Imagine that you are an exile living in Babylon. You have lived through hell on earth – seeing the Babylonian army destroy your people and your beloved Jerusalem – and now you are a foreigner in a strange land. You might think that your God, the mighty God of Israel, has abandoned you.
But then somehow you find the scroll of Isaiah – the prophet that lived so many years earlier… before the destruction, before the horror.
Imagine how you would respond – knowing that God had planned for you to receive comfort through a hundred-year scroll. That he had ordained all of history… that he planned for you to be in Babylon, but not only that, he had a plan for the destruction of Babylon and the restoration of Jerusalem!
These familiar words take on new meaning in this context, don’t they?
Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior (Isaiah 43:1-3).
Now continue to think of yourself, living in Babylon and reading these words… And imagine your amazement as you read further…
I am the Lord, who made all things,
who alone stretched out the heavens,
who spread out the earth by myself, (44:24)
who says of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be inhabited,’
and of the cities of Judah, ‘They shall be built,
and I will raise up their ruins’; (44:26)
who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd,
and he shall fulfill all my purpose’;
saying of Jerusalem, ‘She shall be built,’
and of the temple, ‘Your foundation shall be laid.’” (44:28)
Cyrus?? Cyrus the Great, King of Persia!!?? How could Isaiah have known? How could he have predicted? And as you read further through Isaiah 45, you see that the great and mighty Cyrus is just a pawn in God’s hand.
The Babylonians feared Cyrus. The people would make idols – in hopes that some god, any god, might save them. But because of the truth found in Isaiah’s scroll, you would know… that salvation comes through God, and God alone!
Turn to me and be saved,
all the ends of the earth!
For I am God, and there is no other (Isaiah 45:22).
This was a great lesson for the Babylonian exiles… They were to trust in the power of God who ordains all of history and reject the Babylonian idols. In light of the power of God, to think that a piece of wood fashioned from man’s hands would have any saving power is pure folly!
Yet idol-worship was still prevalent in Paul’s day… (see 1 Corinthians 8) and idol-worship is also prevalent in our culture… our idols just look different!
We might not be tempted to eat meat offered to idols or to bow before a wooden statue, but we are tempted to look to other things to rescue and save us from difficult circumstances…like relationships or job-security or success or comfort. Yet, these are all powerless to save. They might bring temporary comfort – but nothing that has any real staying power.
Think of the God of Israel! He hasn’t changed! He still orders the universe and has plans to restore and prosper his people! He still is the only God powerful enough to rescue you for eternity!!
Trusting in idols is nothing but folly.
They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone
are deliverance and strength.’ (Isaiah 45:24, NIV)