The Lord calls out to the Coastlands (Islands/the nations) to listen to His case against them in silence and then to speak their case, if they have one. (Spoiler alert...they don't.)
The Ryrie footnote states that, in verse 2, "from the east" was a reference to Cyrus the Great from Persia and that he is a Christ-like character because he liberates God's people from Babylon. But to me it is more important in the rest of the verse that it is God who aroused Cyrus as God calls his people to His feet.
He reinforces this in verses 3 and 4. He is in charge. He accomplishes. He is the beginning with the earliest generation. and He is with the last generation.
"I am He." (4b) This is the same root as the "I am" name that God revealed about Himself to Moses.
In this next passage, I think from what I have read elsewhere, Isaiah is describing the people of Israel as they make their long, difficult journey home.
Drawn from the ends of the earth, they tremble, but draw near to home. This isn't the end of time because everyone is helping and encouraging one another, unlike the end times when everyone seeks his own.
Everyone is working together to craft what is needed.
And then God brings the ultimate encouragement. First He calls them by name.
- Israel, My servant
- Jacob, whom I have chosen
- Descendant of Abraham, My friend
- You whom I have called and taken from the ends of the earth
- Called you My servant
- I have chosen you and not rejected you
And then He says that thing that He says so often and that I am quick to forget.
Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.Isaiah 41:10
He's told us that He is looking to and fro for those with faith in who He is. Which means we need to know who He is. Not an ATM...handing out cash prizes and prosperity if you have the right PIN number; not an unkind judge handing out consequences for his amusement.
But a God who, for whatever unfathomable reason, wants a daily relationship with us. He wants to guide us, change us, heal us, disciple and train us. Prepare us for eternity.
And He is big enough to do it too. He has the resources. He's proven Himself faithful. We didn't earn it. We don't deserve it. But He holds Himself accountable for His name's sake.
So we have to practice putting away fear. Choosing faith over anxiety or scheming. Choosing one thought over another...for his name's sake. We won't always get our way; but He will uphold us with His mighty right hand.
In verses 11-12, He goes on with additional encouragement:
- those angered with Israel will be shamed and dishonored
- those contending with Israel will be as nothing and will perish
- you won't even be able to find those with whom you were quarreling
- those at war with you will be nothing and will not exist
That had to sound like complete fiction to a people who had been defeated and discouraged and carried away to a foreign land, coming back and starting over. How could their position be so strong against their enemies when they were so, currently, so weak?
"For I am the Lord your God, who upholds your right hand, who says to you, 'Do not fear, I will help you.'"Isaiah 41:13
He repeats the assurance in verse 14. Calling Jacob (the men of Israel) a worm; but assuring that HE will help them. Then He refers to Himself as "says the Lord your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel."
- Lord= Yehovah
- Redeemer = ga'al, our Kinsman redeemer- only kinsmen can redeem their own who are in debt and need help
- Holy One= quados, sacred and set apart
- of Israel = yisrael, not only is He the Holy One, but He is the Holy One of Israel. Claiming them in His own title.
Look at how much information He gave them about Himself. He wants us to know Him and make Him known.
(As an aside, the MacArthur Bible Commentary states that the term "worm" used to describe "Jacob" is meant to show the very low opinion that the world has for God's people; and apparently this same term is used to describe the Messiah on the cross (Psalm 22:6). However, Wiersbe seems to think the word "worm" is how Israel saw itself, or really was on the inside apart from God.)
Then He goes on to give them evidence to back up His encouragement. So that they know this isn't a hollow pat on the head and a promise that "everything will be okay". This is a plan from the maker of heaven and earth.
He explains that He has made the a new sharp, double-edged threshing sledge. they will thresh the mountains and hills will be like chaff. They will be moving mountains and hills will blow away in the wind.
But you will rejoice in the Lord, you will glory in the Holy One of Israel.Isaiah 41:16b
Even though they will see this miraculous thing, their heart will be busy rejoicing in the Lord. That's amazing. And it came true. they did move mountains when they returned. But it also makes me think of everything modern Israel accomplished since their return after WWII. They turned a desert into a bread basket. They repelled enemies who attacked from all sides. And continue to repel enemies and their missiles. They are a hotbed of innovation and invention. They thrive. And they remained His people- dispersed all over the world for two thousand years, and they remained a people. Truly a miraculous moving of a mountain. All by the hand of God.
He goes on to catalogue their needs and His provision. Look at how closely it also matches what He's done for modern Israel.
- They will be afflicted, needy, and thirsty. He will answer them and not forsake them. He goes on to list all of the water He will provide.
- He will plant all the trees for them. Cedars, acacia, myrtle, olive, juniper in the desert.
Verse 20 tells us why He would do this:
That they may see and recognize, and consider and gain insight as well, that the hand of the Lord has done this, and the Holy One of Israel has created it.Isaiah 41:20
For. His. Name's. Sake.
Essential to remember this. Otherwise we end up with the prosperity gospel and people discouraged because they can't "faith" their way into all they want. For their own name's sake.
Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and HIS righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you, hallelu, hallelu, hallelujah!
Then the Lord challenges them to tell the future and make sense of the past. He wants them to prophesy and He is able to accurately prophesy what is going to come. That way, everyone will know that they are gods. God tells these idols (sarcastically) that He is anxious to see them do good or evil and then reminds them that they can do nothing. And anyone who chooses them is an abomination.
It's so interesting that He has all of this encouragement and He still has to remind us that idols are useless. He does this because it's necessary. We go to sleep full of hope and faith and wake up worried...we just do. So we need a new infusion of Him and another reminder to avoid seeking out our needs with empty idols.
Having emphasize the useless nature of trying to secure your future with help from an idol, God gives an actual prophesy that proves out 150 years later. Cyrus will come from the east and attack the north.
As the world continues to decline, as it collectively hardens its hearts to the Lord, and the Lord's grace recedes, we're going to see things get worse. Truth will be called lies and men will be called women. This is when we can cling to "fear not." He can see the faithful from the faithless. Fear not. Fear not. Fear not. Call on the name of the lord and you will be saved. There is no promise what that will look like. But He sees and He knows and that's enough.