Isaiah 44 Visions of God’s Greatness WC McCarter
The LORD, Who Makes All Things
Today we continue our look at the greatness of God in Isaiah’s book.
READ Scripture- This is the Word of God
Blessings Will Be Poured Out (1-5)
Now, if only the people of God will listen, they have no reason to be afraid. Judgment is coming to an end, and God is ready to pour out blessings once again. A time of restoration is coming. Even after judgment, there is a remnant of God’s people that remains, and their identity has not changed. They are stilled called Jacob and Israel. They are still God’s servant. They are still chosen. This is repeated to them twice in the first two verses. The word “Jeshurun” at the end of verse two means “Upright One.” Although they have been rebellious as a nation, the righteous remnant still belongs to God.
Verse two makes clear that the Lord: (1) Made Israel, (2) Formed Israel from the womb, (3) Will help Israel, and (4) Chose Israel. The Lord God is the one who brought Israel into existence as a people. From before the foundations of the world, God had chosen these people, and, in doing so, He became their Helper.
The Lord, through Isaiah, uses hyperbole here to make sure that the people realize that He can and will help them. Although their situation could be likened to a thirsty man or a dry desert land, God will pour out floods of blessings upon those whom He has chosen. In doing so, He will pour His Spirit on the people. Too many people today associate great wealth, or reputation, or some other selfish satisfaction with the blessings of God. God couldn’t care less about those things. In fact, the Lord would rather you have less of those things so that you would be forced to rely on Him each and every day for all things and so that He would receive all the glory for your life. The blessings of God should be associated with the presence of God Himself, the Holy Spirit. For example, your greatest concern for your children and grandchildren should not be to leave them a great financial inheritance. Your highest concern for your children should be to leave them a spiritual inheritance, that they would know the one, true, and living God and that His Spirit would dwell in them richly. That is exactly what the Lord’s promises Israel in verse three.
To whom do you belong? Whose name do you claim? One of the great Stone-Campbell emphases was/is claiming the name of Christ alone. We are Christians only but not the only Christians. We have decided to simply be known as Christians. Why? The name that we bear is the name that marks us out as chosen by Christ, saved by Christ, united with Christ, belonging to Christ, and submitting to the lordship of Jesus Christ. Do you claim His name? If so, what does that mean? Are you striving to honor the name that you profess?
The Lord, the King of Israel (6-8)
There are many titles for God declared in this paragraph including: (1) Lord, (2) King of Israel, (3) Israel’s Redeemer, (4) Lord of Hosts, (5) First and Last, (6) God, and (7) Rock. We must preserve the uniqueness of our God. He is not simply “God” in the generic sense. Although atheism may be slightly increasing in our country, most people still believe that there is some god even if they are agnostic about that “higher power.” As Bible-believing Christians, we need to hold firm to the whole truth about God. He is not simply “God” but all of these other designations as well. We are talking about a particular God; the only true and living God, the God of the Bible, the God and Father of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The so-called gods of the world religions are not God. In an age of religious pluralism, we must make clear who we are talking about. For example, Christians and Muslims do not worship the same God. (And, by the way, not all roads lead to heaven).
The titles “Redeemer” and “King” both refer to God being responsible for all of the needs of His people. Redeemer refers to God’s next-of-kin status. He has taken it upon Himself to be responsible for Israel’s day-to-day needs. As King, He will be responsible for their protection and their overall well-being. For God to be “First and Last” means that he “does not derive his life from” anywhere else, and He is “the end, supreme, totally fulfilled” God of the universe (Motyer, 344). All things begin with Him and end with Him. History belongs to Him.
As “Lord” and “God,” He is Almighty and Sovereign. He can do all that His people need for Him to do. He can forgive, save, restore, heal, and so much more. The name “Rock” refers to something real and not imaginary; weighty and not light; changeless, stable, and reliable. Apart from God there is no saving action. Apart from God there is nothing to rest upon. There is no other God, there is no other Rock besides Him.
The Uselessness of Idols (9-20)
The absurdity of idols is now given a lengthy comment, which tends to be highly sarcastic (and rightfully so). Right up front the Lord says that idols are only images, they are useless, they profit nothing, and they bring shame to a man and his companions. There would be no other so-called gods, if people did not make them (Motyer, 345). But the people that make them have no purpose in life. They have not found the meaning of life. They are ignorant of the truth and wander aimlessly all of their days. No, Americans do not build little statues to worship, but those without Christ dabble into this-and-that all of their days looking for meaning and purpose. They want a reason to live, so they immerse themselves in work, or they distract themselves with kids/grandkids, or they buy one thing after another, or pick up one hobby after another. The list could go on and on of those things that people do to find meaning in life. Those things can be wonderful, but only if they are put in proper, godly perspective. The point of Isaiah 40 is that finding meaning only in those things absurd. Those things are useless as gods. Why would you care to gain the whole world if you are going to lose your own soul? There is only one who can give you meaning in life because He is the Maker and Giver of life. He is the one who brings genuine understanding and joy in work, kids, and hobbies. There is no shame in Christ. He justifies all those who come to Him by faith, and He will vindicate His people on Judgment Day.
Idolaters thought that they could shape something that would become supernatural from only their human strength. How can a mere metal-worker, who is only human – he grows hungry and thirsty and needs rest for his weariness – how can he create something that will be powerful? It is all absurd.
They also cut down trees for their own use. With part of the lumber they build a fire to cook some bread, with another part they cook some meat, some of the wood keeps them warm in the cold, and with the remaining part they craft themselves a god. And that is the literal language of the passage. The idolater doesn’t even choose the best of the lumber to form his idols. He only uses what is leftover, the remainder, the rest of the load. How senseless and silly are idolaters! From one tree they eat, they warm themselves, and they create a god to worship. This fact is almost as humorous as the man who worries about the possibility of his idol teeter-tottering if it is not crafted correctly!
There is no knowledge, understanding, genuine seeing, or honest consideration of the true and living God apart from God working salvation in you. The Lord must convict you of sin by the Holy Spirit if you are to be saved. The wind of the Spirit must blow your way for you to realize your desperate situation and cry out in repentance. How else do you explain the absurdity of idolatry and other human behaviors? People are in the dark. Where there is no light, there is no understanding. Where there is no understanding, foolishness and absurdity prevail in the human heart.
Verse 20 takes us back to verses 14-17 and 19 about the idols being made out of trees. “He feeds on ashes” is a humorous but sad reality: “both ash and god are the products of the same thing” (Motyer, 349). The substance that is burned for warmth and turns to ashes is the same substance as the false gods.
You Will Not Be Forgotten (21-23)
The Lord calls to His people’s remembrance six certainties: (1) He formed them, (2) Israel is His Servant, (3) He will not forget them, (4) He blotted out their transgressions and sins, (5) He redeemed them, and (6) He glorified Himself in them. These certainties tell us more of who this God is that we are discussing. Some of these are repeated from earlier, but they still echo with beautiful truth. How wonderful it is to hear God say, “I will not forget you.” Our God is not a forgetful God. From eternity past, He has never forgotten a thing. Of course, God hasn’t forgotten their sins, but as quickly and easily as a wind can blow away even thick clouds, the Lord blots out Israel’s transgressions and sins.
A wonderful chorus of praise is contained in verse 23. The Lord’s works are worthy of praise. So, the heavens, the earth below, the mountains, and forests are all commanded to sing of what the Lord has done. While pagans bow down to chiseled wood, the trees of the forests are commanded to bow down and worship the Lord of heaven and earth. Why is the Lord worthy of this kind of global praise from creation? He is worthy because He has redeemed Jacob and glorified Himself in Israel. He has not forgotten them. God should be highly exalted for His work of salvation. Of course, His ultimate goal, the climax of the plan of redemption was the coming of Jesus Christ. His laying down His life for us was the Father’s decisive act of blotting out humanity’s sins, for those who will come to Him by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord, Who Makes All Things (24-28)
As Israel’s “Redeemer,” God has made Himself the “next-of-kin.” He is responsible for her care, protection, and livelihood. The language of God “forming” Israel “from the womb” is that of being involved even before they ever existed as a people. He planned, prepared, and brought about the nation. Not only has the Lord brought about the nation of Israel, but the Lord makes clear that He has made all things single-handedly. He says that He stretches out the heavens “all alone” and spreads abroad the earth “by Myself.” There is no mixing words here. He alone is the Maker of all things. He is the one-of-a-kind Maker, Stretcher, and Spreader of everything.
The Lord also sees to it that the folks who are wise in their own eyes are frustrated, driven mad, turned backward, and made foolish. On the other hand, the Lord guarantees the words of his servants and messengers. What was the primary message that He wanted proclaimed at that time in history? The prophets were to declare the promises that Jerusalem would be inhabited once again and that the cities of Judah would be rebuilt. The Lord would make certain that the word delivered by His messengers came to pass.
While the Lord had chosen Babylon to be the agent of His divine discipline of Judah, they, too, would be punished for their sins. Although Babylon was a mighty world empire, appearing as vast and deep as a great sea, the Lord would say, “Be dry!”, and Babylon would be shriveled up to nothing. We may think back to the great Exodus from Egypt when all obstacles were taken out of Israel’s path including the Red Sea which the Lord parted and the people crossed on dry ground. It would be Persia who would rise up as the next great world empire led by King Cyrus who is mentioned in the last verse of the chapter. Cyrus the Great of Persia would pass a decree that the exiles could return to their homeland and rebuild the Temple of their God. The Lord made this known through His prophets long before it took place. He made the decree, and He made certain its fulfillment. Once again, we see that our Lord is the one who raises up kings and nations as well as bringing down kings and nations. He is the Sovereign over all the world for all of history.
Conclusion and Christian Application
There is so much that can and should be said in response to these great truths in the forty-fourth chapter of Isaiah. The Lord speaks first hand throughout to declare His ways, His purposes, and His promises. Let me say from a post-Calvary perspective that God has formed us as a people as well. We, as Christians, are the chosen people of God. He has poured out His blessings and His Spirit on us because we have put our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He is our Redeemer, our King, and our Rock. Our eyes have been opened to the absurdity of humanity’s condition. We have come to the realization that we are poor in spirit but that God forgives our sins on the basis of Christ’s atoning death on the cross. God has not left us in our sins. He has remembered us. He is worthy of all our praise, adoration, and trust. We serve the God who reigns on high and holds all of the nations for all of history in His hands.