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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Isaiah 44

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The LORD, Your Redeemer

A. A promise to pour out the Spirit.

1. (Isa 44:1-4) Fear not, knowing the promise of the outpoured Spirit.

Yet hear now, O Jacob My servant, and Israel whom I have chosen. Thus says the LORD who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you: "Fear not, O Jacob My servant; and you, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and floods on the dry ground; I will pour My Spirit on your descendants, and My blessing on your offspring; they will spring up among the grass like willows by the watercourses."

a. Yet hear now: Though Isaiah 43 ended with a warning of judgment, it does not mean God takes back His promise of hope and restoration. Israel can still know the goodness of the LORD, if they will only turn back to Him.

b. Thus says the LORD who made you: This reminds us that God is still active in and responsible for creation. He didn't just create Adam and Eve and then let the whole thing go. There is a sense in which God has made each one of us, so we each have a personal obligation to Him as our Creator.

c. The name Jeshurun means "the upright one." It is used here as a contrast to the name Jacob, even as Israel is sometimes used as a contrast to Jacob.

i. "The name Jeshurun appears only three more times in the Old Testament: Deuteronomy 32:15, 33:5, 26; and in all cases it is used of Israel … this word bespeaks a wonder of grace, for He calls His deeply sinful people His beloved, His upright one." (Bultema)

d. Fear not … For I will pour water on him … I will pour My Spirit on your descendants: This is a glorious promise to a humble, returning Israel. God will not simply give them His Spirit; He will pour out His Spirit on them as if water was poured over them.

i. This is a freedom in the giving of the Spirit. This is a flow in the giving of the Spirit. This is abundance in the giving of the Spirit. This is an evident giving of the Spirit. God wants to pour His Spirit upon His people! If you experience a few drops, God wants to pour. If you are bone dry, God wants to pour. If you know the pour, God wants to keep pouring! We must learn to stop saying "when" as God pours!

ii. "Without the Spirit of God we can do nothing; we are as ships without wind, or chariots without steeds, like branches without sap, we are withered; like coals without fire, we are useless; as an offering without the sacrificial flame, we are unaccepted. I desire both to feel and to confess this fact whenever I attempt to preach. I do not wish to get away from it, or to conceal it, nor can I, for I am often made to feel it to the deep humbling of my spirit." (Spurgeon)

iii. "I believe that, at this present moment, God's people ought to cry to him day and night that there may be a fresh baptism into the Holy Ghost. There are many things that are desirable for the Church of Christ, but one thing is absolutely needful; and this is the one thing, the power of the Holy Ghost in the midst of his people." (Spurgeon)

iv. Who receives this gift? I will pour water on him who is thirsty. When we are thirsty for the outpouring of the Spirit, ask for it and receive it in faith, we can expect to be poured on. God is looking for dry ground to pour out floods upon!

e. And My blessing on your offspring: God doesn't only want to pour His Spirit; He also wants to pour His blessing, on us and our offspring.

i. As the old hymn says,

Showers of blessings, showers of blessing we need.
Mercy-drops 'round us are falling,
But for the showers we plead.

f. They will spring up among the grass like willows: The effect of the poured-out Spirit is life. Life springs up and grows where the Spirit of God is poured out.

2. (Isa 44:5) The promise of belonging to the LORD.

One will say, "I am the Lord's"; another will call himself by the name of Jacob; another will write with his hand, "The Lord's," and name himself by the name of Israel.

a. One will say, "I am the Lord's": Another effect of the poured out Spirit is that He identifies us as belonging to the Lord. When the Holy Spirit is poured out on us, we know we belong to the Lord, and we aren't afraid to say it. The Holy Spirit is an identifying seal upon the believer (Ephesians 1:13).

b. Another will write with his hand, "The Lord's," and name himself by the name of Israel: When the Holy Spirit is poured out on us, we want to take the name of the Lord. We want everyone to know we belong to Him, and He belongs to us.

i. Spurgeon on Another will write with his hand, "The Lord's": "The text may have another rendering, for, if you notice, the word 'with' in the text is in italics, to show that it was inserted by the translators. It might run thus: 'Another shall subscribe his hand unto the Lord.' This alludes to the custom which still exists, but which was more common in those days, of a servant being marked or tattooed in the hand with his master's name … Paul alludes to this when he says, 'Henceforth let no man trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus;' as much as to say, 'I am Christ's: I have had his name branded upon me.'"

B. The LORD alone is God.

1. (Isa 44:6-8) The LORD declares to witnesses that He alone is God.

Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: "I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no God. And who can proclaim as I do? Then let him declare it and set it in order for Me, since I appointed the ancient people. And the things that are coming and shall come, let them show these to them. Do not fear, nor be afraid; have I not told you from that time, and declared it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one."

a. I am the First and I am the Last; besides Me there is no God: The LORD has already taken this unique title in Isaiah 41:4, in the same context of proclaiming His glory against the feeble false gods. An idol can never be the First, because an idol needs someone to make him. An idol can never be the Last, because they wear out and break. But the Lord GOD of Israel is both the First and the Last; He is completely unique, and besides Him there is no God.

i. "As first he does not derive his being from any other, but is self-existing; as last he remains supreme at the End." (Motyer)

ii. Jesus takes the same title of the First and the Last in Revelation 1:17 and 22:13. If the LORD is the First and the Last according to Isaiah 44:6, and if Jesus is the First and the Last according to Revelation 1:17 and 22:13, since there cannot be two firsts or two lasts, Jesus must be the LORD God!

b. Who can proclaim as I do? Because God is the First and the Last, He lives outside our time-domain, and can proclaim things before they happen. He can proclaim the things that are coming and shall come. This shows God really is who He says He is, watching and directing the parade of human and cosmic history as it makes its course down His appointed path.

c. Do not fear, nor be afraid: Knowing these truths about God isn't only good for winning theological quiz games. When we really know who God is, and His great wisdom and authority over all things, it erases all fear in our lives.

d. You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? God says to His people, "You are all witnesses of these truths. Tell Me yourself - is there any God besides Me?"

i. Because there is no other God besides the LORD, it means that God the Father is the LORD, God the Son is the LORD, and God the Holy Spirit is the LORD. Yahweh - the name translated by the small-caps LORD -is the Triune God, the One God in Three Persons. There are no "grades" or "degrees" to true deity. There are false gods, symbolic gods, and the true God -and the only true God is Yahweh, the LORD.

e. Indeed there is no other Rock; I know not one: Since God is the only God, He is the only solid ground to build our life upon.

2. (Isa 44:9-20) The folly of idol makers.

Adam Clarke writes of this passage: "The sacred writers are generally large and eloquent upon the subject of idolatry; they treat it with great severity, and set forth the absurdity of it in the strongest light. But this passage of Isaiah … far exceeds anything that ever was written upon the subject, in force of argument, energy of expression, and elegance of composition."

Those who make an image, all of them are useless, and their precious things shall not profit; they are their own witnesses; they neither see nor know, that they may be ashamed. Who would form a god or mold an image that profits him nothing? Surely all his companions would be ashamed; and the workmen, they are mere men. Let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they shall fear, they shall be ashamed together. The blacksmith with the tongs works one in the coals, fashions it with hammers, and works it with the strength of his arms. Even so, he is hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint. The craftsman stretches out his rule, he marks one out with chalk; he fashions it with a plane, he marks it out with the compass, and makes it like the figure of a man, according to the beauty of a man, that it may remain in the house. He cuts down cedars for himself, and takes the cypress and the oak; he secures it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a pine, and the rain nourishes it. Then it shall be for a man to burn, for he will take some of it and warm himself; yes, he kindles it and bakes bread; indeed he makes a god and worships it; he makes it a carved image, and falls down to it. He burns half of it in the fire; with this half he eats meat; he roasts a roast, and is satisfied. He even warms himself and says, "Ah! I am warm, I have seen the fire." And the rest of it he makes into a god, his carved image. He falls down before it and worships it, prays to it and says, "Deliver me, for you are my god!" They do not know nor understand; for He has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. And no one considers in his heart, nor is there knowledge nor understanding to say, "I have burned half of it in the fire, yes, I have also baked bread on its coals; I have roasted meat and eaten it; and shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?" He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside; and he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, "Is there not a lie in my right hand?"

a. Those who make a graven image, all of them are useless: Isaiah will brilliantly show the foolishness of idol makers. A simple look at how idols are made shows how silly it is to regard them as gods, so the idol makers themselves are their own witnesses against themselves.

b. The workmen, they are mere men: Isaiah looks at the people who make idols, and notices that they themselves are only weak, frail men. The blacksmith becomes hungry, and his strength fails. The craftsman works hard with wood, but it is only wood. Half of the tree is made into an object of worship and trust, and the other half is burned for a warm fire and cooking.

c. They do no know nor understand; for He has shut their eyes, so they cannot see: How could the idol makers fail to see what is so obvious about the stupidity of idolatry? God has shut their eyes, and shut their hearts.

i. Is this unjust of God? Is He condemning man for something that He is really responsible for? Not at all. They first loved the darkness and chose their blindness, then the LORD gave them what they wanted. Isaiah points to this when he writes, no one considers in his heart, nor is there knowledge nor understanding to say … a deceived heart has turned him aside.

ii. It is the same way that God hardened the heart of Pharaoh (Exodus 4:21). Sometimes it says that Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Exodus 8:15), sometimes it says simply that Pharaoh's heart was hardened, without saying who did it (Exodus 7:13). Who really did it? When we consider the occasions where God hardened Pharaoh's heart, we must never think that God did it against Pharaoh's will. It was never a case of Pharaoh saying, "Oh, I want to do what is good and right and I want to bless these people of Israel" and God replying, "No, for I will harden your heart against them!" When God hardened Pharaoh's heart, He was allowing Pharaoh's heart to do what Pharaoh wanted to do - God was giving Pharaoh over to his sin (Romans 1:18-32).

iii. "The idolater chose a delusion and became deluded." (Motyer)

d. He feeds on ashes: The wooden idol from the craftsman's shop is just a warm fire away from being ashes. Worshipping and serving an idol - any false god - is as wise and as satisfying as eating ashes. We can only satisfy our soul in God.

e. And he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, "Is there not a lie in my right hand?" The one given over to a false god is so entranced in the lie that he is in bondage. He holds the idol in his right hand - the hand of power and authority - yet cannot see that it is a lie.

i. "The idolater picks up the figurine in his hand, holding it, but in reality it holds him. He is in bondage to a lie." (Motyer)

ii. "And such passages as these are added in such cases to give an account of the prodigious madness of sinners herein; because, as they wilfully shut their own eyes, and harden their own hearts, so God judicially blinds and hardens them, and gives them up to believe lies, and then it is no wonder if they fall into such dotages." (Poole)

3. (Isa 44:21-23) Remembering and praising the greatness and the glory of the true God.

"Remember these, O Jacob, and Israel, for you are My servant; I have formed you, you are My servant; O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me! I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and like a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you." Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it! Shout, you lower parts of the earth; break forth into singing, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it! For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and glorified Himself in Israel.

a. Remember these, O Jacob: As Israel remembers the foolishness of making and worshipping idols, it should inspire greater trust and confidence in God. When we think about the alternatives to following the LORD, it should make us follow Him all the more closely.

i. As Peter said to Jesus, Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. (John 6:68)

b. If the foolishness of the alternative wasn't enough, God gives His people many more reasons to trust and love Him: I have formed you … you are My servant … you will not be forgotten by Me … I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions … I have redeemed you. Any one of these would be reason enough, but combined, they are overwhelming.

c. Sing, O heavens, for the LORD has done it! This is the only logical reaction to seeing who God is. And if God's people won't do it, then creation itself will (Shout, you lower parts of the earth; break into singing, you mountains).

d. For the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and glorified Himself in Israel: Creation rejoices when God saves and glorifies Himself in His people. Paul developed this theme in Romans 8:19-22.

4. (Isa 44:24-28) The LORD demonstrates He is the true God by prophesying a future deliverer of Israel.

Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, and He who formed you from the womb: "I am the LORD, who makes all things, who stretches out the heavens all alone, who spreads abroad the earth by Myself; who frustrates the signs of the babblers, and drives diviners mad; who turns wise men backward, and makes their knowledge foolishness; who confirms the word of His servant, and performs the counsel of His messengers; who says to Jerusalem, 'You shall be inhabited,' to the cities of Judah, 'You shall be built,' and I will raise up her waste places; who says to the deep, 'Be dry! And I will dry up your rivers'; who says of Cyrus, 'He is My shepherd, and he shall perform all My pleasure, saying to Jerusalem, "You shall be built," and to the temple, "Your foundation shall be laid."'"

a. The LORD makes remarkable claims through this whole passage, and in these verses. He claims to be their Redeemer, the Creator of each person (who formed you from the womb), the Creator of all things (who makes all things), wiser and greater than anyone (who frustrates the signs of the babblers), who upholds His own (who confirms the word of His servants), who resurrects dead cities (who says to Jerusalem, "You shall be inhabited"), and who has authority over all creation (who says to the deep, "Be dry!"). How can God back up such great claims?

b. Who says of Cyrus: God proves He is who He claims to be by announcing the name of a deliverer for Israel's Babylonian exiles - and Isaiah wrote this more than 200 years before Cyrus fulfilled this prophecy - by name!

i. The prophet alluded to the king who would bring about Israel's release from captivity in Isaiah 41:2, but in this passage, amazingly, he mentions him by name. "Cyrus, whom God here designeth by his proper name two hundred years before he was born, that this might be an undeniable evidence of the certainty and exactness of God's foreknowledge, and a convincing argument, and so most fit to conclude this dispute between God and idols." (Poole)

i. "This great passage, with its two explicit references to Cyrus, has attracted much scholarly discussion. For many modern scholars it represents the strongest argument for 'Deutero-Isaiah,' for they cannot conceive of supernatural predictive prophecy of such detail." (Grogan)

ii. Some believe that Isaiah wrote much of this, but someone after the events were fulfilled just wrote in the name Cyrus. This doesn't hold true, because the whole section is carefully written to dramatically reveal the name of Cyrus. Just the name couldn't have been written in later.

iii. "We can, of course, choose to disbelieve what it says, but we must not adjust its testimony to suit modern conventions, tastes or prejudices. The evidence of the Old Testament (as of the New) is that pre-knowledge of personal names is given when, for whatever reason, the situation warrants it (cf. 1 Kings 13:2 with 2 Kings 23:15-17; Acts 9:12). This special dimension of prediction is at home in Isaiah, who, more than any other prophet, makes prediction and fulfilment the keystone of his proof that the Lord is the only God." (Motyer)

iv. "If the fact of predictive prophecy is accepted, we are in no position to set limits to its exercise, and, since the OT does not let us into the secrets of the mechanisms or 'psychology' of inspiration, we do not have the clues to decide what is possible and what is impossible. Within the total biblical context, the revelation of names is perfectly at home (see, e.g., Genesis 16:11; Matthew 1:21; Luke 1:13)." (Motyer)

v. "Josephus in his Antiquities relates that when Cyrus came across his name mentioned in this place in Isaiah 220 years before he lived, he was seized by a holy desire to fulfill what was written of him." (Bultema)

c. He is My shepherd: Cyrus was a shepherd in the sense that God used him to do something good and helpful for Israel.

i. "The lost sheep were to be rounded up and returned to their true fold in Judah by this foreigner … this oracle gives the first explicit reference in the Book of Isaiah to God's plans to rebuild the city." (Grogan)

ii. "Kings were called 'shepherds' as being guardians and carers of their people (56:11; 2 Samuel 24:17; 1 Kings 22:17; Jeremiah 2:8). The title here signifies that the coming conqueror is the Lord's appointed carer - even, as a shepherd would, to lead them into their proper pastures." (Motyer)

d. Cyrus was a special instrument in God's hand, for God's work. He would do the work of the LORD (He shall perform all My pleasure), and open the door for the work of rebuilding Jerusalem and the temple after the Babylonians destroyed them.

i. The royal proclamations of Cyrus fulfilling this prophecy are found in Ezra 1:2 and 2 Chronicles 36:23.

e. The specific work commissioned by Cyrus is described in detail, including drying up the waters (Who says to the deep, "Be dry!") and laying the foundation for the temple (Your foundation shall be laid).

i. Trapp on Who says to the deep, "Be dry!" "That will put it into the heart of Cyrus to dry up the Euphrates, and so to take Babylon."

ii. "Foundations: interestingly, as Ezra records (3:10-13; 5:16), in the days of Cyrus the rebuilding of the temple did not progress beyond the laying of the foundations." (Motyer)

iii. With such amazingly specific claims, it is no wonder that God proves who He is through predicted and fulfilled prophecy. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:19-21)

© 2001 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

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