Isaiah 45

Sunday Morning Bible Study

January 30, 2000

Introduction

We hurried through the end of chapter 44 last week where God was making some incredible decrees:

(Isa 44:27-28 KJV) That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers: {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 foundation shall be laid.

Cyrus my shepherd

Isaiah is writing about 700 BC. In 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, would conquer the city of Jerusalem and take the Jews with him back to Babylon.

Cyrus was born about 599 BC. According to the best histories Cyrusí grandfather, Astyages, king of Media, had a dream that Cyrus would one day succeed him as king before the reigning monarchís death. Astyages ordered Cyrus put to death, but the officer in charge of the execution instead carried the boy into the hills to be raised by a shepherd. Itís interesting that God calls Cyrus "my shepherd".

Cyrus was the one who would eventually conquer Babylon in 538 BC.

That saith to the deep, Be dry, and I will dry up thy rivers:

Nebuchadnezzar had made the city of Babylon a wonder. It covered 200 square miles, with the Euphrates River running right down the middle. There were two sets of walls surrounding the city towering 300 feet high. Outside the walls was a brick lined moat filled with water from the Euphrates River. Not only were there regular gates around the city, but there were special iron gates over the Euphrates river that let the water in, but kept the enemy out.

When Cyrus came to conquer Babylon, part of his plan involved actually diverting the waters from the mighty Euphrates river, cutting them off from the city.

:1-19 Cyrus

:1 Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus

anointed Ė mashiyach Ė anointed, anointed one; of the Messiah; used of kings and priests.

In Israel, priests and kings were anointed by having a special perfumed oil poured over them. This was like a badge that showed that they had been chosen by God for their job. God calls Cyrus His anointed because He has chosen him and put him into his position. He has a special task from God. He will be the one who would send the Jews in Babylon home to rebuild their temple.

:1 to subdue nations before him

As an adult, Cyrus organized an army and rose up to defeat his father and grandfather, becoming the king of Persia. He then went on to conquer the then known world. The historian Xenophon says he conquered the Syrians, Assyrians, Arabians, Cappadocians, the Phrygians, the Lydians, Carians, Phoenicians, and Babylonians; also the Bactrians, Indians, Cilicians, the Sacae, Paphlagonians, and Megadinians; likewise the Greeks that inhabit Asia, Cyprians and Egyptians.

:1 I will loose the loins of kings

The opposite expression, "to gird the loins" meant to tie up your loose robes and get prepared to run or fight. This expression carries the idea of weakening these strong men. But it also has a literal fulfillment Ė

The Babylonian king, Belshazzar, had thrown a great party in Babylon on the night it would be taken (Daniel 5). A hand appeared from out of nowhere and wrote strange words on the wall.

(Dan 5:6 KJV) Then the king's countenance was changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his loins were loosed, and his knees smote one against another.

Daniel came and interpreted the writing, which proclaimed that Belshazzar was finished. Hours later the Persians entered the city.

:1 to open before him the two leaved gates

The historians Herodotus and Xenophon tell us that Cyrus' army, under the command of Ugbaru diverted the waters of the great river and entered into the city under the walls. When the army got to the bars in the river, they had been left open and because of Belshazzarís great feast, the guards were all drunk. The inhabitants of the city were also drunk and the city fell without a fight. Sixteen days later Cyrus himself entered the city with much public rejoicing.

:3 I will give thee the treasures of darkness

The ancients would hide their treasures in secret underground vaults. Cyrus became incredibly wealthy from all the countries that he conquered.

:5 I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:

Cyrus was a pagan. He ascribed his victories to the "great gods". He attributed his victory over Babylon to "Marduk", the head god of the Babylonians.

Lesson

God is at work even when you donít know it.

God doesnít just work in the lives of those who know Him. He will even do good things for those who hate Him.

(Mat 5:44-45 KJV) But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; {45} That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

Sometimes we think that itís only during the tragedies of life that people start seeking the Lord, but Godís desire is that His kindness would make us want to follow after Him.

(Rom 2:4 NIV) Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?

:7 I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

evil Ė raí Ė evil, distress, misery, injury, calamity

(Isa 45:7 NASB) ÖCausing well-being and creating calamity

Many of the ancient cultures had different gods that did different things. There were gods that brought prosperity and there were other gods who brought difficult times. God is saying that Heís the only one in charge and He does it all.

This isnít implying that God is the author of moral evil.

(James 1:13 NLT) And remember, no one who wants to do wrong should ever say, "God is tempting me." God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else either.

Be careful about not falling into the trap of thinking that God is somehow a part of your being tempted into sin. Thatís the responsibility of you and Satan.

But God isnít just in charge of all the goodies that come our way. Sometimes God will also send a bitter pill our way as well.

Job was a man who experienced some of the greatest troubles anyone has ever faced. He lost his kids, his possessions, and his health.

(Job 2:9-10 NASB) Then his wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God and die!" {10} But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Lesson

Taking the good and the bad.

Sometimes I think we miss out on a lot of what God has for us because we spend so much time arguing with Him and resisting the things that Heís trying to do in our lives.

Paul apparently had some sort of eye disease that he wasnít too happy about.

(2 Cor 12:8-10 NLT) Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. {9} Each time he said, "My gracious favor is all you need. My power works best in your weakness." So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me. {10} Since I know it is all for Christ's good, I am quite content with my weaknesses and with insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Paul asked God to take away the problem. But God said "no", and Paul eventually accepted Godís answer.

God didnít change the situation, but instead worked in an even greater way through Paulís life because of the situation.

Be willing to yield to what God wants to do in your life.

Illustration

Sometimes when you discipline a child, they will respond with something like, "Well if you do that to me, I wonít love you anymore." When you hear such a serious response, it can make you want to back up and give in to what the child is asking for. But the problem is that the child isnít going to learn the lesson you were intending to teach them.

God is a much better parent than I will ever be. He knows exactly what I need. He never makes a mistake when He disciplines me. And He knows how to be firm and not give in when I act like a crying, begging child.

Illustration

In her allegorical story, Hindís Feet on High Places (pg.66-67), Hannah Hurnard tells of the little crippled creature named Much Afraid and her trip to meet the Shepherd on the High Places. Itís a story about growing up as a Christian. For her journey, the Shepherd gives her two companions to help her. Their names are Sorrow and Suffering. Hereís little Much Afraidís response:

"I canít go with them," she gasped. "I canít! I canít! O my Lord Shepherd, why do you do this to me? How can I travel in their company? It is more than I can bear. You tell me that the mountain way itself is so steep and difficult that I cannot climb it alone. Then why, oh why, must you make Sorrow and Suffering my companions? Couldnít you have given Joy and Peace to go with me, to strengthen me and encourage me and help me on the difficult way? I never thought you would do this to me!" And she burst into tears.

A strange look passed over the Shepherdís face as he listened to this outburst, then looking at the veiled figures as he spoke, he answered very gently, "Joy and Peace. Are those the companions you would choose for yourself? You remember your promise, to accept the helpers that I would give, because you believed that I would choose the very best possible guides for you. Will you still trust me, Much-Afraid? Will you go with them, or do you wish to turn back to the Valley, and to all your Fearing relatives, to Craven Fear himself?"

Much-Afraid shuddered. The choice seemed terrible. Fear she knew only too well, but Sorrow and Suffering had always seemed to her the two most terrifying things which she could encounter. How could she go with them and abandon herself to their power and control? It was impossible. Then she looked at the Shepherd and suddenly knew she could not doubt him, could not possibly turn back from following him; that if she were unfit and unable to love anyone else in the world, yet in her trembling, miserable little heart, she did love him. Even if he asked the impossible, she could not refuse.

She looked at him piteously, then said, "Do I wish to turn back? O Shepherd, to whom should I go? In all the world I have no one but you. Help me to follow you, even though it seems impossible. Help me to trust you as much as I long to love you."

:9 Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou?

It is foolish to think of a clay pot questioning a potter as to why it was made like it was.

Lesson

The foolishness of questioning God.

God doesnít make junk. We may not always understand why He has made us like we are, but we need to know that He loves us and that His purposes are for our good.

Illustration

Helen Keller (1890-1968), was deaf and blind from an incurable childhood disease. Anne Sullivan taught her to read through her senses of touch, smell, and taste. At the end of her autobiography Helen Keller says:

"Fateósilent, pitilessóbars the way. Fain would I question his imperious decree; for my heart is undisciplined and passionate, but my tongue will not utter the bitter, futile words that rise to my lips, and they fall back into my heart like unshed tears. Silence sits immense upon my soul. Then comes hope with a smile and whispers, "There is joy in self-forgetfulness." So I try to make the light in other peopleís eyes my sun, the music in othersí ears my symphony, the smile on othersí lips my happiness."

Illustration

"I thank God for my handicaps, for through them, I have found myself, my work and my God." - Helen Keller

:13 he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward

Josephus tells us that after Cyrus conquered Babylon, he found out about Isaiahís ancient prophecies about him, even calling him by name, and responded by making his decree that the Jews could return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple (Antiquities, 11:1:3-7). He would set the Jews free, and He did it for free.

:14 The labour of Egypt Ö Ethiopia Ö the Sabeans

As we mentioned a few weeks ago, Cyrusí son, Cambyses, would conquer these nations and this would be a form of reward to Cyrus (Is. 43:3) for freeing the Jews.

:15 Verily thou art a God that hidest thyself

The pagan gods were statues that you could look at. There are no pictures of our God. He is a spirit. He is invisible (1Tim. 1:17)

:19 I have not spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth

Though God is hidden (invisible, Isa 45:15), He doesnít act or speak in secret. The Bible is the best "best seller" of all time. He can be found if you seek Him.

(Deu 4:29 KJV) But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul.

:20-25 Appeal to the pagans

:20 and pray unto a god that cannot save.

In our modern society, we may not have little stone gods with bulging eyes, but we have all sorts of things that weíre trusting in rather than in God.

Lesson

Can your god save you?

The gods of escapism

Some people are trusting in their diversions to just help them not think about the mess theyíre in.

People turn to drugs, alcohol, sex, entertainment, any way to keep from thinking about heavy things like where they are going to spend eternity.

Illustration

Thatís like a person getting on the freeway with their eyes closed, afraid to see what the freeway looks like, just hoping they donít run into anyone. Would you like to be driving on the freeway with a person like that?

The gods of self-goodness

Some people are trusting in their good works to save them.

They have both underestimated the severity of their problem as well as overestimated the strength of their abilities.

Illustration

Itís like an athlete who has decided that he is going to long jump to Catalina.

He has probably underestimated the distance of the jump required, as well as overestimated his ability to jump that far.

The "jump" to heaven is going to require absolute perfection because thatís what God is like. If you think you match His requirements, youíve sorely underestimated what God is looking for and youíve overestimated your ability to meet Godís requirements. The Bible says,

(Rom 3:23 KJV) For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

There is a God who can save you.

He understands the severity of what you are facing. He knows you canít make the jump on your own. He understands the price that must be paid to handle your failures. And Heís paid the entire price Himself. Jesus died on a cross to pay for your sins. Jesus said,

(John 3:16 KJV) For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

:23 That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear

Paul quotes this (Phil. 2:10-11) to say that every person will one day bow and admit that Jesus is the Lord. Every knee shall bow. Some choose to do it willingly now, others will be forced to do it later.

:24 and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed.

Some people have a really hard time admitting they are wrong. I know, Iím one of them.

Some people will go to all lengths to keep from admitting they were wrong. If youíve been angry with God, you have been wrong.

:22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth

Lesson

Look to Jesus.

A relationship with God comes when you stop looking everywhere else and start looking to Jesus for help.

Illustration

Charles Haddon Spurgeon, in the minds of some of us, was the greatest preacher since the apostle Paul. When Spurgeon was 15 years of age, he had not come to a personal commitment to Jesus Christ. On a blustery, snowy Sunday morning, he decided to go to church. He couldnít get to his planned destination because the weather was so bad. So he turned into a side street, and went into a Methodist church. The preacher didnít even get there. Only fifteen people had come to the church. A layman decided worship ought to take place, so he got up to preach. He used Isaiah 45:22, "Look unto me and be saved, all you ends of the earth." In ten minutes he had exhausted all that he could think to say.

Then he noticed a boy in the back, under the balcony. He said, "Young man, you look like youíre in trouble. Look unto Jesus and be saved." Thatís exactly what happened that morning. Charles Haddon Spurgeon gave his life to Christ. That troubled young man became the mightiest preacher of the last century. He was led to faith in Christ by a man nobody knowsóan obscure layman.

- Gordon Johnson, "Finding Significance in Obscurity," Preaching Today, Tape No. 82.