Recent Posts
Lowell Brueckner

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Sovereign Lord Over All


42. An expository study of Isaiah, chapter 45

Cyrus the Great
Isaiah’s ministry, by a powerful inspiration of the Holy Spirit, has given to readers for 2,700 years, around the globe, clear insights into the nature of God. From the day of his divine calling, he came to know the Holy One of Israel and that has been his emphasis throughout the book. He also powerfully portrays Him as Sovereign Lord over all the earth.

Cyrus and sovereign choice

I repeat what we learned in the last chapter; God named Cyrus over 150 years before he was born. If you are a child of God, you probably are aware of the fact that God had His hand upon your life before you knew Him. Did you know that He has worked in past generations to bring you into being? Ah, the Bible teaches us that “he chose us in him before the foundation of the world…” (Eph.1:4). No wonder Jesus knew the little man’s name, when He saw him in the tree. “Zacchaeus,” He called. He even knew the name of another little man… the rabid, hate-inspired Pharisee on his way to Damascus to wreak havoc with the church. He shouted to him from the blazing glory of His presence, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” A few verses later, we see that Christ had chosen him: “He is a chosen instrument of mine” Jesus taught us that He calls His own sheep by name.

The apostle nails this precious truth down in his teaching to the Corinthians and the Galatians: “If anyone loves God, he is known by God” (1 Co.8:3) and “now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God” (Gal.4:9). Would you try to tell me that the Omniscient God is ignorant of anything? It goes without saying that His knowledge of us preceded our knowledge of Him. The knowledge of God is infinite and eternal. Don’t try to reason it out and, certainly, don’t stumble over yourself trying to argue against it… bask in the truth of it! That’s why it is written.

“Thus says the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped.” This is the behind-the-scenes truth, already proclaimed to God’s people, before it begins to shake the world, as we read in chapter 41. Paul said that we are children of the day and the thief in the night does not surprise us (1 Thess.5:4,5). As we have been noting, in the 19th Century, Spurgeon and Ryle already knew what would take place over a half-century later on May 14, 1948 and onward into the Millennium. God had revealed it to them in His word.

The Cyrus Cylinder, British Museum

God goes before Cyrus to subdue nations, “to loose the belts of kings”, to open doors, and to put His foot in them, so they cannot be closed (v.1). Before Cyrus arrives, God brings down the exalted places, the doors of bronze and the bars of iron (v.2). The testimony is consistent; He did the same for His church in Philadelphia (Rev.3:8). Rejoice in it, church, though you are not Cyrus, king over a powerful nation. Christ’s strength is manifested in the fact that you have little strength and that makes His power all the more glorious!

God makes the darkness light. It is in the deep darkness that His light shines the brightest. All this is done for Cyrus, before he knows Him and it is done exactly for that purpose that He may come to know Him. “That you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you by your name” (v.3). He wants this king to recognize that He is the God of that little nation, which lies in the grips of Babylonian captivity. This world power is being harnessed, in order that He may accomplish His purpose for them. This is outstanding, Bible truth concerning our God. Don’t let it pass you by! Grasp it!

God moves the entire political world for the sake of His people, through whom He reveals Himself, not only to the earth’s population, but to principalities and powers in heavenly places. The inspired word is summarized in verse 4: “For the sake of my servant Jacob and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me.” Now do you see the divine principle I have been trying to show in my faltering way through these verses?

In a mutinous world, given over to false gods, the God of Israel will show this pagan king that He is unique. He is the only true and living God. “I equip you, though you do not know me” (v.5). Before Cyrus has any contact with the one Lord, we learn that the world-renowned Persian Empire, of which we all have studied in our World History classes, did not come into power by the strength of its armies or its leadership. It was not due to circumstances that arose in its day. Working invisibly, without the knowledge of anyone involved, including that of Cyrus their king, putting all the pieces in place, arranging circumstances and fortifying the Persian armies, was the almighty and all-wise God, Lord of heaven and earth.

From the days of Egyptian power, God has been working in empires, so that through their commerce and contact with many nations, they will tell of the mighty acts of God that they have seen, “that people may know, from the rising of the sun and from the west, that there is none besides me; I am the Lord, and there is no other” (v.6). He will do it again through Persia and we may read about it in the books of Esther and Daniel, along with other books of the Bible, written at that time.

Sovereign rights

In verse 7, we learn theological truth that is ignored in some branches of Christianity, particularly in charismatic circles today. There is a tendency towards attributing all good things to God and all bad things to the devil, something akin to animistic religions that believe in a good god and a bad god. Satan was disposed of his high position in heaven and he is no competitor against God. It is true, that he tempts mankind and works all kinds of evil in the world, but this is strictly in a subordinate manner. Continuing to reveal His unique position over all, God says, “I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity. I am the Lord, who does all these things.” Ultimately, He saves people and brings them to heaven, while He also casts others into hell.

As in the last chapter and throughout the Bible, rain is used to illustrate spiritual blessing: “They shall be showers of blessing” (Ez.34:26), and verse 8 makes the point very clear: “Let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit.” The rains bring down blessings from heaven, while the earth must be open to receive it. There must be a breaking of fallow ground (Jer.4:3; Hos.10:12), which speaks of a softening of the heart and repentance, in order to receive that which God provides. It is our responsibility to cooperate with heaven.

God continues to demand Creator’s rights and reveal His position with mankind from that point. The Bible illustrates this relationship in both the Old and New Testaments. God has absolute right over His creation and it is basic for everyone to recognize that he is a created being. It is high treason and useless to rebel against our Maker. Verse 9 also shows man’s attempt to improve on creation: “Your work has no handles”. To try to alter our physical features or any part of our created being is another form of rebellion. Then, He speaks of the next step of insubordination, which is parental rebellion against the two, who brought us into the world. God commands that we honor our fathers and mothers (v.10). Fatherhood is another area of relationship between God and man.

In the context of all that God is claiming in this chapter, as well as previous ones, it seems to me evident that there is a flaw in the translation of verse 11 in some of the best versions of the Bible and harmful teaching has come as a result. He has been reproving man for challenging and questioning His authority. It would seem now to be a direct contradiction, if He would encourage Israel to question and even to command Him. It is true that He has granted us wonderful intimacy and resulting boldness in prayer. We have rejoiced, as we see it to be so in the lives of Moses and Abraham, but we also notice a carefulness and reverence in their friendly interchanges with God. Could it be right to pray, as a good friend related to me, that he heard someone say in prayer, “I command you, God!”?

Since there is no punctuation in the original languages of Greek and Hebrew, it is the responsibility of the translators to insert it, according to the context of the account. In this case question marks would totally change the sense of the verse and put it in line with the context. I think it would best read, as we have it in the Amplified Bible: Would you question Me about things to come concerning My children, and concerning the work of My hands [would you] command Me?” Or, at least, it could be as in the ESV: “Ask me of things to come; will you command me…? In this way, the verse is simply another reproof against Israel’s insubordination.

The same word, command, is used in verse 12 as in verse 11. Is the One who made the earth and created man, who commands the starry host, to be commanded by His creation? The entire book of Isaiah tells of the Lord’s right to do as He pleases, so then, He continues to state His absolute sovereignty over earth and heaven. On that basis, He claims it to be a righteous act to have stirred up Cyrus and to make him his anointed servant in rebuilding the city of Jerusalem and in freeing the captives. Could anyone rightly question or command God for having done this? “What man shows him his counsel? Whom did he consult…?” (ch.40:13-14). To emphasize that God is behind this historic action, Cyrus will do his part without any personal benefit to himself or his government… “not for price or reward” (v.12-13).

Through God’s involvement, Cyrus will plunder the Egyptians, the Cushites and the Sabeans in order to finance Israel’s restoration. In their submission, they will recognize the hand of God in their defeat. They will fulfill His purpose in acknowledging Him as the only true Sovereign. “They will plead with you, saying: Surely God is in you, and there is no other, no god besides him” (v.14, see v.6).

“Truly, you are a God who hides himself, O God of Israel, the Savior.” Opponents are right, when they speak of God hiding Himself, instead of making an open declaration to all the world. Even a disciple, Judas (not Iscariot), wondered why He would reveal Himself to them, but not to the world (Jn.14:22). It is divine principle; it is His nature. In the fact that He is the God of an insignificant nation and today is the God worshipped by only a small minority of the earth’s population, and at that, they are some of the weakest and simplest among it, He shows His nature. In this sense, as someone has said, “The gospel is the world’s best kept secret.” Even as it is declared around the globe, it is still a mystery to earth’s mentality and to its mighty ones. However, the God of little Israel is the mighty Savior of the world and there is salvation in none other (v.15). It is before that God that men must bow… before the One who was made to be a simple carpenter of Nazareth.

It is a great obstacle for human pride to overcome and so the idolaters are confounded, confused and ashamed to associate with Jehovah of Israel, the Christ from Nazareth, or the God born in a manger (v.16).  However this is the God, who shames the world, before Israel and the Church, imparting eternal salvation, to the Jew first, but also to the believing Gentile.

Those who trust Him will never be put to shame, now or throughout eternity. After the proud masses of mankind are punished with eternal damnation, the humble remnant, saved out of this “crooked generation”, as the apostle Peter called it (Ac.2:40), will experience “eternal salvation” (v.17). This is the God, who is revealing Himself to us through Isaiah and we are learning to know His attributes.  

Sovereign reign

The great God, who created the heavens, formed the earth with a purpose. It is not just a beautiful planet, but is an expression of the Creator. “He did not create it empty, he formed it to be inhabited!” (v.18) He speaks loudly and clearly to His people that there is a plan concerning them. “I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, Seek me in vain.” They have been chosen to know the light of truth and what is right (v.19). A Bible has been placed in the hands of anyone, who is seeking truth and by it to know the God of truth. Jesus said that these are the ones, who come to the light and hear His voice (Jn.3:21; 18:37).

As we have seen in other parts of this book, God extends an invitation to those who have escaped calamity among the nations, to come near to Him. In fact, this is the strongest appeal so far to the Gentiles to leave their foolish worship of idols and come to the true God (v.20). He called to them in the Old Testament; He sent His disciples in the New Testament to take the Good News to all the world. You who seek truth, there is only One, to whom you can go. God is the God of ancient truth: “Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the Lord?... a righteous God and a Savior: there is none besides me” (v.21).

This God, who is revealing Himself to the reader of the book of Isaiah, now unveils His great heart: “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God and there is no other” (v.22). Turn to me means to turn away from all else and that is a call to repentance. Salvation comes to the repentant, whoever and wherever they may be. However, this is a word that finds its final fulfillment in the millennial age.

The writer of Hebrews teaches that “people swear by something greater than themselves” (Heb.6:16), but God has no one greater to swear by, nor is there a need for the personage of absolute truth to swear. Because of the majestic importance of this utterance, He wills to swear, so He declares, “By myself I have sworn.” He speaks in righteousness a word that cannot be overturned. There is coming a day, in which “every knee shall bow and every tongue shall swear allegiance” (v.23). According to Paul, this promise applies precisely to Christ: “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil.2:10-11). Nothing less than the Millennium reign could ever fulfill this promise.

This mighty declaration continues: “Only in the Lord, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; to him shall come and be ashamed all who were incensed against him. In the Lord all the offspring of Israel shall be justified and shall glory” (v.24-25). It shall be said of me is a parenthetical phrase, meaning that people will come to the realization that only in the Lord are righteousness and strength. He is the fountain, the source. All His enemies will come to Him ashamed and will bow the knee. Then, “all Israel will be saved”, as Paul maintained in Romans 11:26.

Let Zechariah give us the details: “Two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive. And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, “They are my people”; and they will say “The Lord is my God” (Zech.13:8-9). “I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him… The land shall mourn… There shall be a fountain opened… to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness” (Zech.12:10, 12; 13:1). Through the Great Tribulation, Israel will be purified and finally the remnant, the third that remains, will believe in Jesus of Nazareth and will be justified. He will come to save them and reign over them from Jerusalem for a thousand years. Now, the apostle John will bring this study to a conclusion: “Blessed and holy is the one who shares in the first resurrection! Over such the second death has no power, but they will be priests of God and of Christ, and they will reign with him for a thousand years” (Rev.20:6).


Post a Comment