"Keep 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. Who 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. He pursued them, and passed safely; even by the way that he had not gone with his feet. Who hath wrought and done it, calling the generations from the beginning? I the LORD, the first, and with the last;
I am he." (Isaiah 41:1-4)
Always with an eye toward the millennial redemption of the Jews, the Lord commands the islands and coasts of the world's nations to be silent. God has a question and a plan for His people, and no one is to interfere with His ultimate will for the salvation of Israel.
The righteous man is in reference to Abraham. While he yet lived in Ur of the Chaldees, the Lord called him to leave his homeland and to traverse hundreds of miles to the unfamiliar land of Canaan (Acts 7:2-3). Ur of the Chaldees is the title given to the ancient Sumerian city of Ur where worship of the moon god was prevalent. A Sumerian ziggurat was the center of the city's worship. At the top of these tall structures resided the altar and inscriptions to the heathen god for which they were built. Although the Bible does not specifically say, it is highly unlikely that Abraham was not involved in the city's worship of the Sumerian moon god. Like every saint, Abraham's righteousness was found in God and not in his own works or ancestry.
In His mercy, the Lord called Abraham out of this vain idolatry and into a life of faith in the true Creator. In God-fearing faith, Abraham chose to believe the Lord's promises, and in this Abraham was declared to be righteous (Genesis 15:6, Romans 4:3). In bringing Israel back to its roots in Abraham, the Lord is reminding His people that justification and redemption are found not through religious ritual or genealogy but through faith in the Person and work of God - a work which would ultimately be fulfilled in the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. By inference, Paul called Abraham ungodly and proceeded to explain that a man's faith, not his works, is "counted for righteousness (Romans 4:5)." As any man, Abraham's flesh was fraught with problems; however, his rejection of idolatry and faith in the promises of God allowed him to pass from death unto life. Through all of this, God points the reader of the text back to the foundation of His righteousness and faithfulness. As every believer looks in faith for the day when God will fully redeem him even so should Israel look with eager expectation for the day when God will deliver all of Israel through faith in the Messiah.
Abraham's obedience to the Lord's call was greatly rewarded. His simple faith in the Lord's righteousness and ability was the guiding light of his success. The victories mentioned in the text undoubtedly refer to the defeat of Chedorlaomer and his allies (Genesis 14:1-2). Against incredible odds, Abraham and his three hundred and eighteen servants made war with these trained fighters and pursued them into unknown territory. Being incredibly outnumbered in the middle of unfamiliar geography, Abraham should have been defeated; but, as the account of Genesis declares, "he ... smote them, and pursued them unto Hobah which is on the left hand of Damascus (Genesis 14:15)." Through humble faith, Abraham accessed the delivering power of God, and by recalling this account, the Lord encourages Israel and all people to do the same.
Long before John would pen the familiar words I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, the Lord declared through Isaiah that He is the chief and first of all things and that He is literally with the end. God encompasses everything from the beginning of creation to its end and on into the eternal state. What room exists for fear when one's faith is founded in Him Who was there at the beginning and Who is already there with the end?