We Shall Return
Isaiah 43-45 is a microcosm of the history of God and the nation of Israel. God's people sin and disobey, yet God redeems them again and again. This particular passage is interesting in that it is written with God speaking in the first person. This is not Isaiah telling them what God says; God is speaking. "I have called you by name.; you are mine" (43:1), "I am the Lord, you Holy One, Israel's Creator and King," (43:15) "I Am the First and Last; there is no other God." (44:6) It's as though God is saying, "Hey, I'm right here, listen to me." Still, Israel continues to make its own gods - idols.God's disgust with this idiocy is described in the most logical of questions.
First in Isaiah 44:9-11:
How foolish are those who manufacture idols.
These prized objects are really worthless.
The people who worship idols don't know this,
so they are all put to shame.
Who but a fool would make his own god—
an idol that cannot help him one bit?
All who worship idols will be disgraced
along with all these craftsmen—mere humans—
who claim they can make a god.
They may all stand together,
but they will stand in terror and shame.
Then God again puts forth another logical question in 44:18-20:
Such stupidity and ignorance!
Their eyes are closed, and they cannot see.
Their minds are shut, and they cannot think.
The person who made the idol never stops to reflect,
"Why, it's just a block of wood!
I burned half of it for heat
and used it to bake my bread and roast my meat.
How can the rest of it be a god?
Should I bow down to worship a piece of wood?"
The poor, deluded fool feeds on ashes.
He trusts something that can't help him at all.
Yet he cannot bring himself to ask,
"Is this idol that I'm holding in my hand a lie?"
Is that not sheer brilliance? "It's just a block of wood!" You use it to heat and cook with and then you worship it? "Such Stupidity and ignorance!" Ouch!
Then God backs up for a minute, explaining that he's not going to forget anybody. He still cares, but there's a reckoning that is going to have to happen and chapter 45 explains what that reckoning is.
As I read chapter 45, I was reminded of General Douglas McArthur's speech after having to abandon the Philippines on March 20, 1942. At the railway station in South Australia, he said, "I came through, and I shall re-turn." Washington asked him to amend his promise to "We shall return."
He ignored the request. Nonetheless it has always sounded prophetic to me….and he did return by the way.
But now let's get back to Isaiah because this prophecy might be a little more impressive. God tells his people that the city and the temple will be destroyed, and they will go into captivity. But, they will return and rebuild. He even mentions the man who will make it happen, Cyrus.
"Wait, what! God anointed a Gentile?" Hey, that's strange but really good news for us.
So what's so impressive? Unlike McArthur, who had already seen the fall of the Philippines, Jerusalem and the temple are still standing at the time of this prophecy. There is no captivity yet, and hey, by the way, Cyrus doesn't come to power for another 150 years! That's good stuff. And, by the way, all of that does happen.
So, what does all of that have to do with us? Let's be honest. We can question the Israelites all we want and wonder why they could be so foolish, but we all have our "blocks of wood" sometimes. Things that we use to serve ourselves and to worship. Idols that keep us from truly worshipping the Almighty, YHWH, the I AM. God in turn reminds us that we will have dark times of captivity, but that He is always with us through those times. And one more thing….just like McArthur, and Cyrus, and the children of Israel - "We Shall Return!"