The Lord Is at Work

Explore the Bible Series

April 19, 2009

 

Background Passage: Isaiah 40:1-43:28

Lesson Passage: Isaiah 45:1-7, 9-13

 

Introduction: ďComfort, yes, comfort my people, says your God.ĒThese striking words begin the second major section of the Prophecy of Isaiah.The transition to this new portion of Godís word seems abrupt and unexpected.Godís mercies often come with unanticipated suddenness.The Lord often interrupts life with fresh measures of his mercy to sinners, mercy often unsought and always undeserved.To the troubled and chastened heart, his words of comfort come with great effect. O, dear reader, bless the Lord for his gracious interruptions!

 

Isaiah grounded his message of comfort in two great emphases.First, he refocused the attention of Judah on a new and fresh vision of their God.Isaiah 40:9b commands Judah to behold her God.The dear prophet redirected the attention to the heights of Godís glory.This verse, it seems, acts as a summary of the whole section.The text anchors this entire section, and the prophet brings the readerís attention, again and again, to the splendor of Jehovah.Is this not what all of us need, from time to time?Comfort comes, wave upon wave, during periodic refreshments of our souls in the exalted Lord of Hosts. Second, Isaiah punctuates this section with Messianic overtures of praise.O dear reader, nothing comforts the heart like fresh retreats to the glorious person of Christ.He stands alone as the sinnerís help and hope.O, that we might delight in him as does the Father (See 42:1).Repair to him and find comfort for any trouble of soul.Flee to him alone for your help. Venture upon him and know the peace of the Lord.

 

What blessing it is to retreat to the Scriptures and find help in time of need.This passage comes as medicine to a dying man and food for the hungry.Sit with me for a time, and let us feast at his table.I promise, you will find the Savior your great satisfaction. He has made you for his glory and designed you for his fellowship. The Savior has good intents for you, and he freely invites all who will come, to sit at his feet, no, at his side.You will find in him a thousand delights, and, most amazing of all, he will gladly receive you into his presence.He graciously awaits your arrival and will greet you with compassion and grace.Do not tarry.Do not wait until a more convenient hour or deceive yourself that you will be fit to meet him at some later time.Leave your delusions of fitness, and come to fellowship with him now.

 

God is exalted, but, dear friend, he has bent low for you to meet him in his word and cast yourselves upon his promises. Do not despise this opportunity to consider the exalted Lord of Hosts and delight in the promised Son.

 

 

 

 

Background Passage Outline:

 

I.                    Behold Your God (40:1-31)

A.     Words of comfort (vv. 1-2): God instructed the prophet to declare comfort for Judah; indeed, the declaration must come in the earnest form a cry to people.Isaiah must not remain silent; rather, he must make Godís overtures of grace and comfort apparent to all who will hear.This comfort ascends from three great promises.

1.      ďHer warfare is endedĒ:Judah knew the horrors of the battlefield, but now they shall know the peace of the Lord.What a battlefield is the soul!Satan and the world take no prisoners.Judah was rendered powerless in her conflict with her enemies, sinner, of every generation find themselves bloodied in a battle they cannot win.The sinnerís warfare ends when God comes on the scene to bring peace and victory for his people.The Lord subdues our mortal enemies and declares peace from our warfare.

2.      ďHer iniquity is pardonedĒ: Isaiah somewhat changes the analogy of grace.The second promise depicts Judah as guilty criminals whose offenses have been pardoned.Again, the sinner finds himself helpless to rid himself of stubborn guilt, but Jehovah, has degreed pardon for his people.Who shall bring a charge against Godís elect?

3.      ďFor she has received from the Lordís hand double for all her sinsĒ: Judah had suffered greatly for her iniquity, but mercy has followed hardship.It is ever so for the elect.Sin proves a harsh taskmaster, and consequences of disobedience bring unspeakable trouble and adversity; nevertheless, even here, God speaks mercy to his beloved ones.

B.     The forerunner of the Savior (vv. 3-5): A voice shall rise in the wilderness, a voice that will herald the coming of the Savior.The Lord will come on the heels of the forerunner, and he will reveal the glory of the Lord to all flesh. This text unfolds the scope of Godís mercy.Not only will Judah hear the cries of the forerunner, but all flesh will hear his call.God will move the pegs of the tent to cover even the nations of the earth, and men of every nation and tribe will behold Jehovahís glory. Nothing can deter the messenger of the Lord.The valleys shall be exalted, the mountains made low, the crooked made straight, and the rough place made smooth.Grace comes irresistibly and without restraint or hindrance.

C.     The frailty of man and the security of the word of the Lord (vv. 6-8): Isaiah compared mankind to the grass of the field.It flourishes for a time, but its glory proves transitory. How useless are the devices of men to find comfort and help.The wicked alliances Judah struck with Egypt and Assyria proved useless in protecting them from their enemies, and the once glorious Jerusalem was reduced to rubble. Lasting help comes only from the unassailable word of the Lord.

D.     A renewed vision of the Lord (vv. 9-31): Isaiah called upon Jerusalem to join the chorus of voices lifted in praise to Jehovah. Observe the divine character through the prophetís description.

1.      Love and tenderness (vv. 10-11): Isaiah compared the Lord to a tender shepherd tending to his flock.He meets every need with abundance and affection.

2.      Omniscience and power (v. 12): Then Lord possesses perfect knowledge of creation.He has measured the heavens, calculated the dust of the earth, and weighed the mountains.

3.      Wisdom and understanding (vv. 13-14): Godís wisdom is perfect.No one has ever taught him or served as his counselor.

4.      Sovereignty over the nations of the earth (vv. 15-17): The most powerful of nations are lightsome and inconsequential before the Lord.He regards them as dust on the scales.

5.      Incomparability (vv. 18-20): Who can compare to the Lord?Workmen fashion idols, but their images of wood rot and topple.

6.      Immensity (vv. 21-26): Isaiah marveled at the ignorance of his readers.Did they not know of Jehovahís greatness?How could they, as the privileged people of God, not know about his grandeur?He sits on the horizon of the earth and spreads out the heavens like the flaps of a tent.His glory reduces the mighty and powerful to inconsequential pretenders. The prophet admonishes his readers to lift their eyes to the heavens and behold the majesty of the Lord (vv. 25-26).

7.      Mercy (vv. 27-31): God has not forgotten his people.In his time, he takes up their cause and bestows mercy.He does not grow weary in grace. The weakness of the powerless does not weary him or deplete his resources of mercy.He gives strength to the weak and lifts them up on wings like an eagle.

 

II.                 The Summons and Silence of the Nations (41:1-29)

A.     Jehovah summons the nations and demands their initial silence before him (v. 1): The sequence here must be followed carefully.All the coastlands of the earth must appear before the judge, and requires their reverential silence before him.Having recognized Godís sovereignty, the nations must give an account of themselves.

B.     The Judge asks indicting, rhetorical questions to highlight Godís sovereignty over the nations (vv. 2-7): Verse two, no doubt, refers to Cyrus, King of the Persians, who allowed the Hebrews to return to Jerusalem.Isaiah predicted that God would raise up a monarch to rule over the region, and this king would carry out the Lordís designs toward Judah.Pitifully, the nations do not acknowledge Godís sovereignty, and they fashion idols to buttress their flagging courage (vv. 6-7).

C.     God will comfort his elect despite the threatenings of the raging nations (vv. 8-20): Godís purpose of grace will not be frustrated, and he will honor his covenant with Abraham.

D.     Jehovah mocks Idolatry (vv. 21-19): The dumb idols remain silent before the challenges of the Lord.His perfect knowledge of the future and his power over the creation stand in stark contrast to the powerless images.

 

III.               The Elect Servant (42:1-9): This is the first of four Servant Hymns in the Book of Isaiah. Of course, these verses are Messianic (See Matthew 12:17-21). This particular hymn has two features.

A.     Jehovahís delight in the Servant (v. 1)

1.      Jehovah upholds the Servant: Though the Promised One will come as a Servant; yet, God will sustain him.O, what great condescension that the Majestic Son of glory would come in the form of a lowly Servant, and one through whom the worlds were made would place himself in a position of dependence.

2.      Jehovahís choice of the Servant: Among the multitudes of men, the Servant is the elect of the Father.

3.      Jehovah delights in the Servant: The Servant will receive the full affirmation and approval of the Father.He is suitable to hold exalted office and fulfill the redemptive designs of the counsels of heaven. Jehovah finds his greatest in the character and work of the Servant.

4.      Jehovah will place his Spirit upon the Servant: This text, of course, reminds us of the descent of the Spirit, on Jesus, in the Jordan River.

B.     The Servantís redemptive work (vv. 2-9)

1.      He will come in meekness and gentleness (v. 2).

2.      He will deal with his fragile people tenderly and gently (v. 3).

3.      He will certainly achieve the purposes of the Lord (v. 4).

4.      He will be given, by the Father, as a covenant to his people and a light to the Gentiles (vv. 5-7).

5.      He shares the divine nature of Father (v. 9). Jehovah declared that he would not give his glory to another because he is jealous for his name.No one other than the Servant will share Jehovahís glory.

 

IV.              A Hymn of Praise (42:10-20)

A.     A call to worship (vv. 10-13): Isaiah called all the nations of the earth to sing a new song to the Lord (v. 10).The old songs serve Godís people well, but new music must fill hearts as well.Godís people must not live on yesterdayís manna.New songs signal fresh mercies, renewed unto Godís people every day. The prophet portrayed the Lord as a mighty warrior who will prevail against all of his enemies (See v. 13).

B.     The refrain of the Lord (vv. 14-20): Jehovah has remained silent, but he pledges to cry out conspicuously, like a woman in the travail of childbirth.O, dear reader, that our land might hear the cry of the Lord, in our day!God will come on the scene quickly and unexpectedly.He will not whisper; indeed, his voice will prove unmistakable and piercing.He will lay waste to his enemies, and bring light to the blind and hearing to the deaf.

 

V.                 The Redeemer of Judah (42:21-43:28)

A.     The obstinance of sinners (42:21-25): Despite the chastening of the Lord, Judah had refused to heed the divine warning.They would not listen to his voice or walk in his ways.

B.     Godís wondrous mercy to sinners (43:1-15)

1.      God calms the fears of Judah and promises her that he will redeem and call them (43:1).This warm overture of grace, of course, comes on the heels of the section on the stubborn disobedience of the people: O, the riches of his mercy to sinners.

2.      God promises that no calamity will overcome his people, and he will bring them safely to his redemption (43:2-3).

3.      God declares his love and honor for his people (43:4).

4.      God pledges that he will gather his people to himself (43:5-7).

5.      God will call the nations to witness his mercy to his people (43:8-15).

C.     Godís promise to do a new thing among his people (43:16-21): The old, lifeless patterns of the past will give way to the renewed and glorious work of the Lord (v. 18). Great blessings will come upon the Lordís elect, and they will declare his praise (v. 21).

D.     Another plea for Judah to repent (43:22-28)

1.      Judahís refusal to reconcile to the Lord (43:22-24): To this point, Judah refused to accept the Lordís mercy.Sadly, they neglected the worship of God and they have brought no sweet sacrifices to his altar (vv. 23-24).

2.      The persistent grace of God continues to invite the stubborn people to have their transgressions blotted out and their sins remembered no more (v. 25).

3.      God pleas with Judah to put him in remembrance and come to him for a conversation about his dissatisfaction about their sins (vv. 26-28).

 

VI.              Godís Unique Relationship with His People (44:1-28)

A.     Godís election of his people (vv. 1-5): The prophet called the people to attention, ďBut hear, O Jacob my servantÖĒTwice (verses one and two) this passage affirms Godís sovereign choice of his people. Jehovah brought forward two evidences of his unique relationship with Judah.

1.      He formed Judah from the womb (vv. 2-4). She owes her very existence to the Lord, and he remains her Father and benefactor.Because of his parental relationship with Judah, Jehovah promised that would help his child. His blessings will come like waters in a thirsty land.Like rain in the desert, God promised to shower his blessings upon his offspring.

2.      He will identify with his children by allowing them to bear his name (v. 5):This, of course, is an extension of the first blessing.The child bears the Fatherís name.Gladly, this promise extends beyond ethnic Israel.Those of the ďname of JacobĒ will bear Godís name, but the verse promises that ďanotherĒ (Gentiles) will be included in the family as well. The Blessed Savior reaffirmed this idea in several places in the Gospels.For instance, Jesus told his followers to make disciples of all the nations (See Matthew 28:19-20 and Luke 24:47).

B.     The foolishness of idolatry (vv. 6-20):

1.      God asserted his preeminence over all other ďgodsĒ (vv. 6-8). He alone is the first and last, preeminent in knowledge and power.He appointed an ancient people and declared what will come. There is no one besides him.

2.      The foolishness of the craftsmen who fashion idols (vv. 9-20). Isaiah mocked the foolish woodsman who plants a cedar tree, waters it and cares for it; then, in time, he cuts down the tree.He uses some of the tree to warm his home and cook his food, and he fashions some of the cedar into a god.The carpenter bows before the wooden idol and worships it.He seeks deliverance and help from cedar, a piece of wood!These idols cannot replace the covenant relationship God has with his people.He alone is the Father of Judah.

C.     Godís redemption of his people (vv. 21-28): God had blotted out their sins, and invited them to return to him.Singing and joy should accompany their return, and great blessing will come upon those who return.Certainly, these verses anticipate the end of the Babylonian/Persian Exile, but they foreshadow the gospel invitations as well.Israel did not deserve the redemptive overtures of God; yet, he met them with grace and mercy.What great promises we find here!Find your hope in the redemptive work of Christ.He has taken up your cause, and, at great price, has provided a sure and sufficient redemption.Take up his invitation with singing and joy, and anticipate the great blessings that come from his hand.What sin has destroyed, Christ will rebuild and restore (See vv. 26-28).

 

VII.            Godís Sovereignty Over the Kings of the Earth (45:1-25)

A.     Cyrus, King of the Medo/Persians, served the purposes of God (vv. 1-13).

1.      God anointed Cyrus to help return the Jews to Judah (vv. 1-4): The Lord took Cyrus by the hand, opened doors of opportunity, leveled the high places, and removed all restrictions from his path. Judah benefited from Godís work through King Cyrus.

2.      God ruled over Cyrus (vv. 5-13): The plan of God did not depend on Cyrus.God controlled the situation, and Cyrus simply served as an instrument in Godís hand.Jehovah held Cyrus in his hands like a potter holds clay.

B.     Godís redemptive purposes toward his people (vv. 14-25)

1.      God planned to bless Israel abundantly (v. 14).What happened to Judah would serve as instruction for the nations.The pagan peoples, Isaiah predicted, would come to Israel to learn that there is no God but Jehovah.

2.      Godís ways are often hidden and mysterious (vv. 15-19).Verse fifteen reminds us of our inability to fully understand the ways of God.He does not explain or justify himself to man.Idolaters fashion gods whom they can control, but the Living God confuses them.He will not be controlled or manipulated (v. 16).However, while the mysterious things of the Lord are often hidden from the eyes of men, the things God reveals are clear and certain (vv. 17-19).He does not speak in secret, and the clear and evident things of the Lord must be believed and obeyed.

C.     The Lordís redemptive invitation (vv. 20-25): God summoned the nations, and invited all the ends of the earth to turn to him and be saved, for there is no other.Idolatry would avail them nothing, but they will find salvation and righteousness in the God of Israel.

 

VIII.         The Judgment of Babylon (46:1-47:15)

A.     Babylon humbled by God (46:1-2): The Babylonians worshiped gods named Bel and Nebo.According to Isaiah, these gods ďbowedĒ in humility before Jehovah (obviously, this is a figurative expression).

B.     Unlike the failing gods of the Babylonians, God had ďgiven birthĒ to and sustained his children (46:3-4). His faithfulness in the past guaranteed that he would remain faithful to Israel in the future.

C.     The incomparable God (46:5-11): God asserted his government over the nations of the earth.Babylon stood astride the ancient Middle East with unrestrained pride; however, Jehovah planned to raise up another king from the East (Cyrus), and this man would bring Babylon to ruin (See v. 11). Make no mistake; this eastern king will not emerge because of his own prowess.God will direct his path and fulfill the divine plan.

D.     An appeal to the stubborn hearted (46:12-13): God pleaded with his reluctant people to hear his voice, and he gave them every incentive to listen to his words.

E.      Babylon like a majestic queen who meets with disgrace (47:1-15): Isaiah devoted the entire chapter to this extended analogy. The maiden queen of Babylon will know terrible shame.Her nakedness will be uncovered and taskmasters will set her to hard labor.All the nations of the earth will behold her disgrace because she presumptuously believed that she would always hold an exalted position.She felt secure in her wickedness, and ruin came upon her suddenly.Her pagan enchantments and sorceries could not save her from ignominy, and her counselors would become like dry stubble in the field.

 

IX.              A Powerful Appeal to Persuade the House of Jacob to Listen to the Lord (48:1-22)

A.     Judahís empty profession (vv. 1-2): These people have a good name and a fair profession, but their words and actions ring hollow.

B.     Judahís obstinance (vv. 3-11): their necks are like iron sinew, their foreheads brass, and their ears deaf.ďYou have never heard, you have never known, from of old your ear has not been opened.For I knew you would surely deal treacherously, and that from before birth you were called a rebel.Ē Nevertheless, God, for his own sake, remained patient and longsuffering with his recalcitrant people (vv. 9-11).

C.     Judahís invitation to hear the Lord (vv. 12-22):Despite the spiritual deafness of the people, God called to them again with earnest pleas of mercy. Why would they not hear the Lord?He alone is sufficient, attractive, powerful, and appealing.Furthermore, he offered them blessing, peace, satisfaction, and redemption.