I’ve been sitting in a SS class on Isaiah for the last 8 weeks. This week, we looked at Is. 44-45. One of the beauties of Isaiah is that he doesn’t mince words. In the same book, in the same chapter he points out our sin, God’s judgment and yet also points to God’s saving power. We’d prefer to focus on grace but Isaiah tells us we need both. Thus far in the book we get the truth: God is holy, we are not. Our trust in ourselves, in our leaders, in our ability to capture God have utterly failed. We are blind, dumb and no better (maybe worse) than the enemies of God.
And then we get to chapter 40. Here, we begin to get very clear images of God’s gracious acts along with more doses of the truth:
40:1-2: Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been pain for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins
40:6f …All men are like grass…the grass withers…but the word of our God stands for ever.
And what is that word? Vs. 10f tells us that he comes in power, he tends his flock, carries them, and gently leads them. he will not grow tired or weary. Even though we grow weary, thosw who hope in him will walk and not faint.
In chapter 41 we again see God’s power. The islands see his power and tremble. What has he done with that power? He has chosen and not rejected a people. What are we to do? Not fear even though a war rages around. Can we not fear? Not really. But the Lord himself (v. 14) will help us.
In chapter 42, God will no longer stand idly by but will, like a woman in childbirth, cry out as he makes them trust only in Him. Yes, he handed deaf and dumb over to be plundered. But why? Chapter 43 gives the answer: because there is only one savior who redeems, only one who can be trusted to save. Though we pass through the waters, this savior is with us. Even in our punishment we are not abandoned. The whole Gospel is summed up in 43:11:
I, even I, am the Lord, and apart from me there is no savior.
So, for our sakes, we are sent to Babylon. Why? So we forget our former glories and recognize that only God provides the water and the food. While we would consider this punishment a sign of rejection and hatred, chapter 44 shows us God’s heart for holiness includes grace–even for foolish folk who try to find their comfort and safety in human things. He says, “Remember…I have made you, you are my servant; O Israel, I will not forget you. I have swept away your offenses like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you” (v. 21-22).
Chapter 45 shows an amazing picture. God’s victory over sin is sure. He even uses pagans (Cyrus) for the sake of his people (notice even in the temple, they can take no pride in having been the one’s to build it). And at the end of the day our hope comes not from our ability to be righteous but in the Lord’s power to save: “They will say to me, ‘In the Lord alone are righteousness and strength.'”
I encourage you to read these chapters (especially 44:8; 24-28; 45:1-25) to see where our redemption and hope come from. Avoid trying to apply each little verse but read it as it is: poetry. Look at the description of God’s people, of THE Servant, and of God himself. You will walk away with the overwhelming sense that God is holy, that he keeps his word, and that he is delivering us from ourselves for his own namesake. A good thing to read if you are downcast and worried about yourself.