Amazing text today – one that makes liberal scholars gag and scramble to try to explain away its validity. How could Isaiah 150 years before the time of King Cyrus specifically write down by inspiration from God that it would be Cyrus whom God would raise up to deliver His people from the Babylonian Captivity? The Jews had not yet even been captured by Nebuchadnezzar. They were still in their homes in Jerusalem worshiping in the temple that had not yet been destroyed. But God has a point to make. He has something very important to communicate.
“Thus says the Lord” introduces the 3 different sections
Grogan: The assertion “This is what the Lord says” (v. 24) punctuates this section of the prophecy (cf. 44:24; 45:1, 11, then again in 18)
THE UNIQUE CREATOR-LORD RAISES UP CYRUS TO ACCOMPLISH HIS SOVEREIGN PURPOSES TO DELIVER HIS PEOPLE FROM THE BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY (TO INHABIT THE CITY OF GOD)
Maybe you are struggling today with whether God is really in control of your situation. Look at all of the trouble that abounds in the world. Look at all the world leaders with so little regard to God. It seems like everything is out of control.
Our God is still on the throne …
Almighty God is he
And He cares for His own through all eternity ..
First and last sections are like bookends – presenting the credentials of the Lord to speak with authority regarding prophecies of the future; guts are in the middle section
Flee From Idolatry and Cling to the One True God
Why are we tempted to trust in ourselves? Why do we doubt the sufficiency of our God? Why do we set up idols that compete with God for our affection, our loyalty, our time, our energy? Why are we not resting in the precious promises that God has put out there for the encouragement of His elect children of the faith?
Remember what an idol is: anything that replaces God as the object of our trust and affection and worship; anything that man lives for – could be money and material possessions – covetousness at its essence is idolatry; our career; could be power and prestige; could be the affirmation of people around us – so that our value system is governed by our peers – so that we live as man-pleasers; could just be the “I did it my way” individualistic philosophy of our age; could be sports or entertainment that consume our time and affection – that we look to in order to escape the pain of the reality of our broken relationship with God; could be our own deluded reasonings where we create a god after our own imaginations
IDOLATRY MAKES NO SENSE IN LIGHT OF THE UNIQUENESS OF THE ONE TRUE GOD AND HIS PRECIOUS, IRREVOCABLE PROMISES TO THOSE HE HAS REDEEMED
God’s sarcasm drips from every verse in this passage as He completely destroys the folly of idolatry – How could anyone be so stupid as to walk down this path – yet we do it all the time
1 Cor. 10:14 “Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.”
Today we are going to approach this passage a little differently – we are going to start at the heart of the passage – at the middle – rather than the beginning.
At the heart of the passage we see the heart of God – and the heart of God is one of forgiveness towards His chosen people.
- Whether in a national sense = Israel
- In an individual sense by way of application to those of us in this church age who have experienced forgiveness through Jesus Christ
GOD’S GRACIOUS FORGIVENESS CAN TRANSFORM WORTHLESS WORSHIP INTO SURPRISING SALVATION
Today God wants to raise our level of Confidence in His redemptive purposes. He calls on His people Not to Fear – despite whatever trials we might face – threats of overwhelming floods or fires that would consume us. “Do not fear,” says our God. God wants to raise our level of Certainty in His redemptive purposes – our conviction that He will carry out all that He has promised to perform. The more we understand of our God – who He is in relationship to His chosen people and what it means for Him to function as the one true God – the more we will live in Confidence and Certainty.
- What type of confidence and certainty did God want Noah and his family to have in the face of the oncoming judgment of a worldwide flood?
- What type of confidence and certainty did God want Israel to have as they fled Egypt in the Exodus and were trapped against the Red Sea with Pharaoh and his troops pursuing them?
- What type of confidence and certainty did God want the 12 spies to have whom Moses commissioned to bring back a report about their prospects of successfully entering the Promised Land?
- What type of confidence and certainty does God want His people today to have in His gracious redemptive purposes and His providential care?
GOD’S SPECIAL RELATIONSHIP TO HIS PEOPLE REINFORCES OUR CONFIDENCE IN GOD’S REDEMPTIVE PURPOSES AND
GOD’S IDENTITY AS THE ONE TRUE GOD MAKES CERTAIN THE PERFORMANCE OF HIS REDEMPTIVE PURPOSES
How is it that our nation today can be so oblivious to our precarious position due to our rejection of God’s moral law and standards for righteousness? How much more patience can God extend to us in His love and forbearance? We seem to have no clue regarding how far we have fallen. I am not claiming that all of our founding fathers were dedicated believers; many of them like Thomas Jefferson were Deists. But still for the most part they had a healthy respect for the God’s revelation and understood the reality of absolute morality as opposed to the relativism that has engulfed us today. Look at the Puritans up in New England – wonderful depth of theology. Look at the founding of prestigious colleges on the East Coast as centers for studying theology and preparing men for Christian ministry.
As a nation, we tolerate and now even promote abortions. We tolerate and now even promote the homosexual agenda. We have come to the point where we call good evil and evil good. Have we not learned anything from the lessons of history. How did the great cultures of the past fare when they went down this same road of decadence and worship of entertainment and materialism? What about God’s warnings to us in passages like Romans 1 that spell out the downward spiral of a culture who has rejected God and exchanged the worship of the Creator for the worship of the creature? Who anymore even believes in the simple creation account recorded in the first chapters of Genesis?
What is the mission of the church? Some would point to worldwide evangelism as the goal – and that is certainly an important part of the equation. But remember that the Great Commission calls us to make disciples of all the nations. That goes beyond seeking conversions. Ultimately Almighty God is seeking for those who will “worship Him in spirit and truth” (John 4:23). Satan has a similar goal. In the Temptation of Jesus, “the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he sad to Him, ‘All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me” (Matt. 4: 8-9).
Brian Borgman: The church has been called to “declare the excellencies of His name” 1 Pet. 2:9;
(“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light”) God is infinitely worthy of our admiration and praise; God doesn’t want lifeless, half-hearted, mumbled, dull worship – that minimizes the work of the Lord Jesus and the power of the gospel; C. S. Lewis “The Word About Praising” quote from his Reflections on the Psalms; “whatever we value, esteem, love – we praise it, delight in it; share it exuberantly with others;” look at all the people and things we praise; the praise completes the enjoyment; the delight is incomplete until it is expressed; what we value we automatically praise; we seek to convert others to what we delight in; doctrinally sound churches can be dead and boring; “doctrinally as straight as a gun’s barrel, but emotionally just as empty” (Tozer); In another unbalanced extreme, the church shouldn’t take worship and turn it into some form of palatable entertainment to try to reach the world; instead our worship should be so transcendent that it overpowers the unbeliever; They come into our worship services and can tell that these people love God; they take God seriously with an attitude of reverence and joy.
How are we doing in our worship and praise? Today we will be celebrating the Lord’s Supper. Are we just going through the motions or are we emotionally excited to participate in remembering and praising our Savior until He returns? Our songs of praise are a key element or worship. The bible has a lot to say about music and singing. Until the Reformation, the church went through a very constrained period in its form of worship where the only allowable songs were the recorded psalms from Scripture. Look at the rich hymnology that has developed since that time. We are going to see in our passage today that the Lord calls for us to sing new songs of praise.
Remember the Messianic prophecy that Isaiah had delivered in 9:1-7, chap. 11. What a tremendous prospect to look forward to: the advent of a Messiah who would rule on the earth in justice and righteousness . . . Who would deliver God’s chosen people from their oppression and affliction. In order to comfort Israel as they face the approaching hardship of the Babylonian Captivity, Isaiah focuses their hopes back on this same promise. No matter how bleak things get, no matter how much injustice reigns around you, God will ultimately send His servant Messiah to triumphantly usher in this reign of justice on earth.
Look at current events that cause us to cry out for justice on earth:
- ISIS beheading of Japanese hostage
- Yemen coup
The false idols exposed in chapter 41 are powerless to call the shots. But God always calls the shots and He will fulfill all of His promises as He intervenes in history to accomplish something totally new and wonderful.
Our culture loves to try to predict the future. Look at the sports world. Every day there is an entire gambling industry built around the prospect of being able to pick which team will win – and even more importantly – the overall point spread. As if that does not provide enough of a challenge, when it comes to the upcoming Super Bowl there will be all sorts of exotic side bets: Not just the normal under-over in terms of overall point total, but just about anything you can imagine – here is just a sampling from last year’s Super Bowl:
- Will Richard Sherman get a taunting penalty? (4/1 on yes)
- Coin toss: Heads or tails?
- Peyton Manning total passing yards over/under 289
- Will the player who scores the first touchdown have a jersey number above or below 79.5? (Even)
- Who will be seen on TV first Pam Oliver (46%) or Erin Andrews (54%)
This lust for predicting extends to many other realms as well:
- In the field of Economics, the arrival of the New Year means that one must demonstrate their crystal ball proficiency in predicting the performance of the Dow Jones and the stocks that will be the best picks
- Politics is a never-ending game of using the polls to predict the outcome of every race
- When it comes to Entertainment, the experts weigh in ahead of time on who will win every imaginable coveted award
There is something magical about demonstrating the wisdom and insight and even gut feel to be able to call the shots ahead of time. And yet nobody but God would claim to be able to control the future to such an extent that they could be right all of the time.
Facing Hostility and Weakness with Courage, Strength and Rejoicing –
We are talking this morning about the recovery of Worm Theology. The great theologians and hymn writers of centuries past understood the doctrine of Total Depravity. They could sing with great conviction: “Would you devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?” A worm is the lowest of God’s creatures. Certainly not attractive – not powerful – not desirable (unless you need bait for your fishing poles). Yet our modern day advocates of self esteem would have us change the lines of such hymns to try to put a more positive spin on the condition of man.
Piper: Satan has master-minded a phenomenal victory in the American church. By teaching us through a thousand lectures and articles and books that we are too valuable to be called worms, he has made it impossible for us to sing “Amazing Grace” with truly amazed hearts. The more beautiful and valuable man is made to appear, the less amazing it is that God should love him and help him. The gospel of self-esteem is healing our wounds very lightly. The wings of self-worth that carry us briefly out of fear will quickly weary and drop us in despair some day. For, as John Newton said in his hymn, “Twas grace that taught my heart to fear and grace my fears relieved.” Where the glory of God’s free and sovereign grace pales in the shadow of human self-esteem, there will one day be a great shudder of fear.
DESPITE OPPOSITION AND WEAKNESS, GOD’S COVENANT PEOPLE HAVE NO NEED TO FEAR AND MUCH CAUSE FOR REJOICING
Max Lucado: The House of God
Every time Satan sets out to score for evil, he ends up scoring a point for good. Consider Paul. Satan hoped prison would silence his pulpit, and it did, but it also unleashed his pen. The letters to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Colossians were all written in a jail cell.
Satan is the Colonel Klink of the Bible. Remember Klink? He was the fall guy for Hogan on the television series, Hogan’s Heroes. Klink supposedly ran a German POW camp during World War 2. Those inside the camp, however, knew better. They knew who really ran the camp: the prisoners. They listened to Klink’s calls and read his mail. They even gave Klink ideas, all the while using him for their own cause.
Over and over the Bible makes it clear who really runs the earth. Satan may strut and prance, but it is God who calls the shots.
The people of Judah were about to enter into a period of 70 years of Captivity under the oppression of the pagan Babylonians. They would be tempted to doubt the covenant love of the God of Israel. They would be tempted to doubt the promises of God’s providential care and future blessing. Pagan gods would be paraded before them and extolled while the one true God was mocked and despised.
But Isaiah wanted to encourage God’s people ahead of time not to panic or fear. Remember who it is that is in ultimate control. GOD CALLS ALL THE SHOTS
THE QUESTION OF ULTIMATE CONTROL BEGINS AND ENDS WITH THE SUPREME “I AM”