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Commanding God

Please explain to me what Isaiah 45:11 means. Can we command the hands of God in our lives?

Isaiah 45:11 states, "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."

This is a fascinating verse and your question has had me studying for a while. Thank you for such a good question. On the outset, I have trouble understanding how anyone would think that this verse gives us permission to exchange our servant/master relationship with God so that we are the masters and He is the servant. However, a bit of web research has convinced me that some use this verse for such a teaching I am not referring to you).

Nothing could be further from the truth. God is God and we are His servants. The servant does not rule the master but the master rules the servant. The context of Isaiah 45 clearly shows this relationship. The two verses leading up to the one in question give two warnings using the word "Woe." Isaiah 45:9 states, "Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!" Isaiah 45:10 states, "Woe unto him that saith unto his father, What begettest thou?" Therefore we are not to fight with the Lord over His actions and decisions; neither are we to question Him on what he has made us to be. These warnings certainly do not hint at some sort of masterly control for the believer over God. In fact, it teaches the opposite. We are to accept His actions and not strive with Him concerning them.

What then of Isaiah 45:11? The Lord does say, "command ye me." What can he be talking about? The key to many passages in the Bible, including this one, is to be found in the larger context of the verse. In this case, we need to look at the emphasis of Isaiah, chapter 45. One cannot read through the chapter without noticing the emphasis God is making on being the only God and Creator. He stresses His exclusive place throughout the chapter. There is no other god; no other idol; no other source of truth. He is God and there is none else. Consider some of the verses leading up to verse eleven:

Isaiah 45:5-8 I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me:  That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things. Drop down, ye heavens, from above, and let the skies pour down righteousness: let the earth open, and let them bring forth salvation, and let righteousness spring up together; I the LORD have created it.

These verses point to God as the only God; the only Creator; the only Lord. This theme continues through the remainder of the chapter. Consider these verses:

Isaiah 45:12 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.

Isaiah 45:18 For thus saith the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.

Isaiah 45:21 Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the LORD? and there is no God else beside me; a just God and a Saviour; there is none beside me.

Isaiah 45:22 Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else.

The implication of the entire chapter is that there is no other god to whom men can go to find help; there is no other source for eternal truth or salvation. The God who created all things is the only true God and there is none other beside Him. Far from presenting God as the servant of men who will do their every bidding, He is shown to be the absolute Lord of all who must be obeyed. So, how are we to take Isaiah 45:11? We start by giving the verse the proper emphasis on God. In the following quotation of the verse, all of the nouns and pronouns referring to God are capitalized. Read the verse aloud, giving emphasis to the capitalized words, and you will begin to understand the import of the verse.

Isaiah 45:11 - 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.

That is, if you want to know the truth about the future, then come to the only source that can help you--that is the God of creation--and ask Him. You will get no help from idols, false gods, or false prophets. Also, if you want to influence the events of heaven and earth, then come to the only One who can really make things happen--to the LORD and Holy One--and command Him. He is the only One who can do such things and so He is the One to whom you must go. If He will not do it, then it will not get done.

This brings us to an extremely important point. Nowhere in this verse or in the surrounding verses is anyone promised that they will receive the information or the actions they seek from God. The point is that the true God is the only One who could help in such things. If you are going to ask someone, ask Him. If you are going to seek someone to do great things on your behalf, ask Him. There is no one else to answer or help. But in context, we are warned against striving with our Maker (Isaiah 45:9). Therefore, this is not any kind of promise to do what we desire on the behalf of God.

One final comment: some will wonder why the scriptures use the word "command" if the desired action is not guaranteed. The key is in how a command operates. When we command someone to do something, we are actually accomplishing something through the actions of another person. Examples of this are found in scripture. David is accused of killing Uriah the Hittite although he ordered others to do the actual deed--in fact, leaving him exposed to the enemy. When we pray and God answers that prayer, God certainly gets the credit for doing the work. Yet, in another way, we did it through Him. As the missionary William Carey said, "Attempt great things for God; expect great things from God." Jesus told His disciples, "for without me ye can do nothing" (John 15:5). In this sense, the only way we can do anything of eternal value is to do them through the power of God. We must command Him.

However, this does not mean that we are the masters and He is the servant. Just the opposite. Our commands are requests and they become commands only when God determines to do them. Again, the purpose for using the word, command, is to emphasize the way we do things through prayer. We put in our order (a word related to command) and, if approved, it is accomplished by God. Sometimes, when someone is especially close to God, these prayers can be quite bold. They can even take the form of a command, as when Jacob says to the angel of the Lord, "I will not let thee go, except thou bless me" (Genesis 32:26), or when Joshua said to the sun and moon, "Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon" (Joshua 10:12). But we should never assume that this one use of the word, command, in dealing with our relationship to God gives us the right or power to order Him around. To think so is to think foolish thoughts.