Sunday, October 10, 2010

Isaiah 43-47 - The Only One

Wordle: Sermon on Isaiah 43-47
Wordle of this sermon

Cyrus the Great
Opening thoughtHave you ever been in a situation where you have failed miserably and you were in deep fear about what was next? When would the other shoe drop? Would you be able to handle it? Israel found itself in just that situation during the Exile, and Isaiah, over a century earlier, left them encouragement.

Contextual Notes:
During the prophet Isaiah’s lifetime, Assyria was the world superpower. In 722 B.C., Assyria destroyed idolatrous northern Israel and deported them from their land. Later Babylon replaced Assyria on the world stage with a king called Nebuchadnezzar and destroyed Judah, Jerusalem, and the Temple in 586 B.C., hauling the Jews into Exile.

After Babylon, Persia arose and became the new bully on the geo-political bloc. Persia’s Empire builder was Cyrus, the same Cyrus who in 539 B.C. ended the Jewish Exile. Isaiah named Cyrus by name 150 years before the Persians took over the known world.

We have begun the second half of Isaiah’s prophecy with a theme of comfort (chap. 40). Though Isaiah doesn’t mention the coming Exile, he prophesies comfort in the midst of punishment. Yes, Isaiah says, Babylon will be God’s rod of punishment for Judah, but take comfort. God will send a man named Cyrus to destroy Babylon (chapters 46-47). And beyond this man is a greater Man in whom we should take comfort, the Only One who will come to destroy both our sin and take our punishment. He is the Only One.

In chapter 41’s courtroom, God decreed the stunning rise of a warrior (later we see it is Cyrus of Persia, but it points to the stunning rise of another Warrior) (Isaiah 41:1-7). Israel should not fear (Isaiah 41:8-10). Her enemies will be shamed (Isaiah 41:11-16) and her needs met (Isaiah 41:17-20).

Other false gods? Powerless (Isaiah 41:21-24). The Lord alone can predict the future (Isaiah 41:25-29), a future which has a Servant more important than an eastern warrior (Isaiah 41:2), a Chosen One on whom the Spirit rests, who will be Justice and Light for the nations (Isaiah 42:1, 3-4, 6-7), who is the Creator-YHWH’s personal Representative (Isaiah 42:5-6, 8-9). Because of his faithful character and despite their willful blindness, He will lead his failing servant Israel into a new reality of light and comfort (Isaiah 42:9-25).

That new light and comfort found in chapters 43-47 is that there is a hope to overcome the horrible burden and punishment of sin (Isaiah 43:24-25, 27; 44:22). There is One Savior, only One Savior, a Sole Savior, a Savior of Souls (chaps. 43-44), and that Savior is Sovereign. That Savior is Omnipotent. That Savior is All-Powerful. That Savior is the Highest Power (Isaiah 45-47). Not only is there an Only Savior, but there is no more powerful Savior than He. That is the Truth, the Light, and the Comfort we have in Christ, a glorious Comfort for my people (Isaiah 40:1).

Key Truth: Isaiah wrote Isaiah 43-47 to teach a sinful Israel many years later in Exile that there is no other Savior and no more powerful Savior than the Lord.

Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about being saved from sin. 
Cyrus the Great's tomb in Pasargad, Iran

Read:  Isaiah 43-47
Sermon Points:
  1. There is no other Savior (Isaiah 43:1-44:24).
  2. There is no more powerful Savior (Isaiah 44:24-47:15).

Exposition:   Note well,

1.   THERE IS NO OTHER SAVIOR (Isaiah 43:1-44:23)
a.   Key verses: Isaiah 43:1, 3, 11, 18-19, 24-25; 44:6, 8, 22
b.   God’s servant Israel need not fear (Isaiah 43:1-7; 44:1-5), for ‘You are my witnesses’ that there is no other Savior (Isaiah 43:8-13; 44:6-8), that only God can blot out their sins (Isaiah 43:14-28) and the great contrast between the Lord and false gods (Isaiah 44:6-20).
c.   Isaiah 44:1-7 Fear Not – Isaiah has shown that Israel has failed as a servant. Here, God reaffirms his love. He chose, made, formed, created Israel, and his love is unconditional.
d.   APPLICATION: When you and I find ourselves in some terrible failure, we too have fear. We fear what is next. We fear the consequences. We fear how others will respond. But God’s love never fails. He loves you and me despite our deficiencies. He made us. He chose us. He created us. And his love is unconditional.
e.   Isaiah 44:6-23 – Idolatry dominated the ancient world in both the OT and NT. Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 10:18-22 that while these carved images were nothing, they were invested with spiritual power by demonic beings. He also tells us that idolatry is a rejection of the Creator, rejecting the true God (Romans 1:18ff). Isaiah mocks the foolishness of people who cut down a tree, make tools, make an idol from the leftovers, and then pray to the thing to deliver them.
f.    APPLICATION: How foolish that when the check or direct deposit comes, we pay bills with part of it, buy food with part of it, and make part of it an object of worship we pay homage, looking for security in a growing mountain of debt or the security we find in an IRA or 401K. Only a God who cares and is capable of doing something can possibly help anyone. 
2.   THERE IS NO MORE POWERFUL SAVIOR (Isaiah 44:24-47:15)
a.   Key verses: Isaiah 45:5-7, 11-13, 14b-17, 21b-25; 46:8-13; 47:4
b.   Isaiah 44:24-45:7 – Isaiah predicted Judah’s fall to Babylon. Now he predicts the fall of Babylon and the return of the Jews to their homeland. In a demonstration of his omniscience and omnipotence, he names the Persian conqueror who will overthrow Babylon and will issue the decree to release the captives and rebuild the Temple. Liberal commentators who deny the reality of predictive prophecy and inerrancy insist that the mention of Cyrus’ name is evidence of this part of Isaiah being written after the Exile, when the events foretold had already happened. But if one actually reads the context, the naming of Cyrus is evidence of something very different. It is proof of Israel’s living God and a guarantee that history itself is governed and moves according to God’s intentions and ends.
c.   APPLICATION: The future is a mystery to us. With all our technological sophistication, we cannot accurately predict the weather, much less events lying 20, 100, or 1000 years in the future. The stunning accuracy of God’s prophets over and over in predicting the future is one of the most convincing evidences of the supernatural origin of God’s Word.
d.   Isaiah 45:21 – God’s commitment to doing right is revealed in both the salvation of sinners and his judgment of sin. God has chosen and loves His people.
e.   APPLICATION: He will be true to His love for us, despite our failures. Here salvation moves beyond rescuing from present danger to a hint of the resurrection at history’s end.
f.    Isaiah 46:1-13 Incomparable God – God’s work through Cyrus will bring down the futile gods of Babylon, Bel (Marduk) and Nebo. Babylon’s defeat proves God’s superiority. Pagans carry their gods. The Lord carries his people (Isaiah 46:3-4). Israel’s incomparable God alone shapes and reveals the future, a future of salvation (Isaiah 46:5-13).
g.   APPLICATION: Isaiah explains God’s ability to predict the future (Isaiah 46:10). He is God, and he is able to ‘make known the end from the beginning’ and ‘from ancient times’ to predict ‘what is still to come.’ He established purpose for the universe. He created and is powerful enough to guarantee that his purposes will stand. The technical terms are omniscience, ‘knowing all things,’ and omnipotence, ‘having all power and authority.’ If the Lord can accurately predict these great geopolitical shifts with minute accuracy, why is it that you question whether he can handle your finances or your employment or your child or your disease?
h.   Isaiah 47:1ff – Fall of Babylon – Isaiah now details how the fall of Babylon would take place. God permitted Babylon to triumph over his people to discipline them. But two factors fixed Babylon’s demise, from God’s perspective. Babylon went too far in it inhuman treatment of the Jewish captives (Isaiah 47:5-7; remember Genesis 12:1-3?), and its nauseous pride (even to compare itself with God) and wickedness calls for judgment (Isaiah 47:8-11). Disaster was coming, and no amount of magic spells, sorceries, or star power can save Babylon from the devastation God has ordained (Isaiah 47:12-15).
i.    APPLICATION: Astrology is a false science claiming to foretell the future by studying the supposed influence of the relative positions of the sun, moon, and stars on human affairs. It was practiced in ancient times along with magic and sorcery. It is a practice strongly condemned in the Bible.