Isaiah 44: pleading with Israel at the end of the age

This is another Bible class given to a Christadelphian audience early this year (pdf)

1 Introduction

Our chapter relates to important events in the life of Hezekiah (which we can read in chapters 36-39). In the Hebrew, the meaning of Hezekiah’s name is “my strength is in Yahweh”. A name which he lived up to during the siege of Jerusalem by Rabshakeh (36-37). Later Hezekiah is sick unto death, and prays to be healed putting his trust in Yahweh (38:). Following this we see Hezekiah in a brief lapse of Judgement, show to the king of Babylon all the wealth given him by Yahweh (:39). In chapter 39 we read of the consequences of his actions, yet we see Hezekiah’s faith in his words, “Good is the word of Yahweh which thou has spoken”.

Would we react the same way? It’s not the most natural human reaction. How many would praise Yahweh after being told that all their hard earned worldly possessions would be taken away? Declaring the goodness of the eternal creator, after hearing their sons would be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon!

Yahweh addresses the situation and all those involved, Hezekiah, the people of Israel, and the Babylonians. Declaring how he has lovingly formed Israel from the dust of the earth, to give him glory as the first fruits of the whole earth. Then he addresses the foolishness of the Idolatry of the people, in making and worshipping the Babylonish idols of Nimrod from bits of wood and stone, then describes how he will use Cyrus to return his people to their promised land, in chapter 45. Meanwhile the judgements on the fictitious Bel (Baal) and his followers are in chapter 46.

1.1 Isaiah 44: overview

Our chapter this evening, Isaiah 44, builds on these same themes found in the preceding three chapters.

  • Verses 1-8 Yahweh reaffirms his plan and purpose with the nation of Israel. A plan as old as the earth, laid out to Abraham; His plan has not, and will not change. There are none that can be called mighty except they be mighty by his might. Yahweh sets the order in this world, and he is shaping it to his original plan. Through the mouth of Isaiah, the people are assured that Israel is not forsaken… though they be purged from their Idolatry by the Babylonian armies, they are and will continue to be witnesses to the creators immutable plan with this earth.
  • Verses 9-20 Yahweh challenges those who build themselves idols and icons to bow before and put their trust in them. All things were created by Yahweh, by his power. Therefore it is utter folly to take a piece of wood created by Yahweh, cut out an image of a person and bow down to it… meanwhile burning the rest of it to keep warm! A piece of wood, metal, or stone nether has hand to work, feet to walk, or a mouth to speak. How can one expect to be helped or taught by such a powerless thing.
  • Verse 21-28 Yahweh pleads with Israel to remember the kindness that he has shown them in forming them, and their promise to serve him. Insuring them that he will never forget them, and their sins have been blotted out. Declaring the joy of all those in the kingdom of Elohim, all parts of society, from the greatest to the least.

2 Yahweh reaffirms his plan (:1-8)

2.1 Verse 1: Gospel call

We read in verse 1:

Isa 44:1 Yet now… hear! O Jacob my servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen:

Yahweh pleads with his people… “yet now”. At “sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets” (Heb 1:1). The end of the age was approaching and the people had not hearkened to the may prophets that their loving father had sent them over the last few years. Yet even now, there is hope, there is opportunity to forsake the idols and “hear”.

How these words must have cut. The words of Deuteronomy 6:4 are indelibly etched on the minds of every religious Jew in the world, they call it the “Sh’ma”.

שְׁמַ֖ע יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֵ֖ינוּ יְהוָ֥ה ׀ אֶחָֽד׃

Hear O Israel, Yahweh our Elohim is one Yahweh

And here we see the wisdom of the Father, referring back to his own words at the birth of the nation. Just by using one word, “Sh’ma”, the minds of his sheep are brought back to the time when he first called them.

John 10:4 “And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.”

Not one word in scripture is wasted, the more we memorise his words, the more interconnected we find them.

2.1.1 Israel chosen people

Yahweh reminds his people Israel that he has chosen them. The Hebrew word triggers euphoric links back to words such as:

Exod 19:6 And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.

Israel had been lovingly taken out from the oppression of the nations around, and made a “holy” or separate nation. A kingdom of priests. Yet at the time, not all of the tribes were ready for this… only the Levities stood up with Moses when called upon. So they were taken as the first fruits of the nation.

Num 8:16 For they are wholly given unto me from among the children of Israel; instead of such as open every womb, even instead of the firstborn of all the children of Israel, have I taken them unto me.
17 For all the firstborn of the children of Israel are mine, both man and beast: on the day that I smote every firstborn in the land of Egypt I sanctified them for myself.
18 And I have taken the Levites for all the firstborn of the children of Israel.

Very soon, Christ will return to set up his kingdom and Israel will be restored to it’s original structure and separateness from the wisdom of this world; purged from the secularism that pervades large portions of the population of Israel, and the whole political spectrum.

In that day, the whole nation will be a kingdom of priests. Priests to whom, we may ask? We read in Zechariah 8 of this time.

Zech 8:22 Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek Yahweh of armies in Jerusalem, and to pray before Yahweh.
23 Thus saith Yahweh of armies; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that Elohim is with you.

And in…

Gen 22:17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies;
18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth cause themselves to be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.

The nation of Israel was called to be an example to the rest of the world, and to teach them the laws of Yahweh. And yet they had to be prepared for that role, through many trials… to whom much is given, much is required.

2.1.2 Calling within calling

As we have seen, there is a calling within the calling. The Levites were called out as first fruits by birth, and anyone who was a Levite in heart could take the Nazerite vow and become a Levite regardless of natural decent. David was also chosen out of the people (psa 89:19,20) as a king, and a man after his own heart. And ultimately Christ was chosen to be king priest after the order of Melchizedek, “this is my son, in whom I am well pleased”.

Through Christ, we have the opportunity to hear the calling too. Not a new calling, but the old calling. Not to replace, but to become part of that original plan. Through Christ, we can become part of the seed of Abraham, and heirs to the promises. By doing the works of Abraham, and joining ourselves to Christ’s body, we are grafted in to Israel, one of it’s people. Nazerites of the order of Melchizedek, and not the order of Moses. First fruits, kings, and priests with Christ and the many other faithful Israelites, both of the natural and wild branches (Rom 11:24,25).

Rev 1:5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
:6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

What a humbling privilege! Do we do the works of Abraham?

2.2 Verse 2: the exodus

The Father continues in Verse 2 of our chapter with many allusions to when he called his people out from Egypt and the exodus journey:

:2 Thus saith Yahweh who is making you and forming you from the womb, He will help you! Don’t fear, O Yaaqov my servant, and Yeshurun in whom I have chosen.

The creator uses his name, Yahweh. A name which, although known to Adam & Eve, was not experienced on a national level until Exodus 3. The name embodies a calling out from the sea of flesh. To become like the one who is calling by forsaking the lusts of the flesh, and to share that calling with others in the hope that they too might answer the call. A kingdom of king priests ministering to the nations and leading the way by example. Here in Isaiah 44 verse 2, Yahweh is reminding his people of their awesome calling, and the grand purpose of that calling.

2.2.1 Making and forming

The verse continues, “who is making you, and forming you from the womb”. There seems to be an important difference between the making and forming. Making is the action of creating, used seven times in Gen 1… it is the building up of something! So was Israel built up and assembled into a kingdom giving glory to Yahweh, in all it’s institutions and law which were all patterns designed to build up the characters of all who observed them and pondered on them.

Then there is the “forming”, a word which is commonly used to describe the work of a potter. He slowly moulds the wet clay until it is a shape that can be used for a desired purpose, containing water, grain or oil for example. The first occurrence of this word ties our theme together with a beautiful lesson for us, it’s found in Genesis 2.

Gen 2:7 And Yahweh Elohim formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living breathing thing.

Adam was “formed” by the shaping the dust of the earth, as the wet clay of the potter. The strong word link with the potter suggests that the water is important in the process, and water generally symbolises the word of Yahweh.

So in Isa 44 verse two, the Abrahamic dust of the earth… the children of Israel gathered from the land of Egypt are mixed with the water of the word, the law of Moses being a constant reminder of divine principles. They are joined together as one lump and made pliable to the moulding hand of Yahweh. Without the water of the word, the lump dries up and cracks apart… the flesh seeks it’s own desires. Therefore we must daily meditate on the Word of Yahweh, and encourage others to do the same, so that we can be pliable to his moulding into a vessel to his glory.

2.2.2 From the womb

Continuing in verse two, lets move our thoughts to consider the phrase “from the womb”. Yahweh’s relationship with Israel is likened to a parent bringing up a child. He made Israel in Egypt, and thereafter he is “forming” them, moulding them to his purpose.

The reference to the womb is a strong link to the primary characteristic of Yahweh. When Moses asks to see his glory, he declares “Yah, Yahweh El, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth…”. The primary characteristic is “mercy” (Rachem), which is the verb to the noun describing a mothers womb. Put simply, to act with “mercy” is to “womb”, to act as a womb. Hence, to protect and to nourish to maturity. This is what Yahweh did for Israel, and it is the example we will follow if we want to be like him.

1 John 4:21 That he who loveth God love his brother also.

Do we consider the welfare of our brethren and sisters? Do we do what we can to help them grow in understanding and wisdom, the character of our father?

2.2.3 I will help you

So far Yahweh has reminded them that they were created by him in Egypt. That ever since, he as been shaping and moulding them, preparing them to be his ministers to each other and all the inhabitants of the earth. And then adds “he will help thee”. The first time this word is used is in Genesis 2:

Gen 2:18 And Yahweh Elohim said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help as facing him.

Notice this help was not purely for the natural gratification of Adam. Eve was created to help Adam in the work Yahweh commanded him to do, of serving the garden of Eden and preserving her. Someone who could come faces to faces with him, understanding his difficulties and they would support each other in the work. This is the kind of relationship that the creator of the universe wants with Israel his people. He will help them. The question is, are they going to fulfil their part of the relationship and help him in his work? And we must ask ourselves that very same question… are we willing to do the work of our Father, the work of Christ, the work of Abraham, the work of the Apostles, the work of Elijah…? Our work to support and encourage those around us to mould their characters to mirror that of our creator’s?

2.2.4 Fear not

Going back to our verse, the next words are “Fear not… my servant Jacob” (‘al tira). Each of the patriarchs were told once each not to fear in these exact same words: Abraham in Genesis 15:1, Isaac in 26:24, and Jacob or Israel in 46:3. Each of these times are very interesting, but we only have time to look at Jacob’s.

Isaiah 46:3 And he said, I the Ail, the Elohim of thy father: fear not to go down into Egypt; for I will there make of thee a great nation:

Yahweh reassures Jacob that it is safe to go down to Egypt to Joseph, for in Egypt he will make him a great nation. The promised seed will be multiplied outside the promised land, where they would have to learn to be like their father while surrounded with the Babel religion of Egypt.

Now on the threshold of the Babylonian invasion, the people are being told once more “don’t fear”… Yahweh is once again going to shape his people outside the land of promise. This time it would be in the very city where the tower of Babel stood, the great symbol of the rebellion of man. Yet within all this, the promises to Abraham would be fulfilled.

And once again we see the marvel of the scriptures, which could only be written by the creator of the universe. Yahweh makes a profound link by using just three words between two books. One of many such links we have seen this evening – proving without doubt that every word penned by the writers of both books were inspired from the words of the same author, not bound by time and the limitations of the human mind.

2.2.5 Yeshuran

Isaiah 44 and verse 2 finishes with “and Yeshurun I have chosen in him”. Yeshurun means upright, and is only referenced elsewhere in Deuteronomy 32 & 33. Chapter 33 is a vision of Christ setting up the kingdom of Israel and in verse 5 he is called king in Yeshurun… equating Yashurun with Israel the purged upright Israel that Christ calls to himself. Yet,

Deut 32:15 But Jeshurun waxed fat, and kicked: thou art waxen fat, thou art grown thick, thou art covered with fatness; then he forsook Eloah which made him, and lightly esteemed the Rock of his salvation.

Talking of Israel after Yahweh gave them the fatness of the land, after the murmurers had died in the wilderness and all the people had sworn an oath on the border of the land. The spoil of the land made the people apathetic, that they kept not the words of Yahweh. Losing their uprightness, they turned themselves over to the lusts of the flesh which were satisfied in the false religions around. And this is where the people found themselves in Isaiah’s day.

2.3 Verse 3: Water in the desserts

Lets move on to verse 3 of Isaiah 44,

Isa 44:3 For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground:I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:

So despite the waxing fat of Yeshurun in the years leading up to the time of Isaiah, Yahweh would revive the nation. There had been a spiritual drought in the mosaic heavens, the leaders of the people were generally clouds without water (with the exception of a few good kings such as Hezekiah).

Yet Yahweh declares that he will give water to the thirsty. There is an exhortation for us just as much as the children of Israel listening to Isaiah… the first step is that we must be thirsty!

Psa 42:1 As the hart panteth after the water brooks, so panteth my soul after thee, Elohim

2.3.1 Floods

The word for “floods” is found in Psa 78, and opens up theme back to the Exodus journey again.

Ps 78:15 He clave the rocks in the wilderness, and gave them drink as out of the great depths.
:16 He brought streams also out of the rock, and caused waters to run down like rivers.

The people in the wilderness became thirsty, they seemed to forget the awesome deliverance from the Egyptian army only a few days ago and murmured against their saviour. Thereby prophetically enacting a time when the nation would be dried up of spiritual water, and Yahweh would give them water out of the rock.

What is this spiritual water?

Deut 32:1 Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.
:2 My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass:
:3 Because I will publish the name of Yahweh: ascribe ye greatness unto our Elohim.
:4 He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: El of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.

The water represents the doctrine, that which has been taken, from the words of Yahweh. The water is again related to the rock… 1 Corinthians 10 tells us who the rock represents.

1Cor 10:4 And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.

Talking to the woman by the well in Sameria, Christ says:

John 4:13 Jesus answered and said unto her, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again:”
:14 “But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”

The thirsty indeed shall drink, and they that drink shall never be thirsty again. When Christ returns, we will see the words of Isaiah 12 fulfilled.

Isa 12:3 Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation.

We could spend the whole evening on this theme, but we will move on for now. In summary, the father is promising that though the nation become as the parched ground for lack of teachers of truth… Yahweh will provide one who will water the whole nation and give life to it again.

2.3.2 Pour out spirit

Verse three continues with, “I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring”. This pouring out is linked with the pouring out of the water at the beginning of the verse, the word for pouring is exactly the same. Hence is linked with the time of Christ’s ministry, and we can see this is affirmed in the words of Acts 2. Where the holy spirit gifts are poured out upon the disciples in Jerusalem as their comforter in his absence. Peter say,

Acts 2:16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel;

And he continues to quote from,

Joel 2:28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:

So back in Isaiah 44, Yahweh is explaining what would happen to his people… how he would continue to provide for them, despite the wolves that would enter the flock.

2.4 Verse 4: trees of life spring up

Verse 4 continues,

Isa 44:4 And they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses.

The verse starts with, “and they”, so he is talking about the thirsty who drank… the Yeshurun, the upright ones. They shall spring up along the river banks created by the water flowing from the Christ rock.

Apoc 22:1 And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.
:2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the wood of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Those of Israel who thirsted and drank were like trees who grew and gave fruit to those around, that they too may be healed. But what does this mean, we find out in Psalm 1.

Psa 1:1 The happiness of the man that walked not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, nor dwelt in the dwelling of the scornful.
2 For his delight is in the law of Yahweh; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.
3 And he shall be like a tree planting itself upon the rivers of water,that bringeth forth his fruit in his season;his leaf also shall not wither;and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

Is our delight in meditating of the words of Yahweh? Do we soak it up as water? Do we produce the fruit of the spirit in the things we do and say?

2.5 Verse 5: nations healed

Moving on to verse 5… the nations are being healed by the fruit of the trees of life, many dedicate themselves to Yahweh:

Isa 44:5 One shall say, “I am Yahweh’s”; and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand “unto Yahweh”, and surname himself by the name of Israel.

What a wonderful time, when Israel will be the head of the nations… they will grab hold of the skirt of a Jew and plead with him to let them be with him.

2.6 Verse 6: the first and the last

Verse 6 is the pinnacle of this beautiful vision, Eden restored:

Isa 44:6 Thus saith Yahweh the King of Israel, and his redeemer Yahweh of armies; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no Elohim.

Yahweh is Immanuel, amongst the upright ones, the Yeshurun. Those who thirsted for his words and were given a flowing fountain. Those who grew strong on the banks of the living waters, meditating on his word all the day… giving fruit to all those who came near. Those who surnamed themselves by the name of Israel, and declared “I am Yahweh’s”!

The first one among the last ones.

2.7 Yahweh alone

Verses 7 and 8 pick up the challenge to anyone who thinks that there are Elohim beside Yahweh Elohim. There are none!

3 Idolatry (:9-20)

This leads into a graphic description of the utter folly of Idolatry, in verses 9 to 20. Men worshipping the works of their own hand. That which they cannot make, but only form, and the remainder is cast away as rubble or burnt in the fire. What vanity, what a mockery of the sublime plan and purpose our heavenly father has with this creation!

4 Plea for return (:21-28)

The final section of the chapter picks up the theme of the first section again. Pleading with Israel, that they cast out their idols and bind themselves back to him once more. Don’t throw away the promises to Abraham as Esau did!

The argument concludes with the promise of relief from the Babylonians, through the proclamation of Cyrus.

5 Conclusion

Sadly we don’t have time to look at the rest of the chapter in the same detail, to do it justice would take several evenings. I really wanted to bring out the depth and power of the argument in this first section, as the key to appreciating more fully the second two sections. Hopefully we can now go home and ponder on the symbols of the first section and when we read the latter two sections they will contain a lot more meaning.

Brethren and Sisters, let us thirst after those living waters, and allow our father to shape our lives and our characters to become vessels glorious to him. Full of oil, we may give light to those around us, being an example by what we do, think, and say. Giving our fruit to the healing of others.

We have a rock that cannot be moved. Very soon the later day Cyrus will manifest himself. Our Lord, our beloved, will return to help Israel… may we be with him.

Isa 44:28 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.