Isaiah 44

1 Yet listen now, Jacob my servant, and Israel, whom I have chosen. 2 This is what the LORD who made you, and formed you from the womb, who will help you says: “Don’t be afraid, Jacob my servant; and you, Jeshurun, whom I have chosen. 3 For I will pour water on him who is thirsty, and streams on the dry ground. I will pour my Spirit on your descendants, and my blessing on your offspring: 4 and they will spring up amongst the grass, as willows by the watercourses. 5 One will say, ‘I am the LORD’s;’ and another will be called by the name of Jacob; and another will write with his hand ‘to the LORD,’ and honor the name of Israel.” 6 This is what the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of Armies, says: “I am the first, and I am the last; and besides me there is no God. 7 Who is like me? Who will call, and will declare it, and set it in order for me, since I established the ancient people? Let them declare the things that are coming, and that will happen. 8 Don’t fear, neither be afraid. Haven’t I declared it to you long ago, and shown it? You are my witnesses. Is there a God besides me? Indeed, there is not. I don’t know any other Rock.” 9 Everyone who makes an engraved image is vain. The things that they delight in will not profit. Their own witnesses don’t see, nor know, that they may be disappointed. 10 Who has fashioned a god, or molds an image that is profitable for nothing? 11 Behold, all his fellows will be disappointed; and the workmen are mere men. Let them all be gathered together. Let them stand up. They will fear. They will be put to shame together. 12 The blacksmith takes an axe, works in the coals, fashions it with hammers, and works it with his strong arm. He is hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water, and is faint. 13 The carpenter stretches out a line. He marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes. He marks it out with compasses, and shapes it like the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to reside in a house. 14 He cuts down cedars for himself, and takes the cypress and the oak, and strengthens for himself one amongst the trees of the forest. He plants a cypress tree, and the rain nourishes it. 15 Then it will be for a man to burn; and he takes some of it, and warms himself. Yes, he burns it, and bakes bread. Yes, he makes a god, and worships it; he makes it an engraved image, and falls down to it. 16 He burns part of it in the fire. With part of it, he eats meat. He roasts a roast, and is satisfied. Yes, he warms himself, and says, “Aha! I am warm. I have seen the fire.” 17 The rest of it he makes into a god, even his engraved image. He bows down to it and worships, and prays to it, and says, “Deliver me; for you are my god!” 18 They don’t know, neither do they consider: for he has shut their eyes, that they can’t see; and their hearts, that they can’t understand. 19 No one thinks, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, “I have burnt part of it in the fire. Yes, I have also baked bread on its coals. I have roasted meat and eaten it. Shall I make the rest of it into an abomination? Shall I bow down to a tree trunk?” 20 He feeds on ashes. A deceived heart has turned him aside; and he can’t deliver his soul, nor say, “Isn’t there a lie in my right hand?” 21 Remember these things, Jacob and Israel; for you are my servant. I have formed you. You are my servant. Israel, you will not be forgotten by me. 22 I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, your transgressions, and, as a cloud, your sins. Return to me, for I have redeemed you. 23 Sing, you heavens, for the LORD has done it! Shout, you lower parts of the earth! Break out into singing, you mountains, O forest, all of your trees, for the LORD has redeemed Jacob, and will glorify himself in Israel. 24 the LORD, your Redeemer, and he who formed you from the womb says: “I am the LORD, who makes all things; who alone stretches out the heavens; who spreads out the earth by myself; 25 who frustrates the signs of the liars, and makes diviners mad; who turns wise men backward, and makes their knowledge foolish; 26 who confirms the word of his servant, and performs the counsel of his messengers; who says of Jerusalem, ‘She will be inhabited;’ and of the cities of Judah, ‘They will be built,’ and ‘I will raise up its waste places;’ 27 who says to the deep, ‘Be dry,’ and ‘I will dry up your rivers;’ 28 who says of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure,’ even saying of Jerusalem, ‘She will be built;’ and of the temple, ‘Your foundation will be laid.’”

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Questions about today’s reading? See if Matthew Henry can help.
Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, 1706

Verses 1-8

Israel is here called Jeshurun, which means “the upright one.” Such only are Israelites indeed, in whom is no guile. Those that serve God he will own. He will help them over difficulties, and in their services. Water is the emblem of the Holy Spirit; as water refreshes, cleanses, and makes the earth fruitful, so do his influences the soul. This gift of the Holy Ghost is the great blessing, the plentiful pouring out of which God kept for the latter days. Where God gives his Spirit, he will give all other blessings. Hereby shall be a great increase of the church; thus it shall be spread to distant places. Was there any other Rock, or Protector, that could defend them? None besides could foretell these things to come, of which God by his prophets gave notice. All was set in order in the Divine predictions, as well as in the Divine purposes. Could any other have done so? Who can compare with Israel’s Redeemer and King?

Verses 9-20

Image-making is described, to expose the folly of idolaters. Though a man had used part of a log for fuel, he fell down before an image made of the remainder, praying it to deliver him. Man greatly dishonours God, when he represents him after the image of man. Satan blinds the eyes of unbelievers, causing absurd reasonings in matters of religion. Whether men seek happiness in worldly things, or run into unbelief, superstition, or any false system, they feed on ashes. A heart deceived by pride, love of sin, and departure from God, turns men aside from his holy truth and worship. While the affections are depraved, a man holds fast the lie as his best treasure. Are our hearts set upon the wealth of the world and its pleasures? They will certainly prove a lie. If we trust to outward professions and doings, as if those would save us, we deceive ourselves. Self-suspicion is the first step towards self-deliverance. He that would deliver his soul, must question his conscience, Is there not a lie in my right hand?

Verses 21-28

Return unto me. It is the great concern of those who have backslidden from God, like the Jews of old, to hasten their return to him. The work of redemption wrought for us by Christ, encourages to hope for all blessings from him. Our transgressions and our sins are as a thick cloud between heaven and earth: sins separate between us and God; they threaten a storm of wrath. When God pardons sin, he blots out, he dispels this cloud, this thick cloud, so that the way to heaven is open again. The cloud is scattered by the Sun of righteousness; it is quite gone. The comforts that flow into the soul when sin is pardoned, are like clear shining after clouds and rain. Let not Israel be discouraged; nothing is too hard for God: having made all, he can make what use he pleases of any. Those that learn to know Christ, see all knowledge to be foolishness, in comparison with the knowledge of him. And his enemies will find their counsels turned into foolishness, and themselves taken in their craftiness. The exact fulfilling the prophecies of Scripture confirms the truth of the whole, and proves its Divine origin. The particular favours God designed for his people in captivity, were foretold here, long before they went into captivity. Very great difficulties would be in the way of their deliverance; but it is promised that by Divine power they should all be removed. God knew who should be the Deliverer of his people; and let his church know it, that when they heard such a name talked of, they might know their redemption drew nigh. It is the greatest honour of the greatest men, to be employed as instruments of the Divine favour to his people. In things wherein men serve themselves, and look no further, God makes them do all his pleasure. And a nobler Shepherd than Cyrus does his Father’s will, till his work is fully completed.

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