The Salvation of the World
“Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: ‘To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance’” (vv. 22–23).- Isaiah 45:14–25
Scripture is clear that Israel and Judah’s restoration after the exile is a blessing not only for the Jews but also for the whole world. We find this theme throughout the prophets, who speak of the Gentile nations coming to the Davidic king for guidance, enjoying Israel’s inheritance, eating a rich feast, being called by the Lord’s name, receiving the blessing of peace, and more after the exile (Isa. 11:10; 19:16–25; 25:6; Amos 9:11–12; Mic. 4:1–5). Today’s passage also reveals this truth, for in the same context as his prediction of the return under Cyrus (Isa. 45:1–13), Isaiah foresees the Gentile nations becoming ashamed of their idols and turning to Yahweh for salvation (vv. 22–25).
Cyrus was God’s initial agent of restoration, but the post-exilic prophets tell us the full restoration did not happen in 538 BC because the people of God continued in their sin (Hag. 1:1–4; Zech. 1:1–6; Mal. 2:10–16; 3:6–15). Some conditions of exile, such as the nation’s powerlessness, persisted until the coming of Jesus, who by His atonement and resurrection began the restoration in earnest. In commissioning His disciples to make disciples of all nations, He declared that the restoration had come, so it was time for the Gentiles to begin experiencing all the benefits of God’s covenant grace (Matt. 28:18–20).
So today’s passage is referring not just to Cyrus’ day, but rather the entire period between Cyrus and the final consummation of the kingdom under Jesus the Messiah. Some of what is described is already happening, while we are waiting for other things to occur. For example, all idolatrous nations have not yet been put to open shame before the eyes of all people, for most people continue to serve false gods (v. 16). They do not recognize that they are praying “to a god that cannot save” (v. 20), for as in centuries past when God hid Himself from the nations (v. 15), the Lord chooses not to make Himself known to everyone on the face of the earth. He reveals Himself and His salvation only to His elect, and without this revelation, we cannot be saved (Matt. 11:27; John 3:5–8).
Today, however, we know certainly that the elect include people from every tribe and tongue, for the promise of the ingathering of the nations after the exile in Isaiah 45 is being fulfilled. All people have not yet submitted to the Lord, but Gentiles across the world are bowing the knee to Christ Jesus, the incarnation of Yahweh upon whom God has bestowed “the name that is above every name” (Isa. 45:23; Phil. 2:9–11).
Those of us from Gentile backgrounds who serve Christ probably do not consider this fact often enough: We are fulfillments of God’s promises to His people. The Lord promised that the nations would serve Him, and as men and women from all nations are converted, this promise is kept. Of course, this is not due to anything in us, for it is all by God’s grace. Still, it is an immense privilege to be a fulfillment of God’s promise, and we should never tire of thanking Him for that.
Passages for Further Study