I Will Raise Up Cyrus in My Righteousness,

I Will Make All His Ways Straight

45: 9-17

   DIG: Evidently, some people objected to the prophet’s declaration that God would use a pagan as the means of deliverance. How does ADONAI refute that objection? How does the LORD reassure the Israelites that they indeed have a future and have not merely been swallowed up in a Gentile take-over of the world?

   REFLECT: Do you have any outstanding quarrels with your Maker? What should you do to resolve them? Is there anything you are worshiping right now that causes you to feel ashamed or disgraced? How did Israel overcome that tendency? How can you overcome it? Why does the fact that Israel is saved by the LORD with an everlasting salvation good news for you?

    This is an address apparently directed to those who questioned the propriety of the selection of Cyrus, rather than a descendant of the house of David, as the liberator of Isra'el. When we put ourselves into the position of the Hebrew people, it is not hard to realize how difficult it would be for them to accept Cyrus as God’s shepherd, or His anointed. When they think of returning from the Babylonian exile, they think of a second exodus, manna from heaven, water from rocks and another Moses. It was shocking for them to hear that their deliverer would be a pagan who did not even know the LORD. They wondered out loud why ADONAI would have to use a Gentile king and an idolater like Cyrus as a means of accomplishing His plan. Therefore, He was being criticized for it here by some Jews of that day. These verses are a rebuke of those critics. Two points are made.

    First, we see the absurdity of the criticism and the critics themselves. Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a broken, discarded piece of pottery, or a potsherd, among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, “What are you making?” Does your work say, “He has no hands” (45:9). It is like clay talking back to the potter (see my commentary on Jeremiah Cw - At the Potter's House: Jeremiah's Second Symbolic Action). The clay never does that. It would be absurd. That is how God pictures these critics. ADONAI is the Creator of the entire world. He knows how best to work out His own plan. Who are these critics to criticize Him?

    Secondly, nor does a child have the right to question why his parents brought him into the world. Woe to him who says to his father, “What have you begotten?” Or to his mother, “What have you brought to birth” (45”10)? It is like a fetus in the womb complaining and demanding to know what is happening. Fetuses don’t do that (although they may complain after they get out)! In the same way, Israel has no right to question God, her Maker.

    Next, ADONAI defends His own sovereignty to do as He pleases. This is what the LORD says – the Holy One of Isra'el, and its Maker. Concerning things to come, do you question Me about My children, or give Me orders about the work of My hands (45:11)? The LORD points out that no man can command God as to how He should accomplish His plan. It is His program and no mortal finite human can possibly command an immortal infinite God. ADONAI is the Maker of all that exists and He can do with it as He chooses. To emphasize this point He declares: I Am the One who made the earth (CJB) and created mankind upon it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I organized their starry skies (see my commentary on Genesis Lw – The Witness of the Stars). All we have has been given to us, but it isn’t ours. It belongs to our the LORD who created it. We care for it on His behalf. Therefore, we need to serve Him with gladness and thank Him for His good gifts (45:12).

    Then ADONAI reaffirms and restates His current purpose with a near historical prophecy. Speaking through His prophet, He said: I will rise up Cyrus in My righteousness; I will make all his ways straight (45:13a). Cyrus is going to be raised up to carry out His program of righteousness. Now he was not himself righteous, but God’s program is a righteous program. And part of carrying out His righteous program is using Cyrus as an instrument of His will. He will rebuild My City and set My exiles free, but not for a price or reward, says the LORD of heaven’s angelic armies (45:13b CJB). As a result, Cyrus will set the Jewish exiles free to rebuild God’s City, Jerusalem.

    As believers, we need to be careful not to fall into the same trap that these Jews did during the life of Isaiah and that the Pharisees did during the life of Christ. Both generations put ADONAI in a box. The Jews of Isaiah’s generation could not accept the fact that God could use a Gentile king and an idolater like Cyrus to accomplish His plan. The Pharisees of Messiah’s generation could not accept that He did not believe in nor follow, the Oral Law (see The Life of Christ - Ei The Oral Law), or the tradition of the elders (Matthew 15:2). It was people who zealously studied the Scriptures who could not believe that Jesus could be the promised Messiah. It was people who wanted to please God who could not accept His friendship with notorious sinners. It was people who had almost made a life’s work of studying God’s ways who could not allow Yeshua to deliver people in ways that seemed to violate how ADONAI was supposed to act. Both generations were wrong, and both suffered tragic results. We need to be careful that we do not put the LORD in a box. Just when we think we have Him all figured out, He surprises us. He is God and we are not.

    The rise of Cyrus will not only signal the Jewish return to the Promised Land, but also the eventual birth of the Messiah and the fulfillment of His will for both Jews and Gentiles. Isaiah clearly telescopes the entire period between the return from exile to the coming Messiah by giving a far eschatological prophecy about the millennial Kingdom (Revelation 20:1-6) and the submission of the Gentile nations to Isra'el (see my commentary on Revelation Fk – Gentiles in the Messianic Kingdom). The Israelites did not need to worry. ADONAI’s promises to David were not swallowed up in, what seemed to be at the time of the exile, a Gentile take-over of the world. The LORD had promised David that he would rule the nations (Isaiah 9:7, 11:12-16; Psalm 2:7-12) and that they would submit to him (Isaiah 7:23; Psalm 72:8-12). As strange as it sounded to them at the time, the ascendance of Cyrus would start that process.

    At the time of this prophecy, the Jews were living in Judah and thought Isaiah was a fool. But the LORD knew that about 200 years later, when they were in Babylon and in the midst of depression from their departure from the Temple and the Land, that they would need hope. In a corporate lament, the Psalmist would write: By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion (Psalm 137:1-9). So here Isaiah continues his message of comfort (40:1-11) and tells them that not only would they come back from the captivity, but one day the Gentile nations would be subject to them! Thus He describes the submission of the Gentiles to the people of Isra'el as we also see in 49:23 and 60:4-9.

    Isaiah then describes the submission of three Gentile nations. This is what ADONAI says: The products of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush (Ethiopia), and those of the Sabeans (a tribe in Upper Egypt lying between Egypt and the Ethiopians) – they will come over to you and will be yours; they will trudge behind you willingly, as if in chains. By coming to Isra'el’s Messiah, the Gentiles will come to Isra'el.

    They will bow down before you and plead with you, saying: Surely God is with you, and there is no other, there is no other god (45:14). He is essentially dealing with the Northeast countries of Africa. These are the very enemies of Israel today. Yet someday they will submit themselves to the people of Israel. The reason they will come is that they will recognize that God is with them. In fact, this is a summary statement of Chapter 19, which details the submission of Egypt to the people of Israel. It is also a summation of Chapters 17 and 20, which deal with the submission of Ethiopia to the people of Israel. So ultimately the Muslims are going to confess that ADONAI, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, is the one true God. Then they will know and experience the grace of Jesus Christ.

    When Isaiah sees this future prophecy he breaks out in song: Truly you are a God who hides Himself, O God and Savior of Isra'el (45:15). When Isaiah says that God hides Himself, he doesn’t mean that God is being secretive. God hides Himself in the sense that His program is a mystery. When the Bible uses the term mystery, it means something that was once hidden, but has now been revealed. In other words, when Isaiah is given all this revelation about ADONAI’s program he breaks into song about how the ways of the LORD are being revealed at that time. No false god, no phony prophet could come up with such a fantastic plan. We see the same thing in Romans 9, 10, and 11 where the LORD deals with His program with Israel. And much of what Paul writes about in the book of Romans has its seeds in the book of Isaiah, which he quotes rather heavily throughout. In Chapter 9 he points out the fact that Israel’s unbelief in the Messiah did not take the LORD by surprise at all. He knew she would do so and used her disobedience for His ultimate plan. So that in Romans 10, opportunity might be given to the Gentiles to come to a saving knowledge of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

    Furthermore, in Romans 11 he says that not all Jews have rejected the Messiah, so throughout this present dispensation there is always going to be a believing remnant of Jews who will believe in Yeshua Messiah. At the end of Romans 11:25-32, Paul declares that ADONAI’s program with Israel will ultimately be fulfilled. He says the day is coming when all Isra'el will be saved (Romans 11:26). After Paul reveals this information about God’s program, he too breaks out in song in Romans 11:33-36. So both Isaiah and Paul declare that the LORD’s ways are thoroughly unsearchable. It is a plan that is magnificent. It is ADONAI’s plan, and man, on his own, cannot discover it. It has to come by revelation.

    The last two verses in this section are commentary on the previous statements, and are in the context of the Millennial Kingdom. All the makers of idols will be put to shame and disgraced; they will go off into disgrace together (45:16). During the Great Tribulation, the occult will reign freely as the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit will have been removed from the earth. All the unbelieving Gentiles who survive and make it into the millennial Kingdom will be put to shame and disgrace because of the idols they have trusted in. They will not be ashamed of themselves for trusting in idols because they still have unrepentant hearts, but nevertheless, they will go into disgrace together. There is a play upon words in this verse. Notice the term disgraced or confused. The Hebrew word for confusion is babel. It is also the name for Babylon. The source of idolatry and occult worship, and therefore the source of confusion, ultimately goes back to the Tower of Babel and Nimrod (see my commentary on Genesis Di - The Line of Ham). But that will not be the case for believing Isra'el.

    But Israel will be saved by the LORD with an everlasting salvation. Jeremiah would later emphasize that God had said: I have loved you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3). Jesus would announce: I tell you the truth, whoever believes [in Me] has everlasting life (John 6:47). In contrast to all the Gentiles who went through the Great Tribulation, the LORD said of Isra'el, “You will never be put to shame or disgraced, to ages everlasting (45:17). The good news for believers, is that if Isra'el cannot lose her salvation because of her sin, neither can you lose your salvation because of your sin! The only kind of salvation ADONAI gives is everlasting salvation.

    Isra'el, who used to be prone to the idol worship of the Babylonian gods, would never be put to shame or disgraced (confused) by idols again (Isaiah 54:4; Romans 9:33, 10:11; First Peter 2:6). Consequently, the righteous of the TaNaKh, and those who repented and accepted Jesus as the Messiah at the end of the Great Tribulation (see my commentary on Revelation Ev – The Basis for the Second Coming of Jesus Christ), will enjoy ADONAI’s salvation forever.


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