The Restoration of Isra’el ~ Part 1 ~Yesha’yahu 49:8-14

In my last post, we learned about The Servant of the Lord in Yesha’yahu 49:1-7. In this post, we begin to learn about The Restoration of Isra’el ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 49:8-14.

Unfortunately, I have had to break the topic into two separate posts to maintain a readable length.

8 Here is what Adonai says: “At the time when I choose, I will answer you; on the day of salvation, I will help you. I have preserved you, and I have appointed you to be the covenant for a people, to restore the land and distribute again its ruined inheritances to their owners,

The covenant is a reference to the covenant made with Avraham in Genesis 12:2-3. Adonai will restore His people to the land He gave them and which they forfeited.

Sha’ul quotes this verse saying to the Corinthians: “As God’s fellow-workers, we also urge you not to receive His grace and then do nothing with it. For He says, ‘At the acceptable time I heard you; in the day of salvation I helped you.’” ~ 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 (CJB)

to say to the prisoners, ‘Come out!’ to those in darkness, ‘Show yourselves!’ They will feed along the paths, and all the high hills will be their pastures.

In His first sermon, Yeshua declared that His mission was, among other things, to preach deliverance to the captives, here prisoners (see Luke 4:18). Yeshua not only talked about doing this but accomplished it when He healed those who were bound by HaSatan (see Matthew 8:16) and, ultimately freed all of humanity from the stranglehold of sin through His death on the Cross.

 10 They will be neither hungry nor thirsty; neither scorching wind nor sun will strike them; for He who has mercy on them will lead them and guide them to springs of water.

What a great promise! The people of God have been in desperate straits, but Adonai will deliver them.

11 I will turn all My mountains into a road; My highways will be raised up. 12 There they come, some from far away, some from the north, some from the west, and some from the land of Sinim.”

The prophecy again uses language drawn from the Exodus and wilderness wandering traditions. Sinim is typically associated with modern Aswan in Egypt.

13 Sing, heaven! Rejoice, earth! Break out in song, you mountains! For Adonai is comforting his people, having mercy on his own who have suffered.

Yesha’yahu began with a prophecy calling on heavens and earth to serve as witnesses to testify that Adonai’s people deserved their punishment; now they rejoice in their restoration. The land is commanded to break into song at the prospect of the coming Messiah.

14 “But Tziyon says, ‘Adonai has abandoned me, Adonai has forgotten me.’

Tziyon, personified as a woman, represents Yerushalayim. She complained or lamented that Adonai had abandoned her. The verses that follow suggest that what she missed was her children or the inhabitants of Yerushalayim. Their absence in exile led her to suggest that Adonai had forgotten her.

In my next post, we will continue to learn about The Restoration of Isra’el ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 49:15-26.

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The Servant of the Lord ~ Yesha’yahu 49:1-7

In my last post, we examined Isra’el Freed in Yesha’yahu 48:12-22. In this post, we learn about The Servant of the Lord in Yesha’yahu 49:1-7.

Chapter 49 is a Messianic prophecy. It portrays the Prince of Peace, Yeshua HaMashiach.

1Coastlands, listen to Me; listen, you peoples far away: Adonai called Me from the womb; before I was born, He had spoken My name.

Coastlands is the same word translated islands in Yesha’yahu 41:1. It refers to the distant places of the earth. The Servant (see 49:3 below) spoke here and addressed all the peoples of the earth. He began by recounting His calling that started even before He was born.

In Psalm 22:9, another Messianic prophecy, we read that Yeshua had confidence in the Father even as an infant. Here, Yesha’yahu reiterates that, even as an infant, Yeshua knew the Father called him.

2 He has made My mouth like a sharp sword while hiding Me in the shadow of His hand; He has made Me like a sharpened arrow while concealing Me in His quiver.

The sword imagery is also used for the prophet’s word and Adonai’s Word in the Brit Hadashah. Since the sword was an offensive weapon, the implication is that the word is in some sense aggressive. One of the Hebrew words for the mouth (peh) also signified the term edge, as in “edge of the sword.” Thus, there may be a play on words in this verse.

The Servant was made to be a weapon in the arsenal of Adonai; the warrior to wage war against the chaos of the world. Indeed, His spoken Word was, like His written Word. See, the Word of Adonai is alive! It is at work and is sharper than any double-edged sword – it cuts right through to where soul meets spirit and joints meet marrow, and it is quick to judge the inner reflections and attitudes of the heart.” ~ Hebrews 4:12 (CJB)

3 He said to Me, “You are My servant, Isra’el, through whom I will show my glory.”

The Servant is identified as Isra’el. However, the Brit Hadasah authors recognized a second and more profound identification of the Servant as they associated these texts with Yeshua (see Matthew 8:17; 12:17-21; John 12:38; Acts 8:30-35).

4 But I said, “I have toiled in vain, spent My strength for nothing, futility.” Yet My cause is with Adonai; My reward is with My God.

Did Yeshua think He labored in vain? Humanly, He would have had a reason. He was betrayed by one of His disciples. And there was only one at the Cross. Indeed, our Lord must have struggled with the whispers of HaSatan, saying, “You failed. The masses have rejected You and even Your disciples have forsaken You.” [1]

5 So now Adonai says – I formed You in the womb to be His servant, to bring Ya‘akov back to Him, to have Isra’el gathered to Him so that I will be honored in the sight of Adonai, My God having become My strength –

In verse 3, the Servant identified himself as Isra’el; here, the Servant speaks as if He is the agent of Isra’el’s restoration. This seeming inconsistency is resolved once it is realized that it is the remnant, and ultimately the remnant of one – Yeshua – who functions in this way.

6 He has said, “It is not enough that you are merely My servant to raise up the tribes of Ya‘akov and restore the offspring of Isra’el. I will also make You a light to the nations, so My salvation can spread to the ends of the earth.”

As a nation, Isra’el’s original mission was to be a light to the rest of the world. But she turned inward. Not wanting to be polluted by the heathen, she lost compassion and vision for them. The nation of Isra’el failed. But the true Isra’el -Yeshua HaMashiach – never lost sight of His calling. He lived His life as the Light of the entire world and died to save all humanity.

7 Here is what Adonai, the Redeemer of Isra’el, His Holy One, says to the One despised, whom the nations detest, to the servant of tyrants: “When kings see You, they will stand up; princes too will prostrate themselves, because of Adonai, who is faithful, the Holy One of Isra’el, who has chosen You.” ~ Isaiah 49:1-7 (CJB)

Although Yeshua was despised and rejected in His First Coming, when He comes again, every knee will bow – in heaven, on earth, and under the earth – and every tongue will acknowledge that Yeshua the Messiah is Adonai – to the glory of God the Father. ~ Philippians 2:10-11 (CJB)

In my next post, we learn about The Restoration of Isra’el in Yesha’yahu 49:8-26.

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[1] Jon Courson’s Application Commentary Old Testament Volume 2.

Isra’el Freed ~ Yesha’yahu 48:12-22

In my last post, we examined Stubborn Isra’el in Yesha’yahu 48:1-11. In this post, we examine Isra’el Freed in Yesha’yahu 48:12-22.

12 Listen to Me, Ya‘akov; Isra’el, whom I have called: I am He who is first; I am also the last. 13 My hand laid the foundation of the earth; My right hand spread out the heavens; when I summoned them, at once, they rose into being.

The One who created heaven and earth would surely have the means to deliver His people.

14 All of you, assemble and listen: which of you has foretold what is coming? Adonai’s friend will do his will against Bavel, using his arm against the Kasdim.15 It is I who have spoken, I have summoned him, I have brought him, and he will succeed.

The immediate reference to Adonai’s friend would have been to Koresh, King of Persia. But the ultimate fulfillment would be found in Yeshua.

16 Come close to Me and listen to this: since the beginning, I have not spoken in secret, since the time things began to be, I have been there, and now Adonai Elohim has sent Me and his Spirit.”

Verse 16 is one of the great proof texts of the Trinity. Yesha’yahu concluded this section by affirming that Adonai was the One who had brought Him to the people. Who was the One who was sent? Yeshua. Therefore, here we see God the Father, God the Holy Spirit, and God the Son.

17 Thus says Adonai, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Isra’el: I am Adonai, your God, who teaches you for your own good, who guides you on the path you should take. 18 If only you would heed My mitzvot! Then your peace would flow on like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.

Isra’el’s past judgment was the result of their refusal to follow Adonai.

19 Your descendants would be numerous as the sand, your offspring countless as its grains. Their name would never be cut off or destroyed from my presence.”

Yesha’yahu had earlier announced that Isra’el’s population would be reduced to a remnant. The allusion to sand goes back to the patriarchal promise that Avraham would have numerous descendants. It was Isra’el’s sin that led to a reduction of the population.

From the days in the Garden of Eden until the present, HaSatan’s greatest lie has been that Adonai is out to condemn and restrict humankind. Here, we see the truth – that He teaches us so that we may profit, prosper, and do well.

The chapter ends with a divine directive to leave Bavel, the nation that was the source of Y’hudah’s oppression. The assumption is that the people should do this after the work of Adonai’s messiah, in this case, Koresh.

20 Get out of Bavel! Flee the Kasdim! With shouts of joy announce it, proclaim it! Send the news out to the ends of the earth! Say, “Adonai has redeemed his servant, Ya‘akov.” 21 They weren’t thirsty when He led them through the deserts; He made water flow from the rock for them – He split the rock, and out gushed the water.

Before Koresh ever decreed that the Jews could return to their land, Adonai paved the way. And just as He miraculously provided for His people during their Exodus from Egypt, so He would provide for them in their return from Bavel.

22 But there is no peace, says Adonai, for the wicked. ~ Isaiah 48:12-22 (CJB)

Wow, how many times have we quoted that last verse without realizing it is scriptural?

Though Adonai will bring salvation to His people, He will not back down from His judgment on the wicked. Chapter 48 ends with an absence of peace for the wicked. Chapter 49, however, will prophesy of the coming of the Prince of Peace to the world.

In my next post, we learn about The Servant of the Lord in Yesha’yahu 49:1-7.

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Stubborn Isra’el ~ Yesha’yahu 48:1-11

In my last post, we examined The Fall of Bavel in Yesha’yahu 47:1-15. In this post, we explore Stubborn Isra’el in Yesha’yahu 48:1-11.

Whereas chapter 47 dealt with Adonai’s judgment against Bavel, chapter 48 deals with Adonai’s grace toward Isra’el.

1 Listen to this, house of Ya‘akov, called by the name of Isra’el, who have come from the spring of Y’hudah, who swear by the name of Adonai and invoke the God of Isra’el! – it is not sincerely or justifiably

Yesha’yahu addressed those connected to Adonai by their genealogical descent from the patriarchs. Avraham was the father of Isra’el, the first Jew. He had a son named Yitz’chak (Isaac 0, who had a son named Ya‘akov (Jacob). Ya‘akov had twelve sons who became the fathers of the twelve tribes of Isra’el. Ya‘akov’s name, which means heel snatcher or supplanter, was appropriate because he was one who lived by his wits – conning and tricking people. But one night, seeing no way out of his circumstances, he wrestled all night with the angel of Adonai, saying, I won’t let you go unless you bless me. Genesis ~ 32:26 (CJB)

In the morning, the man said, From now on, you will no longer be called Ya‘akov, but Isra’el; because you have shown your strength to both God and men and have prevailed. ~ Genesis 32:28 (CJB)

2 that they call themselves people of the holy city or rely on the God of Isra’el – Adonai-Tzva’ot is His name: 3 I announced things that happened at the beginning, long ago; they issued from My mouth, I proclaimed them. Then suddenly, I acted, and they occurred.

The past events refer to the judgment of Adonai on His people. He announced what would happen to sinful Y’huda through Yesha’yahu, Yermiyahu, Yechzk’el (Ezekiel), and other prophets. He proclaimed what He would do and then acted on His words.

4 Because I knew that you were stubborn, your neck an iron sinew, your forehead bronze,

Nothing can get through a bronze forehead. An iron neck is stiff and cannot turn around. This imagery shows the refusal of Adonai’s people to hear Him or to repent.

5 I announced it to you long ago; before it occurred, I proclaimed it to you; so that you could not say, ‘My idol did it; my carved image, my statue, gave the order for it.’ 6 You have heard and seen all this, so why won’t you admit it? Now I am announcing new things to you, secret things you have not known,

Up to this point, Adonai has been announcing judgment, but soon He will announce new things – a message of grace after the judgment. Why had Adonai kept the news of eventual restoration hidden? The new items include Adonai’s use of Koresh to deliver His people that we will examine in the next post.

7 created now, not long ago; before today, you did not hear them: so you can’t say, ‘I already know about them.’ 8 No, you haven’t heard, and you haven’t known; these things have not reached your ears before. For I knew how treacherous you were – you were called a rebel from the womb.

Adonai’s people had been so seduced by idolatry that Adonai said, “I’m speaking prophetically so that when events unfold, you won’t think they happened according to your idols’ predictions.”

9 Yet for the sake of My own reputation, I am deferring My anger; for the sake of My praise, I am patient with you, so as not to cut you off.

Adonai will not completely destroy His people. A remnant will survive the judgment.

10 “Look, I have refined you, but not [as severely] as silver; [rather] I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.

Silver in the ancient world was refined by a process in which it was melted to rid it of base components. Silversmiths, as well as goldsmiths, used blowpipes to ventilate their furnaces and cast their products with the aid of soapstone or clay molds. The image of refining is often used in the Bible to refer to removing sin from a person or a community, in this case, through affliction.

11 For my sake, I will do it, for My own sake. I will not let [My reputation] be tarnished; I will not yield My glory to anyone else. ~ Isaiah 48:1-11 (CJB)

Sometimes we wonder why we face one affliction after another. Could it be it’s because we’re not learning our lesson? Could it be that we’re so stubborn that Adonai has to take us through the fire of affliction continually? Has He been speaking to you about some issue? Is there something He has told you need to be changed but about which you persistently say, “Maybe later, Lord”? We all go through fiery trials, and many are mandated. But, as we watch the people of Isra’el, we see that other tests are the result of our stubbornness concerning lessons Adonai wants to teach.

In my next post, we examine Isra’el Freed in Yesha’yahu 48:12-22.

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Yerushalayim to Be Inhabited ~ Part 3 ~ Yesha’yahu 45:14-25

In my last post, we explored Yerushalayim to Be Inhabited ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 454:1-13. In this post, we explore Yerushalayim to Be Inhabited ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 45:14-25.

14 Here is what Adonai says: “The earnings of Egypt, the commerce of Ethiopia, and men of stature from S’va will come over to you and become yours; they will come in chains and follow you. They will prostrate themselves before you; they will pray to you: ‘Surely God is with you; there is no other, other gods are nothing.’”

A significant canal was built in the Red Sea (I couldn’t resist) by the Persians during the reign of Darius I that linked the Nile cultures of Egypt and Ethiopia with Arabia (S’va). This facilitated the flow of shipping between the two continents. This verse anticipates a time when these foreign nations will recognize that Adonai is the one true God.

15 Truly, you are a God who hides Himself, God of Isra’el, Savior! 16 The idol-makers will be ashamed, disgraced, all of them; they will go dishonored together.

Shame and disgrace comes on those who trust in idols because their confidence is misplaced.

17 But Isra’el, saved by Adonai with an everlasting salvation, you will never, ever, be ashamed or disgraced.

Adonai, who raised up Cyrus as a deliverer for Isra’el, now reiterates His promise to her that she would be saved. As Sha’ul would make clear in Romans 11, Adonai is not through with Isra’el. She has a key role to play in the ages to come.

18 For thus says Adonai, who created the heavens, God, who shaped and made the earth, who established and created it not to be chaos, but formed it to be lived in: “I am Adonai; there is no other.

As we say earlier, created here in Hebrew is bara. While some of us can create things out of raw material, only Adonai can create something out of nothing.

19 I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness. I did not say to the descendants of Ya‘akov, ‘It is in vain that you will seek Me.’ I, Adonai, speak rightly; I say what is true.

While Adonai hid Himself in the sense that He is far above creation (v. 15), He pursues a relationship and makes Himself known to His creatures. Keep asking, and it will be given to you; keep seeking, and you will find; keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. ~ Matthew 7:7 (CJB)

Anyone who believes who asks, seeks, or knocks will indeed get the very best. It might not be what you think is best, but it is what your Father knows to be best. If I don’t ask, I’ll never know if I really did get the best. If I do ask, however, I will receive Adonai’s best. That is why it’s never vain to seek Adonai.

20 Assemble, come and gather together, you refugees from the nations! Those carrying their wooden idols are ignorant, they pray to a god that cannot save.21 Let them stand and present their case! Indeed, let them take counsel together. Who foretold this long ago, announced it in times gone by? Wasn’t it I, Adonai? There is no other God besides Me, a just God and a Savior; there is none besides me.

The challenge to speak up and present your case indicates that this passage has a legal background. The issue involves the gods’ ability to reveal the future. And as we know, only Adonai can reveal the future through His prophets and written Word.

22 Look to Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God; there is no other.23 In the name of Myself I have sworn, from My mouth has rightly gone out, a word that will not return – that to Me every knee will bow and every tongue will swear 24 about Me that only in Adonai are justice and strength.” All who rage against Him will come to Him ashamed, 25 but all the descendants of Isra’el will find justice and glory in Adonai. ~ Isaiah 45:14-25 (CJB)

Every knee will bow and every tongue will swear, Adonai declares. Sha’ul attributes this to Yeshua in Philippians 2:10-11.

In my next post, we learn of the Gods of Bavel in Yesha’yahu 46:1-13.

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Yerushalayim to Be Inhabited ~ Part 2 ~ Yesha’yahu 45:1-13

In my last post, we explored Yerushalayim to Be Inhabited ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 44:24-28. In this post, we explore Yerushalayim to Be Inhabited ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 45:1-13.

We continue to explore Adonai’s sovereignty over His creation and the future He asserts. Verses 1-8 were written at least 140 years before it was fulfilled. Recall from our last study that Koresh is Cyrus King of Persia, who was one of the greatest conquerors in world history. We will be learning quite a bit about him in this post. Adonai speaks to Koresh and announces how He intends to use Him as His agent. The passage divinely commissions Koresh. There is no reason to believe that Koresh was conscious of His role as Adonai’s agent of redemption any more than Ashur or Bavel were aware that they were used as the tool of Adonai’s anger.

1 Thus says Adonai to Koresh, His anointed, whose right hand He has grasped so that He subdues nations before Him and strips kings of their robes, so that doors open in front of him, and no gates are barred:

Adonai called Koresh His anointed. Here the use is metaphorical of Adonai’s invisible commissioning of this earthly king to function as a royal deliverer of His people. In the ancient Near East, when a god grasped the right hand of someone, it indicated special favor, commissioning, guidance, and divine endowment with skill.

2 “I will go ahead of you, leveling the hills, shattering the bronze gates, smashing the iron bars.

Adonai will cause the strong defenses of enemy cities to fall before Koresh. He will level the uneven places to speed his attack.

3 I will give you treasures hoarded in the dark, secret riches hidden away so that you will know that I, Adonai, calling you by your name, am the God of Isra’el.

As Koresh defeated nations, their wealth would come into his possession. These treasures were hidden away from the world and thus are associated with darkness and considered secret.

4 It is for the sake of Ya‘akov, My servant, yes, for Isra’el My elect, that I call you by your name and give you a title, although you don’t know me.

Adonai’s actions toward Koresh have nothing to do with Adonai’s love for Koresh or the Persians. He will use them on behalf of His people whom He calls His servant. The fact that Adonai named Koresh and called him shows that the Persian king was under His control. The fact that Adonai could forename Koresh through Yesha’yahu also shows Adonai’s ability to read the future.

5 I am Adonai; there is no other; besides Me, there is no God. I am arming you, although you don’t know Me, 6 so that those from the east and those from the west will know that there is none besides Me – I am Adonai; there is no other. 7 I form light, I create [1] darkness; I make well-being, I create woe; I, Adonai, do all these things.

No one should ascribe these great acts of redemption to any other god than Adonai. His lordship is not just over Isra’el but the entire world (from the east to the west). He is in control not only of the good things but also of the difficult things that occur in history.
8 “Heavens above, rain down justice; let the clouds pour it down. Let the earth open, so that salvation springs up, and justice sprouts with it. I, Adonai, have created it.”

The woe prophecy in verses 9-13 responds to those who would argue with Adonai for using a pagan king like Koresh to accomplish His purposes.

9 Woe to anyone who argues with his maker, like potsherds lying on the ground! Does the clay ask the potter, “What are you doing?” or, “What’s this you’re making, that has no hands?”

Human beings are the potsherds, and Adonai is the potter. This image reminds humans of their proper place in relationship to Adonai. There may be an allusion here to Genesis 2:7 where Adonai took the dust of the ground and formed Adam. Ancient Near Eastern myths describe human beings as the product of clay. Where the biblical and ancient Near Eastern accounts differ profoundly is in the second element that forms humans. In Scripture, Adonai used His breath, indicating a high view of humanity. In Mesopotamian accounts, the second element was the blood of a demon god, expressing a lower view of human life.

10 Woe to him who asks a father, “Of what are you the father?” or who asks a woman, “To what are you giving birth?”

The second metaphor of Adonai as a parent (father or mother) and His human creation as the child also expresses an unbalanced power relationship. A baby does not question his birth any more than a pot questions its creation. So why should Isra’el or we question God’s plan?

11 Thus says Adonai, the Holy One of Isra’el, his Maker: “You ask for signs concerning My children? You give orders concerning the work of my hands? 12 I am the one who made the earth! I created human beings on it! I – my hands – stretched out the heavens, and directed all their number. 13 I am stirring up Koresh to righteousness; I am smoothing out all his paths. He will rebuild my city; and he will free my exiles, taking neither ransom nor bribe,” says Adonai-Tzva’ot. ~ Isaiah 45:1-13 (CJB)

What is Adonai commissioning you to accomplish in your life?

In my next post, we learn of Yerushalayim to Be Inhabited ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 45:14-23.

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[1] In this verse create in Hebrew is bara. That attribute is only possessed by Adonai Himself. It means to create something out of nothing.

Yerushalayim to Be Inhabited ~ Part 1 ~ Yesha’yahu 44:24-28

In my last post, we explored Worthless Idols in Yesha’yahu 44:6-23. In this post, we explore Yerushalayim to Be Inhabited ~ Part 1 in 44:24-28.

In these verses, Adonai’s sovereignty over His creation and the future is asserted. Adonai affirmed His prophets over against those prophets who deceived.

24 Here is what Adonai says, your Redeemer, He who formed you in the womb: “I am Adonai, who makes all things, who stretched out the heavens all alone, who spread out the earth all by myself.

The fact that the Bible portrays Adonai as having no equal means that all divine activity is carried out by Him. This contrasts with many of the traditions of the ancient Near East, where various deities were involved with different aspects of creation. Stretching out the heavens and spreading the earth demonstrates Adonai’s control over the cosmos. He puts it up like a Bedouin erects a tent.

25 I frustrate false prophets and their omens, I make fools of diviners, I drive back the sages and make their wisdom look silly.

Adonai confuses and destroys those who claim to reveal the future. Such people are condemned and contrasted with true prophets who received revelation from Adonai. Diviners manipulated or observed such things as sheep livers, cloud formations, and the stars to determine the future.

26 I confirm My servants’ prophecies and make My messengers’ plans succeed. I say of Yerushalayim: ‘She will be lived in,’ of the cities of Y’hudah, ‘They will be rebuilt; I will restore their ruins.’

In contrast to the false prophets are Adonai’smessengers with the message that Yerushalayim will be rebuilt and re-inhabited.

27 I say to the deep sea, ‘Dry up! I will make your streams run dry.’

Adonai’s ability to restore Yerushalayim is affirmed by reference to His control of nature, specifically that He can make bodies of water go dry. Since water is often a symbol of the forces of chaos, perhaps the meaning of this verse is that Adonai will subdue those chaotic forces that held Judah captive.

The following prophecy concerning Koresh (Cyrus), which continues in all of chapter 45 is one of the most astounding in all the Tanakh. It predicts that a man named Koresh would come on the scene, saying that Yerushalayim would be built and the foundations of the Temple would be laid. At this time, Yerushalayim was already built, and the Temple was standing tall, so what relevance could this have to anything, the people must have wondered. But 200 years later, a man named Koresh did indeed appear on the scene as king of the Persian empire. And it would be this Koresh who would give the order for the Jews to rebuild the city and temple the Bavlim had destroyed.

28 I say of Koresh, ‘He is my shepherd, he will do everything I want. He will say of Yerushalayim, “You will be rebuilt,” and of the Temple, “Your foundation will be laid.”’”  ~ Isaiah 44:24-28 (CJB)

Koresh was born about 590 BCE in the modern Iranian province of Fars. Virtually nothing is known of him until he came to the throne of Persia in 559 BCE, except for a few legends concerning his childhood written down by Herodotus, the Greek historian. [1] Yesha’yahu whose ministry spanned four kings whose reigns stretched from 742 to 686 BCE, named a ruler who was not yet born.

In my next post, we learn of Yerushalayim to Be Inhabited ~ Part 2 in Yesha’yahu 45:1-13.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.

Worthless Idols ~ Yesha’yahu 44:6-23

In my last post, we explored Isra’el the Chosen in Yesha’yahu 44:1-5. In this post, we explore Worthless Idols in Yesha’yahu 44:6-23.

6 Thus says Adonai, Isra’el’s King and Redeemer, Adonai-Tzva’ot: “I am the first, and I am the last; besides Me, there is no God.

A long argument against idols begins with an assertion of the uniqueness of Adonai. In Revelation 1:8, we hear Yeshua declaring that He is the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last.

7 Who is like Me? Let him speak out! Let him show Me clearly what has been happening since I set up the eternal people; let him foretell future signs and events.

Only Adonai can foretell the future, something that He does through His prophets.

8 Don’t be frightened, don’t be afraid. Didn’t I tell you this long ago? I foretold it, and you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me? There is no other Rock – I know of none.”

The invocation of witnesses places this passage in a courtroom setting. These witnesses will bear testimony to the fact that only Adonai is a Rock – a place of protection and stability – not the false gods of the nations. As proof of His deity and supremacy, Adonai does what no other god dares to prophesy the future. And yet even this didn’t keep His people from being seduced by idols.

9 All idol-makers amount to nothing; their precious productions profit no one; and their witnesses, to their own shame, neither see nor understand. 10 Who would fashion a god or cast an image that profits no one anything? 11 All involved will be ashamed, but more than anyone else, the people who made them. Let them all be assembled, let them stand up; let them fear and be shamed together.

Verses 12-20 describe the construction and worship of an idol. Ancient texts describing the making and care of idols confirm such a process. Pagan Near Eastern religious leaders probably did not believe that an idol was the actual god, but they did believe that the god made its power and presence known in the physical object. Thus, the idol was a strong representation of the deity. Laypeople, on the other hand, likely made a stronger association between idols and the deities, taking the graven wood or metal to be a true deity. In any case, Yesha’yahu’s argument was one that reduced all idolatry to its absurd foundation.

12 A blacksmith makes a tool over burning coals; with his strong arm, he shapes it with hammers. But when he gets hungry, his strength fails; if he doesn’t drink water, he grows tired. 13 A carpenter takes his measurements, sketches the shape with a stylus, planes the wood, checks it with calipers, and carves it into the shape of a man; and, since it is honored like a man, of course, it has to live in a house.

Some ancient idols were made from metal and others from wood. The description of their manufacture emphasizes that these were human creations.

14 He goes to chop down cedars; he takes an evergreen and an oak; he especially tends one tree in the forest, plants a pine for the rain to nourish.

Yesha’yahu went back in this verse to the beginning of the process of constructing an idol – the planting and cultivation of a tree.

15 In time, when it’s ready for use as fuel, he takes some of it to keep himself warm and burns some more to bake bread. Then he makes a god and worships it, carves it into an idol and falls down before it. 16 So half of it he burns in the fire; with that half, he roasts meat and eats his fill; he warms himself; says, “It feels so good, getting warm while watching the flames!” 17 With the rest of the log he fashions a god, a carved image, then falls down before it; he worships it and prays to it. “Save me,” he says, “for you are my god!” 18 Such people know nothing, understand nothing. Their eyes are sealed shut so that they can’t see; their hearts too, so they can’t understand.

These verses express the ultimate absurdity of idolatry. The same wood used to construct an idol was also used for kindling a fire to keep warm and to cook food. Yesha’yahu was aware that ancient Near Eastern people utilized rituals that intended to turn the wooden idol into an object of worship.

19 Not one thinks to himself or has the knowledge or the discernment to say, “I burned half of it in the fire, baked bread on its coals, roasted meat and ate it. Should I now make the rest an abomination? Should I prostrate myself to a tree trunk?” 20 He is relying on ashes! A deceived heart has led him astray; so that now he won’t save himself, just won’t say, “This thing in my hand is a fraud!”

This thing in my hand is a fraud is a reference to an idol that represented a false god and was nothing at all. Not only is there stupidity in idolatry, but there is a tragedy, as well, because of its inability to deliver. Idols can’t deliver you, but they can and will dehumanize you.

3 Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him. 4 Their idols are mere silver and gold, made by human hands. 5 They have mouths, but they can’t speak; they have eyes, but they can’t see; 6 they have ears, but they can’t hear; they have noses, but they can’t smell; 7 they have hands, but they can’t feel; they have feet, but they can’t walk; with their throats they can’t make a sound. 8 The people who make them will become like them, along with everyone who trusts in them. ~ Psalm 115:3-8 (CJB)

A person becomes like that which he worships. When we worship the Lord, we become more like Him (see 2 Corinthians 3:18). Conversely, if we worship an idol, we’ll become like that idol.

21 “Keep these matters in mind, Ya‘akov, for you, Isra’el, are My servant. I formed you; you are My own servant; Isra’el, don’t forget Me.

Isra’el will benefit from remembering the lesson about the absurdity of idolatry since that will keep Adonai’s people from practicing false worship. Adonai formed His people; they did not create their god as the idolaters did. Isra’el was the servant of Adonai. Even to these people who are trapped by idols, even to these people struggling with sin, the Lord says, “I have not forgotten you.”

22 Like a thick cloud, I wipe away your offenses; like a cloud, your sins. Come back to Me, for I have redeemed you.” 23 Sing, you heavens, for Adonai has done it! Shout, you depths of the earth! Mountains, break out into song, along with every tree in the forest! For Adonai has redeemed Ya‘akov; He glorifies Himself in Isra’el. ~ Isaiah 44:6-23 (CJB)

That’s the good news of the Gospel. This is what makes evangelism so exciting. We can go to people and proclaim the good news that their sins are forgiven, that Adonai neither records nor remembers their sin.

In my next post, we learn of Yerushalayim to Be Inhabited ~ Part 1 in Yesha’yahu 44:24-28.

Click here for the PDF version.

Isra’el’s Unfaithfulness and Adonai’s Mercy ~ Yesha’yahu 43:14-28

In my last post, we learned about Isra’el’s Only Savior in Yesha’yahu 43:1-13. In this post, we explore Isra’el’s Unfaithfulness and Adonai’s Mercy in 43:14-28.

14 Here is what Adonai, your redeemer, the Holy One of Isra’el, says: “For your sake, I have sent [an army] to Bavel and knocked down the fleeing Kasdim, all of them; their songs of triumph are now lamentations.

This passage is describing the defeat and capture of Bavel by Cyrus. Though not found in other sources, apparently the Kasdim (Chaldeans) unsuccessfully attempted to escape the conquest by traveling in their ships by sailing on the Euphrates to the Persian Gulf.

Kasdim was an Aramaic-speaking tribe of Bavel that rose up in the seventh century BCE to lead the charge against Ashur. The Kasdim tribe’s home base was at the point where the Tigris and Euphrates rivers emptied into what is today called the Persian Gulf. With access to the Persian Gulf, Bavel took pride in her naval capabilities. And yet it would be the Euphrates itself that would provide the Medes and Persians a way into her heavily walled city. [1] Who says Adonai does work all things for the good of His plan?

15 I am Adonai, your Holy One, the Creator of Isra’el, your King.” 16 Here is what Adonai says, who made a way in the sea, a path through the raging waves; 17 who led out chariot and horse, the army in its strength they lay down, never to rise again, snuffed out and quenched like a wick:

Adonai called on His people to remember their great deliverance from the Egyptians at the Red Sea.

18 “Stop dwelling on past events and brooding over times gone by; 19 I am doing something new; it’s springing up can’t you see it? I am making a road in the desert, rivers in the wasteland.

The Exodus poetically described in verses 16-17 is defined as past events, the things of old. But Adonai turns the hearers’ attention to something new, a new Exodus. This time Adonai will create not a way in the sea, but a way in the wastelands. This future deliverance is pictured as a reversal of nature, with rivers in the desert.

20 The wild animals will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; because I put water in the desert, rivers in the wasteland, for my chosen people to drink, 21 the people I formed for myself so that they would proclaim my praise.

Because of the new provision of water in the wasteland, the animals that live there will be pleased. In the same way, Adonai’s people who have been oppressed by the Bavlim will find new freedom.

22 But you haven’t called on Me, Ya‘akov; because you have grown weary of Me, Isra’el. 23 You have not brought Me sheep for your burnt offerings; you have not honored Me with your sacrifices. I didn’t burden you by requiring grain offerings or weary you by demanding frankincense. 24 You have not spent money to buy Me sweet cane or filled Me with the fat of your sacrifices. Instead, you have burdened Me with your sins and wearied Me with your crimes.

The fat parts of the animal were also to be included in the sacrifice. Neither fat nor blood was to be eaten. Blood was drained and then sprinkled on the altar. The fat was always burned on the altar as part of the essentials of sacrifice.

25 I, yes I, am the one who blots out your offenses for My own sake; I will not remember your sins.

The people sinned, but Adonai forgave. The idea of removal of sin is communicated by the action of sweeping as well as the mental act of forgetting. To remember something is to act on it, and to forget is to hold back from acting.

26 Remind Me when we’re in court together tell your side, make the case that you are right. 27 Your first father sinned, and your spokesmen rebelled against Me. 28 Therefore I repudiated the officials of the sanctuary, delivered Ya‘akov to the curse of destruction, and subjected Isra’el to scorn. ~ Isaiah 43:14-28 (CJB)

Once again, a court setting is introduced. Adonai challenged His people to argue their case against Him. The reference to Isra’el’s first father is likely Ya‘akov, whose name was changed to Isra’el. Ya‘akov was well known for his foolish and sinful ways (Hosea 12:1-6).

In my next post, we learn of Isra’el the Chosen in 44:1-5.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] Jon Courson’s Application Commentary Old Testament Volume 2.

Isra’el’s Only Savior ~ Yesha’yahu 43:1-13

In my last post, we conclude our examination The Servant of the Lord ~ Part 3 in Yesha’yahu 42:18-25. In this post, we learn of Isra’el’s Only Savior in Yesha’yahu 43:1-13.

1 But now this is what Adonai says, He who created you, Ya‘akov, He who formed you, Isra’el: “Don’t be afraid, for I have redeemed you; I am calling you by your name; you are Mine.

One of the things I’ve learned in my walk with Adonai is that names are important to Him. Calling a person by his or her name indicates a high level of familiarity. I was named after my uncle, who died before my mother was born. She wanted to honor his struggle with life. I’ve since learned that my name, Donald, means world ruler and overcomer. Although I have held several top management level positions in my previous career, I have never aspired to be a world ruler. But I have taken the overcomer attribute to heart.

Adonai gave Isra’el its name when He changed the name of the patriarch Ya’akov to Isra’el (see Genesis 32:28). The intention of this prophecy is expressed clearly at the start don’t be afraid. Adonai informed His people about their coming deliverance to keep them from caving into fear.

2 When you pass through water, I will be with you; when you pass through rivers, they will not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire, you will not be scorched – the flame will not burn you.

The waters can be naturally dangerous, just like the fire mentioned in the second half of the verse. However, the waters can stand for the forces of chaos and evil (see Daniel 7:1-9) or personal duress (see Psalm 69:1-3). The promise that Adonai will be with His people is a covenant formula that indicates the close relationship between Adonai and His people.

3 For I am Adonai, your God, the Holy One of Isra’el, your Savior – I have given Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and S’va for you. 4 Because I regard you as valued and honored, and because I love you. For you, I will give people, nations in exchange for your life.

The Persians successfully invaded Egypt and gained control of Cush (Ethiopia) during the reign of Cyrus’s successor, Cambyses. S’va’s location is disputed. [1] Adonai is willing to give much more than these three countries in place of His people.

5 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. I will bring your descendants from the east, and I will gather you from the west; 6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Don’t hold them back! Bring my sons from far away, and my daughters from the ends of the earth,

Adonai will gather His people from all over the world. As we know in our lifetime, He is fulfilling that promise since the establishment of the modern state if Isra’el in 1948.

7 everyone who bears My name, whom I created for My glory – I formed him, yes, I made him.’”

The impending exile would not result in the eradication of Adonai’s special people. After all, He created them. They will preserve their distinct identity and not be merged into foreign populations.

8 Bring forward the people who are blind but have eyes, also the deaf who have ears.

Being blind and deaf is a reference is to spiritual insensitivity.

9 All the nations are gathered together, and the peoples are assembled. Who among them can proclaim this and reveal what happened in the past? Let them bring their witnesses to justify themselves, so that others, on hearing, can say, “That’s true.”

The challenge to find someone among the nations who could tell the significance of past events is another sarcastic comment on the mute, powerless idols of the nations.

10 “You are my witnesses,” says Adonai, “and my servant whom I have chosen, so that you can know and trust me and understand that I am He – no god was produced before me, nor will any be after Me. 11 I, yes I, am Adonai; besides Me, there is no deliverer.

I’m glad our Father keeps it very simple for people like me who can get confused so easily. There is salvation in no one else! For there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by whom we must be saved! ~ Acts 4:12 (CJB)

12 I have declared, saved, and proclaimed – not some alien god among you. Therefore, you are My witnesses,” says Adonai. “I am God.

Adonai called to the assembled nations to be a witness. He also called on His people, whom He identified as His servant, to be His witnesses. The calling of witnesses associates this passage with the courtroom. Not only is Adonai better than the foreign gods, but those gods do not exist at all. The nations were silent when asked to witness to their gods’ work in their lives. Adonai’s people functioned as Adonai’s witness to the fact that He had saved them in the past.

If you don’t see Adonai, don’t hear from Adonai, don’t know Adonai, could it be because there’s a strange god in your life? Is it because there is some other passion or priority that is keeping you from seeing the true Adonai? Other gods, other preferences will obscure your vision of the true and living Adonai. They will cloud your spiritual perception very definitely.

13 Since days began, I have been He. No one can deliver from My hand. When I act, who can reverse it?” ~ Isaiah 43:1-13 (CJB)

Adonai makes it clear that He is the One we should follow.

In my next post, we learn of Isra’el’s Unfaithfulness and Adonai’s Mercy in Yesha’yahu 43:14-28.

Click here for the PDF version.

[1] The IVP Bible Background Commentary – Old Testament.