Front Page

Series Theme: FRAMEWORKS: Isaiah

(Return to Old Testament Contents)


FRAMEWORKS: Isaiah 41 : The Challenger of Idols


[In these ‘Frameworks' we add subheadings and summary notes for each verse so the everyday reader, can sense what the verses are saying and catch the direction of the prophecy]


v.1-4 The Lord who brings Discipline

v.5-7 The World stands trusting in idols

v.8-16 Israel, Chosen & Transformed by the Lord

v.17-20 The Lord who Provides

v.21-23 The idols challenged

v.24-29 Idols condemned by comparison to the Lord

[Preliminary notes: After the encouragements of chapter 40, the Almighty comes with a strong touch of realism – that makes us realise He is the Sovereign Lord who brings discipline in the form of a coming invader but also blessing to His people. But then he turns on the foolishness of keeping idols at home which, quite clearly, some of His people were still doing.]



v.1-4 The Lord who brings Discipline


v.1 [Offer to Meet] Come and stand in humility before me, you who wish to contend with me.

v.1   “Be silent before me, you islands!
     Let the nations renew their strength!
Let them come forward and speak;
     let us meet together at the place of judgment.


v.2 [God who brings the invader] Realise who I am – the One who uses invaders from the east to bring my discipline, who come forth in power sweeping all before them – I am the Lord!

v. 2  “Who has stirred up one from the east,
     calling him in righteousness to his service?
He hands nations over to him
     and subdues kings before him.
He turns them to dust with his sword,
     to windblown chaff with his bow.

v.3,4 [This is a work of God] Realise I am the one who stirs these invaders to reach further than they've been before. I am the one who has been involved with every generation from the beginning. I was there at the beginning and I'll be there at the end. This is who you are standing before.

v. 3  He pursues them and moves on unscathed,
     by a path his feet have not traveled before.
v. 4  Who has done this and carried it through,
     calling forth the generations from the beginning?
I, the Lord —with the first of them
     and with the last—I am he.”



v.5-7 The World stands trusting in idols


v.5,6 [It is seen by all] Peoples from all over the place have witnessed these things, but like a group of naughty little schoolboys you stand together for moral support against authority.

v. 5  The islands have seen it and fear;
     the ends of the earth tremble.
They approach and come forward;
v. 6        they help each other
     and say to their companions, “Be strong!”

v.7 [How idols are made ] Underlying all their activities is their idolatry, making for themselves things to worship.

v. 7  The metalworker encourages the goldsmith,
     and the one who smooths with the hammer
     spurs on the one who strikes the anvil.
One says of the welding, “It is good.”
     The other nails down the idol so it will not topple.


v.8-16 Israel, Chosen & Transformed by the Lord


v.8,9 [Israel has a history - with God] But you Israel, you should be different, because through Abraham I called you into being, I chose you to be my servant.

v. 8  “But you, Israel, my servant,
     Jacob, whom I have chosen,
     you descendants of Abraham my friend,
v. I took you from the ends of the earth,
     from its farthest corners I called you.
I said, ‘You are my servant';
     I have chosen you and have not rejected you.

v.10 [He will provide for them] So my different Israel, fear not, I am with you to uphold you.

v. 10  So do not fear, for I am with you;
     do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
     I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.


v.11,12 [Thus enemies are inconsequential] Don't worry about your enemies who are against you, I will deal with them, so that after a while you will look around and they will be nowhere in sight.

v. 11  “All who rage against you
     will surely be ashamed and disgraced;
those who oppose you
     will be as nothing and perish.
v. 12  Though you search for your enemies,
     you will not find them.
Those who wage war against you
     will be as nothing at all.

v.13,14 [God's presence removes fear] Why can you be assured of this? Because I who am Almighty God will help you, for I am your redeemer.

v. 13  For I am the Lord your God
     who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
     I will help you.
v. 14  Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob,
     little Israel, do not fear,
for I myself will help you,” declares the Lord ,
     your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.

v.15,16 [He will transform them into a fighting machine] Indeed I will so strengthen you that you will become like a weapon of war that will sweep all before you, and you will know it is me and rejoice.

v. 15   “See, I will make you into a threshing sledge,
     new and sharp, with many teeth.
You will thresh the mountains and crush them,
     and reduce the hills to chaff.
v. 16  You will winnow them, the wind will pick them up,
     and a gale will blow them away.
But you will rejoice in the Lord
     and glory in the Holy One of Israel.



v.17-20 The Lord who Provides


v.17-20 [The Lord will transform the deserts and provide water for His people] Look, there are times when you search for water – literal and spiritual – in desert places, and I will come and open up rivers and streams to provide for you, and I will transform the dry places, the desert, so life will break forth in abundance and all will see and know it is me.

v. 17   “The poor and needy search for water,
     but there is none;
     their tongues are parched with thirst.
But I the Lord will answer them;
     I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.
v. 18  I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
     and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
     and the parched ground into springs.
v. 19  I will put in the desert
     the cedar and the acacia, the myrtle and the olive.
I will set junipers in the wasteland,
     the fir and the cypress together,
v. 20  so that people may see and know,
     may consider and understand,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
     that the Holy One of Israel has created it.


v.21-23 The idols challenged


v.21 [Idols cannot speak] So, to the worshippers of idols, come on, stand up, show us why you worship idols.

v. 21  “Present your case,” says the Lord .
     “Set forth your arguments,” says Jacob's King.

v.22,23 Come on you idols, what have you got to say for yourselves? Can you tell us what the future holds? Can you explain what went on previously, come on say something, do something more than just sitting there like a block of wood!

v. 22  “Tell us, you idols,
     what is going to happen.
Tell us what the former things were,
     so that we may consider them
     and know their final outcome.
Or declare to us the things to come,
v. 23        tell us what the future holds,
     so we may know that you are gods.
Do something, whether good or bad,
     so that we will be dismayed and filled with fear.


v.24-29 Idols condemned by comparison to the Lord


v.24 [Idols cannot help] Face it you are nothing, nothing more than a metal or wooden ornament, and you do nothing, so those who have you are really beyond description.

v. 24  But you are less than nothing
     and your works are utterly worthless;
     whoever chooses you is detestable.


v.25 By comparison, I have come and stirred up one from the north to discipline my people, a mighty ruler who no one can withstand.

v. 25  “I have stirred up one from the north, and he comes—
     one from the rising sun who calls on my name.
He treads on rulers as if they were mortar,
     as if he were a potter treading the clay.

v.26 So you idols, did you warn the people about this invader? No, you did not, no one heard a word from any of you!

v. 26 Who told of this from the beginning, so we could know,
     or beforehand, so we could say, ‘He was right'?
No one told of this,
     no one foretold it,
     no one heard any words from you.

v.27-29 No, I the Lord has been the only one to tell you these things. I look around and there is no one else to speak these things out, these images, these idols are useless, just giving superstitious hope that is so easily blown away.

v. 27  I was the first to tell Zion, ‘Look, here they are!'
     I gave to Jerusalem a messenger of good news.
v. 28  I look but there is no one—
     no one among the gods to give counsel,
     no one to give answer when I ask them.
v. 29  See, they are all false!
     Their deeds amount to nothing;
     their images are but wind and confusion.



[Concluding comments: The prophet, speaking out God's heart, does not spare the folly of superstitiously keeping and relying upon idols. He contrasts idols with Himself, idols who say nothing and do nothing. He, by comparison, comes to encourage His people as well as discipline them, to bless them, provide for them and build them up to be victorious over their enemies. So these idols stand there in stillness and silence, not in any way helping His people, except in some superstitious way that cannot be relied upon. Shear folly!]



Continue to Chapter 42