The Lord restores His people for a purpose. Get on board with it.
Series: Isaiah: Hope in the Holy One
The Big Idea of our passage this morning is: The Lord restores His people for a purpose. Get on board with it.
Ok – how does the Lord restore us – so that we can get on board with it?
1. He restores in a surprising way (44:24-45:8)
2. He confronts our discontentment (45:9-13)
3. To save the ends of the earth (45:14-25).
The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction Commentary by Alec Motyer
Isaiah: God Saves Sinners (Preach the Word Commentary) by Ray Ortlund
ESV Study Bible
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I want to talk to you today about getting on board with God’s purpose for his people. I want to talk to you about getting on board with God’s purpose for you, for us, because Isaiah 45 is all about getting on board with God’s purpose for his people. When Andrea and I lived in our first house, I mowed our lawn with a weed wacker. Before you judge me too hard, bear in mind that we lived in a small Philadelphia row home with a small Philadelphia yard. A lawnmower really wasn’t an option. So, I used a weed wacker to mow our grass. You can imagine the result. We had highly uneven, horrible looking grass because the purpose of a weed wacker is not to be a mower. We had an ugly lawn because I never got on board with the manufacturer’s purpose for their weed wacker. In a similar way, our life together as God’s people only really work, only really take off, are only really filled with joy when we get on board with God’s purpose for his people.
Let me give you a lay of the land so that you can see that Isaiah 45 is all about getting on board with God’s purpose for his people. Isaiah is writing to Israel while they are exiles and slaves in Babylon in the 500’s BC. As a result of their own sin, God’s people had lost everything and were captive in a city and nation that was not their home. They were exiles. Interestingly, the New Testament says that Christians are like exiles. We aren’t at home in this world because we belong to Jesus and our true citizenship is in his heavenly kingdom. So, Israel is in exile in Babylon; it’s a mess of their own faithless making. However, the Lord promises to rescue and restore Israel. He promises to restore them and rebuild Jerusalem, the city where the Lord dwelt with his people, so that his people can live there once again. He promises to restore them, but he promises to do it in a very surprising way, in a way that, frankly, is painful and Israel doesn’t like. We’ll get into the specifics of that in a few minutes, but haven’t you noticed how our greatest spiritual growth tends to come in our most painful seasons? Yet we often resist that, and so did Israel. The Lord promised to restore his people, but Israel isn’t on board with the Lord’s method because they don’t see his purpose. They aren’t on board with the way the Lord restores them because they’ve lost sight of the Lord’s purpose for them. And that brings us to the big idea of our passage this morning: The Lord restores his people for a purpose. Get on board with it. The Lord restores his people for a purpose. Get on board with it. Ok – how does the Lord restore us – so that we can get on board with it? 1. He restores in a surprising way (44:24-45:8) 2. He confronts our discontentment (45:9-13) 3. To save the ends of the earth (45:14-25).
HE RESTORES IN A SURPRISING WAY (44:24-45:8)
At the heart of our passage is the Lord’s promise to restore Israel from exile in Babylon to their home and rebuild Jerusalem, the city where God dwells with his people. Isaiah 44:24, 26b – Thus says the LORD, your Redeemer, who formed you from the womb: “I am the LORD, who made all things…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’… The Lord repeats the promise to restore his people in Isaiah 45:13b – “…he shall build my city and set my exiles free…” The Lord promises to restore his people, but he’s going to restore them in a surprising way. The Lord restores his people for a purpose. Get on board with it by, first, seeing that He restores in a surprising way. Surprise: The Lord is going to use a gentile, a pagan king to restore his people – Cyrus the Great from Persia. Isaiah 45:1 – Thus says the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have grasped, to subdue nations before him and to loose the belts of kings. 2 “I will go before you and level the exalted places, I will break in pieces the doors of bronze and cut through the bars of iron, 3 I will give you the treasures of darkness and the hoards in secret places, that you may know that it is I, the LORD, the God of Israel, who call you by your name. 4 For the sake of my servant Jacob, and Israel my chosen, I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. The Lord is going to restore his people in a surprising way and, as we’ll see in the next section, they’re not happy about it.
Why is the Lord’s way of restoring Israel so surprising and, frankly, bitter to them? It could be that Israel is jealous. They’re in exile, they feel far from God, and maybe they’re jealous that the Lord would draw near to and help a godless king when they feel like the Lord is far from them. It could be that Israel wants vengeance. Their mother and fathers, brothers and sisters, even their children were murdered when the Babylonians conquered them. It could be that Israel wants the Lord to grasp their hands so that they can be the ones who put the sword to the neck of the Babylonians, rather than Cyrus getting to do it. These are all possible reasons why they’re surprised and bitter, but we know that one of the reasons that they’re surprised is because the Lord is restoring them through more calamity that feels out of control. But the surprise is that it’s actually the Lord who creates the calamity to restore his people! Isaiah 45:7 – I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things. He creates calamity to restore his people. How could it be any other way?! After all it was God the Father who created the calamity of the crucifixion of Christ to give us the ultimate restoration of eternal life. Acts 4:27-28 – for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28 to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place. The Lord restores his people in a surprising way, and that surprising way is often that he uses calamity and suffering to restore and build up his people, the church.
The Lord restores his people for a purpose. Get on board with it: He restores in a surprising way. I think we experienced that during the COVID-19 pandemic. Can I be honest with you? That was a really challenging time for my family and the other pastors and their families. So many people we loved left Citylight Church, many of them simply moved away. It hurt, it was a calamity, but it was the Lord’s surprising way of restoring Citylight Church. We are more united in love in these gatherings and our Citygroups, more rooted in sound theology through the Citylight Institute, and more engaged in Jesus’ mission than maybe ever before. Eighteen people came to faith in Jesus for the first time through Citylight last year! The Lord always restores and builds up his church in the most upside down surprising ways – He weakens us so we rely on his strength and are truly strong. He makes us truly joyful through looking not to our interests, but through serving the interests of one another. The Lord restores his people for a purpose. Get on board with it by seeing that he restores in a surprising way. Go with it. He brings us low because that’s where he is, that where his power is, in the low places. How has the Lord brought calamity into your life over the past year? Don’t be afraid. He brings the calamity to bring you low, to make you dependent, because that’s where restoration is found. The Lord restores his people for a purpose. Get on board with it first by accepting that he restores in a surprising way. Second…
HE CONFRONTS OUR DISCONTENTMENT (45:9-13)
As you can imagine, Israel was not content with the Lord’s surprising plan to restore them. Who of us can’t relate? The Lord brings us low to build us up and restore us, but we are discontent with his methods. The Lord restores his people for a purpose. Get on board with it. Secondly, he does it by confronting our discontentment; by confronting our discontentment with the surprising way he brings us low to build us up and restore us. Listen as the Lord confronts our discontentment with the way he restores us. Isaiah 45:9-10, 12-13 – “Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?… I made the earth and created man on it; it was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded all their host.  I have stirred him up in righteousness, and I will make all his ways level; he shall build my city and set my exiles free, not for price or reward,” says the LORD of hosts. Citylight Church – when we become discontent with the very things that the Lord is using to restore us, we are striving against the Lord. The Lord restores his people for a purpose and to help us get on board with it, he confronts our discontentment with the way he brings us low to build us up in Christ. Contentment is how we cooperate with the Lord’s surprising plan to bring us low so that he can build us up and restore us.
So, let me talk to you for a moment about contentment. Contentment isn’t easy, but contentment is one of the greatest privileges that we have in Christ. In his wonderful book entitled The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment, Puritan Jeremiah Burroughs, writing in the 1600’s, said, “to be well skilled in the mystery of Christian contentment is the duty, glory and excellence of a Christian.” Jeremiah Burroughs describes Christian contentment this way: “Christian contentment is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit, which freely submits to and delights in God’s wise and fatherly disposal in every condition.”
According to Jeremiah Burroughs, contentment isn’t opposed to feeling your trials and afflictions. Israel was allowed to feel the pain of exile and be confused by God’s surprising plan to save. After all, how can you be content in your trials if you aren’t even aware of them? Similarly, Burroughs says that contentment isn’t opposed to respectfully and honestly making our complaint known to God and to our friends so that they can encourage us in Christ. Andhe says that contentment isn’t opposed to using all biblical and lawful means to be delivered out of our afflictions and trials. So what does it look like when we are discontent and striving against the Lord’s plan to restore us through calamity and affliction? Contentment is opposed to several common temptations that all file under the banner: Striving Against the Lord’s plan to restore us. Jeremiah Burroughs writes, “However, contentment is opposed to (1) murmuring and repining at the hand of God (2) vexing and fretting, which is a degree beyond murmuring (3) tumultuousness of spirit (4) an unsettled and unstable spirit, where by the heart is distracted from the present duty that God requires in our several relationships, towards God, ourselves and others (5) to distracting, heart-consuming cares (6) sinking discouragements (7) sinful shifting and shirking to get relief and help (8) desperate rising of the heart against God by way of rebellion.” The Lord confronts our discontentment by inviting us to submit to his sovereignty. All throughout our passage the Lord refers to himself as the creator. He made us and he can restore us in any way he pleases. Submit to his sovereignty. But there is an even more gentle invitation – to see God’s wisdom in bringing us low to restore us. Jeremiah Burroughs writes, “In his submission, he sees his sovereignty, but what makes him take pleasure is God’s wisdom. The Lord knows how to order things better than I. The Lord sees further than I do; I only see things at present but the Lord sees a great while from now. And how do I know but that had it not been for this affliction, I should have been undone.”
I can’t prove this from our passage, but I suspect that Israel was discontent because they wanted to save themselves. They didn’t want Cyrus to save them, they wanted to save themselves from Babylon. Some of us are discontent with God’s one and only way of saving us: Jesus Christ. We want to be able to save ourselves. We want to feel like we are good people and God will let us in without being saved by Christ. We want there to be other ways of being restored to God apart from Christ. We want all religions and all ways to restore us to God, not Christ alone. God confronts our discontentment. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus confronts our discontentment with him being the only way, but in a way that invites us to embrace him as our only hope in life and in death. The Lord Jesus invites you to the ultimate restoration of eternal life and forgiveness of sins. Why wouldn’t you get on board with that? The Lord restores his people for a purpose. Get on board with it. And now we are ready to see his purpose…
TO SAVE THE ENDS OF THE EARTH (45:14-25)
The Lord doesn’t only restore Israel for their own sake. He rescued them from Babylon, returned them to Jerusalem, and rebuilt their city and temple so that the end of the earth will see that the God of Israel is the one true God, turn and be saved. Tragically, Israel didn’t get on board. But the Lord kept his promise. He restored Israel so that the true light to the world, the Savior and the Son of God, Jesus Christ could come through their line. And the Lord Jesus Christ lived the righteous life that Israel, and all of us, failed to live. He died the atoning death that we need to have our sins forgiven. And he was restored and raised from the grave to restore and save all who turn to him in faith. And He, the Lord Jesus Christ, restores us for a purpose: so that the ends of the earth can be saved through us! Citylight Church – Get on board with it.
Listen to what the Lord says. Isaiah 45:14 – Thus says the LORD: “The wealth of Egypt and the merchandise of Cush, and the Sabeans, men of stature, shall come over to you and be yours; they shall follow you; they shall come over in chains and bow down to you. They will plead with you, saying: ‘Surely God is in you, and there is no other, no god besides him.’” Citylight Church – the Lord restores us so that the world will see Christ in us, hear Christ from us, and join us. Get on board. The Lord restores us for a purpose. Get on board by inviting everyone you know and the ends of the earth to turn to the Lord Jesus and be saved. Isaiah 45:22-23 – “Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. 23 By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.’ Five ways to get on board: pray, love, invite, speak, and go!
I’d like to close by speaking to those of you who aren’t followers of Christ yet. You may have noticed that line “To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.” That includes you: Ray Ortlund puts it this way, “Someday each one of us will bow before Jesus Christ crucified as God’s Ultimate Surprise (Philippians 2:9-11). If you’ll look past his unimpressive followers now, if you’ll trust him enough to join him in the way of his cross, you will bow then in the deepest joy forever. But if you cling to your hurt feelings and dashed expectations and broken dreams and stubborn pride, and if you insist on sulking and having things your own way, you will bow unwillingly then, to your eternal exclusion and regret.” The Lord gave his life to restore you. Will you get on board by turning to the Lord to be saved?