This is a Bible study on Isaiah 41:1-29.

7 pages.

Isaiah 41:1-29 - Rely Upon the LORD Your God

Read Isaiah 41:1-29.


Can you identify with Israel as they are described in this passage of Scripture? They find themselves in the midst of a people who are incensed against them. They are living among a people who strive against them and wage war against them.

A young man named John is a contemporary Christian who could identify with these Old Testament people of God. John had a summer job as a house painter; throughout the summer he found himself despised and his faith ridiculed by the boss and the other members of the painting crew.

A young man named Jim is a contemporary Christian who can identify with these Old Testament people of God. Jim’s own mother would mockingly sing hymns at the top of her lungs as a way of taunting Jim and his Christian faith.

Can you identify with these Old Testament people of God? Have you ever found yourself in an environment that was hostile to your Christian faith and threatening to you as a Christian? At school? At work? Among your neighbors? In your own home?

May this present passage of Scripture encourage us to rely upon the LORD our God, especially when we find ourselves in a hostile and threatening environment.

Rely upon the LORD Your God, Because He is the Sovereign God🔗

The LORD summons the nations to appear before Him (vs. 1). The western coastlands of the Mediterranean are commanded to be silent before the LORD; the LORD instructs them to draw near to settle the issue, Who is God?

The LORD now interrogates the nations gathered before Him (vs. 2-3). He inquires, “Who has aroused a ruler from the east, one whom [God’s] righteousness summons to his service?” The reference is to Cyrus, the Persian king, who would become a mighty conqueror. The question being raised is, What God has summoned Cyrus to be His servant?

This act of summoning Cyrus to be His servant was done in righteousness; it is almost as though God’s attribute of righteousness has come forth from His divine presence and taken the initiative in summoning Cyrus to its service. The whole emphasis is upon the fact that Cyrus’s acts of conquest are ordained by the LORD as acts of righteous judgment upon the nations. This act was not capricious, the employment of Cyrus as conqueror was a righteous act on the part of the LORD, by which the LORD employed Cyrus as His instrument of judgment--and as His instrument of deliverance for His covenant people to whom He is faithful.

The interrogation now probes deeper and the answer is supplied (vs. 4). What God has designed this work of employing Cyrus as His servant, has set the work in motion, and is now carrying it out in history? Indeed, who is that God who has fashioned and controls all of history? (vs. 4a) The answer is now given: It is the LORD, (JEHOVAH), whose very name means, “I AM the Living One.” He declares, “I am the first, [before all generations], and [I will be] with the last [generation]—I am [the one]” (vs. 4b). The point being made is that the LORD is the sovereign God who precedes history and who is working in every generation of history; He is God over history and who, operating in history, accomplishes His sovereign will.

Verses 5-7 describe how the nations view the advancing Cyrus with alarm; but they fail to see the God who raised him up. Cyrus’s conquests send tremors of fear rippling throughout the west, reaching even its farthest extremities: “The islands have seen it, and are afraid; the ends of the earth tremble. They draw near [to each other] and come together” (vs. 5). But what do men do in the face of this approaching terror? They look to one another, seeking to encourage each other (vs. 5c-6). They look to their worthless idols: it is a time of crisis, more idols need to be made, and those idols need to be securely fastened in place so that they do not topple over! (vs. 7) They do not look to the LORD, the sovereign God of heaven who raised up Cyrus and who controls all of history.

The LORD proceeds to directly challenge the idols to defend themselves and demonstrate that they are legitimate deities:

Present your case, demands the LORD; produce your compelling arguments, declares the King of Jacob. 22Let them bring forth [their idols] and let [those idols] inform us about the future. Tell us what is about to happen in the [immediate] future, so that we may consider these things and take note of their outcome; or make known to us events that will occur [in the distant future]. 23Tell us the things that are still to come, so that we may know that you are gods. Indeed, do good, or do evil, so that all of us may be dismayed and filled with fear. 24Look! You are worthless, and your works are utterly useless; whoever chooses you [to be their god] is detestable. vs. 21-24

He calls upon them to set forth their case, to speak in their defense, to give compelling reasons why men should believe in them (vs. 21). He challenges them to display their ability to communicate and to display their divine knowledge of future events (vs. 22). Ironically, the idol worshipers themselves must be called upon to bring forth their idols, for the helpless images made of wood and stone are unable to come under their own power: “Let them bring forth [their idols] and let [those idols] inform us about the future” (vs. 22)

The LORD now addresses the idols directly and demands of them, “Tell us the things that are still to come, so that we may know that you are gods. Indeed, do good, or do evil, so that all of us may be dismayed and filled with fear” (vs. 23). The idols are challenged to foretell future events, to do something, to do anything, to demonstrate that they are worthy of fear and reverence! In disgust, the LORD declares to the silent, lifeless idols, “Look! You are worthless, and your works are utterly useless; whoever chooses you [to be their god] is detestable!” (vs. 24) Here in these verses of Isaiah is set forth both the folly of idolatry as well as the sinfulness of idolatry, note Romans 1:21-23,25,

For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles... 25They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.

At this point we should pause to insert a note on The Theology of Idolatry:

The Old Testament prophets, and certainly the LORD Himself, were well acquainted with the theology of idolatry. In that pagan theology it was believed that the spirit of the deity entered into the wooden or stone idol, and thus became “incarnate” in the image. However, the Scriptures teach that there are no such deities; the LORD alone is God, and beside Him there is none other. Yet, there are very real spiritual beings that do employ the pagan idols; but it is the presence of demons, not that of authentic deities who are rivals to the LORD. As the Apostle Paul warns the Corinthian Christians, “the sacrifices of the Gentiles are being offered to demons, not to God; and I do not want you to have communion with demons” (1 Cor. 10:20). Thus, when the Old Testament prophets, (or the LORD Himself as in Isaiah 41), describe the idols of the nations as being nothing more than lifeless objects made of wood or stone, they are correct, in so much that these images are not inhabited by any legitimate deity who is worthy of worship, they are rather, employed by spiritually filthy demons who are worthy of the just condemnation they shall receive.

In contrast to the idols of the world, the LORD presents Himself as the true God (vs. 25-29). He reaffirms that He has raised up a mighty conqueror (Cyrus) who shall do His bidding and shall invoke His name (vs. 25); i.e. this conqueror shall acknowledge that the LORD gave him his victories, thereby giving glory to the LORD. That conqueror’s testimony is recorded in Ezra 1:1-3,

In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: 2This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. 3Anyone of his people among you—may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the LORD, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem.

The LORD inquires of the idols, “Which one of you declared these things beforehand? (as the LORD Himself is now doing some 150 years before the fulfillment of these events). Again, the LORD must answer His own question, “None of you foretold these things!” (vs. 26) The LORD declares that He is the first to announce these future events, He has announced them to His people, and they contain the message of good news for His people: Cyrus would release the people of God from their Babylonian captivity and allow them to return to the land of Israel (vs. 27); see again Ezra 1:1-3. Neither the idols nor the wise men of the world have been able to foresee these events that the LORD has now announced and that He Himself will bring to fulfillment: “when I look, I find no one—there is none among them who can give counsel, there is none who can give an answer when I ask them” (vs. 28). The LORD concludes His discourse by declaring that all the idols are altogether worthless: ”Look! [Their idols] are all worthless; they produce nothing—their molten images [are nothing more than] wind and emptiness” (vs. 29).

At all times, but especially when we find ourselves in a threatening environment, let us rely upon the LORD our God, because He is the Sovereign God. In the words of the hymn writer, Fred S. Shepherd,

Trembling soul, beset by fears, 'Thy God reigneth!'
Look above and dry your tears: 'Thy God reigneth!'
Though thy foes with power assail,
Nought against thee shall prevail;
Trust in Him—He’ll never fail:
'Thy God reigneth, thy God reigneth!'

Rely upon the LORD Your God, Because He Is the Faithful God🔗

In verse eight the LORD reminds His people of their identity. Israel is the LORD’s “servant.” Israel had been called by God to live in covenantal devotion to Him, and by so doing would enjoy His covenantal fellowship and blessing.

The LORD further identifies Israel by the name of their forefather, “Jacob, [the one] whom I have chosen.” The reference here is to the fact Jacob (along with his descendants, the nation of Israel), was sovereignly chosen by God and made to be the object of His redeeming grace, while the surrounding nations were left to continue on their own chosen course unto perdition—as was the case with Jacob’s brother, Esau. Quoting from the prophet Malachi (Mal. 1:2-3), the Apostle Paul expounds on God’s sovereign choice of bestowing His saving grace upon Jacob:

And not only [this], but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, [even] our father Isaac— 11for [the children] not yet being born, nor having [yet] done any good or evil [deed], that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him who calls—12it was said to her, 'The older shall serve the younger.' 13As it is written, 'Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.' Rom. 9:10-13

The LORD expresses His love for Jacob by making him the object of His sovereign and covenantal favor; Esau is hated in the sense of being left to pursue his own course of willful defiance of God and eventually encountering the just condemnation that chosen course deserves.

The writer to the Hebrews identifies Esau as being “a profane (or, “secular”) man;” that is to say, a man whose life is centered on himself and this present world, without giving preeminence to, and, indeed, harboring hostility toward, the LORD and His kingdom. Given this fact, it is no wonder that the LORD declares His hatred toward Esau; i.e. His leaving Esau to his own chosen course, which is hateful to the LORD, and His eventually enacting against him His righteous judgment.

Finally, the LORD identifies Israel as being “the descendants of Abraham my friend.” The assurance of Israel’s preservation is found in the fact that the LORD promised Abraham, His friend, a great host of descendants, “He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the heavens and count the stars, if indeed you can count them.’ Then he said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’” (Gen. 15:5). The Apostle Paul explains that the descendants in view are the spiritual descendants of Abraham; those who share the covenantal promises of God with Abraham are those who share with him a mutual faith in Jesus the Messiah. As Paul explains in his epistle to the Galatians,

6[From the fact that] Abraham believed God and it was credited to him for righteousness, 7[you must] understand that those who have faith, they are the sons of Abraham. 8The Scripture, foreseeing that God would [also] justify the Gentiles by faith, announced the good news in advance to Abraham, [proclaiming], 'All the nations shall be blessed through you.' 9So then, those who have faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer. Gal.3:6-9

The Lord Jesus said to the Jews of His day, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day, and he saw it and was glad.” (Jn. 8:56)

Our spiritual father Abraham, (with whom we share a mutual faith in Jesus the Messiah), was designated as “the friend of God.” But it is now revealed that all who believe in the Lord Jesus are further designated as being the very brethren of God’s own beloved Son. The writer to the Hebrews testifies of all those who have put their faith in Jesus: “he is not ashamed to call them brothers. 12He says, ‘I will declare your name to my brothers’...And again he says, ‘Here am I, and the children God has given me’” (Heb. 2:11,12a, 13b).

The Lord Jesus declares,

My Father’s will is that every one that beholds the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. Jn. 6:40

In Isaiah 41:9, the LORD reminds His people of their security. It begins with God’s initiative in salvation, “I have called [you].” The Lord Jesus testifies, “this is the will of him who sent me, [namely], that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but should raise it up at the last day” (Jn. 6:39). The Apostle Paul writes, “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8).

Then there is God’s far-reaching grasp, “I called you from the farthest corners [of the earth].” Again, in his epistle to the Romans, the Apostle Paul asks the question, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” (Rom. 8:35) The implied answer is, “No one!”

The LORD continues to assure His people of their security in His covenant by asserting His unbreakable Word, “I have declared, ‘I have chosen you and have not rejected you.’” That same unbreakable word is repeated by the LORD in the New Testament through the Apostle Paul: “[God] will also confirm you to the end, [so that you may be] blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 'God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord” (1 Cor. 1:8-9).

In verse ten the LORD assures His people of His sustaining presence. “Do not be afraid, for I am with you.” The risen Lord Jesus reaffirms for us the same assurance: “Surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).

The LORD now proceeds by declaring, “Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.” Because the LORD is our God, we are not to be panic-stricken; rather, we are to place our confidence in Him. As the Psalmist testifies, “My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. 3He will not allow your foot to be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber” (Psl. 121:2-3).

The LORD further assures His people, “I will strengthen you...I will help you...I will uphold you.” Speaking from personal experience, the Apostle Paul declares, “the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength” (2 Tim. 4:17). In light of the LORD's faithfulness, the Psalmist exhorts us, “Cast your burden upon the LORD, and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous to be moved” (Psl. 55:22).

In verses 11-14 the LORD assures His people that He will defend them. The enemies of God’s people shall be confounded, they shall not prevail (vs. 11). Furthermore, those enemies shall be removed (vs. 12). This protection and deliverance is due to the mighty presence of the LORD our God: holding our hand, summoning us to fear not, and pledging to help us and to be our Redeemer:

I, the LORD your God, will hold your right hand and say to you, Do not be afraid; I will help you. 14Do not be afraid, O Jacob you worm, and you men of Israel; I will help you, declares the LORD. Indeed, your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel. vs. 13-14

Then, in verses 15-16, the LORD gives assurance to His people that they shall be more than conquerors. Back in verses 11-12 we find God’s people surrounded by enemies and Jacob himself being described as a “worm.” But now in verses 15-16 God’s people are described as a new and sharp threshing instrument that threshes mountains of grain. What is referred to here is a threshing sled: a board that was pulled by oxen while the driver stood on it; attached to the underside of the board were sharp, knife-like blades. The board was driven back and forth over the ears of grain spread on the threshing floor, the sharp blades would chop the grain to pieces and thereby release the kernels from the husks. The imagery, (which switches from God’s people being described as a worm and then as a sharp threshing instrument), is conveying the truth that just as we are identified with Christ in His humiliation, so shall we be joined with Him in His exaltation, part of which is participation in the act of final judgment:

6May the praise of God be in their mouths and a double-edged sword in their hands, 7to inflict vengeance on the nations and punishment on the peoples... 9to carry out the sentence written against them. This is the glory of all his saints. Praise the LORD. Psl. 149:6-7,9

At all times, but especially when we find ourselves in a threatening situation, let us rely upon the LORD our God, because He is the Faithful God.

The Apostle Paul testifies,

the Lord stood at my side and gave me strength...And I was delivered from the lion’s mouth. 18The Lord will rescue me out of every evil attack and will bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory forever and ever. Amen. 2 Tim. 4:17-18

Rely upon the LORD Your God, Because He is the Sufficient God🔗

In verse 17a God’s people are described as being “poor and needy;” they seek water, but find none, their tongue is parched with thirst. Note that the LORD’s people are not exempt from the various trials and tribulations of this life. Indeed, God at times permits us to reach the very extremity in a particular trial or hardship, as was the experience of the Apostle Paul,

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. 9Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. 2 Cor. 1:8-10a

But, precisely because His people in themselves are poor and needy, in verse 17b there follows the assurance, “I, the LORD, will answer them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them.”

In verse eighteen the LORD promises to sustain His people in “the wilderness.” Indeed, the LORD further promises to transform “the wilderness” into a paradise (vs. 18b-19). Here, expressed in Old Testament poetic terms, is not only the promise of provision in this present world, but also the promise of the new creation to be experienced in blessing by all those who trust in Christ the Savior. Note, too, the promises of God given in the Book of Revelation,

Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat; 17for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd. He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Rev. 7:16-17

At all times, but especially when we find ourselves in a threatening environment, let us rely upon the LORD our God, because He is the Sufficient God.

...he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore, I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Cor. 12:9


As we live for Jesus in this present world, it is inevitable that at one time or another we will find ourselves in an environment that is hostile to our Christian faith. We will find ourselves in a situation that is threatening to us as Christian people. This present passage of Scripture assures us that at all times, but especially at those critical times, we may with confidence rely upon the LORD our God: “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psl. 46:1).

Discussion Questions🔗

  1. What does the LORD call upon the nations of the ancient Near East to acknowledge? See Isa. 41:2a. Who is the ruler whom the LORD has raised up, and what service has the LORD called him to perform? See Isa. 44:28. What is significant about the LORD foretelling the coming of this ruler through the prophet Isaiah some 250-300 years before he appeared? As a Christian, what comfort should you derive from this prophecy? Note Isa. 41:4 Do you rest in the knowledge that the LORD our God is the sovereign God and Lord over creation and history, and He will accomplish His work of redemption?

Be silent before me, O islands! Let the nations renew their strength! Let them come forward and speak; let us meet together at [the place of] judgment. 2Who has aroused a ruler from the east, one whom [God’s] righteousness summons 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. Isa. 41:1-2

[I am the one] who says of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and he will accomplish everything that I desire. He will say of Jerusalem, Let it be rebuilt, and of the temple, Your foundation shall be laid.Isa. 44:28

Who has produced this and accomplished it, calling forth the generations from the beginning [of time]? [It is] I, the LORD—[I am] the first, [before all generations], and [I will be] with the last [generation]—I am [the one]. Isa. 41:4

  1. How does the LORD identify this appointed ruler and the certainty that he will prevail in the work the LORD has commissioned him to do? See Isa. 45:1a Compare Isa. 45:1b with Matt. 16:18; what is significant about this?

This is what the LORD says to his anointed one, to Cyrus, (the one whose right hand I hold in order to subdue nations before him; indeed, I will strip kings of their armor and open doors before him; indeed, the gates shall not be shut)... Isa. 45:1

The Lord Jesus declares to Peter, as the representative of the twelve apostles and the church:

I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. Matt. 16:18

Just as the nations of the ancient Near East could not prevail against Cyrus so as to prevent him from carrying out the commission given to him by the LORD, so the gates of hell (representing the devil and all his demonic forces) shall not prevail against the Church, as will become evident on the day of the final resurrection. Note Micah 7:8a...

Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; when I fall, I will arise... Mic. 7:8a

  1. How do the nations of the ancient Near East respond to the news that Cyrus is irresistibly advancing towards them? See Isa. 41:5-7. Instead of turning to their idols, what does the LORD desire them to do? See Isa. 45:22. What calling has the LORD given to His church? See Matt. 28:18-20. In what way are you personally engaged in this calling: by prayer? by financial support? by personal witness? by offering yourself for missionary service?

The islands have seen it, and are afraid; the ends of the earth tremble. They draw near [to each other] and come together; 6each one helps his neighbor and says to his brother, Be strong. 7So the craftsman encourages the goldsmith, and the one who smoothens out [the metal] with a hammer encourages the one who strikes the anvil. He says of the soldering, It is good. Then he nails down [the idol] so that it will not topple. Isa. 41:5-7

Turn to me and be saved, [you people from] all the ends of the earth; because I am God, and there is none other. Isa. 45:22

Just prior to His ascension to the right hand of God the Father, the risen Lord Jesus declared:

All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. 19Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and, lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.Matt. 28:18-20

  1. In contrast to the trembling nations, what word does the LORD speak to His people? See Isa. 41:8a, 10. How does the LORD describe Israel (i.e. His covenant people) in Isaiah 41:8-9? If you have put your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, of what may you be assured? See Jn. 6:37-39; see, also, 2 Thess. 3:13b-14,

But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob—[the one] whom I have chosen, the descendants of Abraham my friend, 9you whom I have taken from the ends of the earth and have called from its farthest corners, and to whom I have declared, You are my servant, I have chosen you and have not rejected you—10[to you I say], Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; surely, I will help you; surely, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isa. 41:8-10

All whom the Father gives me will come to me; and he who comes to me I will by no means reject; 38for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. 39And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but should raise it up at the last day. Jn. 6:37-39

13bGod from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the [Holy] Spirit and belief in the truth, 14to which he called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thess. 2:13b-14

  1. In Isaiah 41:11, what assurance does the LORD give to His people? As a Christian, does the knowledge that a day of righteous judgment, just retribution, and deliverance is coming help you endure present injustices and persecution? What does the Psalmist exhort us to do? See Psl. 27:14,

Listen! All those who rage against you will be brought to shame and disgrace; those who oppose you will be as nothing and will perish. Isa. 41:11

Wait upon the LORD; be of good courage, and he shall strengthen your heart. Wait, I say, upon the LORD.Psl. 27:14

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