The Pulpit Commentary

Isaiah 45:9-13 (Isaiah 45:9-13)

ISRAEL WARNED NOT TO CALL IN QUESTION GOD 'S MODES OF ACTION . Apparently, Isaiah anticipates that the Israelites will be discontented and murmur at their deliverer being a heathen king, and not one of their own body. He therefore warns them against presuming to criticize the arrangements of the All-Wise, reminding them of his unapproachable greatness (verse 12), and once more assuring them that the appointment of Cyrus is from him (verse 13).

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Isaiah 45:11 (Isaiah 45:11)

The Holy One of Israel ; i.e. he who always does right, and with whom, therefore, it is absurd to find fault. His Maker ; i.e. Israel's Maker, who has, therefore, the right to do with him as he pleases. Ask me of things to come concerning my sons . This sentence is wrongly punctuated. The last three words should be attached to what follows, thus: "Ask me of things to come: concerning my sons and concerning the work of my hands command ye me;" i.e. first learn of me what in my designs is to be the course of human events, and then (if necessary) give me directions concerning my sons (Israel), who are the work of my hands; but do not presume to give me directions while you are still in utter ignorance of my designs. In any case remember who I am—the Maker of heaven and earth, the Creator of man, One accustomed to give directions to the angelic host ( Isaiah 45:12 ).

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Isaiah 45:9-11 (Isaiah 45:9-11)

Murmuring against God's arrangements at once foolish and wicked

Man is very apt to consider himself wiser than God, if not altogether, at any rate in this or that particular matter. There are few who do not at times imagine that, had the arrangement of the universe been committed to them, they could have improved it in many respects. Some would have had no sin; almost all would have had no suffering. Every one would have made some change or other. Bishop Butler suggests that such speculations are not altogether innocent ('Analogy,' part 1. Isaiah 2:1-22 .); but they are, perhaps, not greatly to be blamed, unless where they lead on to positive dissatisfaction, to complaints, and to murmurings.

I. MURMURING IS FOOLISH . Since:

1 . It is vain , idle ; it can produce no change. God will not alter his arrangements because we are dissatisfied with them. "With him is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" ( James 1:17 ). The laws which he gives are laws "which shall not be broken" ( Psalms 148:6 , Prayer-book Version). "Since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation" ( 2 Peter 3:4 ). If we could affect the operation of God's laws, change them, modify them, the case would be different; there would then be some result of our querulousness. But, as it is, there is no result—we effect nothing.

2 . It is founded on ignorance. We know so little of God's entire scheme of things that we cannot possibly tell whether any part of the scheme to which we object may not be a necessary condition to, or inseparably bound up with, some other part or parts on which we set the highest value. That to which we object may conceivably be the very thing which, if we knew all, we should most prize.

3 . It is the preference of a lesser good over a greater. Whatever we may say in moments of suffering, ennui , or dissatisfaction, we do not really believe in our inmost hearts that any portion of God's arrangement of the universe is actually wrong and could be set right by our wisdom. We know that "whatever is, is best." Were we actually empowered to make a change, we should hesitate. We should be afraid of doing harm. How foolish, then, to grumble at arrangements which we should fear to disturb!

II. MURMURING IS WICKED . Since:

1 . It is a form of rebellion against God , and so of the basest ingratitude, inasmuch as God is our great Benefactor, to whom we owe everything.

2 . It is always selfish. We are never tempted to murmur except when the operation of some law of God's universe interferes with our own immediate comfort, or our profit, or our imagined advantage. But in such cases we know that our disadvantage must be compensated by some overplus of advantage to others, or the law would not exist; so that our murmuring implies a desire that others should suffer instead of ourselves, which is pure selfishness.

3 . It argues pride. If we had a right sense of our own demerit and ill deserving, we should accept any and every chastening at God's hands as far less than our due. We should "humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God," and take thankfully whatever suffering he sent us. It is only when we are so proud as to imagine we do not need chastening that we can murmur.

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Isaiah 45:9-13 (Isaiah 45:9-13)

The sovereignty of God.

I. THE MURMURER AGAINST PROVIDENCE . He is compared to a "potsherd among potsherds on the ground." "Woe unto him who, though made of earth, and with no intrinsic authority over others of his race, presumes to find fault with the Maker!" (cf. Isaiah 29:16 ; Isaiah 64:8 ; Jeremiah 18:1-6 ; Jeremiah 19:1 , Jeremiah 19:10 , Jeremiah 19:11 ; Romans 9:20-24 ). In the account of the Creation, the Almighty is conceived as making man out of the dust of the earth ( Genesis 2:7 ). Shall the clay, then, quarrel with the plastic hand of the Potter? How can the distance between man and God be better expressed than by the tautology, "God is God, and man is man"? or that he is Maker, man the made? "Since matters stand thus between God and us, let us consider what bands we are in, and what an irresistible grip has hold of us; and let that teach us, even for our sakes, to be quiet under it. There is, indeed, but one way of encountering an infinite power; and that is by an extraordinary (if it were possible), an infinite patience" (South). Is it natural, again, for the child to complain of its parents that it has been brought deformed or weakly into the world? Nor is it becoming of men to catechize and call to account Jehovah. "Are ye children of God? Then is it well with you; and to murmur against me is as if ye should renounce your sonship."

II. THE ABSURDITY OF MURMURING . To criticize the Creator is to assume a knowledge we have not got. We should be creators ourselves before we could say whether this or that part of the great world-work could have been otherwise executed. It is also to assume a knowledge of the clues of history, the springs of sudden events, which is not ours. And Jehovah reminds man again of his providential relation to Cyrus. His absolute unquestionable dominion and sovereignty over all things is the great argument for our submission to him. His dominion is founded on an inalienable title—Creation and Providence. It is reasonable that the first cause should be the Supreme Governor; and whatever has been made by God should also be commanded by him. He might have chosen whether he would have made the world or no; for he had no need of it to complete or add to his happiness, which was infinitely perfect within the compass of his own glorious being. Yet he was pleased, by the free motion of his will, to communicate and diffuse some little shadow of those perfections upon the creatures, and more especially upon his nearer resemblances, men and angels. A being essentially wise cannot do anything but wisely. Our ignorance of God's actions cannot make them or argue them to be unreasonable. He is more honored by our admiration than by our inquiries. Hence the necessity, the prudence, and the becomingness of submission, without murmuring to his allotments.—J.

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Isaiah 45:9-12 (Isaiah 45:9-12)

The argument for acquiescence.

No doubt there are circumstances in which men find—

I. A TEMPTATION TO REBEL .

1 . Men are bitterly disappointed , or they are greatly distressed ; their high hopes are dashed to the ground, or their chief treasures are taken from their grasp.

2 . Then they think themselves aggrieved ; they imagine that the Almighty is dealing with them as he does not with their fellows—that he is acting ungraciously and even unjustly toward them.

3 . The issue is often a settled rebelliousness of spirit, an" inward thought" that God is partial and unfair; a tone of querulousness, if not actual terms of reproach, or even blasphemous arraignment.

II. THE ARGUMENT FOR ACQUIESCENCE . This is manifold.

1 . The impotence and the peril of human resistance to the Divine Will. "Woe unto him that striveth," etc. ( Isaiah 45:9 ). How vain is the contrast between finite, perishable man and the Infinite and Eternal; between one who is formed of clay and him who "made the earth and stretched out the heavens"!

2 . The deference due from the creature to the Creator. "That striveth with his Maker" ( Isaiah 45:9 , Isaiah 45:11 ). For us to enter into a controversy with the Being who called us into existence, who endowed us with all the faculties we possess, who gave us the very power which is being exercised in criticism and questioning, without whose creative and sustaining hand we could not think one thought or speak one word, is unseemly and unbecoming in the last degree.

3 . The fact of God's fatherhood, and all the reasons that reside therein. If it be unfitting for a son to reproach his father ( Isaiah 45:10 ), how much more for us to rebel against God, who stands to us in a relation far more intimate, far more sacred, far more worthy of reverent submission, than that in which the human parent stands to his child! And it is also short-sighted ; for the Divine Father has thoughts in his mired, reasons for his action, which we, his children, are quite unable to comprehend or even to conceive. For us to complain of him is for ignorance to complain of wisdom.

4 . Consideration of the future which is coming. We must not leave the "things to come" ( Isaiah 45:11 ) out of our reckoning; they have much to do with the whole question of God's dealings with mankind. What God purposes to do for us, both as individual men and as a race, forms an essential element in the whole matter. The future will be found to adjust the past and the present. The grievous things which have been and the painful things which are now will be balanced by, will be completely lost in, the blessed and glorious things which "wait to be revealed."—C.

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