by Sam E. Stone
The previous chapter concluded with God’s dramatic announcement that Cyrus, a pagan ruler, will be used to save the Lord’s people. This may have prompted questions about God’s ways, similar to those raised by Habakkuk. Terry Briley observes, “Although chapter 45 does not state specific objections to God’s use of Cyrus, God’s response makes it clear that such reservations exist.” As with Job, however, the Lord does not explain the rationale for his actions.
The opening verses of Isaiah 45 affirm that Cyrus the Great is God’s anointed one (vv. 1, 4), and that the Lord himself will go before him to subdue nations. No one has the right to question what Yahweh does. “Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’” (see Romans 9:20). “I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness: I will make all his ways straight. He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free” (Isaiah 45:13). None who worship foreign gods can claim power like this. What God is doing serves two purposes: it lets Cyrus himself know the God of Israel and it lets history show this was done “for the sake of Jacob my servant” (v. 4).
Regardless of what may happen to other nations, Israel will be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation (v. 17). God will form a new Israel after the captivity and return are over. One day the Messiah will come. He will bring to completion the process of salvation that includes all of God’s children.
Israel will be recognized by her former enemies (see 11:14; 14:1, 2; 49:23; 54:3; 60:11-14). All will acknowledge the one true and living God. “There is no other god,” the prophet affirms (45:14). The everlasting salvation (v. 17) suggests “everlasting kindness” mentioned later (54:8). Henry Sloane Coffin wrote, “The two aspects of all eschatology, judgment and redemption, are perfectly reflected (here) . . . . It is not merely the outcome of the present world crisis but the beginning of a new time in which Israel will experience the divine salvation.”
The Lord is the one who created the heavens, he is God. He planned for the earth to be inhabited, giving his people a special place in which to live. At the same time, he did not leave the people of Israel to their own devices telling them, “Seek me in vain.” Instead he made the way clear for them (see Deuteronomy 30:11-14). Cyrus will accomplish God’s purpose, making evident both order and purpose in his creation. Paul Butler notes, “Restoration of order is the message of Romans 1-8; it is the message of Hebrews 2:5-18 . . . . The coherent reunion of man with his Maker and man with his surroundings is the goal of God.”
God’s call for “fugitives from the nations” to return includes the dispersed nation of Israel. One day people from “every tongue, tribe, and nation” will be recognized as part of the family of God. This section of Isaiah reminds us that God predicted the worldwide outreach of the gospel. Jesus is not only Israel’s Savior; he is the world’s Savior as well!
God offers then his “Great Invitation”—“Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God and there is no other.” Provision for those from every nation is found in his gracious plan. The statement that “every knee shall bow” is later echoed in the New Testament by the apostle Paul (see Philippians 2:10, 11; Romans 14:11). On Judgment Day they will say of me, “In the Lord alone are righteousness and strength.” Then the idol makers (Isaiah 45:16) “and all who have raged against him will come to him and be put to shame.” The same basic choice exists today.
In The Great Divorce C. S. Lewis described the ultimate choice like this: “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, in the end, ‘Thy will be done.’” If a person says, “Nobody is going to tell me what to do. I’m my own boss,” God will one day say to him, “Very well, thy will be done.” But to the person who says to God from the heart, ‘Thy will be done,” God will say, “Wonderful! My will for you is Heaven, for all eternity!” Our Lord delights in giving salvation to all his people.
Sam E. Stone is the former editor of Christian Standard. He continues his writing and speaking ministry from his home in Cincinnati, Ohio.