Worship No Other
Explore the Bible Series
April 30, 2006
Background Passage: Isaiah 44:1-48:22
Lesson Passage: Isaiah 44:16-22; 46:1-5,8-9
Introduction: This section continues themes signaled in previous chapters. God’s sovereignty over the nations serves as an axis on which this section turns. Babylon, by the determinative counsel of God, chastened the Lord’s disobedient people. Nevertheless, in time, God will take his vengeance on those who had grieved Judah. The Persians, Isaiah predicted, would overtake the Babylonians and bring the once-proud nation to its knees. All of this would happen according to the design of God.
A second theme characterizes this section, the gracious patience and invitation of the Lord. Again and again we will encounter the Lord’s overtures of grace. He made sweet and persuasive arguments to woo the heart of Judah. Jehovah pursues his people! Despite their unresponsiveness, God appealed to them repeatedly. He remained faithful when they did not.
I. God’s Unique Relationship with His People (44:1-28)
A. God’s election of his people (vv. 1-5): The prophet called the people to attention, “But hear, O Jacob my servant…” Twice (verses one and two) this passage affirms God’s 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 Father’s name. Gladly, this promise extends beyond ethnic Israel. Those of the “name of Jacob” will bear God’s name, but the verse promises that “another” (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 “gods” (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. God’s 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).
II. God’s 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 God’s 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 God’s hand. Jehovah held Cyrus in his hands like a potter holds clay.
B. God’s 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. God’s 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 Lord’s 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.
III. 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 “bowed” in humility before Jehovah (obviously, this is a figurative expression).
B. Unlike the failing gods of the Babylonians, God had “given birth” 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.
IV. A Powerful Appeal to Persuade the House of Jacob to Listen to the Lord (48:1-22)
A. Judah’s empty profession (vv. 1-2): These people have a good name and a fair profession, but their words and actions ring hollow.
B. Judah’s obstinance (vv. 3-11): their necks are like iron sinew, their foreheads brass, and their ears deaf. “You 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.” Nevertheless, God, for his own sake, remained patient and longsuffering with his recalcitrant people (vv. 9-11).
C. Judah’s 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.
Questions for Discussion on the Lesson Passage:
1. Isaiah 44:12-20 describes the utter foolishness of idolatry. Secular, Twenty-first Century people seldom (if ever) make images from cedar trees and cook their food over open fires. What application does this text have for a modern consumer society?
2. Isaiah 46:1-9 prepared Judah for the idolatrous temptations of their captivity in Babylon. Again, the prophet pointed out the folly of idol worship. Verse Four centers on the Lord’s patient persistence in pursuing his people. Discuss the evidence for the Lord’s patience in your life. How has he demonstrated his persistence in subduing your soul?