This week’s treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson (for January 9) is written by Ron Martin who serves as pastor at Bayfield (Colorado) Christian Church.
Salvation for God’s People (Isaiah 45:14-25)
By Ron Martin
One of the most beneficial pursuits for a Christian is the study of God’s attributes. But when God gives testimony to himself in Isaiah 44 and 45, we are wise to put down our theology books and to listen carefully.
In these chapters, God testifies to his existence and power in comparison to the empty wooden idols invented by man. In so doing, the Lord reveals himself as a God who is powerful, personal, and intimately involved with his creation. And of all the attributes God reveals about his own nature, the one he returns to again and again is his desire to save his people.
The Reminder of God’s Providential Care
Isaiah 45 begins with remarkable testimony that God does not merely work through history, but he actually orchestrates history to fulfill his plan. Then in verses 8-13, the Lord admonishes those who question his authority and doubt his ability to rule over his world.
In verses 14-25, the prophet delivers God’s statement of his own character, along with a final stinging indictment of the foolishness of idols.
In Isaiah 45:14, God reminds the Israelites about a promise he made earlier (in Isaiah 18 and 19) when he declared that the surrounding nations will pay tribute to Israel’s God.
He said the Gentile nations would honor the Lord not because of Israel’s military power, nor because of their own weakness. Rather, he said those nations would come with their wealth (products and merchandise) and make themselves captives (they will walk behind you) and offer sincere and voluntary homage (bowing down and making supplications) because they will recognize that the Lord of Israel is indeed the one true God.
This is precisely the role God intended for his people. It is also an important reminder of the role the church is to play in our world today.
Isaiah then adds his own comment about God’s saving nature (vv. 15-17). He first attests to God’s mysterious nature in his desire to save the people of the earth—“Truly, you are a God who hides himself” (v. 15*)—and then he adds his own rebuke to those who manufacture idols. But in attempting to defend God’s character by stating God will not be humiliated or shamed, Isaiah implies that God saves Israel alone.
Poor Isaiah! Like so many of us, he takes up the mantle of defending God, but he doesn’t have the facts quite right. When the Lord responds with, “Thus says the Lord” (v. 18), Isaiah realizes he has overstepped his bounds.
In verse 18, God discloses he “formed it [the earth] to be inhabited.” There is a comforting reinforcement of truth in this statement; God’s purpose for the earth is for all people to enjoy his offer of salvation and, contrary to modern secular thinking, we are not here by accident.
Then God responds to Isaiah’s charge that God has hidden himself by stating, “I have not spoken in secret, in some dark land” (v. 19). God also corrects Isaiah’s notion that he will save only Israel by declaring, “Draw near together, you fugitives of the nations” (v. 20).
Verses 21-25 contain one of the simplest and most beautiful formulations of the gospel of grace found in the Old Testament. Of all the wonderful attributes of God, the Lord identifies his own nature as a “Savior,” and he does so in three brief statements:
• Revelation (vv. 20, 21)—Who declares that our God is a saving God? He does! His tender words of self-revelation speak boldly and unequivocally, “There is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; There is none except Me.”
• Invitation (vv. 22, 23)—“Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth,” says God, once again correcting Isaiah’s narrow vision of who is to be saved. Grace is for all; it is offered by God and is guaranteed by his own character, “I have sworn by Myself.”
• Affirmation (vv. 24, 25)—“They will say of Me, ‘Only in the Lord are righteousness and strength.’” God affirms that those who truly experience salvation will receive that saving work by God’s power, not their own.
In the subsequent chapters of Isaiah, the prophet records the process by which salvation occurs. God will rescue his people through the servant of the Lord who will suffer in their place. In doing so, he gives us the most remarkable prediction concerning the work of Jesus on the cross: “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
*Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Bible.
|HOME DAILY BIBLE READINGS|
|Jan. 3: Exodus 15:11-18|
|Jan. 4: 1 Kings 18:17-29|
|Jan. 5: 1 Kings 18:30-38|
|Jan. 6: James 5:13-18|
|Jan. 7: 2 Chronicles 36:15-23|
|Jan. 8: Isaiah 45:1-8|
|Jan. 9: Isaiah 45:14-25|
ABOUT THE LESSON WRITER: Ron Martin is pastor of Bayfield (Colorado) Christian Church. He served as vice president of Universal Studios Hollywood for 12 years before moving to southwest Colorado in 2007.