Isaiah Anne O’BrieN
A brief and concise account of the main points of Isaiah’s message - the whole book (66 chapters) in 15 lessons. We encourage you to pray before you begin reading that the Lord would open your heart and mind to be receptive and responsive to God’s message contained within this study. There may be times when you find it difficult to reconcile God’s truth to your own opinion or worldview, God’s truth is eternal, it does not change, our understanding of the truth does change as we allow God to work in our hearts and minds. 1
Isaiah In these studies I am writing a brief and concise account of the main points of Isaiah’s message, so that the whole book (66 chapters) can be studied in 15 lessons. Like the Book of Revelation, the Book of Isaiah is not written chronologically, although it does fall into three sections: pre-exile, Hezekiah, and post-exile. It is written in a mixture of styles containing prophecies, description and history. Isaiah was God’s prophet for about 40 or 50 years beginning in 744BC. Isaiah’s prophecies are for Israel and for other nations, they were written both as current prophecies, and for the near and distant future. Isaiah wrote the first part of the Book (up to chapter 39) at a time in history when Assyria and Egypt were at war, and the smaller nations (including Israel) were caught up in events, culminating in the capture of Samaria (Northern Israel) by the Assyrians. The second part of Isaiah is written after the Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem and Israel’s subsequent exile. The Minor Prophets Amos, Hosea and Micah were contemporary with Isaiah. The last thirteen chapters look to the time when all people are invited to come in repentance and know a relationship with God, through the Lord Jesus Christ. Despite its historical setting, Isaiah is packed with Holy Spirit inspired promises of hope and encouragement for us today. You will not be able to read Isaiah without seeing God’s wonderful heart of compassion, love, mercy and grace; for example, in chapter 43v4 God says: You are precious and honoured in my sight, and I love you. Isaiah is known as the Prophet of Redemption because of the many references to the Messiah – Jesus Christ. Anne O’Brien April 2015
Lesson 1 - Isaiah Chapters 1-5 How God Feels Read chapter 1v2: God is Love Israel were God’s chosen people. But more than that, they were his children. Here we see God’s fatherly love and his grief for those who have rebelled against him. As parents we can feel hurt and saddened by a lack of love from our children. How much more must God feel this? Read chapter 3v13-15: God is angry The leaders of Israel had been oppressing and exploiting the poor. God pronounces judgment. These passages remind us that God does indeed see everything and that there will come a day of reckoning for the oppressors. In our current world situation this must give us hope. God’s Aim Read chapter 1v11-13a: God’s aim was, and always will be, to bring people into right relationship with himself. As is the case today in the western world, prosperity had taken the people away from a simple trust in God. They were going through the motions (“doing church”) but it was a formality – it wasn’t from the heart. Read chapter 1v16&17: Here God tells the people what they must do to get right with him. They needed to change their heart and their actions. God’s Judgment Read chapter 5v1-2 & 5-6: The parable is about Israel - God’s vineyard that he had loved and tended. But, which now he was going to abandon and leave to its own devices. God was looking for fruitfulness but it yielded only bad fruit. Read Chapter 5v8,11,18,20,21&22: Woes and judgments! These refer to the reason for Israel’s judgment in exile. God’s Desire to Restore The purpose of God’s judgment is to bring restoration – to cause the people to turn back to him. Read chapter 1v18&19: To Israel God said: If you repent, if you change your actions, if you are willing and obedient – I will wash you clean and take away your sin. God also promised restoration and blessings for future times and End Times. Read chapter 4v2-4: After judgment and exile God will cause a ‘branch’, a remnant, to survive who would be cleansed and become fruitful once again. Read chapter 2v2-4: Jerusalem will be at the centre of the world and in that day there will be peace. God’s Faithfulness Read chapter 5v25b&26: Despite the unfaithfulness and disobedience of the people, God still remained faithful. God might hate the sin – but he still loves the sinner. Our God will judge in righteousness, but his heart is to see all people restored to himself. His longing is to see his people (his vine) become fruitful.
Lesson 2 - Isaiah chapter 6 Isaiah’s call Isaiah’s call obviously happened before all the pronouncements in chapters 1-5. But it’s almost as if he is explaining why he has the authority to prophesy in the way that he does. There are similarities with the apostles Paul – but also with our own conversion to faith. There is a basic pattern that must happen when we choose to follow God and not ignore his call on our lives: Conviction --- Confession --- Cleansing --- Commitment Conviction Read verses 1-3: The date was 740BC (the year King Uzziah died). Isaiah had a tremendous vision of God in his Heaven. We don’t know if Isaiah was in the Temple or elsewhere, but he was certainly transported in a vision of the Heavenly Temple, where he saw God’s glory (signified by his train and the smoke) filling the space. This is the only place in Scripture where seraphim are mentioned, and because they are singing, “Holy, Holy, holy” it is possible that they are the same creatures which are mentioned in Revelation 4v6-9. The point is – Israel had declined spiritually, morally & financially; Israel had many enemies; the King had just died; the outlook for Israel was not good. It wasn’t so different from today!! But God still wanted to work out his purposes through Israel. And he began by raising up a prophet, a man who would be willing to speak God’s voice to the nations, both to Israel and to its surrounding neighbours. And when God chose Isaiah, he took him to a holy place in his vision where Isaiah experienced the majesty and holiness of God. And the result was that he was convicted of his mere humanity and of his own sin. Q. Is it possible to be in God’s presence and not be convicted? Confession Read verse 5: Compared to God we are hopeless sinners. “All our righteousness is as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64v6). We can never attain his standard. Isaiah saw that he was ‘tainted’ by the world around. But, “when we confess our sin, God is faithful and just and will forgive our sin and cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. (1 John 1v9) Conviction is not enough – we have to do something about it. For it to make a difference in our lives it must be followed by repentance and confession. Q. What is symbolic about Isaiah’s lips being unclean? Cleansing Read verses 6&7: When we humble ourselves before God, when we come in repentance, then God is able to make our lives pure and sinless again, so that we can be right with him. The seraphim said, “Look, the coal (from the sacrificial altar) atones for your sin”. God atoned for our sin – not with coal from the Old Testament altar – but with the precious blood of Jesus. It should be just as significant a moment for us as it was for Isaiah – and it certainly cost God a lot more to effect it. Atonement means ‘at-one-ment’ with God. We can only be at one with God if we have been cleansed from sin. Commitment Read verse 8: Our commitment should be the result of cleansing. Isaiah responded with, “Send me”. The nation needed the Lord and Isaiah was willing to serve – although he knew it wouldn’t be easy. Read verses 9-13: God shows Isaiah that he will not see a lot of fruit from his preaching. In fact the people will shut their eyes and ears and hearts. The land will lay waste, uninhabited. BUT God offers hope as well as judgment – just as a new tree will grow from a tree stump, so will the nation of Israel grow again from a remnant (v13). 4
Lesson 3 - Isaiah chapters 7-12 In these chapters Isaiah’s prophecy deals with judgment on Israel; judgment on Assyria; and eventual deliverance for Israel. Again, the themes are not in chronological order and they are quite mixed up in places. One reason for this could be that the writer (God, through Isaiah) wishes to emphasize the contrast between earthly kings and our heavenly King. Judgment on Israel Read chapter 7v7-9: Syria and Israel (northern tribes) had made an alliance in order to resist the threat of invasion from Assyria; but Judah (the southern tribes) would not join them. This resulted in Syria and Israel planning to invade Judah. But in these verses God said that it would not happen. And then he warned them that if they did not stand firm in their faith in him then they would not stand at all (verse 9b). In fact, God knew that they would not turn back to him so Isaiah prophesied that God would use Assyria and the Egyptians to bring judgment on Israel (ch.7v18). We know that God did indeed use Assyria to invade Israel and take the people away as captives – but – it wasn’t without warning (recap ch.5) and he had given Israel so many chances to repent. Chapter 9: God makes 3 accusations: 1) the people are arrogant (v9) 2) the people have not turned to God, especially the leaders (v13-15) 3) their wickedness burned like a fire, so fire would devour their land (verses 18,19) Chapter 10: This “woe” completes the set of 7 begun in chapter 5. They were guilty of exploitation and oppression. God loves the poor, and the people were treating them shamefully (see verses 1&2). Q. Do we put God first? Do we turn to him first? Do we put those first who God puts first? Judgment on Assyria As is usually the case, God didn’t send fire from heaven, but rather he allowed the powers of the day to bring about his will. Having said that, those evil powers would not prosper but would, in turn, suffer God’s punishment. Chapter 10: Readv5&6: God would allow Assyria to destroy Israel. Read verse 12: God would punish the Assyrian king for his pride. Read verses 15-17: Just as a workman wields the axe of destruction so God would have control over the Assyrians. They only had control while God allowed it. Their warriors would die and their land would be burnt. Q. When we look at the warmongers of today do we know that God is actually in control, even though so many people are suffering? The message of Isaiah suggests that God is always in control of all things, and that God’s ultimate goal for his people is for them to love him, and trust in him. Deliverance for Israel God shows his intention to bless with glimpses of his plan for all mankind – in his own good timing. The names of Isaiah’s children showed God’s intention: Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz means “quick to plunder” by Assyria (8v1) Shear-Jashub Hebrew for “a remnant will return” (his name is in 7v3) These chapters contain many gems of hope for those who have ears to hear Isaiah’s message. Just as Isaiah’s sons names were signs, so there would be other signs and promises too. Read chapter 7v14; 9v1b&2; 9v6&7; 11v1-3; 11v11. Read chapter 12: These thoughts culminate in a chapter of praise. God’s anger will be turned away. We can be saved. He is king over the nations. The Holy One of Israel is amongst us, Praise God. 5
Lesson 4 - Isaiah chapters 13-23 These 11 chapters include prophecies about the doom of 10 nations, surrounding and including Judah. They are wide ranging and cover a period of well over a hundred years, including both the Assyrian, Babylonian and Persian invasions, as one world power succeeded another. They show that God had his eye on all the nations; and they also show how that as Israelites and Judeans were dispersed, God still had a long-term plan for his people. All of these countries are still active on the world scene (except for Edom). They are:
Babylon = Iraq Damascus (Aram) = Syria Arabia = Saudi
Philistia = Palestine Cush = Ethiopia Tyre = Lebanon
Moab = Jordan . Egypt (same) Edom (is no longer)
Here follows a brief summary of judgment to come on these nations: BABYLON – Read chapter 13v17-19 and chapter 21v1,8&9: Although the invasion of Israel from Assyria was imminent, Isaiah looks forward to when Babylon would invade Judah. This was part of Judah’s judgment. However, Isaiah gives Judah hope for the future when he prophesies the fall of Babylon (at the hands of the Medes and Persians). PHILISTIA – Read chapter 14v29: Israel would be broken, but a stronger power would invade Philistia – they too would know judgment for all their years of opposition to Israel. MOAB – Read chapter 15v1: Isaiah laments Moab’s doom. DAMASCUS – Read chapter 17v1: This was a thriving city but ... Damascus and Samaria had made a treaty and looked to each other, rather than trusting in the Lord. EGYPT and CUSH – Read all of chapter 20: Whilst not an empire, Egypt was a world power, and the place of learning and wealth – until the advent of the Assyrians. Egypt trusted in its own power and wealth, and Israel had also trusted in them throughout history (Abraham, Jacob) until God set them free from Egypt’s bondage. They would not escape God’s judgment. EDOM – Read chapter 21v11&12: Obadiah had already prophesied the total desolation of Edom. Edom was a place that had completely set itself against God’s ways and had always victimised God’s chosen race; the reason being that Edom was founded by Esau. Many of Israel’s enemies were either descended from Esau, or were rooted in Edom, including the Herod dynasty of the New Testament (two Herods tried to have Jesus put to death). This prophecy is short (only 2 verses) and the significance was in the title “Dumah”, meaning “silence”. There was nothing left of Edom. It is the only place where there was no future and no hope of redemption. ARABIA – Read chapter 21v16: Arabia would also be judged. TYRE – Read chapter 23v1: Tyre was a mighty sea fortress on the coast north-west of Israel (today it is in Lebanon). Tyre had control of all the trade from the Mediterranean and grew rich from the many countries it traded with. Solomon used this to his advantage when building the Temple. JERUSALEM – Read chapter 22 verses 5, 10&11, 13&14 Judah would not escape punishment for making treaties with other countries and for looking to their own defences, rather than trusting in the Lord. Also, they were not taking the prophecies seriously – they were feasting instead of fasting. BUT ... read chapter 22v20-24: Isaiah prophesies the redemption of Israel. Eliakim (grandson of Zerubbabel - of David’s line and mentioned in the genealogy of Matthew chapter 1)) was indeed “king” over Israel, seven generations before Jesus. But Eliakim (like Zerubbabel in the Book of Zechariah) is seen as a “type” of the Messiah – Jesus the Saviour, the Hope of Israel. Once again, judgment is not without mercy and hope, and Isaiah looks forward to the future. 6
Lesson 5 - Isaiah chapters 24-27 Chapter 24 Read v 4-13: Most commentaries generally refer to these chapters as “The Little Apocalypse” because they refer to the End Times when the whole earth will be judged, and either punished or redeemed. The message of Isaiah was to warn men and women (then and now) that unless they trust in God they must face judgment. Judgment can mean the removal of God’s protective hand over the people of the earth, because without God’s providence there would be anarchy and destruction. In Numbers, God talks about the sins of the people polluting the land. See Numbers 35v33 Q. In what way do our the sins of our modern-day life pollute God’s earth? What connection is there between the End Times judgment and the judgment of Noah’s Flood? (Matt 24v37-42) (If you have time it is well worth reading Matthew chapter 24.) Read v21-23: Judgment at the End Times Not only will judgment affect the earth and its people, but it will also affect Satan and his mignons. The time will come when they will be judged. These verses equate to Revelation 20v4-10 when Satan will be bound prior to the thousand year reign of Jesus Christ. These signs are beginning to happen in our day. We are already beginning to see the beginning of God’s “shaking” of the earth at the hands of political and religious ideologies (backed by Satan). But these are signs that the Lord’s Second Coming is near, when the Lord will ultimately triumph over evil; when his people will be redeemed and when the earth will be cleansed and re-created. Chapter 25 Isaiah used the imagery of a city to personify everyday society in chapter 24. But now, in chapter 25 he uses the imagery of a mountain – to convey a place of quietness and separation and a place of victory. Read verses 6-9: God has prepared for us a great victory banquet – and all who trust in Him are invited, people from every tribe and nation all around the world. We will celebrate two things: 1. God will remove the “shroud” (v7) that envelops the world; that is, Satan’s influence for evil in the world. 2. God will “swallow up death forever” (v8) which will only be possible when Satan has been dealt with. There will be no more pain or tears; no more shame or disgrace; God will prove his words and prophecies to be trustworthy; and there will be great praising and rejoicing. In Isaiah’s day the people were guilty of feasting rather than fasting. At the end time there will be no more fasting – only feasting! Chapters 26 and 27 These chapters refer to Judah and Israel in The End Times · Jerusalem will once again become a strong city (Read 26v1&4) where God’s kingdom and reign is established · When this happens God will make their paths or ways level and smooth (Read 26v7&8) – they will be easy instead of hard. · They will know peace after their long time of travail (Read 26v12). Their own striving will come to nothing, but God will deliver them. · Their own travail brought forth nothing, but the dew of the Holy Spirit will bring resurrection to the faithful (Read 26v19). This promise is for gentile believers too: Read 1 Thessalonians 4v13-18. · Leviathan/dragon/snake, in other words Satan, will be slain and Israel (which will include all who trust in Jesus Christ) will know complete deliverance (27v1) · In contrast to chapter 5, Israel will once again become God’s fruitful vineyard (27v2&3, 5&6) and a light to the nations. · Believing Jews will return to Jerusalem for that Great Day of celebration (27v12&13). When we see these things happening the end is near. 7
Lesson 6 - Isaiah Chapters 28-35 Chapters 28-31&33 contain a collection of seven “woes” – 7 causes of concern as God’s judgment is prophesied against Israel and Judah. 1. Read chapter 28v1&7: Woe to the “wreath” of Ephraim – symbolic of the leaders of Israel. Samaria would be cut down like a fading flower. The prophecy is meant to warn Jerusalem that the same could happen to them if they did not change their drunken, disobedient ways. BUT for the obedient, the remnant who trust in God, (including us) there is a wonderful promise: Read v5-6 and v16-17: “In that day” God will be the righteous leader and judge. His Son, the Messiah (see 1 Peter 2v4-7) would be their (and our) only hope of righteousness. 2. Read chapter 29v1-4: Woe to “Ariel” – Jerusalem. (A play on words. The Hebrew for altar-hearth sounds like Ariel). When Babylon would eventually overrun Jerusalem it would be no more than burnt ruins. BUT Isaiah again talks about the End Times when God will have the victory over the hordes of nations (at Armageddon). Read v5b-7 Knowing that God will have the ultimate victory means that we can trust him in our “battles”. 3. Read chapter 29v15&16: Woe to the devious and deceptive leaders/politicians and those who put themselves in the place of God – the clay telling the potter what to do. (Q. How many examples of this can you think of in our world today?) Society and learning has advanced to a stage where it seems impossible that people could go back to a simple faith in God. They have closed their hearts and eyes (v11&12). BUT when Jesus comes he transforms things and opens eyes and ears for people to believe, and this will include the Jews. Read v18&19 4. Read chapter 30v1&2: Woe to them for seeking the help of other nations instead of seeking God; for practicing spiritual idolatry; and for rejecting God’s Word (v9-11). Not unlike people in personal and political spheres today, they thought they knew better than God. BUT Isaiah says their answer is so simple! Read verse 15. God promised that restoration would ultimately come for the believing remnant (includes us) – verses 23-26. 5. Read chapter 31v1&3: Repetition, repetition, repetition! God summarizes the warnings, so that Israel and Judah could never say they didn’t know. It follows that Judah would have had peace and rest if they had followed God’s advice and Isaiah’s prophecies. BUT for those who did, the remnant, there would be restitution, restoration and God’s continued presence through the difficult times. 6. & 7. Read chapter 33v1: Woe to Satan – the Destroyer and the Betrayer (often called the Accuser) is behind the turmoil and their unbelief. He has deceived them and led them onto a path of destruction. BEWARE! HE IS STILL THE SAME TODAY. BUT God will ultimately deal with Satan; and those who open their eyes to the message of God, and close their eyes to evil, will know the blessings of God. Read verses 15&16. And read also chapter 32v1-3. In chapter 34 Isaiah repeats God’s judgment against the surrounding nations – see notes on chapters 13-23. Read all of chapter 35 This chapter is a beautiful prophetic poem relating to one event in history and one event yet to come. Isaiah prophesied that after 70 years of exile in Babylon the faithful remnant would be able to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the city and there would be much rejoicing. But this is an End Times prophecy as well. Jews from all over the world will return to Zion. AND figuratively, as Christians we see Zion as God’s kingdom come. Our promise is the hope of everlasting life, a life of everlasting joy free from sorrow and pain (v10). Praise God!
Lesson 7 - Isaiah chapters 36-39 These chapters form a separate section within the Book of Isaiah. The account related here (unusually) is also told in 2 Kings chapters 16-20 and 2 Chronicles chapters 28-36. It is likely that Hezekiah’s illness and healing took place before the defeat of the Assyrians, and not in the order that the account is written. Chapter 36: The enemy’s threat Read v 1,4 &5: Hezekiah was a good and godly king. He had removed false idols and shrines from Judah and encouraged worship of the true God. Despite all this Jerusalem was under threat from King Sennacherib of Assyria, who had already seized the other main cities in Judah. The spokesman for Assyria (the field commander) was provocative and insolent in his challenge to Hezekiah. “Where are you placing your trust and confidence – don’t bother looking to your God or your king.” Q. When it comes to the crunch, where do we place our trust? Read verses 13-18: The field commander used tactics to get the ordinary people to listen to him. If they used their eyes they could see they were on the losing side – far better to give in now and have a “better” life under Assyrian rule. BUT, we are reminded in 2 Corinthians 5v7 that we “walk by faith and not by sight”. Sometimes we have to trust God even when our eyes tell us differently. Q. How does faith build our trust in God, and vice versa? Chapter 37 – Hezekiah’s reaction Read verse 1&5-7: Hezekiah’s first reaction was to pray and seek God’s will by asking Isaiah the prophet for God’s direction. God promised that he would find a way to get the Assyrian king to leave Judah. This gave them “breathing space” but further taunts and blasphemies against God kept coming. Judah was learning that their deliverance was not to come through talking to the enemy, but by depending on God alone. Q. What was God’s purpose in bringing the crisis so close, even though he would ultimately intervene? Read verses 14-17 &20: Hezekiah once again prayed about the threats. He asked for deliverance, not only for the sake of the City of Jerusalem, but also that it might glorify God’s name amongst the nations. He loved God and God’s name and his motives were right. Read verses 30-32 and 35-38: God gave Hezekiah a promise for the future and a sign. How can it come about? God was soon to deal with Sennacherib. When judgment came on Assyria it was devastating. Over one night 185,000 soldiers who were camped outside Jerusalem were killed by God’s avenging angel. Sennacherib could not taunt and blaspheme the Living God and expect him to do nothing! Without an army Sennacherib could do nothing – in fact he was nothing. Ultimately he was killed by his sons. (This was prophesied in verse 7). Chapter 38: Hezekiah’s illness Read verses 1-8: Hezekiah did not have a son. He did not want to die. Possibly he was burdened for the future of the nation as well as his desire to live. Isaiah brought word from God that the king would be healed and given a further 15 years. And then, God gave Hezekiah a sign: the shadow cast by the sun would go back 10 steps (normal direction forward). See also 2 Kings 20v10. Not only did God give Hezekiah back his life, he also gave him a son, Manasseh, three years later. And he delivered him from the threat of Assyria. Chapter 39: Hezekiah’s folly The news spread to Babylon and an envoy came to visit the king. Sadly, Hezekiah boasted of his wealth instead of his trust in God. Read verses 6&7: Isaiah prophesied the Babylonian invasion and subsequent exile of the Jews to Babylon a sad ending to Hezekiah’s story. 9
Lesson 8 - Isaiah chapter 40 Some chapters in Isaiah are so beautiful and so full of hope and comfort, it is impossible to just skim over them – chapter 40 is one of them. The Book of Isaiah begins a new phase with this chapter, as the prophecies now delivered are after the exile of the Jews to Babylon. Many of these prophecies have a dual message: they speak both to the Jewish remnant and about the coming of the Messiah. Read verses 1&2: Our God is a God of comfort and love and tenderness. God had used Babylon to punish Israel – but now he says the sin has been paid for and restoration will come. One or two generations down the line, the Jews must have lost hope – there was nothing left of their homeland, even the Temple had been demolished. The word “comfort” is no mere comforting hug – but a promise of action from God. Read verses 3-5: The Israelites were called to be ready to see God in action, smoothing out the way before them. How inspiring it must have been! Notably, it doesn’t say Isaiah called out the Word of the Lord – rather, it says a voice (v3). This prophecy is on two levels, so that it applies just as much to John the Baptist pronouncing the Coming of Jesus, as it does to God coming into the situation of the Jews at that time. “The glory of the Lord will be revealed” means the very presence of God will be seen. Q. Do you feel anything in your heart when you read these Scriptures? Why do you think that is? Read verses 6-8: Isaiah contrasts the victory and sovereignty of God with the frailty of man. God is eternal and his word is eternal too. It will never be erased, it will never cease – it will endure for ever. Every one of the prophecies and promises are reliable for all eternity. Nothing and no-one (Babylon) can stand against the power of the Word of God. Read verses 9-11: For the Jews, this is the central message. God is coming to deliver his people from exile. They are not yet told how or when, but they are given the promise. And amazingly, God was to come not as a warrior king, but as a shepherd who would lead his people gently and tenderly. When we read the Old Testament it is tempting to think of God as judgmental, whereas we see Jesus in the New as loving and gentle. These passages reaffirm that all persons of the trinity have the same attributes, because they are One God. Read verses 12-14: When you behold the greatness of God you see everything else in perspective. Israel’s God was far higher than any other god worshipped by the pagans. He is unique – Almighty God above all other gods. (Another contrast to the previous few verses.) Q. How do we see God when we pray to him? Read verses 15-20: This passage talks about “the nations” other than Israel. Despite their might they are nothing compared to the power of God. Israel need have no fear of them if they trust in the Lord. Read verses 21-26: Isaiah says, “Don’t you know. Have you really not taken in the greatness of your God? Look at everything around in that context!” The Canaanites (also Greeks and Romans) linked their gods to the planets and stars – but it was God who created all of those!) Read verses 27-31: You can imagine the exiles saying to Isaiah, “But it’s been 70 years since we went into exile. We have given up hope. We are tired and weary”. 10
Q. How often do we feel like that in our situations? But God says He can never grow tired or weary (v28), and, he understands all our thoughts and feelings (v28). He can impart his strength to us as we wait on him and place our hope in him, while we wait for his victory to come.
Lesson 9 -Isaiah chapters 41-43 Isaiah chapter 41 Israel were still captive in Babylon (they were there for 70 years altogether) and they had lost hope and confidence in God. Before the miracle of restoring his people to their land, God sought to restore the relationship he had with them. He wanted to increase their faith. Q. Do you agree that God works in this way: Faith and trust first, then miracles follow – rather than the other way round? Read verses 8-14: God seeks to restore their confidence in Him before he acts to bring about their deliverance. He reminds them that they were chosen, and despite their sin, God had never rejected them (v9). He promises to ‘hold their hand’ and strengthen them – they need not fear. God’s love is not conditional. They had sinned and they had given up on God in exile. But, he reminds them that he could never stop loving them. He would never reject them. God chose you and me. The promise is for us as well. Read verses 18-20: Using imagery, God promises to bring them back to a place of abundance and blessings and renewal. They had been spiritually barren and God was reminding them of their thirst and desire to return to Jerusalem. He also talks about 7 flourishing trees – 7 is the perfect number in the Bible, representing perfect restoration and wholeness. Q. How can these verses apply to our lives? Chapter 42 Scattered throughout the next ten chapters are passages we refer to a ‘Servant Songs’; the first two are found in this chapter. Some are prophetic poems about our Lord Jesus Christ and others refer to the role of Israel (and us) as God’s servants. Each passage describes a task that the Lord has given. Read verses 1-4: The First “Servant Song” Verse 1 is echoed in the account of Jesus at his baptism. In fact the whole passage describes Jesus: God’s servant anointed in the Spirit (v1); gentle and quiet (v2); merciful to the meek and humble (v3); and yet bringing forth justice (v3); teaching God’s truths (v4). Q. What is the task of the Messiah? (Verse 3) Read verses 5-9: The Second ‘Servant Song’ This passage could be directed equally towards Israel, to the coming Messiah, and indeed to us. God promises to be with the servant (v6). Jesus was our prime example, for he said “The Son can do nothing by himself” (John 5v19). Jesus can be identified with all the tasks in verse 6 and 7. He was the focus of the covenant for the people – salvation comes through his sacrifice alone. 11
Q. How can we fulfill verses 6&7 and continue the work of Jesus? Chapter 43 Read verses 1-4: Perhaps one of the most beautiful passages in the Bible, showing us God’s redemptive love (v1), his fatherly protection (v2), his deliverance (v3) and – most wonderful of all – how he sees us as precious and honoured in his sight. Q. How should this passage change the way we look at ourselves? Read verses 24&25: The fact remains that the Israelites had sinned badly against God, but he had forgiven them – for his name’s sake. He wanted to give them a new start. Read verses 18-21: We can be a victim of the past because we will not let go. But God says, “Forget the past”. He (then and now) wants to do a new thing. He alone can change barrenness into fruitfulness (v19) – he can bring us into a new experience of his love and purpose for our lives. But we have to be willing to let go of the past, and go forward in Him.
Lessson 10-Isaiah Chapters 44-48 These chapters contain two main themes: 1. They deal with the futility of idols 2. They prophesy how Israel will be restored with the advent of the fall of Babylon to the Persians – and how God used King Cyrus. IDOLS: Read chapter 44v6-8: God addresses himself as: King, Redeemer, Lord Almighty, the First and the Last, unique, the Rock; and he alone is able to foretell what is to come (only he has the future in his hands). Having established his qualities, God then goes on to compare (and greatly contrast) others “gods” to himself. Read chapter 44v16-19: The first two of the Ten Commandments are: Have no other gods before me Do not bow down to idols Sadly, in exile many of the Jews had given up on the Lord and were using idols to pray to – in the same way that people today might look to alternative means for help; e.g. astrology, crystology, scientology – or any number of things. Using somewhat mocking, ironic language, God reveals the empty nature of man-made gods. They can only be ineffectual, because they needed a man to make them (blacksmith, v12, or a carpenter, or a potter). Q. As Christians, we can be guilty of looking to other “gods” for help. Where do we look for answers these days, in this technological age? When do phones and tablets and laptops become a “god”? Isaiah prophesies The Fall of Babylon Read chapter 47v5-6; 10-13 and chapter 48v5,6 God gave them a warning so that they would know that the events when they occurred were engineered by his own hand. 12
CYRUS – GOD USES A HEATHEN KING Chapter 44v28: Chapter 45v1: Chapter 45v13: Chap 48v14,15:
God will use Cyrus to shepherd his people, so they arrive home safely. God anointed (specially chose) Cyrus to make a way for his people. God will use Cyrus to set the exiles free and rebuild Jerusalem The idols couldn’t foretell these things! Cyrus was chosen (v14) and called by God to overcome Babylon.
The Cyrus Cylinder The Cyrus Cylinder was a clay cylinder with Cuneiform writing on it, written at the beginning of Cyrus’ reign. Alongside many other reforms it proclaims to exiles in Babylon that permission was given for them to return to their homeland and rebuild their temple. (It is part of the collection in the British Museum) To fully appreciate God’s goodness through Cyrus, we need to turn to the Book of Ezra (which chronologically, should have been placed after Isaiah in the Bible). Read Ezra chapter 1v1-8: Here we see the fulfillment of Isaiah’s and Jeremiah’s prophecies. Not only were the people returned to their land, but all the articles that the Babylonians had taken from the Temple were restored too. Cyrus also gave money (Ezra 3v7) and helped them through opposition (Ezra 4v3-5), until the Temple was rebuilt (Ezra 6v14). Q. How can this account give us hope amidst current difficulties in the Middle East? God is always in control.
LESSON 11 - Isaiah chapters 49-53 In lesson 9 we looked at the first two “servant songs” and these five chapters contain the next five, making seven overall (although different commentaries vary in the numbering). These verses are written in song form and tell us what God requires of his servants – sometimes referring to Israel and ourselves, sometimes referring to Jesus Christ. This is not strange, as Israel was called to do God’s work before the coming of Christ, and we are called to continue his work now that he is ascended into Heaven. Read chapter 49 verses 1-6: The Third “Servant Song”. God is speaking to Israel (v.3). They were the chosen people (through Jacob) to be God’s servants and instruments, to help the world to see his plan to redeem mankind. Their task was to be “a light to the gentiles” (v.6) until Jesus, the “true Light of the World”, came. Their task is now our task, to serve by showing people the way. 13
Read chapter 49v7-9: The Fourth “Servant Song” God is speaking about Jesus, to whom one day “every knee will bow” (v.7b). God promises the day will come when it will be the day of grace and favour – the day when he will make Jesus, his only son, to be the covenant for the people (v.8). Jesus’ task was to set people free (v.9). The release of the exiles from Babylon and the restoration of Jerusalem is a picture of what Jesus will accomplish in the spiritual sense. Jesus still sets people free today – how can we serve him in this way? Read chapter 50v4-9: The Fifth “Servant Song”. The servant here appears to be the prophet himself – and maybe also could apply to the persecuted church today. They have heard from God, they have spoken out his message, and consequently they have suffered (v6) as Jesus did. It implies that the task for some is to suffer for the Lord. Would we be willing to be this kind of servant for God? Read chapter 52v7-10: The “Sixth Servant Song”. Here the servant is the one who takes the gospel to others. He is one who proclaims salvation (v7) and restoration (v9). Note: this is called a beautiful service for God. Read Isaiah chapter 53: The Seventh and most glorious “Servant Song” Nearly every verse is an accurate prophecy of the work and suffering of Jesus on earth, given by Isaiah about 700 years before Jesus came to bring us salvation. This amazing prophecy all came true. This shows to me that we can therefore believe all of God’s Word. Compare these verses with the New Testament accounts of Jesus: Verse 3 Verse 4 Verse 5&6 Verse 7 Verse 8 Verse 9 Verse 10,11 Verse 12 Verse 12 Verse 12
The Jews rejected Jesus Jesus brought healing Jesus died for our sins Jesus was silent when accused He was oppressed and punished He shared a rich man’s grave It was God’s will that Jesus should suffer, but he suffered voluntarily. Jesus will be rewarded & exalted He died amongst sinners He prayed for the oppressors
Read John 1v11 Read Matt 8v16,17 Read 1 Peter 2v24 Read Matt 26v62,63 Acts 8v32 Matt 27v57-60 John 10v14-18 Phil 2v9-11 Matt 27v38 Luke 23v34
The Gospels just give us the historical details, but through this “Servant Song”, Isaiah is able to help us enter in to just what it cost our Lord Jesus Christ to achieve our salvation through his humility and servanthood. And he calls us to be servants too, through these Servant Songs; servants who will be a light to the people; servants who will show people they can be set free; servants who would be willing to suffer for the gospel; servants who will take the gospel to all nations; and servants who will be like Jesus.
Lesson 12 - Isaiah chapters 54-57 Following on from the picture of a Suffering Saviour in chapter 53, the rest of Isaiah’s prophecies are like a sequel where God reveals the future, when His grace will extend to all the earth, so that all may know salvation through Jesus Christ. Chapter 54 Read verses 1-3: This chapter is a celebration of life after the exile; and these verses encourage the people to realize that God was going to do a great thing by increasing the number of his people. Isaiah uses several imperatives to encourage the people: enlarge, stretch, lengthen, strengthen and spread out. Israel were to stop being introspective and exclusive. They needed to develop a new mind-set and a greater faith to become outward looking and inclusive. Q. How is this a perpetual challenge to all of God’s people? Read verses 9&10: The end of exile, just like the Flood, was seen by God as a turning point in history. And just as God renewed his covenant with Noah he now promises his continued faithfulness to Israel. God’s intention is to bless Israel. Chapter 55 Read verse 1: This is perhaps one of the first altar calls to all those outside of Israel. “Come – all who are thirsty and drink of my water.” We cannot fail to see the similarity with Jesus’ words in John 4v14. Many who heard Jesus speaking would have understood that he was the Messiah when he spoke those words in fulfillment of this prophecy. God’s grace is open to all – and he promises even more than just the basic water! Q. What do you think wine and milk symbolize? Read verses 6-13: Everyone (not just the Jews) should seek the Lord when the opportunity is given to them (v6) because He is waiting to pardon (v7). God’s plan for salvation is beyond our reasoning (v9) and God’s Word always accomplishes his purposes (v11). This was the joy of the exiles who would return to Israel (v12) but it is also the joy of all who find freedom from sin through Jesus Christ our Lord. Chapter 56 Read verses 6-8: This would have seemed an amazing prophecy to the people at the time, talking about non-Jews (non priests even) ministering to the Lord (implicit: in His Temple). It would have been sacrilegious and offensive to them. The servant songs would one day apply to all other believers in God too (v6). The Grace of God would extend to every single person on the earth (all nations – v7)! Just as God rescued and gathered the exiles, he had a plan to rescue the whole world (v8). The Israelites had to be willing to see people in the eyes of God. Q. How do we view “all nations”? Do we put any limitations on God’s love and grace? Chapter 57 But God’s mercy, although available to all, is conditional on repentance and contrition. Although God loves everyone, He can only accept those who come to him with a penitent heart. Read verses 14-21: These words in verse 14 are similar to the injunction in Isaiah chapter 43 to “Prepare the way of the Lord”, which John the Baptist was later to fulfill as his mission in life. But surely these words are for all of us. Our mission is to find ways of helping people on a spiritual journey to find the Lord. Verse 15 is phenomenal and could not be said of anyone other than God. The Sovereign Lord and King wants to make his home with the lowly of heart! Although God loves sinners he is angry with sinful acts!! But, like a loving parent he seeks to help us and free us from sin so that our relationship with him is restored and we can have peace. Peace which is for the Jews and for the Gentiles (those near, and far – v19); it is a peace that the wicked will not experience unless they repent and turn to God (v20). 15
Lesson 13 - Isaiah chapters 58-60 Isaiah chapter 58 – Fasting; a chapter of contrasts Read verses 3-5: The people of Israel (and us, sometimes?) mistakenly thought that fasting was merely a case of “going through the motions”: not eating, wearing sackcloth and ashes, making sacrifices, in other words – an outward show. All they were doing was making hypocrites of themselves. Q. What is your opinion of fasting? Have you ever tried it? If so, for what reason? Read verses 6-9: God says in verse 6: This is the kind of fasting I choose: fasting that causes your life and actions to change in respect of others less fortunate, fasting that results in love for God and our neighbour. It’s not about us! An inward spiritual fasting is more important than the outward act of fasting. Q. But what will be the result for us when we show our love for God by loving others? Chapter 59 - “Your iniquities have separated you from God” (v2) The opening verses explain how that we are all sinners and can’t stop ourselves for being so (v.12). God is not pleased because he cannot look on sin, and promises to provide a way of eternal salvation. Read verses 15b-21: Judgment will come on Israel’s enemies and the Lord will reveal himself to those who repent (v.20), coming in righteousness and salvation (v.17). “The redeemer will come” (v20) is a wonderful promise about the coming Messiah for the Israelites, but is equally applicable to us when we need forgiveness and salvation. God reminds us that his covenant is eternal, and his Spirit is with us. Chapter 60: The Glory of Zion – Jesus the Messiah is announced. Read verses 1-3: We are told to “arise” – wake up to what is happening. The Age of Grace and Salvation has come both for Israel and the Gentiles. The glory and presence of the Lord is always associated with light, physically and metaphorically. “Your light has come” refers to Jesus. And he dispels the darkness in the world, which is caused by spiritual blindness (significantly the earth had darkness for 3 hours when Jesus was paying for our sins on the cross). Nations (v.3 meaning other than Israel) will be drawn to the light – God’s grace is for everyone, Jews and gentiles alike; a new era – a new covenant for all. Read verses 4&5: The immediate prophecy was about the exiles returning to Jerusalem, bringing the wealth of nations with them. Isaiah also foresaw that the Kingdom would be enlarged and enriched by both Jews and Gentiles coming from near and afar (see also v.16). Read verses 16-18: God’s Kingdom will no longer be a city with stone walls, like Jerusalem; but a far greater thing altogether, with walls of Salvation and gates of Praise (v.18). We can understand this concept but the Israelites would have wondered what it meant. Read verses 19-20: This chapter begins with light and ends with light. Jesus is the Light of the World – eternally. The prophecy here becomes apocalyptic: In eternity there will be no need of the sun and the moon for Jesus will be the Light. All darkness (in contrast to verse 2) will be dispelled. There will be no more sorrow and no more sin. And God’s people will possess the land for ever (in contrast to the Israelites’ struggles to keep possession of the land of Israel). But we don’t have to wait until then. The light of Jesus can dispel our darkness and sorrows now, if we ask him to reveal himself to us. 16
Read verses 21&22: In the New Jerusalem things will be the opposite of the charges made against Israel in chapters 58&59. They will be righteous and fruitful for the Lord.
Lesson 14 - Isaiah chapters 61-63 Chapter 61 Read verses 1-3: A prophecy about Jesus and his mission Read Luke 4v18-21. Jesus read these same words and said, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” So there is absolutely no doubt to whom this prophecy refers. Jesus was anointed to: Preach good news to the poor and humble in spirit Heal those who are heartbroken Set people free from those things which ‘imprison’ them Change darkness into light Announce that it is the time of grace and favour for all Comfort all who mourn for loved ones, or lost opportunities Provide for those who grieve in/or over Zion (God’s Kingdom) Replace ashes of sorrow with a crown of beauty Replace a spirit of despair with a spirit of praise Make us strong, like oaks, to display his splendor There is one significant omission in Jesus’ rendering of the prophecy. He does not mention vengeance (v2). He did not come to punish the world. He came to save the world. In Jesus, under the New Covenant, the world could know forgiveness and pardon, grace and favour. Q. Who are the ‘oaks of righteousness’ (v3)? Read verses 4-7: The prophecy is not just for the Jews. ‘Strangers and foreigners’, that is Gentiles, will be a part of the New Covenant. And as we serve the Lord we will be called priests of the Lord (1 Peter 2v5) – sharing in his ministry, bringing to others all the promises of the above list, in the name of Jesus. Q. What will be our reward? (v7) Read verses 10&11: What a wonderful outburst of praise that all the redeemed can join in! Ephesians 4v22-24 echoes the image of replacing old garments for new. This song has probably been sung for two thousand years – and yet it still thrills our hearts when we identify with it. Jesus Christ has clothed us in the very, very best – clothes of glory and purity and uniqueness - such as those worn by a priest, or a bride on her wedding day. Chapter 62 Read verses 1-5 and v12: God would give Zion a new start. Zion means the church of God. Zion is the church’s equivalent of Jerusalem. It is God’s Kingdom on earth, made up of all believers, Jews and Gentiles. In Zion, the Jews would be given a new start, a new opportunity through Jesus Christ, their Messiah. Likewise, each individual 17
Christian has a turning point in their life when they are accepted by God and have a new start. Better than that, we are given a new name. Judah’s name would be changed from Deserted and Desolate to Delightful (Hephzibah) and Bride (Beulah). “As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you” (v5). But the promise is for the Gentiles, too. A song we sing describes it well: I will change your name, you shall no longer be called Wounded, Outcast, Lonely or Afraid. I will change your name. Your new name shall be Confidence, Joyfulness, Overcoming One; Faithfulness, Friend of God, One who seeks my face. Verse 12: We will also be called Holy people, Redeemed, Sought After. Chapter 63 Read verses 17-19: In this chapter Isaiah is questioning why God had allowed suffering and sin to overtake Israel (Was he blaming God? But then, don’t we sometimes ask God what he will do about the sin in our world?). The opening verses talk about God’s vengeance. It’s almost as if the knowledge of coming salvation had caused him to question why God hadn’t intervened before. Notice the contrast between chapters 61 and chapters 62 and 63. The ‘before’ and ‘after’!
Lesson 15 - Isaiah chapters 64-66 Chapter 64 Read verses 1-8: In these verses Isaiah gives his heartfelt response to the prophecy he has delivered - “O that You would come down” – (it almost sounds like impatience!). Israel had forsaken God (v7) but Isaiah knows that God is still Father (v8) and he can make his appeal on that basis. Isaiah knows, through God’s revelation, that there will be a great time of redemption and turning to God, but he wants it to happen sooner rather than later. Although the prophecy has been being fulfilled since the coming of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, we can probably all identify with Isaiah’s heart to see more happening! Chapter 65 Read verses 1&8-10: Verse 1 refers to the day when God was to reveal himself to the Gentiles through the coming and work of Jesus Christ. And verse 8 refers to the remnant of Israel – those who truly believe. There was to come a day when, together, the Jews and Gentiles would be part of God’s Kingdom. Read verses 17-25: Isaiah looks far into the future when old things will pass away and all things will become new. And when he talks about Jerusalem it is the New Jerusalem also written about in the Book of Revelation. Paul summarizes the thoughts in this chapter well in Hebrews 11v39&40. We do not know when this will happen, but we do know that Christians and Messianic Jews (that is, all who trust in the sacrifice of Jesus for their salvation) are already a part of it! Chapter 66 Read verses 1-4: Here Isaiah contrasts those who will have God’s favour and those who will not. The main criterion for being accepted by God is not how good we are, but it is whether we have a humble and contrite heart (v2). Those who do not find favour are those who sacrifice with the wrong motive. It’s almost like God is saying that sacrifice made without a contrite heart is not sacrifice at all, but murder! 18
Q. How should these verses impact us at the Communion Table? Read verses 7-11: Isaiah gives the example of a woman going into birth without labour pains, to demonstrate how suddenly change will come. When God acts He does it swiftly. · For 400 years the Israelites had been in slavery, but when the time was right they had to leave Egypt in one night. · For 70 years the Israelites had been in exile, until King Cyrus made an edict which said they could return to Jerusalem · One week Jesus was riding into Jerusalem in triumph (Palm Sunday) and the next he was being crucified, paving the way for all to be made right with God. It was sudden. · One day the disciples were waiting in an upper room when the Holy Spirit fell and the result was the birth of the church with 3,000 converts. · After the exile Israel was no longer a state in its own right (for nearly two and a half thousand years) but in 1948 prophecy came true when the modern state of Israel was created. · Just as suddenly, there will be a day when Jesus comes again! Read verses 18&19: This is referring to the catholic (meaning universal) church of God – all Christians and Messianic Jews – all who are born again. They will become missionaries to the rest of the world and make God’s glory known, so that all people will have had the opportunity to accept the gospel message before Christ comes again. God shows his heart of mercy, but ... we are left with the sobering thought of what will happen to those who will not believe (v24)! We are living in the Last Days. The question is, “Are we ready to take up the challenge to take the gospel to the world – our friends and neighbours and contacts?”
The Estuary Elim Group of Churches are three Essex based Elim Pentecostal Churches in Ashingdon, Rayleigh and Southend on Sea with a shared Leadership team. We are a group of people responding to the love of God and the life changing message of Jesus Christ. Our services are lively with contemporary music, worship and preaching and teaching relevant to the 21st Century. To find out more about us visit www.estuaryelim.church Whether you are new to church, someone with questions or a committed Christian, we want to serve you and help you discover and fulfil Godâ€™s purpose for your life. If you would like an opportunity to email or talk to one of the team email your contact details to email@example.com and we will get back to you. The Ashingdon, Rayleigh and Southend Elim Pentecostal Churches are branches of The Elim Foursquare Gospel Alliance (Registered Charity No. 251549) 20