Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! Let the potsherd strive with the potsherds of the earth. Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands? Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou? or to the woman, What hast thou brought forth? Thus saith the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, Ask me of things to come concerning my sons, and concerning the work of my hands command ye me. I have made the earth, and created man upon it: I, even my hands, have stretched out the heavens, and all their host have I commanded. I have raised him up in righteousness, and I will direct all his ways: he shall build my city, and he shall let go my captives, not for price nor reward, saith the LORD of hosts." (Isaiah 45:9-13)
The Lord is rebuking those who would question or scorn His dealings with man. A potsherd is an earthen vessel. It is one thing for a lump of clay to strive or contend with a lump of clay but quite another for a lump of clay to contend with a master potter! God allowed the defective vessel of Israel to be shattered by the Babylonians (Jeremiah 19:10-11); yet, He retained the power to make Him another vessel, one which would serve His purposes. The humble and weak pot is foolish to contend with the wisdom and skill of the potter who retains all power over the clay.
The second illustration reinforces the first. The child has no right or authority to question the product of his parents' union. Even so, mankind should not question the purposes of God in dealing with that which He has created. After the destruction of Jerusalem, Israel may have been tempted to doubt God's wisdom in allowing them to be a people. They may have doubted God's desire to restore them. Perhaps they could not believe that God would eventually deliver them from such a horrific event. God assuages such fears by assuring Israel that they are His sons. God will not forsake them.
In righteousness God raised up Cyrus the deliverer of the Jews. This righteousness is not in reference to that on the part of Cyrus but to that on the part of God. To fulfill one's promises is a righteous thing. To have compassion on the helpless is a righteous thing. God showed mercy upon helpless Israel and fulfilled His promise of restoration through Cyrus' decree. This was all done through God's righteousness.
Contrary to the normal ways of mankind, God would move Cyrus to permit the return of the Jews apart from any ransom being paid. In fact, the king funded many aspects of the work (Ezra 3:7, 6:1-5). History attests to the fact that Cyrus was more humane than most monarchs. Rather than force any one religion upon the provinces of his empire, he permitted the worship and customs of individual nations. He considered this to be a wise political move since man's religion is linked inseparably to his political loyalties. Cyrus' policies freed those who had been confined in and around Babylon. Early in his reign, the Jews were permitted to leave and to return home. Ezra 1:1-4 gives the account of Cyrus' decree concerning the Jews.
Now 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, Thus 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. Who 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. And whosoever remaineth in any place where he sojourneth, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem.
It must be remembered that this was not the decree of a man converted to saving faith in the God of Israel, but rather it was the decree of a man who sought to pacify as many deities as possible. He spoke similarly of Marduk, the chief god of Babylon; therefore, one must not think that Cyrus was a true worshiper of the Lord.