them.
The promises that follow are permeated with Divine delight. The thirsty become satiated, the seed of Jacob is blessed by the outpouring of the Spirit – in the picture of the outpouring of water (cf. John 7:38-Malachi :) – resulting in national and spiritual fertility (Isaiah 44:3-Numbers :). That time is near. Grace will triumph. It is also a comfort for us now. Let us walk as God’s ‘Jeshurun’ and be filled with the Spirit. Then we will bring forth fruit.
Isaiah 44:5 predicts the consequence for the nations of the restoration of Israel. The triple testimony should be read in the light of Psalm 87 (Psalms 87:4-Deuteronomy :). There are mentioned some nations who will share in the privilege of knowing the LORD and who will be written down as born in Zion.
1. Among the nations who are in the blessing of the realm of peace, one shall say that he belongs to the LORD.
2. Another will call on the name of Jacob in a manner of great reverence. It is then no longer the name of defamation, of the deceiver, but the name of a people to which the LORD has connected Himself as His chosen people.
3. Yet another shall declare in writing, “write [on] his hand”, that he belongs only to the LORD, and shall take the name ‘Israel’ as his honorary name. By adopting the name of Israel he indicates that carrying that name is a great honor (cf. Romans 11:12).
4. There is a striking parallel between this verse and the result of the gospel we preach. Just as in the future day a heathen will acknowledge that he belongs to the LORD, someone who repents today will learn to acknowledge that he is the property of the Lord (1 Corinthians 3:23; Galatians 3:29) and so he also mentions the Name of the Lord (2 Timothy 2:19).
There Is No Other God
In Isaiah 44:6 the LORD speaks for the third time that He is the “Redeemer” of Israel (Isaiah 41:14; Isaiah 43:14). Then He presents Himself in yet other ways, which at the same time mean new reproaches for their foolish idolatry. He says of Himself: “I am the first and I am the last.” He does this three times in Isaiah (Isaiah 41:4; Isaiah 44:6Isaiah 48:12). The Lord Jesus also calls Himself with this name three times (Revelation 1:17; Revelation 2:8Revelation 22:13), with which He shows His Godhead and also the unity in the Godhead, the eternal pre-existence and the absolute exaltation.
It indicates that everything that is created, animate and inanimate, owes its existence to Him and that the beginning, the course and the end are under His exalted control. Therefore, Israel may be sure that all divine promises and predictions will be fulfilled, for they are made by Him Who is their “King”, “the LORD of hosts.
In our circumstances, He Who redeemed us is also the First and the Last, for He is God the Son (John 1:1). He stands at the beginning and at the end, for He is the Creator (Colossians 1:16). He is also “the Alpha and the Omega” (Revelation 22:13), the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, for He is the Word of God (John 1:1). He is at the beginning of our new life in Christ, He will be with us and will fulfill all His councils toward us. Thus He is also the beginning, the course and the completion of our special service which He has entrusted to us.
In Isaiah 44:7-Ruth : the LORD repeats what He said before (Isaiah 41:22-:; Isaiah 43:9-2 Samuel :). There is only one God, the First and the Last, the one true God of the past, Who is able to determine the future and thus also to proclaim. Again, He challenges whether there is anyone who can proclaim or explain things as He does, and does so in regular order. He Himself has done so since He “established the ancient nation”. He has begotten among them prophets who have proclaimed “the things that are coming and the events that are going to take place”. Let the gods and prophets of the nations explain such things.
No god of the nations can answer this challenge. That is why Israel can be free of fear and trust in God, next to Who there is no other. In spite of all the attacks of Satan, they are witnesses of Who He is and of the immutable nature of His counsel. Why should they be frightened and fearful when He is their Rock (Deuteronomy 32:4; Deuteronomy 32:15Deuteronomy 32:18; Deuteronomy 32:30Deuteronomy 32:31; 1 Corinthians 10:4)? The Rock represents immobility, strength and protection.
Let us, whom He left here as His witnesses, find our support in this. Things around us are in motion and uncertain. Everything changes, governments change, but He remains the same (Hebrews 1:12; Hebrews 13:8).
The Idols Mocked
The whole message of the previous section is: ‘Trust Me, the Rock, and not the idols.’ Again and again the people tend to trust the idols of the nations. In this light one of the most striking of all divine protests against the idols and their creators follows in these verses in flowery language (cf. Jeremiah 10:1-Nehemiah :).
There are two things to note on the subject of ‘idols’. One is that behind the idols are demons (Deuteronomy 32:17; 1 Corinthians 10:19-Proverbs :; Revelation 9:20). This means that serving idols is actually serving demons. The images represent concrete demonic powers, angels of Satan. This also applies and especially to the image that the antichrist will make (Revelation 13:14-Ezra :).
The other thing is that idols are ‘nothing’. They are ‘vanities’, ‘nullities’, that is to say, they represent nothing. Anyone who thinks that the image, the product of human hands, can help is a great fool. Anyone who seeks the help of the idols will also fall into chaos. Pointing out this foolishness, demonstrating its ridiculousness, will also work liberation from the power of demons for him who realizes it.
The LORD ridicules those idols. Unlike Israel as God’s witness, the idols give testimony of their own powerlessness (Isaiah 44:9). From this self-testimony a destructive mockery is poured out over their creators. What foolishness it is to fabricate your own god and then expect something of it (Isaiah 44:10). Surely it is clear to every sensible person that a dead piece of material can’t work anything (Isaiah 44:11)? God creates man, but these people put it the other way around: man creates with a waste of all his powers a god – an image of metal or of wood – for which he fashions the material himself (Isaiah 44:12-2 Chronicles :).
In the same way, man today is creating himself a god according to his own ‘dimensions’. Not the Bible is the norm, but one’s own judgment. Man wants a god who fulfils his wishes, who acts as he thinks is right. We are perhaps more guilty of this idolatry than we are aware of. A god who is only full of love and does not take evil so seriously, is such a god of his own making. The same goes for a god who can only judge and from whom no pity can be expected.
God here condemns Israel, who has turned from his Maker to the heathen use of idols. In Isaiah 44:15-Esther : we see how the same piece of wood serves to satisfy both the natural and religious needs of a human being. It shows that sinful man in his folly pursues the satisfaction of both needs in the same way. The whole part is full of man’s activity. They work hard, but without knowledge, for they are “darkened in their understanding” (Isaiah 44:18-Psalms :; Ephesians 4:17-Job :).
None of them get the idea that they are engaged in supreme foolishness. They feed on ashes, on something from which all life has disappeared, in which nothing useful is present anymore (Isaiah 44:20). They do not notice that they are engaged in deceit. It is clear that praying to these images, which are made by human hands, is vain and useless.
It’s like so many people today who willingly allow themselves to be deceived by horoscopes and occultism, rather than come into contact with the truth. They simply don’t wonder if it could also be deceit. If they do not repent, they will not save their lives and will be lost forever.
The danger of idolatry is also not limited to unbelievers, because believers are also warned of this danger: “Little children, guard yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21). In addition to serving images, there are many things that can take the place of the one true God, for example the Mammon, the god of money (Matthew 6:24). That is why the call sounds to flee the love of money (1 Timothy 6:10-1 Kings :).
The LORD Does Not Forget His People
Then from Isaiah 44:21, after the activities of man in the previous verses, come the activities of the LORD. He reminds His people to keep in mind that He, the LORD, is the only true God and that the idols are nothing. He bases His exhortation on the facts that they owe their existence as a people to His supernatural activity and that as His people they are His “servant”. This second fact is a direct contrast with the idolatrous slaves of a piece of wood from a tree, as described in the previous verses.
This brings God’s heart to an expression of infinite grace. His people will not be forgotten by Him. He will wipe out their transgressions like a thick cloud and their sins like a heavy mist (Isaiah 44:22). Let them return to Him, for He has redeemed them after all! The word for “wipe out” is used for the wiping out or blotting out of
1. a name from a book (Exodus 32:32-Micah :; Psalms 69:28);
2. a curse (Numbers 5:23);
3. the remembrance of a people (Deuteronomy 25:19);
4. sin or sins (Nehemiah 4:5; Psalms 51:1; Psalms 51:9Psalms 109:14; Jeremiah 18:23; Isaiah 43:25; Isaiah 44:23).
Transgressions and sins are clearly seen here as things that separate God from man (Isaiah 59:2). Only the purification by His wind (Job 37:21) and the sunshine of His grace expels the cloud. All removal of guilt is only possible through the blood of Christ. His work underlies the promises made here by the LORD. The subject here is restoration, the re-establishment of fellowship, which is reflected in the invitation: “Return to Me.”
Isaiah 44:21-Song of Solomon : contain a very salutary assurance of past salvation, a promise of remembering in the future, and an invitation to return to the fellowship with God they had in the past. In view of those glorious statements, a song of thanksgiving calls all of creation to joy and to share in the consequences of Israel’s forgiveness (Isaiah 44:23). Creation will also be set free from the curse of sin (Romans 8:21). Freedom will be the hallmark of glory. The essence of the glory that will be enjoyed by the nations lies in the fact that the LORD will glorify Himself in Israel. In the coming sections this thought will be further explained.
The LORD Promises Restoration
The Redeemer of Israel, Who formed His earthly people since their earthly existence, is the LORD Who made everything (Isaiah 44:24). He formed His people, but also heaven and earth. He can and wants to redeem Israel as well. This redemption is now explained. Jerusalem is rebuilt and Babylon is judged. This explanation starts with “thus says the LORD” as an indication of a new section.
Isaiah 44:25 refers to the Babylonian soothsayers. Perhaps the Jews who live there are also tempted to ask these fortune-tellers how things will go. The LORD will cut off that road. He deals with these soothsayers with the same power with which He created heaven and earth and makes their so-called knowledge foolish (cf. 1 Corinthians 1:20). The LORD is the Only One Who truly foretells the future (Isaiah 41:21-Joel :), while the soothsayers are unmasked as inventors of lies.
The LORD turns the wisdom of the world into foolishness, while keeping the word of His servant and carrying out the announcement of His messengers (Isaiah 44:26; 1 Corinthians 1:21-Song of Solomon :). Let us, to whom the message of the gospel has been entrusted, draw fresh courage from it. Amidst religious superstition and various forms of opposition, we know that His Word will not return to Him empty (Isaiah 55:11). Israel is the faithful servant here, as are all the faithful prophets through whom God gives His message to His people and to the nations. The servant is also now the one through whom God speaks. If His Word is faithfully passed on, He will do so because it is His Word.
In order to fulfill His Word toward His people, He causes the rivers of Babylon to dry up (Isaiah 44:27). Again (Isaiah 41:2; Isaiah 41:25) King Cyrus is mentioned by name, about 160 years before his performance. This is a proof that only He, the one true God, who created heaven and earth, is capable of making that advance announcement.
What Cyrus will do in draining the rivers of Babylon to capture it, for that he receives from the LORD the insight to do so. This gives him the opportunity to work on the destruction of Babylon and to restore Jerusalem (Isaiah 44:28). The LORD calls Cyrus “My shepherd” because in this as an instrument in His hand, however weak, he is a picture of the Lord Jesus, Who will deliver His people in a perfect and definitive way and introduce them into the blessing.
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Isaiah 44". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany