I, the Lord, am the first, and with the last. I am He: Isaiah 41:1-7
New American Standard Bible
“Listen to Me in silence, you coastlands,
And let the peoples gain new strength;
Let them come forward, then let them speak;
Let’s come together for judgment.
Who has stirred one from the east
Whom He calls in righteousness to His feet?
He turns nations over to him
And subdues kings.
He makes them like dust with his sword,
Like the wind-driven chaff with his bow.
He pursues them, passing on in safety,
By a way he had not been traversing with his feet.
Who has performed and accomplished it,
Summoning the generations from the beginning?
‘I, the Lord, am the first, and with the last. I am He.’”
The coastlands have seen and are afraid;
The ends of the earth tremble;
They have approached and have come.
Each one helps his neighbor
And says to his brother, “Be strong!”
So the craftsman encourages the smelter,
And he who smooths metal with the hammer encourages him who beats the anvil,
Saying of the soldering, “It is good”;
And he fastens it with nails,
So that it will not totter.
What we have is a courtroom setting. The Lord says “listen to Me in silence, you coastlands.” God is going to reveal His sovereign control of history. It is God who is the ultimate architect of history and the ultimate chess player moving pieces in and out of place according to His will. We must never forget that the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord and He alone can move his heart as He desires (Prov 21:1-9). God raises up kings and He alone tears them down. Many times we can view those who have ascended a position of power and influence and wonder why G0d has allowed this to happen. In our limited human understanding we see a problem. But we must remember the ways and thoughts of God are higher and very different than our own (Isaiah 55:8-9).
The Lord speaks of the people gaining new strength, asking them to come forward and speak, and coming together for judgement. God is inviting humanity and especially Israel to make their case before God. Once Israel became a nation, every time they were placed in bondage or faced defeat it was a result of their own rebellion and sin. God allowed these things to happen to bring the hearts of the people back to Him. God is far more concerned with our character and walk with Him than He is with our comfort. But through it all God is in control and thankfully when we exist in covenant relationship with Him, He never abandons or forsakes us. If our standing with God and ability to remain in relationship was based on our strength or ability, we would fail miserably. But He simply tells us His grace is sufficient in all things. His mercy is everlasting. But because He is a Father who truly loves us, He will discipline us when correction is needed.
Many have wondered who Isaiah is pointing to when he says “Who has stirred one from the east”. Some in the past believed this to be Abraham since God called him from the east, but many today believe the Lord is speaking of Cyrus. In the chapters that follow we see that God speaks of raising up Cyrus for the purpose of returning His people to the land and accomplishing His will in Israel.
Again God gives us a picture of His control and sovereignty over the nations of the earth. For it is the Lord who moved on the heart of Cyrus the King of Persia. It states whom He calls in righteousness to His feet. This simply points to the will of God directing the steps and decisions of Cyrus. It is God who moved on the heart of Cyrus to return the Jews to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple (2 Chronicles 36:23). When God uses ungodly leaders to accomplish His purposes this is something for many today in the body of Christ is very hard to understand. We expect if God is going to raise up a leader to us that the individual would display the character of Christ. But we must remember that often those who lead nations are very broken and flawed, but it doesn’t nullify them being used by God.
Ultimately Cyrus' ability to overcome kings, subdue nations, turning them into fine dust with his sword, and wind-driven chaff with his bow was because of the hand of God. God enabled Cyrus to do this. The bow was known to be used by the Persian in war. But ultimately it is God who is in control of the course of history. God often stands in the background moving pieces in and out of place. But the more we study the word of God and come to know God we no longer live in fear because we know that He alone is in control. The greatest honor and privilege we have as Christians is to come before Him in prayer. We have the opportunity to come alongside Him and impact the very course of history.
It was God who was guiding the steps of Cyrus. It states “by a way he had not been traversing with his feet”. The very feet and decisions of Cyrus were guided by God Almighty. Every leader on this earth who believes they are independent in their decisions are simply deceived. Those who cry out to God will indeed give them help, but nothing is able to take place on this earth outside the sovereign will of God. Yes God has given man freewill, but ultimately it is God who is in control. Leaders of nations are under more control of God than they understand because their very decisions impact the lives of so many.
The question is asked: who has performed and accomplished it? The answer to this question is God alone. It is God alone who has created all things, it is God alone who guides and directs the course of nations. This is why an understanding of God’s word will greatly improve our prayer life. Our prayers are shaped by our understanding of God, those who have a wrong understanding of God’s word, will indeed have a wrong understanding of His word.
The Lord speaks of summoning the generations from the beginning. It is God who has created man, it is God who has created all things. This is why God always has the final word in anything that takes place on the earth. We may not always fully understand why or what God is doing, but from His word we know that God is indeed God, that He is love, and that for us personally in relationship with Him, He works all things together for our good.
The Lord says that He is the first and He is the last. He simply says “I am He”. He is God Almighty. Before there was anything, God existed. God created time and exists outside of time. He is everywhere at all times. Our eyes must firmly be fixed upon the Lord. Nothing happens outside of His control. Our issue as humanity is that we often fix our hearts on circumstances, take our eyes off the Lord, and begin to listen to the lying voice of the enemy. When this happens we begin to live in fear and discouragement. The key to victorious Christianity is a right understanding of God’s word. A right understanding of God’s word, leads to a right understanding of God.
Here it says the coastlands have seen and are afraid, the ends of the earth tremble. Creation is personified. These represent the people of the earth. As God accomplishes His plans and purposes, those who do not know the Living God live in fear and respond in fear. Any time we respond in fear instead of trusting in the Lord we make terrible decisions. In our world today many live in fear because they fail to understand the time and season in which we live. God is always working in the course of human history and in the midst of every circumstance, God is in control.
It says “each one helps his neighbor and says to his brother, “be strong””. When the people saw Cyrus rise to power they may fail to understand that it is God who is behind it and it is God who guides the heart of Cyrus. We must be very careful when viewing any person in the course of history in leadership to think that somehow God is absent from the process. But those who are in terror say to one another be strong. But sadly they turn to idols instead of the Living God.
We see here the folly of idolatry and trusting in false gods. It states they fasten it with nails so it will not totter. Those who foolishly looked to idols for help and strength are basing their hope on something that unless it is nailed down could topple and fall over.
The only sure way to find hope and strength is to trust in the Lord alone. Those who made idols encouraged those who covered them in liquid metal and those who smoothed the metal with a hammer and anvil to work quickly. They felt their help were in these man made objects made with human hands. Often those who trusted in idols did so because they could see them with their physical eyes. They would rather trust something they can see, instead of truly walking by faith.
We still struggle with this today. Instead of trusting God at His word, we want to base our hope and trust on things we can experience with our five senses. But the truth is the more we grow in the Lord on a daily basis, the more we simply begin to walk by faith. Even if everything around us tells us that God has abandoned us and forsaken us, we ignore it, instead we build our lives upon God’s word and the promises of His word.