God Does the Impossible

Posted: October 10, 2013 in Isaiah

Isaiah 45, “God Does the Impossible”

Do you believe that God can do the impossible?  Not just the “hard,” but the truly impossible?  Some things just seem to be beyond even the realm of our imaginations…can God really accomplish even those things?

Surely that would have been on the mind of the Jews as they contemplated what Isaiah had prophesied about their beloved city, Jerusalem.  Although God had miraculously spared them from the threat of the Assyrians (by destroying 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in a single night right outside the gate of Jerusalem!), God had made it perfectly clear that He would not do the same with the rising power of Babylon.  When that nation flourished into the empire it was to become, Jerusalem would be overpowered and the people taken captive.  God would punish His people for their idolatry and other sin against Him, and the people would be removed from the very land that God had promised them and given them.

That was bad enough.  People groups that are removed from their land historically don’t remain a people for long.  Nations are forgotten in this fashion as their national identity is destroyed and bred out over time.  Yet God promised that wouldn’t happen to the Jews.  God promised that Jerusalem would be rebuilt and the nation would once again be formed.  He had a future plan for His people, and He went to great lengths to assure them of this fact.

In itself, that would have seemed to be impossible.  After all, that never happens.  When a nation is destroyed, it’s typically cast aside to the dust-heap of history.  It would have been faith enough to trust God to accomplish that impossible task.  But God had gone a step further.  Not only would the nation of Israel be reformed in God’s perfect plan, but God would use a pagan king to do it.  God would use a Gentile to bring His chosen people out of their captivity, and the Gentile king would go so far as to pay all of the costs in rebuilding the city of Jerusalem and its temple.  Truly that was beyond impossible!  Who could conceive of such a thing?

God can.  God is in the business of doing the impossible.  God brought creation into existence – God loved mankind despite our sin & rebellion against Him – God went so far as to even personally send His Son to die for us who had rebelled.  Truly God’s plan trumps the impossible…just as it did in Israel.

Isaiah 45

  • God’s choice of a pagan king (vss. 1-8)

1 “Thus says the LORD to His anointed, To Cyrus, whose right hand I have held— To subdue nations before him And loose the armor of kings, To open before him the double doors, So that the gates will not be shut:

  • As has been the case in the last several chapters, the beginning of this chapter really builds off the ending of the previous chapter.  (Ch breaks are not inspired!)  Cyrus has already been mentioned by God, specifically as God’s chosen instrument to rebuild the city of Jerusalem & its temple. [Isaiah 44:24-28]  Notice vs. 28 specifically identifies Cyrus by name as God’s “shepherd.”  This is where Ch. 45 picks up, with God saying in more precise terms how He will use Cyrus as His chosen instrument.
    • Chronologically, we need to understand that the words of Isaiah were penned a minimum of 140 years before these events took place.  IOW, Isaiah prophesies through the Spirit of God about King Cyrus of Persia before there WAS a King Cyrus of Persia.  Persia had not yet risen to prominence among the nations & in fact, Cyrus was not yet born!  And yet God called him by name.
    • Never make the mistake of thinking that the Bible is just like any ordinary book.  The book you hold in your hands is a book authored under the inspiration of Almighty God!  The God who knows the past & knows the future is able to write about the future just as accurately as any historian can write about the past.  And that’s exactly what we see in this prophecy of Cyrus.  It’s prophetic enough to point to an empire beyond Babylon – it’s something else to call out a future king by name.  Our God is the all-knowing God.
      • And because God knows all things, we can trust what God says about all things!
  • In the midst of all of this, the really interesting thing is how God describes Cyrus.  Cyrus is “His anointed.”  The Hebrew word for “anointed”?  Messiah (mashiyach).  Here, God gives a pagan Gentile king the same title as the Lord Jesus.  He is the anointed of God – the messiah/christ (which is the Greek translation).  Obviously God is not equating Cyrus with Jesus – so what’s going on here?  Anointing was used as symbolism of someone being set apart for God’s purpose.  Kings and priests were each anointed with oil, as a picture of the Holy Spirit coming upon them & God setting them aside.  Yet they were always Hebrew…this was a Gentile.  Cyrus is unique in this case, but the picture is still fitting.  This king (who did not yet know God) would be used by God to restore His people, restore His temple, and bring great blessing upon the world.  Cyrus certainly did not fit into the family tree of Jesus, but there’s no question God used Cyrus in a way that (in many ways) still pointed to the work of Jesus.
    • Already, Jesus does the work of restoration/reconciliation as He reconciles men & women back to God our Creator.  We who were lost and dead in our sins have been granted peace with God through faith in Jesus’ death on the cross & His resurrection.  And there is great blessing that comes to those who believe!  We have been indwelled with the Holy Spirit – we are empowered to serve God – we are free to worship & pray with the knowledge that God hears us – we have the promise of everlasting life & much more!
    • Beyond the work that Jesus does in the lives of those who believe right now, there is also the promise of how Jesus will work in the future as the literal kingdom of Israel is restored, and the whole world is blessed through Jerusalem.  These are the promises we await during the 1000 year (Millennial) Kingdom, after Jesus’ return to the earth in power and glory.
  • Specifically to Cyrus, God promised to empower him with military might. “Subdue nations…loose the armor…open the double doors…”  This is the language of military conquest, and perhaps even a reference to the massive double doors that led into the city of Babylon.  God would empower Cyrus to move through the nations, and cause the empire of Babylon to be shifted to Persia, under Cyrus’ command.  No army would be able to stand in his way; this was decreed by God to happen.
    • What we read in prophecy is verified in history.  The empire of Babylon did indeed fall, and the predominant world power became that of the Medes & Persians, with Cyrus as their king.

2 ‘I will go before you And make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze And cut the bars of iron. 3 I will give you the treasures of darkness And hidden riches of secret places, That you may know that I, the LORD, Who call you by your name, Am the God of Israel.

  • God not only chose Cyrus, but He prepared the way for Cyrus.  What God says about Cyrus is similar to what John the Baptist did for the Lord Jesus (Isa 40:3, Jn 1:23).
  • God also prospered & provided for Cyrus.  The Persian king wouldn’t merely take over land; he would take over resources, “treasures & hidden riches.
  • Why?  Why would God do all of this for a pagan Gentile king?  Answer: as a witness to Himself.  God blessed and strengthened Cyrus so that Cyrus would know that the LORD had called him, and that the LORD is God of Israel.

4 For Jacob My servant’s sake, And Israel My elect, I have even called you by your name; I have named you, though you have not known Me.

  • God anointed the Gentile king not only as a witness to Himself, but also for the “sake” of Israel.  God loved His people, and God was willing to even use the Gentiles to restore them.
  • Notice that God knew Cyrus, but Cyrus did not yet know God.  There’s some indication that Cyrus later came to at least some measure of faith (though he seemed to include the One True God along with a bunch of other false gods from the other nations he conquered).  Even so, as Cyrus sent Israel back into the land, he did so expressly seeking the Lord’s blessing. Ezra 1:2–3, "(2) Thus says Cyrus king of Persia: All the kingdoms of the earth the LORD God of heaven has given me. And He has commanded me to build Him a house at Jerusalem which is in Judah. (3) Who is among you of all His people? May his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel (He is God), which is in Jerusalem." []  The bottom line: God knew the pagan, even when the pagan didn’t know God.
    • There are many people who don’t know God – they don’t believe in Jesus, and they believe that Jesus is irrelevant.  Since they don’t believe the Bible, they think the Bible doesn’t apply to them – if there is a judgment at all, they will be judged by the things they *do* believe.  That’s totally illogical, even on a human level.  After all, we might not believe in the government’s right to receive taxes, but try claiming you’re exempt from prosecution because you don’t agree with the IRS.  It doesn’t matter what you personally might believe about them, the fact is that the government DOES have the right to collect taxes, and it’s going to collect one way or the other.  What we might individually believe does not change the objective fact.  I might believe with all my might that I can fly, but the moment I step off a roof, I’m going to find the objective truth of the law of gravity kicks in.
    • Likewise with the Lord God.  He is objectively true.  The Bible is objectively His word – no matter what we may/may not believe about it.  We may not know God, but be assured that God most definitely knows us.
    • God wants us to know Him!  God made it possible for us to know Him, through the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus.

5 I am the LORD, and there is no other; There is no God besides Me. I will gird you, though you have not known Me,

  • God alone is God.  This is a theme that’s come up repeatedly in the past several chapters in Isaiah, and God is going to continue to repeat it.
  • And again, that’s what God wants Cyrus to know.  Cyrus might not worship the Lord God now, but God proclaims 140 years before Cyrus is even born how God will help him & bring him to power.  God left an unmistakable witness in His word how He was calling Cyrus by name & wanted Cyrus to know Him.
    • Can you imagine what it would have been like for Cyrus to read the book of Isaiah for the first time, and run across his own name in Ch 44-45?  Amazing!
    • Your name may not be listed, but be assured that God knows it!  God knows your name & even the numbers of hair follicles upon your head.  He knows you that intimately because He loves you so infinitely much!
  • Christian: if God will “gird” Cyrus, who did not know God in relationship – how much more will He gird & strengthen us as His children, born of the Holy Spirit?

6 That they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting That there is none besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other; 7 I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the LORD, do all these things.’

  • Not only would God’s blessing of Cyrus for Israel’s sake be a witness of God unto Cyrus – it would be a witness of God unto Israel. “That they may know…”  God’s own people needed to be reminded that the LORD God is still God on the throne, and that there is nothing that He cannot do!
  • God is the Creator.  He spoke every atom & particle of energy into existence, even forming “light and darkness.” 
  • God is sovereign.  He is the One to “make peace and create calamity.”  This speaks of His sovereign power and control over the universe which He created.  Be careful not to get confused here.  KJV says “I make peace and create evil,” yet we know that God is not the author of evil.  What exactly is the Bible saying here?  Over & over again, the Bible affirms that God is supremely good & that He does not (and cannot) sin.  It is impossible for God to sin because He (by default) is the very standard of righteousness.  Anything God does is right, by virtue of the fact that He is God.  He defines righteousness.  “Calamity/evil/disaster” in this case is not speaking of moral evil, but of judgment.  When God judges nations (and individuals), it no doubt is a calamity to them – an unmitigated disaster.  But even that is God’s righteousness demonstrated.  If God never judged evil, He would be evil Himself.  But because God is supremely good, He DOES judge evil wherever it is found. (Which is why it’s so important for us to respond to the grace of Christ Jesus!  He stood in the place of our judgment.)  Contextually, God brings blessing (peace) and judgment (calamity).  He is sovereign over all these things.
    • Why does that matter?  A Jew might (understandably) wonder why God would bless a Gentile king in the way that God decided to bless Cyrus.  God is saying that He has His own purpose in doing so.  To bless or curse is His divine prerogative, because He is God.

8 “Rain down, you heavens, from above, And let the skies pour down righteousness; Let the earth open, let them bring forth salvation, And let righteousness spring up together. I, the LORD, have created it.

  • The God of Creation calls upon Creation to shower down its blessings.  Simply a picturesque way of demonstrating the blessing God would give to Cyrus.  Like rain, Cyrus would be showered with “righteousness” and “salvation” would come springing up from the soil of the earth.  It was His sovereign choice to bless, and He would bless abundantly!
  • We could say some similar things about the grace we have received through Jesus Christ.  When we experienced the blessing and salvation of God, we did not experience just a little…we were drenched with it as if the skies had opened up and rained a downpour on us!  Grace upon grace… (Jn 1:16)
    • This is what is available to ANYONE who would respond to the Lordship of Jesus Christ!  Have you knowingly responded to Him?  Have you personally asked to receive of His grace & forgiveness?
  • God’s sovereign right (vss. 9-10)

9 “Woe to him who strives with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth! Shall the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ Or shall your handiwork say, ‘He has no hands’?

  • Again, there might be some who would question God’s wisdom in this.  There were certainly some who questioned why God would use the Babylonians as His instrument of justice. (That’s the whole point of the book of Habbakuk!)  God has the right to do what He wants.  God is God; we’re not.
  • Paul seems to allude to this in regards to God’s sovereign plan for Israel.  Romans 9:20–21, "(20) But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?” (21) Does not the potter have power over the clay, from the same lump to make one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?" []

10 Woe to him who says to his father, ‘What are you begetting?’ Or to the woman, ‘What have you brought forth?’ ”

  • Be it a potter’s right to make whatever he want to make out of his clay, or a parent’s right to bring forth children – that is THEIR right to do.  A child cannot blame his/her parents for giving birth.  The proper response is gratefulness and honor to whom honor is due.
  • The point?  Those who question God’s plan to use Cyrus to bless Israel are like pots who question their potter or children who question their parents in childbirth.  This is God’s prerogative, no matter how unusual it may have seemed to be.
  • Aren’t you glad God takes His prerogative in unusual things?  If God only did what was reasonably expected, then all of us would have been killed in judgment long ago!  Any act of mercy is an unreasonable expectation.  The very definition of mercy is to not receive what it is we deserve.  When a police officer lets us off with a warning after catching us plainly speeding, it’s an act of mercy.  We deserved the ticked; we received something unusual & different.  When God acts in unusual ways, it’s not something to rebel against & question; it’s something for which God is to be praised!  We can be thankful that God acts as only God can act in His divine prerogative, because without it, none of us would have any hope of salvation in Christ!
  • God’s sovereign power (vss. 11-13)

11 Thus says the LORD, The Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: “Ask Me of things to come concerning My sons; And concerning the work of My hands, you command Me.

  • Not only does God have the right to do these things; He’s got the power and ability to back it up.  Here, He even puts Himself on trial (so to speak), inviting the people to test Him in this.  Let’s see what the Lord God can do…there is nothing outside of His hands – there is nothing impossible for Him.
  • God identifies Himself in two ways.  First, God is “the Holy One of Israel.”  Of all the false gods of the earth that could be worshipped, the One who is worshipped among Israel is the One True God.  HE is their Holy One.  He is the One in which they have their covenant promises and relationship.
  • Second, God is the “Maker” of Israel.  Not only is God to be worshipped in Israel, He is the One who made Israel in the first place.  Israel had no reason to exist at all, if God had not called Abraham out of the land of Ur and brought him to Canaan, giving him the promise of a land, nation, and Messiah. …
  • That’s Israel, but what about us?  It’s no different.  God is still the One we worship.  He is our Holy One…He is the only God whom we worship.  He is supremely holy & set apart.  And He is also our Maker.  Not only are we individually formed in our mothers’ wombs by the sovereign will of God, but we are also made His children by His sovereign act.  If God had not invited us to be saved through Jesus, or had not given us the opportunity to be saved, we would NOT be saved.  Everything we have in Christ is due to the grace of God – He is truly our Maker!

12 I have made the earth, And created man on it. I—My hands—stretched out the heavens, And all their host I have commanded. 13 I have raised him up in righteousness, And I will direct all his ways; He shall build My city And let My exiles go free, Not for price nor reward,” Says the LORD of hosts.

  • Beyond Israel as a nation, God created all people everywhere.  He created the earth itself, and “stretched out the heavens.”  Of course we know from Genesis 1 that God spoke, and the universe came into existence.  This is a figurative way of speaking of God’s personal work in the act of creation.  He did not delegate this work to an angel (and it would have been impossible to do so); God was personally involved.  God knows every star, every galaxy, and even every man, woman, and child in all history & future.
  • Here’s the point: if God can do all of that, why would it be considered impossible for God to raise up a pagan king for His sovereign purposes?  Of course God can do it!  What is impossible for an omnipotent Creator God?  Nothing!  There ought to be no doubt that when God says He will raise up Cyrus to restore Jerusalem and rebuild the temple, that is exactly what will happen.  It may have seemed to be an impossible situation, but that’s no problem for an Almighty Living God.
  • Cyrus would be raised “up in righteousness” by the Lord, but that’s not a reference to any lack of sin on Cyrus’ part.  Cyrus would be like any man; just used by the Lord for God’s purposes.  It’s GOD’s righteousness that is in view.  It is righteous of God to raise Cyrus up according to His will & purpose, and Cyrus will act in the righteous manner that God desired (regarding His people).  The “exiles” would “go free” and there would not be any monetary reward given to Cyrus for it.  In fact, Cyrus would foot the bill on all of the costs – allowing the Jews who had been taken away and had lost everything to rebuild everything with money that wasn’t even theirs.
    • Remember that Cyrus was called the “anointed” of God.  In this, he seems to look forward to the ultimate anointed One, Jesus the Messiah.  Like Cyrus in past centuries, Jesus will restore His people to a future city (the Millennial Jerusalem), and the temple will be rebuilt there (Eze 40).  The people of Israel will be free, for no price or reward.  Jesus will have already paid the price in His own blood (which will finally be recognized by the Jews during the end days).
  • God’s promise of salvation (vss. 14-17)

14 Thus says the LORD: “The labor of Egypt and merchandise of Cush And of the Sabeans, men of stature, Shall come over to you, and they shall be yours; They shall walk behind you, They shall come over in chains; And they shall bow down to you. They will make supplication to you, saying, ‘Surely God is in you, And there is no other; There is no other God.’ ”

  • Speaking of this future Millennial Israel, God looks forward to how the nations of the world will interact with His people.  To be sure, some of what Isaiah writes could apply in part to Cyrus.  The Persians did have nations from around the known world paying tribute to them, including the Egyptians, Cushites, etc.  But that’s only part of the prophecy.  Beyond worldly tribute is the recognition of the One True God by the nations of the world.  That did not happen during the Persian Empire, but it will certainly happen during the Millennial reign of Christ.  Nations from all over the world will give homage to Jesus as the King.  Of Him, they will say, “Surely God is in you, and there is no other; there is no other God.”  Certainly the nations will say it of Israel as they come to worship Christ.  Jesus will reign among His people, and it will be glorious!
  • BTW – this is something in which you & I will witness.  Those who knowingly put their faith in Christ Jesus now are included in the inheritance of Jesus later.  We will serve with Him in glorious fellowship, and we will one day bear witness of the nations bowing down before our King!

15 Truly You are God, who hide Yourself, O God of Israel, the Savior!

  • With everything God revealed to Isaiah, it’s no wonder he burst forth in praise! J  How could he hold it back?
  • Question: does God “hide” Himself?  Yes & no.  Obviously God is spirit, and we cannot see Him.  Those who worship God must worship Him in spirit & in truth (Jn 4:24).  God the Son taught about the kingdom through the concealment of parables.  There’s an element of how God has hidden Himself from the proud & hard-hearted.  At the same time, there’s no question that God has revealed Himself to all the world.  The existence of creation is evidence of a Creator, as the psalms tell us that the heavens declare the glory of God – it is His handiwork. (Ps 19:1)  The existence of universal morals tell us of a God who gives morals, and it’s evidence of His perfect law written upon our hearts & conscience. (Rom 2:15)  God does hide Himself in certain ways, but He reveals Himself in others.  Mankind certainly is not left with any excuse.
  • The contrast here is how the “hidden” God acts in amazingly public ways.  He is the “Savior…of Israel.”  To those who paid attention, there would be little doubt about a God in heaven simply because of the re-emergence of Israel.  The fact that a nation came back into existence after exile was incredible proof of the God who had a covenant relationship with Israel.
    • If that was true in Cyrus’ day, how much more is that true today!  The Babylonian captivity only lasted for 70 years.  Yet the nation of Israel was destroyed in the Roman empire, with the capstone event of the destruction of the temple in 70AD.  And yet almost 2000 years later, the nation was reborn in 1948.  That is incredible proof of the existence of the God of the Bible!  God honors His promises when He gives deliverance to Israel.
    • And the promise yet stands.  The nation of Israel exists, but by & large they have not yet come to faith.  But they will.  Of that, we can be sure! (Rom 11:26)

16 They shall be ashamed And also disgraced, all of them; They shall go in confusion together, Who are makers of idols. 17 But Israel shall be saved by the LORD With an everlasting salvation; You shall not be ashamed or disgraced Forever and ever.

  • Those who worship idols would be “ashamed and disgraced” – why? Because their false gods were not able to deliver them.  What good is it to pray to a god of your imagination, who cannot do anything?  The only prayer that matters is prayer to a Living God – and there is only One God who lives.
  • Israel, however, did not worship idols (or at least, were not supposed to worship idols).  Those in Israel who came to faith would “be saved by the LORD with an everlasting salvation.”  IOW, this goes far beyond the then-present day of returning from Babylonian captivity & looks towards the Millennium & physical restoration of the kingdom of Israel as ruled by King Jesus.  At that time, their salvation truly will be everlasting!  Never again shall they be “ashamed or disgraced” as they have been throughout the centuries.
  • The basis of God’s promise: His righteousness (vss. 18-19)

18 For thus says the LORD, Who created the heavens, Who is God, Who formed the earth and made it, Who has established it, Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited: “I am the LORD, and there is no other.

  • Again, it’s reiterated that God is the Creator God.  He is the Only God, thus He is the Only God who can save.  Question: why does God keep emphasizing this truth to Isaiah?  Because the people historically had a tough time remembering this.  They would promise to follow God according to the covenants, and sooner or later they would end up engaging in idolatry.  The entire book of Judges is a chronicle of the vicious cycle of idolatry into which Israel fell.  It’s no wonder they needed to be reminded so often that God is the Only God.  Even one of their daily prayers & recitations (the Shema) began by quoting Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one!”  They needed daily reminders to keep their eyes and faith upon the One God who saves.
    • Likewise with us.  It’s easy for us to get distracted & get our eyes off of Jesus.  We trust Him for a moment, and then go back to doing business-as-usual.  Or we have a foxhole-conversion, and then forget about Him when things get better again.  That’s not what God desires from us.  We are to live in constant fellowship with our Lord & King, and we need to remember that our Lord Jesus is not just one of many worship choices…He is the ONLY choice!
  • BTW – note that God gives a reason why He created planet earth. “Who did not create it in vain, Who formed it to be inhabited.”  The universe has a reason for its existence.  It gives glory to God & it gives a place for us to live.  We are not here to serve the universe; the universe is here as our home.  God had US in mind when He spoke creation into existence.  For 5 days, God patiently set up the foundations of the universe, but did not declare it to be truly finished until after the 6th day when He created Adam & Eve.  That’s how much God loves us.  He had us in mind before even the foundations of the world.  In fact, the foundations of the world were founded expressly for our benefit. 
    • And knowing that makes the love of God even more astounding.  Not only did He make the universe for us, but He made it knowing that we would mess it up through our sin.  He knew of our sin before He ever created anything.  He had a plan for Jesus to come and save us before the world ever existed.  And yet He did it anyway.  He loves you enough to have created you, knowing that you were going to be in sin & need of forgiveness, and He already had a plan to extend to you His grace & mercy.  All we need do is respond!

19 I have not spoken in secret, In a dark place of the earth; I did not say to the seed of Jacob, ‘Seek Me in vain’; I, the LORD, speak righteousness, I declare things that are right.

  • Unlike the false mythological gods of the pagans, God did not conspire in secret, trying to trick people.  God never tricks His people – He never invites people to seek Him in “vain.”  God is the righteous God, and all that He does is righteous.
  • Remember that this plan of God would have seemed to be impossible.  No doubt some people might have wondered if God was lying to them, or leading them astray.  Not so!  God answers the objection before it’s offered.  He does not lie to His people; He does not lie at all.  In fact, one of the few things that the Bible explicitly tells us that God cannot do is to lie. (Titus 1:2).  When God speaks something, it is the truth – it is always the truth.
    • Again, this is glorious assurance when it comes to Jesus.  When God offers make those who receive Jesus as Lord, the children of God (Jn 1:12), that’s exactly what God does!  When God promises to give everlasting life to those who believe upon Jesus (Jn 3:16), that’s what He does!  God will not lead us astray in any of those things.  Every promise of the Bible is absolutely true!  Why?  Because God declares the things that are right.
  • God alone can save (vss. 20-21)

20 “Assemble yourselves and come; Draw near together, You who have escaped from the nations. They have no knowledge, Who carry the wood of their carved image, And pray to a god that cannot save. 21 Tell and bring forth your case; Yes, let them take counsel together. Who has declared this from ancient time? Who has told it from that time? Have not I, the LORD? And there is no other God besides Me, A just God and a Savior; There is none besides Me.

  • Again, God gives the picture of a courtroom, and He calls the idols to the stand.  Can they save?  Can they tell the end from the beginning?  Of course not.  A piece of wood carved to a figment of someone’s imagination is just that…a hunk of wood.  It’s foolish to pray to idols – it’s foolish to trust idols at all.
    • Remember, an idol isn’t merely a statue; it’s any false idea of God.  We might have idols in our mind when we’ve made up an idea of God that is different than what the Bible declares God to be.  It’s just as foolish to put our eternal hope into those false ideas as it is a piece of wood!  God wants us to know Him in truth (and that’s exactly why He sent Jesus)!
  • The fact that God calls upon the people to test the knowledge of idols is appropriate here.  The whole passage has been about how God looks forward 140+ years into the future and declares His sovereign plan regarding Cyrus (someone not yet born).  No idol can do that.  A false god cannot declare the present, much less the future.  One test that God is God is whether or not His prophetic declarations are accurate.
    • And they are!  History proves them to be true regarding Cyrus, as well as the various other empires that have risen & fallen in the Middle East.  Just looking to Jesus, the prophetic evidence is overwhelming.  There are over 300 prophecies that look at Jesus’ 1st coming alone, and Jesus fulfilled every single one to a “T”!  No doubt, God is God, and there is no other!
  • God’s invitation to salvation (vss. 22-25)

22 “Look to Me, and be saved, All you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other.

  • Knowing that God is God can be a rather frightening thing if you have no way of dealing with that revelation.  After all, what exactly can we do when we come to the realization that we will face the All-Knowing All-Powerful God for judgment?  Every sin will be laid bare, and even our very thoughts will be seen to all.  How can anyone escape that kind of scrutiny?  It would be enough to leave us in despair!
  • But that’s not where God wants us to stay.  Yes, we’re to come to a knowledge of our sin, but God invites us to be saved. “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth!”  This isn’t just to Israel; this is to all of us!  God wants ALL people EVERYWHERE to be saved.  Israel was to witness God’s hand in restoring their nation & temple, and look to God in faith.  But it wasn’t just Israel; it was all the nations.  The world was to witness what God did with Israel, and come to the realization that God is the Only True God, and they were invited to be saved by the same God who saved Israel.
  • When we come to that realization that God is God, we’ve got to do something about it.  How can we sit there & NOT respond in some way?  After all, this is a God we’re going to have to face one day, and we know the truth that He is exactly who the Bible proclaims that He is.  What do we do?  Trust Jesus & be saved!  That is God’s invitation to you & to all the world. 

23 I have sworn by Myself; The word has gone out of My mouth in righteousness, And shall not return, That to Me every knee shall bow, Every tongue shall take an oath.

  • God invites all people everywhere to be saved, and it’s important to note that one day all people everywhere WILL worship Him as God.  Paul seems to refer to this same thing in his letter to the Philippians: Philippians 2:9–11, "(9) Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, (10) that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, (11) and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." []  Can you imagine that day?  Today, the world rebels against its Maker – but one day it will glory in its Savior & King!
  • Keep in mind that we are invited in all of this to be SAVED.  If we wait to trust Jesus until the day that every knee will bow, at that point it will be too late.  We can choose to put our trust in Jesus and willingly worship Him as God now, or be forced to acknowledge Him as God later even from the depths of hell.
  • Did you notice that God swears on this point?  He declares this to be true, by an oath.  Yet what was His standard of His oath?  Himself. “I have sworn by Myself.”  When we take oaths, we have to swear by something bigger than ourselves.  That’s why we often place our hands on the Bible – we are showing that we are telling the truth, and inviting God’s discipline upon us if we are lying.  God is bigger than us, and so people often take oaths by Him.  But God cannot do that, because there is nothing bigger than Him.  When God takes an oath, He swears by Himself & no other collateral is needed.  That’s the immensity & truthfulness of our God!

24 He shall say, ‘Surely in the LORD I have righteousness and strength. To Him men shall come, And all shall be ashamed Who are incensed against Him. 25 In the LORD all the descendants of Israel Shall be justified, and shall glory.’ ”

  • Where is “righteousness and strength” found?  The LORD God.  Those who come to God for salvation will find the salvation they seek.  Those who ask Jesus to save them will be given His righteousness, and they will be strengthened by His love & grace.  Those who ask Jesus for forgiveness will be fully justified by Him & made to be righteous in the sight of God.  Yet those who continue in their rebellion and “incense” against the Lord will be put to shame.

Conclusion:
You’ve got to choose whom you will serve!  God invited all people to worship Him & be saved.  God invited Cyrus to witness how God extended His grace to him & used him in God’s sovereign plan.  God invited His own people to witness the grace God was extending to all of them, and to trust God to act according to His righteous word.  God invited the nations to bear witness of the same thing, and to come freely to God’s ultimate chosen Messiah for the free gift of salvation.  But they had to respond.  If they never responded to God, they would never experience the grace that God offered them.

What God offered was impossible – but He could be trusted for it.  God offered to bring a nation back from the dead, and to use an unbelieving pagan king to do the holy work of God.  Truly that was impossible, but that’s what God promised to do…and that is exactly what God DID do.  God can be trusted with impossible promises.

We’ve also been given an impossible promise in our salvation, and we can trust God to do it.  Christian, we can have grand assurance as we look to Jesus, knowing that EVERY sin is paid for by Jesus at the cross.  The sins that would be impossible to wash away, that’s what Jesus did!  Surely it would be impossible for us to be considered actual children of God & co-heirs of the Lord Jesus Christ – but God does the impossible!  Surely it’s impossible for us to be made into brand-new creations & to be empowered by none other than the infinite God the Holy Spirit & used for His glory – but God does the impossible!  Give glory to God for the impossible work that He’s made a reality in your life!

If God has done all that, what is there for which we cannot trust Him?  Impossible prayer requests are a minor thing in the hands of an all-powerful God.

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Comments
  1. Mark Campbell says:

    God’s Word is so real and perfectly up to date. Did you hear, Israel PM Netanyahu declared to world leaders (even his enemies) that, “In our time the Biblical prophecies are being realized.” He goes on quoting and alluding to many scriptures during his speech Tuesday. For a PM to quote scripture is notable. However preaching prophecy fulfilled to that kind of a crowd is very interesting. The most amazing statement he made was when he reminds everyone, 2500 years ago Cyrus, the Persian (Iranian) king decreed,” the right of the Jews…to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.” That was in the United Nations on the morning of October 1st 2013. Tim you just taught on this for two Wednesday night services. What a timely proof God has sovereignty over world leaders yesterday today and forever. This past Wednesday marks one of the most unprecedented recitations of holy writ by any president of any country in decades. And the study of Isaiah 44 and 45 are messages that I hope reach many folks quickly. What amazing timing for our trek through Isaiah. So few understand the significance of Cyrus and Daniel. I could go on for hours on this. God has certainly punctuated your messages and definitely His own purpose to use Israel for His glory. Yes, in the real world and right now, in your face, get ready I am coming soon, world news! (but little coverage of that speech). Still many thanks to:
    flashtrafficblog.wordpress.com
    http://www.timesofisrael.com/full-text-netanyahus-2013-speech-to-the-general-assembly/
    Joel C. Rosenberg’s Blog on October 2, 2013 11:25 am
    and David Lazarus Oct 3rd http://www.crossroad.to/articles2
    No doubt many believers will be commenting on that speech.

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