“Yea, before the day was I am he; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand: I will work, and who shall let it?” (Isaiah 43:13)
This is one of the classic “archaisms” of the King James Version, where the English word “let” does not mean “allow” (as we now use the word) but almost the exact opposite. This particular English word was originally written and pronounced “lat” and was from the same Teutonic root as the word “late.” Thus, to our Old English ancestors, it meant essentially “make late,” or “hinder.” Note its similar use in the King James in Romans 1:13 and 2 Thessalonians 2:7.
However, the Hebrew word (shub) from which it is translated in the verse of our text is extremely flexible, being rendered no less than 115 different ways in the Old Testament, occurring about 1,150 times altogether, with the context controlling its meaning in any given case.
In this context, the great theme is that of God as omnipotent Creator and only Savior. The first occurrence of shub, however, is at the time of the primeval curse on the creation, implanted in the very dust of the earth because of Adam’s sin. To Adam, God had said: “In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Genesis 3:19). Here, shub is twice rendered “return,” and this is the way it is most often translated in its later occurrences.
God therefore challenges every man: “When I work, who can return anything [or anyone] to its [or his] prior condition?” Though none can deliver out of His hand, or “make late” His work, He has promised to be our Savior, “and will not remember thy sins” (Isaiah 43:11, 25). When it is time for God to do His work—whether of creation or judgment or salvation—there is no one in all His creation who can “make it late”! HMM