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Bible: What Does Isaiah 44-45 Teach Us About Idols, Cyrus, and the Sovereignty of God?

Updated on September 22, 2016

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Isaiah 44-46: What Does the Bible say about Idols, Cyrus, King of Persia, and the Sovereignty of God?

The Greatness of Israel's God; The Folly of Idolatry

God again admonishes Israel, "Do not fear" (v. 2). He softens His exhortation with several terms of endearment: "My servant," "he whom I have chosen," "He who made you," "He who formed you from the womb," and "He who will help you" (vv. 1-2).

Yahweh's spiritual blessings upon His people will move them to take pride in identifying with His name (vv. 3-5).

God desires for Israel to know assuredly both who He is (the eternal One, the only God, the LORD of hosts) and how He relates to him (King, Redeemer, Discloser of the future) [vv. 6-7]—facts to which they are witnesses (v. 8).

Taking his cue from those facts, Isaiah then discourses about the folly of idolatry (vv. 9-20).

Idol makers— both the blacksmith (v. 12) and the craftsmen (vv. 13-14)—will be ashamed together.

He parodies the uses man makes of his idol creations, labeling as ridiculous their practice of burning one half and worshiping the other (vv. 15-17).

The prophet labels spiritual blindness—no spiritual knowledge or understanding, a deceived heart—as the cause of idolatry (vv. 18-20).

Then God pleads with Israel, that he might return to Him, for He has forgiven, redeemed, and will not forget him (vv. 21-22).

For these glorious reasons, Isaiah calls upon nature to sing praise unto Yahweh (v. 23). The LORD is

(1) Israel's Redeemer and Maker (v. 24a),

(2) the sole Creator of the world (v. 24b),

(3) the Confounder of the "wise" unbeliever (v. 25),

(4) the Confirmer of His word through the prophets regarding Judah and Jerusalem (v. 26),

(5) the Controller of nature,

(6) the Foreteller of the coming of a king [Cyrus] and

(7) the Future of His land (vv. 27-28).

Cyrus, King of Persia


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Questions Regarding Idolatry and Cyrus

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Isaiah 45

Prophecy Regarding Cyrus, King of Persia

Isaiah's predictive prophecy regarding Cyrus' role in Israel's history records God's word to him who was yet to be.

Yahweh sustained a sovereign relationship with the future king of Persia who would release the Judean captives (see Ezra 1).

Although Cyrus does not know the LORD, God calls him "His anointed" (v. 1; cf. also v. 4).

God gives Cyrus authority to conquer peoples, win battles, take over cities and accumulate wealth for three purposes:

(1) that Cyrus might acknowledge the LORD as God (v. 3);

(2) that He might recognize the God of Israel as the only God (v. 5); and

(3) that the nations might come to know that Yahweh has given him this authority (v. 6).

Identifying Himself to this Persian king as the sovereign Creator (v. 7), the LORD declares that He will use him to bring to pass righteousness and salvation.

Then directly addressing nature (figuratively), this Creator of all things commands her total cooperation in pouring forth a veritable "flood" of righteousness (v. 8).

Toward those opposing His plan He shows displeasure, employing the analogies of the potter and the obstinate clay (v. 9), and the parents and the unwanted baby (v. 10).

Once again, Yahweh presents His will as something man disobeys at his own peril.

Founded upon His sovereign power, God can and does assert, "Cyrus will build Jerusalem and release My people from captivity" (vv. 11-13).

Furthermore, Cyrus shall rule over the Egyptians, Ethiopians, and Sabeans; they, in turn, will honor the king and treat him as though God indwelt him (v. 14).

Idolaters will be ashamed, but Israel will be saved forever (vv. 15-17).

Isaiah again stresses

(1) Yahweh's role as Creator (v. 18),

(2) His desires for Israel to seek Him (v. 19), and

(3) The need for Israel to recognize both the futility of idols (v. 20) and

(4) The superiority of the LORD (v. 21).

Finally, God issues a call of salvation to all peoples, and declares that one day everyone will bow to Him, either willingly or unwillingly (vv. 22-25).

Shame or glory!

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Isaiah 46

Contrasting Idols with the LORD

In his contrast of useless idols with the true God, Isaiah pictures, on the one hand, statues representative of two Babylonian deities, being borne by cattle bowing down as they go into captivity (vv. 1-2).

On the other hand, he extols the LORD as Israel's Creator, Upholder, and "Carrier," their Savior and God throughout life (vv. 3-4).

He questions why the people compare Yahweh to idols (v. 5).

Idols, he writes, are merely products of man's creativity, even lifeless, stone carvings, which are unable to help their maker (vv. 6-7).

God calls them to remember how He proved Himself the only Lord by foretelling the future, and He will do so again, especially with respect to Cyrus (a bird of prey from the east) [vv. 8-11].

Yahweh promises to save His glory, Israel; doubts still remain as to whether or not his stubborn-hearted people will be ready to receive it (vv. 12-13).

© 2013 glynch1


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