Sunday, June 9, 2013

Isaiah 41: God's Invisible Hand in History

Isa 41:2-4 "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. He pursues them and moves on unscathed, by a path his feet have not traveled before. 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." 

Isa 41:8-16 "But you, O Israel, my servant,Jacob, whom I have chosen,you descendants of Abraham my friend,  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. 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. All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. Though you search for your enemies, you will not find them. Those who wage war against you will be as nothing at all. 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. Do not be afraid, O worm Jacob, O little Israel, for I myself will help you," declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.  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.  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. 

The Lord asks the question, "Who has stirred up one from the east (Persian King Cyrus), calling him in righteousness to his service? He hands nations over to him and subdues kings before him?" (41:2). In other words, who was the One who raised up Cyrus to be conquering king over nations that would ultimately destroy Babylon? He answers the question himself: "I, the Lord — with the first of them and with the last — I am he" (41:4). In other words, it is God who raises us conquerors who may not even acknowledge Him in order to call them into "his service." In every major historical period of world history, there has always been an empire builder and conqueror. According to Isaiah, God Himself was the invisible hand that raised them in order to accomplish His redemptive purpose, centred in the nation of Israel. Even today, Israel remains the focus of contemporary world politics and events. The world is roughly divided into those who defend Israel and those who seek its destruction.

Only in Israel through their prophets that God's invisible hand becomes visible. Without prophetic revelation, world history has no meaning and purpose--it's just a random series of unrelated events caused by ambitious military and political leaders seeking to expand their influence and control. But when we view through prophetic revelation, history has meaning and purpose. The meaning behind history is God's redemptive purpose of bringing in His Son to die on the Cross in order to open the doors of salvation to all. And history will be brought to a climactic end marked by four global events signified by the Four Horsemen of the Apocalyse (Rev. 6:1-8): (1) Rider on the White Horse: spiritual deception; (2) Rider on the Red Horse: military conflicts; (3) Rider on the Black Horse: economic collapse; (4) Rider on the Pale Horse: natural disasters and diseases.

When we witness these four major global trends that Scripture has revealed to us (already happening), we will be able to discern God's invisible hand at work in contemporary global events to bring world history to a redemptive close.  But in the midst of these God-initiated global events, God's people (Israel & the Church) will be protected and shielded from their negative fall-outs: "But you, O Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend, 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. 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." (41:8-10).

So, as God's people, we need to watch (interpret global trends prophetically) and pray (be spiritually in tune with God's agenda), so that we are not caught off guard like Israel during the ministry of Isaiah and Jeremiah.

Father, open our eyes that we may see Your invisible hand in contemporary global events. Help us to watch and then to pray that Your Kingdom may come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.

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