This chapter is rich with meaning. Although it may not seem it at first read, God tells us many things about Himself in these 28 verses. We learn more about His love for, and restoration of Israel. We also learn more details about what God thinks of idols, how man figures into the idol equation and how God is the beginning and the end of it all. This is a truly wonderful chapter!
In verses 1-5, God tells His chosen people that He will bless them and their offspring. He has created the nation and He knows them better than they know themselves. Because of these coming blessings, the people will grow and prosper. At the time of the fruition of the blessings, they will be proud to be known as God’s people: “One will say, ‘I am the LORD’s’; Another will call himself by the name of Jacob; Another will write with his hand, ‘The LORD’s,’ And name himself by the name of Israel.” Isaiah 44:5
This is a hopeful and happy return to form where God has forgiven the iniquity of the nation as a whole and will replenish the blessings that will return them to a flourishing state.
In verses 6-8, God reminds the people of who He is and what He can do. His descriptions of Himself to Israel are as follows:
– Redeemer: He will bring Israel back to Him
– First and the Last: all life starts and ends with Him
– Proclaimer and Appointer: He makes us aware of what is to come
– The only God: He is the only one, described here as a Rock
Why does God liken himself unto a rock? What is it about God that is rock-like? A rock is steady and strong. Particularly large and strong rocks are heavy, unbreakable and immoveable. People can use rocks to shelter themselves from the elements. A rock just is. You cannot argue with it or make it do what you want it to do. The qualities of strength, immoveability, protection and permanence are those that God is communicating when he says there is no other “Rock” besides Him: “For who is God, except the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?” Psalms 18:31
Israel and us will do well to remember these facts from God about God.
God, speaking through Isaiah, makes some very interesting points about the nature of idols. We learn what should have been obvious things, but these things were not obvious to us until this reading. One cannot dispute the following truths about idols. Taken from this passage, here is a list of eye-openers concerning idols:
1. Those that make idols are useless
2. Idols should be ashamed, but cannot be because they neither see nor know
3. Men that create “divine” idols are mere men; something common cannot create something divine
4. Creators of idols shall be ashamed together
5. If a man were actually making something divine, would the divine god being formed not relieve the maker of his hunger and thirst?
6. If an idol is its own divine being, why is it fashioned in the image of man, whom God made?
7. If an Idol is its own divine being, why is it fashioned using the same material that men use to warm themselves and bake bread?
Point number 7 is especially strong. How foolish is it for a man to worship something that is used to serve him?
“And no one considers in his heart, Nor is there knowledge nor understanding to say, “I have burned half of it in the fire, Yes, I have also baked bread on its coals; I have roasted meat and eaten it; And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” He feeds on ashes; A deceived heart has turned him aside; And he cannot deliver his soul, Nor say, “ Is there not a lie in my right hand?”” Isaiah 44:19-20
Consider for a moment if there are any items, concepts or treasures in your life that you “worship.” Before saying no, consider it as a matter of priority. Is there anything in your life that is more important to you than God? If you could answer yes to that question in any sense, I urge you to examine why. I would also urge you not to be discouraged and turn away from the idea that God is not first in your life: serving Him is a lifelong endeavor. It requires patience, work, correction and effort.
These verses contain an amalgam of concepts we have covered before in Isaiah: Israel is God’s servant. God will remember, forgive and call them back to Him. God also recognizes that the earth will have joy in the way that God has redeemed His people.
God says that He has formed His people the Israelites: “He who formed you from the womb.” In total, God says he formed His people three times in this chapter: verses 2, 21, and 24. It is worthwhile to compare the descriptions of man forming idols with God’s three mentions that He forms man. Man, formed by God, uselessly creates a worthless idol. The idol can do nothing and man is not glorified by his creation. God, on the other hand, forms man, who, when faithful, glorifies God through honor and obedience. Through this contrast, God is comparing himself and man. Man foolishly makes something that can do nothing. God makes something that loves and glorifies Him: “Who would form a god or mold an image That profits him nothing?” Isaiah 44:10 This contrast is another subtle argument to add to the long and incriminating list of reasons that idols are worthless.
In the final verses of this chapter, God lists characteristics of Himself before describing the restoration of Israel.
In addition to forming man in the womb, He:
1. Makes all things
2. Spreads out the heavens
3. Spreads abroad the earth
4. Frustrates signs of the babblers: God impedes those that use signs or many words to find truth
5. Drives diviners mad: God prevents those that would attempt to tell the future
6. Turns wise men backward: God reveals earthly wisdom as fallible
7. Performs the counsel of His messengers: God keeps the promises He makes via prophets, etc.
Finally in verses 26-28, God finalizes His message by mentioning Cyrus, the king who will ultimately be the instrument that will bring the remnant back. Cyrus was referenced in previous chapters in Isaiah. Here, he is mentioned in connection with how God orchestrates the return of His people. God is the One that will send Cyrus and God is the One that will have Cyrus rebuild Jerusalem and the temple.
In conclusion, this chapter has a lot to offer. It will give more and more with deeper and repeated readings. The main idea is that we, as children of God, are duty-bound to honor and obey Him. There is no other Rock; all else is flimsy and frail.