PART THREE: CH 40-55
- Ch 6-39 – tied to historic events- Assyrian rule
- Ch 40-66 – not tied to specific historic events
- Ch 40-55 speaking hope to a people who fear themselves cast off
Remember, Isaiah is speaking during the Assyrian captivity. Babylon is not even on the scene but eventually, Babylon will overthrow Assyria and then Persia will overthrow Babylon.
So Isaiah’s prophesy in this next section is addressing the sentiment for those who are exiled to Babylon and saying, trust God, restoration/deliverance will happen, even though it seems so improbable.
Why is this section so important?
2 deliverances leading to an inheritance – one physical, one spiritual
Physical deliverance through Cyrus leading to a physical inheritance
Spiritual deliverance through the Servant leading to a spiritual inheritance – God delivers us physically from all kinds of things – but his real goal is spiritual deliverance
Take home lesson: We think we know God but because He is God, he will always do things that shock us.
Two sub-divisions: ch 40-48, 49-55
- Focus on servant Israel
- Just as Assyria was a tool of judgment in the hands of a sovereign God, so Babylon will be his future tool of judgment
- Emerging feature is the people’s unbelief toward prophecies because they seem so fantastic, so impossible
- Focus on Servant Messiah
- Deliverance from Babylon is assured
And this Deliverance from Exile reveal that there is no one like God, he is the incomparable God, specifically regarding 3 things:
- He can explain the past because he is our Creator
- He can tell the future – He is Lord of history
- He can do a brand new thing – He is Redeemer, Creator, Lord
Read Isaiah 40. Ch 40 is a famous passage but I think it has been largely taken out of context. Ch 40 describes what we learn during a period of God’s judgment.
What do we learn during God’s judgment?
- God is a comforter
- All flesh is grass
- God is righteous and just and we fall painfully short
- 40:14 – God of righteousness – right way to do things – righteousness – right thing is God’s plan of redemption
- 40:27 – God is a god of justice – justice (mishpat)- occurs 43 times – it speaks to God’s right administration of all matters
Lesson 1: Cyrus
Last week – Cyrus, king of Persia – Defeated Babylon and issued Edict for exiles to return home – question was posed – Cyrus, was he a believer? There is no evidence to indicate this.
Read 41:2 – God has stirred up one from the east – again, this man is referred to as righteousness (sedeq) – not morally righteous – right moral action in all circumstances – victory of righteousness – victory of that which is right and just. Triumph of the right.
Cyrus is the deliverer because he is obedient to the right. So nothing yet to indicate that he is a believer.
What about 44:28 – “anointed” – is that title reserved for priests, prophets and kings of Israel?
God will use anything, even a pagan ruler, to accomplish his purposes.
I think we have a wrong notion that only God’s anointed believer can do his work. The whole premise of Isaiah is that God is using pagan nations to accomplish His will to judge Judah. In the same way, Cyrus is anointed in the sense that he has been chosen and empowered to carry out the purposes of God. So Cyrus is an anointed one, like a Messiah figure – he is God’s chosen instrument through whom God’s gracious purposes will be accomplished – physical deliverance.
Read Isaiah 43:14-18. 43:18 is a pivotal verse. Forget the former things. Reference to their past deliverance. The Exodus experience – a godly Moses, the parting of the Red Sea, forget all of that.
Why? Because if you look for God to work in exactly the same way as before, you can miss him. Perfect example – Messiah – you expect a certain kind of powerful Messiah, then you will miss the Suffering Servant described in Isaiah 53.
43:19 – Isaiah reinforces this point – a new way, a new thing – God can turn wet to dry or dry to wet, for the sake of his chosen people.
God is Creator – he does not need to do things the same way twice, he can create a totally new exodus experience from Babylon. In fact he does, he uses Cyrus, a pagan king.
43:18 – the saving events of the past had become a straitjacked into which every act of God was forced; we assume God has to work with “His” instruments.
Read Isaiah 45
- 45:2-3 – Cyrus knows who had called him
- 45:5 – it does not matter whether Cyrus knew about the Lord beforehand or whetheer he acknowledges him now. God is sovereign
- 45:8 – righteousness describes the character of God’s dealings – most righteous thing to do is to deliver his people
- 45:9 – How shocking for them to hear that their deliverer would be a pagan who did not even know the Lord who is the pot to challenge the wisdom of the Potter
Reflection: failure to recognize God’s new actions when they come. In addition, it’s possible for us to be a Cyrus and think we know God because God is using us.
Lesson #2: Servant Messiah vs. servant Israel
Read Isaiah 42
42:1 – mention of the Servant, but for the next few chapters, all references are for servant Israel.
- Comparison of Servant vs servant – Servant brings justice to the nations, that which the sinful servant could not do on its own strength
- The servant Israel is described as fearful, requiring continued assurance of God’s continuing love and care
42:10-12 – prophet is so joyous because God’s Servant will make God’s salvation available not just to Israel but to the entire world – this was not realized until the book of Acts – Apostle Paul
42:18-19 – servant is blind and deaf
Important verses – Preview of the theme of the final chapters – glory – 43:7-10 – what qualifies them for a restoration – they were brought into existence – called, created, formed, made – for one purpose: the glory of God.
43:10 – my witness, my servant – same calling – be a witness to the glory of God before a watching world. The Servant who is a Witness – displaying the character of God
Why must God deliver his people? Because His name is at stake. Not only that, he must cause us to be accurate witnesses who display the glory of God.
How can we be accurate witnesses? Answer: through His Spirit
**Read Isaiah 44:1-8 – foreshadowing of Pentecost
- 44:1-5 – solution to their sinful tendency is giving his Spirit – empowers them to be effective witnesses
- 44:3 – filled with the Spirit
- 44:6-8 – we are witnesses
Without the Spirit, the people are susceptible to falling back into the same spiritual deficiency which necessitated the exile in the first place.
Reflection: goal of giving glory to God + the role of HS
Lesson #3: Power of prophecy
42:9 – If these words were first spoken by Isaiah about 700 BC and came to fulfillment in 539 BC.
48:4-5 – Why did God tell in advance what he was going to do? It is because we are sinners. Sin – God, I don’t need you, insistence on my way at all costs.
Reflection – what happens when God answers your prayers?
48:7 – All our attempts to be independent are frustrated by our lack of knowledge. the purpose of prophesy is not so that we can know the future, but so that we can put our trust in God.
Natural tendency to idolatry. To break that, God has to use prophecy, even one that is so out of the box – 1) using Cyrus, a pagan king of Persia and 2) Messiah in Isaiah 53.
Desperate need to keep things under control. We don’t like surprises.
We cannot put God in a box – I know God, I know how he has worked in the past. Exodus – yeah, I expect a second Exodus. Not all the Prophecies regarding Israel have been fulfilled, but I think there is a danger in trying to figure it all out and trying to find the exact day of the End of the world. Isaiah and Ezekiel warn of people who chase after prophesies but they miss the Giver of the prophesies.
Whatever we think we know, Isaiah shows us that God will always surprise us and He will do things out of the box. Like using Cyrus. Like a Messiah dying on a cross. And if we are expecting a particular kind of future, then we can be like the Jews of today and miss recognizing the coming Messiah.
But for sure, God will do something so impossible, so improbable that the nation of Israel along with representatives from every nation will recognize the true living God in the last days.
God is knowable, we can be intimate with him, but there is an element of God that he is far beyond us. We need to be humble. We need to check our heart – surrender our idols. We need to continually seek God and ask for his spirit.
Testimony – Christian since 1993
first 10 years – i know God – i had a certain lens
next 5 years – God shattering that lens – God, who are you?
Last year or so – God has been slowly revealing himself step by step through his Word
TAKE HOME LESSONS
- God of surprises – using a pagan king as an anointed deliverer
- Who could have predicted that God would send a Messiah who needs to suffer
- Prophecies – as sinners, we need to be shocked by seeing prophesies fulfilled that demonstrate God’s power and activity in history. Even with Isaiah 53 being so specific, how is it that the Jews could miss the coming Messiah? That much, we limit God speaking into our lives by assuming he will work a certain way – a second Exodus, a second Moses, a parting of the Red Sea, something splendid and miraculous, not a man bleeding on a cross.