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Bible Commentaries

The Pulpit Commentaries

Isaiah 45

Verses 1-25


Isaiah 45:1-7

GOD'S WILL CONCERNING HIM ANNOUNCED TO CYRUS. This direct address of God to a heathen king is without a parallel in Scripture. Nebuchadnezzar, Pharaoh, Abimelech, were warned through dreams. Nebuchadnezzar was even promised Divine aid (Ezekiel 30:24, Ezekiel 30:25). But no heathen monarch had previously been personally addressed by God, much less called "his anointed," and spoken to by his name (Isaiah 45:4). Three motives are mentioned for this special favour to him:

(1) that he might acknowledge Jehovah to be the true God;

(2) that Israel might be benefited and advantaged by him;

(3) that the attention of the whole world might be attracted, and the unity of God made manifest far and wide (Isaiah 45:3-6).

Isaiah 45:1

Thus saith the Lord to his anointed. The "anointed of Jehovah" is elsewhere always either an Israelite king, or the expected Deliverer of the nation, "Messiah the Prince" (Daniel 9:25). This Deliverer, however, was to be of the line of David (Isaiah 11:1), and of the city of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), so that we can scarcely suppose Isaiah to have seen him in Cyrus. But he may have seen in Cyrus a type of the great Deliverer, as he saw in the release of Israel from the power of Babylon a type of their deliverance from sin. Whose right hand I have holden; rather, strengthened (comp. Ezekiel 30:24). To subdue nations before him (see above, Isaiah 41:2, and the comment ad loc.). Among the nations subdued by Cyrus may be mentioned the Medes, the Babylonians, the Lydians, the Caftans, the Caunians, the Lycians, the Bactrians, the Sacae, the Parthians, the Hyrcanians, the Chorasmians, the Sogdians, the Arians of Herat, the Zarangians, the Arachosians, the Satagydians, and the Gandarians. I will loose the loins of kings; i.e. render them weak and incapable of resistance" (comp.Daniel 5:6; Daniel 5:6), net "disarm them" (Cheyne); for the chief royal weapons were the spear and the bow, neither of which was carried at the girdle. To open before him the two-leaved gates. The cities and forts repro-sented on the Assyrian monuments have invariably their gateways closed by two large gates or doors which meet in the centre of the gateway. The bronze plating found at Ballarat gave the dimensions, and showed the strength of such gates.

Isaiah 45:2

I will … make the crooked places straight; rather, I will make the rugged places level. No doubt intended generally, "I will smooth his way before him." The gates of brass … the bars of iron. According to Herodotus, the gates of Babylon were of solid bronze, and one hundred in number (1.179). Solid bronze gates have, however, nowhere been found, and would have been inconvenient from their enormous weight. It is probable that the "gates of brass," or "bronze," whereof we read, were always, like these found at Ballarat, of wood plated with bronze. To the eye these would be "gates of bronze." Gates of towns were, as a matter of course, secured by bars, which would commonly be made of iron, as the strongest material. Iron was well known to the Babylonians (Herod; 1:186).

Isaiah 45:3

I will give thee the treasures of darkness; i.e. "treasures stored in dark places"—"bidden treasures." Treasuries were built for greater security without windows. Of the treasures which fell into the hands of Cyrus, the greatest were probably those of Babylon (Herod; 1.183) and of Sardis (Xen; 'Cyrop.,' 7.2, § 11). The value of the latter has been estimated at above one hundred and twenty-six millions sterling. That thou mayest know; or, acknowledge. If these documents are accepted as genuine, or even as true in substance (Ewald), Cyrus must be considered to have identified Jehovah with his own Ormuzd, and to have viewed the Jewish and Persian religions as substantially the same. He would be under no temptation, with so weak and down-trodden a people as the Jews, to resort to politic pretences, as he might be in the case of the Babylonians (see the comment on Isaiah 41:25). Which call thee by thy name (comp. Isaiah 45:1 and Isaiah 44:28). (On the special favour implied in God's condescending to "know" or "call" a person by his name, see the 'Pulpit Commentary' on Exodus 33:12.) Am the God of Israel; rather, am the Lord … the God of Israel.

Isaiah 45:4

For Jacob my servant's sake. This second motive is, in a certain sense, the main one. Cyrus is raised up, especially, to perform God's pleasure with respect to Judah and Jerusalem (Isaiah 44:26-28). Jacob, his Church, is more important in God's eyes than any individual. No doubt his Church is maintained, in part, that it may be "a light to lighten the Gentiles;" but it is not maintained solely: or even mainly, for this end. Its welfare is an end in itself, and would be sought by God apart from any further consequence. Israel mine elect (comp. Isaiah 41:8; Isaiah 44:1). I have surnamed thee; i.e. "given thee designations of honour," e.g. "my anointed" (Isaiah 45:1); "my shepherd" (Isaiah 44:28); "he who shall do all my pleasure" (Isaiah 44:28). Though thou hast not known me; rather, though thou didst not know me. Cyrus's honours, his titles, his mention by name, etc; were accumulated upon him before his birth, when he knew nothing of God, when, therefore, he had in no way merited them. Thus all was done, not for his sake, but lot the sake of Israel.

Isaiah 45:5

I girded thee. As God "loosed the loins" of Cyrus's adversaries (Isaiah 45:1), to weaken them, so he "girded" those of Cyrus, to give him strength (comp. Psalms 18:32).

Isaiah 45:6

That they may know from the rising of the sun. Here we have the third motive of the Divine action respecting Cyrus. The attention of all the world from the extreme east to the extreme west, would be drawn by the wonderful occurrences. Jehovah's hand in them would be perceived, and his sole Godhead would obtain acknowledgment. An impulse was doubtless given to monotheism by the victories of Cyrus and the favour which he showed the Jews; but it cannot be said to have been very marked. Idolatry and polytheism were to a certain extent discredited; but they maintained their ground nevertheless. It was not till the true "Anointed One" appeared—the antitype of whom Cyrus was the type—that the idols were "utterly abolished."

Isaiah 45:7

I form the light, and create darkness. It has been recently denied that there is any allusion in these words, or in those which follow, to the Zoroastrian tenets; and it has even been asserted that the religion of the early Achaemenian kings was free from the taint of dualism. But according to some authorities, "a god of lies" is mentioned in the Behistun inscription; and the evidence is exceedingly strong that dualism was an essential part of the Zoroastrian religion long before the time of Cyrus. It is quite reasonable to suppose that Isaiah would be acquainted with the belief of the Persians and Medes, who had come in contact with the Assyrians as early as b.c.. 830; and a warning against the chief error of their religion would be quite in place when he was holding up Cyrus to his countrymen as entitled to their respect and veneration. The nexus of the words, "I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness," is such as naturally to suggest an intended antagonism to the Zoroastrian system. Under that, Ormuzd created "light" and "peace," Ahriman "darkness" and "evil." The two were eternal adversaries, engaged in an inter-ruinable contest. Ormuzd, it is true, claimed the undivided allegiance of mankind, since he was their maker; bat Ahriman was a great power, terribly formidable—perhaps a god (diva)certainly the chief of the devas. It was from Zoroastrianism that Manicheism derived its doctrine of the two principles, and to the same source may, with much probability, be traced the "devil-worshippers" of the Zagros mountain chain.

Isaiah 45:8

THE BLESSED RESULTS OF ISRAEL'S DELIVERANCE. The restoration of Israel to their own land will be followed by a great increase of righteousness and salvation. They will be, as it were, showered down abundantly from heaven, while at the same time they will spring in profusion from earth's bosom. Jehovah, who has caused the deliverance, will also cause these results to follow from it.

Isaiah 45:8

Drop down, ye heavens; literally, distil, ye heavens (camp. Deuteronomy 32:1; Job 36:28); or rain down on the thirsty earth your gracious influences. Let righteousness, or God's law of right, descend afresh from the skies as a boon to mankind—a boon for which they have been long waiting. And … let the earth open. Let earth make due response, opening her gentle besom, as she does in spring, and blossoming with human righteousness, the fruit and evidence of salvation. To the prophet's rapt gaze the excellence of the post-Captivity times, when all idolatry had been put away, seemed, in comparison with earlier ages, the reign of justice and truth upon earth. I the Lord have created it; i.e. "I, Jehovah, have wrought the change by the larger outpouring of my Spirit" (camp. Isaiah 43:3).

Isaiah 45:9-13

ISRAEL WARNED NOT TO CALL IN QUESTION GOD'S MODES OF ACTION. Apparently, Isaiah anticipates that the Israelites will be discontented and murmur at their deliverer being a heathen king, and not one of their own body. He therefore warns them against presuming to criticize the arrangements of the All-Wise, reminding them of his unapproachable greatness (verse 12), and once more assuring them that the appointment of Cyrus is from him (verse 13).

Isaiah 45:9

Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive, etc.; rather, woe unto him that striveth with his Maker, a potsherd among potsherds of the ground: All men are equally made of "the dust of the ground" (Genesis 2:7). Israel has no prerogative in this respect. He, too, is "a potsherd among potsherds"—day moulded by the potter; no more entitled to lift up his voice against his Maker than the vessel to rebel against the man who shapes it (comp. Isaiah 29:16; and see the comment furnished by St. Paul in the Epistle to the Romans 9:20-24). What would a man think if the clay that he was fashioning objected to being moulded in a particular form, or if a work that he had made exclaimed, "He is a poor bungler—he hath no hands"? Yet this is what a man does who finds fault with the arrangements of the Almighty.

Isaiah 45:10

Woe unto him that saith unto his father, etc.! A change is made in the metaphor, the relationship of a father and his child being substituted for that of a potter and his clay. What would a man think of a child murmuring against his parent for not having made him stronger, handsomer, cleverer? Would not such a child be regarded as most unnatural, and as deserving to have woe denounced upon him?

Isaiah 45:11

The Holy One of Israel; i.e. he who always does right, and with whom, therefore, it is absurd to find fault. His Maker; i.e. Israel's Maker, who has, therefore, the right to do with him as he pleases. Ask me of things to come concerning my sons. This sentence is wrongly punctuated. The last three words should be attached to what follows, thus: "Ask me of things to come: concerning my sons and concerning the work of my hands command ye me;" i.e. first learn of me what in my designs is to be the course of human events, and then (if necessary) give me directions concerning my sons (Israel), who are the work of my hands; but do not presume to give me directions while you are still in utter ignorance of my designs. In any case remember who I am—the Maker of heaven and earth, the Creator of man, One accustomed to give directions to the angelic host (Isaiah 45:12).

Isaiah 45:12

I, even my hands; literally, I, my hands; i.e. "my hands, and my hands alone." All their host. The "host of heaven" is sometimes put for the stars, and may be so understood here; but "commands" are laid on intelligent rather than on unintelligent beings. (The object of the verb tsavah in Hebrew is almost always personal.)

Isaiah 45:13

I have raised him up. "Him" can only be referred to Cyrus, the one individual mentioned previously in the chapter (Isaiah 45:1-5). The expression," raised up," had been already used of him (Isaiah 41:25). In righteousness means "to carry out my righteous purposes." I will direct; rather, as in the margin, make straight. He … shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward. Captives were often "redeemed for a price" (Nehemiah 6:8). In Greece a fixed sum was established by general consent as the ransom of a captive (Aristot; 'Eth. Nic.,' Isaiah 5:6). Cyrus, however, in letting the Jews go free, would not be actuated by the paltry motive of pecuniary profit. He may, as Mr. Cheyne remarks, have been actuated in part "by a consideration of the usefulness of such a faithful advanced guard at the border of Egypt;" but mainly it is probable that "he obeyed the dictates of religious sympathy with the Jews." The recent contention, that he was not a Zoroastrian rests upon insufficient evidence, his so-called inscription being a document not put forth by himself, but by the priests of Merodach at Babylon; and the first introduction of Zoroastrian monotheism into the state religion of Persia by Darius Hystaspis being expressly disclaimed by him in the Be-histun inscription, where he declares his reformation to have consisted in the rebuilding of the temples which Gomates the Magian had destroyed, and the reinstitutier for the state of the religious chants and the worship which he had put down (Colossians 1:0. par. 14).

Isaiah 45:14-25

THE CONVERSION' OF THE GENTILES A CONSEQUENCE OF THE RESTORATION AND SALVATION OF ISRAEL. "With the prospect of the release of the exiles is associated," says Delitzsch, "in the prophet's perspective, the prospect of an expansion of the restored Church, through the entrance of the fulness of the Gentiles." Egypt, Ethiopia, and Saba are especially mentioned here, as in Isaiah 43:3, as among the first to come in (Isaiah 43:14, Isaiah 43:15). Later on, a more general influx is spoken of (Isaiah 43:20); and, finally, a prospect is held out of an ultimate universal conversion (Isaiah 43:23). At the same time, judgment is denounced against the idolaters who persist in their idolatry (Isaiah 43:16, Isaiah 43:20), and they are warned that they will have no share in the coming glories of the Israel of God.

Isaiah 45:14

The labour of Egypt, and merchandise of Ethiopia and of the Sabaeans; i.e. "the laborious Egyptians, and the traffic-loving Ethiopians and Sabaeans." Their buildings and their husbandry alike justify what is said of the Egyptians, while the very ancient traffic between Egypt and Ethiopia is sufficient ground for the assignment of a commercial character to the Ethiopians and the Sabaeans. Men of stature. (On the tall stature of the Ethiopians, see Herod; Isaiah 3:20; and comp. Isaiah 18:2, with the comment.) Shall come over unto thee. Knobel understands that they would give their aid to the rebuilding of the temple; but this they certainly did not do, and Isaiah's words certainly do not imply it. He is again speaking of the great conversion of the nations, which he connected with the restoration of the Jews to their own land (Isaiah 11:12; Isaiah 18:7; Isaiah 19:18-25, etc.), and which may be considered to have begun then, but only to have had its full accomplishment in the Messianic period. In chains they shall come over. Ready to serve the Church as slaves and servants—not literally wearing chains. They shall fall down unto thee, etc. The Church, as informed with the Spirit of God, shall Seem to them a holy thing, and therefore an object of worship (romp. Revelation 3:9). There is such a union between Christ and his Church, that worship, in a qualified sense, may be paid the Church without unfitness.

Isaiah 45:15

Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself. Some commentators regard this as an exclamation made by Isaiah himself, who marvels at the unsearchable mystery of God's ways. But others, with better reason, take it for a continuation of the speech of the converted heathen, who marvel that God has so long hid himself from them and from the world at large, not manifesting his power, as he has now done in the person of Cyrus. In this recent manifestation he has shown himself especially the God of Israel, and their Saviour.

Isaiah 45:16

They shall be ashamed … shall go to confusion; rather, are ashamed are gone to confusion—the "perfect of prophetic certainty." While the heathen that join themselves to Israel partake of their glory and salvation, such as abide by their idols are covered with shame and confusion.

Isaiah 45:17

Israel shall be saved … with an everlasting salvation; literally, a salvation of ages; i.e. one which will continue age after age. As Mr. Cheyne remarks, for this to be so, the redemption required to be spiritual as well as temporal. Otherwise it would ere long have been forfeited.

Isaiah 45:18

Thus saith the Lord, etc. Translate, Thus saith the Lord that created the heavens—he is God—that formed the earth and made it; he established it; he created it not a chaos, but formed it to be inhabited: I am the Lord, and there is none else. As God had not formed the earth to be a material chaos, but had introduced into it order and arrangement, so he willed his spiritual creation to be recovered out of the confusion into which it had fallen, and to be established in righteousness.

Isaiah 45:19

I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth; literally, in a place of the land of darkness. Jehovah's oracles have not been given, like those of the necromancers, or those of the heathen gods, in dark places of the earth—caves like that of Trophonius (Pansan; 9:29, § 2), or the inmost recesses (adyta) of temples; but openly on Sinai, or by the mouth of prophets who proclaimed his words to all Israel. So our Lord says of his own teaching, "I spake openly to the world; I ever taught in the synagogue, and in the temple, whither the Jews always resort; and in secret have I said nothing" (John 18:20). Seek ye me in vain; rather, seek ye me as a chaos (comp. Jeremiah 2:31, where God says to his people, "Have I been a wilderness unto Israel? a land of darkness?"). God has no more revealed himself to his people as chaotic, confused, disordered, than he has presented the world to them in this condition.! the Lord speak righteousness, I declare things that are right. There is an allusion to the crooked and ambiguous utterances of the heathen oracles, which rarely gave direct answers or plainly expressed any definite meaning. God in his utterances never diverges from the straight line of righteousness and truth (comp. Proverbs 8:6).

Isaiah 45:20

Assemble yourselves and come … ye … escaped of the nations. The prophet reverts to the main idea of the section, which is the conversion of the Gentiles, and calls on all "the escaped of the nation"—i.e. all who have survived the judgments of the time—to "assemble and come," to consider the claims of Jehovah to be the only true God, to "look to him (Isaiah 45:22) and be saved." The great judgments through which the heathen will be brought to God have been frequently mentioned (Isaiah 24:1-23; Isaiah 26:20, Isaiah 26:21; Isaiah 27:1-7; Isaiah 30:27-33; Isaiah 34:1-10; Isaiah 40:24; Isaiah 41:11, Isaiah 41:12, Isaiah 41:25; Isaiah 42:13-15, etc.). They must not be regarded as limited to the time of Cyrus, but rather as continuing into the Messianic period, and indeed nearly to its close (see especially Isaiah 34:1-17.). Each one of them constitutes a call to the nations, and is followed by a conversion to a greater or less extent. They have no knowledge that set up the wood of their graven image; rather, who lift up (or, carry) the wood of their graven image (comp. Isaiah 46:7, "They bear him upon the shoulder," where the same verb is used). It was a practice of the idolatrous heathen to carry the images of their gods in processions, generally exposed to view upon their shoulders, but sometimes partially concealed in shrines, or "arks". There would be still among the "escaped" some who would so act.

Isaiah 45:21

Tell ye, and bring them near. Dr. Kay and Mr. Cheyne understand the nations to be addressed, and told to "show" or "announce," and "bring forth" or "produce," any argument in favour of the divinity of their gods. But it is simpler and better, with our translators, to regard the address as made to the prophets of God, who are bidden to announce his message of mercy to the nations, and to bring them near to him (comp. Isaiah 40:1). Let them take counsel together; i.e. let the nations consider one with another, whether God or the idols be the fitter object of worship. Who hath declared this? "This" must refer to the conquest of Babylon and deliverance of Israel by Cyrus. None but Jehovah had ever announced this—none but he could bring it to pass. From ancient time; rather, from aforetime (Cheyne). The announcement cannot have been made very long before this prophecy was delivered. A just God and a Saviour. A God in whom "mercy and truth meet together, righteousness and peace kiss each other" (Psa 85:1-13 :16); who can be at once just, "acting stringently according to the demands of his holiness" (Delitzsch), and yet design and effect the salvation of sinners.

Isaiah 45:22

Look unto me; rather, turn unto me (as in Psalms 25:16; Psalms 69:16; Psalms 86:16); i.e; "Be converted—turn unto the Lord your God." It is implied that all can turn, if they will. And be ye saved. On conversion, salvation will follow. It will extend even to all the ends of the earth (comp. Psalms 98:3, "All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God").

Isaiah 45:23

I have sworn by myself (comp. Genesis 22:17; Jeremiah 22:5; Jeremiah 49:15). "God swears "by himself," because he can swear by no greater" (Hebrews 6:13). He condescends, for man's sake, to confirm in this way promises that are exceedingly precious (see the Homiletics on Isaiah 14:24). The word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness. So Dr. Kay and Mr. Cheyne (comp. Isaiah 45:19, "I the Lord speak righteousness"). And shall not return; i.e. shall not be withdrawn or retracted. God's gifts and promises are "without repentance." Every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. This universal turning to God belongs to the final Messianic kingdom, prophesied in Isaiah 2:2-4; Isaiah 11:6-9; Isaiah 35:1-10; Isaiah 65:17-25; Isaiah 66:18-23; and also by Daniel (Daniel 7:9-14) and St. John the Divine (Revelation 21:1-4). The entire destruction of God's enemies is to take place previously (Revelation 19:17-21).

Isaiah 45:24

Surely, shall one say, in the Lord have I righteousness; rather, only in the Lord, shall each man say to me. is their righteousness. All shall confess that God alone is righteous, and that any goodness which they have is derived from him. The Hebrew has "righteousnesses" in the plural, to express abundance. All that are incensed; rather, all that were incensed (see Isaiah 41:11). Such persons shall repent and be ashamed.

Isaiah 45:25

In the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified. Joined to Jehovah in mystic union (Cheyne). the whole "Israel of God" shall be justified, and glory in their condition.


Isaiah 45:7

In what sense God creates evil.

It was to avoid the objections which the human conscience feels against regarding God as in any sense the author of evil, that dualism was invented. The Western Aryans thought it simpler and more natural to explain the phenomena of the physical and moral universe' by a perpetual struggle of two equal, or nearly equal, powers—one a principle of pure goodness, the creator of everything that was bright, sweet, delightful, holy, pure, good; the other, his antagonist, the creator of all that was the opposite—than to postulate a single original principle, all-powerful and all-perfect, which had yet brought into being a universe in which so much of moral and physical evil obtains as experience reveals to us. And it scarcely seems surprising that unassisted human reason should so argue. There is a difficulty in understanding the coexistence of evil with the absolute government of all things by an omnipotent and absolutely good Ruler. The difficulty is greater with regard to moral than physical evil, but it is considerable even with respect to the latter.

I. PHYSICAL EVIL. "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now" (Romans 8:22). The sum of animal suffering is so enormous that to dwell on it in thought would make almost any man miserable. Even the sum of human suffering is more than we can well bear to think of. Hunger, thirst, sickness, accidents, blows, wounds, sores, excessive toil, make the lives of millions a burthen to them, and cause them to welcome death. No doubt much of this physical evil is the result of moral evil; but, making any reasonable deduction on this score, we shall still find in what remains—the resultant of the physical conditions of human and animal life—a total that it is agonizing to contemplate. Yet God must, it would seem, be regarded as the direct Author of this. He has so arranged the world—that, with the first introduction into it of sentient life, pain came in. Appetites are pains; desires are pains; most of the animal functions are pains; growth is a pain; decay and decline are pains; death is mostly an intense pain. Man, as an animal, must have known pain, even had he never known sin—must, as he increased and multiplied, have found the means of subsistence grow scanty, and have had to struggle for existence. Can we at all account for this? Much of it, especially the animal suffering, must, we think, remain an inscrutable mystery until we are "within the veil." But for the physical evils to which men are liable we may see sufficient reason. Men are made "perfect through sufferings." In overcoming, or in bearing, physical pains, man finds the best training for his moral nature. He learns to be courageous by resisting fear, which is a pain; to be just by resisting covetousness, which is another pain; and so on. Great physical evils bring out the greatest moral excellences, as those developed in martyrs and confessors. Altogether, we may pretty clearly see that the moral good produced by the pain which humanity suffers may greatly outweigh the evil of the pain itself in the sight of a moral Being.

II. MORAL EVIL. Moral evil is certainly not "created" by God, in the same direct way as physical evil. He has not necessitated it by the arrangements of his universe. He has but allowed it to come into existence. And this he seems to have done in consequence of a necessity in the nature of things. Either he must have limited his creation to objects that moved mechanically and were incapable of moral action, or, by creating moral agents, have allowed the possibility of moral evil coming into being. A free agent must be free to do right or to do wrong; if he is not free to do wrong, he is really not free when he does right. And when millions of free agents were created, each with a power of doing wrong, that some of them would choose to do wrong was to be expected, and was of course foreseen by the Creator. From the fact that, though thus foreseeing the introduction of sin into his universe, God nevertheless determined to create moral beings, we may gather that it is better in God's sight, and therefore better absolutely, that the two classes of good and bad moral beings should coexist, than that there should be no moral beings at all. Further, moral evil is certainly, like physical evil, a great means of developing higher forms of moral goodness. The virtue that resists contact with vice, the influence of bad example, the seductions of those who make all possible efforts to corrupt it, is of a higher form than that untried virtue which has passed through no such ordeal. The religion that leads men to plunge, into the haunts of vice, and give themselves to the reclaiming of the lowest outcasts among the dregs of our populace, is the highest form of religion. If there were no moral evil, moral goodness would fall far short of being what it is—there would be no Howards, no Frys, no Havelocks, no Livingstones. By the moral furnace through which it passes, "the trial of men's faith, being much more precious than that of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire," is found, and will "be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (1 Peter 1:7).

Isaiah 45:9-11

Murmuring against God's arrangements at once foolish and wicked

Man is very apt to consider himself wiser than God, if not altogether, at any rate in this or that particular matter. There are few who do not at times imagine that, had the arrangement of the universe been committed to them, they could have improved it in many respects. Some would have had no sin; almost all would have had no suffering. Every one would have made some change or other. Bishop Butler suggests that such speculations are not altogether innocent ('Analogy,' part 1.Isaiah 2:1-22.); but they are, perhaps, not greatly to be blamed, unless where they lead on to positive dissatisfaction, to complaints, and to murmurings.


1. It is vain, idle; it can produce no change. God will not alter his arrangements because we are dissatisfied with them. "With him is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17). The laws which he gives are laws "which shall not be broken" (Psalms 148:6, Prayer-book Version). "Since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" (2 Peter 3:4). If we could affect the operation of God's laws, change them, modify them, the case would be different; there would then be some result of our querulousness. But, as it is, there is no result—we effect nothing.

2. It is founded on ignorance. We know so little of God's entire scheme of things that we cannot possibly tell whether any part of the scheme to which we object may not be a necessary condition to, or inseparably bound up with, some other part or parts on which we set the highest value. That to which we object may conceivably be the very thing which, if we knew all, we should most prize.

3. It is the preference of a lesser good over a greater. Whatever we may say in moments of suffering, ennui, or dissatisfaction, we do not really believe in our inmost hearts that any portion of God's arrangement of the universe is actually wrong and could be set right by our wisdom. We know that "whatever is, is best." Were we actually empowered to make a change, we should hesitate. We should be afraid of doing harm. How foolish, then, to grumble at arrangements which we should fear to disturb!


1. It is a form of rebellion against God, and so of the basest ingratitude, inasmuch as God is our great Benefactor, to whom we owe everything.

2. It is always selfish. We are never tempted to murmur except when the operation of some law of God's universe interferes with our own immediate comfort, or our profit, or our imagined advantage. But in such cases we know that our disadvantage must be compensated by some overplus of advantage to others, or the law would not exist; so that our murmuring implies a desire that others should suffer instead of ourselves, which is pure selfishness.

3. It argues pride. If we had a right sense of our own demerit and ill deserving, we should accept any and every chastening at God's hands as far less than our due. We should "humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God," and take thankfully whatever suffering he sent us. It is only when we are so proud as to imagine we do not need chastening that we can murmur.

Isaiah 45:14-23

The conversion of the Gentiles gradual, but ultimately complete.

Three stages in the conversion of the Gentiles seem to be marked—one in Isaiah 45:3; another in Isaiah 45:20; a third in Isaiah 45:23.

I. THE FIRST STAGE. The nations within a certain moderate radius of Palestine are naturally the first to come in—Egypt and Ethiopia, in Africa; and by parity of reasoning, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Asia Minor, in Asia; Greece, Italy, and Southern Gaul, in Europe. This was very much the range of Hebrew influence during the five centuries preceding Christianity, and of Christian influence during two centuries afterwards.

II. THE SECOND STAGE. The circle gradually widens, and a time comes when the gospel may be said, roughly, to have penetrated everywhere, and "the earth" to be "full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9). Missionaries have visited the remotest ends of the earth; and the nations generally may be challenged to "assemble themselves, and come," and make their choice between true religion and their own false and absurd systems (Isaiah 45:20). But conversion has not kept pace with preaching. On many nations very little, on some no, impression has been made. Prayer is still offered widely to deities "that cannot save." This is the state of things at the present day. Scarcely a nation in the world has not heard of the salvation of God; but a large number—as much as three-fourths of the population of the globe, we are told—have not yet accepted it.

III. THE THIRD STAGE. God has "sworn by himself, the word is gone out of his mouth in righteousness, and shall not return"—that ultimately "unto him every knee shall how, and every tongue shall swear" (Isaiah 45:23). In "a new heaven and a new earth" (Isaiah 65:17) the Messiah, u the Ancient of days" (Daniel 7:6), will rule over a kingdom which will contain "all people, nations, and languages" (Daniel 7:14). How this will be brought about, what exactly will be the scene of the kingdom, what the condition of its members, is not revealed, otherwise than in mystical words, and cannot be laid down with definiteness; but in that kingdom, beyond a doubt," all people will fall down before Jehovah, all nations will do him service"—the prophecies of Isaiah will have full effect: "all flesh will worship before the Lord" (Isaiah 66:23).


Isaiah 45:1-8

Cyrus the anointed of Jehovah.

I. THE REASON OF THE DIVINE FAVOR TO CYRUS. Cyrus is the only king out of Israel who bears the title of Jehovah's anointed. He is solemnly set apart as an instrument to perform an important public service in the cause of Jehovah. It does not necessarily imply the piety of Cyrus. For the purposes of Jehovah he is upheld, "grasped by the right hand," that he may subdue nations before him—from the Euxine to Egypt, from the Indian Ocean to the Mediterranean. The girdles of mighty kings will be unloosed before him. See this said of Belshazzar (Daniel 5:6); then were the "two-leaved gates" of Babylon left open, amidst the revelry, and the conqueror broke in unopposed (Herod; 1:191). The treasures of the city are laid open before him.

1. The object was that he might acknowledge Jehovah. "He hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth" (Ezra 1:2). "Son of Cambyses, Heaven favours you manifestly, or you could not thus have risen superior to fortune". None but the Omniscient could have known the person and the name of him who was to conquer Babylon and deliver his people

2. The next object was the deliverance of the chosen people. "The fates of the empires and kingdoms of the world are divinely disposed of with a view to the Church." But all the progress and prosperity of true religion are summed up in the knowledge of Jehovah: that he is the sole God; that he is the Creator and the providential Ruler of the world. The alternation of day and night is Jehovah's ordinance. So also is that of peace and war, success and misfortune, good and evil. This is pure monotheism, opposed alike to pantheism and to dualism. That the world may be converted to true religion is the final and all-comprehensive object.

II. SONG OF PRAISE. "The appearance of the shepherd of Jehovah, and the thought of the blessings of which he is to be the medium, inspires the prophet with a joyous strain of psalmody." The form of the expression is borrowed from the Eastern religions, the fertility of the earth being due to the impregnating influence of Heaven (Psalms 85:11; Hosea 2:21, Hosea 2:22). Righteousness, in the sense of salvation (Isaiah 51:5, Isaiah 51:6, Isaiah 51:8; Isaiah 56:1; Isaiah 59:17; Isaiah 61:10, Isaiah 61:11; Isaiah 62:1), descends upon the souls of men. And they will break forth into "fruits of righteousness" to the glory of God. Prepared for repentance and the reception of the truth from the Holy Spirit, they will be, even as the earth is, made mellow and adapted for the reception of seed by rain and dew. "A Church smiles under the influence of a revival of religion, and society puts on the aspect of loveliness like the earth after abundant showers.'—J.

Isaiah 45:9-13

The sovereignty of God.

I. THE MURMURER AGAINST PROVIDENCE. He is compared to a "potsherd among potsherds on the ground." "Woe unto him who, though made of earth, and with no intrinsic authority over others of his race, presumes to find fault with the Maker!" (cf. Isaiah 29:16; Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 18:1-6; Jeremiah 19:1, Jeremiah 19:10,Jeremiah 19:11; Romans 9:20-24). In the account of the Creation, the Almighty is conceived as making man out of the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7). Shall the clay, then, quarrel with the plastic hand of the Potter? How can the distance between man and God be better expressed than by the tautology, "God is God, and man is man"? or that he is Maker, man the made? "Since matters stand thus between God and us, let us consider what bands we are in, and what an irresistible grip has hold of us; and let that teach us, even for our sakes, to be quiet under it. There is, indeed, but one way of encountering an infinite power; and that is by an extraordinary (if it were possible), an infinite patience" (South). Is it natural, again, for the child to complain of its parents that it has been brought deformed or weakly into the world? Nor is it becoming of men to catechize and call to account Jehovah. "Are ye children of God? Then is it well with you; and to murmur against me is as if ye should renounce your sonship."

II. THE ABSURDITY OF MURMURING. To criticize the Creator is to assume a knowledge we have not got. We should be creators ourselves before we could say whether this or that part of the great world-work could have been otherwise executed. It is also to assume a knowledge of the clues of history, the springs of sudden events, which is not ours. And Jehovah reminds man again of his providential relation to Cyrus. His absolute unquestionable dominion and sovereignty over all things is the great argument for our submission to him. His dominion is founded on an inalienable title—Creation and Providence. It is reasonable that the first cause should be the Supreme Governor; and whatever has been made by God should also be commanded by him. He might have chosen whether he would have made the world or no; for he had no need of it to complete or add to his happiness, which was infinitely perfect within the compass of his own glorious being. Yet he was pleased, by the free motion of his will, to communicate and diffuse some little shadow of those perfections upon the creatures, and more especially upon his nearer resemblances, men and angels. A being essentially wise cannot do anything but wisely. Our ignorance of God's actions cannot make them or argue them to be unreasonable. He is more honored by our admiration than by our inquiries. Hence the necessity, the prudence, and the becomingness of submission, without murmuring to his allotments.—J.

Isaiah 45:14-17

The conversion of Egypt.

In this conversion of the nations to true religion the Divine goodness and providence will be at last recognized. They are represented as going over to Israel of their own accord, and surrendering to her their wealth. And they will be brought at last to the great confession, "Of a truth God is in thee, and there is none beside—no Godhead at all."

I. HISTORY AS THE CONCEALMENT OF GOD. So it often appears. The weak are down-trodden; the proud and tyrannical are in the ascendant. Israel in her prostrate condition and insignificance seemed to imply a God impotent to save. And so it is in the personal life and history. There are sufferings which obscure the light of faith, and seem to give the lie to the most deep-seated religious hopes. But God is where he was, though our view pierces not to him. "He's in his heaven; all's right with the world!"

II. HISTORY THE UNVEILING OF GOD. "Now we are forced to own that Israel's God is the absolutely Strong One, able and willing to deliver all who trust in him." Then in a moment they who have trusted in idols are covered with confusion, together with the artificers of them. And Israel is saved with an everlasting salvation. "Time, like a dome of many-coloured glass, stains the white radiance of eternity." What is all life and time, nature and human fashion, but a veiling of God? How can we see him except "through a glass darkly"? What is thinking but dreaming, and dreams what but pictured screens, concealing and revealing the truth? We are in bondage to sense, to belief, to fancy. But our deliverance draws near; and no confusion will await them that have believed to the end.—J.

Isaiah 45:18-25

God, Israel, and the world.

Again, with solemn iteration, Jehovah declares that he is Creator and God alone. The earth was framed and fitted to be the habitation of man, and the theatre of providential manifestations.

I. THE REALITY OF THE ETERNAL. The truth is open, and may be published to all; it is no thing of mystery, secrecy, like heathen esoteric rites or knowledge. "Jehovah's Law is not to be obtained by any occult arts from the under-world." He has not been a wilderness unto Israel or a land of darkness (Jeremiah 2:31; cf. Jeremiah 2:6). The seeking of his people after him is not to end in chaos. Here, again, may be an allusion to the dark sayings of the heathen oracles—ambiguous, oblique, or fallacious. His speech is direct, upright, and true. Let those who have escaped from the judgment upon the nations bear witness. How foolish they who carry the wooden image in processions, and pray to it (cf. Isaiah 46:1; Jeremiah 10:5; Amos 5:26)! What argument can be produced for the divinity of idols? Which of them can pretend to the prophetic and predictive power of Jehovah? God is the only Reality, the only Truth, the only faithful Principle in a world of idolatrous unrealities, pretences, and shams.

II. CALL TO SALVATION. In him who is real and true, alone can men find deliverance from temporal and spiritual ills. Not Israel alone, but mankind, is destined to look to him as the Universal Saviour. Jehovah swears by himself—the strongest form of assurance—"when the accompanying revelation is specially grand, or specially hard to believe." "The abolition of the last vestige of nationalism in the true religion is announced." The word is gone forth, and shall not miss its aim; the truth has sped like an arrow to the mark. Every knee shall bow in homage, every tongue shall swear allegiance. Submission shall be without reserve and absolute. "Only in Jehovah are righteousness and strength." While confusion shall be the portion of his enemies, his servants shall be accepted, and be placed by him on the footing of the justified and righteous. "He, then, that trembles at the name of an offended Creator, let him comfort himself in the title of a reconciled Father. Though we have cause to dread the tribunal of his justice, let us come confidently to the throne of his mercy. Let us come freely, and spread all our wants before him, lay open all our complaints, tell him all the distresses and secret anguishes of our burdened consciences. Believe it, we cannot be more ready to tell them than he is to hear them; nor he to hear them than to relieve them. Let us anchor our hopes, our trust, our confidence, on his goodness; for although as our Creator he will not save us, yet as our Redeemer he will."—J.

Isaiah 45:18-25

Jehovah: his nature and purposes.

I. HIS SOLE DEITY. He is the Creator, and to say this is to say that his is "the Godhead." This truth is repeated "line upon line," and "precept upon precept." Simple truths have an emphasis peculiar to them. They need to be iterated, because the memories of men are unfaithful, their imaginations vagrant, their affections prone to wander from their true and central Object. It was so in ancient times; it is so still. Then men were tempted to think that other national gods had some power; now they are disposed to turn to some "ideal substitute" for God. We should learn, not to share out our reverence among God and various ideals of the true, wise, beautiful, and good, but to conceive of him as the sum total of them all. The enduringly good, and the permanently true and spiritually and essentially fair, all enter into the conception of "the Eternal, beside whom there is none."

II. HIS PURPOSE IN THE CREATION. It was to be, "not as a chaos," but a scene of order, a kosmos, as the Greek said. It was "formed, finished, and arranged, that it might be inhabited"—like "a lodging for a friend." God "rejoices in the habitable parts of the earth; and his delights are with the children of men." His thought was above all for the social êïóìïò—the spiritual system, the beauty of the regenerate state of souls; his mind to be reflected in the human creation; the human creation to illustrate the glory of his mind. If science brings to light the wonders of the natural order, true theology brings to light the greater wonders of the spiritual order. It is a discovery of the law to which the passions and forces of human nature must render obedience in order to happiness.

III. THE OPENNESS OF HIS REVELATIONS. Not in darkness and secrecy, like the heathen mysteries; nor in obscure and symbolic phrases, like theirs. Nor is it a matter of occult art and divination. It is the "light of Jehovah" (cf. Deuteronomy 30:11-14; Jeremiah 2:31). Luminous in themselves, his words lead us on to tracts of light and felicity. They are direct, and opposed to the crooked and enigmatic deliverances of the heathen oracles. Let human experience decide between Jehovah and the heathen gods. They only dare to make such an appeal who are conscious that it cannot be resisted. That religion cannot stand which will not endure satire; for ridicule is the test of truth. How can they endure it who "without knowledge carry the word of their image, and pray unto a god that cannot save"? What argument can they produce? What covenant can there be between the soul and an idol? what ability in wood or stone to save? The result remains as before. As there is but one Creator, so is there but one Moral Governor—one righteous, faithful, covenant-keeping God.

IV. CALL TO SALVATION AND TO ADORATION. "Be saved!" That is, ye shall be saved in turning unto me. If he is the only God, obedience to him must be the only salvation. And upon this end God has set his heart—this end, he swears, as God is God, shall be accomplished. The true Israel shall expand, the barriers of naturalism shall be broken down; there shall be universal, voluntary, unrestrained submission. Shame at error, and triumphant, boastful gladness in the new-found truth, shall go together. Such a communion of spirits in God and with one another is the object of faith, of aspiration now, and shall be a glorious realization hereafter.—J.


Isaiah 45:5

God in our past life.

"I girded thee, though thou hast not known me." When the soul of man is renewed, and his rebellion against God ceases, wonderment often arises in the heart that life has not been altogether a ruin. So many times we have been near the precipice; the crumbling stones fell down into the plain; our feet well-nigh slipped. Here is the open secret.

I. UNCONSCIOUS HELP. "I girded thee." We have not seen a face nor even heard a voice, but an invisible arm has been around us. "It is of the Lord's mercy that we are not consumed." Our folly was sufficient to ruin us. Our obstinacy was wild and wilful. We cannot take credit to ourselves for deliverances from moral danger. We can look back and see that often there was but a step betwixt us and moral death. "Great deliverances," as the prophet says, hath God wrought,

II. HUMAN IGNORANCE. "Though thou hast not known me." The life has been destitute of fellowship with God and likeness to God. We have not retained the knowledge of God. There has been all through our life:

1. God's care without our cognizance.

2. God's love without our gratitude.

3. God's wisdom without our skill.

Verily the apostle was right: "By the grace of God I am what I am."—W.M.S.

Isaiah 45:22

The eye of the soul.

Look unto me, and be ye saved." Faith can look! We have the spiritual vision and the spiritual object. "Blessed are your eyes, for they see." We look, and are saved! Yes; and we look in hours of sorrow and unrest, and our burdens are lightened. This is no dream of the quietist; no meditation of the mystic. We do not look into infinity, and feel awe. We do not merely set religious imagination to work. We have a loving Lord and Saviour, to whom we look. "Sir, we would see Jesus." When our eyes are filled with worldly visions; when we are active in the warehouse, the office, the street, the home;—then we have experience of time-visions. When our souls are awake we gaze on the unseen Lord, who has been about our path all the day, and who is always waiting to be gracious. What is the exact word, do you say? I see! You are accustomed to a close exegesis of the Scripture. It is well! The Hebrew means, "flowed together." Is not that beautiful? "They looked unto him, and flowed together." We are lightened by oneness with our Lord.

I. LOOKING UNTO JESUS LIGHTENS US BY CONSCIOUS SYMPATHY. This always lightens. In a human sense it does. We can enter into each other's lives, and bear each other's burdens. We want not more strength, but more cheer. He does not give new faculty, but the Holy Spirit quickens faith; faculty we already have. Think of the one Divine life. Christ knew what it was to go to his Father in prayer, to be alone, to be misunderstood, to be solitary and forsaken. He was tempted, too, in all points as we are, yet without sin. He suffered, being tempted. We look to the Brother as well as the Saviour. Sympathy! Is it not precious? We get hardened by habits, where each has to struggle for himself or herself. Yes, herself! The womanly life is often a heroism of endeavour in the sense of seeking sometimes a livelihood; and the world to a widow does seem a very selfish place at times. Christ was poor. He was, in a human sense, needy. But, you say, even in these lives of struggle and difficulty, the spiritual anxieties are the deepest: to maintain a pure heart, a faithful love, a true conscience, a gracious progress in heavenward affection. Then remember he knows your inner history. Look to him. Seek oneness. Let your life and his "flow together."

II. LOOKING UNTO JESUS LIGHTENS US BY CONSCIOUS POWER. He is able to keep—able to save. Have you ever been in a gale at sea, and been nervous and timorous? But there, on the bridge, is the calm, keen-eyed, well-trained captain. You feel that there is confidence coming to your heart as you look at him. What waves cannot Christ calm? What coast of life does not he know the soundings of? What can surprise his vigilance, or blind his knowledge, or binder his commands? Even when the earthly physician came to your sick child, you watched his face and were lightened; he hoped, and you renewed your strength. A Christ less than Divine is no real refuge for such anxious souls as ours. We need not only beautiful ethics, exquisite parables; but we want Divine authority: "I will; be thou clean !" We are at rest when we can say with the centurion, "Truly this was the Son of God." We feel how guilty we are. We admit no man, no priest, into the picture-gallery of the soul. We decline to reveal our leprosy of heart to our fellow-men. But we are all polluted and evil; and we have deep repose of heart when we come to the one fountain open for sin and uncleanness, and know that Christ is "able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him." No look lightens us which is merely imitative—which is a lesson-look of duty. We need a great Saviour as well as a great Teacher.

III. LOOKING UNTO JESUS LIGHTENS US BY CONSCIOUS OBEDIENCE. This comes next. We flow together, not merely in sympathy, but in life and service. We do his commandments; we know in following him we are in the right path; and how it lightens one to feel that the way is right, however hard and painful it may be! Rectitude is the music of the soul. Is not this sometimes forgotten? you say. Or, if not forgotten, is obedience relegated to a very inferior place by some Christians? Yes; they mean well, but they take a superficial view of the gospel. Removal of guilt is not all. Doing is not a deadly thing, it does not end in death—if it is life-doing and not law-doing. Christ says, " Keep my commandments." "This do, and thou shalt live." We are never lightened by self-indulgent piety, which leaves all to God. We are to exercise our graces; to use what Paul calls "the gymnastic of godliness"—a beautiful expression. Looking to Jesus, we shall gain strength for every earnest endeavour after the Divine life. But is there not a danger of spiritual pride? Is it not better to feel God does all? There is no one of us free from the danger of spiritual pride. We must all watch and pray against it. But you may detect spiritual pride often very manifestly in those who think that they, and they alone, know the entire secret of God's will; and their secret is, a leaving it all to him. Then pride says, "See; I am free from legalism, and I have no danger of self-righteousness." Pride may hide under this cloak of confessed humility. We are only safe in Christ's own way. He and no earthly teacher is to be really our spiritual Director, and he says, "If ye love me, keep my commandments;" "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them;" "He that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto eternal life." Not by a cowardly shrinking from duty, but by looking up to the Captain of the great host and gathering nerve to throw one's self into the thick of the fight is our heart lightened.

IV. LOOKING UNTO JESUS LIGHTENS BY CONSCIOUS EXPERIENCE. We have tried it in the days of old! Christ has lightened many a burden we foolishly tried to carry alone. Men are ashamed of their failures. They boast of a certain specific, and it fails. They recommend certain methods of conduct which break down in operation. But our faces are not ashamed. They glow with the consciousness of what Christ has been in past times of test and trial. He has never failed—never forsaken. This is a beautiful idea about the countenance—a Christian should have no shame there. I do not mean a face defiant or boastful; that is not the meaning of these words, "And their faces were not ashamed." It means no confusion, no flush of anxiety, no prophecy of failure on it. We can all look to him. We are all invited! None of us can measure the weight on the heart. Christ can. And he knows that it is heavy, very heavy. We are often tired and weary. Come to him! You need him! You have slighted and neglected him long time now; but you have found no Friend, no Saviour away from him.

"'Lay down, thou weary one, lay down

Thy head upon my breast.'"

Let us do so. Then this experience will have brought to us a peace which passeth all understanding.—W.M.S.


Isaiah 45:1-5

The unfelt hand on the human heart.

Of this passage the most striking and inviting words are those in the fourth and fifth verses: "I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me;" "I girded thee, though thou hast not known me." But while these sentences furnish the theme of consideration, the other part of the passage suggests three particular things in which the prophetic word was fulfilled.

1. The opening of the gates of brass (Isaiah 45:1), fulfilled during the capture of Babylon.

2. The discovery of hidden treasure (Isaiah 45:3), fulfilled in the taking and sacking of two of the wealthiest cities of antiquity, besides other great acquisitions.

3. The strengthening of Cyrus for the sake of Israel (Isaiah 45:1-4), fulfilled in the brilliant successes of the great Persian conqueror, followed by the liberation of the Jews from captivity. But the interesting fact is the presence and action of the Divine hand in the course of this heathen king. Little as Cyrus imagined it, he was under the guardianship and guidance of the Lord of hosts from his earliest childhood to his last successes. The power that snatched him from earliest peril, that made him the wise and capable administrator he became, that planted in him the spirit of humanity and equity, that saved him in a thousand dangers, and gave so triumphant an issue to his various enterprises,—this was none other than the power which is Divine. God was girding him, though he knew not the name and the works of Jehovah. On this unenlightened sovereign, from infancy to age, through all the events of a crowded life, a Divine hand was laid; its touch was all unfelt, its secrets undiscovered; but it was there—a gentle, constraining force, shaping his career, tracing the lines along which he moved, making him the power among the nations that he was in those ancient times. This known fact does two very useful things for us.

I. IT GIVES A PROFOUND INTEREST TO ALL HUMAN HISTORY. There is too much in the affairs of men to justify the sarcasm about the "battle of kites and crows;" there is something pitifully small in the contests which proceed in "high places" for honours, titles, and emoluments. In one view the struggles of men are small enough to excite our pity, if not our disregard. But introduce the element of the Divine! Then all is changed. And should we not introduce that element? If God's unfelt hand was on one heathen king, why not on another? why not on all the others? If, all unknown, he was upsetting and upraising kingdoms in one clime and age, why not in other climes and in other ages? In this view "profane" history becomes "sacred;" for in it we have a record of God's doings in the world. When we read the account of the overthrow of Assyria, of Persia, of Greece, of Rome, of Spain; when we read the careers of Alexander, of Caesar, of Charlemagne, of Napoleon, of Cromwell, of Washington,—in the light of the truth which lies in the text, human history is very much more than the story of a "battle between kites and crows;" it is more than the account of human passions in stern conflict, of human ambition working itself up and burning itself out. It is Divine procedure; it is God's outworking and overruling; it is the hand of God laid on the arm of man,—unfelt, unrecognized, but directing and controlling, working to wise and righteous issues. In the great events which are the landmarks of history, and in the careers of illustrious men, God is "within the shadow," girding men though they know him not—the mightiest factor by far in all worlds, and even in this, where he is so little known, so much forgotten.

II. IT LENDS GREAT IMPORTANCE TO EVERY HUMAN LIFE. Men may imagine that there is nothing sacred about their individual life; that they have very little to do with God and he with them; that God stands in no closer relation to them than that of the Author of the laws by which they are governed, and the ultimate source of the blessings which they receive. But they are wrong. God is much more to them than this. He is the Father of their spirits; he is 'the Saviour of their souls; he is seeking their welfare; is following them out, in his thought and affection, to the "far country" of sin; is inviting and promoting their return; is touching them in many ways and at many points, "girding them, though they know him not." The meaning of all sacred privilege and of all parental discipline is that God is laying his hand upon us, and is saying to us, "Return unto me;" "Come unto me."—C.

Isaiah 45:6-8

An old perplexity.

From very ancient times, through very many generations, there has presented itself to the human mind the perplexity which arises from the antagonism of forces. We find everywhere—

I. OPPOSITE ASPECTS OF HUMAN LIFE. Here are light and darkness, peace and evil (Isaiah 45:7). On the one hand are signs and indications of a marvellous and minute benevolence. In the sea, in the soil, in the forests, in the air, and on the earth; in fish, in insects, in beast, in bird, and, above all, in the life and in the mind of man,—are innumerable, inestimable evidences of Divine beneficence. But, on the other hand, there are drawbacks, there are shadows, there are evils, the number of which we cannot count, and the nature of which it is difficult to exaggerate. Pleasure is matched with pain; joy is followed by sorrow; hope is shadowed by fear; peace is waited upon by strife; life is swallowed up by death.

II. THE PERPLEXITY THUS OCCASIONED. What is the secret of this strange contradiction? What is the explanation of it? Shall we find intellectual rest in dualism? or shall we fall back upon fate—upon the blind action of unintelligent forces? or may we rise to the belief in one overruling God? Who shall read the riddle of the unintelligible world?

III. THE ARGUMENT FROM THE ISSUE. Go far enough on, and we shall find that which enlightens and relieves us; we must look to "the end of the Lord" (James 5:11). The end of the Lord is found:

1. In righteousness. (Isaiah 45:8.) At last, in the history of men, families, and nations, the pure and just are exalted, while the wicked are consumed and perish.

2. In salvation. (Isaiah 45:8.) To the suffering ones comes rescue from poverty or oppression; to the sinful ones comes redemption from penalty, reinstatement in the home and kingdom of God.

IV. THE SATISFYING TRUTH. After all, only one thing will decide the question—God's revealing Word. It was his declaration through the prophets, "I am the Lord;" "I the Lord have created it." It is the word, the life, the work of Jesus Christ, who reveals to us an ever-present, overruling Father of mankind.—C.

Isaiah 45:9-12

The argument for acquiescence.

No doubt there are circumstances in which men find—


1. Men are bitterly disappointed, or they are greatly distressed; their high hopes are dashed to the ground, or their chief treasures are taken from their grasp.

2. Then they think themselves aggrieved; they imagine that the Almighty is dealing with them as he does not with their fellows—that he is acting ungraciously and even unjustly toward them.

3. The issue is often a settled rebelliousness of spirit, an" inward thought" that God is partial and unfair; a tone of querulousness, if not actual terms of reproach, or even blasphemous arraignment.


1. The impotence and the peril of human resistance to the Divine Will. "Woe unto him that striveth," etc. (Isaiah 45:9). How vain is the contrast between finite, perishable man and the Infinite and Eternal; between one who is formed of clay and him who "made the earth and stretched out the heavens"!

2. The deference due from the creature to the Creator. "That striveth with his Maker" (Isaiah 45:9, Isaiah 45:11). For us to enter into a controversy with the Being who called us into existence, who endowed us with all the faculties we possess, who gave us the very power which is being exercised in criticism and questioning, without whose creative and sustaining hand we could not think one thought or speak one word, is unseemly and unbecoming in the last degree.

3. The fact of God's fatherhood, and all the reasons that reside therein. If it be unfitting for a son to reproach his father (Isaiah 45:10), how much more for us to rebel against God, who stands to us in a relation far more intimate, far more sacred, far more worthy of reverent submission, than that in which the human parent stands to his child! And it is also short-sighted; for the Divine Father has thoughts in his mired, reasons for his action, which we, his children, are quite unable to comprehend or even to conceive. For us to complain of him is for ignorance to complain of wisdom.

4. Consideration of the future which is coming. We must not leave the "things to come" (Isaiah 45:11) out of our reckoning; they have much to do with the whole question of God's dealings with mankind. What God purposes to do for us, both as individual men and as a race, forms an essential element in the whole matter. The future will be found to adjust the past and the present. The grievous things which have been and the painful things which are now will be balanced by, will be completely lost in, the blessed and glorious things which "wait to be revealed."—C.

Isaiah 45:15

Divine concealment.

In God's dealings with individual men and with mankind at large, as with his people Israel, there are three stages.

I. THE REVELATION OF HIMSELF. "O God of Israel." The God who was thus addressed was, emphatically, a Revealing One. He was known to Israel as the One who revealed himself to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, to Moses and Aaron, to Samuel and David and Solomon, to all his holy prophets. We also know God as the Being who has revealed himself in nature, in the human reason and conscience, in providence, and more especially in Jesus Christ. We worship him as the God who "hath showed us light," who has made clear to us his nature, his character, his disposition toward us, his sinful children, the conditions under which he will receive and reinstate us.

II. HIS CONCEALMENT OF HIMSELF. "Thou art a God that hides[ thyself." We see this truth appearing in various directions.

1. In the processes of nature. The power of God is in all the beneficent forces of nature, working out for us the changes of the seasons, the bounties and the beauties of the earth, the wonders of human attainment; but his hand is unseen, his touch unfelt.

2. In his government of mankind. Israel did not understand what Jehovah was doing with her; as a nation she entirely misunderstood her mission. God concealed the purpose he had in his training and his providential treatment. The other nations of antiquity—Assyria, Persia, Egypt, Greece, Rome—were serving a Divine purpose; but they knew it not. It was "the mystery hid from the ages and generations."

3. In his redemption of our race. How little did the apostles, while they accompanied our Lord and ministered to his wants and witnessed his sufferings, imagine that he was laying the foundations of a spiritual and universal empire—a kingdom of truth and love! What a blessed purpose, what a grand design was concealed beneath the humble person and the peaceful ministry of the Son of man! And in all the subsequent outworkings of the Divine plan, how much has there been of Divine concealment! So that, as one has said, while these eighteen centuries have been anni Domini, we have had to lament—

"Years of the Lord are these,
But of a Lord away."

4. In his conduct of each human, life. We believe that God is ordering our lives, shaping and moulding them, determining their course, and deciding what shall be the witness they shall bear and the work they shall do—what shall be their contribution to the great campaign he is conducting. But, here again, his hand is all unseen. Often, generally, we cannot detect the unity, the plan, the purpose of our lives; it is because we walk by faith and not by sight that we are convinced of the presence of his intervening and overruling power. Many are the dark passages in the good man's career, when he is prompted to exclaim, "Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself."

III. HIS MANIFESTATION IN REDEEMING LOVE. The last word we have to use is a word which explains everything—"the Saviour." Israel is brought very low; God's face is hidden from his people; he seems to have forgotten them; but he comes in redeeming grace, and "with the saving strength of his right hand" proves himself their Refuge and their Friend. The human race goes from bad to worse, and, when it seems delivered over to corruption and ruin, there is born in the city of David a Saviour, Jesus Christ. The hour in our experience is dark, misfortunes have multiplied, disaster is imminent; but our extremity is his opportunity, and God appears in delivering power. "Unto the upright there ariseth light in the darkness." From the very edge of the precipice we are snatched by the strong and saving hand of God.

1. Circumstances of distress are no proof of God's absence. He may only be hiding his face for a while.

2. Let all souls in their integrity appeal for and anticipate a merciful and full redemption (Psalms 50:15).—C.

Isaiah 45:16-19

What shall the end be?

Things are rightly tested by their issues. We do well to ask—To what is this course tending? in what will it terminate? Taken in a deep and full sense, though not in a short and shallow one, "all is well that ends well." The prophet says that idolatry will be condemned in the ultimate and utter overthrow and confusion of its victims (Isaiah 45:16), while true piety will be finally and fully established (Isaiah 45:17). Of this there was the most ample security (Isaiah 45:18, Isaiah 45:19). We infer, generally—

I. THAT EVIL ENDS IN OVERTHROW AND DISHONOUR. It is not idolatry only which, when the last stage is reached, is covered with confusion. It is the doom of all departure from the righteous will of God. Self-indulgence has its pleasant hours; but it conducts by a sure road to disease and early death. Crime has its successes; but it spends its last days within prison-walls. Greed has its own wretched gratification; but it earns general and unspeakable contempt. Worldliness wins its honour and "has its reward;" but it ends in heart-ache and bitter disappointment, Rapacity and injustice do often wring treasures from the wronged and suffering; but they end in exposure, in condemnation, in ruin.

II. THAT OBEDIENCE ENDS IN BLESSEDNESS AND HONOUR. It is not confounded nor ashamed; it is saved—it "seeks not God's face in vain." It "inherits the land." Though much may be endured, yet a great deal more is gained, by a complete surrender of self to the service of Christ. It ensures that without which all earthly possessions and all human honours are worthless, with which they can be cheerfully foregone. It brings peace of mind, joy of soul, growth in goodness, victory over the world, Divine favour and guidance, eternal glory.


1. Divine power. On the "thus saith the Lord," on the word of him who "created the heavens and formed the earth."

2. Divine wisdom. On the word of him whose presence is attested by his handiwork: "He created it not in vain."

3. Divine righteousness. "I the Lord speak righteousness, I declare things that are right." The power, the wisdom, and the righteousness of God are to us the all-sufficient pledge that we shall not seek his face in vain, but shall find that the earnest seeker after God will find all that will fill his heart, ennoble his life, and secure a glorious and immortal destiny.—C.

Isaiah 45:21-25

Our great hope: a missionary sermon.

The view of the prophet is "exceeding broad." He sees that which is "afar off." He looks across the countries and across the centuries, and he has a more glorious vision than statesman ever pictured, than poet ever dreamed. We look at this—

I. OUR SUPREME HOPE FOR THE HUMAN WORLD. Isaiah has before his mind a time when "all the ends of the earth will be saved;" when "every knee will bow" to God, and every tongue solemnly invoke his holy Name; when men shall "come to him" in adoration and in thanksgiving. This is our heart's most profound desire, our soul's highest hope. We do not want our nation to subdue every other to servitude and subsidy. We do not want our form of faith or polity to swallow up every other form. We do want mankind to know God, to approach him in pure worship, to bless him for his fatherly love, to glory in his goodness, to submit to his righteous sway, to rejoice in him as the One that saves from sin and restores to righteousness. When, beneath every sky, speaking every language, with all possible varieties of custom and civilization, men everywhere shall honour the one holy Lord and rejoice in the same righteous Redeemer, the supreme hope for the world will be fulfilled. But we have to consider—

II. THE DELAY IN ITS FULFILMENT. The Israelites returned from captivity, and entered again on a course of national freedom and Divine worship in the holy place; the Lord "did great things for them, whereof they were glad." But nothing happened then or in subsequent days in Jerusalem or in Judaea which could be said to be a realization of this glorious vision. Jerusalem perished and Israel was scattered, while the prophecy remained unfulfilled. Jesus Christ came and formed his Church; that Church grew and throve, overturning the idolatries with which it contended. It has been making its way in the world, and, during the last century, has made substantial progress. But the world is very far indeed from having attained to the condition which is here foretold. The prophetic word waits to be fulfilled; there is a long delay in the realization of our supreme hope. But let us gladly turn to—


1. The triumphs which have been already gained. These are very great, and they are exactly proportionate to the purity of the doctrine which has been taught and the zeal of the Churches which has been shown, With Christ's truth taught as it came from him and from his inspired apostles, and with the Churches of Christ as much in earnest as they have been during this century, the advance will be sure and swift..

2. The strong word of Divine promise. "I have sworn by myself … that unto me," etc.; "I, if I be lifted up from the earth," etc.; "All power is given unto me … go ye therefore," etc.

3. The fitness of the gospel of Christ for the necessities of men. It provides:

(1) A sense of forgiveness of sin. "Be justified."

(2) The possession of moral excellency "Righteousness."

(3) Spiritual power to resist temptation. "Strength."

(4) Joy of heart, showing itself in praise. "Shall glory."

IV. OUR PRIVILEGE AND DUTY IN RELATION TO IT. Since there is, indeed, such a hope for mankind, since that is to be the final issue of all strife and suffering and toil, let each nation, each Church, each family, each Christian man, see to it that its (his) contribution is forthcoming, so that, when the fields arc ripe, it (he) may have a share in the joy of harvest.—C.


Isaiah 45:2

The secret of assured success.

These figures indicate the removal of all obstacles and hindrances out of the way of him who is called of God, entrusted with some particular work for God, and helped of God in the doing of that work. Historical illustration is found in the fact, as stated by the older writers, that in some unaccountable way the river-gates of Babylon were found open on the approach of Cyrus; or, as stated on the authority of the monuments, that the city capitulated, as a consequence of the defeat of Nabonidus in the field. Professor Sayce says, "Another fact of an equally revolutionary kind, which the inscriptions teach us, is that Babylon was not besieged and taken by Cyrus. It opened its gates to his general long before he came near it, and needed neither fighting nor battle for its occupation." Grote, in his 'History of Greece,' says, "The way in which the city was treated would lead us to suppose that its acquisition cannot have cost the conqueror either much time or much loss … it is certain that the vast walls and gates were left untouched." The assurances of the text arc even better fulfilled by moving obstacles out of the way, than by Cyrus actually mastering them. Herodotus tells us that Babylon had a hundred gates of brass, with posts and hooks of the same metal.

I. OBSTACLES IN THE WAY SHOULD BE NO HINDRANCE TO US. There is hardly anything worth doing in life that is not difficult to do. The difference between men is seen in their attitude in face of difficulties. Illustrate by the position of Israel before the Red Sea. It was a brave thing for Moses to command Israel to "go forward;" but it was a type of the right attitude for us always to take when the way seems obstructed. "I cannot" must give place to "I will, God helping me."

II. THE ONE THING TO SEEK IS THE ASSURANCE THAT WE ARE DOING GOD'S WILL. This distinguishes the good man from the mere man of energy. The Cyrus here referred to was raised up by God, and entrusted with a particular work. But it is true that still God calls individuals to special service. He makes plain to them his will And our first anxiety should be to be sure that we are where he has set us, and are doing just what he would have us do. Once let these things be settled, and oppositions and hindrances count for nothing. We want more faith in Divine providence, in the inward inspirations and outward directings of God. Where he sets us we must bear, conquer, and do.

III. WAYS ALWAYS OPEN BEFORE THE OBEDIENT, RESOLUTE. TRUSTFUL MAN. Firmness, moral courage, persistency, and, above all, real faith in God, compel difficulties to yield. They are always according to the size of the man himself. If he is big with faith, they grow small; if he is little with fears, they grow big. Obstacles are searching tests of character. Men of faith are like the mountain streams that make their way down amid the rocks; if they cannot get over the rocks, they go round them, but they will not be stopped.—R.T.

Isaiah 45:4, Isaiah 45:5

The Divine surnaming.

"I that call thee by thy name." "I have titled thee" (Cheyne's translation). Some think the reference is to the name Cyrus, or Koresh, regarded as a new title for one who was originally known as Agradates." Others, with more probability, think the reference is to the honourable epithets, "my shepherd," "my anointed." Our knowledge of Cyrus has been modified, in some very important particulars, by recent discoveries of Babylonian inscriptions. Professor Sayce is of opinion that, "We must give up the belief that Cyrus was a monotheist, bent on destroying the idols of Babylon. On the contrary, from the time when we first hear of him, he is a worshipper of Bel-Merodach, the patron-god of Babylon; and the first care of himself and his son, after his conquest of Babylonia, is to restore the Babylonian gods to the shrines from which they had been impiously removed by Nabonidos." "The theory," he says, "which held that Cyrus had allowed the Jews to return to 'their own land because, like them, he believed in but one supreme god—the Ormazd, or good spirit,, of the Zoroastrian creed—must be abandoned. God consecrated Cyrus to be his instrument in restoring his chosen people to their land, not because the King of Elam was a monotheist, but because the period of Jewish trial and punishment had come to an end." It has been thought by some that this prophecy of Isaiah concerning Cyrus was brought to that king's notice, and so helped to secure its own fulfilment. It is agreed that this Cyrus was a singularly just and noble monarch. Dr. H. Bushnell says, "So beautiful is the character and history of Cyrus, the person here addressed, that many have doubted whether the sketch given by Xenophon was not intended as an idealizing or merely romantic picture And what should he be but a model of all princely beauty, of bravery, of justice, of impartial honour to the lowly, of greatness and true magnanimity in every form, when God has girded him, unseen, to be the minister of his own great and sovereign purposes to the nations of his time?" Dean Stanley says, "Though we know but little of the individual character of Cyrus, he first of the ancient conquerors, appears in other than a merely despotic and destructive aspect. It can hardly be without foundation that both in Greek and Hebrew literature he is represented as the type of a just and gentle prince." Three subjects are suggested.

I. THE DISTINCT ENDOWMENTS OF MEN INDICATE DIVINE CALL TO DIVINE WORK, In the Divine sovereignty and wisdom there is a proportionate distribution of gifts among men. In the figure of our Lord's parable, we may say, the master of the house calls together his servants, and delivers to each one some portion of his goods in trust. Very marked are the varieties of endowment and ability in a single family. We are often made to feel that God has given special gifts to some of our children; but we should see that these cases are only prominent illustrations of the truth that he has given some gifts to all. We all have some special work to do for God in the world, and so we all have some special endowments for the doing of it. Every man is called of God, girded by God, surnamed by God, and the moment when he clearly sees what his lifework is, is the moment when he becomes conscious of his call. Bushnell says, "What do the Scriptures show us but that God has a particular care for every man, a personal interest in him, and a sympathy with him and his trials, watching for the uses of his one talent as attentively and kindly, and approving him as heartily in the right employment of it, as if he had given him ten? and what is the giving out of the talents itself but an exhibition of the fact that God has a definite purpose, charge, and work, be it this or that, for every man?" "Every human soul has a complete and perfect plan cherished for it in the heart of God—a Divine biography marked out, which it enters into life to live." The point on which we dwell is that the sense of power, the consciousness of power, is the witness to God's call; and the responsibility of using the power to do God's work comes with the consciousness. To say "I can" is to affirm that there is something God wants me to do.

II. THE PRECISE TIME IN WHICH A MAN HAS TO LIVE INDICATES DIVINE CALL AND WORK. Each one comes into being at the "fulness of time" for him. It is sometimes said that great preachers and thought-leaders of the past would do little if they lived now. The saying is a foolish one. They belonged to their age, and were endowed for their age. The Divine lead was as marked in the time of their appearing as in the gifts with which they were endowed. In each age God wants men

(1) who can represent the age, and find expression for the average thought of the age;

(2) men who are before the age, and can lead the age up towards the thoughts and things that are to be; and

(3) men who are behind the age, and zealously preserve the good things of the past that may seem to be imperilled. A man may say, "God has called me to live just now; then I may be quite sure that there is something which he wants me to do for him, and which he has fitted me to do, just now." Thus viewed, life grows solemn and holy for us all. We have our own work to do.

III. THE PROVIDENTIAL CULTURE OF MEN FITS THEM FOE DOING GOD'S PRECISE WORK FOR THEM. This is often imperfectly apprehended. We are precisely endowed, and set forth in the world at just the right time; but it is important that we further trace how God cultures the gifts by the influences with which he surrounds us, and the providences he arranges for us. Often when men have found out what their life-work is to be, they gain the key to the meaning of the scenes and circumstances through which they have been led.—R.T.

Isaiah 45:7

One source of evil and good.

"I make peace, and create evil." It is an unworthy forcing of Scripture to set this passage in relation to the insoluble difficulty of the origin of moral evil. Two things are often sadly confounded—evil as an unpleasant state of our circumstances; and evil as a wrong condition of our will. The latter is referable to God only in the sense that he gave to man a moral nature and a capacity of choice. The former view of evil is that alluded to in the passage now before us. It has been thought that the passage was written in view of the principles of Persian dualism. "The Magi taught that there are two coeternal supramundane beings—Ormazd, the pure and eternal principle of light, the source of all that is good; and Ahriman, the source of darkness, the fountain of all evil, both physical and moral. These two divide the empire of the world, and are in perpetual conflict with each other." Perhaps Isaiah deals here with evil and good as they are regarded by man, not as they are estimated by God. The "good" here is that which is pleasant; the "evil" is that which is painful; and the assertion is that both the pleasant and the painful are within the Divine controlling, and are forces used by God to secure certain high moral ends. "Darkness" represents the misery and woe of the exile; "light" represents the happy state to which Israel was to be restored through the agency of Cyrus.

I. THE TENDENCY TO THINK OF A SEPARATE SOURCE OF EVIL. So great are the disturbances of God's order through man's sin and wilfulness, that human life seems more full of calamities and anxieties than of blessings and good. This is man's impression, and he has ever been disposed to say, "The good God cannot send these calamities; they must have a source of their own." Men are always ready to make Ahrimans, Sivas, or Typhons, to explain the existence of physical evils.

IX. THE TENDENCY TO GIVE ALMOST EXCLUSIVE WORSHIP TO THE EVIL-GOD. To ward off evil seems to be a more pressing thing than to be good or to obtain good, and so the supreme effort is made to propitiate the evil-god. Illustrate by the heathen sailors in the boat with Jonah, exposed to storms. We even need to be most careful in our conceptions of Satan, lest a notion of his independence should divide our worship between him and Jehovah. He must be thought of as dependent on God, even as we.

III. THE INEVITABLE DEGRADATION OF HUMAN WORSHIP, UNDER. THIS CONDITION. The maintenance of high morality is found absolutely to depend on the jealous preservation of the truth of the Divine unity.—R.T.

Isaiah 45:9

The sin and folly of resisting God.

The truth of the Divine sovereignty must be clearly and faithfully presented. But we must carefully guard God from all charges of caprice or favouritism. We must liken him to man, in order to apprehend him at all; but we must eliminate from our figure of man all that is weak and self-seeking. The infinite holiness and infinite wisdom of God glorifies his sovereignty. He does what he wills with his own; but what he wills to do is always the absolute best, the eternally right. It must, then, be mistaken, unworthy, and wrong for us to resist God. "Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!" The immediate reference of the text is to those who murmured at the delay of the deliverance from exile. "Woe unto him who, though made of earth, and with no intrinsic superiority over others of his race, presumes to find fault with his Maker, and to criticize providential arrangements!" Matthew Henry says, "Men are but earthen pots, nay, they are broken potsherds, and are made so very much by their mutual contentions. They are dashed in pieces one against another; and, if they are disposed to strive, let them strive with one another, let them meddle with their match; but let them not dare to contend with him that is infinitely above them, which is as senseless and absurd as for the clay to find fault with the potter, as unnatural as for a child to find fault with his parents." Criticizers of God may be classed under two heads—

(1) those who only question and raise doubts;

(2) those who arrogantly condemn.

Some of the people of Israel were looking for a deliverer to arise from among themselves, and criticized God's delay, and then criticized his delivering by the agency of a heathen prince. The plea urged is this: "Will Israel be more wise than God?" We have here suggested three stages of unworthy treatment of God.

I. CRITICIZING. There are two ways of judging the actions of others, and they differ by the difference in their tone and spirit rather than in the acts themselves.

1. We may judge with the prevailing disposition to find out all that is good.

2. We may judge with the prevailing disposition to find fault. This is always unworthy, but never so unworthy as where applied to the ways and works of God.

II. CONDEMNING. Always a doubtful thing for man to do, seeing he is invested with neither authority nor ability for such work. Always wrong and unworthy, if man's condemnation of God, seeing that he cannot compass the whole of God's reasons, motives, and aims. Man never knows enough to allow him to venture on a condemnation.

III. WORKING AGAINST. Translating bad opinions into bad conduct. Allowing criticism to encourage enmity. Illustrate from Saul of Tarsus, who ventured to criticize and condemn God's Messiah, and then thought himself justified in working against him.—R.T.

Isaiah 45:15

The joy of mystery in God.

"Surely thou art a God that hideth himself, O God of Israel, Saviour!" (Cheyne's translation). This represents the average feeling of the captives. God's ways, though excellent, are not as man's ways; they are often hidden from men. They are mysterious ways; but faith rises above the mysteries, and calls them "good ways."

(1) God's plans are hidden in the counsels of eternity;

(2) God's work is often hidden in the variety of the agencies he employs; and

(3) God's results cause surprise and joy when they can be revealed. Dealing with this subject in a larger way, we inquire

I. WHAT IS GOD TO MAN'S SEEING? In our pride of heart we are very unwilling to admit the limitation or imperfection of our faculties. We can know so much; why cannot we know God? We can see so much; why cannot we see God? Men are restless, and bitterly fret, because the dark mists still fringe and hide the "mountain-peak of a God." They say, "If it be so to our vision down in the plains of common life, then we will climb the hills of science, get up above, and look down on the peak, and shatter for ever the mysteries that surround him." Some expect to return to us with a scornful smile, prepared to say, "There is no God, only a high peak, which the unclouded sun gilds with a perpetual radiance; and this, shining through the clouds, made you think there was a God."

"Then all goes wrong: the old foundations rock;

One scorns at him of old who gazed unshod;

One, striking with a pickaxe, thinks the shock

Shall move the seat of God.

"A little way, a very little way

(Life is so short), they dig into the rind,

And they are very sorry—so they say—

Sorry for what they find.

"O marvellous credulity of man!

If God indeed kept secret, couldst thou know

Or follow up the mighty Artisan

Unless he willed it so?"
(Jean Ingelow.)

Human vision cannot see all round. When it can see the under-world and the within, world, it may begin to boast that it can see the beyond-world. But not till then. And what it does see it can only see imperfectly. Only sides and parts and aspects. With the great heap of human attainments lying before us, we may say, "Lo, these are parts of his ways; but the thunder of his power who can understand?" Do you want to see God all round and right through? Be assured of this: "No mortal vision, pure or sinning, hath seen the face." Better, far better, to adore and love the mystery of God and God's ways.

II. WHAT IS GOD BEYOND MAN'S SEEING? Man's foolish ambition is to see everything with his bodily eyes. Man's true wisdom is in knowing God through the soul-visions that are granted to faith. And, beyond our seeing of the clouds and the mystery, what is God?

1. To our seeing, there is much difficulty and mystery about God's ruling of the earth; but our souls know that he reigns in righteousness.

2. To our seeing, there is much cloud and mystery about God's providential dealings with us; but our souls know that he makes "all things work together for good."

3. To our seeing, the redemption of the human race from sin is a profound and awful mystery; but our souls know that Christ "shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied."

4. To our seeing, the future of the human race is all hung about with clouds and darkness. The very terms, "eternal life," "eternal death," are but folds of the wondrous veil that hides the unspeakable from our view; but our souls do enter into rest. Righteousness and love will preside over man's future, as truly as over the past and the present. We may rejoice in a God who hideth himself. We may be glad that the clouds hang low about him, that the mystery of him cannot be solved, and that he therefore calls for a great wondering, lowly adoration, and the perfect trust. Our God is within the grasp neither of our hand nor of our mind. Nothing in heaven above or earth beneath can be, in any full sense, a likeness of him. The grandest things do but hint his grandeur; the most lovely things do but suggest his loveliness; the truest things are but faint echoes of his truth. Away, beyond us, above us, he soars into the "light inaccessible "—our ever-blessed God, who, though he hideth himself, is our Saviour.—R.T.

Isaiah 45:19

Seeking in vain.

Henderson regards this as an appeal "to the publicity" and perspicuity with which the Divine predictions had been announced; with manifest reference to the responses of the heathen oracles, which were given from deep and obscure caverns, or the hidden recesses of temples; and were, at the best, artful and equivocal, and, in cases of extreme difficulty, were altogether withheld." Cheyne says, "The heathen oracles are as obscure in their origin as they are unveracious and disappointing. Those who deliver them say, as it were, 'Seek ye me as chaos.' But the revelations of Jehovah are the embodiments of righteousness and uprightness." (comp. Proverbs 8:6). It may be urged

(1) that God's message to men is plain;

(2) is satisfactory;

(3) is just.

Or it may be shown that God's will is clearly and sufficiently revealed, in all its several forms:

(1) in creation;

(2) in history;

(3) in individual experiences;

(4) in Word-revelations spoken directly within man, as the law of conscience; and

(5) in Word-revelations spoken to man, as the law of conduct.

It is suggestive of illustration to recall the declaration of our Lord Jesus, "In secret have I said nothing" (John 18:20). Another line of treatment may be offered.

I. MEN'S SELF-PURSUITS END IN VANITY. We do "seek them in vain" Illustrations should be taken from the Book of Ecclesiastes, which is precisely this—a man's record of his seeking the "chief good" as he could conceive it. He sought this way and that, in every conceivably hopeful direction, and with every possible advantage in the search; and his conclusion of the matter is, "Nothing satisfies. All is vanity." Byron sought self-satisfaction in pursuing self-ends; and long ere old age could come with its burdens he wrote, "The worm, the canker, and the grief, are mine alone." Before the ruins of the self-seeking life, we stand and say, "So is he who heapeth up riches for himself, and is not rich toward God."

II. MAN-MADE RELIGIONS END IN VANITY. To trust them is "spending money for that which is not bread." Illustrate this by showing how, in St. Paul's day, the Athenians had multiplied gods because, one after another, they had been sought, and failed to satisfy; and at length they even, in their unrest, inscribed altars to the "Unknown God."

III. GOD'S WAY OF LIFE IS ABUNDANTLY SATISFYING. It is a living fountain of waters.

1. It meets the soul-cry for righteousness in God.

2. It meets the soul-cry for pardon of sin.

3. It meets the soul-cry for restored and happy relations with God.

4. It meets the soul-cry for power to perform that which is good.

5. It meets the yearning of the soul for assurance concerning the future.

So men never seek God in vain.—R.T.

Isaiah 45:21

Just and saving.

The idea is that God is strictly faithful to his covenant, and therefore he must be a saving God. Saving is implied and involved in the covenant. There is the further assertion that God stands alone as a Saviour; there is no God who can save besides him. The point which may be unfolded and illustrated is that there is here declared the union of two attributes in God which, in human actions, are often thought to be incompatible. The just man is thought of as likely to punish. The just God is sure to save.

I. MAN'S IDEA ISJUST AND PUNISHING. Our minds are mostly occupied with the work of justice in finding and punishing evil-doers. Consequently, a very limited forensic idea of justice has come to possess men's minds; and this limited and unworthy notion of justice we too readily apply to God; and according to it settle God's relations with men. But justice is properly "doing right by men" and "setting men right," and mere punishment is only an accident of the true work of justice; or, we may say, one of its agencies in doing its higher work. Justice is as truly delivering men out of the hands of the wicked, as it is punishing the evil-doer. This position should be fully illustrated, and it will prepare the way for the consideration of the next division.

II. GOD'S IDEA ISJUST AND SAVING. With God the "just" means the "right," and that always includes the "kind." This may be opened in several ways.

1. God is just in saving his people from disasters which others have brought on them.

2. God is just in saving them from the consequences of their own infirmities and follies.

3. God is just in saving men from their sins by punishing them for their sins.

4. God is just in saving them from punishment, when the ends of punishment have been secured.

5. God is just in finding a way by which, through the voluntary sacrifice of his Son, his honour can be maintained while his mercy is extended to guilty and helpless sinners. His saving, in Christ Jesus, is the expression of his justice. He is the "Justifier of him who believeth in Jesus."—R.T.

Isaiah 45:22

Salvation by looking.

The illustration at once suggested is that of the Israelites, healed from the bite of the serpents by looking at the God-provided brazen serpent, lifted up on high in the middle of the camp. This familiar subject needs only a bare outline of points to unfold and impress.

I. HIM TO WHOM WE SHOULD LOOK. "I, if I be lifted up," said Christ, "will draw all men unto me." "That whosoever believeth on him might not perish, but have everlasting life."


1. The look of conscious need.

2. The look of personal helplessness.

3. The look of humility.

4. The look of faith.


1. Salvation from the penalty due to sin.

2. From the wrong relations brought about by sin.

3. From the bad inward state induced by sin.

"For all within you, Guido, which sighs after a redemption, is Christ come as a Redeemer; he has redeemed your heart and your reason; he has redeemed your spirit and your body; he has redeemed yourself and nature which surrounds you" (Tholuck).—R.T.

Isaiah 45:23

The Lord's final triumph.

(Comp. Philippians 2:10.) It should be noticed that "kneeling" and "swearing to" are acts of homage and fealty; and they are so used in this passage. Still we "swear" allegiance to a sovereign. "If the heart be brought into obedience to Christ, and made willing in the day of his power, the knee will bow to him in humble adoration and addresses, and in cheerful obedience to his commands, submission to his disposals, and compliance with his will in both; and the tongue will swear to him, will lay a bond upon the soul to engage it for ever to him." The point suggested for illustration is this—How can the faith of Israel claim to be the universal religion for mankind? The answer is that, beneath its forms and ceremonials, which were but illustrations of its truths, it holds all the absolute essentials of religion, and these can gain varied expression, to suit the genius of all races, in all climes and periods. These essentials are—




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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Isaiah 45". The Pulpit Commentary. 1897.