Isaiah 44

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning,
that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4

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A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2007 James Melough

44:1.  “Yet now hear, O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen.”


As discussed already the name Jacob is associated with the flesh; Israel, with the Spirit, so that God’s word here is addressed to the whole nation, to believer and unbeliever alike.  And so is it still: Scripture is God’s voice to all men, believer as well as unbeliever, and as it was then so is it still: believers seek to obey His Word: unbelievers ignore or reject it.


44:2.  “Thus saith the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, which will help thee:”


And again, as discussed already, God is the Creator of all men; but it is only the born-again man whom He forms, i.e., molds as His own special instrument to do His work here on the earth; and in this connection it is to be noted that every believer has been given a spiritual gift, relative to which God commands, “Neglect not the gift that is in thee,” 1 Timothy 4:14, and again, “... stir up the gift of God, which is in thee,” 2 Timothy 1:6. 


Every believer receives his spiritual gift at the moment of conversion, but sadly, many believers live and die without ever knowing what spiritual gift God had given them, with the result that the gift is wasted, and might as well not have been given. 


But how does one know what spiritual gift he has been given?  Very simply.  As we present ourselves to Him in submissive obedience He will direct our service, and in due course the gift He has given will become obvious to others before it does to the recipient.


44:3.  “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:”


This promise will be fulfilled in the Millennium. 


In Matthew 5:6 it is written, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.”  Every believer should thus “hunger and thirst after righteousness,” i.e., desire to know God’s will, and seek His help to do it, His promise being that they will be satisfied, i.e., will enjoy His peace “ which passeth all understanding,” Philippians 4:7, for God will fulfill His word and satisfy that desire, and not stintingly but abundantly “above all that we ask or think,” Ephesians 3:20.


A special blessing enjoyed by the children of believers is the privilege of hearing the gospel from their parents.


44:4.  “And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.”


Another rendering of this verse is, “They shall thrive like watered grass, like willows on a river bank,” Taylor.  This continues to portray the inestimable blessings that will be enjoyed in the Millennium; but it pictures the spiritual blessings He is ready to pour upon obedient believers of every age.


44:5.  “One shall say, I am the Lord’s; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel.”


The believer’s response to God’s blessings ought to be a ready testimony to being His child; and as discussed already, Jacob speaks of what we are according to the flesh; Israel, of what we are spiritually.


The latter part of this verse is also translated, “shall inscribe on his hand,” and while this may be taken literally, it may also be another way of saying that the man’s testimony will be verified by accompanying good deeds, i.e., by a righteous life, for the hand is associated with works, as the walk is with the manner of life.  In this connection see also James 2:17-18, “... faith, if it hath not works , is dead, being alone.  Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.”


44:6.  “Thus saith the Lord the King of Israel, and his redeemer the Lord of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.”


Israel means God commands: he shall be prince of God, but Jacob means supplanter: he shall take by the heel, and in this connection it is instructive to note that God doesn’t call Himself “king of Jacob,” for the simple reason that king is associated with dominion, and the natural man, whom Jacob represents, will not submit to that dominion.


The latter part of the verse continues to emphasize the eternality and uniqueness of God.


44:7.  “And who, as I, shall call, and shall declare it, and set it in order for me, since I appointed the ancient people?  And the things that are coming, and shall come, let them shew unto them.”


Taylor translates this verse, “Who else can tell you what is going to happen in the days ahead?  Let them tell you if they can, and prove their power.  Let them do as I have done since ancient times.”  Only God can foretell the future, for He alone knows the future.


44:8.  “Fear ye not, neither be afraid: have not I told thee from that time, and have declared it?  Ye are even my witnesses.  Is there a God beside me?  Yea, there is no God; I know not any.”


The NEB renders this verse, “Take heart, do not be afraid.  Did I not foretell this long ago?  I declared it, and you are my witnesses.  Is there any god beside me, or any creator, even one that I do not know?”; and Moffatt translates it, “Fear nothing, dread not in the days to come; have I not foretold it and announced it long ago?  You are my witnesses whether there is any god, any Power, any, beside me.”


44:9.  “They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; and their delectable things (things they delight in, cherish, consider precious) shall not profit; and they are their own witnesses; they see not, nor know; that they may be ashamed.”


“... vanity” is also translated emptiness: inane: confused: less than nothing: empty minds be theirs; and the latter part of the verse is translated “an idol’s devotees are blind and dull, their end is shame, sheer ignorance makes fools of them,” NEB; “They themselves are witnesses that this is so, for their idols neither see nor know.  No wonder those who worship them are so ashamed,” Taylor.


44:10.  “Who hath formed a god, or molten a graven image that is profitable for nothing?”


44:11.  “Behold, all his fellows shall be ashamed: and the workmen, they are of men: let them all be gathered together, let them stand up; yet they shall fear, and they shall be ashamed together.”


Taylor’s translation of these verses is, “Who but a fool would make his own god - an idol that can help him not one whit!  All that worship these will stand before the Lord in shame, along with all these carpenters - mere men- who claim that they have made a god,” and the NEB version is,  “Let them all gather together and confront me, all will be afraid and look the fools they are.”


Only and imbecile would think that he could create something better than himself.


44:12.  “The smith with the tongs both worketh in the coals, and fashioneth it with hammers, and worketh it with the strength of his arms: yea, he is hungry, and his strength faileth: he drinketh no water, and is faint.”


This continues to expose the utter ananity of a mere man’s imagining that he could create a god or anything else that would be better than himself.


44:13.  “The carpenter stretcheth out his rule; he marketh it out with a line; he fitteth it with planes, and he marketh it out with the compass, and maketh it after the figure of a man, according to the beauty (shape) of man; that it may remain in the house (occupy a shrine)”.


In spite of all a man’s careful work to make an idol (a god), the product of his toil is still only an inanimate object that can’t even move: he himself has to set it on a shrine in his house or temple.  How can anyone be so utterly foolish as to imagine that such a thing could have power to do anything for him its creator! Yet incredible as it seems, there are millions who harbor that delusion.


44:14.  “He heweth him down cedars, and taketh the cypress and the oak which he strengtheneth (selects) for himself among the trees of the forest: he planteth an ash, and rain doth nourish it.”  He himself couldn’t make it grow up into a tree.


The exposure of man’s folly continues.  He fashions a “god” from a tree which he himself has selected or planted, but can’t make grow: it draws its nourishment from the earth and the rain.


44:15.  “Then shall it be for a man to burn: for he will take thereof, and warm himself; yea, he kindleth it, and baketh bread; yea, he maketh a god, and worshippeth it; he maketh it a graven image, and falleth down thereto.”


44:16.  “He burneth part thereof in the fire; with part thereof he eateth flesh; he roasteth roast, and is satisfied: yea, he warmeth himself, and saith, Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire:”


44:17.  “And the residue thereof he maketh a god, even his graven image: he falleth down unto it, and worshippeth it, and prayeth unto it, and saith, Deliver me; for thou art my god.”


The absurdity of man’s conduct is further demonstrated in his taking the remainder of the tree from which he fashions his “god”, and using it to fuel the fire which warms him, and on which he bakes his bread.  How utterly ridiculous to imagine that what is used for mundane purposes could ever be the same as that which constitutes the “god” before which he prostrates himself!  Can any sane mind visualize the Creator being thus prostituted, or man being so foolish as to imagine that the product of his own hands could deliver him from anything!


44:18.  “They have not known nor understood: for he hath shut their eyes, that they cannot see; and their hearts, that they cannot understand.”


This is not to be understood as meaning that God has arbitrarily darkened the understanding of some against the truth, an error refuted by the assurance that He “... is longsuffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance,” 2 Peter 3:9.  Relative to predestination it is to be noted that “... whom He did foreknow, he also did predestinate,”  not to be saved, but for the believer - “to be conformed to the image of His Son,” Romans 8:29.  It is repeated rejection of proffered redemption that brings His ultimate withdrawal of the offer, as it is written, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man,” Genesis 6:3,  “He, that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed, and that without remedy,” Proverbs 29:1.


44:19.  “And none considereth in his heart, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire; yea, also I have baked bread upon the coals thereof; I have roasted flesh, and eaten it: and shall I make the residue thereof an abomination?  Shall I fall down to the stock of a tree?”


The idolater is so spiritually blind that he fails to see the ananity of worshiping something made of the same material as that which he uses for firewood with which to warm himself and to cook his food.


44:20.  “He feedeth on ashes: a deceived heart hath turned him aside, that he cannot deliver his soul, nor say, Is there not a lie in my right hand?”


His sin-blinded eyes can’t understand the folly of entrusting the eternal salvation of his soul to a thing made of the same material as that which fuels the fire that warms him and cooks his food, and becomes ashes in the process.  “Is there not a lie in my right hand?” is just another way of saying, “Am I not believing a lie?”  Unless awakened by the Spirit of God, the idolater never entertains a doubt as to the worth of his idol.


44:21.  “Remember these (facts), O Jacob and Israel; for thou art my servant: I have formed thee; thou art my servant: O Israel, thou shalt not be forgotten of me.”


We have already discussed the fact that Jacob is associated with what is related to the flesh: Israel, with what pertains to the spirit; and relative to our bodies we are assured that they will ultimately enjoy the same perfection as our spirits, as it is written, “... it (the natural body) is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: it is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: it is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.” 1 Corinthians 15:42-44.  “For our conversation (citizenship) is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself,” Philippians 3:20-21.


“... thou shalt not be forgotten of me,” is the same assurance as is given all believers in Hebrews 13:5, “... for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee,” and again, “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world,” Matthew 28:20.


44:22.  “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.”


“... transgressions” are deliberate or accidental breaches of God’s commands, and here He gives the believer the assurance that every such offence is covered as by a thick cloud, being blotted out from His sight by the precious blood of Christ with which we have been redeemed.  Others” however, take the “thick cloud” to be the sins which God blots out just as He disperses a cloud.


“Sins” seem to relate to the general sinful condition of each man, as a result of his having been born with Adam’s sinful nature.  Unlike the natural man, the believer possesses Christ’s sinless nature, so that as a new creature in Christ he cannot sin, as it is written, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away: behold, all things are become new,” 2 Corinthians 5:17, because we “were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold ... but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” 1 Peter 1:18-19.  Sin in the believer’s life originates in his old sinful nature which dwells in his body side-by-side with his new nature, and against which it wages ceaseless warfare, as it is written, “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other ....” Galatians 5:17.


Relative to that warfare, Paul laments, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” but then he exults, “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin,” Romans 7:24-25.


44:23.  “Sing, O ye heavens; for the Lord hath done it; shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.”


God here commands all creation to join in a song of praise for the great redemption that was made possible by the then still future death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, but the certainty of which are assured by being spoken of here as already accomplished.


The “lower parts of the earth” here seem to be the paradise section of the underworld, which until Christ’s resurrection, was occupied by the souls of the redeemed of the OT age, and which was separated by a great gulf, see Luke 16:26, from the torment section occupied by the souls of the damned.  Some however, take the reference to be to the mountains and forests.


Since the distinction between Jacob and Israel has already been discussed there is no need to repeat it here, though it is to be noted that it is Jacob (who represents the natural man) who is said to have been redeemed, whereas Israel (who represents the born-again man) is the one in whom God is glorified.  The natural man cannot glorify God, for he will not obey Him.


44:24.  “Thus saith the Lord, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb, I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself;”


In presenting Himself as Israel’s redeemer, and as the creator of all things, God is declaring not only His love, but also His power, both being needed to secure man’s redemption, for while love might long to redeem, only omnipotence could fulfill that desire by providing a redeemer, His only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.


44:25.  “That frustrateth the tokens (signs, omens) of the liars, and maketh diviners mad; that turneth wise men backward, and maketh their knowledge foolish;”


That same omnipotent God renders void the signs and omens of the servants of Satan, thus showing them to be liars and fools, and exposing their professed wisdom to be nonsense.


44:26.  “That confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers; that saith to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be inhabited; and to the cities of Judah, Ye shall be built, and I will raise up the decayed places thereof:”


When He told His prophets to foretell the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the restoration of Israel’s prosperity, He would confirm their words by fulfilling them.  And so is it still: in a soon coming day He will, by fulfillment, confirm the words of today’s evangelists and teachers.


44:27.  “That saith to the deep (the seas and oceans), Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers (floods):”


This will be fulfilled in the eternal state, relative to which it is written, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea,” Revelation 21:1.  The fulfillment will be both literal and metaphoric, for the sea symbolizes the restless masses of unconverted humanity, as it is written, “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt,” Isaiah 57:20.


44:28.  “That saith of Cyrus, he is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundations shall be laid.”


Relative to Cyrus, The Bible Knowledge Commentary states that “Since Israel in exile had no king, Cyrus functioned in a sense as her king (the anointed one) to bring about blessing.  Like Messiah ... Cyrus would have a twofold mission: to free the people, and to bring God’s judgment on unbelievers ... And even though Cyrus would enjoy a special relationship with God ... and was honored by God, he still was not a believer for he did not acknowledge the Lord as the true God.”

[Isaiah 45]

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