The Known Isaiah: Isaiah 44:6 - 48:22

Isaiah 44:6‑48:22  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 14
We have seen the glory of Jehovah set forth in creation and providence, but not more than in His gracious condescension and unfailing care of the people whom He chose and separated to Himself as His servant, witness of the one true and living God against all false gods and especially idols, the snare of no nation more than of Israel. This was especially seasonable, when the prophet had solemnly set before Hezekiah the ruin even of the residue who clung to David's house, when that royal stem, on which their standing and hopes depended, should be carried with all their treasures to Babylon. For on earth was no mother, no patroness, of idolatry, more ancient, powerful, or renowned than Babylon, “the glory of kingdoms.” What then seemed so much to compromise His name as that Babylon should sweep His people off the land He gave them into captivity? On the contrary it was because of apostacy from Jehovah for Gentile idols, and this at length and persistently in David's house, that Jehovah gave them up to a land of graven images where men were mad upon idols. Judah's sin became their punishment, that they might learn, both from Jerusalem and in Babylon, the brutish delusion and destructive shame of trust in gods that man made.
Hence long before the tune the prophet told them of the judgment Jehovah would visit on Babylon, by raising up one from the east and the north an avenger in righteousness. This was of so much the deeper interest to the chosen people, because its capture would open the door for their return. Yet who can overlook that the terms of the prediction, while definitely applying to both events, go on without doubt to Christ? Nor is it merely Christ in the past but in the future also, times for restoring all things, which the apostle Peter preached (Acts 3), as God spoke of them by His holy prophets since time began. It is a marked and integral part of the testimony that God herein challenges the devotees of idolatry to declare what shall happen, and things, in not the near future but “the latter end of them.”
The assumption therefore that this must have been a wise anticipation, when Cyrus was in his mid career of conquest, and a very few years before the fall of Babylon, is not alone absolutely without proof, but morally irreconcilable with the language and argument of the prophet. To suppose the union of the Medes with the Persians as an actual fact, and Cyrus already triumphant in N. W. and Central Asia, is to make the prediction a vain mendacious boast, instead of a communication divine beyond question. If it be Isaiah's, as its place professes it to be, following his humbling words to Hezekiah, what can be more forcible in establishing the claims of the one true God, raising up the avenger and unveiling the future, itself but the pledge of one still more glorious, to the Jew when the crisis so loudly called for it? Yet in doing so He laid their iniquity bare with an unsparing hand, even while He calls them to sing a new song to Himself in view of a deliverance, not yet fulfilled but sure, when the day of sovereign grace dawns on repentant Israel, renouncing their own righteousness and looking to Him Whom they pierced. Nature began with all things good from God, which man, listening to the enemy and sinning, reduced to ruin; grace begins with the ruin, gives the Second man and last Adam to bear the judgment of the sins, bring in divine righteousness, and establishes at last a new heaven and a new earth. Israel's was a similar story over again; and so is Christendom's. In all God is faithful, above all in Christ by virtue of His person and work, Who vindicated God as to the past, present, and future; as He must reign till He has put all the enemies under His feet. When all things have been subjected to Him, then shall the Son also be subjected to Him that subjected all things to Him, that God [Father, Son, and Holy Spirit] may be all in all, instead of all things being under the glorified Man in the previous kingdom.
After this richest encouragement to His undeserving people (44:1-5), He again raises His controversy with idols, and sets out the folly as well as wickedness of man's making his object of worship (6-20), with a most touching appeal to Israel, formed to be His servant; as in view of sovereign grace He will dispel their transgressions as a mist and their sins as a cloud (21-23). He asserts His frustration of lying signs and senseless diviners, while He confirms His declared counsel, saying of Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited, and of the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, as of the deep, Be thou dry, and of Cyrus (for now he is named), He is my shepherd and shall accomplish all my pleasure, who will say of Jerusalem, She shall be built, and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid (24-28).
So notoriously and punctually it came to pass: none need travel beyond the written word of God to learn it. Jehovah, with power supreme, has not only the knowledge of the end from the beginning, but imparts conspicuously of that knowledge for the sustenance of faith, at the very time when His people, because of faithlessness, were reduced to be no longer a vessel of His power. It was Jehovah that held Cyrus' right hand to subdue nations before him, to break in pieces the doors of brass, and to cut asunder the bars of iron. For Israel's sake He named Cyrus, though he knew not Jehovah, that men might know from east and from west that there is none beside Him. It was He that raised up Cyrus in righteousness, to build His city, and let go His captives, not for price nor reward, saith Jehovah of hosts. Yet this unparalleled return of the Jew from Babylon is as evidently but the shadow of an everlasting salvation, not yet Israel's, when idols and their worshippers shall be in the dust, and in Jehovah all Israel shall be justified and shall glory; yea, and every knee shall bow to Him and every tongue shall swear (45).
In chap. 46 follows the utter humiliation of Bel and Nebo, chief idols of Babylon, more manifestly impotent than the beasts that bore them, unable to save, and themselves gone into captivity. Again is Jehovah contrasted in His loving patience toward Israel with the image that could neither move nor speak nor save; whereas He was giving proof, in their deep depression for their sins and especially their idolatries, that Jehovah is God, and none else, and none like Him, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times the. things that are not yet done, to be shown ere long, in calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of His counsel from a far country, though Zion has still to await salvation, and Israel Jehovah's glory, which faith would never count far off.
But ere that great day the virgin daughter of Babylon must sit in the dust (ch. xlvii). Warned solemnly as no Gentile monarch had ever been, a warning recalled and interpreted by a Jewish prophet of the captivity, “the head of gold” did not take these things to heart nor remember the end thereof. Hence he that long beforehand predicted the captivity, now followed it up with Babylon's desolation to come suddenly, not knowing nor suspecting nor able to ward it off, spite of enchantments and sorceries, spite of astrologers, stargazers, and moon-prognosticators: there is none to save Babylon.
The controversy closes in chap. 48., wherein Jehovah appeals to Jacob's house, called by the name of Israel, and come forth out of Judah's waters: a remarkable description which clothes the Jews with the honored name of him, who, wrestling with God and with men, prevailed. Here again Jehovah reminds them of His declaring, the former things long ago, lest with their neck of iron sinew and their brow of brass, they should impute to their idol what the Eternal had long predicted and at last accomplished. Now He caused them to hear new things, that they might be kept, if it could be, from their perverse rebelliousness, and not be cut off but be refined in the furnace of affliction. He the First and He the Last again challenged, Which among them had declared these things? It was their Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel, Who, alike by this very prophecy as by others, bore divine witness to His witnesses; and by the Gentile chief He raised up against Babylon, He would wean them from futile images to the assurance of His own sovereign goodness and unmerited fidelity. For “there is no peace, saith Jehovah, unto the wicked.” And what wickedness grosser or more ungrateful in Israel than idolatry?
Yes, there is a deeper depth to devour the guilty people; and this the prophet opens as the still more awful indictment laid to their charge in the next section.