Today the Lord makes clear who He is – “I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.” He calls out those who make false gods to worship and says it is foolish to worship something you make with your own hands – “Those who make an image, all of them are useless… Who would form a god or mold an image that profits him nothing?”
The people are spiritually blind, therefore, “They do not know nor understand; For He has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand… A deceived heart has turned him aside; and he cannot deliver his soul.” One commentator said that the people first loved darkness and chose blindness, so the Lord gave them what they wanted. He said it was similar to the way the Lord hardened the heart of Pharaoh. When God hardened Pharaoh’s heart, the Lord was allowing Pharaoh to do what he wanted to do. The same is true for those who are choosing to worship idols made by their own hands.
However, Isaiah gives the people a word of hope – “Remember these, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are My servant; I have formed you, you are My servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me! I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you… Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, and he shall perform all My pleasure, saying to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be built,’ And to the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’”
Soon, Jeremiah will foretell of Judah’s seventy year captivity in Babylon (Jeremiah 29:10). After seventy years, Cyrus, king of Persia, will make a decree releasing the Jews to return and rebuild Jerusalem and the temple (2 Chronicles 36:22-23). Isaiah’s prophecy of the deliverance was written more than two hundred years before Cyrus fulfills the prophecy.
So we see that God is sovereign over all, including pagan kings. The Lord says, “To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held— to subdue nations before him.” And this is not a hard task for the Lord because, as He says – “I have made the earth, and created man on it. I – My hands – stretched out the heavens, and all their host I have commanded.”
The Lord tells the people to “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, that to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath.”
Isaiah foretells the fall of Babylon to Persia. The Lord is going to humble Babylon for taking pleasure in punishing His people – “I was angry with My people; I have profaned My inheritance, and given them into your hand. You showed them no mercy… Therefore hear this now, you who are given to pleasure… For you have trusted in your wickedness; You have said, ‘No one sees me’; Your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you; and you have said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one else besides me.’ Therefore evil shall come upon you.” The Lord always sees, and He always serves justice to the unrepentant wicked.
We end the reading with God exposing the stubbornness of His people. However, although the people persist in their stubbornness, the Lord will restore them by His mercy and grace, and for His name’s sake – “For My name’s sake I will defer My anger, and for My praise I will restrain it from you, so that I do not cut you off. Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction. For My own sake, for My own sake, I will do it; For how should My name be profaned? And I will not give My glory to another.”
Nothing can stop the plans and purposes of the Lord. He is sending His Son, Jesus Christ, to die so that anyone who puts their faith and trust in Him will have their soul delivered. Later Paul will say, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God”(Romans 10:17). When we hear the word of God, we can either respond by trusting in Jesus and His sacrifice as payment for our sins or we can choose to ignore the Lord and be left to ourselves. Paul will tell us that if we choose to ignore the Lord, He will turn us over to ourselves and our hardened hearts, just as He did with Pharaoh and the ones choosing to worship idols made by their hand – “And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done” (Romans 2:28).
As C.S. Lewis said, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says in the end, ‘Thy will be done’.” Keep reading. (Isaiah 44:6-48:11)