John 10 Jesus is the Good Shepherd

John 10      Jesus is the Good Shepherd                      WC McCarter

On one occasion, which is recorded in John 9, Jesus hid Himself and left the temple after a major conflict with the Jewish leaders who had decided to stone Him to death. As He was leaving, He saw a man who had been blind from birth. To answer a question which His disciples had asked, Jesus said that the man had been born blind so that the works of God could be revealed in Him. Then Jesus spat on the ground and may mud with the saliva and dirt. He took the mud, put it on the blind man’s eyes, and told him to go wash in the pool of Siloam. The man did what the Lord commanded and came back seeing. Of course, this stirred up quite the commotion among the people.

When the man gave his testimony of the miracle, he told the people that a man called Jesus had healed him. Well, the man was taken before the Pharisees who had previously decided to stone Jesus to death. They immediately stated that Jesus was not of God because He healed the man on a Sabbath. The Pharisees even called in the man’s parents to validate the claims that the man had been born blind and could now see. Although the Pharisees continued their attacks against Jesus, the man would not back down to his claims that Jesus was a healer and prophet. So, the Pharisees excommunicated him from the synagogue (which is to say that he was cut off from the community).

Later, when He had heard that the man had been cast out, Jesus went and found the man. It was then that the man confessed his faith in Jesus and worshiped Him. There were some Pharisees who were present when Jesus and the healed man met up again. They were not happy at all when Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind.” It is in this context that Jesus says what He does in chapter ten.

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Stranger vs. Shepherd (1-6)
Based on the context, which I rehearsed in the introduction, the speech of chapter ten is first and foremost a criticism of the Pharisees. Yet, we can learn many things about Christ as Good Shepherd and about ourselves as sheep in the flock of God.

“Most assuredly, I say to you” is the famous “Verily, Verily, I say unto you” of the KJV. This reflects the Greek which says, “μν μν λέγω μν” (Amen, Amen). It is an emphatic statement which serves to catch the hearers’ attention. The “you” of this passage is, first and foremost, the Pharisees who are seen here as terrible shepherds of Israel. Jesus is about to contrast the Jewish leaders of His day with Himself; it is stranger vs. Shepherd.

Jesus puts the Pharisees in the camp of “strangers.” They are frauds. They pose as shepherds of the flock of God, but they are only in it for themselves. Notice all of the descriptions that Jesus uses for them through the passage:
He who does not enter the sheepfold by the door
          Climbs up another way
          Thief and robber
          The sheep will not follow a stranger
          The sheep flee from him
          The sheep do not know the voice of strangers.

On the other hand, Jesus refers to Himself in many positive ways by putting Himself in the category of true “shepherds”:
He who enters by the door
          The shepherd of the sheep
          To him the doorkeeper opens
          The sheep hear his voice
          He calls his own sheep by name
          He leads his own sheep out
          He goes before them
          The sheep follow him
          The sheep know his voice.

Verse six tells us that this was an illustration, but no one knew what the Lord was talking about. This is common, especially in the Gospel of John. Jesus often teaches in figurative ways, sometimes so that the audience can’t understand Him and sometimes the audience should understand, but they are too dull to comprehend the simple truth.

I AM the Door of the Sheep (7-10)
The next paragraph appears to be an explanation of what was said in verses one through six. The people did not understand, so the Lord continues the discussion of the sheep and the door. He is not ready to tell them bluntly the truth of their corrupt leadership, but He continues to talk figuratively. To begin this explanation the Lord says again, “Verily, verily, I say unto you” (Listen up).

At the end of verse seven we have the third of seven “I AM” statements in the Gospel of John. Jesus says, “I AM the door of the sheep.” We know that this is important because John records it as emphatic in the original language. It is, “γώ εμι” which simply means, “I, I am” (γώ means I, and εμι means I am). When something is repeated back-to-back in Greek it is for emphasis. To put it simply, the Lord is saying that He is uniquely and opposed to all others the one door of the sheep. This is a significant statement. First, Jesus is saying that He is divine. He is equating Himself with Yahweh. This Greek statement is equivalent to the Hebrew that God used to reveal His personal name to Moses at the burning bush. Moses asked, “Who shall I say is sending me?” The Lord responded, “Tell Pharaoh that I AM is sending you.” You see, Jesus has already said this to the Jews, and He did not mix words in John 8:58 when He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” Of course, Jesus says very clearly again in this tenth chapter verse 30, “I and My Father are one.” In response to that comment, the Jews were going to stone Him because they realized that He was claiming to be God (verse 33).

Second, what does it mean for Jesus to be the door? Almost all commentators will point you to this: In those days, there was a walled enclosure, or a cave, or out in the field the shepherd would form a sheepfold and the shepherd would sleep in the entryway and function as a door. He wanted to keep the sheep from getting out and discourage any wild animals from getting in. This, of course, was for the benefit of the sheep so that they would not get lost, injured, or killed. I think we can understand this simply. What does it mean to be a door or gate? The thieves and robbers went through illegitimate ways (they climbed through windows), but Jesus is the door.

Jesus says that all who come by Him are saved. He makes this a salvation metaphor. If you are going to be saved, you are going to have to go through Him. He is the legitimate entryway for salvation. This is just another way of saying what He says in many other places in the Gospels. He is exclusively the way to salvation.

What does it mean to find pasture? It means that you will be fed, you will find rest, and you will be led by the shepherd. The thief does not do that. The thieves come to kill, steal, and destroy which is language that is usually reserved for Satan himself. Jesus is veiling His criticism of the Pharisees. They are like their father, the devil. They were only looking out for themselves.

What does it mean for the shepherd to provide life? It means he is going to get them to food, water, rest, safety, and all the rest. He will care for them. Jesus is teaching at the end of verse ten that He offers life not only in this age but in the age to come. He offers eternal life.

I AM the Good Shepherd (11-16)
In the last paragraph of our sermon text today, Jesus uses another metaphor. He is no longer the Door, but now He is the Good Shepherd. What makes Him so good? He dies for the sheep. You see, this makes sense from a literal, physical perspective and of course it makes sense from a Christian perspective. Shepherds who own a flock are willing to lay down their lives for the preservation of their sheep. It is their family’s livelihood and long-term investment. While Jesus is not dependent on us, we are totally dependent on Him, and we needed Him to lay down His life for our sakes.

The Lord is the Good Shepherd because He lays down His life for the sheep. He is referring to His substitutionary atonement on the cross. The wolf of the wrath of God was coming after us, but Christ through Himself in between.

The last line refers to global missions. There are people from all over the planet who will hear the call of the Good Shepherd and come into His fold. Verse 16 still stands true and active today.

Conclusion and Christian Application
I only have two questions for you as we conclude this sermon. These two questions are simple, but they are as serious as any question that may be posed to you (if not more serious).

(1) (Look at v3) Do you hear Christ’s voice? I don’t mean audibly. I mean, do you hear His voice when you read the Scriptures? Do you hear His voice when His word is taught? Do you hear His voice in your day-to-day life and routine as He guides you by His Spirit?

(2) (Look at v4) Do you follow Christ? This second question is linked to the first. If you are a sheep that belongs to Christ, then you know His voice, and when He calls, you go running to obey His word.

(3) (Look at v14) Do you know Christ? The last question sums up them all. In order to receive the benefits of the Good Shepherd’s accomplishments, you must know Him.

Psalm 23 The Lord is My Shepherd

Psalm 23    The Lord is My Shepherd                                   WC McCarter

The 23rd Psalm is one of the most familiar and famous passages in all of the Bible. Of course, familiarity sometimes gets in the way of true understanding of the text, and sometimes it blinds us from seeing fresh things in the Scripture. While Psalm 23 has become mostly associated with death and funerals (I have read the chapter at several funerals myself), it is actually a song about the here-and-now. It is a declaration of trust from beginning to end.

The Lord Jesus spoke about food, water, and clothing in Matthew 6 by saying, “Therefore do not worry . . . . For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.” This psalm is a reflection upon that biblical principle and a declaration of total trust in God’s provision and protection. The main message, therefore, is: there is nothing to fear when God is your Shepherd.

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The Lord is Shepherd (1)
Notice that this is “a psalm of David.” We know from the biblical narrative that David’s family kept sheep and, from a young age, David was himself a shepherd (1 Sam 16:11, 19; 17:15, 34-37; 2 Sam 7:7-8; Ps 78:70-71). We also know that David was a musician. He loved to write songs, play instruments, and sing. This is one of his most famous songs, a song of trust.

What David wants to establish in the first verse is the theme of complete trust and the shepherd image. Knowing how a shepherd views and treats his sheep, David can think of no better illustration for his relationship with God than to say, “The Lord is my shepherd.” That phrase carries several implications. It not only implies how David viewed God but also how he viewed himself (as a sheep). For God to be viewed as a shepherd is not an unusual thing. In fact, this becomes a biblical theme in both the Old and New Testaments.

First of all, what was David asserting about his view of God by calling him a shepherd? (1) A shepherd was seen as a provider and protector. (2) "The image of shepherding is not always a gentle, pastoral one, and it is often a despised occupation. David pointed it out to Saul that shepherds were rough and tough characters who needed to be brave and ruthless killers which is what fitted him to take on Goliath" (Goldingay, 348). (3) We must also say that in the ancient world, the shepherd imagery was often associated with kings.

Let us consider how David viewed himself in relation to God. (1) The first action on David’s part that is stated in this psalm is to “not want.” David reflects on his relationship to God and knows that he will lack no good thing that he needs to make it through this life. (2) A sheep is dependent upon its shepherd for mostly everything: guidance, water, food, protection, and nursing of injuries.

Here is our first application: if you trust in God, you may not have everything that you desire, after all many of our desires are unhealthy, but you will not lack any good thing that you need to survive this life. God does not promise automatic prosperity because you trust Him, but He will take care of you.

The Work of the Shepherd (2-3)
Israel's Exodus from Egypt at God’s leading is an appropriate illustration for this psalm. In the Middle East, sheep usually pasture in the wilderness, but that is not an area that gets enough rain to settle a flock down in one place. The shepherd must keep his flock on the move to find more water and grass. As David’s shepherd, God is seen as providing him a place to lie down in grassy pastures. God leads David to a place where he can stay for a long time, eat his fill, lie down in safety for rest, and get up to eat again whenever he likes. “Still waters” refers to “restful waters” and, thus, is parallel to verse 2a. God leads his people to places of satisfaction and rest just like a shepherd leads his flock to grass and water where they can eat, drink, and rest.

A Second Application: Have you ever felt that there were threats all around you, but there was nothing to worry about? Have you ever felt like things were chaotic and fast-paced around you, but you were able to rest because God provided you that kind of blessing? You see, Christians are not promised to become filthy rich or perfectly healthy. What we are promised is blessings such as this one: faith-rest.

I don’t think that verse three has a meaning much different than verse two, but we may add that God’s leading His people “in the paths of righteousness” basically means that He leads us on the “right paths” that leads in the right direction. Most likely, it also means that He keeps us on the right path morally. Thus, this line refers to sanctification, that is, that life-long process to become more and more holy like our God. God wants to make you holy.

God's namesake refers to His divine attributes. He always upholds His righteous and faithful character. Remember that God revealed His personal name in the Exodus narrative. In fact, that revelation to Moses really kicked-off all of the events to follow. God fulfills the things of verses 2-3 not only to keep a good reputation but also in keeping with His reputation. He must do these things because of who He is. He is leader, provider, and protector.

Valleys, Death, and Evil (4)
There may be some questions that the Bible does not attempt to answer. For example, the Bible never answers the question of evil’s origin, neither does it answer some scientific questions. We cannot impose certain questions on texts which do not attempt to answer those questions. Yet, the Bible makes many things crystal clear. I think we see two of those clear doctrines in verse four: (1) there is such a thing as evil, and (2) believers are not immune to suffering.

Let’s take those two things separately and then give some application. First, the Bible makes crystal clear the existence of evil. There is an entire doctrine on the subject which is found throughout the Scriptures. “The valley of the shadow of death” is a famous phrase from this chapter. It is referenced often even in modern, secular culture. While the doctrines of heaven and hell are not as clear in the OT as they are in the NT, there is no doubt that the OT authors taught that those were realities and that all people will face one of those two destinations after death. Death is something that the Bible talks a lot about. It is the fate of all human beings because of our sinful rebellion.

Second, believers are not immune to evil and suffering simply because they belong to God. If you live long enough, you are going to suffer (and maybe several times over). What the Bible actually teaches is that it is through suffering that we are proven steadfast, that we are made stronger, and that we become witnesses of God to the world around us.

A Third Application: We are those who can fear no evil even in the presence of evil. We are those who can be comforted despite the existence of evil. It is our God, our Shepherd, who makes this kind of life possible. Do you remember Isaiah 40:1? It reads, “’Comfort, yes, comfort My people!’ Says your God.” Now look at verse four to see the reason for that comfort.

A valley or canyon is a great place to find water in the wilderness. It is also a place of danger because wild animals go there for the same reason. There would be many places for them to hide and pounce on sheep. Yet, the sheep are not afraid when walking through a dark canyon because their shepherd is courageous and tough. The Shepherd is willing to take on any threat. The “rod and staff” that comforts David is symbolic of the shepherd’s rod which was basically a club kept on his hip used to fight off attacks. The staff could be used in much the same way but was primary used to guide the flock in the direction that it should go. The shepherd would also use his staff to knock fruit out of the trees for the sheep to eat or he would use it to nudge the sheep to remind them of his presence which would calm their nerves. So, David viewed God as his protector and guide through all of life, and he found great comfort in that understanding. He had no fear because he knew his Shepherd was willing to go with him wherever he went and fight off any attack that may come.

I think of Joseph’s story toward the end of the book of Genesis. He faced evil, suffering, and death on numerous occasions yet was someone who knew his God and trusted Him despite his current circumstances. The famous line that he declares to his brothers who had betrayed him is, “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” He knew God was with him and was his defender. On every turn he faced threats, yet in the end survived but was greatly blessed.

The Sureness of God’s Blessings (5-6)
We now leave the pasture and turn to another scene. A table with oil and cups is now pictured as well as a house. Although one metaphor is traded for another, the doctrine does not change. Throughout the 23rd Psalm, the idea that God is the one who orchestrates and supplies all things is explicitly stated. Remember the main message: there is nothing to fear when God is your Shepherd. I think the famous phrase Praise God from whom all blessings flow is an appropriate summary of verses five and six.

There was nothing much more significant in the ancient world (and in the Middle East) than to host someone for a meal. It was a sign of hospitality, friendship, and loyalty. Oil was another important sign of hospitality. It was offered to guests for dry and cracked skin and was thought to invigorate a person. For a host to anoint a guest’s head is not some symbolic act but is a gesture which refreshes the person. So, the line could be translated, “You refresh my head with oil.”

The Lord not only gives all of the resources that we need in this life, but He also gives us mercy in our times of need. “Mercy” has been translated in a wide variety of ways such as commitment, faithfulness, love, and lovingkindness. The word “follow” in verse six is a weak translation which consistently means something stronger. That God's goodness and faithfulness chase down the psalmist is an ironic use of the word. While one might expect that his enemies may pursue him God’s goodness and faithfulness are seen as chasing him down. If the wild animals and enemies pursue us, you can be sure that good and mercy also chase us and follow with energy.

Conclusion and Christian Application
The specific historical context cannot be determined, so the application is wide open for how we can put this psalm to use in our lives today. I have given you some applications throughout the sermon, but let me leave you with one more.

Remember that a sheep is part of a flock (Ps 95:7; 100:3). So, the song refers to the congregation as a whole and also to the individual. You are part of something bigger than yourself. God wants to lead us collectively in a certain direction. He has goals and blessings that He wants us to experience together.

Isaiah 66:1-2, 14-24 The Lord Will Come with Fire

Isaiah 66:1-2, 14-24            Visions of God’s Greatness              WC McCarter
The Lord Will Come with Fire

As we conclude our time in Isaiah for now, we will take a look at the last chapter of the book which brings things full-circle and into final review.

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The Maker Looks Upon the Contrite (1-2)
The Lord begins this chapter by asserting that He does not dwell on earth. He has made heaven His dwelling place, although He is not limited in any way to space or time. Even when the Jews built a magnificent Temple, yes, God came to dwell there but only because He chose to do so. He was not limited to only occupying that small space on earth. Also, when He committed Himself to the Temple, He was not submitting Himself to something that humans had built for Him because, in fact, all of the resources that were at the disposal of those who constructed the Temple had been created by God in the beginning. The Lord does not look favorably upon people simply because they build or offer something to Him.

No, the Lord looks favorably upon those who are poor/humble and of a contrite spirit. That second phrase probably means something like, “lame in spirit.” Those who are lame in spirit are those who realize their brokenness. This is a biblical theme. Take a listen to these Scripture references: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise . . . Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God . . . God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble . . . And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted . . . He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?”

You see, God wants us to have a clear understanding of who He is and who we are in relation to Him. He is God, and we are not. He is Creator, and we are creature. He is the Helper, and we are helpless without Him. Maybe the greatest sin of mankind is the arrogant posture that we take. So many have a problem with admitting that there is a God who lays claim over their lives. So many are unwilling to humble themselves before the Creator. They refuse to admit their failures and wrongdoings. They refuse to confess their weakness. Yet, the Bible makes clear that God is looking for those who will humble themselves before Him, repent of their sins, and trust in Him (and the One He has sent, the Lord Jesus Christ). This type attitude accords with trembling at the Word of the Lord. A word of judgment, wrath, and the holiness of God should cause you to reflect deeply on yourself and your condition and tremble at His Word. Likewise, the sovereignty of God should cause us to tremble.

The Coming Judgment (14-17)
There were many detractors in those days mocking those who believed the Word of the Lord. They would say that the Lord had abandoned the Jews, that He was not going to be of any help, and that the prophets were not proclaiming the truth. Yet, there were those who trembled at the Word of the Lord (2, 5-6) that would rejoice when they saw the Lord bring about restoration. Notice the combination in verse 14 of both heart and bones. This stands as a figure for the whole person. Those who have waited on the Lord will rejoice and flourish in the Day of the Lord. The “hand of the Lord,” meaning His power, strength, and dominant rule, will be experienced by His people while those who have rejected the prophetic message will experience the Lord’s indignation/fury.

What kind of fury will this be? Look at verse 15. The Lord will come with fire. Notice that the personal name Yahweh (LORD) is used here. This fire has been called the “deadly holiness of God” (Motyer, 539). Unrighteous men cannot stand when the fiery holiness of God rages forth. Of course, chariots were earthly displays of destruction. So, the wrathful picture continues against the Lord’s enemies. May I just say at this point that the Lord’s enemies are not only those who aggressively oppose Him, but those who have also rejected Him in their hearts by unbelief.

“Fire” is almost always a symbol for judgment in the Bible. So, the Lord’s fire, chariots, whirlwind, anger, fury, and sword will all be directed at His enemies. This will leave nothing behind. All of the unbelieving will be consumed. Verse 16 makes clear that God stands over and above all of humanity as Judge. He alone is righteous, holy, and just, and He will judge in accordance with His divine attributes. When all flesh is judged, the slain of the Lord will be many. For example, all of the Yahweh-rejecting, idol worshipping people of the nations will be consumed by this fiery judgment of God.

Here is an appropriate time for me to say that many folks of our day hurl attacks at the Bible because of the strong language of judgment, wrath, and extermination. Primarily, folks point to Joshua’s conquest of the Promised Land. They question, how could a loving God command an Israelite army to massacre slews of people? How could God have them put to death men, women, children, and livestock? Yet, here is the thing, that is not at all different from the Flood of Noah’s day which swept away the entire human race except eight people. It is not so different from the wars that have been waged throughout human history which have been sovereignly orchestrated by almighty God. Lastly, all of these things are only a small taste, a foreshadowing of the final Judgment Day when all flesh will stand before the Lord of heaven and earth and an overwhelming number who have lived on this earth will be found guilty and cast into the lake of fire. If you are uncomfortable with the wrathful language of the Bible, which is not only in the OT but also in the NT, then you are leaning in the right direction. You shouldn’t be comfortable with it, but do not reject those passages as truthful because they serve as our warnings.

The Global Vision (18-24)
In the final section the attention turns back to the faithful, those who have been designated in this chapter as those who tremble at the Lord’s Word.

The New Jerusalem: Gal 4:25-26; Heb 12:22; and Rev 21.

Bracket: v18 “they shall come and see” and v24 “they shall go forth and look.” What is it that they will see? They will see the Lord’s glory. What is His glory? The glory of the Lord, His weight and value, is the revelation of the mystery kept for centuries – that Gentiles and Jews will be brought together into one body, the church, to make up the one people of God.

Conclusion and Christian Application

(1) Tremble at the Word of the Lord.

(2) Rejoice that you are redeemed of the Lord.

(3) Our global vision must continue.

Isaiah 46 I am God, and There is No Other

Isaiah 46    Visions of God’s Greatness                                 WC McCarter
I am God, and There is No Other


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They Could Not Deliver (1-2)
Bel and Nebo are the most famous Babylonian gods. Those titles are versions of the names for Marduk and his son, Nabu. These, of course, were fictitious gods that the Babylonians had created. It is said that Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, had a temple for Marduk near his great palace.

The people of Judah had turned away from the Lord their God and began worshipping the idols of the foreign nations. Their rebellion is what brought about their captivity in Babylon. The Lord warned them through the prophets to repent from their wicked ways and come back to the Lord, but they did not heed those warnings. They trusted in the false gods, and, ultimately, the people were taken into captivity along with their idols.

What is the point of the first two verses? The point is exactly what we saw last week in chapter 44. Idols are useless. They cannot save. They cannot deliver anyone from their burdens but are in fact burdens themselves because they load down the carriages and the animals. The message to Judah was that if they wanted to follow their false gods, they could follow them all the way to Babylonian captivity, and that is exactly what happened.

Listen to Me, O House of Jacob (3-5)
This is the first of two times in the chapter that God says, “Listen to Me.” Here He wants to speak to the remnant of Israel. From the beginning of their existence the Lord had taken care of them. The Lord had carried along the people from their conception as a nation and promised to do so even to their old age. Like any good parent, the Lord says in essence, I made you, so I am responsible for you. I will carry you, sustain you, and deliver you.

For this reason, among many more reasons, there is no one who compares to our God. He has no equals. Even while the faithless people of Judah were carrying their idols, God was carrying them from before they were a people until the present day. He was going to send them into exile, but He would carry them back. He tells them these things even before they happen so that when it did happen they would know that He alone is God.

While the idols of the people had to be carried by animals, God had been the one to carry the people all along. The Lord wants them to see the irony in this fact. Israel never had to carry their God but had instead been upheld by Him.

It Cannot Answer Nor Save (6-7)
In verses six and seven, the Lord returns to the discussion of the uselessness of idols. Folks would buy up some gold and silver, they would weigh it out and determine what kind of god they would have the metal worker fashion. The people would bow down and worship what was previously a hunk of metal without any shape. A material that could be dug up from the ground was something to which they prostrated themselves.

Idols were something that people carried around because they could not move themselves around. Once it was taken out of a back-pack, it would be stood somewhere, and from that place it would not move. The absurdity of idols is voiced once again because people would cry out to the idols for salvation, but there would be no answer. There would be no salvation. They were lifeless, statues of human imagination.

Remember This (8-11)
In verse eight the Lord says, “Remember this” to draw the reader’s attention. The phrase “show yourselves men” has a long history of disputed meaning. It could mean “show yourselves men” or “stand firm.” It could also mean, “be ashamed” or “be alarmed.” Either way, the Lord wants His people to remember who He is. It is not so much about them, although they must admit that they were transgressors, and so are we, but it is all about God. The Lord basically says, Think back and remember all that I have done for you. At this point, the Jews could think back to God’s creative work; His promises of a remedy for the sin problem; His preserving a righteous line; His choosing and blessing Abraham who would be the father of the nation and the father of faith; His redeeming work in the Exodus; His conquering and giving to them the Promised Land; and so much more. They needed to remember things from long ago. If they would, they would realize that He is God and there is no other, that there is none like Him, there is no comparison.

What makes the Lord so unique? Well, many things declare God’s distinctiveness. For example, in verse ten we are told that God declares the end from the beginning. What idol can do that?

Another more specific example of the Lord’s matchlessness, in verse eleven, is how he raises up kings/empires for His good pleasure. We have already seen in chapter 44 that God called Cyrus by name, the king of the next world empire, Persia. The “bird of prey from the east” and the “man” here in 46:11 is Cyrus the Great. The Lord predicted and purposed his reign over the Persian Empire, and the Lord brought it about. The Lord would bring a remnant of Israel back to the Promised Land, and He would use Cyrus to accomplish that plan. Like a hawk flying high in sky and swooping down on a helpless rabbit, Cyrus and the Persian Army would come onto the world stage and quickly destroy the Babylonian Empire. He would then decree that all captives return home.

Listen to Me, You Stubborn-Hearted (12-13)
The Lord has not been shy in calling the people for what they are. He has called them weak in the sense that they needed to man up, He called them transgressors, and now He calls them stubborn-hearted and far from righteousness. What is “righteousness?” It is right-thinking. It is to be in the will of God. It is to follow His standards. Sadly, there are many Christians today who are also far from righteousness, although this is what we have been called to in Christ. But, you see, Christ died for the ungodly. He did not come to save the righteous, but to call sinners to repentance. Let us draw close to Him because He has come close to us, even becoming a man, even dying a substitutionary death on the cross.

Although the Lord is harsh in telling them the bitter truth, He is also sure to make promises that He will be their Helper. The people are far away from righteousness, but the Lord promises to bring His righteousness near to them. The point of verse 13 is that God will save them. Of course, there is no clearer time in history for verse 13 to be fulfilled than in the crucifixion of Jesus. It was then, at the time of His crucifixion, that God brought His salvation near. It was there, at Zion (Jerusalem), that God placed His salvation. That was how His glory was made known in Israel and for the whole world.

Conclusion and Christian Application
One commentator has summed up nicely the point of C46, “Isaiah claims that the evidence for the uniqueness of God . . . rests on his ability to predict novel turns of history in advance, an ability the idols and their technicians do not have. Specifically those predictions included Assyria’s all but total conquest of Israel and Judah, Assyria’s failure to capture Jerusalem, the fall of Assyria, the fall of Jerusalem and Judah to Babylon, the exile, the fall of Babylon to Cyrus, Cyrus’s proclamation of freedom and encouragement to rebuild, the return of a remnant, and the establishment of a messianic kingdom” (Oswalt, 192).

From all of the information, we can confidently say that these predictions were made long before the events so that when the events took place they served as confirmation that the God of Israel is the only true and living God.

(1) If you are trusting in anything other than the Lord, it cannot help/save you.

(2) God is the beginning and end, the alpha and omega, the first and last, the author and finisher of our faith. He redeemed you in the beginning of your Christian life in the new birth, He has carried you all this time, and He will save you at the end of your life. Continue to trust Him. Put Him in His proper place as God and King of your life.

(3) Remember what God has done. God calls on the Israelites to recall the things of old. If they would, then they would remember His blessings, providential care, and saving works. You can/should do the same.