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The Servant Songs

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CHAPTER 44 Jun. 20 
Yet listen now, Jacob My servant, and Israel, whom I have chosen. 2This is what Yahweh who made you and formed you from the womb, who will save you, says: Don’t be afraid, Jacob My servant; and you, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. 3For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and streams on the dry ground. I will pour My Spirit on your seed, and My blessing on your offspring: 4and they will spring up among the grass, as willows by the watercourses. 5One will say, ‘I am Yahweh’s’ and another will be called by the name of Jacob; and another will write with his hand ‘to Yahweh’, and honour the name of Israel. 6This is what Yahweh the King of Israel and His Redeemer, Yahweh of Armies, says: I am the first, and I am the last; and besides Me there is no God. 7Who is like Me? Who will call, and will declare it, and set it in order for Me, since I established the ancient people? Let them declare the things that are coming, and that will happen. 8Don’t fear, neither be afraid. Haven’t I declared it to you long ago, and shown it? You are My witnesses. Is there a God besides Me? Indeed there is not. I don’t know any other Rock.

The Foolishness of Idolatry
9Everyone who makes an engraved image is vain. The things that they delight in will not profit. Their own witnesses don’t see nor know, that they may be disappointed. 10Who has fashioned a god or moulds an image that is profitable for nothing? 11Behold, all his fellows will be disappointed; and the workmen are mere men. Let them all be gathered together. Let them stand up. They will fear. They will be put to shame together. 12The blacksmith takes an axe, works in the coals, fashions it with hammers, and works it with his strong arm. He is hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water, and is faint. 13The carpenter stretches out a line. He marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes. He marks it out with compasses, and shapes it like the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to reside in a house. 14He cuts down cedars for himself, and takes the cypress and the oak, and strengthens for himself one among the trees of the forest. He plants a fir tree, and the rain nourishes it. 15Then it will be for a man to burn; and he takes some of it, and warms himself. Yes, he burns it, and bakes bread. Yes, he makes a god, and worships it; he makes it an engraved image, and falls down to it. 16He burns part of it in the fire. With part of it, he eats meat. He roasts a roast, and is satisfied. Yes, he warms himself and says, Ah! I am warm, I have seen the fire. 17The rest of it he makes into a god, even his engraved image. He bows down to it and worships and prays to it and says, Deliver me; for you are my god! 18They don’t know neither do they consider: for He has shut their eyes that they can’t see; and their hearts that they can’t understand. 19No one thinks neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, I have burned part of it in the fire. Yes, I have also baked bread on its coals. I have roasted meat and eaten it. Shall I make the rest of it into an abomination? Shall I bow down to a tree trunk? 20He feeds on ashes. A deceived heart has turned him aside; and he can’t deliver his soul, nor say, Isn’t there a lie in my right hand?

The Lord, Creator and Saviour  
21Remember these things, Jacob and Israel; for you are My servant. I have formed you; you are My servant. Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me. 22I have blotted out as a thick cloud your iniquities, and, as a cloud, your sins. Return to Me, for I have redeemed you. 23Sing you heavens, for Yahweh has done it! Shout, you lower parts of the earth! Break out into singing, you mountains, O forest, all of your trees, for Yahweh has redeemed Jacob, and will glorify Himself in Israel. 24Thus says Yahweh your Redeemer, and He who formed you from the womb: I am Yahweh who makes all things, who alone stretches out the heavens; who spreads out the earth by Myself; 25who frustrates the signs of the liars, and makes diviners mad; who turns wise men backward, and makes their knowledge foolish; 26who confirms the word of His servant, and performs the counsel of His messengers; who says of Jerusalem, ‘She will be inhabited;’ and of the cities of Judah, ‘They will be built’, and ‘I will raise up its waste places;’ 27who says to the deep, ‘Be dry’, and ‘I will dry up your rivers;’ 28who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, and shall perform all My pleasure’, even saying of Jerusalem, ‘She will be built;’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation will be laid’.


44:14-18 The folly of sin is only fully evident to God. We may go along with the text here, poking fun at the idiocy of idolatry- and yet we all have a tendency to this kind of thing, because every sin is in essence a form of idolatry. 
44:22 God appeals for Israel to respond by pointing out that in prospect, He has already forgiven them. This not only inspires our personal repentance, but can be the basis upon which we appeal to others to repent- that for the sake of Christ, God has forgiven them, but they need to claim that and identify with it. Isaiah urged the Jews to return to the land by saying that God had forgiven them, and on this basis He appealed for them to both ‘repent’ and ‘return’ to the land. The two terms are related. Thus He showed His grace; forgiveness preceded, not followed, repentance. As Paul put it, the goodness of God leads to repentance (Rom. 2:4). And we are asked to show that same “goodness” of God to others, being “kind [s.w. ‘goodness’] one to another… forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). We too are to show this grace of forgiveness-before-repentance; but perhaps in no other area has formalized, institutionalized Christianity failed worse. The Greek word translated “goodness” is rendered “gracious” in 1 Pet. 2:3- newly converted babes in Christ taste of this gracious goodness, and it leads to repentance.
44:26 Who confirms the word of His servant, and performs the counsel of His messengers- The singular servant is equated with His “messengers”, whose “counsel” to others is the word which is Jesus, the true servant. If we are “in Christ” then we are His witnesses, and He is especially with us in our witness for Him.
44:28 The command of Cyrus to allow the Jews to return to Judah and rebuild their temple at his expense as recorded in Ezra 1 was clearly a result of God working on the hearts of unbelievers to make them do things which otherwise have little sense or human wisdom. The tragedy is that most of the Jews preferred the soft life in Babylon and didn’t return.