ISAIAH 43:1 – 45:25 and HEBREWS 10:1–18
The love that the Lord has for His beloved Israel is clearly seen in this chapter. This would also apply to the church as well. He makes clear that He will be with them in their time of adversity. He even gets more personal in saying that He knows them by their individual name. Our God is a personal one and He has great love and concern for each of His own. In verse 2 there are several different disaster type scenarios portrayed and yet God gives assurance of being with them. This should prove heartening to us as we face our current and future challenges. God will express His intense love and interest towards Israel in other portions of his letter.
In verses 3-4 we see the length that God would go to in working good on behalf of His people. He allowed the nations of Egypt, Ethiopia and the Sabeans to be used to divert the approach of Sennacherib and Assyria against Judah. It was a delaying tactic before God ultimately destroyed by way of his angel. In verses 5-6 we see how the Lord will even give nations for the sake of His own people. God is willing to destroy vessels of wrath in order to do a greater work in His own people. It makes you want to seek the Lord so that we be found living uprightly; a life that is pleasing to Him where we can know His mercies. It is a sobering thought when considering that God will destroy the lives of many so as to do a work in a few who are precious to Him.
The Lord speaks of Cyrus in verse 10 as being His servant. He is the one who will be used in bringing God’s people out of Babylon after the appointed 70 years. Once again let us not forget that this prophecy is being given many years before the captivity begins. Let us not also forget that Isaiah is naming Cyrus by name long before he is even born. Will there arise such prophetic clarity in the days that are before us? There is certainly no shortage of prophetic voices but how many Isaiah’s Jeremiah’s and Ezekiel’s do you see? I do feel that there will be such prophetic voices to come forth in the last days. These are prophets who pay a high price due to the message that they are called to bear.
In the end it is God who is their deliverer and He reminds them to not trust in man or their idols (vs 11-13). In verses 14-17 the amazing clarity of Isaiah’s words again come forth. He is describing how Cyrus will lead in his future attack upon Babylon. Isaiah is speaking during the reign of King Hezekiah which was about 100 years before Babylon came into prominence. The words he is speaking will not take effect for another 150 years or so. Those who went into captivity and were aware of these prophecies would be strengthened and encouraged by them. These would be prisoners of hope knowing that there was a determined end upon the Babylonian rule. A careful study of the Word of God helps to provide perspective even in the midst of great difficulties.
One of the more familiar portions of scripture is found in verses 18-21. The most extracted phrase is found in verse 19 where it says “Behold, I will do a new thing.” We all love to embrace something new and fresh however there are some important qualifiers we need to explore in order to avail of this truth. First, there has to be a forgetting or “letting go” of former things. There can be a danger in holding onto traditions or past experiences that actually hinder our ability in going forward. This is clearly seen with the Disciples of John the Baptist as they take issue with the Disciples of Jesus. They (the disciples of John) did not comprehend or lay hold of the new move that was taking place through the ministry of Jesus. They were holding on to their experience under John the Baptist. There was nothing wrong with John’s ministry when it was functioning in its season but that season had now passed. John recognized it but many of his adherents did not. (I must decrease; He must increase-John 3:30). Secondly, that new thing must be perceived and discerned (vs 19). We often look for a new thing or a fresh move and do not recognize it when it takes place. Third, the move often takes place in a dry and wilderness type setting. It can represent seasons of barrenness and spiritual drought; seasons which much of the church would dismiss out of hand. Israel was not looking at being brought into captivity as a good thing yet it was what God was doing. He told Israel through Jeremiah that it would go well with them if they were to give heed.
We see the beautiful promise of our sins being blotted out and removed in verse 25. This is one of the primary purposes for Babylon. It was ordained by God to bring healing and cleansing for their sin of idolatry. This is the reason why God will have personal Babylon’s for us. Will we recognize and discern such times or will reject that new thing that new Truth that God is looking to deal with in our lives?
The Lord here addresses Jacob and Israel as His chosen and states that they are to Fear Not which would be of great comfort to those going through affliction. These initial verses also speak of the Lord Jesus Christ. The promise of the Holy Spirit is given in verse 3 to the Son of God when He comes upon the earth as man. It is a promise that is given to the church as well as that which is seen at Pentecost (Acts 2).John the Baptist will bring this out further when he refers to one of the ministries of the Lamb (Math 3:11).
In verses 6-8 the Lord establishes His credentials as being the Alpha and Omega and that besides Him there is no other. This is being spoken to those who continued to give themselves over to idolatry. God is a jealous God and He takes great issue with idols and those who seek after them. This was the most prominent sin in Israel and it will be the sin that God will extensively address while they are captive in Babylon. God hates idolatry and the idols that are served. An idol takes the place of something that belongs to God. The makers of idols are taken to task in verses 9-12. There are still many idols and graven images that are worshipped in different cultures today. How do you define an idol, what are some of its characteristics? What could be a modern day variant of what is being addressed in this passage? An idol is reflective of something that is within our heart. Our heart will make provision for that which will satisfy its longing. Today we see many forms of entertainment that vie for our hearts. It can be movies, games, sports or a host of other recreational sources. This is not to say that all entertainment is bad but how much of our heart, our time and our money does it occupy? Is there provision made for these forms of entertainment that could possibly be given to the Lord? Do we spend more of our income on personal pleasures as opposed to investing more in the kingdom? It is the Holy Spirit who can help bring proper accountability in each of our individual lives. There needs to be provision for rest and recreation from time to time but an over-indulgence at the expense of kingdom issues is a major problem today. This is why it is important that there be a willingness to come to the light and allow the Spirit of God to work.
The Lord takes time to speak of those who make these foolish idols. Remember what happened when Paul stirred up the issue surrounding the worship of the goddess Diana? Demetrius made a fortune manufacturing and selling these idols which was now under threat due to Paul’s ministry. The purveyors of many of the entertainment outlets are not friends of the church especially when their empires are challenged. They (entertainment gods) have successfully entered into the day of Sabbath infringing more and more on time that used to be given to the worship of the Living God. Let us try to read Isaiah through a set of modern day lenses and not get stuck on foolish idols alone. There is a modern day application that can be applied today.
In the closing verses of chapter 44 God is speaking many of the same truths spoken earlier. He reminds Israel as to how special they are to Him. This can now be applied to the church as well. We must never underestimate the deep love and commitment He has for us. We must not let today’s diminished role of fatherhood serve as an indicator of what is the Father’s love. It is deep, wide and all consuming.
It is here where Cyrus is named about 150 years before he was born. There are a few different titles given to Cyrus in scripture which reflect the roles God placed upon Him for the fulfilment of His purposes. He is called the Shepherd of God (Isa 44:28) and the Anointed of God (Isa 45:1). The Bible is very kind to Cyrus, this Gentile King that God used powerfully at the time of the destruction of Babylon. He was a great military leader and a man who was magnanimous to his captives. He recognized that it was God’s hand that was upon him in his victories (Ezr 1:2).
In verse 2 the Word of the Lord through Isaiah speaks as to how Cyrus will prevail at the time of Babylon’s fall. King Cyrus will come to know the treasures of darkness in his siege upon Babylon. It suggests that he will reap great spoils from his efforts. Since Cyrus was a Gentile king there are implications of this promise being fulfilled by the Gentile church. There are seasons in our Christian walk when there may be seasons of barrenness, sickness and a sense of hopelessness. If we hold steady, adhere to God’s Word and press forward in His grace we can glean great treasures through difficulties. These will be treasures that will last because a price has been paid to obtain them. If treasures are quickly gained without any pain or trial, they will not be appreciated. If we need any further evidence just look at today’s entitlement generation. It is a representation of a group that feels that the world is owed to them. On the other hand, look at the lives of those who have been through war, famine and economic depressions and you will see a totally different attitude. The treasures in darkness are priceless gems that produce an eternal work of grace within those who discover and obtain them. The truth of God is a treasure that should always be pursued.
Pro 23:23 Buy the truth, and sell it not; also wisdom, and instruction, and understanding.
In verses 5-7 the Lord is addressing Cyrus 150 years before he was born to let him know that it is He who has allowed him to come into such prominence. It is the Lord that allows for circumstances to come to pass for the fulfilment of His will. It is the Lord that makes allowance for both good and evil to come upon one’s life. It is for a purpose. It is important to make clear that the Lord is not the author of sin but He does make allowance for both good and adversity to come into one’s life. In verse 7 where it says that the Lord creates evil He is saying that He makes allowance for adversity. It does not mean that He is the author or creator of sin. In verses 9-10 we see the Lord as the one who is our creator; the one who shapes destines and lives. We must honor God for who we are, being fearfully and wonderfully made. This is at variance with the values seen in today’s world. The culture of today is seeking to establish what is acceptable and what has value etc. The Lord created each of us with a purpose and plan in mind. He knows what He is doing and we need to honor and thank him for who we are. We need to seek Him so as to discover our calling and destiny in life. In verse 11 there is that phrase that many misinterpret; “Command ye me”. The Lord is not giving man an opportunity to command Him what to do and that He will do it. Many seek to link this verse with Luke 11:9 where the Lord instructs His hearers to “Ask and it shall be given to you…” The true rendering is the following: Are you commanding me? In other words, the Lord is saying are you challenging me for the way I made you? Are you telling me what to do? These verses need to be read and understood in their proper context.
God is raising up Cyrus to not only defeat the Babylonians but to give the authorization for the rebuilding of the city of Jerusalem. He gave the decree and set the people free to do so without any cost or retribution to himself. The Lord goes on to say that He created the worlds for a purpose and pleads with the other nations to recognize Him as God; having no equal for the purpose of turning to Him. It is a plea to the nations that will observe His handiwork at the time of Israel’s restoration and a plea that will be seen on a consistent basis up to the time of the 2nd coming. As mentioned on previous occasions God will seek to have men repent even in the midst of the severest of judgements. It is clear that man will simply be without excuse when he stands before the judgement seat of Christ. God has been ever reaching out to fallen man but the question will come back as to whether man has responded to His overtures.
Paul will now speak of a new and living way regarding the working of the law. He describes the Law in the Old Testament as a shadow of the real. A man who casts a shadow is manifesting a figure but it is not the real thing. It is only an image of the real. That perfectly describes the ordinances that were observed in the Old Testament. The Law of the Old Testament could never make a man perfect or Holy. The Levitical offerings could never purge and take away sin, they were only a shadow of the real that was to come. These shadows were fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. Paul is now presenting Jesus, the one the Jews crucified, in a different way. In the previous chapters we saw Him as the greater High Priest. Paul now presents Him as the One who fulfilled the Law and the Levitical sacrifices. Paul shows them that there had to be a continual offering for sin through the years but with Christ it is a once for all fulfilment (vs 2-4).
Paul makes a reference to a statement that David made as recorded in Psa 40:6 (vs 4). God is not looking for animal sacrifices to satisfy Him but rather is after those who willingly surrender their minds and hearts to Him. The sacrifices of animals were merely a type or shadow of the One who would bring pleasure to the Father; one who would delight in doing His will and pleasure. God is honoured when we give ear to what He speaks and then go about doing what He says.
Jas 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
Paul speaks a similar theme when writing to the Romans. We are to present our bodies as a Living Sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God. The Lord was consumed with doing the will of the Father even right up to the end. The ultimate will of the Father for His Son was that He would partake of the cup (Luke 22:42). This meant that He was to become sin and take the weight of sin to the Cross and die. This involved separation from the loving gaze of the Father in exchange in seeing His wrath released in great fury as sin was judged. His delighting in the Father’s will needs to be our delighting. It is a worthy prayer in asking the Lord to help us in delighting to do His will. In verse 11 Paul speaks of the priests who were still doing the daily ministering at the temple of offering sacrifices. The Lord had already come and fulfilled the very sacrifices that the priests were still carrying on with in the temple. This is the point that Paul is seeking to get across to His audience. Everything they were practicing and doing in their daily services was fulfilled in His one great sacrifice (vs 14).
The New Covenant is illustrated in verses 15-16. This covenant is the Law of God being written and emblazoned on the fleshly tables of the heart. It is not a matter of do’s and don’ts but more that we be an expression of all that the Law entails. Though the New Covenant was mentioned in the Old Testament it never could be a reality until Christ would come as the Saviour of mankind. Man could never fulfil the law outside of Christ and its accompanying grace supplied by the Holy Spirit. Paul is letting it be known that there is now a new and living way by which man can live. It is possible to have the Law and all that it entails written and placed within the heart of man. This is the New Covenant and it is what God is ultimately after.
We will later see in our study through Ezekiel that God gives the promise of a new heart and Spirit; a heart of flesh and not of stone (Eze 36:26-27). The offering for sin was a once for all offering. There is no further need of Christ or anyone else to make a sacrifice. His offering is sufficient in dealing with past sins, present sins and sins that are committed in future. Let’s be clear; though the offering of Christ for sin was a once for all offering there does need to be appropriation of the shed blood of Christ for future sins. As we walk in the light of God and His glory we will come to the place of acknowledging issues in our lives. What do we do at that moment? Do we ignore these issues and simply carry on with life? Do we hide and cover-up these areas? Yes, the blood of Christ is a once for all sacrifice but there needs to be the appropriating of that once for all sacrifice when we sin. If we continually reject the dealings of God, we can lose the experience of our salvation. God has given us the ability to reason and make choices. In the end we will be a product of the choices we make in life which serves as a reflection of what is in our heart. This is why the New Covenant reality is so important. It gets to the root of the sin issue in our lives. A good definition of the New Covenant is its ability to get to the root where all sin originates which is in the heart.
One of the most precious invitations given to the early church is the ability to enter in the holy of holies (vs 19). We can do so because of the blood of Jesus that was shed. The veil of separation was torn away providing the means of access for all believers. It still requires the believer to possess the priestly attributes that were signified by the Old Testament High Priest. We are given the opportunity to be priests and kings to God so that we can have that access. Just because we are born again believers does not mean we automatically become kings and priests; they are made after the order of our great high priest Jesus Christ (Rev 5:10).
Rev 5:10 And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.
The key is not just to be able to enter within the veil but to dwell there as well. This was the cry of David when he asked the question, “Who shall abide in thy tabernacle? Who shall dwell in thy holy hill? In our lives we do not want to just be fruitful but to have fruit that abides (vs 21-25). There are warnings given to those who tasted of the Lord’s goodness only to turn aside or to go back all together. God is merciful, loving and kind but he is also a Judge. As believers we cannot choose to live a life that is contrary to His ways and expect to escape any consequences. There are those in scripture who sinned against God and found no mercy or repentance from God. The examples of Saul, Esau and Judas are examples that come to mind. You then have people like David who sinned and yet found mercy and forgiveness. He was guilty of adultery and murder and yet God forgave and restored him. David had a heart that pleased the Lord; an ability to respond to truth and the light. When he was confronted by Nathan he immediately acknowledged his iniquity. How do we handle the Truth? Do we embrace it, do we acknowledgement Truth when confronted by it? Rejecting, denying and hiding from the Truth does something to our hearts. Over time it will become hardened, calloused and seared making it difficult for the Word of God to penetrate the heart and becoming fruitful. God has no pleasure in those who draw back and turn away from His daily provision of grace. His desire is that we be a people who are ever pressing on in the things of God. A seeking heart that is pure and undefiled is what brings great pleasure to God. Paul is not only magnifying Christ as the great high priest he is demonstrating a new and greater way in which man can live. The Old Testament shadows and types not only pointed to Christ but they also showed how one can live on a daily basis so that we become more and more like the Son of God.