M. A. Rudge
The second part of the book of the prophet Isaiah is divided into twenty-seven addresses in three main sections (chs. 40-48, 49-57 and 58-66). Each of the sections is arranged in the form of three sets of nine addresses, and each of these sets is again divided into three. The fourteenth address (52:13 - 53:12), which is the central one in the whole series, is understandably enough, the memorable prophecy of Jehovahís Servant, His Suffering and Glory.
The first address in the second part of the book (chapters 40 -48), commences with a word of comfort from the God of all comfort (chapter 40), which continues in the second address (chapter 41), with the theme of Godís sovereignty over the nations, as the God of Prophecy and Universal History. The study of Isaiah should leave deep impressions on us concerning the truth of Divine sovereignty. The fulfillment of prophecy is an important aspect of it. Learning to live with Divine sovereignty is one of the most important lessons of Christian experience and an immense source of comfort and strength.
The theme of the uniqueness of Jehovah and the exclusive nature of His Deity and Sovereignty is continued in chapters 41, 44, 46 and 48. The First and the Last, the exclusive title of Deity, occurs on three occasions - "I the Lord, the First, and with the Last; I am He" (41:4); "I am the First and I am the Last and beside Me there is no God" (44:6); "I am He; I am the First, I also am the Last." (48:12). There can only be one "first" and one "last." The threefold claim to this exclusive title by the Lord Jesus in Revelation 1:17, 2:8 and 22:13, is an emphatic testimony to His Deity. Who can make a comparable claim? Who among their idol-gods, has exercised complete control of the physical universe and historical events (40:26; 41:4), and fulfilled what He has foretold from ancient times? (v. 7). "Only the Lord in the uniqueness of His Deity, can lay claim to have done all this and make a coherent plan of history, in His dealings with the nations and in particular with Israel."
The third address (chapters 42:1 - 43:13), commences with the first of the four Servant Songs (42:1-9; 49:1-7; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12) in The Book of the Servant (chapters 40 - 57). Isaiah draws a parallel between Cyrus, as the Lordís Anointed and Israelís Liberator from Babylon (44:24 - 48:22) and Jehovahís Servant, the Lordís Anointed and Universal Liberator from Sin (49:1 - 53:12). Cyrus was chosen to accomplish Judahís physical deliverance from Babylon and the return of a remnant to Jerusalem but it was only a foreshadowing of "greater and more distant events," redemption from sin, national repentance and renewal, leading to universal blessing, a work which can only be accomplished by Jehovahís Servant. Redemption from Babylon is the theme of 48:1-22 and Redemption from sin is the theme of 52:13 - 53:12.
Israelís contemptible idolatry and failure as a witness to Jehovah, is called to account in the fifth address (chapters 44:6-23). Idolatry is allowing other things to take Godís place in our hearts and the desire for something other than His will in our lives -"covetousness which is idolatry" (Col. 3:5). In the final verse of his first epistle, the apostle John warns us, "Little children, keep yourselves from idols." We live in an idolatrous world. Materialism has the first place in many hearts. Self-interest, human esteem, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, govern the majority of lives. There are the icons of the religious, social and political, world-system. There are the idols of the world of sport and the entertainment world, the idols of television, the cinema and the theatre, the fashion world, the political and business world. The day is fast approaching when the believer will be called to account. The Lord is coming, "who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and make manifest the counsels of the heart..." It will not be the praise of men but "praise of God," that will be the only matter of importance in that day (Romans 2:28,29; 1 Corinthians 4:5). As we think of that day, we need to remember the Lordís words, "Lay not up for yourselves treasure on earth... but lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven.. .for where your treasure is there will be your heart also" (Matthew 6:19-21).
It has already been noted that Hezekiahís failure in receiving the envoy from Merodach-Baladan, the king of Babylon (39:4-7; 2 Chron. 32:31; 2 Kings 20:16-18), anticipates the crisis which the rise of Babylon brings to the nation and which casts its shadow over the second half of the book. The theme of the future rise and destruction of Babylon and its world-ruler (chapters 13,14, 21:1-10, 24-27 and 39), is continued in 43:14-2 1 and 46-48. The seventh and eighth addresses (chapters 46 and 47), deal with the collapse of the gods of the Babylonish system and the city which is the capital of world empire under the beast (Rev 13:1-9; 14:8; 18) and Israelís deliverance. Babylon is brought down from the throne to the dust, in 47:1-15. Israel is raised from the dust to the throne, in 51:17 -52:12. The ninth address in the first section (chapter 48), reaffirms the faithfulness and unique glory of Jehovah and the promise of redemption from Babylon, in spite of Israelís unfaithfulness.