This chapter affirms God's commitment to restore the Jews to the land of Israel, to heal the land, and to destroy all their enemies. Isaiah envisages an international court case ensuing, in which God acts as Israel's defence lawyer.
This chapter affirms God's commitment to restore the Jews to the land of Israel, to heal the land, and to destroy all their enemies. Isaiah envisages an international court case ensuing, in which God acts as Israel's defence lawyer.

In verses 1to 7, God addresses the nations. In verse 1, he challenges them to a debate, as though in court. They must approach, then speak and answer God's questions. In verses 2 to 3, God introduces a conqueror whom he will stir up from the east. This is a reference to Cyrus the Great, who would rule the Persian Empire from about 560 to 530 BC. Writing about 100 years before Cyrus was even born, Isaiah names him in chapter 45. After Cyrus conquered Babylon in 539 BC, he allowed the Jewish exiles to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, and even financed the work. As such, Isaiah presents him in chapter 45 as a kind of messiah figure to the Jews. Here in verse 3, Isaiah describes Cyrus' rapid military advance. In verse 4, God tells us that he is the one who summons successive generations from the beginning. He is present at the beginning and the end, implying that he therefore knows the end from the beginning. Liberal scholars struggle to believe the predictive element of biblical prophecy and consequently assume that the Isaiah who wrote chapters 40 onwards must be different to the Isaiah who lived around 700 BC and wrote chapters 1 to 39. By doing so, they miss the point - in verses 21 to 29, Isaiah expounds upon the claim that our God reveals the future, and he challenges the false gods to do the same. Verses 5 to 7 portray the nations trembling at Cyrus' advance, and in fear, turning to their idols.

In verses 8 to 20, God addresses the people of Israel. Instead of them needing to tremble in fear like the other nations, God encourages Israel and affirms his commitment to them. They are his chosen people (v8). God is bringing them back from the furthest extremities of the earth to the land of Israel (v9). They needn't be afraid, for God will save them (v10). They are like his family and he will lead them by the hand and be their protector (literally 'kinsman-redeemer') (v13-14). All their enemies will be reduced to nothing (v11-12). Israel will thresh and crush the mountains (symbolic of kingdoms) of her enemies, and her enemies will be blown away like chaff (v15-16). God will answer the prayers of the poor (v17), and he will heal the land (v18-19). God will do all this so that people understand that God is Jehovah, the Holy One of Israel (v20).

Verses 21 to 29 present another court scene. Clearly, the nations will not be happy with Israel being restored to the land and destroying all her enemies, as envisaged in the preceding verses. Isaiah envisages a legal challenge, as though Israel is being hauled before an international court. But Israel has no need to defend herself in these court proceedings. God is her defence lawyer, and he challenges the nations to produce evidence. The basis of his legal defence is that the restoration of Israel is in accordance with what God proclaimed beforehand would take place. He therefore challenges the nations to produce evidence that their gods have prophesied future events and had them accurately fulfilled. The basic assumption behind this challenge is that the ability to accurately predict the future is unique to Jehovah's inspired prophets. If no god of any other nation can match that, then neither can they challenge the validity of Israel's claim to the land in accordance with God's covenant promises. In verse 25, God then says he has "stirred up one out of the north and he advances, one from the eastern horizon who prays in my name. He steps on rulers as if they were clay, like a potter treading the clay". This may once again be speaking of Cyrus, and his advance in the 6th century BC. Alternatively, it may relate to the kings from the east that are mentioned in Revelation 16:12. They come for the battle of Armageddon, though it is not entirely clear in Revelation which side they fight on, for Jesus or for the Antichrist. Also, in Daniel 11:44, after the Antichrist conquers Egypt, we are told, "But reports will trouble him from the east and north, and he will set out in a tremendous rage to destroy and wipe out many. He will pitch his royal tents between the seas toward the beautiful holy mountain. But he will come to his end, with no one to help him". So armies from the north and east will resist the Antichrist. The rulers of these northern and eastern nations are likely some of the seven shepherds mentioned in Micah 5:5 that God raises up to resist the Antichrist.
Places: Israel, Zion, Coastlands
Symbols: Court, Debate, Kinsman redeemer
Tags: Cyrus, God affirms Israel as his chosen people, Return of exiles to Israel, Israel triumphs over her enemies, Healing of the land, God defends Israel in court, God uniquely predicts the future, God as the kinsman redeemer of Israel, Kings of the east, Resistance from the north and east
The Lord Challenges the Nations
1 “Listen to me in silence, you coastlands! Let the nations find renewed strength! Let them approach and then speak; let us come together for debate!
2 Who stirs up this one from the east? Who officially commissions him for service? He hands nations over to him, and enables him to subdue kings. He makes them like dust with his sword, like windblown straw with his bow.
3 He pursues them and passes by unharmed; he advances with great speed.
4 Who acts and carries out decrees? Who summons the successive generations from the beginning? I, the Lord, am present at the very beginning, and at the very end – I am the one.
5 The coastlands see and are afraid; the whole earth trembles; they approach and come.
6 They help one another; one says to the other, ‘Be strong!’
7 The craftsman encourages the metalsmith, the one who wields the hammer encourages the one who pounds on the anvil. He approves the quality of the welding, and nails it down so it won’t fall over.”

The Lord Encourages His People

8 “You, my servant Israel, Jacob whom I have chosen,
offspring of Abraham my friend,
9 you whom I am bringing back from the earth’s extremities, and have summoned from the remote regions – I told you, “You are my servant.” I have chosen you and not rejected you.
10 Don’t be afraid, for I am with you! Don’t be frightened, for I am your God! I strengthen you – yes, I help you – yes, I uphold you with my saving right hand!
11 Look, all who were angry at you will be ashamed and humiliated; your adversaries will be reduced to nothing and perish.
12 When you will look for your opponents, you will not find them; your enemies will be reduced to absolutely nothing.
13 For I am the Lord your God, the one who takes hold of your right hand, who says to you, ‘Don’t be afraid, I am helping you.’
14 Don’t be afraid, despised insignificant Jacob, men of Israel. I am helping you,” says the Lord, your protector, the Holy One of Israel.
15 “Look, I am making you like a sharp threshing sledge, new and double-edged. You will thresh the mountains and crush them; you will make the hills like straw.
16 You will winnow them and the wind will blow them away; the wind will scatter them. You will rejoice in the Lord; you will boast in the Holy One of Israel.
17 The oppressed and the poor look for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched from thirst. I, the Lord, will respond to their prayers; I, the God of Israel, will not abandon them.
18 I will make streams flow down the slopes and produce springs in the middle of the valleys. I will turn the wilderness into a pool of water and the arid land into springs.
19 I will make cedars, acacias, myrtles, and olive trees grow in the wilderness;
I will make evergreens, firs, and cypresses grow together in the arid rift valley.
20 I will do this so people will observe and recognize, so they will pay attention and understand that the Lord’s power has accomplished this, and that the Holy One of Israel has brought it into being.”

The Lord Challenges the Pagan Gods

21 “Present your argument,” says the Lord. “Produce your evidence,” says Jacob’s king.
22 “Let them produce evidence! Let them tell us what will happen! Tell us about your earlier predictive oracles, so we may examine them and see how they were fulfilled. Or decree for us some future events!
23 Predict how future events will turn out, so we might know you are gods. Yes, do something good or bad, so we might be frightened and in awe.
24 Look, you are nothing, and your accomplishments are nonexistent; the one who chooses to worship you is disgusting.
25 I have stirred up one out of the north and he advances, one from the eastern horizon who prays in my name. He steps on rulers as if they were clay, like a potter treading the clay.
26 Who decreed this from the beginning, so we could know? Who announced it ahead of time, so we could say, ‘He’s correct’? Indeed, none of them decreed it! Indeed, none of them announced it! Indeed, no one heard you say anything!
27 I first decreed to Zion, ‘Look, here’s what will happen!’ I sent a herald to Jerusalem.
28 I look, but there is no one, among them there is no one who serves as an adviser, that I might ask questions and receive answers.
29 Look, all of them are nothing, their accomplishments are nonexistent; their metal images lack any real substance.