In the remainder of Isaiah 45 we see the outcomes of the restoration of Judah at the behest of Cyrus. It is  always clear that the Power behind the scene is Yahweh.In this chapter He predicted the course of events,  and history has seen its fulfilment to the letter. In the opening verses Yahweh rebuts any suggestion of  His partiality towards His people: His will and purpose is beyond human question. From verse 14 onwards the amazing entail of the Jewish restoration is foretold. Gentiles submit to Israel and Israel’s God, while  increasingly they see the utter futility of their religious systems. As a result of the rebirth of the nation, as recorded by Ezra and Nehemiah, Jewry again took root; and although there were troublous times, Messiah  came and with his death, salvation for all who believe, regardless of nationality. So in the final refrain of the chapter we learn that “in Yahweh shall all the seed of Israel”, both Jew and Gentile, “be justified and  shall glory” (v25). Now we can see why none should question God’s use of Cyrus (like a man might use  a tool to do his work), to overthrow Babylon, emancipate captive Jewry and rebuild the temple.

Isaiah 45

45:9-13 Man May Not Dictate To the Most High

Verse 9 “Woe unto him that striveth with his  Maker! Let the potsherd [RSV ‘earthern vessel’]  strive with the potsherds [RSV ‘potter’] of the earth.  Shall the clay say to him that fashioned it, What  makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?

“Woe to him that striveth” The word “striveth”  (‘quarrels’ NIV) signifies to go to law, to take court action against. It is not action against what is being  done, but questions the right to do so. That which  is made, the artefact, cannot question the artisan,  not only because it cannot talk but because it is  completely subject to him.

“Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What  makest thou?”

The relationship is one of total subordination to a  total sovereign! It is absolutely ludicrous to imagine  such an inquisition!

“Or thy work, He hath no hands?”  Why do we have this protracted challenge by  Yahweh of those who would or might question His  dealings? In the context the answer must have to  do with His use of Cyrus. As in the case of Pharaoh  of old, Yahweh informs us that he is going to raise  up a conqueror of Babylon who will facilitate  the restoration of His people. Significantly this  conqueror would “not know me”, Yahweh (v4,  5). On the surface of the matter there appears to  be injustice in such use of a man. Here Yahweh  answers His critics and points out what will be  the end result of this restoration—the salvation of  the world through His Son, Jesus Christ (v22–25).  Knowing this to be the upshot of Cyrus’ work, who  could claim then that the raising up of this deliverer  of Jewry was anything but an act of the utmost grace  and kindness?

Paul’s Citation of Isaiah 45:9 in Romans 9:20–21

In Romans 9 the apostle Paul shows that God is not  bound by men when it comes to whom He chooses  to perform His will, or whom He decides to call to  His Kingdom. In relation to Israel and Pharaoh Paul  concludes, “Therefore hath he mercy on whom he  will have mercy, and whom he will be hardeneth.”  Superficially this appears inequitable and unfair.  Anticipating this objection Paul says, “Thou wilt  say then unto me, Why doth he [God] yet find  fault? For who hath resisted his will?”; that is, did  not Pharaoh do His will, and was not disobedient?  Paul declines to argue and asserts the absolute  jurisdiction of the Creator over His creatures, “Nay  but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God?  Shall the thing formed say to him that formed  it, Why hast thou made me thus?”—the citation  from Isaiah 45. What is interesting about this is  that in a sense Pharaoh and Cyrus were in similar  roles, in as much as both were being used, albeit  in opposite ways, by God to progress His purpose.  Both were tools (like the Assyrian also, 10:5–6) in  God’s hands. Such a use could draw forth protests  of injustice from men. That is why we have God’s  words expressing His sovereignty in Isaiah 45:9–11.  So Paul’s use of these words is in a similar context,  and helps us understand their meaning in Isaiah.

Verses 10–11 “Woe unto him that saith unto his  father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What  hast thou brought forth? Thus saith Yahweh, the  Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask of me things  to come concerning my sons, and concerning the  work of my hands command ye me.”

In verse 10 Yahweh declares that the parent cannot  be questioned, just as the potter could not be. Such  questions belong to a realm where no outsider  may venture! Parenthood lies exclusively within  the privacy and discretion of the couple concerned  and is in no way the subject of public discussion  and interference! For such questions to be raised  by one’s own offspring is preposterous!

Verse 11 in the RSV (and MLB) presents a  question, “Will you question me about my children,  or command me concerning the work of my hands?”  The question is a general one and addressed to all  who might question Yahweh’s unique relationship  to Israel, His firstborn son (Exod 4:22). How  this singular claim to be God’s chosen people  has generated animosity, hatred and persecution  throughout the centuries! Here God emphasizes  the close and tender relationship, the reality of  the special place this people holds with Him, by  calling Himself the “Holy One of Israel” and “his  Maker”. Woe to any who might deny or challenge  this fact!

In the words that follow He questions the right  of any to give Him directions as to how He should  treat and deal with His special people, Israel. Notice  that Israel is referred to as “his sons” and “the work  of his hands”, a further reference to the parent and  potter illustration.

Verse 12 “I have made the earth, and created man  upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the  heavens, and all their host have I commanded.”

Here we have an assertion of what Yahweh has  done and is able to do, an assertion that negates the  false theory of Evolution. How could we hold the  Bible to be inspired and believe Evolution? This  unqualified statement by God stands, for history  has vindicated the words prophesied concerning  Cyrus. When spoken, these were but words, but now  we can see how true they are, for Cyrus was born  140 years after, and complied unwittingly with the  Divine will expressed by Isaiah (v1-4, 13). Indeed,  “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, and  giveth it to whomsoever he will” (Dan 4:17). The  word “commanded” ironically repeats the same  verb in the last line of verse 11!

Verse 13 “I have raised him up in righteousness,  and will direct all his ways: he shall build my city,  and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith Yahweh of hosts.”

Just as Yahweh is King and Master of creation, so  He is Sovereign in history. The fact that He could  do the former is the guarantee of the latter.

“I have raised him up in righteousness”  Notice the emphatic pronoun “I”. No less than 25  times in this chapter we have Yahweh asserting  what He does, His control, His power, His Divinity  and Sovereignty.

Not only is there no injustice in Yahweh’s use  of Cyrus to do His will, but He pronounces the  opposite that He has raised up “in righteousness”!  The future outworkings of the restoration of Jewry  and rebuilding of “my city”, Jerusalem, would  justify His use of him!

“and will direct all his ways”

Cyrus’ vast conquests were ordained and directed  by Yahweh (v1). They were, however, carried  out in complete ignorance of Israel’s God, and  it was not until the conquest of Babylon that he  learned how his career had been foreordained by  the God of Israel. This information may have been  communicated to him by Daniel (cp Dan 10:3).

“he shall build my city” cp 44:28; Ezra 1.

“and he shall let go my captives” As a conquered people led into captivity in Babylon,  Judah must have felt bereft of hope. How would  their powerful conqueror, Babylon, be conquered?  How could they envisage a situation where they  would be released from captivity and encouraged  to return? Who would provide the resources and  protection for such an arduous journey? Well, the  formula had been written even before Jerusalem  was destroyed! Isaiah had by inspiration foretold all  the details! Not only had God revealed to Isaiah the  ways and means, but much earlier in their history,  Moses had forecast their captivity, revival, and  restoration (Deut 28; 30:1–6).

“not for price nor reward, saith Yahweh of hosts”  Cyrus was not moved by the promise of riches or  reward to send back the Jews to their homeland.  This was done because he had been so commanded  by Yahweh. To use his own words, “Thus saith  Cyrus King of Persia, Yahweh God of heaven hath  given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath  charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem,  which is in Judah” (Ezra 1:2). In fact, he bestowed  upon them a huge number of gold and silver vessels,  basins etc to assist the work (Ezra 1:7–11)!

In this respect also, Cyrus was typical of Christ  for salvation in him is offered “without money and  without price” (55:1; cp also 13:17; 52:3).

45:14–17 The Consequences of Judah’s Revival  Because It is Clear that the One True God is With Israel  the Nations Will Humble Themselves Before Israel

Verse 14 “Thus saith Yahweh, The labour [‘wealth’  RSV; ‘produce’ ROTH] of Egypt, and merchandise  [‘gain’ ROTH] of Ethiopia [Cush] and of the Sabeans,  men of stature [MLB ‘grand stature’] shall come  over unto thee, and they shall be thine: they shall  come after thee; in chains they shall come over,  and they shall fall down unto thee, they shall make  supplication unto thee, saying, Surely God [El] is in  thee; and there is none else, there is no God.”

This in an amazing picture. Gentiles are “coming  over unto thee” in utter humility and confessing that  the true God [El] is “in thee”, and that He alone is  God!? What does this mean? Let us analyse this  most significant verse.

1 The three peoples mentioned are Egyptians, Ethiopians and Sabeans

It is notable that these are the same three nations  mentioned in 43:3, which Yahweh gave as a ransom  for Israel at the Exodus. Isaiah presents the picture  of all nations submitting to Israel through the  Exodus spectrum. These three nations are typical  of all, for all nations will humble themselves before  God’s people and acknowledge He is with them  (Zech 8:23; Isa 2:3; 49:23; Psa 72:10).

2 To whom do the five “thee’s” and the “thine” refer?

Those who have been immersed into Christ, both  Jew and Gentile. This picture will be fulfilled  in the Kingdom, but there have been incipient  fulfilments. Consider the Syro-Phoenician woman,  who humbled herself and besought that Jesus, a Jew,  would cast forth the devil out of her daughter (Mk  7:25-6)! When Peter came to Cornelius, the Roman  centurion, he fell down at his feet, and worshipped  him (Acts 10:25). This he did because God had  told him that Peter possessed “words whereby he  might be saved”. But the clearest example is in 1  Corinthians 14:25, where the words of Isaiah 45:14  are paraphrased. Paul gives an illustration in which  an unbeliever (a Gentile) comes into an ecclesia and  by the use of the Holy Spirit his inmost thoughts  are made manifest. As a result he will be convicted and converted, “and so falling down on his face  he will worship God, and report that God is in you  of a truth”.

3 Notice all the verbs that are used to express the  total subjection and humility of Gentiles in the  Kingdom who will submit to Christ and the saints:  “shall come over… shall be thine… shall come  after thee… in chains they shall come over… shall  fall down… make supplications, saying…” Here  we have voluntary submission and homage of the  nations. They do not come out of weakness or  defeat for they bring wealth with them (products  and merchandise, and their natural prowess; “men  of stature”—the Sabeans were so renowned). It  is a full and frank acknowledgement that the true  God is Israel’s God and there is an abandonment  of pride and prejudice.

“in chains they shall come over”

Here the language is taken from conquests where  captives were paraded in a victory procession. But  here it is not literal—the power of incontestable  truth has “conquered”, as though it was defeat in  battle! The recognition that the God of heaven, the  Creator of heaven and earth is also the God of Israel  and the Saviour of the world!

Verse 15 “Verily thou art a God [El] that hidest  thyself, O God of Israel, the Saviour”

This is a reverie over the amazing words that have  just been revealed. Perhaps they are spoken by  the prophet himself, or by enlightened converts?  How concealed (“that hidest thyself”) are indeed  God’s purposes when He brings about the captivity  and then release of His people by an unwitting,  benevolent Gentile king, which will ultimately lead  to the conversion of Israel and the “captivity” and  submission to them of the whole world!?

Verses 16–17 “They shall be ashamed, and also  confounded, all of them: they shall go to confusion  together that are makers of idols.  (But) Israel shall be saved in Yahweh [cp v25] with  an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed  nor confounded [cp 28:16] world without end.”

These two verses form a concluding summary. The  contrasting destinies of idol worshippers and those  who love and serve the God of Israel is set forth.  “Makers of idols”—a phrase which does service for  the perpetrators of all false religion—are doomed  to reap shame and disgrace. It cannot be otherwise  for, as this chapter emphasizes, there is only one  God (v5,6…) and Saviour (v15,21).

“But Israel shall be saved in Yahweh”

“But” is in italics and should be omitted. Isaiah ends  with two contrasting statements in juxtaposition!

“Israel” includes all converts to “the truth as it  is in Jesus Christ”, spiritual Israel, or “the Israel of  God” (Gal 6:16). It does not include unbelievers  (Rom 9:6).

Salvation is to be found “in Yahweh” (cp v25),  for this is synonymous with being in His Son, the  Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 2:21, 38; 1 Thess 1:1).

Notice the link between “Saviour” (v15),  and “saved… salvation” (v17) confirms that  “Gentiles” are included in “Israel”. The “salvation”  is described as being “everlasting”, as indeed the  shame and disgrace will be “without end” for those  who cling to other gods.