Friday, January 22, 2021

Isaiah 43 - A Tale of Two Jacobs

Isaiah 43 - A Tale of Two Jacobs

This chapter is a good place to remind ourselves that Isaiah is communicating a vision given to him by God (see the first verse in this book). Visions from God are not normal prophecy, filled with images related in word more than with plain speech. In this chapter, we read of Jacob in the first section and the last section, with the promise of restoration of Israel in the middle. I believe these two Jacobs are different, as the context in each segment reveals.

The KJV labels the first segment "The Lord Comforts the Church with His Promises." I think they nailed it.

Isaiah 43:1-2 (HCSB) Now this is what the LORD says— the One who created you, Jacob, and the One who formed you, Israel— “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine. I will be with you when you pass through the waters, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you. You will not be scorched when you walk through the fire, and the flame will not burn you.

God calls Jacob and Israel by name, indicating familiarity. This could refer to either Jacob and Israel of the flesh, or the children of promise represented by these names. The second verse would also be either, using figurative language of protection for children of the flesh or literal protection for children of promise. We who are children of the promise will be protected from the fire that will burn everything that is not in union with Christ.

Isaiah 43:3-7 (HCSB) For I Yahweh your God, the Holy One of Israel, and your Savior, give Egypt as a ransom for you, Cush and Seba in your place. Because you are precious in My sight and honored, and I love you, I will give people in exchange for you and nations instead of your life. Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your descendants from the east, and gather you from the west. I will say to the north: Give them up! and to the south: Do not hold them back! Bring My sons from far away, and My daughters from the ends of the earth—everyone called by My name and created for My glory. I have formed him; indeed, I have made him.”

YHWH is the only God, the Holy One of Israel - physical and spiritual - and the Savior of His people; providing temporal salvation from certain trails for fleshly people and eternal life for His spiritual people. YHWH gives Egypt, Cush, and Seba as ransoms for His people - this transaction is not recorded for the temporal nation of Israel, but all the nations of the earth will be judged as true Israel has been ransomed and redeemed from that wrath. He tells us "do not fear for I am with you" just as in Matt 5:36 Jesus told His followers "Do not fear, only believe." YHWH will bring His people from the four corners of the world; the restoration of national Israel after the Babylonian exile was not this expansive, but the gathering of the lost sheep is! All these sons and daughters have been called by His name - something we read about in Acts 15:14-18 (HCSB) Simeon has reported how God first intervened to take from the Gentiles a people for His name. And the words of the prophets agree with this, as it is written: After these things I will return and rebuild David’s fallen tent. I will rebuild its ruins and set it up again, so the rest of humanity may seek the Lord— even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, declares the Lord who does these things, known from long ago.

Here Peter reveals that the rebuilding of David's tent (referring to Jerusalem) is taking place as people from every nation, tribe, and tongue - all four corners of the planet - are called by His name and brought into the His glorious kingdom of light.

This is why I agree with the KJV section title - Spiritual Jacob is in sight in this section. The next two verses support this view.

Isaiah 43:8-9 (HCSB) Bring out a people who are blind, yet have eyes, and are deaf, yet have ears. All the nations are gathered together, and the peoples are assembled. Who among them can declare this, and tell us the former things? Let them present their witnesses to vindicate themselves, so that people may hear and say, “It is true.”

Blind that see, deaf that hear - these are those Jesus brings into the sheepfold of God. We can declare the salvation of the Lord and the wickedness of who we used to be; we will be witnesses to the manifold mercy of God in Christ and other saints will hear and say, "It is true!" Again - the blind seeing is a mark of the Messiah having come into the world, as Jesus testified to the disciples of John the Baptist.

Isaiah 43:10-13 (HCSB) “You are My witnesses”— this is the LORD’s declaration— “and My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. No god was formed before Me, and there will be none after Me. I, I am Yahweh, and there is no other Savior but Me. I alone declared, saved, and proclaimed— and not some foreign god among you. So you are My witnesses”— this is the LORD’s declaration— “and I am God. Also, from today on I am He alone, and none can deliver from My hand. I act, and who can reverse it?”

The redeemed are His witnesses, we are called to be so unto the ends of the earth, until the last sheep is brought home. He has chosen us so we would know Him and believe on Him. Then God tells us things about Him that unbelievers cannot understand: " I, I am Yahweh, and there is no other Savior but Me. I alone declared, saved, and proclaimed— and not some foreign god among you. So you are My witnesses." Verse 10 begins by declaring we are His witnesses and He wraps it up, after declaring Who He is, declaring we are His witnesses. To those who think the God of the Bible is like their gods, He will have none of it! There is none like Him! To those think Christianity is a "private religion" - Christ would have you know that He is God and ALL of His ransomed people ARE His witnesses!

The last verse in this segment is not well interpreted in the HCSB. Quite frankly, I could not make sense of the first part of it at all. I think the KJV is the most clear: "Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?" It's not that God STARTED being God "today" - before day was created, God is.  Fear not, only believe, for none can deliver anything or anyone from His hand and when He acts, no one can reverse it (I don't get the KJV - "who shall let it?" Here's what one KJV advocate says about it: This is one of the classic “archaisms” of the King James Version, where the English word “let” does not mean “allow” (as we now use the word) but almost the exact opposite. This particular English word was originally written and pronounced “lat” and was from the same Teutonic root as the word “late.” Thus, to our Old English ancestors, it meant essentially “make late,” or “hinder.”).

The middle section describes how YHWH will deliver rebellious Israel. Isaiah 43:14-15 (HCSB) This is what the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel says: Because of you, I will send to Babylon and bring all of them as fugitives, even the Chaldeans in the ships in which they rejoice. I am Yahweh, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.

Isaiah tells Israel how things will move forward. This deliverance contains some temporal aspects - as the judgment on Babylon and Chaldea, even though Babylon is frequently used to portray the system of world. YHWH describes Himself as the Creator and King of Israel, leading me to think He is addressing national Israel in these verses. He created that nation as a people unto Himself and set Himself up as their King - until they clamored for a human king like the pagan nations around them.

Isaiah 43:16-21 (HCSB) This is what the LORD says— who makes a way in the sea, and a path through surging waters, who brings out the chariot and horse, the army and the mighty one together (they lie down, they do not rise again; they are extinguished, quenched like a wick)—“Do not remember the past events, pay no attention to things of old. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert. The animals of the field will honor Me, jackals and ostriches, because I provide water in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert, to give drink to My chosen people. The people I formed for Myself will declare My praise.

And here we see YHWH changing the scope of His deliverance, making a way in the sea that will destroy all how oppose Him, reminding all of the destruction of the Egyptian army. He tells Israel not to remember the past events, the old way for He is about to do something new. And here we have it - the peace with nature He describes is a picture of the new earth; not something that can happen on this earth which is racked with sin. God provides living water for His chosen people these will declare His praise! All who are given life in Christ are made new creations - this is the something new He mentioned. Another clue that this deliverance is spiritual.

In the last segment of this chapter, our attention is drawn to the second Jacob, Israel of the flesh. Isaiah 43:22-24 (HCSB) “But Jacob, you have not called on Me, because, Israel, you have become weary of Me. You have not brought Me your sheep for burnt offerings or honored Me with your sacrifices. I have not burdened you with offerings or wearied you with incense. You have not bought Me aromatic cane with silver, or satisfied Me with the fat of your sacrifices. But you have burdened Me with your sins; you have wearied Me with your iniquities."

Here we read the same complaints against the nation that prophet after prophet lamented over. Isaiah warned them about the abject failure of rote religion earlier in this book (chapter 29), but the nation was fleshly and this is the way of all flesh. They did not bring as offerings their best, but they brought what they wouldn't miss. None of this religious practice was acceptable to God they were BURDENSOME and WEARISOME to Him. Dear reader - do you ever consider or wonder if your worship is pleasing to God or not? It is a fearful thing to bring to him worship that burdensome and wearisome.

Isaiah 43:25-28 (HCSB) “It is I who sweep away your transgressions for My own sake and remember your sins no more. Take Me to court; let us argue our case together. State your case, so that you may be vindicated. Your first father sinned, and your mediators have rebelled against Me. So I defiled the officers of the sanctuary, and set Jacob apart for destruction and Israel for abuse.

Here we see that forgiveness of sin is for the glory of God, not primarily for our benefit. We do not comprehend His holiness if we think our redemption is first for ourselves. To sweep away transgressions by pouring out His wrath on His Son is demonstrating the enormity of our sin as rebellion against God. His name and His glory must be maintained and that is a higher priority than our salvation.

We return the court room, where Jacob is told to take God to court! He is state his case so he might be vindicated. His trouble is compound - his first father (likely the first Jacob, later named Israel) sinned (it was his nature) and all the priests that served over the years rebelled against God - who can stand? Jacob's case fails, God put down (defiled) the priests and set the two kingdoms apart for destruction.

No escape from the justice of God's court room. God is able to raise up from rocks sons who will worship Him. Let no one put confidence in the flesh - your parents nor your family history can anything to help you. National Israel did not learn this lesson that the kingdom of God was taken from them and given to a nation bearing fruit. Those who believe in Christ are children of Abraham according to promise. Are you in that nation? 

Thursday, January 21, 2021

How then, shall we live? A look at the ancient saints' lives. Truly in but not of the world.

From chapter 2, volume 1 of John T. Christian's "History of the Baptists." Good encouragement for us in all times. Maybe more so in our current circumstance. If we be in Christ, He is our comfort and fellow saints are given to one another to encourage and care for each other.

A most beautiful and pathetic picture is given by the author of the Epistola ad Diognetum in the early part of the second century. He says:

The Christians are not distinguished from other men by country, by language, nor by civil institutions. For they neither dwell in cities by themselves, nor use a peculiar tongue, nor lead a singular mode of life. They dwell in the Grecian or barbarian cities, as the case may be; they follow the usages of the country in dress, food, and the other affairs of life. Yet they present a wonderful and confessedly paradoxical conduct. They dwell in their own native lands, but as strangers. They take part in all things, as citizens; and they suffer all things, as foreigners. Every foreign country is a fatherland to them, and every native land is a foreign. They marry, like all others; they have children; but they do not cast away their offsprings. They have the table in common, but not wives. They are in the flesh, but do not live after the flesh. They live upon the earth, but are citizens of heaven. They obey the existing laws, and excel the laws by their lives. They love all, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown, and yet they are condemned. They are killed and made alive. They are poor and make many rich. They lack all things, and in all things abound. They are reproached, and glory in their reproaches. They are calumniated, and are justified. They are cursed, and they bless. They receive scorn, and they give honor. They do good, and are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice, as being made alive. By the Jews they are attacked as aliens, and by the Greeks persecuted; and the cause of the enmity their enemies cannot tell. In short, what the soul is to the body, the Christians are in the world. The soul is diffused through all the members of the body, and the Christians are spread through the cities of the world. The soul dwells in the body, but it is not of the body; so the Christians dwell in the world, but are not of the world.

The soul, invisible, keeps watch in the visible body; so also the Christians are seen to live in the world, for their piety is invisible. The flesh hates and wars against the soul; suffering no wrong from it, but because it resists fleshly pleasures; and the world hates the Christians with no reason, but they resist its pleasures. The soul loves the flesh and members, by which it is hated; so the Christians love their haters. The soul is enclosed in the body but holds the body together; so the Christians are detained in the world as in a prison; but they contain the world. Immortal, the soul dwells in the mortal body; so the Christians dwell in the corruptible, but look for incorruption in heaven. The soul is the better for restriction in food and drink; and the Christians increase, though daily punished. This lot God has assigned to the Christians in the world; and it cannot be taken from them (Epist. Ad Diognetum, C. 5 and 6 p.69 sq. Otto. Lips., 1852).

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Isaiah 42 - A Tale of Two Servants.

This chapter continues with the theme of the preceding one - showing the provision of redemption in the Promised One, how He is to be praised by His people; and showing the depravity of man and his desperate need of redemption.

Isaiah 42:1-4 (HCSB) “This is My Servant; I strengthen Him, this is My Chosen One; I delight in Him. I have put My Spirit on Him; He will bring justice to the nations. He will not cry out or shout or make His voice heard in the streets. He will not break a bruised reed, and He will not put out a smoldering wick; He will faithfully bring justice. He will not grow weak or be discouraged until He has established justice on earth. The islands will wait for His instruction.”

We need to see a few things here: This Servant is the Chosen One of God, the One in Who God delights. Six times we read of what this Servant WILL DO, not try to do, not fail to do. He will bring justice to the nations; not open His mouth in His own defense; not break a bruised reed; will establish justice on the earth. Also, the Spirit of God has put on Him - just as the dove settled on Christ when He was baptized.

Some theologians say God speaks of national Israel here, but every sentence in this paragraph reveals that which is assigned to the Christ and which no mortal man or group of men can do. The next paragraph continues this description; again, a quote from God the Father.

Isaiah 42:5-9 (HCSB) This is what God, Yahweh, says— who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread out the earth and what comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it and life to those who walk on it— “I, Yahweh, have called You for a righteous purpose, and I will hold You by Your hand. I will keep You and appoint You to be a covenant for the people and a light to the nations, in order to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon, and those sitting in darkness from the prison house. I am Yahweh, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another or My praise to idols. The past events have indeed happened. Now I declare new events; I announce them to you before they occur.”

As if the people had forgotten who He is, YWHW reminds them He is the Creator, the One who gives life and breath to those who dwell on earth. About this Servant from the first 4 verses, YHWH says He was called for a righteous purpose and will be kept - the serpent will not gain victory! This Servant will be a covenant for the people, a light to the nations; He will give sight to the blind and free the prisoners. This is the work of the Messiah, not the Hebrew nation! These are things said about Him in the gospel accounts! John describes Jesus as the light that came into the world; Jesus told John the Baptist's disciples, when asked whether He was the Christ, to tell John that the blind were given sight along with other healings. Jesus cut the New Covenant with His blood - He is the covenant of redemption for His people. Those who were blind to the light of truth were given sight to see Him!

And the Father will not give His glory to another - He shares it with and gains it from the faithful Servant! No idols or deaf and mute gods can share in this. God declares what WILL happen - as He did in verses 1 - 4; He announces what will be, whereas man cannot even boast that he will have life when the sun comes up.

All of this talk from God about Himself and what His Servant WILL DO give the people of Israel every reason to praise Him.

Isaiah 42:10-13 (HCSB) Sing a new song to the LORD; sing His praise from the ends of the earth, you who go down to the sea with all that fills it, you islands with your inhabitants. Let the desert and its cities shout, the settlements where Kedar dwells cry aloud. Let the inhabitants of Sela sing for joy; let them cry out from the mountaintops. Let them give glory to the LORD and declare His praise in the islands. The LORD advances like a warrior; He stirs up His zeal like a soldier. He shouts, He roars aloud, He prevails over His enemies.

People are said to "sing a new song" in Isaiah, Psalms, and Revelation. Nearly all these are songs about YHWH as the victorious warrior. Most of this paragraph calls out to everyone, from deserts to islands to mountains - let everyone sing for joy and give Him glory and praise! BECAUSE YHWH is a warrior Who roars loudly and, with zeal, He prevails over His enemies. Note this: even in this song, God is praised for being victorious over His enemies, not Israel's enemies. All of history is about God just as all of Scripture is about His faithful Servant.

Isaiah 42:14-17 (HCSB) “I have kept silent from ages past; I have been quiet and restrained Myself. But now, I will groan like a woman in labor, gasping breathlessly. I will lay waste mountains and hills and dry up all their vegetation. I will turn rivers into islands and dry up marshes. I will lead the blind by a way they did not know; I will guide them on paths they have not known. I will turn darkness to light in front of them and rough places into level ground. This is what I will do for them, and I will not forsake them. They will be turned back and utterly ashamed those who trust in idols and say to metal-plated images: You are our gods!

God answers them. He has been quiet in the past, only revealing Himself to a few. He restrained Himself so national Israel would not be consumed before the fullness of time. BUT NOW, He says, there will be noise of labor and He will judge the earth - laying waste the mountains and countryside. And He will lead the blind, turn their darkness to light; make their path straight and level. This echoes what the Servant WILL DO in the first part of this chapter, tying together God the Father with His faithful Servant. There is a remnant not forsaken as He judges the world. But those who trust in the work of their hands will turn back from Him in shame. "And because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God delivered them over to a worthless mind to do what is morally wrong. They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful. Although they know full well God’s just sentence—that those who practice such things deserve to die—they not only do them, but even applaud others who practice them." (Romans 1:28-32)

God then turns His attention directly on the nation of Israel, addressing the unfaithful servant.

Isaiah 42:18-20 (HCSB) “Listen, you deaf! Look, you blind, so that you may see. Who is blind but My servant, or deaf like My messenger I am sending? Who is blind like My dedicated one, or blind like the servant of the LORD? Though seeing many things, you do not obey. Though his ears are open, he does not listen.”

These are the people Isaiah was sent to prophecy to; recall from chapter 6:  "Go! Say to these people: Keep listening, but do not understand; keep looking, but do not perceive. Dull the minds of these people; deafen their ears and blind their eyes; otherwise they might see with their eyes and hear with their ears, understand with their minds, turn back, and be healed." Though He had called them out of the dust of humanity to be His covenant people, they were blind, deaf, disobedient; unable to see or hear the truth told to them.

Isaiah 42:21 (HCSB) The LORD was pleased, because of His righteousness, to magnify His instruction and make it glorious.

We might wonder why God's prophets were told to do things that were rejected by people; we might wonder why we should proclaim the gospel when so many will not hear it. Here we see why: God is pleased to make His instructions known - write it large so all can see! - because His instructions are glorious and He is righteous. This ought to be reason enough for us, ya think? I pray it is for me.

Isaiah 42:22-25 (HCSB) But this is a people plundered and looted, all of them trapped in holes or imprisoned in dungeons. They have become plunder with no one to rescue them and loot, with no one saying, Give it back! Who among you will pay attention to this? Let him listen and obey in the future. Who gave Jacob tones the robber, and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not the LORD? Have we not sinned against Him? They were not willing to walk in His ways, and they would not listen to His instruction. So He poured out on Jacob His furious anger and the power of war. It surrounded him with fire, but he did not know it; it burned him, but he paid no attention.

But this people - those led into the promised land by Joshua and Caleb - were plundered and looted with no one to rescue them. Was there any among them that would learn a lesson, to do better next time? Because ethnic Israel was unfaithful as God's servant, they would not listen to His glorious teaching; He gave them over to be plundered. By way of Assyria and Babylon, YWHW poured out His fury and power on Jacob/Israel - but he paid no attention. There was no repentance among most of Israel, merely a longing to have comfort and safety again.

Brothers and sisters - this world is not our home and while we are to be thankful for comfort and safety, these cannot be our first priority. We must seek diligently to listen to God, study His Word, walk as obedient children in this wicked world - for His glory! For if we are His, we display His righteousness to the world as we do so.

Monday, January 18, 2021

Isaiah 41 - The Holy One of Israel Reigns!

Chapter 40 began a renewed focus on the glory of God as He reveals Himself to His people. Chapter 41 continues, with a triumphant proclamation of YHWH's power and glory in the judgment of the nations.

Isaiah 41:1 (HCSB) “Be silent before Me, islands! And let peoples renew their strength. Let them approach, then let them testify; let us come together for the trial."

We see in the first verse the setting for this passage: it's a courtroom, where someone will be on trial and someone else will be the Judge. The One before Whom all people are to be silent is the Judge.

Isaiah 41:2-4 (HCSB) "Who has stirred him up from the east? He calls righteousness to his feet. The LORD hands nations over to him, and he subdues kings. He makes them like dust with his sword, like wind-driven stubble with his bow. He pursues them, going on safely, hardly touching the path with his feet. Who has performed and done this, calling the generations from the beginning? I, Yahweh, am the first, and with the lastI am He.”

Another person has entered the scene - has been stirred up from the east, who calls righteousness to his feet. YHWH hands nations over to him and He subdues kings, makes then like dust, drives them as stubble. He is hardly touched by the creation, calling generations into being. This is YHWH, the Alpha and Omega - God the Son!

Isaiah 41:5-7 (HCSB) The islands see and are afraid, the whole earth trembles. They approach and arrive. Each one helps the other, and says to another, “Take courage!” The craftsman encourages the metalworker; the one who flattens with the hammer supports the one who strikes the anvil, saying of the soldering, It is good. He fastens it with nails so that it will not fall over.

The earth and all her peoples tremble at the sight of the Son. They try to encourage (give courage to) one another as they build their idols. Man loves to admire the work of his hands. God warned the infant Hebrew nation not to put their tools on the rocks of the altar they were building because they would pollute the altar (Exodus 20:25). There is only One who does not pollute what He touches; mankind is by nature full of sin and unable to do anything good. Making dumb gods is the height of man's rebellion as he shamelessly declares his allegiance to the work of his hands.

Isaiah 41:8-10 (HCSB) But you, Israel, My servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, descendant of Abraham, My friend—I brought you from the ends of the earth and called you from its farthest corners. I said to you: You are My servant; I have chosen you and not rejected you. Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with My righteous right hand.

In stark contrast to the people of the world, Israel - the servant of Jacob, the chosen One, descended from Abraham, the friend of God - has been brought from the ends of the earth. I ask you, dear reader: who does the Bible describe in these terms, who is this Israel? Jacob was later named Israel, foreshadowing the true Israel of God, the Lord Jesus Christ! His servants are the saints. 1 Corinthians 4:1-2 (HCSB) "A person should consider us in this way: as servants of Christ and managers of God’s mysteries. In this regard, it is expected of managers that each one of them be found faithful." These are the true descendants of Abraham. Galatians 3:29 (HCSB) "And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, heirs according to the promise." The saints are His friends. John 15:15 (HCSB) "I do not call you slaves anymore, because a slave doesn’t know what his master is doing. I have called you friends, because I have made known to you everything I have heard from My Father." And these are called from the four corners of the earth. Revelation 5:9 (HCSB) "And they sang a new song: You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because You were slaughtered, and You redeemed people for God by Your blood from every tribe and language and people and nation."

Dear brothers and sisters - all we have that is worthwhile is because we have been redeemed by and united to Christ! God set His affection on people and done EVERYTHING necessary to bring them to Himself.

Isaiah 41:11-14 (HCSB) Be sure that all who are enraged against you will be ashamed and disgraced; those who contend with you will become as nothing and will perish. You will look for those who contend with you, but you will not find them. Those who war against you will become absolutely nothing. For I, Yahweh your God, hold your right hand and say to you: Do not fear, I will help you. Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you men of Israel: I will help you— this is the LORDs declaration. Your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.

God continues to encourage (give courage to) His people, assuring us that all who rage against us will come to nothing and perish.  YHWH holds His people, He brings help to His own - though we are but worms. No mortal can withstand Him! This is the Lord's doing and it is marvelous in our eyes!

Isaiah 41:15-16 (HCSB) See, I will make you into a sharp threshing board, new, with many teeth. You will thresh mountains and pulverize them and make hills into chaff. You will winnow them and a wind will carry them away, a gale will scatter them. But you will rejoice in the LORD; you will boast in the Holy One of Israel.

A threshing board was a heavy wooden sledge with stones or iron teeth on the bottom side. It was dragged across sheaves of wheat to separate grain from chaff, winnowing the wheat. John declared that Jesus had His winnowing fork in His hand as he told the self-righteous Jews that they could not rest on their fleshly connection to Abraham. Those who are shown to be grain and not chaff will rejoice in YHWH and boast in the Holy One of Israel - the redeemer and advocate of all who believe.

Verses 17-20 continue the revelation of God's tender care for His own, is word pictures drawn from national Israel's history. All of this to be done "so that all may see and know, consider and understand, that the hand of the LORD has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it." (41:20) 

The scene changes in verse 21, as court (alluded to in verse 1) is now in session. Isaiah 41:21 (HCSB) “Submit your case,” says the LORD. “Present your arguments,” says Jacob’s King.

These people summoned are asked to testify in verses 22 & 23; judgment is rendered Isaiah 41:24 (HCSB) Look, you are nothing and your work is worthless. Anyone who chooses you is detestable.

Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing. These people who have not been redeemed are nothing, their work is worthless, their associates are detestable.

Another stark contrast as God declares, Isaiah 41:25 (HCSB) “I have raised up one from the north, and he has come, one from the east who invokes My name. He will march over rulers as if they were mud, like a potter who treads the clay." This One who is raised up and invokes YHWH's name will march over kings as though they are mud, as a potter with his clay. Anybody else think of the potter mentioned in Romans 9? This idea of God who makes vessels from dirt or clay is replete in Scripture, always showing Him as the One who forms what He wants. His associates are vessels for honor, made as such by His hands. Jesus will rule the nations with a rod of iron as He judges the world.

Isaiah 41:26-29 (HCSB) Who told about this from the beginning, so that we might know, and from times past, so that we might say: He is right? No one announced it, no one told it, no one heard your words. I was the first to say to Zion: Look! Here they are! And I gave a herald of good news to Jerusalem. When I look, there is no one; there is no counselor among them; when I ask them, they have nothing to say. Look, all of them are a delusion; their works are nonexistent; their images are wind and emptiness.

Our chapter comes to an end with another passage reminiscent of the last few chapters of Job, as the people of the world are asked if they knew about these things from the beginning. But no one told of it, none had heard it. YHWH was the One to give good news to Jerusalem from Zion. But He looked and found no wise men among them; these people can say nothing in their defense when He queries them. They are in a delusion; their works are nothing; the idols are like the wind and empty.

Futility is the hallmark of natural man. Again - if you are not in Christ you are empty and driven before the wind; deluded and worthless. Behold the Lord Jesus - He is the good news, God become man to save sinners! Look unto Him and be saved - there is no other!