“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, tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods" (Isa 41:22-23a).
Theme: An idol is anything that you like and depend on more than God. Idolatry is every man's default. Fear leads to the making and depending on idols who can never save us. The proof that God and God alone is Lord of the historical process is that he announces beforehad what will happen, and then brings it to pass, which is something that an idol can never do.
In 41:21-29 God/Isaiah present their case against the idols. This occurs 5 times between ch. 41 to 46.
- What can the idols do (41:21-24)?
- What can God do (41:25-29)?
I. What can the idols do (41:21-24)
What is their situation? In Babylonian exile, the Israelites either think that God has been defeated by the Babylon gods, or they have been defeated by their sins. But God says No (Isa 41:10). If not by our sins, then the Babylonian idols have defeated us. So God sets his case (Isa 41:21) to find out who truly is God. God challenges the idols: "Tell us of former things. Tell us of former predictions that came true in the future. Tell us of hings to come. Predict the future. Do good or do harm. Do anything" (Isa 41:22-23). Also, explain where the world came from, and explain what the eventual goal of life is. This is pretty sophisticated. Gods just a personification of the cosmos. Can the sun tell us where we came from? Can the moon tell us what the end will be? They are unable to imagine something that has not yet happened. The pagan world assumes that we came from nowhere and going nowhere. This is pagan and it is very modern. This is how the common person on the street thinks. Enjoy the journey with maximum comfort, pleasure and security.
Have any of the gods ever given a specific prediction of something that had never happened before but that then subsequently did occur? Of course not. So God mocks them, daring them to do anything at all--either good for their worshippers or frightening against their enemies (Isa 41:23). But there is no answer. So God pronounces judgment (Isa 41:24). These gods are nothing. Their works are worthless. Those who worship them are foolish (detestable, an abomination).
Only a Being outside this circle, outside of this cosmos, can predict the future. This God says to the idols, “Give us an evidence."
II. What can God do (41:25-29)
God's predicts beforehand what will happen (41:25-27). God responds to the challenge. God has a plan for history. What will unfold before the exiles' eyes will be the evidence of it. God has brought the conqueror (Isa 41:2; 44:28-45:1) who is coming down on Babylon like a brick-maker or a potter, who jumps into the vat where the clay is and treads it into liquid form (Isa 41:25). It is one thing to assert that Cyrus's is coming at the direction of Jacob's King (Isa 41:21), but quite another to prove that the assertion is so. To prove this Isaiah declares that none of the idols predicted Cyrus's coming at all (Isa 41:26, 28). By contrast, the God of Israel did make such a prediction in advance (Isa 41:27) through Isaiah his messenger of good tidings in this very writing. The prediction is made in what Isaiah wrote during his own lifetime. Then when that writing is read with opened eyes (Isa 8:16; 29:11-12) amidst its fulfillment during the Exile, 150 years later, it will become its own confirmation.
- God specifically predicted the exile to Babylon (ch.39) in 701 B.C. Babylon was just a rebel city nation when Assyria was the world power. The people said "No, this will never happen," because that would be the end of God’s promise, and because Babylon was not a world power.
- After being conquered by Babylon in 586 B.C. God also predicted their return from exile (540-539 B.C.). Their response was just the same. They couldn't believe it because no one ever returned from exile. The purpose of the exile was to destroy you as a distinctive people with a distinctive culture.
- Your deliverer will be a Persian named Cyrus. God is more than just a personified force of the cosmos.
Most of the Biblical prophecies relating to Babylon are in relation to the captivity and God’s revelation to Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel concerning the ultimate end of the captivity both for Israel and for Babylon. Most remarkable, however, are the prophecies of Isaiah delivered a century before Babylon had risen to power and recorded at a time when Babylon was still in obscurity with no indication of its coming greatness (701 B.C.). Outstanding chapters in Isaiah’s predictions are 13, 14, and 47 with scattered references elsewhere (21:9, 39:1, 3, 6, 7; 43:14; 48:14, 20). (rise-and-fall-babylon)
Idols are truly worthless. 41:28-29 is the pronouncement of judgment on the idol worshippers. They have been unable to give any answer to the questions God asked (Isa 41:28). There is no one among them who can give evidence that their gods are even in the same category as Yahweh (Isa 41:29). He alone is truly Other, and thus he alone is truly Holy. All who worship something other than the true God are doomed to become like their gods: nothing, worthless, wind and chaos (Isa 41:24,29). Their lives are doomed to become as meaningless as their gods are.