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Isaiah is the prophet of Salvation. He is also known as the truly "Universalist" prophet, by which is meant that He makes it clear that salvation is extended equally to all nations and not just to Israel. He lived to see the fall of Israel and the deportation of the Israelites to Assyria, and he prophesied of their "return" to God (through repentance). He is truly a "major prophet" whose prophecies greatly influenced the Apostle Paul in the New Testament.
Category - Bible Commentaries
God speaks to Cyrus His messiah, saying in Isaiah 45:4-6,
4 “For the sake of Jacob My servant, and Israel My chosen one, I have also called you by your name; I have given you a title of honor [kanah, “to title, surname, to call kindly”] though you have not known Me. 5 I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; 6 that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other.”
Cyrus was called “for the sake of Jacob My servant, and Israel My chosen one.” Many have misread this, thinking that God was talking about naming Jacob or Israel. But He had named Cyrus and even gave him “a title of honor,” i.e., messiah, even though Cyrus did not know or acknowledge the true God.
Giving the title of messiah to a pagan king who did not even know God is presented to us as evidence of God’s sovereignty. Though Cyrus no doubt thought he was acting according to his own “free will,” he was unaware that God had called him and girded him (equipped him) to do a messianic work in the earth. God is so sovereign that He does not need believers to build either the earthly Jerusalem or the heavenly city. He did not ask for Cyrus’ permission, nor did He beg or plead for Cyrus to believe him so that He could use him.
God then concludes in Isaiah 45:7 (NASB),
7 The One forming [yatsar] light and creating [bara] darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.
Just as God had created Jacob and formed Israel (Isaiah 43:1), so also does He create darkness and form light. Jacob was the dust of the ground, which the great Potter shaped with His own hands into the form called Israel. In other words, Jacob was not created as an Israelite; it took God’s labor to shape the clay and form it into an Israelite.
So is it with all of us. When we are born naturally, we come into the world as Jacobites. Only later, by the labor of God in our lives, are we formed into Israelites. Just because one is descended from the man who was originally formed into an Israelite does not mean that he or she has yet become an Israelite. After we are born, God must work through His Holy Spirit to shape us into the image of Christ.
The Apostle Paul recognized this as well, saying in Rom. 9:6-8 (KJV),
6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel which are of Israel; 7 neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children; but “In Isaac shall thy seed be called.” 8 That is, they which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
Though men may be born naturally of the seed of Abraham, this does not mean that they are “children.” This principle was seen in the story of Ishmael, who was of the seed of Abraham according to the flesh. Ishmael was part of the “allegory” involving Hagar and Sarah (Gal. 4:22-24). The implication is that God did not form Ishmael into an Israelite. Hence, he remained a fleshly son of Abraham, a son born (gennao) or begotten “according to the flesh” (Gal. 4:23). To be the chosen seed, one must be begotten by God as a new creature.
This requires the type of faith that Abraham himself possessed, described in Rom. 4:21, 22,
21 and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. 22 Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness.
A “chosen” one, having the faith of Abraham, believes that God is able to fulfill His New Covenant promises. He knows that his own promises to God are fickle and that he is unable to fulfill His own well-intentioned vows (Exodus 19:8).
We are all Jacobites and Ishmaelites, children of the flesh, until we receive the revelation of faith where we believe that God is sovereign enough to fulfill His promises. Such faith is evidence of being a true Israelite. Only God Himself can take this clay and form it into an Israelite. Only He has the power to do this work.
In Isaiah 45:7 God claims that He is the one who formed light and created darkness. If God had merely created all things without forming anything, the universe would have been left in a state of raw material and darkness. However, God [El Elyon] began to form matter by speaking light into existence. This light, John 1:4, 5 says, is the Logos, or Christ, the firstborn Son of God, the pattern Son for all who would come after Him.
The universe is moving from darkness to light—from that which is created to that which is formed. The darkness of the material world is not to be eliminated but has a calling to be transformed by light so that it can be “chosen.” When this process is completed, the earth will manifest the glory of God. Then there will be no darkness, for the Kingdom’s light will be inherent. Rev. 21:23 says,
23 And the city [New Jerusalem] has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb.
Jesus Himself had no need for the sun or moon to give Him light, because the light was in Him. We see this manifested at the Mount of Transfiguration (Matt. 17:2). The light of revelation is greater than the light of the sun and moon, and as true believers, we “are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory” (2 Cor. 3:18).
Again, Paul says in 2 Cor. 4:6, 7,
6 For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 7 But we have this treasure [i.e., this “Light”] in earthen vessels; so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves.
The light in us is the light of revelation and the knowledge of God, which is His glory. It shined in the face of Christ on Mount Hermon and also (temporarily) in the face of Moses on Mount Horeb. This light of revelation was in Christ from the beginning, when the command (law) of the Creator was first spoken; but Moses received it when He received the revelation of the law on Mount Horeb. If men reject the revelation of the law, “it is because there is no light in them” (Isaiah 8:20, KJV).
Isaiah 45:7 (NASB) reads, “causing well-being and creating calamity.” Isaiah 45:7 (KJV) reads, “I make peace and create evil.” The Hebrew text reads, “causing shalom and creating ra.” The word shalom means “peace, friendship, completeness, soundness in body and mind). Hence, both the NASB and the KJV are correct. The word ra means “evil, bad, wicked,” and can be applied to calamities, bad people, or vicious animals.
The NASB, not wanting to attribute the creation of evil to a good God, renders it “calamity,” because any such disaster is certainly evil to those negatively affected by it. A calamity can be a natural disaster such as a flood or an earthquake, or it can be the loss of a battle or war. In any case, all such things are seen by men as evil.
Isaiah’s contrast is between shalom and ra, “peace and evil,” so we ought to see ra as the opposite of shalom. It can refer to peace vs. war. It can also show the contrast between one who is in unity and harmony with God and one who is in a state of hostility toward God. By extension, it can refer to those who live in a state of honor before the law vs. those who are being judged by the law as wicked (sinners).
Even the NASB cannot get away from the fact that such evils are attributed to God, who judges men and nations according to His sovereign will.
The final statement in Isaiah 45:7 is, “I am the Lord who does all these,” showing that God creates both types of situations and both types of people. Just as He created darkness, so also does God create ra (“evil”). 1 John 1:5 says,
5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.
How could a God of Light, having “no darkness at all” in Him, create both light and darkness? Would that not be contrary to His nature (law)? The answer is quickly seen in Rom. 9:21,
21 Or does not the potter have a right over the clay to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for common use?
God claims Creator’s Rights, which is a fundamental principle of the law of God. While it may be unfair by men’s standards, it is not unjust. A creator has the right to be unfair, but He must always be true to Himself. God exercises His sovereign rights of ownership according to the counsel of His own will in accordance with His own nature. By creating darkness first and then altering it with light, He subjected all to vanity in order to have mercy upon all (Rom. 11:32).
As the light shines upon us and in us, we begin to understand the sovereignty of God and the divine plan for the creation. We are only hindered if we assume that God has given up His sovereignty in order to establish “free will,” i.e., the sovereignty of man. We are only hindered if we believe that God will lose part of His creation. We are only hindered if we believe that God created all things out of nothing, thus separating Himself from creation, for such a belief allows God to discard something without doing damage to Himself.
But Paul teaches us in Rom. 11:36,
36 For from [ek, “out of”] Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.
All things were created “out of Him,” that is, out of God particles. All things go “through Him” throughout history. All things eventually return “to Him,” so that God remains intact in all of His particles. This is the reconciliation of creation and the restoration of all things, which Paul says is the end of all things (1 Cor. 15:27, 28).
If anyone does not understand this, he should pray to receive that understanding, rather than to disagree or to construct a theology that reduces God’s sovereignty or limits His right to create both darkness and light. The revelation of Christ is that the light always conquers darkness, shalom conquers evil, the will of God conquers the will of man, and in the end, every knee will bow and every tongue will profess Christ to the glory of God the Father.