Text: Isaiah 41
If I were going to give today’s teaching a title, it would be, “Let Us Come Together For Judgment.” In this chapter, the LORD encourages His people who have repented in this passage, and judges the false prophets and false gods among His people.
Why do I say His encouragement is for the repentant? Because of Isaiah 40:27-31, a picture of His people who rebel, and His people who repent. So, if you are rebelling against the LORD, O believer, do not claim any of the promises of God for yourself, but repent!
Verse 1 —
Through Isaiah, the LORD commands the coastlands (islands, a reference to the Gentiles/non-Jews) to be silent. And He commands not only His people (in Isaiah 40:31), but Gentiles to gain new strength. If they repent and believe into Him, they will become His adopted sons and daughters.
This is a clear picture of the ingathering of non-Jews, which happened in the Book of Acts and is still happening today. Jesus Christ came to save from God’s wrath whoever will believe into and obey Him, be they Jew or Gentile, and to reconcile them to the one true God.
There is no “let” in these next lines of Verse 1. He commands them to come forward, to speak, and to come together with Him for judgment. He judges those who do good, with a positive judgment that results in eternal life, and those who do evil with a negative judgment that results in condemnation (see John 5:27-29).
Verses 2-3 —
The LORD now speaks through Isaiah concerning Cyrus, king of Persia, who has not yet been born, but 150 years from the date of this prophecy will issue a decree. In it, all Jews who want to return from captivity in Babylon to Jerusalem will be free to go. It is a matter of history, and is recorded on the cylinder of Cyrus, and in the Word of God —
2Chronicles 36:22 Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia — in order to fulfill the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah — the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, so that he sent a proclamation throughout his kingdom, and also put it in writing, saying, 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!’”
Remember that the Medo-Persians overthrew Babylon. So, the people of Judah who were in captivity were now under Persian rule — thus, the reference to the east.
The LORD (not Cyrus’ god, Marduk) stirred Cyrus to let the captives return to Jerusalem. He called Him in righteousness, to fulfill His promise to His people that they would return after 70 years of captivity (Jeremiah 25:11-12, 29:10). The LORD called Cyrus to His feet, a position of servanthood.
NOTE: This prophecy was fulfilled by Cyrus, and is also a prophecy fulfilled when the Father sent His Son, Jesus Christ, as the promised Messiah, the faithful Servant we will see in coming chapters. For all who believe into Him and obey Him, Jesus Christ will bring them into the true Promised Land of the kingdom of heaven!
Here and now, He will establish His kingdom in believers’ hearts, when they cry out to their Father in heaven to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13). And when they go to be with Him, they will forever dwell with God the Father and God the Son and God the Holy Spirit in the kingdom of heaven.
So just according to the LORD’s plan and promise Cyrus delivered up nations before him, and subdued kings. He made them like dust with his sword, as the wind-driven chaff with his bow. He pursued them, passing on in safety, by a way he had not been traversing with his feet. It was the same with Jesus Christ, who defeated Satan by way of the cross (Colossians 2:15)! And in the end, He will judge all people (John 5:28-29, Revelation 19:1 and forward).
Hallelujah! We serve a God who knows everything, plans everything, and keeps His promises, if we repent and believe and obey His commands. And do not be deceived. It is impossible to obey until you are filled with His Spirit, as He commands (Luke 24:49, Acts 1:4-5).
Verse 4 —
The LORD asks, “Who has performed and accomplished it, calling forth the generations from the beginning? I, the LORD, am the first, and with the last. I am He.”
Indeed, Jesus Christ is the First and the Last —
Revelation 1:17 When I saw Him, I fell at His feet like a dead man. And He placed His right hand on me, saying, “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.”
Revelation 22:13 “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
Jesus Christ and God the Father have eternally existed. So, before anything was, God had already planned to call forth Cyrus’ generation for the fulfillment of His promise to return His repentant people to the land. Do you see it? The LORD knew Cyrus’ name, 220 years before Cyrus was to release His people!
He called forth the generations that led to the natural birth of Jesus Christ. He called forth you! He called forth me, for such a time as this! He already knew that, though I was far from Him and mocked Him for over forty years, I would turn to Him and repent, be saved and be filled, and become His messenger!
Who is in charge of history? The Lord, who sits above time and knows the end, from the beginning! I stand in awe of Him!
Verses 5-7 —
As for the Gentiles who reject Him, they have seen and are afraid. They have seen the work of the LORD, to restore His people. Even to the ends of the earth, everyone trembles at what they have seen.
They draw near and come for judgment, per Verse 1. They have no choice.
Each one encourages his neighbor, saying, “Be strong!” How do they strengthen themselves? By making more idols, and worshiping them! It is just as true today, except that in today’s church and among today’s believers, the idol they make and worship is the idol of self.
How foolish to trust in something made by man, how foolish to trust in man’s wisdom and man’s ways, and how foolish to trust in the world system that defies God! But believers do so, and their false leaders, false teachers, false preachers and false prophets encourage them to worship themselves!
I tell you the truth, just as I did in the last teaching of Isaiah 40:19-20, nothing made by man is built on a solid foundation. It will totter and fall, no matter how carefully it is built by man, and no matter how strong their structure. It was not built by the Lord, so it will surely fall!
Verses 8-10 —
But for His repentant people, He will save them! He chose them, by way of Abraham, who He still calls His friend, for Abraham is now with Him —
James 2:23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend.
And you, too, O believer, are the offspring of Abraham, by faith in Jesus Christ —
Romans 4:16 For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham (that is, those who have faith in the Lord) . . .
Verses 11-14 —
When believers repent, and when Israel no longer rejects their Messiah, Jesus Christ, all who are angered at us will be shamed and dishonored. Those who contend with us will be as nothing and will perish. We will seek but not find those who quarrel with us. Those who war with us will be as nothing and non-existent.
Why? Because He is the God of the repentant — the LORD your God who upholds your right hand, who says to you, “Do not fear, I will help you. Do not fear, you worm (in comparison to His majesty), you men (humankind), I will help you, and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.”
Verses 15-16 —
When believers repent, and when Israel no longer rejects their Messiah, the LORD makes us new, sharp threshing sledges, with double edges. We will thresh those who are prideful and boast of their greatness (mountains and hills). We will pulverize the mountains, and make the hills like chaff.
We will winnow them, and the wind will carry them away, for they are chaff, which is useless. It is not in our power that we will do this, but in His power. His wind — His breath — will carry them away. The storm — His storm — will scatter them. But we who have repented will rejoice in the LORD, and will glory in the Holy One of Israel! We will boast in Him, and shine for Him!
Verse 17 —
Afflicted and needy believers (those who hunger and thirst for righteousness) are seeking water, for they know they have none. Their tongue is parched with thirst for the living water with which Jesus Christ will fill them —
John 4:14 “ . . . but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well (literally, gushing fountain) of water springing up to eternal life.”
John 7:37 Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. 38 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 But this He spoke of the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.
The LORD Himself will answer those who believe in Him. Because HE is their God, He will not forsake them (leave them destitute)!
Verses 18-20 —
The LORD will open rivers of living water on the bare heights, and springs in the midst of those who have humbly thirsted and hungered. Those whose hearts were a wilderness will be like a pool of water, and those who were spiritually dry will be like fountains of water, just as He promised in John 4:14 above!
The LORD will put trees that must be well-watered— cedars, acacias, myrtles, olive trees, junipers, box trees, and cypress — in the wilderness. He will place you, O believer who hungered and thirsted and were filled with His Holy Spirit, in the wilderness of this world, and you will thrive.
The Lord will make you thrive, even under the most difficult circumstances. He will do it so that everyone around you will see and recognize and consider and gain insight as well! What does He mean by insight? They will fully understand that the hand of the LORD has done it, and the Holy One of Israel has created something miraculous — a human being filled with His living water, to the point where it gushes forth from them, and to the point that they remain well-watered even in the midst of the utter dryness of much of today’s church, and of the world!
Verses 21-24 —
Now the LORD turns to the false leaders, priests, and prophets who led Israel astray into idolatry. The scene is a courtroom, and they are on trial. The LORD mocks them and those who follow them, for they do not speak the truth, and know nothing.
The King of Jacob (Israel) says, Present your case, bring forward your strong (arguments, Hebrew-to-English). Let them (the false prophets) bring forth and declare to Us (the Father, the Son and the Spirit) what is going to take place.
As for the first things, the beginning, declare what they were, that We may consider them and know their outcome, or announce to Us what is coming. They cannot, for only the one true God declares the end from the beginning —
Isaiah 46:9 “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure . . .’”
Again, He mocks their false gods, “Declare the things that are going to come afterward, that We may know that you are gods. Indeed, do good or evil, that We may anxiously look about Us and fear together.”
And He says, “Behold, you are of no account, and your work amounts to nothing. He who chooses you is an abomination.” Have you chosen the false god of self? Then repent, for it is a false god, it is nothing, and by worshiping it, you have become an abomination to the Lord!
Verse 25 —
The LORD says, “I have aroused one (Cyrus) from the north, and he has come, from the rising of the sun he will call on My name . . .” The sun rises in the east, but here he says Cyrus will from the north.
The Expositors Bible Commentary explains that north and east are combined in Verse 25. Why? From Israel’s location and their point of view, Cyrus originated in the east, in Persia, and carried out major conquests to the north of Israel.
The LORD will cause Cyrus to be victorious. King Cyrus will come upon rulers as upon mortar, even as the potter treads clay. He will, 220 years hence, overrun and trample Israel’s enemy, Babylon. And it is true of Jesus Christ, who has conquered Satan! And at the end of things, He will return as a warrior and a judge, as I have shown you from Revelation 19:1 and forward!
Verse 26 —
The LORD now taunts the false prophets to prophesy to the Godhead. Therefore, I capitalize “We” and “Us” in the next few verses.
He asks the false prophets, “Who has declared this from the beginning, that We might know or from former times, that We may say, “He is right!” Surely there was no one who declared, or proclaimed or heard your words, O false prophets of Isaiah’s time, and false prophets of today!
Verse 27 —
The LORD formerly said, “Behold, here they are.” This is a poor translation, from my NAS Bible. The KJV translates more accurately, “The First (Verse 4b) shall say to Zion, Behold! Behold them!” And the First said to Jerusalem, “I will give a messenger of good news.”
He spoke of John the Baptist, and of Jesus Christ, and of those who are filled with His Spirit and working in His fields which are ready for harvest today!
Verses 28-29 —
The LORD says, “But when I look, there is no one, and there is no counselor among them who, if I ask, can give an answer. Behold, all of them are false; their works are worthless, their molten images are wind and emptiness.”
None of the false prophets can answer His questions, nor can those who are their followers. No one prophesies truth, and those who follow false prophets are following lies. Who are you following, beloved?
It was the same when Jesus Christ walked the earth. The Jewish leaders, priests, rabbis, and even the Sanhedrin, who should have recognized their Messiah, rejected Him. It was not a surprise to the LORD. He later says of His Christ, through His prophet Isaiah —
Isaiah 53:2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him,
nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. 3 He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
The Jews, during Jesus’ earthly ministry were false teachers. And Jesus Christ exposed their hypocrisy and falsehood before the crowds in Jerusalem —
Matthew 23:13 “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.”
Matthew 23:15 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel around on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.”
And He says —
Matthew 23:27 “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
They were false ones, and there are many such false ones in today’s church. But sadly, most believers have no discernment to see that they are false. That is why, in today’s church, many are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, like the believers at Laodicea (see Revelation 3:17).
But beloved, if you will repent, if you will return to the LORD, He will receive you back, and you will live in His victory over Satan, delivered from your sin nature, and made a super-conqueror (John 8:31-36, Galatians 5:24, and Romans 8:37)!
Hear and heed these words that the Lord has given me to speak today. Lord Jesus, let it be so, I pray. Amen.