Reflections on Scripture

by Wayne Bandy

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Scripture Passage

      Isaiah - Chapter 41 (Contemporary English Version)
    1. Be silent and listen, every island in the sea. Have courage and come near, every one of you nations. Let's settle this matter!
    2. Who appointed this ruler from the east? Who puts nations and kings in his power? His sword and his arrows turn them to dust blown by the wind.
    3. He goes after them so quickly that his feet barely touch the ground-- he doesn't even get hurt.
    4. Who makes these things happen? Who controls human events? I do! I am the LORD. I was there at the beginning; I will be there at the end.
    5. Islands and foreign nations saw what I did and trembled as they came near.
    6. Worshipers of idols comfort each other, saying, "Don't worry!"
    7. Woodcarvers, goldsmiths, and other workers encourage one another and say, "We've done a great job!" Then they nail the idol down, so it won't fall over.
    8. Israel, you are my servant. I chose you, the family of my friend Abraham.
    9. From far across the earth I brought you here and said, "You are my chosen servant. I haven't forgotten you."
    10. Don't be afraid. I am with you. Don't tremble with fear. I am your God. I will make you strong, as I protect you with my arm and give you victories.
    11. Everyone who hates you will be terribly disgraced; those who attack will vanish into thin air.
    12. You will look around for those brutal enemies, but you won't find them because they will be gone.
    13. I am the LORD your God. I am holding your hand, so don't be afraid. I am here to help you.
    14. People of Israel, don't worry, though others may say, "Israel is only a worm!" I am the holy God of Israel, who saves and protects you.
    15. I will let you be like a log covered with sharp spikes. You will grind and crush every mountain and hill until they turn to dust.
    16. A strong wind will scatter them in all directions. Then you will celebrate and praise me, your LORD, the holy God of Israel.
    17. When the poor and needy are dying of thirst and cannot find water, I, the LORD God of Israel, will come to their rescue. I won't forget them.
    18. I will make rivers flow on mountain peaks. I will send streams to fill the valleys. Dry and barren land will flow with springs and become a lake.
    19. I will fill the desert with all kinds of trees-- cedars, acacias, and myrtles; olive and cypress trees; fir trees and pines.
    20. Everyone will see this and know that I, the holy LORD God of Israel, created it all.
    21. I am the LORD, the King of Israel! Come argue your case with me. Present your evidence.
    22. Come near me, you idols. Tell us about the past, and we will think about it. Tell us about the future, so we will know what is going to happen.
    23. Prove that you are gods by making your predictions come true. Do something good or evil, so we can be amazed and terrified.
    24. You idols are nothing, and you are powerless. To worship you would be disgusting.
    25. I, the LORD, appointed a ruler in the north; now he comes from the east to honor my name. He tramples kings like mud, as potters trample clay.
    26. Did any of you idols predict what would happen? Did any of you get it right? None of you told about this or even spoke a word.
    27. I was the first to tell the people of Jerusalem, "Look, it's happening!" I was the one who announced this good news to Zion.
    28. None of these idols are able to give advice or answer questions.
    29. They are nothing, and they can do nothing-- they are less than a passing breeze.

Isaiah - Chapter 41

Entered: August 04, 2004
There are an array of thoughts evoked by this passage. There is the greatness of God. Nothing happens that is not in His control. Even the kings of the ungodly nations are appointed by Him. God is in control of human events and of all history. And, He has made all that exists. Then come tender thoughts about Israel whom God has chosen for his own people. How honored they are to be so chosen! But who recognizes God's greatness? They have all turned to idols and are worshipping them. God now challenges everyone to present evidence to validate the worthiness of the idols over Him, presenting His case over the idols. Next, chapter 42 begins with a promise of the Messiah who will bring justice to the nations. But then God's frustration with the idolatry of the people breaks out and His temper is contained no more. He is ready to scream and groan, asking "Why won't his people ever learn to listen?" It concludes, "He was furious with them and punished their nation with the fires of war. Still they paid no attention. They didn't even care when they were surrounded and scorched by flames." Isa 42:25

Entered: September 01, 2010

God is fully adequate to accomplish His purposes, but man is never adequate. Even when man sets out to accomplish his own purposes, he succeeds only with God's aid. Ironically, even people who believe there is no God are unwittingly used by God in the accomplishment of His purposes. Those He uses may think they have succeeded in their purpose when they have merely been used in the succeeding of God's purpose. Once His purpose has been accomplished they will find themselves on a course of destruction. 

These are the dynamics referred to in this chapter. All the nations of earth are called together by God to the trial He has convened against them. The purpose of the trial is not to determine their guilt or innocence. This has already been determined, and they have been found guilty. They are called to the trial so they might realize their own guilt. With God as our judge, guilty is the only plausible plea we can make. For man is always guilty of sin and his only hope is to agree with God and to plead guilty. Then he will experience God's mercy. In this situation, the judgment has already been set in motion. God has already stirred up a leader from the east for God's righteous purpose. Here is an example of ungodly people being used unwittingly for God's purpose. Cyrus, the leader from the east, will be used for God's judgment against the nations, but Cyrus' tremendous success militarily was only because of God's involvement. God handed the nations over to him. We all will eventually discover that we do not at all control our own destinies. Our choices will play a huge role in our destinies, but God controls the outcome.

This trial against the nations is for Jacob's (Israel's) benefit. God is bringing judgment on those nations that contended with Israel. Though taken exile into Babylon, God's instrument, Cyrus, will defeat Babylon for the release of God's people from their exile. "Those who war against you," God says to Israel, "will become absolutely nothing." (41:12) 

As the shadow of the advancing Persian army, led by Cyrus, moves toward the nations, they will turn to each other for help and encouragement, and the craftsmen will work to bolster their idols as protection against the assault. Mockingly, Isaiah says the craftsmen will fasten the idols with nails so they will not fall over. How could any possibly think these objects could offer any protection? Those who look to their idols for help are challenged to have their gods predict what will happen. Who among the idols told of this one from the east that God has set in motion against them? None. "No one announced it, no one told it." (41:26) "Look, all of them are a delusion; their works are nonexistent; their images are wind and emptiness." (41:29) Such is the help to which the nations turn in their delimma. But when we turn instead to the Lord God, we turn to the One who has control over all things.