"Who then is like me? Let him proclaim it." "Is there any God besides me? No, there is no other Rock; I know not one. All who make idols are nothing, and the things they treasure are worthless." "Remember these things... Return to me, for I have redeemed you." (Isa 44:7a, 8b-9a, 21a, 22b)
Idolatry: It's so easy to make something related to God (even church success, passion for ministry) as more heartfelt than God himself. This turns a good thing into an ultimate thing, a god thing. Thus, anything and all good things can be an idol. [Previously: Stupid Idols and the Predicting God (Isa 42:22-23).]
Quotes on the love of God (Isa 43:4):
"The love of God for man is so great that it cannot constrain [us]... Divine will always will submit itself ... even to revolts of human will [in order] to bring it to a free consent. . . . God is a beggar of love waiting at the soul’s door without ever daring to force it." Vladimir Lossky.
"Grace ... by its very nature, confers independence on the object of its love. It gives, compelling no return ... it liberates rather than enslaves, strengthens rather than weakens free volition ... 'the service of God is perfect freedom.'" Martin Thornton.
Reading the Bible for Christians (the way for the Spirit to be poured out - Isa 44:3): "When two travelers are going through the wilderness, you may know which of them is thirsty by his always looking out for wells...So it is with thirsty believers; they love the Word, read and preached - they thirst for it more and more. Is it so with you, dear believing brethren? In Scotland, long ago, it used to be so. Often, after the blessing was pronounced, the people would not go away till they heard more. Ah! children of God, it is a fearful sign to see little thirst in you. I do not wonder much when the world stays away from our meetings for the Word and prayer; but ah! when you do, I am dumb - my soul will weep in secret places for your pride." (Robert Murray M'Cheyne, as quoted by Ray Ortlund, in Isaiah, p. 291)
"The man who has God for his treasure has all things in One. Many ordinary treasures may be denied him, or if he is allowed to have them, the enjoyment of them will be so tempered that they will never be necessary to his happiness. Or if he must see them go, one after one, he will scarcely feel a sense of loss, for having the Source of all things he has in One all satisfaction, all pleasure, all delight. Whatever he may lose he has actually lost nothing, for he now has it all in One, and he has it purely, legitimately and forever." A.W. Tozer, The Pursuit of God, Following Hard After God (Ps 63:8).
“Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you. And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made. You were with me, and I was not with you. The lovely things kept me far from you, though if they did not have their existence in you, they had no existence at all. You called and cried out loud and shattered my deafness. You were radiant and resplendent, you put to flight my blindness. You were fragrant, and I drew in my breath and now pant after you. I tasted you, and I feel but hunger and thirst for you. You touched me, and I am set on fire to attain the peace which is yours.” Augustine.
Culture--including church tradition--becomes idolatry, which stunts the church: "The culture is put on as though it were armor against self-doubt, but it becomes a mental straightjacket which cleaves to the flesh and can never be removed except through comprehensive faith in the saving work of Christ. Once faith is exercised, a Christian is free to be encultured (change, modify, adapt), to wear his culture like a comfortable suit of clothes. He can shift to other cultural clothing temporarily if he wishes to do so, as Paul suggests in 1 Cor 9:19-23 and he is released to admire and appreciate the differing expressions of Christ through other cultures. Disenculturation through the full appropriation of the life in Christ is vital to the church's missionary expansion." Richard F. Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life.
"Man's nature, so to speak, is a perpetual factory of idols." John Calvin.
False Salvation and True Salvation (Isaiah 43-44) [Idolatry and Redemption]
- False religion (43:22-28)
- True religion (44:1-5).
- Idolatry (44:6-20).
- Redemption (44:21-23).
Worthless Idols and the Only God (Isaiah 44)
- God alone is God (44:6-8).
- Idols are worthless (44:9-20).
- Remember and return to God (44:21-23).
"The name Jeshurun (Isa 44:2; Dt 32:15, 33:5, 26) … speaks a wonder of grace, for He calls His deeply sinful people His beloved, His upright one." (Bultema)
Isa 44:3 - "Without the Spirit of God we can do nothing; we are as ships without wind, or chariots without steeds, like branches without sap, we are withered; like coals without fire, we are useless. I desire both to feel and to confess this fact whenever I attempt to preach. I do not wish to get away from it, or to conceal it, nor can I, for I am often made to feel it to the deep humbling of my spirit." (Spurgeon)
"There are many things that are desirable for the Church of Christ, but one thing is absolutely needful; and this is the one thing, the power of the Holy Ghost in the midst of his people." (Spurgeon)
Isa 44:6 - "As first he does not derive his being from any other, but is self-existing; as last he remains supreme at the End." (Motyer)
44:9-20 - "The idolater picks up the figurine in his hand, holding it, but in reality it holds him. He is in bondage to a lie." (Motyer) "The sacred writers are generally large and eloquent upon the subject of idolatry; they treat it with great severity, and set forth the absurdity of it in the strongest light. But this passage of Isaiah … far exceeds anything that ever was written upon the subject, in force of argument, energy of expression, and elegance of composition." Adam Clarke. "And such passages as these are added in such cases to give an account of the prodigious madness of sinners herein; because, as they wilfully shut their own eyes, and harden their own hearts, so God judicially blinds and hardens them, and gives them up to believe lies, and then it is no wonder if they fall into such dotages." (Poole) "Cyrus, whom God here designeth by his proper name 200 years before he was born, that this might be an undeniable evidence of the certainty and exactness of God's foreknowledge, and a convincing argument, and so most fit to conclude this dispute between God and idols." (Poole)
- (44:1–5) What is the 4th reason servant Israel should not be afraid (1-2)? How does this relate to us? What fears about Israel’s future did the exile produce, and how does this promise address that fear? What does the name Jeshurun suggest (2)?
- What will be the response of Israel’s descendants and what is the significance of that response (5)? Why is that the work of the Spirit (3-4)?
- (44:6–8) This is a brief recap of the case against Babylon’s gods. List Yahweh’s claims. Isaiah likes to pile up names and titles for God (6; 43:14-15). What is the point? Explain "first" and "last" (6; 41:4; Rev 1:17; 22:13). What is the 5th reason not to be afraid (8)? [44:7 has caused some people concern for in its most literal sense it seems to make Yahweh the author of evil. What the Old Testament (OT) is combatting is the belief of paganism that one set of gods does the good things and another set does the bad things. No, says the OT, there is one God and he accepts ultimate responsibility for the world as it is. This is not to say he causes moral evil; but by making a world where that is possible, he is the ultimate cause of it.]
- (44:9–20) How might you sum up the point in a sentence or two? Why is an idol particularly disgusting to Yahweh? [“Abomination” (44:19) are things that are contrary to God's creation order (Lev. 18:22; Deut. 7:25; 18:10–12; 22:5).]
- (44:21–22) If 44:9–20 are an insertion, then the “these things” (21) might refer to what was said 44:6–8. How would remembering those things relate to 44:21– 22? How would these assertions motivate Israel to trust Yahweh?
- (44:23–28) Compare 44:23 to 42:10-13. How are they similar? What is the particular evidence of Yahweh’s uniqueness given in 44:25‒28? Why is that important as evidence?