Isaiah 44 (NLT)

We live in a spiritual environment where many have put their faith in Christ as children and then turned their backs on Him. They choose to live the way the world does and feel trapped in that place. They have made bad choices and feel unable to return to the Lord because they are ashamed of their behaviour.

In this passage the Lord addresses himself to a people in a very similar situation. A people who are in exile because of their evil behaviour. They live in shame and far from their spiritual roots.

21 “Pay attention, O Jacob, for you are my servant, O Israel.

The Lord calls to Jacob, the deceiver, the one who grasps the heal and reminds him that from his perspective he is Israel, the one whose spiritual identity is the servant of the Lord, the one who wrestles with God.

The Lord knows the spiritual condition of those who are struggling with faith and failing. He knows  it and is seeking restoration rather than condemnation and punishment.

I, the Lord, made you, and I will not forget you.

Looking back on how Jacob was made into Israel in Genesis 32 &33 we see Jacob pitted against odds he knew he could not cope with.  He gave up everything except his own self. In that place the Lord challenged him and wrestled with him, ultimately having to dislocate his hip before Jacob would surrender. The form of Jacob’s surrender was to refuse to let go until the Lord had blessed him. The blessing involved a change in name, which clarified that the Lord had ownership of Jacob.

22 I have swept away your sins like a cloud. I have scattered your offenses like the morning mist. Oh, return to me, for I have paid the price to set you free.”

Now the Lord makes the point that he has already dealt with Jacob’s sin. Even though Jacob is still living in this place of shameful sin, the sin has been paid for. From our New Testament perspective we know that this was achieved at the cross, but we have a hard time accepting Jesus’ work on the cross for our restoration beyond having become Christians. Many feel trapped in their life circumstances because they have stumbled and even fallen.  They do not feel they are able to go back to God. In John 21 Jesus restores Peter and even entrusts him ministry, whereas in our day most would have simply written him off.

23 Sing, O heavens, for the Lord has done this wondrous thing. Shout for joy, O depths of the earth! Break into song, O mountains and forests and every tree! For the Lord has redeemed Jacob and is glorified in Israel.

Even if we don’t really understand what God has done, the Lord calls all of heavens and earth to sing out his praises for what he has done. These praises are shouts of joy. They come from every angle, from the heavens, from everywhere on earth, from mountains, multitudes and individuals.  Even if people won’t praise him, the mountains and trees will.

The subject matter of the song of praise that all creation will sing is nothing less than the redemption of God’s people.

24 This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer and Creator:

Having given a perspective on how creation looks at him, the Lord now goes on to address Jacob.  He announces himself as Jacob’s redeemer and creator.

These are two titles that are questioned by those who are in need of this redemption. In view of the shame that is felt by Jacob, he cannot really believe that the Lord’s redemption is still available. He wallows in that shame rather than turn to the Lord.

The people of Israel have been taken off into exile by a nation that defeated them.  This puts in question the Lord as creator of the universe.  Likewise in our day, science claims omniscience, it claims to have solved all the riddles of the universe in such a way as to deny any need for the Lord as creator.

“I am the Lord, who made all things. I alone stretched out the heavens. Who was with me when I made the earth?

The Lord challenges the cultural view and states emphatically that He alone is the creator. His challenge to those who doubt is to point to the person who was there at the beginning.  This obviously cannot happen. Those who speak as if they really understand the beginnings of creation are speaking presumptuously.

25 I expose the false prophets as liars and make fools of fortune-tellers. I cause the wise to give bad advice, thus proving them to be fools.

The Lord now moves onto the experts’ claims. He declares that he exposes them as liars and fools. He speaks to the false prophets – those who look at the current state of things and predict what is going to happen either in the political or in the physical world. He undermines those who speak with wisdom, making their wisdom come out as foolishness.

The whole point of this is that if we leave the Lord out of the equation, then we have missed the whole point that he is the creator and he can do with his universe as he chooses.

26 But I carry out the predictions of my prophets!

In contrast to the false prophets who speak of things that are not perceived, yet exclude the Lord, the Lord works to bring about the words and predictions of those who have stood in his presence and speak from that perspective. (Jer 23:21-22)

By them I say to Jerusalem, ‘People will live here again,’ and to the towns of Judah, ‘You will be rebuilt; I will restore all your ruins!’ 27 When I speak to the rivers and say, ‘Dry up!’ they will be dry.

The words of the Lord’s prophets are no more or less audacious than those of the surrounding culture, but the difference is that the Lord will bring their words to be.

In our day, the thought that the churches could be restored, that people would return to the ruin that is currently the state of the church and rebuild it seems beyond comprehension.  Yet these are the kinds of things that the Lord can bring to being.

28 When I say of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,’ he will certainly do as I say. He will command, ‘Rebuild Jerusalem’; he will say, ‘Restore the Temple.’”

The most audacious statement of all is that the Lord would recruit his own shepherd to do this, one who does not even know or recognise him.  What does this say of the holiness of the Lord? It puts a whole different perspective on what that word means.