The main thrust of today’s reading, you may have noticed, is the uniqueness and only-ness of God. Although we assume monotheism in our culture, this section has great value to us because 1) it reminds how foolish the world of idolatry really is, 2) it reminds us how we can know that there is but one and only one God, and 3) it reminds us how that knowledge can and should effect us.
Part gets burned and part gets worshipped
In a fairly extensive string of verses, Isaiah really takes the world of idolatry to task with a clear exposé on the contradictions of idolatry. First, that mortals (men) could really create or form immortals (gods) — it’s supposed to work the other way around. How could a creature help or rescue its creator? The physical doesn’t make the spiritual; the spiritual makes the physical! Second, how could take the same material and destroy it in fire and then fall down before it in worship? If one part is holy, all of it is holy. Or if wasn’t holy before, how does man’s carving on it make it holy? “No one recalls, nor is there knowledge or understanding to say, “I have burned half of it in the fire and also have baked bread over its coals. I roast meat and eat it. Then I make the rest of it into an abomination, I fall down before a block of wood!”” Isaiah 44:19, NAS95.
The Cyrus prophecy
This is a great prophecy that God offers us to underscore how far superior He is to the idols. Was there ever a god who made such a prediction? Who named the name of the king (Cyrus) who would arise, conquer a great empire to create one of his own, and restore an exiled people to their homes and help them rebuild the Temple of God? It is such a clinching argument that it has become an item of contention to unbelievers, who will often accuse the text of actually being written after the rise of the Persian empire and the return of the people of Israel to the land of Israel. Unbelievers have a really hard time with miracles and predictive prophecy — the signs given to aid our faith — and they work pretty hard at trying to explain them away. Archaeological evidence, from the Dead Sea Scrolls to linguistics, stand witness to the genuineness the prophecy dating to before the rise of the Persian empire. God really did predict the coming of Cyrus and Israel’s return to the land of Judah. Other so-called gods do not do such things, because they cannot; they do not exist.
Do not fear
And for that reason Israel was not to fear. Oh yes, there would be judgment and punishment for Israel’s sins; but do not fear. The one and only God who loves you will also save His remnant. And there’s a great lesson here for us, when the waters of trial rise to our knees, to our waists, to our necks, and maybe to our noses — do not fear, because the one and only God will rescue. Just be faithful, hang on, persevere!
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.