I AM HE
(A Study of Isaiah 41)
Part one – A Message for our Times.
During these times in which we find ourselves, I have heard often, “Why is God allowing these things to happen?” There was a cartoon I read recently that pictured a young man sitting on a park bench along side of Jesus. The young man asked Jesus this very thing and the Lord replied, “Funny, I was about to ask you the same question.” Throughout history we are quick to raise a fist toward heaven and blame God for our troubles but the truth of the matter is that the blame lies elsewhere. We have been skirting responsibility and trying to pass blame to others. It began with Adam in the garden when he accused God in a similar manner, “The woman that you gave me she . . .” (Gen. 3:12). Well, it’s time we grew up and faced the music. Instead of raising fists in anger we need to raise hands in praise. As Romans 15:11 urges us, “And yet again, ‘Praise the LORD, all you Gentiles. Praise him, all you people of the earth.’” We are living in the time at the very cusp of the Day of the LORD! As Jesus said Himself, “And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that you be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there will be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” (Matt.24:6-8) Our societies are not going to get better. Evil will not gradually be overcome. It will grow and grow and sink its corrupting tentacles deeper and deeper into the world and into the people who lust for its power and wealth. Deception will deepen. How oft did Jesus say, “Be not deceived.”? (Matt.24:4)
Isaiah 41 presents an outline of God’s help for Israel. At the time of writing it was entirely prophetic in nature, detailing how God would keep His promises concerning His Chosen People. Don’t fret over my use of the word ‘prophetic’ for it is simply ‘a promise given.’ A promise given by our Creator; a promise given by the LORD of the hosts of Heaven; a promise given by He Who writes history in advance! During my lifetime, as with most of you, I grew up singing songs such as, Standing on the Promise of God. Let us stand on the promises of God without fear or worry. Let us stop wringing our hands as we observe what is happening about us but rather let us remember in Whose hands we are: “And I give unto them [we believers] eternal life; and they will never perish, neither will any man pluck them out of my hand.” (John 10:28)
We are at a time of the “beginning of sorrows” and the word of God says, “These things must come to pass.” We cannot wish away the things that are fast approaching, nor can we pray them away, for “these things must come to pass.” But know and be certain, that nothing can ever separate us from the love of God!
“Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril or sword? As it is written, ‘For thy sake we are killed all the day long, we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height nor depth, nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35-39) We believers are secure. We believers have nothing to fear. We believers will be kept throughout all that comes upon this planet. These things must come to pass but we will be the ones “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:5)
Returning to Isaiah 41 let us hear what the LORD GOD has to say to the Gentiles as the last days fast approach.
“Listen in silence before me, you lands beyond the sea. Bring your strongest arguments. Come now and speak. The court is ready for your case. Who has stirred up this king from the east, rightly calling him to God’s service? Who gives this man victory over many nations and permits him to trample their kings underfoot? With his sword he reduces armies to dust. With his bow he scatters them like chaff before the wind. He chases them away and goes on safely though he is walking over unfamiliar ground. Who has done such mighty deeds, summoning each new generation from the beginning of time? It is I, the LORD, the First and the Last. I alone am He.” NLT
Isaiah 41 begins with the Voice of GOD thundering from within the court of Heaven. He is calling the court to order, and summoning the defendants. Much as we would hear today, “Hear ye, hear ye, court is now in session, all rise.” This is the picture presented here. This is quite different from the way the LORD GOD addresses His followers. To us He says, “Be still and know that I am God.” Ps. 46:10. A completely different tone and meaning. If we quote the entirety of this Ps. 46:10 we find a fascinating connect with Isaiah 41.
“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.” So as we believers are to be still and rest in the peace that is ours through our faith in Christ Jesus, the heathen are called to attention both here in Isaiah 41 and in Psalm 46.
“Keep silent before me, O islands” (KJV). “Listen in silence before me, you lands beyond the sea. . .” (NLT).
The court is ready to hear your case. This is somewhat similar to the summoning of Job in Job 38:1-3, but the Job address is much less severe.
“Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind and said, ‘Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Grid up now your loins like a man: for I will demand of thee, and answer thou me.’”
Even though the Job summoning is less severe than that of Isaiah 41, it is still very chilling to hear is it not? Allow me to add some thoughts regarding the Job “court case” that will give us insight into that in Isaiah. Here, GOD answers Job out of the whirlwind. This carries an air (no pun intended) of judgment for we are reminded of Gal. 6:7 “God will not be mocked, for whatsoever a man sows so shall he reap.” And Hosea 8:7 “For they have sown the wind, and shall reap the whirlwind . . .” A second aspect of this Job passage is the use of the word ‘darkens.’ As people are summoned into the absolute light of heaven before the brilliance of the LORD GOD, they come in utter darkness both in deed and understanding. So when God summons the Gentiles in Isaiah to come before His court, they too enter utterly bereft of understanding or knowledge.
The court of heaven is ready to hear their case. If you have ever been called to appear in court you understand that feeling in your stomach. I can’t image the severity of that feeling deep in the gut at being called before the court of Heaven. Aren’t you overwhelmed with gladness and praise that Jesus stood in our place! We will never be called to give account before the White Throne of Heaven. Thank you Jesus!
Returning to Isaiah 41 let us clear up a few terms. “O islands” KJV; “lands beyond the sea” NLT; “You islands” NIV; “Coastlands” ESV, RVS, all carry the meaning of coast, island, shore, region, and the ends of the earth. The term ‘sea’ often refers to the Mediterranean Sea. So the phrases above mean all nations beyond the Mediterranean such as Europe, Africa and beyond even to the ends of the earth. The opening phrase in Isaiah 41 is calling all Gentile nations, everywhere to come to court. They are called to “make themselves ready” or to “renew their strength” as with Job’s “gird up your loins.” They are summoned to be ready to “give an answer.” So, the LORD is addressing all Gentile nations and peoples that were and are presently.
God begins the court proceedings with an opening question as given in verse two. “Who has stirred up this king from the east?”
First of all we need to understand what the Bible means as east. Throughout Scripture, kings of the east were from beyond the Euphrates River. This river has always been identified as the division line between east and west. About the time of the Saviour’s birth Matthew 2:1 states, “Behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.” Also in Revelation 16:12 we read, “And the 6th angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof dried up that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.” This king of the east in verse 2 of Isaiah 41 points to the “king of the Orient,” or present day China.
Now, this verse tells us that God has stirred up this king from the east and is rightly calling him into God’s service. It is not that this king is righteous, nor that he is even a believer in God, but rather God is right and just to call him into His service. God can call and use whomever He chooses. That has been demonstrated over and over again throughout Scripture. A few examples are given below.
God called Pharaoh who worshiped countless demonic gods into His service to move His people out of Egypt. God called the pagan king Cyrus by name some 150 years before he was born and anointed him to free his people from the Babylonian captivity. (Isaiah 45) And he used the pagan king Nebuchadnezzar to reveal God’s prophetic plan of the ages through dreams during the time of Daniel. God can and will use whomever. He has the right to do so for He is the Creator of all people. He is Just to do so, because it is He who justifies. So when the KJV states, “Who raised up the righteous man from the east?” it means this king is not righteous in himself but rather he has been chosen as a righteous and just action of a righteous and just God. And as we will see at some later time this king from the east is far from righteous but rather a Christ rejecting Gentile pagan.
The point is that God is about to use this nation from beyond the Euphrates to come against His people and His land and that God will be vindicated in the eyes of the whole Gentile world when He brings to naught the hatred the world has for His chosen.
We learn from verse two that this nation from the east will trample underfoot all nation on its way toward the Euphrates. It will do so with sword (weapons of war) and with a bow that will scatter them like chaff before the wind. I do not know of a bow that scatters people and nations like chaff before the wind. The bow here like in Psalm 91 is an instrument that launches a projectile. Psalm 91 speaks of protection from “the arrow that flies by day.” In both references this is a description of modern day projectiles that do indeed scatter armies like so much chaff. I am not going to go into too much detail at this time but simply present what Isaiah 41 is saying.
Continuing on with verse 3 of Isaiah we read, “He [this king of the east] chases them away and goes on safely, though he is walking over unfamiliar land.” He moves ever forward without any resistance, even though he is passing through land he has never set foot on before. China, throughout the ages has always been an entity unto itself. It has remained isolated from the western world for most of its time on earth, and has only participated in defensive conflicts until recently. Now, it is rising to the top-of-the-food-chain and flexing its military muscle like never before. There’s an old adage: “Never fight a land war in Asia” with good reason. The vastness of the land would require a vast army with incredible need for resources and support. The infrastructure to move such a force, fully equipped, from central China to the Euphrates would be massive. China is currently ‘testing the waters.” She is dipping her toe into the South China Sea to see how the world will react. So far the world has responded with so much empty words, except perhaps the U.S. which has deployed some navy to the area. I do not want to get too political here and I certainly do not want to be a fear monger. I am only interested in opening the word of God for these times. China is currently involved in two massif projects to join central China with the Middle East and beyond. There is the huge $900 billion Belt and Road Initiative (a modern day Silk Road) which is termed an Economic Corridor running from Central China, through Kyrgyzstan, on to Iran, Turkey, up to Russia, then to Poland, Germany, France and finishing at Venice Italy. The second project is the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road. This is a route by sea joining the ports on the coast of China on the South China Sea to ports in Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Africa Somalia, through the Red Sea corridor, through the Suez Canal, across the Mediterranean to culminate again at Venice Italy. One hundred nations have been induced by dollars and threats to allow this to progress.
The Lord speaks from Isaiah 41 with these words: “Who has done such mighty deeds, summoning each new generation from the beginning of time? It is I, the LORD, the First and the Last. I alone am he.” The LORD will use whom He will. He reminds us, His beloved, that it is He Who summons each new generation, and He has done so since the very beginning of history. He concludes verse four by declaring that all this is done for His good pleasure for He is the LORD of hosts. He is the One Who writes history in advance for He calls Himself the First and the Last. He alone knows the ending from the beginning and He along sets the beginning to bring about a perfect ending. We need never fear what is happening or what is about to happen. All of these things are in His hands as are we. He has promise to see us safely through the storms ahead; He is our Great Pilot of our onward way. He lifts His voice high and declares “Who has done such mighty deeds . . . I alone am he.” Rest assured that He Who watches over us will never slumber nor sleep. (Ps. 121:4). To be continued . . .
Father God we thank you for who you are. And we praise you for who we are in you. We rejoice in Romans 3:24 which reminds us that we have been freely justified by God by His grace through the redemption that is in Jesus Christ. During these trying times we continue to have confidence in the Lord who called us into the Body of Christ. As we are reminded in Romans 12:5, “So we, being many are one body in Christ and everyone members, one to another.” The very truth that we have been placed in Christ from the moment we invited You into our lives, gives us confidence to face whatever the future holds. And as Galatians 3:28 continues this comforting truth by reminding us, “That we are all children of God, by faith, in Christ Jesus.” We ask for Your continued strength so that we do not submit to the spirit of fear in our lives. We seek the renewing of our minds so that we do not conform to the thinking patterns of the world as per Romans 12:1-2. We strive for our thinking to be transformed so that “that mind that is in Christ Jesus be ours” (1 Cor. 2:16). Lord we lift up our brothers and sisters in the faith, especially those at Ohsweken. We remember that in 1 John 4:18 You said, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out all fear:” We ask for that perfect love that is in You to be ours also, that the fear that strives to lay hold of us may be brought low. We pray for our family members dear Lord. We lay before You Lord all the members of our households. We remind You of Your words spoken to Your called-ones in Scripture. To Abram, soon to be a father to many, You said, “Fear not Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.” To all our fathers among us let this be spoken over them. Then to Hagar, a young mother with an infant son we heard Your words: “What troubles you Hagar? Fear not; for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is.” Be encouraged mothers, God hears the voice of your children. To a son such as Joseph, a young man standing in the gap for his family we hear God say, “And Joseph said unto them [his brothers and father] fear not . . .” We thank you Father that so many times You visited Your people with the words fear not. We honour You this day Father and marvel at Your care toward us. You have a count of the very hairs upon our heads as You have a count of the stars in the heavens. You cradle us in your loving arms and set our feet on a good and straight path. May your word ever grow richer and deeper in each of our lives that we may be equipped unto good works. Help us where we are week and strengthen our backbones so that we may be mighty warriors, fit for use by You in these dark days. Bestow within us the grit and pluck needed to see our calling through to the end. Bless us with Your peace, that peace that passes all earthly understanding and help us to continually hear Your words, “Fear not, I am the first and the last” (Rev. 1:17). Amen.