Israel the Chosen

Isa 44:1 “But now listen, O Jacob, my servant, Israel, whom I have chosen.

Isa 44:2 This is what the LORD says—he who made you, who formed you in the womb, and who will help you: Do not be afraid, O Jacob, my servant, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen.

Isa 44:3 For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants.

“I will pour water on the thirsty land” – (See also Mal 3:10).  This idea if ‘outpouring’ implies the need for revival (“thirsty land”) and also teaches clearly the divine agency in revival (“I will pour”).  This expression also teaches the life-giving necessity of the gift of revival, the liberality of its distribution, and the benefits that it produces by way of growth and fruitfulness.

Isa 44:4 They will spring up like grass in a meadow, like poplar trees by flowing streams.

Isa 44:5 One will say, ‘I belong to the LORD’; another will call himself by the name of Jacob; still another will write on his hand, ‘The LORD’s’, and will take the name Israel.

Isa 44:6 “This is what the LORD says—Israel’s King and Redeemer, the LORD Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God.

This passage (6-20) sheds light on the question of whether the Old Testament demonstrates belief in the existence of one God or many.  The fact is that there is one true God (v6), and other ‘gods’ are mere idols.  See also 1 Cor 8:4-6.

Isa 44:7 Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it. Let him declare and lay out before me what has happened since I established my ancient people, and what is yet to come—yes, let him foretell what will come.

Isa 44:8 Do not tremble, do not be afraid. Did I not proclaim this and foretell it long ago? You are my witnesses. Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one.”

Isa 44:9 All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless. Those who would speak up for them are blind; they are ignorant, to their own shame.

Isa 44:10 Who shapes a god and casts an idol, which can profit him nothing?

Isa 44:11 He and his kind will be put to shame; craftsmen are nothing but men. Let them all come together and take their stand; they will be brought down to terror and infamy.

Isa 44:12 The blacksmith takes a tool and works with it in the coals; he shapes an idol with hammers, he forges it with the might of his arm. He gets hungry and loses his strength; he drinks no water and grows faint.

Isa 44:13 The carpenter measures with a line and makes an outline with a marker; he roughs it out with chisels and marks it with compasses. He shapes it in the form of man, of man in all his glory, that it may dwell in a shrine.

Isa 44:14 He cut down cedars, or perhaps took a cypress or oak. He let it grow among the trees of the forest, or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow.

Isa 44:15 It is man’s fuel for burning; some of it he takes and warms himself, he kindles a fire and bakes bread. But he also fashions a god and worships it; he makes an idol and bows down to it.

Isa 44:16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire; over it he prepares his meal, he roasts his meat and eats his fill. He also warms himself and says, “Ah! I am warm; I see the fire.”

Isa 44:17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol; he bows down to it and worships. He prays to it and says, “Save me; you are my god.”

Isa 44:18 They know nothing, they understand nothing; their eyes are plastered over so that they cannot see, and their minds closed so that they cannot understand.

Isa 44:19 No-one stops to think, no-one has the knowledge or understanding to say, “Half of it I used for fuel; I even baked bread over its coals, I roasted meat and I ate. Shall I make a detestable thing from what is left? Shall I bow down to a block of wood?”

Isa 44:20 He feeds on ashes, a deluded heart misleads him; he cannot save himself, or say, “Is not this thing in my right hand a lie?”

Isa 44:21 “Remember these things, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel. I have made you, you are my servant; O Israel, I will not forget you.

Isa 44:22 I have swept away your offences like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.”

Isa 44:23 Sing for joy, O heavens, for the LORD has done this; shout aloud, O earth beneath. Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all your trees, for the LORD has redeemed Jacob, he displays his glory in Israel.

Isa 44:24 “This is what the LORD says—your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the LORD, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself,

 

Isa 44:25 who foils the signs of false prophets and makes fools of diviners, who overthrows the learning of the wise and turns it into nonsense,

Isa 44:26 who carries out the words of his servants and fulfils the predictions of his messengers, who says of Jerusalem, ‘It shall be inhabited,’ of the towns of Judah, ‘They shall be built,’ and of their ruins, ‘I will restore them,’

Isa 44:27 who says to the watery deep, ‘Be dry, and I will dry up your streams,’

Isa 44:28 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, “Let it be rebuilt,” and of the temple, “Let its foundations be laid.”’

‘Many see the detailed prediction of the personal name of Cyrus in Isa 44:28 as a problem, and suggest a variety of solutions. Those who find difficulty with prediction place the author of the prophecy in Babylon in the thick of the Cyrus events—the so-called ‘Second Isaiah’ (see pp. 32–38). In this case, the prediction involved would be the prophet’s discernment of Cyrus as liberator. The main difficulty with this view is that it does not accord with what these chapters claim: that the prophet did not forecast only the outcome of Cyrus’ career but also its inception (Isa 41:25–27). Furthermore, if the prophet was a resident in Babylon, it is remarkable that his prophecy is totally lacking in ‘local colour’—particularly that he envisaged situations for the exiles which do not accord with their actual state (see on Isa 42:22) but resorts to conventional images; the same can be said of his poetical depiction of the fall of Babylon (Isa 47:1ff.). Others would argue, though, that it is essential to insist that the Old Testament is our only source book on the subject of Old Testament prophecy. 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 Kgs 13:2 with 2 Kgs 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)

Robert Pfieffer sarcastically remarks: ‘Of course this anachronism offers no difficulty to those who believe that God predicted through Isaiah’s pen what was to happen two centuries later.’ (Introduction to the Old Testament)

‘Childs claims that even if the prophetic prediction of such distant events actually occurred, “the coming of Cyrus is not presented as a future prediction, but rather as proof that the prediction of him has been fulfilled,” that is, that Cyrus is already on the scene.’ (Schultz, ‘How Many Isaiahs Were There and What Does It Matter?’ in Evangelicals and Scripture: Tradition, Authority and Hermeneutics, ed Bacote et al)

Whybray puts it yet more strongly: ‘It is a simple”] fact that the content of the prophet’s message from start to finish is quite inappropriate to the circumstances of the eighth century B.C.… when the people of Jerusalem and Judah were still living at home under the rule of their own kings; when Babylon … merely was one of the cities of the Assyrian Empire.’ (Cited by Schultz, op. cit.)

Motyer, however, offers a cogent rationale for the naming of Cyrus: ‘On the one hand, the naming of Cyrus is a relevant message of comfort to Isaiah’s contemporaries, but, on the other hand, to refuse to allow that it was Isaiah who named Cyrus creates two problems: first, it is untrue to 41:25ff. with its claim that the rise of Cyrus also was a matter of prediction and, secondly, it negates the force of 45:1–6 that Cyrus would be in a position to recognize the Lord as the author of all his success. A later prophet, speaking after Cyrus became news, would be no better than the priests of Marduk, who were only wise after the event when they claimed the conqueror’s success in the name of their god. Only a prophecy with a veritable claim to have anticipated the event could be presented as proof of the sole deity of Yahweh.’

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