Can Your Life Turn Around?

Isaiah: Yahweh Alone Is God – Week 2

by Jon Morales


by Jon Morales



We’re just beginning our series Isaiah—Yahweh Alone is God. At root, this is a series on trust: Whom do you trust? The message is for a people who have been shattered by the national devastation that conquering nations brought on them, first Assyria, then Babylon. These nations enacted the judgment of God on his people, Israel, for their unfaithfulness and moral corruption. Jerusalem was destroyed, and with it, the temple, and the people were carried off into exile to Babylon. No other event brought trauma to the people of Israel on a similar scale as did the exile.  

It’s in their state of spiritual devastation and national shame that God speaks a new word to his people through Isaiah the prophet, Comfort, comfort, my people. Can you imagine how hard it would’ve been to hear this new word? 

Imagine if at the beginning of 2023, this word had come to the Detroit Lions: Comfort, comfort, my Lions, says your General Manager. Speak tenderly to Detroit and proclaim to them that their hard service has been completed, that their many years of losing have ended, that they have received from the NFL double for all their failures. 

Imagine if that word had come to their fans, who were all too familiar with crushing disappointment, year after year. Imagine if the word had been that the Lions were making the playoffs and winning in the playoffs this year. Skeptical fans would’ve been forgiven for thinking, Give me a break! The first NFL team ever to go 0 and 16 is going to win in the playoffs? Yeah, right!

And yet we now know what happened earlier this year!

Of course, on a much bigger scale, we also know what God did to bring Israel back from exile. But when Isaiah’s word comes to them, they’re down in the dumps. Shattered. Forsaken. Powerless.

You may find yourselves in a similar state of mind. Defeated. You don’t believe your life can turn around. So we will look at how God grows his people’s trust and the kind of deliverance he promises. Because God grows their trust the same way he grows our trust. How?

God challenges the nations. 

In Chapter 40 the nations are like a drop in a bucket, dust on the scales. They are nothing compared to God. But that’s not how Israel would see them. Israel had been devastated by mighty, conquering nations. Israel was tiny and powerless. As far as the nations were concerned, Israel was an utter failure. God needs to convince dejected Israel that the nations really are under his control. So he summons them and questions them.  

Isaiah 41:1 
“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.

God throws down a challenge to the nations. Do they have an answer for who is the one shaping history? So he asks:

“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.”

One from the east refers to a conqueror who was quickly gathering strength. We’ll be introduced to him by name in later chapters, but the focal point now is on the power over nations that this one from the east has. This new ruler turns nations to dust with his sword, and to windblown chaff with his bow. He pursues them and moves on unscathed. 

Surely the nations in the Middle East were beginning to fear the quick rise of this king and his kingdom. However, the question God asks through Isaiah is, Who has stirred him up? Who’s handing nations over to him and subduing kings before him? Who has done this and carried it through? In verse 4 God answers his own question, I, the LORD—with the first of them and with the last—I am he. 

God is questioning the nations about this new one rising in power, but the message is for Israel.   

My mom was a fierce woman, undeterred by anything in life. She had no resources, and nothing stopped her. Of course, it could be scary to be on the receiving end of that power, but she was also a formidable protector.  

When I was little, sometimes she took on vendors and others who were trying to take advantage of her or me, and I’d just watch her unleash her fury on these people, and it was uncomfortable. But in hindsight, I realized that she was also doing it for my benefit, so that I would not let people walk over me. So, she was addressing them, but the message was for me. 

That’s very much what these verses do. God is addressing the nations—the very nations that Israel fears—but the message is for Israel. God is saying, There’s a new kid on the block, a new king sweeping through and wreaking havoc on other nations. But I’m the one stirring him up. I’m the one handing nations over to him. I the LORD, I am he.  

It would not be easy for Israel in her shattered condition to believe their God ruled the nations and the events of history. But the new word is just beginning. 

Isaiah 41:5–7
The islands have seen it and fear;
the ends of the earth tremble.
They approach and come forward;

they help each other
and say to their companions, “Be strong!”
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.

The response from the nations to this “one rising from the east” is fear, trembling, and mutual support. Nations then, as they do now, formed alliances to increase their chances of standing against a big foe.  

In verse 7, we have the continuation of a pretty extensive critique in this section against idol-making and idolatry. When people feel threatened, where do they go for comfort and strength? Their idols. Isaiah takes us into the idol-making factory. The metalworker encourages the goldsmith. The one who uses the hammer helps the one striking with the anvil. They look at the welding and say, Looks good. Another one nails the idol down, so that it will not topple. That’s their response to the national threat they feel.  

We’re not too dissimilar. When we feel threatened or anxious, where do we go for comfort? All kinds of things. Individually, pornography, ice cream, shopping, entertainment, sports. Collectively, we tell each other, Be strong! We embrace all kinds of ideologies and beliefs that we think give us a better chance of overcoming the threats. We start scheming politically, economically, and in other ways.  

But these are vain attempts. There’s no deliverance. 

How does God grow the trust of his people?

God assures his people. 

Isaiah 41:8–10
“But you, 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.

From overhearing God’s address to the nations, Israel is now directly addressed by their God. In verse 8, God calls them seven different things: You. Israel. My servant. Jacob. Whom I have chosen. You descendants of Abraham. My friend.  

I’ve had many names for my wife (some of them will not make sense to you): Valentine. Hun-it. Chuleta. Madre. Wifey. Babito. Babe. Why so many names? Because the relationship runs so deep and has had so many chapters. 

Likewise, Israel’s relationship with God by this point had run well over 1000 years, going back to the time of Abraham. Of all the nations in the world, no one was to God like Israel. Calling back to Abraham, to the very beginning of the nation, reminds them that although much has transpired, God’s covenant with them is not broken.  

Verse 9 spells out the things God’s done for them: I took you, spoke to you, chose you, and did not reject you. That last one matters greatly. I have not rejected you. Judgment is not rejection. The judgment of exile was purifying and appropriate to their offenses, but not a rejection. 

After getting their attention and telling them what he’s done for them, in verse 10 God tells them what he’s going to do and who he’s going to be for them: 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. This verse has been printed and hung on many walls.  

The challenge for the exiles is to believe that just as the word of judgment came true, the word of comfort and protection will also come true. With the king from the east sweeping across the region, the nations feared and trembled, but Israel was not to fear. Fear not is the message to them. On what grounds? I am with you. I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.  

Isaiah 41:11–12
“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.

This is a word of reversal. Israel is the one who’s lived in shame and disgrace. They are the ones regarded as nothing. Their enemies were many. They were slaves. Their land had been taken over. In the process of war, they had been reduced to nothing. But now, the opposite would be true. All who rage against you will surely be ashamed and disgraced; those who oppose you will be as nothing and perish. Would these words of reassurance and reversal connect with dejected Israel? 

I’ve tried to help people who were far from God, and it’s not easy. There are many obstacles to their faith. The obstacle of habit. They are comfortable living as they have. They may not be thriving or happy but they’re comfortable. 

Another obstacle is belief. The amount of beliefs that are out of sync with God’s word is difficult for them to disentangle. It’s similar to going to therapy to undo the lies beneath a major issue in your life. It takes significant work. 

The obstacle of regret. Regret over wasted years, regret over past hurtful actions and motives, regret over love spurned. Coming to people in this state with a fresh word from God, with a word that in essence tells them that all of that can be erased and forgiven, takes many exposures.  

Many of us are on that journey. Bit by bit, exposure by exposure, you can start to believe that a new day has truly dawned on you. This is why we see God repeating himself so much in these chapters. He’s bringing back to life what was but dead. He’s putting a pulse back into his people who were far from him—they were far from the land, far from believing his word. So he says it again. 

Isaiah 41:13–14
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, you worm Jacob,
little Israel, do not fear,
for I myself will help you,” declares the Lord,
your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.

He says, Do not fear. Do not be afraid. Do not fear. Do you think they’re afraid? As the nations hear of this new power rising from the east and sweeping across, the nations fear and tremble. Why wouldn’t Israel also fear and tremble? 

When people take polls about what makes them afraid, things that come up are losing loved ones, becoming seriously ill, not having enough money for the future. Those are the things you’d expect. But do you know what else comes up? Russia using nuclear weapons, America getting involved in another war, biological warfare, cyberterrorism. In other words, the lack of stability in the world makes Americans afraid. And this is the most powerful nation in the world.  

Imagine how tiny, scattered, exiled Israel felt hearing about the advance of yet another mighty nation. They see themselves as worm Jacob, little Israel. They need reassurance.  

So God says to them, I’ve taken hold of your right hand. I will help you. I am the LORD, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.

Isaiah 41:15–16
“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.

So now God goes on the offensive. From Israel seeing itself as a little worm to being turned into a threshing sledge. The threshing sledge was a tool for separating grain and chaff. What’s being threshed and crushed are mountains and hills.  

What are the mountains and hills? The text doesn’t tell us. The language is poetic. They’re being picked up by the wind, blown away by a gale. Remember that in Isaiah 40 “mountains and hills” were made low, as a highway was being prepared for the arrival of God. The point is that nothing stands in God’s way: not a nation, not a mountain, nor history, nor nature.  

Instead of focusing on the obstacles, the mountains in front of them, they would now rejoice in the LORD and glory in the Holy One of Israel. 

How many obstacles and mountains keep you from rejoicing in the Lord? What’s the mountain in your past that keeps you from rejoicing in God? What’s the mountain in front of you that keeps you from rejoicing in God?

Regret. Vice. Betrayal. Disappointment. Life has not turned out quite like you hoped. (It hasn’t for anybody.) And sometimes you’re a shell of the you that God has chosen for his kingdom.  

Can you see it? Are you aware of the things that have sidelined you? You don’t dream. You don’t go on mission trips. You don’t think you’re the solution to any problem. You’re tired. And you’re ok being tired. Weary. 

Do you know what Isaiah says to the beleaguered exiles? Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. 

 Let the Lord speak a new word for a new chapter in your life through Isaiah.

God turns deserts into pools. 

Isaiah 41:17–20 
“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.
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.
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,
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.

Do you see the reversal? Do you see the declaration of God’s plans and purposes? Does it rouse you from your slumber? 

This whole section of Isaiah is meant to rouse a whole generation of sleepy descendants of Jacob into action. They had traded their honor for shame. They had exchanged their freedom for rebellion. They had forsaken their God and found themselves in a wasteland, parched and thirsty.  

But the Lord had not forsaken them, so he comes to them with this explosive word of what he will do. I the LORD will answer them. I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will make rivers flow on barren heights. I will turn the desert into pools of water. 

Before the defeated exiles could embark on a journey of return—yes, return to Jerusalem, but more importantly, return to their God—they had to dare to believe that the same God who provided water in the desert for forty years for the whole nation of Israel coming out of Egypt—this same God—was with them and would do it again. 

Perhaps you are defeated because you’ve given yourself over to the silent killer, pornography. The number of men and women who’ve chosen pornography over God, mere images over true intimacy, is staggering and heartbreaking. The devastation and dysfunction in life, marriage, and parenting that this lustful addiction creates cannot be masked or quenched by any external appearance of success.  

I’ve talked with many people who’ve felt the defeat of pornography. These people are spiritual zombies. They feel the lie, the powerless religion, the inability to have true and honest connection. And I don’t want that for you or them. But that’s where you’re headed if you don’t do what God says to you in 2 Timothy 2:22. Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.  

You’ve not fled. You’ve nurtured and protected and hidden your addiction. And you’re reaping the results. Defeat. 

What’s your way forward? The poor and needy search for water, but there is none; their tongues are parched with thirst. What’s the way forward when you’re so defeated, so thirsty but there’s no water? 

The way forward is to trust in the Lord. To trust him when he says, I the LORD will answer you. I, the God of Israel, will not forsake you. I will make rivers flow on barren heights. I will turn your desert into pools of water. There is no other way out of the pit you’ve dug for yourself than to cling to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The God of Jesus Christ. The God who says, By Jesus’ wounds you are healed. Was Jesus’ back flayed open? Was his body tortured and subjected to utter shame? Did the nails go into his hands and feet? Then your healing is as certain as God. But you must trust him and not be afraid. 

As trust in God rises fear falls.

Do you think the original people God was addressing through Isaiah were defeated and afraid? Did you hear him when he says to them, Do not fear. Do not be dismayed. Do not fear. Do not be afraid. Do not fear? Five times. Yes, they were afraid. They saw themselves as a tiny little worm. But he says to them, Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob . . . I will make you into a threshing sledge . . . You will thresh the mountains and crush them, and reduce the hills to chaff. 

Through these marvelous promises, God is growing their trust in him so that fear may fall. As trust in God rises fear falls. And if you’re going to conquer the mountain of pornography, you must see and know, consider and understand, that in Christ Jesus God makes you, little worm, a threshing sledge. You will thresh this mountain and crush it.  

I long for the day when you call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 

He is the Holy One of Israel. Three times he says it in this passage. Holy. Holy. Holy. The Holy one sent his Holy Son and gave you and me his Holy Spirit to make us holy.  

Do you trust the Lord to do this for you? As trust in God rises fear falls.