Today: [Isaiah 41] Cyrus – God’s Deliverer: In this chapter Isaiah sets the stage for a court proceeding between those worshiping idols in Judah and those trusting in the one, true God. He calls the nations to silence and challenges those even in Hezekiah’s day that still clung to pagan beliefs. He goes on to insist against all objections that in spite of Hezekiah’s godly reign that the nation will ultimately fall, but then be delivered by a conqueror yet to come. This comes to pass a century later through Cyrus and the Persians and the Medes who overthrow Babylon and redeem the people of God from captivity, thus facilitating the rebuilding of Jerusalem (which hadn’t even been destroyed at the time of Isaiah’s prophecy in this chapter).
[Isa 41:1-29 KJV] 1 Keep silence before me, O islands; and let the people renew [their] strength: let them come near; then let them speak: let us come near together to judgment. 2 Who raised up the righteous [man] from the east, called him to his foot, gave the nations before him, and made [him] rule over kings? he gave [them] as the dust to his sword, [and] as driven stubble to his bow. 3 He pursued them, [and] passed safely; [even] by the way [that] he had not gone with his feet. 4 Who hath wrought and done [it], calling the generations from the beginning? I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I [am] he. 5 The isles saw [it], and feared; the ends of the earth were afraid, drew near, and came. 6 They helped every one his neighbour; and [every one] said to his brother, Be of good courage. 7 So the carpenter encouraged the goldsmith, [and] he that smootheth [with] the hammer him that smote the anvil, saying, It [is] ready for the sodering: and he fastened it with nails, [that] it should not be moved. 8 But thou, Israel, [art] my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. 9 [Thou] whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou [art] my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away. 10 Fear thou not; for I [am] with thee: be not dismayed; for I [am] thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
At this juncture in Isaiah the prophet is looking past the time of Hezekiah through 7 remaining kings of Judah before they are taken into captivity to Babylon. This covered a span of approximately 100 years. Can you imagine the seeming irrelevance of Isaiah’s words to those around him? They are in the reign of Hezekiah and things are improving for the people and the nation. Assyria is defeated supernaturally by the hand of God – what possible justification can there be for borrowing trouble from 100 years hence? Yet this is exactly the time frame Isaiah is speaking to. He is insisting that the nation of Babylon, whom Hezekiah has foolishly courted the favor of, will ultimately come down and destroy Judah, Jerusalem and the temple itself. This in fact does happen in the days of the final king of Judah before Jesus, king Zedekiah.
Isaiah goes a step further because he has no need to convince anyone listening to him that the nation will ultimately be destroyed and taken into captivity. Can you image such a prophetic word for our own nation? What if a prophet rose up on the national scene predicting that our country will be invaded, overthrown and completely dismantled by a distant, foreign power that was no threat whatsoever at the time? It would be as though you would suggest that Greenland was going to invade and destroy our nation. It is nonsensical. It was fantasy. Yet Isaiah not only declares such a thing will happen, he looks beyond these events to comfort the people of God in the aftermath. In other words Isaiah’s predictions are falling on deaf ears in his own day but 100 years hence the people will lay hold on every syllable as they languish in Babylonian captivity waiting for the deliverance of God.
That deliverance ultimately comes through the Medes and the Persians, led by Cyrus. Verse 1 of our chapter opens with God calling the nations to silence as though they were standing before an open court proceeding. The words of Isaiah begin with a challenge to those who worshipped idols even still in Judah to produce the proof of the strength of their false gods in the face of the living God who now acts (in a future time, the time of Cyrus) to deliver His people. Verse 2 speaks of God bringing the “righteous man from the east…” This is a dual reference. Firstly it applies to Cyrus who comes from Persia, east of Babylon to deliver the people of God from the grip of Babylonian captivity. Secondly it applies to the Messiah Himself who comes from the eastern sky to deliver us from sin and the world from its bondage to the vexation and vanity of the fall.
11 Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish. 12 Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, [even] them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought. 13 For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. 14 Fear not, thou worm Jacob, [and] ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel. 15 Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat [them] small, and shalt make the hills as chaff. 16 Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the LORD, [and] shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel. 17 [When] the poor and needy seek water, and [there is] none, [and] their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. 18 I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. 19 I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, [and] the pine, and the box tree together: 20 That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.
Verse 11 says that the deliverer that God brings will bring to shame and confusion all those that were angry with the people of God. The Babylonians (who haven’t even threatened Judah at the time Isaiah gives this prophecy) were very angry with Judah and Jerusalem. When Nebuchadnezzar finally destroys Jerusalem, he besieges it for 30 months in December of 589 B.C. One commentator describes the suffering of the city as the people suffering “every worst woe that could possibly befall them as they drank the full fury of the Babylonians to the last dregs”. When the city finally falls, Zedekiah sees his sons put to death, his eyes put out and is dragged in chains to Babylon where he dies in captivity.
Yet the promise of God is that one day men will seek the kingdom of Babylon and not find it for it will be destroyed by God’s hand – in this case through Cyrus the conqueror. Cyrus himself in the years to come will acknowledge that the God of the Hebrews was using him to bring about His divine will:
Ezr 1:2 KJV – 2 Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
Can God use a pagan king to bring about His will? God can do anything He wants, anytime He wants and He doesn’t have to check with anyone. Many Christians believe that now President Donald Trump is a modern day Cyrus, bringing about the will of God.
21 Produce your cause, saith the LORD; bring forth your strong [reasons], saith the King of Jacob. 22 Let them bring [them] forth, and shew us what shall happen: let them shew the former things, what they [be], that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come. 23 Shew the things that are to come hereafter, that we may know that ye [are] gods: yea, do good, or do evil, that we may be dismayed, and behold [it] together. 24 Behold, ye [are] of nothing, and your work of nought: an abomination [is he that] chooseth you. 25 I have raised up [one] from the north, and he shall come: from the rising of the sun shall he call upon my name: and he shall come upon princes as [upon] morter, and as the potter treadeth clay. 26 Who hath declared from the beginning, that we may know? and beforetime, that we may say, [He is] righteous? yea, [there is] none that sheweth, yea, [there is] none that declareth, yea, [there is] none that heareth your words. 27 The first [shall say] to Zion, Behold, behold them: and I will give to Jerusalem one that bringeth good tidings. 28 For I beheld, and [there was] no man; even among them, and [there was] no counsellor, that, when I asked of them, could answer a word. 29 Behold, they [are] all vanity; their works [are] nothing: their molten images [are] wind and confusion.
The chapter began as a court proceeding, challenging the idolaters in Judah to show cause as to why they trust in Baal rather than trusting in the living God. Isaiah describes the ultimate destruction of Jerusalem and the temple and its eventual deliverance by a leader that Jehovah shall raise up. The chapter concludes with Isaiah mocking the beliefs of those who reject his word, challenging them to show what is in the latter end. Isaiah is not adopting a wait and see attitude about the things God is showing him. He is mocking his detractors as Elijah did on Carmel and totally marginalizing those who no doubt are claiming that this mad prophet is only speaking from the vanity of his own mind.
The chapter concludes with the repeated consolation in verse 27 that there is one that is coming who will bring good tidings. This is what some would term a “proto-evangelicum” speaking not just of contemporary events but of the coming of the savior who will not just deliver a nation, but all the earth from the vanity of sin and the consequences of the fall.
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