Israel‘s Restoration Under Cyrus
What provision would God make for the restoration of His people?
Isaiah 41:1-4 is a courtroom scene in which God summoned the nations to account for the spectacular military successes of an unnamed conqueror (later identified as Cyrus, king of the Medes and Persians). The nations could not answer. God answered His own question by announcing that it was He who raised up the unidentified conqueror who would play a key role in releasing His people from captivity. God announced that He was in control of history and He who made possible the successes of the unidentified conqueror.
Practical Consideration: God is in control of history.
The national and personal sins of God’s people brought the judgment of God upon them. They were carried away into exile. After seventy years in Babylonian captivity, God was ready to allow them to return to their homeland.
Through a series of events on the international political scene, God allowed a man named Cyrus, king of Persia, to successfully expand his empire by conquering the Babylonians in 539 B.C. The actions of Cyrus however, fit into a larger scheme. He was the deliverer identified by Isaiah (Isaiah 44:28-45:7) and Jeremiah (Jeremiah 25:12 and 29:10).
Ezra reminds us that Cyrus was serving a purpose bigger than his own, as indicated by the phrase “in order to fulfill the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah” (Ezra 1:1). The fulfillment of prophesy points out that God is at work shaping history and directing human affairs. History has a purpose. History is actually “His Story.”
Isaiah 41:5-7 describes the panic that seized the nations when they learned that Cyrus would be the instrument of God’s purpose. In a frenzy they tried to fashion more powerful idols to deal with Cyrus. All of this effort was vain and futile. Cyrus would accomplish God’s purpose by defeating Babylon.
Isaiah 41:8-20 are messages of reassurance to Israel that they had been chosen by Him and would not be forsaken by Him (41:8-9). They were still His chosen people and owed Him their allegiance and loyalty. God promised to protect and care for His people and give them victory over their enemies (41:10-13). He would transform Israel from a “worm” (41:14) to a “threshing sledge” (41:15) that would pulverize her enemies and all obstacles (41:16). God promised to care for “the afflicted and needy” (41:17), a reference to the exiles, and make provision for their needs on their journey home (41:18-20).
The Idol’s Impotence and God’s Omnipotence
What challenge did God issue to the idols of the nations?
Isaiah 41:21-29 is a courtroom scene in which the idols of the nations (Babylon in particular) are called to demonstrate their power. God called upon the idols to perform three tasks to demonstrate their power.
First, He called upon them to “declare to us what is going to take place” (41:22a and 23a).
Second, He called upon them to interpret past events or explain how things began (41:22).
Third, He called upon them to actively intervene in history by doing either good or bad. They could, of course, do none of these things and were pronounced by God as being “of no account” (41:24). In contrast to the impotent idols of the nations, God actively intervened in history by summoning a ruler (Cyrus) to deliver His people (41:25-29).
Practical Consideration: God can pass the test.
God challenged the idols of the nations to prove themselves by declaring future historical events, interpreting past historical events, and intervening in history. The idols of the nations were silent. They could not pass the test. Only God could pass such as test. This challenge was issued to accentuate the impotence of idols and the omnipotence of God and to remind God’s people of the stupidity of trusting in idols. It is wise to put our trust in God. He alone can pass the test.