Friday, September 1, 2006

Commanding the Hand of God

Here are some notes from my study file on what Isaiah 45:11 means concerning commanding the hand of the LORD.
Thus says 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, you command Me.” (Isaiah 45:11 NKJV)
But there are also a few other renderings of this text. The New American Standard Bible has:
Thus says the LORD, the Holy One of Israel, and his Maker: “Ask Me the things to come concerning My sons, and you shall commit to Me the work of My hands.”
The New International Version reads:
This is what the LORD says — the Holy One of Israel, and its Maker: “Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands?”
This reading is favored by the Revised English Bible, New Revised Standard Version, The Message, and the Bible in Basic English.

In addition to the New King James Version, the first translation, at the top, is also supported by the King James Version, the Jewish Publication Society Bible, Young’s Literal Translation, the Darby Bible, the Revised Version, Webster’s Bible Translation, the American Standard Version, and the Holman Christian Standard Bible.

There are also standard commentaries that support this rendering. Notice how they address the issue of commanding the hand of God:
It seems to me, however, that the word “command” is here to be taken rather as indicating the privilege of his people to present their desires in the language of fervent and respectful petition; and that God here indicates that he would, so to speak, allow them to direct him; that he would hear their prayers, and would conform the events of his administration to their wishes and their welfare. This is the most obvious interpretation; and this will perhaps suit the connection as well as any other. Instead of complaining, and opposing his administration, it was their privilege to come before him and spread out their needs, and even to give direction in regard to future events, so far as the events of his administration would bear on them, and he would meet their desires. Thus interpreted, it accords with the numerous passages of the Bible which command us to pray; and with the promises of God that he will lend a listening ear to our cries. (Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible)

Instead of murmuring, humble yourselves and ask what you will for the consolation of my children, and you will be sure of it as you are of these things which are at your command. (Geneva Bible Translation Notes)

These words are not spoken to idolaters, or the idolatrous Jews, or those of them that were inclined to idolatry; directing them to ask of the Lord, and not of their idols, things to come, which they were not able to show, and to seek to him for, and insist upon the performance of his promises to them, his children, and creatures; but to the spiritual Israel of God, as the preface shows, directing them to inquire after things future, concerning his children and people, especially among the Gentiles, whom the carnal Jews despised; and to expect, and believe, and even, as it were, demand the performance of them, being promised and prophesied of ... The Lord not only allows his people to put him in remembrance of his promises and prophecies, but to plead for, and, as it were, require the performance of them; and so the words are an encouragement to the importunate prayer of faith. Faith in prayer has great power with God, a kind of command over him; it holds him to his word; it will not let him go without the blessing; nor let him alone till he has made good his promise; nor give him any rest, day nor night, till he has fulfilled the things to come concerning his sons. (John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible)

Instead of striving with Me in regard to My purposes, your wisdom is in prayer to ask, and even command Me, in so far as it is for My glory, and for your real good. (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown Commentary)

They are invited to enquire concerning the issue of their troubles. The Holy One of Israel, and his Maker, though he does not allow them to strive with him, yet encourages them, 1. To consult his word: “Ask of me things to come; have recourse to the prophets and their prophecies, and see what they say concerning these things. Ask the watchmen, What of the night? Ask them, How long?” Things to come, as far as they are revealed, belong to us and to our children, and we must not be strangers to them. 2. To seek unto him by prayer: “Concerning my sons and concerning the work of my hands, which as becomes them submit to the will of their Father, the will of their potter, ‘command you me,’ not by way of prescription, but by way of petition. Be earnest in your requests, and confident in your expectations, as far as both are guided by and grounded upon the promise.” We may not strive with our Maker by passionate complaints, but we may wrestle with him by faithful and fervent prayer. (Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible)
(See also “Ask Me, Command Me,” Says the LORD and Reminding God)