Salvation in Isaiah 41
If I was to say to you that in 80 years time – that is in the year 2084 that Britain would be besieged and overrun by a massive army of millions; and the aggressors intended to take us all away and keep us for 70 years trapped in exile in a far off place; and if then I was to say to you that at the end of 150 years in the year 2154 a strong President of another country would invade and destroy our captors – and release us all so that we could come home to Britain again – what would you say?
Would you not find it a little incredible? Would you not ask the Question, “How does he know?” How can anyone predict that far ahead? How can any ordinary man tell what will happen in ten years never mind 150?
Reasonable questions I am sure.
But what if I then came up with the actual name of the President who was going to release the British people in 150 years time. Would you listen to me? I doubt if you would. No body would listen. They would perhaps humour me or even publish my predictions and place it in the category of Fiction and Fantasy. And all that I would be able to do would be to write down my predictions and leave them for someone to find them when I have gone and read them in 2084 and 2154 respectively so that everyone will know that I predicted the truth!
My friends the Prophet Isaiah did exactly this!
80 years before the fall of Jerusalem to the Babylonians Isaiah predicted the siege of Jerusalem and capture of the people by the Babylonians. He also predicted their restoration 70 years later. And his words came true! We have them here before us tonight. The prophet, so hard to believe at first was credited with a direct line to the Lord God. He foretold the captivity, the restoration and the name of the one who would deliver the people.
1. The Coming of a Deliverer v 1 – 7.
Verse 1 – 2 of Isaiah 41 speaks of this man –
Keep silence before me, O islands; and let the people renew their strength: let them come near; then let them speak: let us come near together to judgment. 2 Who raised up the righteous man from the east, called him to his foot, gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings? he gave them as the dust to his sword, and as driven stubble to his bow.
But it will not be until chapter 44 that we find his name
23 Sing, O ye heavens; for the LORD hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel. 24 Thus saith the LORD, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the LORD that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself; 25 That frustrateth the tokens of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish; 26 That confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof: 27That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers: 28 That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.
Cyrus the Mede.
This is what Isaiah meant when in Chapter 40 he said that the people who waited on the Lord would renew their strength etc. The phrase is repeated in 41 v 1.
This man is called in the Hebrew of verse 2 THE RIGHTEOUSNESS. He would fulfil the will of God – whose will is righteous towards His people.
It was not that Cyrus was a Jewish convert. We do not even know if he was a believer in Jehovah.
But that makes no difference to God. God can raise up whom He likes in order to bring about His will.
God raised up Cyrus. God raised up righteousness towards His people through this man Cyrus – the deliverer of righteousness. This man will be unhindered as he pursues his enemies – verse 3. He will act with speed and completeness. Verse 4 says that it will be Jehovah Himself who accomplishes this deliverance from Babylonian dominance. Isaiah calls Him ‘the I am – the first and the last!’ He is the everlasting absolute and the eternally existent One!
And in this we can see a remarkable prophecy of the work of the Lord Jesus Christ in the deliverance of our souls from the bondage and captivity of sin – that holds us down – that keeps us from home – that leaves us in cruel alienation. Jesus comes in power and might to rescue us – sinners who have deserved to be in the state of captivity. Judah was a rebellious nation. Judah had been warned by their prophets. Judah had not listened. Judah was carried away!
So is anyone who is bound in sin and natures night.
Satan holds sinners in his grip. A strong power stops sinners from moving out and getting away. Satan notices when a sinner tries to escape – to reform – to clean up the life – to follow the right way and keep God’s laws. And He tightens his grip and will not let him go.
As soon as a person begins to get pangs of conscience Satan is there to offer different delights and pleasures – making every effort to divert the attention from turning to God and recognising the need to repent. Have you felt this my friend? You may even have a very alert and alive conscience on a Sunday. You hear the gospel preached and your mind is affected and your heart is moved to think thoughts towards God. You may even say to your soul that it is time to turn to the Lord – time to abandon your sinful life – and time to be converted.
But Monday comes – and the routine of the week begins. You meet your friends – you hear their talk – and all resolve flies away! There is no way that you could face the shame of admitting that you are seeking the Lord Jesus as your Saviour. They would laugh – they would jeer – better to stay quiet – better simply to join in with the rest.
What you need is someone to come and rescue you out of your bondage! You need a deliverer. You cannot deliver yourself – you know that! Oh for someone to come and free you.
Well Christ comes to do that! He comes as a Cyrus with mighty sovereign power. He overthrows your enemies and He makes everything new! He can do this because He is the Lord! He is the great I am. And Jesus Christ is the righteous deliverer.
Cyrus was only called righteous because God did a righteous work through Him.
The Lord Jesus Christ is called righteous because he not only did a righteous work, dying on the cross at Calvary – but He is righteous in Himself and was utterly qualified to die for sinners!
This then was the Coming of the Deliverer. Next
2. Comfort for God’s People. V 8 – 20.
In the light of God’s election and purpose He has determined to encourage His people with the richest of promises! What wonderful words there are in this next passage – v 10 – 14
10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. 11Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish. 12 Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought. 13 For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. 14 Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
Fear thou not; (Why?) for I am with thee: be not dismayed; (Why?) for I am thy God: Fear thou not; (Why?) I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
How can these people fear when God is with them?
How can we fear when God is with us? Why do we fear? Because we do not believe enough that God is with us!
We do not need to be dismayed with God on our side and God in the person of His Son by His Holy Spirit, in our souls. He has promised, with a three fold promise
1. To strengthen us.
2. To help us.
3. To hold us up with His right hand.
The right hand is usually considered the symbol of strength, power and the source of blessing.
In His righteousness the Lord God called Cyrus to do His will. At the same time He will uphold Israel – make the nation to stand in the strength and the power of the same righteousness.
Do we believe this my friend? This same Jesus Christ, who is the Lord God Jehovah, holds His delivered people – Christians – by His right hand amidst the opposition of their enemies in this decaying world of sinners.
Perhaps we find it hard to believe.
Yet God the Lord anticipates this. And Repeats the Fear not for our benefit!
Verse 13 For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.
Now the Lord says that He will hold YOUR right hand – the hand of your strength will be strengthened by His right hand!
And if that were not enough – He repeats the promise a third time – in verse 14
Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
Worm signifies lowliness and helplessness. Isaiah – and remember he is speaking of something 150 years into the future – describes the state of the Jews following their return after captivity. They are still men of Israel though in reduced numbers. They are still the seed of Abraham. Which is why is added these words after the third Fear Not – the Lord thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
Once more we see the Lord Jesus Christ emerging through this prophecy. Jesus says to you and me – Fear Not! When persecution comes – fear not! When ridicule and hardship come – when the low state of true believing churches come – fear Not! When physical danger threatens any of us as believers – we must trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and Fear Not. When the shadow of death passes over us – we must not fear! We must go to scriptures like this and learn how not to fear!
How firm a foundation, ye saints of the Lord, Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word! What more can He say than to you He hath said — You, who unto Jesus for refuge have fled? In every condition — in sickness, in health; In poverty’s vale, or abounding in wealth; At home and abroad, on the land, on the sea, As thy days may demand, shall thy strength ever be. Fear not, I am with thee, O be not dismayed, I, I am thy God and will still give thee aid; I’ll strengthen and help thee, and cause thee to stand Upheld by My righteous, omnipotent hand. When through the deep waters I cause thee to go, The rivers of woe shall not thee overflow; For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless, And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress. When through fiery trials thy pathways shall lie, My grace, all-sufficient, shall be thy supply; The flame shall not hurt thee: I only design Thy dross to consume, and thy gold to refine. The soul that on Jesus has leaned for repose, I will not, I will not desert to its foes; That soul, though all hell should endeavour to shake, I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!
Have you learned how to deal with fear my friends? I must confess that I am still learning! I am sure that you too have things that cause you to fear.
Well then together let us trust the Lord and His word – and listen to His imperative – FEAR NOT! And let us be confident in what God can do!
3. Consider – there is no hope outside of Christ! V21 – 29.
Isaiah ends this section by coming back to a critique of men’s obsession with alternatives! Men love idols. But there is nothing about idols worthy of thinking about. They are less than nothing, and worse than nothing. “Let the advocates of other doctrines than that of salvation through Christ, bring their arguments.” The Lord God challenges such people to do so. Earlier in the chapter, verse that we skipped over we see these verses
5 The isles saw it, and feared; the ends of the earth were afraid, drew near, and came. 6 They helped every one his neighbour; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage. 7 So the carpenter encouraged the goldsmith, and he that smootheth with the hammer him that smote the anvil, saying, It is ready for the sodering: and he fastened it with nails, that it should not be moved.
These are the nations around who heard that Cyrus the terrible one from the East was coming. They try to cheer themselves up – Be of good courage. They encourage each other in idol making. But Isaiah now says that the Jews in his days were doing exactly the same things – using idols to tell the future.
Do they know of a cure for human depravity? Will their idols appease the mighty Jehovah whom they have offended in their sins? Such is the folly of those who think this way. Jehovah has a power which cannot be withstood; this power will appear. But the certain knowledge of the future must be only with Jehovah, who fulfils his own plans. So he challenges idolaters – v 21 – 24
Surely any true deity can reveal His plans to his followers. So where is the prophecy of idols?
They are shown to be worthless for they cannot speak or do anything – they are dumb and powerless.
So it is with the false religions today who claim to have the power of their god to save them. Their writings, which sound very religious, have no value.
All prophecies, except those of the Bible, have been and are uncertain. Fulfilled prophecy has been a confirmation to God’s people through the centuries that theirs is the One true God – and that He has spoken!
And in the work of redemption the Lord showed himself much more than in the release of the Jews from Babylon. The good tidings the Lord will send in the gospel, is a mystery hid from ages and generations. A Deliverer is raised up for us. The Lord Jesus Christ whose Name is above every Name, and whose power is greater than any idol or religion has greater power than the deliverer of the captive Jews.
He has the power to save souls from the wrath to come. Only the Lord Jesus Christ can redeem ruined sinners! Only the Lord Jesus Christ can save you my friend and rescue you from sin and its consequences. Turn – believe!