Proof of the Prophetic Word
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to the book of Isaiah, chapter 41. We are not going to read the passage of Scripture in our discussion, but we are going to talk about it as we go along.

We would like to remind you that in chapter 40, Isaiah was commissioned to comfort the nation of Israel. One of the messages of comfort which he was to deliver was, “Behold your God!” As he directed their attention toward their God, he reminded them that their God was the incomparable God. There was nothing in all of creation that could compare with Him. He also reminded them that their God was above and beyond every god that the world might know anything about.

Of course, the Bible recognizes the existence of only one God and so capitalizes His name. The Bible also recognizes in the minds of men the existence of other gods and spells their names with small letters. When Isaiah was telling the children of Israel in chapter 40 that they should behold their God and recognize that He was above and beyond every other god the world might know, they began to wonder if it could be true. He reminded them that they should not forget that their God had a very special interest in them. In chapter 40, verse 31, he reminded them:

Isaiah 40

31But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

A Summons to the Nations of the World

Chapter 41 of the book of Isaiah represents what happens while these individuals are waiting upon the LORD. Chapter 41 describes a great gathering in which the deity of God, the power of God, the proof of God's existence is proven above and beyond every other god that the world might know. This meeting is to prove beyond all doubt that God is real.

While the nation of Israel waits upon the LORD, God, in so many words, calls the meeting. I would like for you, as we read along in chapter 41, to keep in mind that what we are reading about is a meeting. The meeting is somewhat similar to the meeting that was held on the mountain when Elijah called all the priests of Baal to gather on the mountaintop. He, the lone prophet of God, stood and faced them and said, “Let us see who is God. If God be God, let us worship Him. If Baal be God, then let us worship him.”

The theme of this chapter is not as apparent in our English translation as it is in the original text, because in the original text this particular chapter is in the form of a poem with eight different stanzas to it. Each one of the stanzas makes a clear statement relative to this meeting—the kind of meeting that it is going to be, and what is going to happen as the meeting progresses.

I would like to point out these stanzas to you as we go along so that you can grasp the chapter as I believe that God would have us see it. The first stanza of the poem is presented in verses 1-4, and it represents a summons to all the nations of the world to gather together for the meeting to which we have already referred. Notice verse 1:

Isaiah 41

1Keep silence before me, O islands; and let the people renew their strength: let them come near; then let them speak: let us come near together to judgment.

You will notice the word islands . Literally, it means “coastlands.” Whenever you find it in the prophecies, it represents that land which is beyond the vision of the prophet, and so it is a reference to the whole inhabited earth.

The word people here is elsewhere translated “nations,” so this is an invitation to all the nations of the world to renew their strength and get ready for a very important meeting.

Notice in the last part of verse 1:

Isaiah 41

1…let them come near [all the nations of the world] ; then let them speak: let us come near together to judgment.

Who is Able to Prophesy

The word judgment might be better translated “for a discussion that will resolve in a decision.” “Let's come together for a meeting at which we are going to resolve something. There is a very important question, and we've got to find the answer to the question.” The question is in verse 2:

Isaiah 41

2Who raised up the righteous man from the east, called him to his foot, gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings? he gave them as the dust to his sword, and as driven stubble to his bow.
3He pursued them, and passed safely; even by the way that he had not gone with his feet.
4Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he.

You would not know from the English translation before us that what we are reading here is not something that was already in existence in Isaiah's day, but rather something that God was going to do. You may say, “I don't quite understand how that could be, because all of the tenses of the verbs would indicate that the thing has already come to pass.”

There is, in Hebrew, what is known as prophetic perfect tense or prophetic perfect present tense . Prophets used it whenever they were talking about something that was going to come to pass, because as far as they were concerned, when God said it, it was as good as done. The only reason we would know, other than the statement that I have just made, that this is a prophecy and not a fact of history, is to examine this verse of Scripture in the light of all the verses of Scripture related to it. We will do that by and by in this lesson.

I would like for you to look at verse 2 again, and notice the question, as far as the future is concerned: “Who is He that is going to raise up a righteous man from the East? Who is He that is going to announce His coming to rule over nations and over kings? Who is He that is going to declare before it ever happens that the nations of the world are the dust to His sword and as driven stubble to His bow? Who is He that is going to prophesy this coming of this individual from the east, so that everybody will be trampled under His feet? At this meeting we are going to decide who is able to do this. The One who is able to do it will be God, and those who are not able to make a prophecy concerning the future will not be God.”

Of course, God answered His own question, in verse 4, when He said:

Isaiah 41

4Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? [into being, even before they existed] I the LORD, the first, and with the last; I am he [is the answer] .

This is the first stanza of this prophetic poem, a summons to a meeting in which a question was going to be resolved. The question was whether the God of Israel was God, or whether the gods of the nations were God. The question was going to be resolved on the basis of one central proof. What was it? The ability to prophesy. What is the exclusive proof of the reality of the Word of God? The truth of the prophetic Word. Keep that in mind as we go through this chapter.

Fear of the God of Israel

The second stanza of the poem is presented to us in verses 5-7, where we read:

Isaiah 41

5The isles saw it, and feared; the ends of the earth were afraid, drew near, and came.

Of what were they afraid? They were afraid of this meeting, at which their gods were going to be put to the test. What do we see them doing? In verses 6-7, we see them working feverishly to manufacture enough gods to be able to stand against the God of Israel. We read in verse 6-7:

Isaiah 41

6They helped every one his neighbour; and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage.
7So the carpenter encouraged the goldsmith, and he that smootheth with the hammer him that smote the anvil, saying, It is ready for the sodering: and he fastened it with nails, that it should not be moved.

Some Bible scholars, as they discuss this passage of Scripture, make a very interesting comment that I don't think we should pass over. That comment is that this feverish activity on the part of these idolatrous people was caused because of the marching feet of the armies led by this man from the east. Certainly, there could be nothing wrong with that, because this man from the east swept everything before Him as he marched, and He struck terror into the hearts of many, many people, even into the hearts of the nation of Israel.

God Comforts the Heart of Israel

We are going to find in the paragraph which begins with verse 8 and concludes with verse 20, that God is comforting the heart of the nation of Israel, telling them that though the other nations of the world are afraid, they don't need to be because: “I am behind all this. This is happening at My command.”

In order to present the paragraph to which I have just referred, in the original Hebrew poem, we have presented for us stanzas 3, 4, 5 and 6. We will indicate them to you as we come to them. For example, stanza 3, in the original Hebrew poem, is found in verses 8-10, where God said:

Isaiah 41

8But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.
9Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.
10Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.

These words of comfort, in the third stanza of the Hebrew poem, are familiar to most of us, because many of us recognize that as far as the interpretation is concerned, they have a reference to the nation of Israel; but as far as the application is concerned, they certainly are applicable to us. How many of us have rested again and again on the promise, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.”?

More times than I could begin to mention I have claimed that promise in times of stress, and I have sensed the presence of the Lord and the reality of a new experience with Him. Anyone who cares to can do that.

Ministry of Intercession

I think one of the most interesting verses of Scripture in all the Word of God is in verse 8, where God said:

Isaiah 41

8But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.

Three times over in the Bible is Abraham called the friend of God . He had an unusual distinction with that title. The Word of God says that one day God talked face to face with Moses as a man might talk with his friend, but Abraham is called the friend of God .

It is particularly fitting that God should bring that to our attention in this portion of the Word because the Lord Jesus Christ said that we might have a relationship to Him similiar to the relationship that Abraham had to God. For example, the Lord Jesus Christ said that some of us are disciples—that is, we are just followers; we are learners; we are taking in what there is available for us. Some of us are servants. We haven't only learned, but we are putting into practice what we have learned and are busy serving. But some of us are friends. He said, “I don't keep any of my secrets from My friends. My friends know what I am going to do.”

Some individuals are living in such a relationship to God that it could well be described in the same terms as this Old Testament expression— Abraham, My friend . Certainly it was true of him. God would tell him the things that He had in mind. Remember, He was ready to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. He was already on His way to do it, but He said to the angels who were with Him, “We've got to make a little side trip over here. I have a friend, and I never do anything without telling him what I am going to do. I must tell him this, because he is vitally concerned in it. He has a nephew in Sodom.” You well know this story of how God detoured and went by the tent of Abraham, His friend. He said, “Abraham, I am going to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah.”

Why do you suppose He told Abraham that? Because He wanted to challenge Abraham to prayer. He did just that because immediately Abraham fell on his face before God and began to intercede for Sodom and Gomorrah. I believe that if Abraham had not carried on this ministry of intercession, Lot could have lost his life in Sodom.

I am going to say something that some of you may find difficult to accept, but I would like for you to think about it before you reject it entirely because I have come to believe it. I believe that there are some of God's dear children who are living in such close association with Him that He does burden their hearts for subjects of prayer so that they might intercede before a thing comes to pass. I believe that parents can live in such close contact with God that God will burden their hearts for their children when they may not even know why He is doing it. They may not even know the reason for it, but He will, and they will pray. They may say to God, in so many words, “I don't know why I have this terrible burden, but I do,” and the intercession results in deliverance.

I had a rather unusual letter from a young lady who lives in El Paso, Texas, who was in Bible Memory Association Camp when she was 13 years of age. She is 22 years of age now. She said, “I don't suppose that you will remember me, but I remember you. Two days ago I had a tremendous burden of prayer for you, and I went to my room and I interceded with the Lord on your behalf. I don't know why, but I couldn't get away from the burden. I felt that I must pray.”

I don't know why God gave her that burden, but I am confident that when I stand in the presence of the Lord, and we know even as also we are known, I will realize that some drastic thing might have happened to me that day if that individual had not been burdened to pray. I believe that we can maintain a relationship of a friend of God. Abraham was just such a friend.

God Will Give Victory

Let's look at verse 11 and recognize that beginning with verse 11 and going down through verse 13 we have the fourth stanza of this Hebrew poem. It is still dealing with the comforting of the heart of Israel. This time the comfort is based upon the fact that all of the enemies of Israel will amount to nothing before them. Verse 11:

Isaiah 41

11Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish.
12Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought.
13For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.

Here again is a wonderful assurance and promise, for just as certainly as the enemies of Israel would someday be as nothing before them because God was holding their hand and coming to their rescue, you can expect that the opposition that you have today will be as nothing before you someday, for the Lord will give the victory.

Look at the fifth stanza of the Hebrew poem, which begins with verse 14 and goes through verse 16. It is still the same theme of comfort:

Isaiah 41

14Fear not, thou worm Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee, saith the LORD, and thy redeemer, the Holy One of Israel.
15Behold, I will make thee a new sharp threshing instrument having teeth: thou shalt thresh the mountains, and beat them small, and shalt make the hills as chaff.
16Thou shalt fan them, and the wind shall carry them away, and the whirlwind shall scatter them: and thou shalt rejoice in the LORD, and shalt glory in the Holy One of Israel.

You might not feel particularly complimented if somebody were to call you a worm. Sometimes, at least in cartoons, you have seen pictures of wives berating their husbands and saying, “You worm.” Maybe some of them deserve that connotation, but that is not the meaning of this word worm here. This is a term of endearment. I don't really know why they used the word worm here. What it really says is, “Fear not, My little helpless one, Jacob.” That is rather tender, isn't it? “Fear not, My little helpless one, Jacob, and ye men of Israel; I will help thee.”

How is He going to help? He is going to make them into a completely different thing. In verses 15-16, He describes what He is going to do on their behalf. He is going to change them from a little, helpless thing into a strong threshing instrument able to beat down mountains and beat down hills. God is able to take poor, helpless creatures and make strong things out of them. The trouble is that most of us are not willing enough to recognize our helplessness, so that God can do that for us.

God Can Do the Impossible

The sixth stanza of the Hebrew poem begins with verse 17 and concludes with verse 20, and it's still a message of comfort and consulation. In language which might be considered figurative today, if we did not believe in the literal reign of Christ upon the earth, God reminds them that He is able to do the impossible. If you want to look upon this as a figurative thing and make an application of it to your own life, you can, but keep in mind that someday Jesus Christ is going to return to this earth and literally do what is described in this paragraph. Look at verse 17:

Isaiah 41

17When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst, I the LORD will hear them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
18I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.
19I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the shittah tree, and the myrtle, and the oil tree; I will set in the desert the fir tree, and the pine, and the box tree together:
20That they may see, and know, and consider, and understand together, that the hand of the LORD hath done this, and the Holy One of Israel hath created it.

He is literally going to do all of this someday. Beloved, do you know that for you now He is able to make the dry lands springs of water?

This year, during our week at Bible Memory Association Camp, we ministered the entire week on the theme that is suggested here in verse 18:

Isaiah 41

18I will open rivers in high places, and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.

Do you have any dry, parched places in your life? God is able to change that dry, parched and thirsty ground into pools of water. Do you know what is wrong with most of our spiritual experiences? We are not sensing any thirst, and because we are not sensing any thirst, we are content with the mediocre, and the blessing of God is not as deep in our lives as it might be.

Oh, if we could do as the Psalmist did and pant after God as the deer pants after the water. God said, “ I am going to do all of this. Then you will know that the hand of the Lord hath done it and the holy One of Israel hath created it.”

God Addresses the Heathen Gods

In verse 21, the meeting is underway. God addresses Himself in verses 21-29 to the idols of all the nations of the world, to the gods of all the nations of the world. This portion of Scripture presents to us the last two stanzas of this Hebrew poem. Stanza number 7 begins with verse 21 and concludes with verse 24. We hear God saying:

Isaiah 41

21Produce your cause, saith the LORD; bring forth your strong reasons, saith the King of Jacob.

“All right, all you idols, all you gods bring forth your arguments. What have you got to say?”

Keep in mind that God had already set the tone of the meeting just as Elijah set the tone of the meeting on the mountaintop that day. When the prophets of Baal were gathered together against Elijah, he said, “The God that answereth by fire, let Him be God.” You remember how the sacrifices were made after the altars had been set up and the priests of Baal cut themselves and cried and begged their god to send down the fire. Baal didn't do it. Remember that Elijah soaked his sacrifices with barrel after barrel of water, and then asked for the fire to fall, and the fire fell. The God who answered by fire was God. In this meeting the God who answers through prophecy is God. Notice verse 22:

Isaiah 41

22Let them bring them forth, and shew us what shall happen: let them shew the former things, what they be, that we may consider them, and know the latter end of them; or declare us things for to come.

He is saying, “All right, you gods, you gods of all the nations of the earth, prophesy. Tell us something that is going to happen before it happens so that after it happens, when we examine it, we will be able to see that it is the very thing. Make the prophecy.” Then God said, “I will be willing to move over on My throne and give you some place.”

There was as much silence in this meeting as there was futility in the meeting which Elijah conducted, for we read in verse 24, after a period of time between verses 23 and 24:

Isaiah 41

24Behold, ye are of nothing, and your work of nought: an abomination is he that chooseth you.

God addresses Himself to these heathen gods, and said, “You are absolutely nothing. You can't do a thing that I have challenged you to do. The person who chooses you in preference to Me is an abomination.”

God Prophesies Cyrus' Deliverance of Israel From Babylon

The eighth stanza, of course, is the last stanza of this Hebrew poem. It begins with verse 25 and, just as Elijah, after he gave the prophets of Baal an opportunity to have Baal answer by fire and he failed, he called down fire from Heaven. God makes His declaration in verse 25. He said:

Isaiah 41

25I have raised up one from the north, and he shall come: from the rising of the sun shall he call upon my name: and he shall come upon princes as upon morter, and as the potter treadeth clay.

Do you recall what we read in verse 2? Who is the individual who has raised up the righteous man from the east? In verse 25, God says, “I have raised up from the north, and he shall come: from the rising sun… I have raised up this individual and he will even acknowledge the fact that I have raised him up, and he will march with unrelenting anger against all of the nations of the world.” Who is this individual?

We said that we could learn by comparing Scripture with Scripture, so I am going to suggest that you turn to chapter 44 of the book of Isaiah, verse 28:

Isaiah 44

28That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.

Isaiah 45

1Thus saith the LORD to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him; and I will loose the loins of kings, to open before him the two leaved gates; and the gates shall not be shut;

The individual to whom Isaiah merely refers twice in chapter 41, he names in chapters 44 and 45. If you are not too familiar with history right at this particular point, you might be inclined to say, “What does all of this have to do with prophecy?” Well, Beloved, when Isaiah wrote these words, it was approximately 750 B.C. When Cyrus came on the scene, it was approximately 530 B.C. Almost 200 years before Cyrus made his appearance on the earth, God said, “I am going to bring a man out of the east and I am going to let him conquer the nations of the world. I am going to call his name Cyrus , and when he has brought a measure of peace upon this part of the world, I am going to put it into his heart to let My people, Israel, go back from the land of Babylon and rebuild the city of Jerusalem and its walls once again.” God made this prophecy two hundred years before it occurred.

A Prophecy Made More Sure

Turn with me to the book of Ezra, chapter 1, as I remind you that because of this very thing that we are talking about—the fact that Isaiah named Cyrus the Persian as the conquerer of the city of Babylon—individuals who study this portion of the Word of God say that the Bible could not possibly be inspired, because no man could tell what was going to happen two hundred years before it happened, and certainly not in the most minute detail. They are right. No man could do it, but God could, and God said, “This is proof of the fact that I am God.” Notice verse 1:

Ezra 1

1Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying,
2Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.
3Who is there among you of all his people? his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, (he is the God,) which is in Jerusalem.

Go back with me to Isaiah, chapter 41. The meeting which we are attending draws to a close, and we hear God saying, in verse 26:

Isaiah 41

26Who hath declared from the beginning, that we may know? and beforetime, that we may say, He is righteous? yea, there is none that sheweth, yea, there is none that declareth, yea, there is none that heareth your words.
27The first [the individual who in verse 2 said, “I Am the first and the last”] shall say to Zion, Behold, behold them: and I will give to Jerusalem one that bringeth good tidings.
28For I [God said concerning the idols that attended the meeting] beheld, and there was no man; even among them, and there was no counsellor, that, when I asked of them, could answer a word.
29Behold, they are all vanity; their works are nothing: their molten images are wind and confusion.

Turn in your Bibles, please, to II Peter, where Peter deals with this very same subject. How can we be sure that God is God? How can we be sure that God's Word really is the Word of God? Notice II Peter, chapter 1, verse 16, where Peter said, “We have not followed cunningly devised fables. Oh no! What we have declared, we know to be true.” Then he says in verse 19:

II Peter 1

19We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:

The first statement could be read this way: “The Word made more sure by prophecy,” or “A prophecy made more sure,” for that is what it means.

If you have contact with an agnostic, one who doesn't know there is a God—I do not believe there are any true atheists—and you want to prove to him there is a God, I suggest that you familiarize yourself with the prophetic Word. Challenge him to see how the Word of God, prophesied long before it was going to occur, has been fulfilled even to the most minute detail.

If you find someone who finds it difficult to believe that the Bible is the Word of God, challenge him to study the prophetic portions of the Word of God and let him see how these prophetic portions have been fulfilled beyond all shadow of a doubt. Then bring him up to date and show him that in the very day in which we are living, one prophecy after another is falling into place.

Conclusion

The only answer is God, and that is the reason that He deserves your allegiance through the Lord Jesus Christ. That is the reason you don't need to be ashamed or make any apologies to anybody for believing the Word of God. It is the best proven book there is in the whole world.


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