Text: Isaiah 44
If I were going to give today’s teaching a title, it would be, “His Spirit vs. His Judgment.” In Isaiah 32:15, the LORD speaks of pouring out His Spirit. But Isaiah 44:3 is the first mention that in a future generation, the LORD will pour out His Spirit upon (literally, in) His repentant people! It is a prophecy of the Holy Spirit baptism that took place at Pentecost and beyond (see the Book of Acts and the rest of the New Testament)!
In stark contrast to the promise of the Spirit for believers who repent, He warns that He will surely judge believers who rebel and worship idols. His warning is a call for them to repent and return to Him.
Verses 1-2 —
In Isaiah 43:28, the LORD challenged His people to argue with Him in His court of justice. And He declared that He would wound and make unclean the idolatrous princes of the sanctuary (priests), and would give His people over to the curse, and revilement (insult). But now, for the repentant . . .
“But now listen O Jacob, His Servant, and Israel, whom I have chosen,” says the LORD to His people. “Thus says the LORD who made you and formed you from the womb, who will help you. Do not fear, O Jacob My Servant, and you Jeshurun.”
(NOTE: Jeshurun is another name for Israel, meaning “upright.” That is what He calls all His believers who repent and return to Him, and ask Him to pour out His Spirit in them!)
Verse 3 —
Why should the repentant ones not fear? The LORD says, “For I will pour out water on the thirsty, and streams on the dry ground. I will pour out (literally, overflow) My Spirit on (literally, in) your offspring, and my blessing upon (in) your descendants.”
The LORD reveals that the water and streams He spoke of in Isaiah 41:18 and 43:19b are references to His Holy Spirit! In the future, His Spirit and His blessing will be in them! It is a direct contrast to Isaiah 43:8, His judgment of the rebellious.
The LORD speaks of the infilling of the Holy Spirit, through Ezekiel —
Ezekiel 36:26 “Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.”
When He fills you with His Spirit, He promises that your heart will be responsive to His every word. You will keep His commands, and will no longer disobey Him. You will say —
Psalms 40:8 I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.”
Verses 4-5 —
The LORD further describes the glorious result, saying, “And they will spring up among the grass, like poplars (willows) by springs of water.” Those filled with His Spirit will be very visible, towering over the field of this world. They will be extremely water-dependent trees that thrive no matter where they are planted. Their thriving will be the evidence that they are fully supplied with the unending, ever-flowing water of His Holy Spirit who is within them!
There is yet another glorious result of being filled with His Holy Spirit! The LORD says, “This one will say, ‘I am the LORD’s,’ and that one will call on (literally, be called by) the name of Jacob (that is, He will call them His people).”
When you are filled, you cannot stop speaking about what you have seen and heard (Acts 4:20)! You will say, “I am the LORD’s, and if you repent, He will do in you what He has done in me!
Their allegiance with the LORD will be sure and solid, when they are filled, for the LORD says, “And another will write on (literally, with) His hand, ‘Belonging to the LORD,’ and will name Israel’s name (literally, by the name of Israel they shall be named) with honor.”
He will honor them, calling them His people — be they Jew or non-Jew — for He will pour His Spirit out for all who repent and return to Him! He says through the prophet Joel —
Joel 2:28 “It will come about after this, that I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; and your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. 29 Even on the male and female servants I will pour out My Spirit in those days.”
Verses 6-7 —
Isaiah continues to prophesy, “Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his (Israel’s) Redeemer, the LORD of hosts, ‘I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me.”
Who is the LORD of hosts? Jesus Christ, who says to the Apostle John —
Revelation 1:17 “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades.”
He is the Redeemer of Israel, for all of Israel who return to the LORD and believe into His Son. Remember that Jesus Christ is the kinsman redeemer, who redeems as His bride all repentant believers — Jew or non-Jew — who believe into Him.
Again, He challenges the false teachers and prophets and leaders, as in a court of law. The LORD of hosts asks, “Who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it; yes, let him recount it in order, from the time that I established the ancient nation (literally, the things of old), and let them (the false ones) declare to them (My people) the things that are coming, and the events that are going to take place.”
He mocks them, just as in Isaiah 41:21-23, for they cannot do such things. They do not hear from Him. The LORD says, through Jeremiah —
Jeremiah 23:21 “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. 22 But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.”
Verse 8 —
Again, He says to the repentant ones, “Do not tremble and do not be afraid. Have I not long since announced it to you and declared it?” He is the only One who, long before it happens, proclaims and announces and declares. He is the one who brought everything into being by His very words. It was He who created everything, and who knows the end from the beginning, before anything was (see Isaiah 40:21, 41:4, 41:26, and 46:10)!
For those who will be filled with His Spirit, He says, “And you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me, or is there any other Rock? I know of none.” Surely, Jesus Christ promised those who stayed and waited —
Acts 1:8 “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”
Such ones will know by experience that there is no other God besides Him. The water of His Holy Spirit has filled them, and God the Father and God the Son fully and permanently indwell them (John 14:23)! When He is in you, large and in charge, nothing will cause you to turn away from Him.
Verses 9-11 —
Now the LORD exposes the motives and foolishness of idolatry. Those who fashion a graven image (idol) are all of them futile (worthless things), and their precious things (things they delight in) are of no profit.
Their own witnesses — that is, those who proclaim their false gods are real — fail to see or know. They are blind and foolish. Therefore, they will be put to shame (as a result, they will be shamed by the LORD).
Who has fashioned a god or cast an idol to no profit? Ah! Here is the motive for those who create idols. They make money from them. Even today, the false god of self is fashioned by false teachers and preachers into an idol, as I have taught many times. And those who preach the god of self profit greatly from it. They have become rich by their false teaching and prophesying!
It is like the craftsmen in Ephesus —
Acts 19:24 For a man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, was bringing no little business to the craftsmen; 25 these he gathered together with the workmen of similar trades, and said, “Men, you know that our prosperity depends upon this business. 26 “You see and hear that not only in Ephesus, but in almost all of Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away a considerable number of people, saying that gods made with hands are no gods at all.
What will happen to those who fashion such idols, and teach others to worship them? They will be put to shame, for the craftsmen themselves are mere men. Isaiah says, Let them all assemble themselves, let them stand up, let them tremble, let them all together be put to shame.
Verses 12-17 —
Now, Isaiah gives us a picture of a foolish idolater —
— He shapes iron into a cutting tool and does his work over the coals,
beating it with hammers and working it with his strong arms.
— He also gets hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and becomes weary.
— He shapes wood, measures it, outlines it with red chalk, works it with planes, outlines it with a compass, and makes it like the form of a man, like the beauty of man, so that it may sit in a house (like a man). Such is the idol of self!
— Surely, he cuts cedars for himself, take a cypress or an oak, grows it for himself among the trees of the forest. He plants a fir tree, and the rain makes it grow.
— Then it becomes something for a man to burn, so he takes some of the wood to make a fire, and warms himself; he also makes a fire to bake bread, he also makes a god and worships it; he makes it a graven image and falls down before it.
— Half of it he burns in the fire, over this half he eats meat as he roasts a roast and is satisfied. He also warms himself and says, “Aha! I am warm, I have seen the fire.”
— But the rest of it (the part of the wood that he did not use to make a fire), he makes into a god, his graven image. He falls down before it and worships; he also prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god.”
But the idol to whom he prays is only wood! It is something he has made, by his own strength and ability! He has used it to provide fuel for a fire — warmth, and heat with which to cook his food! But he falls down and worships that which gives him instant gratification.
How can he worship that which he has made? He knows that it is merely wood. Yet he prays to it to deliver him. He calls it his god.
But it is the same today, with the god of self! Today’s believers worship man’s wisdom, man’s ways, and attempt to manipulate God for their own gratification. They worship the god of self. They are as foolish as the idolator Isaiah describes.
Verse 18 —
Idolaters do not know (they have no intimate knowledge of the LORD, as in a marriage). They do not understand (discern).
Why? The LORD has judged them. He Himself has smeared over their eyes, so they cannot see — He has spiritually blinded those who have chosen to become idolaters. He Himself has smeared over their hearts, so they cannot comprehend (have wisdom) that what they are doing is foolish and empty!
It is the same today, as I have described. The Lord is not surprised by the church’s idolatry. He knows what is in man (John 2:25), and knows that unless human hearts are changed by Him, they will worship the god of self.
Is there no cure for your idolatry of the god of self, O believer? There is surely a cure! Repent and return to the LORD, and ask your Father in heaven to fill you with His Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13).
Then your sin nature will be crucified (Galatians 5:24), thereby destroying the root of the god of self. And your heart will purified (Acts 15:9), so you will no longer disobey the Lord. I know it is true — He did it in me, in Jeff, and will do it for any who obey Jesus Christ’s command to stay and wait (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5)!
Verse 19-20 —
Now, in contrast, the Lord shows Isaiah the state of those who do not repent. No one recalls (returns to the starting point), nor is there knowledge (again, intimate knowledge of the LORD) or understanding (discernment) within them, that they would say, “I have burned half of it in the fire and also have baked bread over its coals. I roast meat and eat it. Then I make the rest of it into an abomination. I fall down before a block of wood!”
Such a one feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside. And he cannot deliver himself, nor say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” Such ones have chosen to be blinded by their sin, they have chosen to let their heart be deceived. They feed on that which cannot give them nourishment.
Verses 21-22 —
The LORD says to the repentant, “Remember what I have done, My people! You are My servant! I formed you; you are My servant.” You are the creature, not the Creator! He made you! And when you return to the LORD, He promises, “You will not be forgotten (removed) by Me.”
When you return to Him, He will say, “I have wiped out (erased) your transgressions which were like a thick cloud, and your sins which were like a heavy mist.” Your sin separated you from Him (Isaiah 59:1-2). But when you repent, He will redeem you (buy you back, make you His Son’s bride).
Verse 23 —
Therefore, Isaiah says, “Shout for joy, O heavens, for the LORD has done it! Shout joyfully, you lower parts of the earth! Break forth into a shout of joy, you mountains, O forest, and every tree in it!”
Let all the earth and all of the heavens shout for joy! Why? The LORD has redeemed His repentant ones! He has shown forth His glory (He has glorified Himself) by redeeming them!
Verses 24-25 —
The LORD, speaks again to His repentant ones. He is the one who redeemed them. He is the one formed them from the womb.
He says, “I, the LORD, am the maker of all things.” Idolators make their own idols. He made all things! He stretched out the heavens, He spread out the earth all by Himself.
And He is the one who still causes the omens of those who boast to fail (literally, He frustrates and defeats the ones who lie). It is a picture of His judgment on those who trust in witchcraft.
He makes fools out of diviners (soothsayers). The literal meaning here is much more powerful — He makes those who practice witchcraft go backwards, revealing their bare “bottoms.” Surely, they are made fools by Him, and their foolishness is revealed by Him!
Verses 26-27 —
In direct contrast, He confirms the word of His servant — His servants’ words come to pass, because they are His words, spoken through them. And He performs the purpose of His messengers — He reveals the goodness and soundness of the counsel and wisdom that He gives them.
The LORD says, “She (Jerusalem) shall be inhabited, and the cities of Judah will be rebuilt.” And the LORD says, “I will raise up (restore) her ruins.”
It will be just as when He said to the depth of the sea, “Be dried up” (as with the Red Sea crossing in Exodus 14:21-22) and made the rivers dry (as with the Jordan crossing in Joshua 3:17).
Verse 28 —
And wonder of wonders, it would be a pagan king whom the LORD calls by name, who the LORD will anoint to perform all His desire. And Cyrus will declare of Jerusalem, “She will be built,” and of the temple, “Your foundation will be laid.”
Cyrus was not yet born, when the LORD declared it. Therefore, some theologians who do not know the Lord and do not believe in prophecy say that such a thing is impossible, and conclude that this and other such verses must have been written by someone other than Isaiah. Shame on them!
Surely, Cyrus did just as the LORD had prophesied long before Cyrus was born —
2Chronicles 36:23 “Thus says Cyrus king of Persia, ‘The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has appointed me to build Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever there is among you of all His people, may the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up!’”
Jerusalem was burned to the ground, the temple was destroyed, and even the walls of the city were torn down by the Babylonians. As impossible as restoration appeared to be, the LORD kept His promise and restored Jerusalem and the temple! (See the books of Ezra and Nehemiah.)
He still rebuilds ruins! I was ruined by my rebellion against the Lord. I worshiped the god of self.
But when I repented and diligently sought to know Him, He rebuilt my physical ruins, healing me of the incurable disease called progressive multiple sclerosis! And when I asked Him fill me with His Holy Spirit, He rebuilt me spiritually! Now, I am His witness here! I praise Him for what He has done!
Beloved, now is your time to repent. Confess to the Lord that your god is yourself, and repent and return to the Lord. He will gladly rebuild your spiritual ruins by filling you with His Holy Spirit! Then you, too, will be His witness here!
Lord Jesus, may many in Your church see their idolatry and repent and return to You. Let it be so, I pray. Amen.