Isaiah 41 The LORD Helps His People, But Idols Are Nothing.
“Those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength” (40:31). The LORD would assure his people that they would have the peace to wait upon him through the silence of the nations (41:1 Cf. Hab. 2:20; Zech. 2:13). He who is the first and last, the beginning and end of the affairs of nations, of history, would raise up one from the east (vv. 2-4 Cf. 43:10; 44:6; 45:13; 46:11; Rev. 1:8, 17; 22:13). The one from the east whom the LORD raised up was “Cyrus the Great of Persia (reigned 550-530 B.C.; v.25; 44:28; 45:1). The victories of Cyrus were the Lord’s (sic) doing on behalf of Israel (43:3).
“I, the LORD…I am He. This is a most significant formula of divine self-identification (41:13; 42:8; 43:3, 10, 13, 15; 44:24; 45:3, 5, 6; 46:4; 48:17; 49:23; 51:15; 60:22; note the use of “I am” in John 6:35; 8:12, 58; 9:5; 10:7, 9, 11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1, 5). First…last, these words give assurance that everything is always under the Lord’s (sic) control (44:6; 48:12; cf. Heb. 13:8; Rev. 1:8, 17; 2:8; 21:6; 22:13)” (NGSB p.1093). Fear in the nations of what the LORD was effecting in their affairs, led them to confederate together, and to give expression to their collective pagan religion with their idols, no doubt in hopes of opposing the God of Israel (vv. 5-7 Cf. 40:19-20; 44:13-14).
Israel was the LORD’s servant through Jacob whom he had chosen in fulfillment of his covenant promises to Abraham (v. 8 Cf. 43:1; Dt. 7:6; 10:15; Ps. 135:4). Those who were sent into exile in judgment would be gathered back to the promised land (v. 9). The LORD through Isaiah, went to the core of the covenant stating, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (vv. 10, 13 Cf. Dt. 31:6; 41:13-14; 43:5). The LORD makes the point that Abraham was his friend, and so should his people be (Gen. 15:6; II Chron. 20:7; Js. 2:23).
However, their enemies would only be the LORD’s enemies if they obeyed His voice, his word (Ex. 23:22). Those who once strived with his people would “be ashamed and disgraced” (v. 11 Cf. 45:24; 60:12; Zech. 12:3). The nations were weak, and their power nonexistent (v. 12). The LORD would help his people to do his work (v. 13). The LORD keeps his people humble that we might look to him as our Redeemer (v. 14 Cf. Ps. 22:6), through whom we will gain the victory over the nations for his glory (vv. 15-16 Cf. Mic. 4:13; Hab. 3:12-13). Water will flow in the wilderness, and trees will grow for his people (vv. 17-19 Cf. 35:1; 43:19; 44:3).
They would see and know that the hand of the LORD has done this (v. 20 Cf. 66:14). Idols, and those who make and worship them, clearly cannot speak about matters of the past or the future (vv. 21-22 Cf. 45:21). Idols cannot act (vv. 23-24 Cf. 44:6-8). The LORD can predict the future because he is the sovereign Lord of it-just as he would send a nation from the north to do his bidding, who would call on his name, and would bring good tidings (vv. 25-27 Cf. 40:9; 43:9). Those who make and worship idols are just like them-unable to answer (vv. 28-29 Cf. 63:5). Without a counselor, like the LORD’s people with his word, there was nothing but confusion.