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The Man Who Saw the King - 10 Studies in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah

The Man Who Saw the King

10 Studies in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah

Published by Freda Hawkes at Shakespir

 

Copyright 2017 Freda Hawkes

ISBN: 9781370938872

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Shakespir Edition, License Notes

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[]Contents

Study 1 The Man Who Saw the King Isaiah 1 to 6

Study 2 To us a Son is Given: Isaiah the Family Man Isaiah 7 to 9

Study 3 “Quick to the Plunder, Swift to the Spoil” and “A Remnant Will Return” Part 1 Isaiah 10 to 12

Study 4 “Quick to the Plunder, Swift to the Spoil” and “A Remnant Will Return” Part 2 Isaiah 13 to 35

Study 5 On Whom are You Depending? Isaiah 36 to 39

Study 6 Here is Your God; Here is My Servant Isaiah 40 to 45

A Summary of Isaiah’s Vision Concerning Judah and Jerusalem Isaiah 1 to 45

Study 7 This is What the Lord Says – Listen Isaiah 46 to 52

Study 8 The Punishment that Brought Us Peace was upon Him Isaiah 53 to 56

Study 9 I Live with Those who are Contrite; Your Sins Have Separated You from God Isaiah 57 to 60

Study 10 The Day of Vengeance; the Year of my Redeemed Isaiah 61 to 66

As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Isaiah 55:10-11.

Preface

This study is written for people who already have some knowledge of the bible, both the part originally written mostly in Hebrew, which Christians call the Old Testament, and the New Testament. If you do not have some background knowledge you might like to start with another study in this series, “The Bible from Start to Finish”, downloadable free through http://www.bibleview.co.uk/. Christians believe that Jesus is the Christ or Messiah, God’s Anointed, God’s chosen king, promised in many parts of the Old Testament. In the New Testament we see how Jesus fulfilled what was written about him in the Hebrew Scriptures, in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.

 

From the time of Abraham, about 2000 BC, God had been gradually revealing more of his plan to bless the world through sending the Christ. Moses and king David (who wrote many of the psalms) were prophets. Nathan (who told king David that his throne would be established for ever), Elijah and Elisha were important prophets in Israel’s history. The final 17 books listed in the contents page of our Old Testament were written by prophets. God gave his message to prophets to pass to the people – to challenge people to obey God in their daily lives, to encourage them to trust God and to warn of God’s judgement if their lives did not change. The prophets explained to the people more about who God is and how he is active in world history. God also revealed to his prophets his future plans. We can be especially encouraged to read that the birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus the Christ were predicted by God through his prophets many hundreds of years before the events of the New Testament. Isaiah was one of those prophets.

 

Isaiah and History

“The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah”. That’s how Isaiah the prophet started his long book. From before 740 BC to after 701 BC Isaiah saw truths about the future of his nation and his home city that he passed on to the people, the leaders and the king. He claimed from the start that he was reporting what God said: “Hear O heavens! Listen, O earth! For the Lord has spoken…” (Isaiah 1:2). God’s words recorded in Isaiah’s book were not just to Judah and Jerusalem but also to Judah’s neighbours and enemies Israel, Aram (modern southern Syria), Philistia, Moab, Edom and Egypt, to the threatening world super-power Assyria, to the distant land Babylon and the even more remote nation of the Medes. Through Isaiah, God spoke to all nations, to the end of time.

 

Isaiah lived in frightening and unstable times. About 200 years earlier, the nation of Israel had been divided by a revolt against the king of Judah, king David’s grandson. The southern kingdom, called Judah, retained the capital city of Jerusalem with the temple of God, the priests and a stable line of kings descended from David. The state was named after Jacob’s son, Judah, from whom David was descended. The northern kingdom kept the name Israel, though it was sometimes called Ephraim after Joseph’s son, Jacob’s grandson. Israel developed a new capital city, Samaria, introduced state-sponsored idol worship, since the state no longer included the temple of God in Jerusalem, and routinely assassinated its kings. Both Judah and Israel were in a corridor of land between the Mediterranean Sea and the desert. At the time of Uzziah, Judah’s land stretched as far south as the Red Sea. The two kingdoms were sandwiched between the weakening political power Egypt to the south-west and the rising super-power Assyria to the north-east (see Figure 1) and were very vulnerable militarily.

Figure 1. The two kingdoms of Israel and Judah and the surrounding nations about 740 BC

 

The stories of the four kings of Judah that Isaiah knew – Uzziah (also called Azariah), Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah – are given in the bible in 2 Kings chapters 15 to 20. Isaiah chapters 36, 37 and 39 are the same as 2 Kings chapters 18:17 to 20:21; chapter 38 of Isaiah is very similar to 2 Kings 20:1-11. The story of the four kings is also given in 2 Chronicles chapters 26 to 32. The length of time each king reigned, his age when he became king and his age at death are given in these accounts, but dating is complicated, partly by the use of different calendars in different nations but also by the fact that Jotham shared power with his father, Uzziah, for some years as a co-regent (a joint kingship), and probably later with his son Ahaz. Ahaz probably shared power with his son Hezekiah and Hezekiah with his son Manasseh. When in each reign these sharing arrangements started is not stated. The dates each king of Judah held power may be:

 

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In the time of Uzziah king of Judah the northern kingdom Israel was in trouble (2 Kings 15:23-31). Tiglath-Pileser, king of Assyria, invaded the northern kingdom in about 740 BC. The king of the northern kingdom Israel collected 34 tons of silver in tax from his citizens and paid Tiglath-Pileser to withdraw. Within a few years the king of Israel died, his son was assassinated and an army chief, Pekah son of Remaliah, took over as king of Israel in the capital city Samaria (2 Kings 15:23-27). The threat from Assyria was still there – large areas of northern Israel were captured by Tiglath-Pileser and the people deported to Assyria (2 Kings 15:29).

 

In the introduction to his book, Isaiah said about Judah “Your country is desolate, your cities burned with fire, your fields are being stripped by foreigners” (1:7). By chapter 7 we read a conversation that took place in Jerusalem between Isaiah and king Ahaz of Judah in about 734 BC, when Judah’s enemies, the northern kingdom Israel and Aram (Syria), had armies at the walls of Jerusalem and everyone was desperately afraid. God shared with king Ahaz his plan – these enemies would not succeed, but God was sending a worse enemy – Assyria!

 

As we read on in Isaiah’s book we find God showing an even longer-term plan. To begin with, Assyria would completely destroy the northern kingdom Israel but would not be allowed to capture Jerusalem. God would punish the king of Assyria for the wilful pride in his heart and would send a wasting disease on the Assyrian army (10:12, 16). God would crush the Assyrians in God’s own land (14:25). Assyria would fall by a sword that is not of man (31:8). We have to wait to chapter 36 to find out how this came true in about 701 BC.

 

Early in Isaiah (chapters 13 and 14) we read that an enemy even worse than Assyria was coming – the Babylonians. But in these chapters we find that the king of Babylon would not be given a royal burial (14:4, 18-20). God would cause Babylon to be overthrown by the Medes (Isaiah 13:1, 17-19). This may have seemed impossible in Isaiah’s time, since Babylon was part of the Assyrian Empire and, in reprisal for rebellion against Assyria, Babylon was turned into a ruin as described in 23:13. But chaos in Assyria allowed Babylonian to slowly build power. In chapter 39 (maybe about 701 BC) Hezekiah had an official visit from representatives of the rebel king of Babylon and described the visitors as “from a distant land”. Hezekiah did not see them as a threat. But Isaiah said “Hear the word of the Lord Almighty: the time will come when everything in your palace …will be carried off to Babylon…. And some of your descendents…. will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon”. This started to happen in 597 BC.

 

In 41:2 Isaiah recorded that God has “stirred up one from the east…he hands nations over to him and subdues kings before him”. In 45:1 and 13 we read the name of this person: “This is what the Lord says to his anointed, to Cyrus whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him… I will raise up Cyrus in my righteousness…he will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but not for a price or a reward says the Lord Almighty”. As Daniel records, in 539 BC Babylon was overthrown by Cyrus, King of Persia, King of Media, King of the Four Corners of the World. Cyrus allowed some exiles, “a remnant”, to return to Jerusalem and Judah, beginning in 538 BC as described by Ezra. The Cyrus cylinder in the British Museum details how Cyrus returned exiles to their own lands to build temples to worship their own gods.

 

In recent centuries scholars have found it incredible that Isaiah should be told by God at least 160 years in advance the exact name of Cyrus. It has been proposed that Isaiah chapter 40 onwards must be additions to Isaiah’s book, written by others who lived at the time of Cyrus, after 539 BC. But very ancient manuscripts copied in the second century BC show no break between Isaiah chapters 39 and 40. In chapter 41 onwards, God’s power to tell people what is going to happen is strongly contrasted with the idols’ inability to predict anything – Isaiah was presenting God’s ability to foretell as evidence for God’s power. Could a writer in Cyrus’ time have produced such God-centred literature with a lie at its heart? Before chapter 40 Isaiah wrote prophesies of the future involving Babylon. Babylon’s overthrow by the Medes and the king of Babylon’s inglorious end in 539 BC are given in chapters 13 and 14 and in chapter 39 the carrying away of treasures and people to Babylon, more than 100 years in the future, are predicted. Chapters 1-39 end in the tumultuous historical experiences of Judah under king Hezekiah. Chapters 40 onwards address a different situation, so it is not surprising that there are some style differences, but there are also similarities, for example the use throughout of a distinctive name for God, the Holy One of Israel. The New Testament writers quoted from all parts of Isaiah’s book, before and after chapter 39, often directly naming Isaiah the prophet as their source. We have further evidence that God was revealing the future to Isaiah – Isaiah, both before and after chapter 40, shows us clearly the life, death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus more than 700 years before the events of the New Testament. In this study we will assume that the whole book was written by Isaiah.

 

Isaiah the Prophet

God had promised at the beginning of Israel’s national history (Deuteronomy 18:14-22) that he would send a prophet like Moses to speak God’s words in God’s name. If the people did not listen to this prophet, God would hold the people accountable. The prophet was accountable as well – if what the prophet said did NOT come true, it proved God had not given him the message and the false prophet must be put to death. Prophets before Isaiah included Samuel, Nathan, Elijah and Elisha, who called leaders, kings and the nation to obey God and change their way of life; king David who predicted truths about the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus 1000 years before it happened; Jonah from the northern kingdom who preached repentance to the large Assyrian city Nineveh (near modern Mosul), and Jonah’s contemporary Amos who was God’s prophet at the start of the long reign of king Uzziah of Judah.

 

Amos started his book “The words of Amos… – what he saw concerning Israel two years before the earthquake, when Uzziah was king of Judah and Jeroboam…was king of Israel” (that is, the northern kingdom). Amos was prophesying about 765 – 760 BC. In his book he warned the neighbouring nations and Judah and Israel of God’s judgement because of their violence and injustice. Amos wrote (Amos 3:7) “Surely the Lord does nothing without revealing his plan to his servants the prophets”. Amos predicted (5:27) that God would send the northern kingdom, Israel, into exile beyond Damascus (the capital city of Syria, their northern neighbour). The people were taken from Israel to Assyria between 740 and 720 BC approximately. Amos saw the Lord standing by the altar in the temple of Jerusalem (9:1) and received a message of judgement, but his book ended “I will plant Israel in their own land, never again to be uprooted”. Isaiah also received this message of hope.

 

The prophets Micah and Hosea were contemporaries of Isaiah (see the first verse of each book), warning Judah and Israel to give up their corrupt, unjust, money-loving way of life and their worship of other “gods” and love, trust and obey God. God promised forgiveness if Judah and Israel turned to him. If they did not, God had a plan that would be disastrous for them. But Micah, looking 700 years into the future (Micah 5:2-5), predicted a ruler, born in Bethlehem, would bring security and peace.

 

Isaiah had an amazing experience of God at the start of his work as a prophet (Isaiah 6). “In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted…Above him were seraphs…And they were calling to one another: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory””. Isaiah cried “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips… and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty”. God dealt with Isaiah’s sin then asked “Who will go for us?” – and Isaiah volunteered. God said “Go and tell this people: “Be ever hearing but never understanding; be ever seeing but never perceiving….””. Then Isaiah said “For how long, O Lord?” and God answered “Until the cities lie ruined…”. God concluded by saying that as trees leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land – a hope for the future.

 

If we only read chapter 6 of Isaiah we would learn of the holiness and greatness of God but expect an unresponsive nation. Were the people programmed to ignore Isaiah’s message and did they have no free will to turn to God and be healed? We will read in Isaiah of real choices given to the people by God, for which God would hold people accountable; indeed Isaiah told the people they had brought disaster upon themselves (3:9). Isaiah passed on to Judah and Jerusalem warnings of judgement, immediately followed by practical encouragement and messages full of comfort, love and hope for people who would trust God.

 

Isaiah (his name means “God saves”) was also speaking to people beyond his own time. For example, chapter 40 onwards contained words that would comfort Jewish people in exile in Babylon. Jesus said Isaiah 61:1-2 applied to himself and Isaiah 29:13 to the Pharisees. All four of the gospel writers saw that Isaiah 40:3 spoke of John the Baptist. John, Paul and Peter among others in the New Testament teach us from Isaiah’s writings God’s long-term, careful plan for the salvation of both Jews and non-Jews (Gentiles, the nations). Peter said, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you…” (1 Peter 1:10-12). Peter directly quoted the words of Isaiah about the Lord Jesus five times in his short letter. We will look at the way Isaiah’s writings were used and applied in the New Testament, and at passages in Isaiah that seem, even in our time, to point to future judgement and future hope. Isaiah was writing God’s message to us.

 

How to use these studies.

Isaiah is a long book. It takes about 2 to 3 hours to read it all through. We will read parts of Isaiah’s book in 10 studies, which should each take about an hour. Please read the introduction above on Isaiah and History and Isaiah the Prophet first and use the maps of Israel, Judah and the surrounding nations, which should help you. It would be good if you can use a paper or electronic version of Isaiah that you can mark. Look for references to Assyria, Babylon and the Medes and to actual historical events. What are the important messages that God is passing on to the people through Isaiah? What words are repeated most often? When you find passages that you remember from the New Testament, look to see how these passages are used there. Mark verses which remind you of Jesus, and which give you hope for the present and the future.

 

The wording used here is taken from the New International Version of the bible (NIV) so it might help you to use the NIV with your usual translation. In the NIV the parts of Isaiah that are poetry are indented – the beginning and ending of the lines are offset (not lined up). Isaiah mostly wrote in poetry. We can expect similes and metaphors (picture language) and emotion as well as information. Poetry written in Hebrew often uses repeated ideas where poetry in English may use rhyming sounds. We might find it more difficult to read poetry than to read a factual account, but poetry involves our emotions and touches our hearts.

 

Study 1 The Man Who Saw the King Isaiah 1 to 6

We might expect Isaiah to start his book with his amazing experience of seeing the King, the Lord Almighty. Instead he started with a description of his society. This helps us realise how bad the situation was. The people and the rulers were deliberately choosing to rebel against God (chapter 1); they were proud and arrogant, defiant and haughty in a land full of idols (chapters 2 and 3). Judah’s people were like children who rebel against a caring father (chapter 1), or vines in a well-cultivated vineyard that produce only bad fruit (chapter 5). But the Lord Almighty had a day in store for all proud people – he called a ruthlessly efficient army to come from the ends of the earth – here they come, swiftly and speedily!

 

If you have time, read all of Chapters 1 to 5. If not, read the parts listed below. Note that Zion is another name for Jerusalem

 

Read Isaiah 1:1-9 and 16-26, 2:1-5, 3:1-5 and 13-15, 4:2-6, 5:1-7, 13-16 and 21-30

Q 1. List the titles used to describe God in these passages. What ideas about God do these titles give us?

 

Q 2. In 1:1-4 and 16-17; 3:13-15; 5:7, 13-15 and 21-24 what faults did God find in the behaviour and attitudes of the people and rulers of Jerusalem and Judah?

 

Q 3. What warnings did God give them? See 1:19-20 and 24-25; 3:1-5; 5:5-7, 13-15 and 24-30.

 

Q 4. What promises did God give them? Look especially at 2:2-4 and 4:2-6. Do you think these promises are for us too? Explain your answer.

 

Notes:

On a wall opposite the United Nations Headquarters in New York is an inscription taken from Isaiah 2:4 and Micah 4:3: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword against nation neither shall they learn war any more”. But this hopeful inscription leaves out the first part of Isaiah 2:4 which says “He (God) will judge between nations and will settle disputes for many peoples”. Micah (who was a prophet at the same time as Isaiah) also gave the people of both Judah and the northern kingdom of Israel the same message: God “…will judge between many peoples and will settle disputes for strong nations far and wide. They will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war any more” (Micah 4:3). We work and pray for wars in our world to end – according to Isaiah and Micah, wars will cease when God is judge.

The Branch (4:2) was also described by Jeremiah who gave God’s message after Isaiah up to the time the people of Jerusalem and Judah went into exile in Babylon: ““The days are coming” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a king who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land…This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord our Righteousness”” (Jeremiah 23:5-6 and 33:15-16). Isaiah 11:1-4 uses a different word for branch, but has the same picture of someone who is related to David, has the Spirit of the Lord and judges the earth with justice.

 

Q 5. How do you imagine Isaiah felt as he wrote about his home nation and home city in chapters 1 to 5?

 

Q 6. Maybe we wonder why God does not immediately judge people who do violent, evil things today. Preaching about Jesus in about AD 51, the apostle Paul told the philosophers in Athens that God “commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31). Jesus is coming to judge the world with justice. How do you feel about that?

 

The story of king Uzziah (also called Azariah) is given briefly in 2 Kings 15:1-7. “The Lord afflicted the king with leprosy until the day he died, and he lived in a separate house. Jotham the king’s son had charge of the palace and governed the people of the land”. More information is given in 2 Chronicles 26. Uzziah became king at 16 and sought God. God gave him military success so he became very powerful. But after he became powerful his pride led to his downfall. He entered the temple of the Lord to burn incense on the altar of incense. Eighty courageous priests confronted him. They said “It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the Lord. That is for the priests, the descendants of Aaron who have been consecrated to burn incense. Leave the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful; and you will not be honoured by the Lord God”. While Uzziah was raging at the priests before the incense altar, leprosy broke out on his forehead. He had leprosy until the day he died, about 740 BC. In the year that king Uzziah died, Isaiah saw the Lord in the temple.

 

Read Isaiah chapter 6

Q 7. Describe who and what Isaiah saw, heard and felt. What do we learn about God from this chapter?

 

Note:

The 4 living creatures in heaven around the throne never stop saying “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty…” (Revelation 4:8)

 

Q 8. The New Testament term for Isaiah’s response in verse 5 is repentance. How did God respond to Isaiah’s repentance?

 

Q 9. What was Isaiah to tell the people he lived among, and for how long?

 

Q 10. From God’s words in Isaiah 6:9-10 do you think the people listening to Isaiah speak had a real chance to understand, turn to God and be healed?

 

In the New Testament Jesus, Paul and John all said Isaiah 6:9-10 was fulfilled by people’s response to Jesus’ message:

- In Matthew 13: 13-15, after he told the parable of the sower, Jesus quoted Isaiah 6:9-10 to explain to his disciples why he taught the people in parables. “In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah: “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear”. Still today people hearing Jesus’ message about the kingdom may understand with their hearts and turn to God, or not understand, just as Isaiah and Jesus described.

- Paul near the end of his life spent all day every day trying to convince the Jewish leaders in Rome about Jesus from the Law of Moses and the Prophets. Some were convinced but others would not believe. Paul finally said: “The Holy Spirit spoke the truth to your forefathers when he said through Isaiah the prophet: “Go to this people and say, “You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving”. For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.” Therefore I want you to know that God’s salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!” (Acts 28:25-28). Paul at the end of his life must have really understood how Isaiah felt about the stubbornness of people who hear God’s message but don’t listen to it.

- In John 12:38-43 John quoted Isaiah 53:1 and 6:10: “Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. This was to fulfil the words of Isaiah the prophet: “Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: “He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts so they can neither see with their eyes or understand with their hearts, nor turn – and I would heal them”. Isaiah said this because he saw his glory and spoke of him.”

 

As we read on in Isaiah, look for ways in which people responded to Isaiah’s message.

 

Study 2 To us a Son is Given: Isaiah the Family Man Isaiah 7 to 9

The story of king Ahaz of Judah, king Rezin of Aram (or Syria) and king Pekah of the northern kingdom of Israel (or Ephraim) is told in 2 Kings 16.

- King Ahaz, son of king Jotham of Judah was descended from king David. King Ahaz of Judah worshipped the gods of the neighbouring nations on the hilltops and under every spreading tree. He burned sacrifices outside Jerusalem in the valley of Ben Hinnom, which was later known as Gehenna and became a picture of hell. Jeremiah wrote of the detestable thing the people of Judah did – they burnt their sons and daughters in the fire as an offering to idols in the valley of Ben Hinnom (Jeremiah 7:31). Ahaz sacrificed one or more of his own sons in the fire to these gods (2 Kings 16:3, 2 Chronicles 28:3).

- King Pekah of the northern kingdom Israel was an army officer who had assassinated the previous king. King Pekah was the “son of Remaliah”, son of a nobody- we know nothing about Remaliah. King Pekeh was strong militarily – at one point he killed 120,000 soldiers in Judah (2 Chronicles 28:6).

- King Rezin of Aram (Syria, Israel’s northern neighbour) was also strong militarily – he captured a large amount of land from Judah in the south, down to the Red Sea (2 Kings 16:6), took many people prisoners and brought them to his capital city, Damascus (2 Chronicles 28:5).

 

Rezin and Pekah marched up to fight against Ahaz and besieged Jerusalem, but they could not capture it.

 

Read Isaiah chapter 7

Q 1. From 7:1-6, describe the situation in which Isaiah and his son “A Remnant Will Return” met king Ahaz (about 734 BC).

 

Note:

Jerusalem’s water supply (7:3) including the pool of Shiloah (8: 6) was outside the city walls, a problem when the enemy surrounded the city. The water from this spring was later used to feed the pool of Siloam within the city, referred to by Jesus in John 9:7.

 

Q 2. What was God’s message to king Ahaz in 7:4-9?

 

Q 3. From 7:13-25 what was God’s sign to Ahaz and what was the meaning of the sign?

 

Notes:

Curds (a milk product rather like yoghurt or soft cheese) and wild honey were not the usual diet in Judah at this time. The cultivated land used for growing food crops would be destroyed, too dangerous to cultivate, and only used as pasture for cows and goats and for hunting (7:20-25).

The word used in 7:14 is used elsewhere to mean a young woman who is not yet married and a virgin. Before the son in God’s sign to Ahaz could tell the difference between right and wrong, the lands of Rezin and Pekah would be laid waste (7:16). Damascus (capital city of Aram and modern Syria) was destroyed by Assyria about 732 BC and Samaria (capital city of the northern kingdom Israel) was destroyed in about 722 BC. When the son was older (7:15), enemies would ruin the agricultural system in Judah and the king of Assyria would humiliate Judah’s king (7:22-25 and 20; 2 Chronicles 28:16-21). But God’s sign in 7:14 has a meaning for us – we now know who Immanuel is. Matthew explained that when Jesus was born this fulfilled “what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” –which means God with us” (Matthew 1:22-23). So Isaiah 7:14 is both a sign to Ahaz, fulfilled within a few years, and a prophecy about Jesus, fulfilled in about 700 years.

 

Q 4. Was the situation better than Ahaz thought, or worse? Explain your answer.

 

If you have read the story of king Ahaz of Judah in 2 Kings 16, you will know what happened next. “Ahaz sent messengers to say to Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, “I am your servant and vassal. Come up and save me out of the hand of the king of Aram and of the king of Israel who are attacking me.” And Ahaz took the silver and gold found in the temple of the Lord and in the treasuries of the royal palace and sent it as a gift to the king of Assyria. The king of Assyria complied by attacking Damascus and capturing it. He deported its inhabitants to Kir and put Rezin to death”. Then Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglath-Pileser and liked the big altar used to worship the gods of Damascus. He had a replica made and set up in God’s temple in Jerusalem to make offerings to God. By the end of his reign Ahaz stripped the furniture from the temple of God and closed the temple doors. He set up altars on every street corner in Jerusalem and every town in Judah to worship other gods. When he died he was not placed in the tombs of the kings. Ahaz was an example of someone who chose to be “ever hearing but never understanding” (Isaiah 6:9).

 

A clay impression of a seal inscribed “Belonging to Ahaz (son of) Yehotam king of Judah” has been found. Ahaz’s father was king Jotham. King Tiglath-Pileser’s records mention tributes he received from king Ahaz of Judah. Carvings from Tiglath-Pileser’s palace showing him and prisoners from Israel can be seen in the British Museum.

 

Read Isaiah chapter 8:1-18

Q5. Both Isaiah’s sons were signs and symbols in Israel from the Lord Almighty who dwells on Mount Zion (the temple hill in Jerusalem) (8:18). What was God saying to people in Jerusalem when he gave Isaiah’s second son this special name?

 

Note:

The word “plunder” in 8:4 is the word “shalal” in Isaiah’s second son’s name. Before Isaiah’s second son could speak his first words, the wealth of Pekah and Rezin’s capital cities would be plunder carried off by the king of Assyria (8:4). It sounds like Isaiah’s second son was God’s sign to Ahaz (7:16). But Isaiah’s son was called not Immanuel (God with us, 7:14) but “Quick to the Plunder, Swift to the Spoil” (8:3).

 

Q6. What was God’s message to Isaiah in this time of great uncertainty (8:5-15)? What was Isaiah’s response (8:16-18)?

 

Notes:

God’s message to Isaiah included the promise “Immanuel – God is with us” twice (8:8 and 8:10). Peter quotes God’s message to Isaiah (8:12) to encourage us as Christians: ““Do not fear what they fear, do not be frightened”. But in your hearts set apart (or make holy) Christ as Lord” (1 Peter 3:14-15). As God said to Isaiah “The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread, and he will be a sanctuary” (Isaiah 8:13-14).

Although the Lord is a sanctuary for Isaiah and for us, the Lord will be, for both the northern and southern kingdoms of the nation of Israel, “a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall” (Isaiah 8:14). Peter (his name means stone or rock, so Peter was interested in stones and rocks) explains in 1 Peter 1:4-8 that for us this stone that causes people to stumble and this rock which causes people to fall is Jesus. People stumble because they disobey the message but to us who believe this stone is precious. Paul also quotes Isaiah 8:14, saying that to Jewish people the stumbling stone is righteousness by faith (Romans 9:33-33).

 

Q 6. Isaiah’s sons’ names were “A Remnant Will Return” and “Quick to the Plunder, Swift to the Spoil”. What do you think it was like personally for Isaiah and his family to be signs and symbols in Israel from the Lord Almighty who dwells on Mount Zion (8:18)?

 

Read Isaiah 8:19-22 and 9:1-7

Q 7. The three sons mentioned in chapters 7 and 8 (7:14; 8:18 with 7:3 and 8:3) were signs showing “God is with us” and God’s plans for Judah that a remnant will return and an army will quickly invade and plunder. Is the son in 9:6-7 different?

 

Matthew tells us that Jesus is the son about whom Isaiah spoke in chapter 9: “Jesus…returned to Galilee…and went and lived…in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali – to fulfil what was said through the prophet Isaiah: “Land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, along the Jordon, Galilee of the Gentiles – the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned”” (Isaiah 9:1-2 quoted in Matthew 4:12-16). Zebulun and Naphtali were 2 sons of Jacob. Their descendants were given land to the west of Lake Galilee, in the north of the northern kingdom. In the time of king Pekah of Israel, Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria came and took Galilee, including all of the land of Naphtali, and deported the people to Assyria (2 Kings 15:29). People had a bad opinion of Galilee in Jesus’ time but Jesus honoured Galilee by living there. We all live in the land of the shadow of death but Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12). Jesus is the son who is Immanuel, God with us, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son (John 3:16).

 

Q 8. What is your response to Isaiah 9:1-7?

 

Look back also at Isaiah 2:2-4 and 4:2-6 and use the truths to pray that God’s kingdom will come.

 

Study 3 “Quick to the Plunder, Swift to the Spoil” and “A Remnant Will Return” Part 1 Isaiah 10 to 13

The nation of Israel was called after God’s new name for Jacob (Abraham’s grandson). Jacob (meaning “he grasps the heel” or “he deceives”, see Jacob’s birth story in Genesis 25:26) was renamed Israel, meaning “he struggles with God” (Genesis 32:28). Jacob had 12 sons, the founders of the 12 tribes of Israel. After liberation by God from slavery in Egypt the 12 tribes were led into the promised land of Canaan (roughly modern Palestine/Israel) and each tribe received a part of the land. This story is told in the book of Joshua. Only the tribe descended from Jacob’s son Levi had no land – they were to serve in the temple of God in Jerusalem.

 

About 200 years before Isaiah’s time the nation of Israel had split into:

- a northern kingdom, Israel which had a variety of kings, often as the result of political coups. The northern kingdom, which had kept the name Israel, contained the regions given to Jacob’s sons Asher, Naphtali, Zebulun, Issachar, Dan, Joseph’s two sons Ephraim and Manasseh and (on the east side of the river Jordon and the Dead Sea) Gad and Reuben. Presumably because of the confusion caused by the northern kingdom keeping the original whole nation’s name Israel, the northern kingdom was sometimes called Ephraim. Samaria was developed as the capital city of the northern kingdom, and a system of state-sponsored idol worship replaced worship of God in the temple at Jerusalem, which the northern kingdom no longer owned.

- a southern kingdom, Judah, containing the land given to Jacob’s sons Judah, Simeon and Benjamin, with kings who were all descended from Judah through king David. The capital city was Jerusalem, the ancient city of David, which contained God’s temple. The people descended from Jacob’s son Levi also lived in Judah, and went regularly to Jerusalem to work in the temple.

 

God gave the people of Judah and Jerusalem a choice ““Come now, let us reason together” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land, but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 1:18-20). Their sins included worship of foreign gods (2:8), pride (2:11), oppression of poor people (3:15), bloodshed (5:7), all-day drinking (5:11), bribe-taking (5:23) and rejection of the law of the Lord Almighty (5:24). Therefore, God said, my people will go into exile for lack of understanding (5:13). God whistles for those at the end of the earth. Here they come, swiftly and speedily! Their roar is like that of the lion, they growl as they seize their prey and carry it off with no one to rescue (Isaiah 5:26 and 29).

 

Although not mentioned by name until chapter 7, the superpower with the ruthless army was Assyria. Already an established civilization when the children of Israel left slavery in Egypt, the Assyrians had developed a huge army skilled in military technology. Their engineers allowed soldiers to cross moats and break through or climb over the walls of fortified cities. The engineers’ siege operations were protected by masses of archers. The Empire was expanding rapidly (see Figure 2) but needed money to fund its men and machines on campaigns. Cities with known stores of wealth were attractive targets. The Assyrians practiced forced resettlement of subjugated peoples to other parts of the Empire, presumably to weaken the conquered nation’s pride, build social cohesion and strengthen the work-force. Siege technology and the cruel punishments defeated peoples endured are graphically illustrated in stone wall reliefs discovered in Assyrian palaces such as Khorsabad, Nimrud and Nineveh (all in modern northern Iraq near the city of Mosul), together with written records of the kings’ conquests. You can see some of these today in, for example, the British Museum.

Figure 2. The Assyrian Empire by about 670 BC

 

God told Isaiah to take his son called “A Remnant Will Return” to meet king Ahaz while Jerusalem was under siege by the kings of the two neighbouring lands, Aram (modern Syria) and the northern kingdom of Israel (Isaiah 7:1-4). God’s message through Isaiah to Ahaz was “be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid” (7:4) but Ahaz would not respond to God’s offer of a sign (7:10-12). Ahaz was told the lands of the two kings he dreaded would be destroyed, but God would bring on Ahaz and his people the king of Assyria (7:16-17). Next Isaiah and his wife had a son and were told to name the boy “Quick to the Plunder, Swift to the Spoil”. Before the boy could talk, wealth and plunder would be carried away from Aram and the northern kingdom of Israel by the king of Assyria (8:1-4). Both of Isaiah’s sons were signs and symbols in the nation of Israel from the Lord Almighty (8:18), and their names symbolised God’s plan.

 

In the time of king Pekah of the northern kingdom (about 733 BC), land to the north and east including Galilee and the territory of the tribe of Naphtali was lost to the king of Assyria, Tiglath-Pileser (2 Kings 15:29). Also around this time Tiglath-Pileser removed the tribes of Reuben, Gad and Manasseh from their territories east of the river Jordon to what is now northern Iraq (1 Chronicles 5:23-26).

 

Read Isaiah 9:8 to 10:4

Q 1. From 9:9-13 and 10:1-2, what was happening in the northern kingdom of Israel (Ephraim) and its capital city Samaria at this time and what was the attitude of the people to current events?

 

Note:

In 9:11, Rezin was king of Aram (Syria), Israel’s northern neighbour. Rezin’s chief foe was Assyria. The Philistines were in Philistia, roughly today’s Gaza strip. See Figure 1.

 

Q 2. From 9:11-21 and 10:3-4, what does God say will happen to the people of the northern kingdom of Israel as a result of their actions and attitude?

Note:

King Pekah of the northern kingdom was assassinated in about 732 BC, soon after he lost land to the Assyrian king Tiglath-Pileser. Pekah’s assassin, Hoshea, reigned in the northern kingdom for 9 years. Tiglath-Pileser’s records say king Hoshea was controlled by Assyria and details the amount of gold and silver the northern kingdom had to pay. When Tiglath-Pileser died (about 727 BC) Hoshea rebelled against Assyria; he organised a military alliance with Egypt and no longer paid his yearly tribute to Assyria. Tiglath-Pileser’s son Shalmaneser seized king Hoshea and imprisoned him (see 2 Kings 17:5-6). The kingship of Assyria rapidly (and violently) changed hands to Shalmaneser’s brother, king Sargon. Sargon besieged the northern kingdom’s capital city, Samaria, for 3 years and deported, according to his own records, 27,290 people from the northern kingdom to Assyria in about 722 BC. Sargon records he settled in Samaria “people from countries which I myself had conquered”. See also 2 Kings 17:26-40. These people of mixed race and religion became the Samaritans we read of in the New Testament. So Hoshea was the last and final king of the northern kingdom.

 

Read Isaiah 10:5-19

Q 3. From 10:7-14, what was the attitude of the king of Assyria at this time?

 

Note:

In the list of cities the Assyrians had conquered in 10:9, Calno is nearer Jerusalem than Carchemish, Hamath is nearer than Arpad and Samaria is nearer than Damascus (see Figure 1). The idea is that the king of Assyria is moving nearer Jerusalem and nothing can stop him capturing it.

 

Q 4. What does God say will happen to the king of Assyria and his army as a result of the king’s attitude (10:12 and 15-19)?

 

Note:

The Assyrian king Sargon was assisted by his young son Sennacherib, who inherited the kingship. Sennacherib tried to besiege Jerusalem. Isaiah relates in chapter 37:36-38 how 10:16-17 was fulfilled.

 

Read Isaiah 10:20-23

The words in 10:21 and 22, a remnant will return, are the name of Isaiah’s older son, who was taken by Isaiah to meet king Ahaz in chapter 7. Apart from his son’s name, Isaiah uses the word “remnant” to refer to survivors of disaster for the first time here. “Remnant” is used in encouraging messages in 28:5-6 and 37:31-32.

 

Q 5 Do you think it is good news or bad news that a remnant will return? Explain your answer.

 

In Romans chapters 9 to 11, Paul examines why many Jewish people did not believe in Jesus as the Christ (Messiah). Paul quotes Isaiah 10:22-23 and also Isaiah 1:9: “Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only the remnant will be saved. For the Lord will carry out his sentence on earth with speed and finality”. But just as Isaiah said previously: “Unless the Lord Almighty had left us descendants, we would have become like Sodom, we would have been like Gomorrah”” (that is, totally destroyed, Isaiah 1:9) (Romans 9:27-29). After the return of the remnant to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon, history shows the Jewish people did turn away from idols and worked very hard to obey God’s laws. Many Jewish people (and many non-Jewish people in our day) sought and still seek earnestly to obtain God’s righteousness, not by faith in Christ but as if it were by works – this is for them the stumbling-stone of Isaiah 8:14 (Romans 9:30-33). So, did God reject his people? Paul says “By no means! I am an Israelite myself”. At the present time (Paul’s time and ours) there is a remnant of Jewish people who have faith in Jesus, who are chosen by grace (Romans 11:1-6). When you have time, read Romans chapters 9 to 11 to follow this argument, and note the many references to Isaiah there.

 

Read Isaiah 10:24-32

Note:

Aiath, Michmash, Migron, Geba, Anathoth, Laishah and Nob (10:28-32) were a line of cities north-east of Jerusalem named from north to south. Nob was less than 10 miles from Jerusalem. Madmenah was about 50 miles south of Jerusalem. The Assyrian army was coming to get Jerusalem.

 

Q 6. Imagine what it felt like to be in Jerusalem with the Assyrian army coming. How would God’s word to Isaiah in 10:5-27 help God’s people not to be afraid?

 

Read chapter 11:1-12 and 16

Jesse, who lived in Bethlehem, was king David’s father (11:1 and 10). Jesus is “the son of David”. Artists expressed this idea in carvings, stained glass and paintings as the Jesse tree, with branches with names of Jesus’ human ancestors growing out of Jesse – the original “family tree”. Note the different idea in 11:10 where the Root of Jesse is described – not a shoot from the stump of Jesse or a branch from the root of Jesse (11:1) but the Root from which Jesse himself came! In Revelation 5:5 the Lion who is also the Lamb who was slain and purchased people for God by his blood is described as the Root of David. Paul quoted Isaiah 11:10 in his letter to the Romans to encourage the Jewish and non-Jewish (Gentile) Christians to accept one another, just as Christ has accepted them, in order to bring praise to God. “For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy… Isaiah said: “The Root of Jesse will spring up, one who will arise to rule over the nations; the Gentiles will hope in him”” (Romans 15:7-12). Jesus is the Root of Jesse that Isaiah spoke of. In Romans chapters 9 to 11 Paul showed it was always God’s plan that through mercy and grace non-Jewish people would be able to obtain the righteousness that comes from God and that is by faith in Jesus.

 

Q 7. What will the person who is the shoot and Branch from the stump of Jesse be like (11:2-5)? How does this remind you of Jesus?

 

Q8. From 11:2-12, describe what life will be like in the day of the shoot, Branch and Root of Jesse. What is your response to reading Isaiah 11:1-12?

 

Note:

The lands in verse 11 are to the south, east, north and west of Judah and Israel. The idea that “a remnant will return” is repeated in verses 11 and 16.

 

Read Isaiah chapter 12

Q 9. In the day that nations rally to the Root of Jesse and the Lord reclaims the remnant of his people (Isaiah 11:10-11 and 16), what will they say about God?

 

Think of the great things God has done for us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, who is described for us in Isaiah 11:1-5. Use Isaiah chapter 12 to praise God yourself.

 

Study 4 “Quick to the Plunder, Swift to the Spoil” and “A Remnant Will Return” Part 2 Isaiah 13 to 35

God sent the king of Assyria against the godless northern kingdom Israel to seize loot and snatch plunder (Isaiah 10:6). The king of Assyria had wilful pride in his heart, and decided he would put an end to many other nations as well. He thought he could now deal with Judah and Jerusalem (the southern kingdom of the divided nation Israel) just as he had with the northern kingdom and Syria, saying “Shall I not deal with Jerusalem and her images as I dealt with Samaria and her idols?” (10:11). But the king of Assyria did not realise he was in God’s hands, being used like an axe or rod or club (Isaiah 10:5-15). “So the Lord, the Lord Almighty will send a wasting disease upon his sturdy warriors” (Isaiah 10:16). God told the people of Jerusalem not to be afraid of the Assyrians, who beat them with a rod and threatened them with a club – very soon God would destroy the Assyrians (10:24-25).

 

Next, God in Isaiah chapter 11 gave beautiful promises of someone coming from the line of Jesse, the line of the kings of Judah, who has the Spirit of the Lord. This person will judge with justice on behalf of the poor and needy, and will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth. He will have power, knowledge and righteousness. This sounds like our Lord Jesus Christ. The next promise is something we wish for – there will be nothing that is harmful or destructive on all God’s holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord. The person described in chapter 11 is also the Root of Jesse – he will be a banner to gather nations to him. The Lord will reclaim the remnant of his people from many nations including Assyria and Babylonia (11:11). In that day the remnant returnees will praise God and tell the world what God has done for them (chapter 12).

 

From this positive message, Isaiah turns to warning messages in the passages in this study:

- In chapters 13 to 23, a series of “oracles” against Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, Damascus (in modern Syria), Tyre (in modern Lebanon) and other nations around. An oracle means something heavy to carry, a burden that Isaiah had to deliver in order to unburden himself, and something spoken out loud to other people.

- In chapters 24 to 27, warnings of judgement but also expressions of praise and encouragements which apply to all the nations in the whole world.

- In chapters 28 to 33 a series of “woes”, an expression of grief, pain and doom, mostly directed at the northern kingdom Israel (also called Ephraim) and the southern kingdom Judah. The two “woes” in chapters 30 and 31 deal with Judah’s reliance on the military might of Egypt to help Judah against the Assyrians.

- In chapter 34 there is a warning message to all nations. Chapter 35 is a joyful chapter of good news that ends “the ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away”. The remnant will return to Jerusalem (Zion); they are ransomed by God, bought back with a price to belong to God again, redeemed.

 

The superpower in Isaiah’s time was Assyria. In studies 2 and 3 we have met four Assyrian kings:

- Tiglath-Pileser reigned about 745-727 BC. He invaded Syria and controlled the last king of Israel, Hoshea. The king of Judah, Ahaz, made a costly peace agreement with Tiglath-Pileser. Tiglath-Pileser took control of Babylon and had himself crowned king of Babylon

- Shalmaneser reigned about 727-722 BC. He invaded the northern kingdom Israel and held the title “king of Babylon”.

- Sargon reigned about 722-705 BC. He destroyed the northern kingdom Israel and resettled other ethnic groups there. He was at war with rebels in Babylon.

- Sennacherib reigned about 705-681 BC. He continued the war with rebels in Babylon and destroyed Babylon completely in 698 BC.

There was a rebellious backlash to Sennacherib’s destruction of Babylon. The Babylonians built up their power and finally obtained revenge by defeating Assyria (about 612 BC). The Babylonian Empire thrived and carried the people of Judah and Jerusalem into exile in Babylon from about 597 BC onwards. The era of Babylonian power was at least 100 years in the future for Isaiah.

 

Read Isaiah 13:1, 17-20,

Q 1. From 13:17-20, what was going to happen to Babylon?

 

Note:

Babylon was temporarily overthrown by the Assyrian king Sennacharib in or soon after Isaiah’s lifetime. Isaiah does not here predict overthrow of Babylon by the Assyrians but by the Medes about 150 years later (verse 17). The Babylonian Empire was overthrown by the Medo-Persian king in 539 BC, as vividly described in Daniel chapter 5. The Medes were an Iranian people, closely allied at that time to the Persians. If you have time, you can read the vivid prophetic and poetic description of the death of the king of Babylon in Isaiah14:9-23.

 

Read Isaiah 14:24-27

Q 2. What was going to happen to Assyria? What do we learn about God from these verses?

 

We have already read in Isaiah 10:16 of God’s plan for the Assyrians – now we read this will happen in “my land”. In study 5 we will see how this came true.

 

Note:

There is a time marker in 14:28, the year that king Ahaz died and Hezekiah became king, probably 716 BC. Perhaps the writings after this point in Isaiah came in the reign of Hezekiah.

 

Read Isaiah 16:5

This verse comes in the middle of a sad oracle against Moab, Judah’s neighbour on the other side of the Dead Sea. The word in the NIV translated “love” can be translated “lovingkindness”, “steadfast love” or “mercy”.

 

Q 3. What do we learn about God’s king from this verse?

Extra reading

If you are from Egypt, have Egyptian friends or are interested in events in the Middle East, you should read Chapter 19 of Isaiah, especially verses 19-25. Ask God to bless Egypt with Syria, Turkey, Iraq and Iran (the four modern countries which made up the Assyrian empire) and Israel.

 

Read Isaiah 20

As Isaiah chapters 1 to 5 showed us the background to Isaiah’s important vision of the King, the Lord Almighty, in the temple, so Isaiah chapters 20-35 help us to understand the background to events that king Hezekiah and Isaiah shared in chapters 36 to 39. Sargon king of Assyria destroyed the northern kingdom and resettled other ethnic groups there in 722 BC. Sargon was a fierce fighter, plundering many nations. In about 715 BC Egypt (which at that period had leaders who were ethnically from Northern Sudan or Cush) rebelled against Assyria. Sargon’s records show he captured Ashdod in Philistia in about 712 BC because Ashdod’s leader had joined Egypt’s rebellion against Assyria. Maybe 715 to 712 BC was the 3-year period of Isaiah’s acted message (20:3). Philistia (roughly modern Gaza, on the Mediterranean coast) became an Assyrian province. Egypt continued its conflict with Assyria until the Assyrians finally overthrew the Cushite rulers of Egypt in about 667 BC (see Figure 2).

 

Q 4. How was Isaiah instructed to dress, and what was the message given by his shocking, embarrassing behaviour? What do you imagine Isaiah and his family felt like during this three-year period?

 

Note:

The magnificent 10 ton, 5m high human-headed winged bulls from Sargon’s 240-room palace in Khorsabad (near Nineveh, in modern northern Iraq) are displayed in the British Museum.

 

In chapter 21 through to 22:4, Isaiah saw visions of war involving countries to the east of Babylon (Elam and Media, 21:2) and south and east of Judah (Edom 21:11, Arabia 21:13) that resulted in the fall of Babylon (21:9). Isaiah was very emotionally disturbed by what he saw and by its effect on his people (21:3-4, 10 and 22:4).

 

Read Isaiah 22:7-25

The water supply to Jerusalem was a big problem in time of war, as it originated at a spring outside the city. The spring was protected by defensive walls but water not used by Jerusalem’s inhabitants overflowed outside the walls and could be used by the enemy (see Ahaz’s concern for the water supply when Jerusalem was under attack in Isaiah 7:3, study 2). In 2 Kings 20:20 and 2 Chronicles 32:30 we read that Hezekiah solved this problem – his civil engineers built a tunnel by which water was brought into the city. They blocked the upper outlet of the Gihon spring outside the city and channelled the water down to the west side of Jerusalem. A tunnel meeting this description can be seen today. It is 533m long through the limestone rock under Jerusalem, with a gradient of 0.6% so that the water flows, a height difference of only 30cm from start to finish. An inscription found in the tunnel records that the engineers started construction from both ends and met in the middle. The tunnel ends in a reservoir, the pool of Siloam inside the city, where water could disappear into a natural underground system.

 

Hezekiah worked hard to prepare for a siege by the king of Assyria. He blocked up the water sources outside Jerusalem to make life more difficult for the invaders, repaired all the broken sections of the wall of Jerusalem and built a second wall outside that. He made large numbers of weapons and shields, appointed military officers over the people, and reminded the people “with us is our God to help us and to fight our battles” (2 Chronicles 32:1-9).

 

Q 5. What was the attitude of the people of Jerusalem at this threatening time (verses 7-11, 13)? What did God say was the correct attitude (verses 11-12)? What did God think about their attitude (verse 14)?

 

Paul quotes from Isaiah 22:13 in 1 Corinthians 15:32 to warn against the influence of people who say there is no resurrection: “If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die””. Jesus’ resurrection changes our attitude.

 

Q 6. From 22:15-21, who was Shebna and what had he done that was wrong? What was going to happen to Shebna as a result?

 

Note:

We will read more about Shebna and Eliakim, officials of king Hezekiah, in study 5. An inscription has been discovered on the stone above a tomb cut in rock near the pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, referring to a royal steward, dated to the time of Hezekiah. The inscription curses anyone who breaks into the tomb, stating there is no silver or gold there. The stone is broken so the full name of the royal steward cannot be read but it is attributed to Shebna in the British Museum catalogue. Kings of Judah were buried inside Jerusalem. If this is Shebna’s grave, to prepare his tomb inside Jerusalem showed ambition for very high status.

 

Chapter 23 describes God’s plan for the proud, wealthy city of Tyre in modern Lebanon. The Phoenician people of Tyre were merchant seamen, exporting cedar wood and trading in Egyptian grain.

 

Chapter 24 gives an awful picture – God is going to lay waste the earth because the earth is defiled by its people who have disobeyed the laws (24:1, 4-6). 24:13-16 shows there would be some people left to praise God, like gleanings left after the grape harvest or olives after the olive harvest (see 17:6 for information on harvesting olives). But Isaiah was deeply disturbed (24:16) as he saw that these earth-shaking events result from the guilt of the earth’s rebellion (24:20). The Lord Almighty will punish the powers in the heavens and the kings on the earth and reign on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem gloriously (24:21-23). By chapter 25 Isaiah felt he could praise God.

 

Read Isaiah 25:1, 6-9.

Q 7. What is God going to do for all peoples and for his people (verses 6-8)?

 

Paul quotes Isaiah 25:8 in 1 Corinthians 15:54, writing to believers about the resurrection of Jesus which guarantees our own resurrection. At the final trumpet, the dead will be raised and we will be changed. Then “the saying that is written will come true “Death has been swallowed up in victory””. Another promise from Isaiah 25:8 is repeated in Revelation 7:17, talking about people from every nation in heaven – “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes”. Use Isaiah 25:1, 6-9 to praise God for what he has done for us.

 

Read Isaiah 26:1-9, 19

As he considered the future, Isaiah wrote a psalm of praise to God.

Q8. What right attitudes to God that we can share are described in these verses?

 

Isaiah described the attitude of the leaders in Jerusalem (for example Shebna) to the threat from Assyria in 22:7-14 – they were self-sufficient and materialistic. “Let us eat and drink” they said “for tomorrow we die!” (22:13). In chapter 28 Isaiah graphically describes those drunkards (28:1, 3, 7-10) who scoffed at Isaiah for being simple. They were trusting in a political agreement to save them from death.

 

Read Isaiah 28:14-20

Q 9. What was God’s message to the boasting rulers in Jerusalem who had made a lie their refuge (verses 16-20)?

 

Isaiah 28:16 was directly quoted by Peter in 1 Peter 2:6 as referring to the Lord Jesus. Peter said “to you who believe, this stone is precious”. Paul in Romans 9:33 and 10:11 twice used the last line of Isaiah 28:16 to assure us that anyone who trusts in Jesus will never be put to shame. Jesus is our sure foundation.

 

Chapter 29 contains four statements quoted by Jesus or Paul about people’s wrong attitudes that are relevant to us today. See Appendix Study 4.

 

In Isaiah 30 we read more about the lie of Isaiah 28:15, the agreement of which the rulers of Jerusalem boasted.

 

Read Isaiah 30:1-5, 15-16 and 31-33 and chapter 31

Q 10. What were the people in Jerusalem trusting in (30:1-5 and 16, 31:1)? What was wrong with their argument (e.g. 31:3)? How will God help them (30:31-32, 31:4-9)?

 

Note:

Hanes and Zoan (30:4) are thought to be cities in Egypt. Topheth (30:33) was a place in the valley of burning outside Jerusalem, Gehenna or Ben Hinnom, a symbol of hell. We shall see in the next study how 31:8-9 (and Isaiah 10:16) came true. We have already read in 10:16 that God will send a wasting disease upon the sturdy warriors of the king of Assyria, and in 14:24 that the Lord will crush the Assyrian “in my land”. In 31:8-9 we read – “Assyria will fall by a sword not of man…”.

 

Chapters 32 and 33 include warnings such as “In little more than a year you who feel secure will tremble; the grape harvest will fail… The fortress will be abandoned, the noisy city deserted” (32:10,14). There are also beautiful truths and promises, for example “The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness. He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge” (33:5-6). Chapter 34 is a message to the nations, including Judah’s neighbour and enemy Edom, that the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution, to uphold Zion’s cause (34:8).

 

Read Isaiah 35

Q 11. Where will the highway called the Way of Holiness lead, and who can walk on it? What does this poem mean to you?

 

Isaiah 35:3 is quoted in Hebrews 12:7-14 to encourage us to endure hardship as discipline: “God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness…Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees! Make level paths for your feet so that the lame may not be disabled but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no-one will see the Lord.”

 

Study 5 On whom are you depending? Isaiah 36 to 39

Isaiah was given his prophetic vision during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah (1:1). King Uzziah did what was right in the eyes of the Lord, but not wholeheartedly (2 Chronicles 25:2). When he became powerful his pride led to his downfall; he rebelled against God, became an isolated leper and had to watch his son, Jotham, running the kingdom (2 Chronicles 26:16-21). Isaiah saw the King, the Lord Almighty, in the temple in the year that king Uzziah died and Jotham became king (chapter 6). Jotham grew powerful because he walked steadfastly before the Lord his God (2 Chronicles 27:6). Isaiah writes nothing specifically about Jotham, but we can imagine the two young men had a good relationship.

 

Jotham’s son king Ahaz was a totally different man. He made idols for worshipping the pagan gods, and sacrificed his sons in the fire to these idols (2 Chronicles 28:2-3). Isaiah and his son “A Remnant Will Return” met king Ahaz at the end of the aquaduct of Jerusalem’s Upper Pool on the road to the Washerman’s Field in about 734 BC. Armies from two nations, Aram (Syria) and Israel, were fighting against Jerusalem and king Ahaz expected defeat. God’s message to king Ahaz through Isaiah was “Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not loose heart….it will not happen”. But king Ahaz would not respond to God’s offer of a sign and was warned “the Lord will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim (the northern kingdom) broke away from Judah – he will bring the king of Assyria” (Isaiah 7:3-17). In spite of this warning, Ahaz sent to the king of Assyria for help, gave him presents, took away the furnishings of the temple of God, shut the temple doors and built altars to idols in the streets (2 Kings 16:7-9, 2 Chronicles 28:24-25). When Ahaz died, although he was buried in Jerusalem, he was not buried in the tombs of the kings. And Hezekiah his son succeeded him as king (2 Chronicles 28:27, 29:1).

 

In the first month of the first year of his reign Hezekiah opened the temple doors. He organised and encouraged the temple workers (descended from Jacob’s son Levi) to purify the temple, which they did in an amazing 16 days. Early the next morning king Hezekiah gathered the city officials, who brought animals for a sin offering, sacrificed by the king’s orders to atone for the sins of all Israel, not just Judah (2 Chronicles 29:17-24). Next Hezekiah provided a burnt offering and musical accompaniment. The whole assembly bowed in worship while the singers sang and the trumpeters played until the burnt offering was completed. The king and the officials knelt and worshipped, while at the king’s orders the Levites sang with gladness psalms written by king David and Asaph. The people gave thank offerings, and Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced at what God had brought about for his people, because it was done so quickly (2 Chronicles 29:25-36). Hezekiah must have known that his father Ahaz had burnt one or more of Hezekiah’s brothers to death in idol worship. There was a good influence on Hezekiah’s life that did not come from his father. Was this influence from Isaiah? We can assume Hezekiah kept quiet during his father’s lifetime and planned what he would do when he became king. How pleased Isaiah must have been.

 

Hezekiah next sent an invitation through all Israel, not just his kingdom of Judah, to come to Jerusalem and celebrate Passover. The invitation said “People of Israel, return to the Lord…that he may return to you who are left, who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. …If you return to the Lord, then your brothers and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will come back to this land, for the Lord your God is gracious and compassionate”. See 2 Chronicles chapter 30:1-9. Hezekiah had heard God’s message and taken seriously the sign of Isaiah’s son “A Remnant Will Return”. Isaiah’s family must have felt it had all been worthwhile. Hezekiah’s invitation to Jerusalem for Passover met with a mixed response in wider Israel, but many people did accept (2 Chronicles 30:10-23). After 2 weeks of joyful celebrations in Jerusalem, on their way home the people destroyed the altars and high places for worshipping idols in Judah and neighbouring regions in northern Israel (2 Chronicles 31:1).

 

Hezekiah “held fast to the Lord and did not cease to follow him; he kept the commands the Lord had given Moses. And the Lord was with him; he was successful in whatever he undertook” (2 Kings 18:6-7). About 90 years later, about 608 BC, the elders of Judah begged king Jehoiakim not to kill the prophet Jeremiah but follow his great-great-grand father Hezekiah’s good example. Hezekiah had respected the prophet Micah’s damning message from God that, because of the hypocrisy of her leaders, Jerusalem would be ploughed like a field, become a heap of rubble and the temple hill an overgrown mound (Micah 3:12, Jeremiah 26:17-19). Because Hezekiah feared the Lord and sought the Lord’s favour, the Lord relented and did not bring this disaster on Jerusalem until 586 BC.

 

Hezekiah “rebelled against the king of Assyria and did not serve him. From watchtower to fortified city, he defeated the Philistines, as far as Gaza and its territory” (2 Kings 18:7-8). Hezekiah’s military success in the region and his refusal to pay tax to the king of Assyria provoked a reaction. From about 703 BC onwards, Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked Tyre, the Philistines, Egypt and all the fortified cities of Judah, including the major town of Lachish, 30 miles south-west of Jerusalem. “So Hezekiah king of Judah sent this message to the king of Assyria at Lachish: “I have done wrong. Withdraw from me, and I will pay you whatever you demand of me.” The king of Assyria exacted from Hezekiah king of Judah 10 tons of silver and 1 ton of gold. So Hezekiah gave him all the silver that was found in the temple of the Lord and in the treasuries of the royal palace. At this time Hezekiah stripped off the gold with which he had covered the doors and doorposts of the temple of the lord, and gave it to the king of Assyria” (2 Kings 18:13-15). Strangely, Sennacherib’s record of this tribute, which Sennacherib said included Hezekiah’s own daughters, is inscribed under the stomach of a winged bull from Nineveh (his capital city), dated 701 BC, now in the British Museum.

 

Read Isaiah 36

Sennacherib records he deported 200,150 people from 46 fortified cities of Judah, young and old, male and female. Stone panels from Nineveh (now in the British Museum) depict war technology, men skinned alive and impaled on stakes, people going into exile and animals loaded with spoil. An inscription says “Sennacherib, king of the world, king of Assyria, he sat on an ivory clad throne and the booty of Lachish passed before him”. The year Sennacherib records was 701 BC, the year described in Isaiah 36.

 

Q 1. What words would you use to describe the Assyrian field commander and his attitude?

 

Q 2. What was the field commander’s message to Hezekiah (verses 4-10)? Was any of the message true?

 

Q 3. What was the field commander’s response to Eliakim, Shebna and Joah in verses 11-12?

 

Q 4. What was the field commander’s message to the people of Jerusalem (verses 14-20)? Was any of the message true?

 

Notes:

36:10 suggests Assyrian intelligence sources knew God’s words through Isaiah in 7:17-20, 8:7-8 and 10:5-6.

The field commander repeated “you are depending on Egypt” in verses 6 and 9 and said that was useless. See God’s words to Judah about their useless dependence on Egypt and Egyptian horses in 30:1-7 and 16, and 31:1-3.

Hamath (verse 19, near the modern Syrian town of Homs) and Sepharvaim (verse 19, probably on the Euphrates) had been conquered by the Assyrians, and people from those towns brought by the Assyrians to settle in Samaria in about 720 BC (2 Kings 17:24, 30). Tiglath-Pileser had besieged Arpad (verse 19, near the modern town of Aleppo in Syria) for 3 years before destroying it and massacring its inhabitants in about 738 BC. People in Jerusalem knew these place names and what had happened there, as we know the names of Homs and Aleppo today.

 

Q 5. Eliakim, Shebna, Joah and the people said nothing in reply because they obeyed Hezekiah’s order (36:21). Do you think Hezekiah’s order was sensible?

 

Q 6.

- We have all met atheists who tell us all “gods” are the same, worthless (36:18-20). How would you answer them?

- In our time, many people think it is good to respect everyone’s faith and accept everyone’s “gods” as equally valuable. How would you answer them?

 

Note:

Shebna, who was “in charge of the palace” when we met his name in Isaiah 22:15, was by now the secretary (the scribe), while Eliakim son of Hilkiah was “in charge of the palace” – the same words that are translated in 22:15 in the NIV as “the palace administrator”. Isaiah 22:20-23 had come true. Eliakim had been given Shebna’s job.

 

Read Isaiah 37:1-13

Q 7. What message did king Hezekiah send to the prophet Isaiah through the palace officials?

 

Q 8. What message did Isaiah send back to king Hezekiah?

 

Notes:

30 years earlier, Hezekiah’s father, king Ahaz, had met Isaiah in the place described in 36:2, when Jerusalem was also in great peril from enemies. God said to king Ahaz “Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid” and Jerusalem was saved. Ahaz would not respond to God and God said he would bring against Ahaz, his house and his people the king of Assyria (Isaiah 7:3-4, 17). King Hezekiah may not have been surprised by the mind-set of the king of Assyria (see Isaiah 10:7-14). If he kept calm he could remember that God would send a wasting disease upon the king of Assyria’s sturdy warriors (10:16), that God would crush the Assyrian in God’s land (Judah) and on God’s mountains (14:25) and that Assyria would fall by a sword that was not of man (31:8). But Hezekiah did not know when this would happen – were these promises for him and for now? It is hard to remember and rely on God’s promises when we are very afraid.

Libnah (37:8) is thought to be near Lachish, towards the border with Philistine territory. Archaeologists suggest a site currently being investigated is Libnah.

 

Q 9. After the message from Isaiah in 37:5-7, the news that Tirhakah of Egypt was on the march and the threatening message from king Sennacherib (37:9-13), what do you think Hezekiah felt like?

 

Notes:

Egypt had made an alliance with Philistia, a country to Judah’s west that had been under Assyrian control since an earlier Egypt-Philistia alliance was crushed in 712 BC (see study 4, Isaiah 20). The Egyptian army came north to meet the Assyrians in 701 BC. This ended in defeat for Philistia and Egypt at Eltekek, a town in Philistia (modern Gaza) that Assyria destroyed. According to Sennacherib’s records, he then took the nearby Philistine town of Ekron and hung its inhabitants’ bodies on poles around the walls.

You can see a statue of the Egyptian pharaoh Taharqa (Tirhakah, Isaiah 37:9, he was Crown Prince in 701 BC) who was ethnically from Northern Sudan or Cush in the British Museum.

Gozan (37:12) was one of the districts on a tributary of the river Euphrates where Sargon king of Assyria had recently settled people he deported from the northern kingdom, Israel (2 Kings 17:6).

 

Read Isaiah 37:14-38

Q 10. What do we learn from verses 14 to 20 about Hezekiah’s relationship with God? Compare Hezekiah’s description of God in 37:4 with his words in 37:16-20. What did Hezekiah pray for and for what reason (verse 20)?

 

To think about: Hezekiah asked for God’s deliverance “so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God”. In our prayer requests, are we concerned for God’s glory?

 

Q 11. One answer to Hezekiah’s prayer was a poem from God in verses 22-29. What did king Sennacherib seem like from God’s perspective?

 

Note:

Assyrian stone pictures show nose-hooks (37:29) were used to lead and humiliate important prisoners. Hezekiah’s wicked son, king Manasseh, was taken prisoner by the army commander of the king of Assyria, who put a hook in his nose (2 Chronicles 33:11).

 

Q 12. From 37:30-38, list other answers to Hezekiah’s prayer and to the prayer Hezekiah asked Isaiah to make in 37:4.

 

Notes:

The answer to Sennacherib’s rhetorical question in 37:13 “Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvraim or of Hena or Ivvah?” would have been well known to king Hezekiah. Probably the answer would be “skinned alive”.

Unusually, in his campaign records Sennacherib does not claim he captured Hezekiah, just that he made him “a prisoner in Jerusalem, his royal residence, like a bird in a cage”. He calls him “The overbearing and proud Hezekiah”. Sennacherib’s palace wall pictures were not of the capital city of Judah but of his successful siege of Lachish.

Sennacherib was assassinated in 681 BC (37:38). Babylonian records confirm his son killed him in a rebellion. Sennacherib’s god Nisroch (37:38) was useless to protect him. Hezekiah did not live to see the fulfilment of the prophecy in 37:7 “… he will return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword”. By then Hezekiah’s son Manasseh was king of Judah. It is possible that Isaiah was in his eighties in 681 BC.

 

Read Isaiah 38

Q 13. Hezekiah was a king with great responsibilities in turbulent times. He became ill. From 38:1-14, what was Hezekiah thinking as he lay with his face to the wall?

 

Q 14. From 38:15-22, what had Hezekiah learnt personally from this experience?

 

Read Isaiah 39

Q 15. Why do you think Hezekiah acted as he did in verses 1-4 and thought like he did in verse 8?

 

There is a comment in 2 Chronicles 32:31: “But when envoys were sent by the rulers of Babylon to ask him about the miraculous sign that had occurred in the land, God left him to test him and to know everything that was in his heart”. For more information about Merodoch-Baladan (39:1) and the order of the events in Isaiah chapters 36 to 39, see Appendix Study 5.

 

In chapters 36 and 37 we see how the prophecies, promises and warnings about Assyria and Egypt in chapters 7 to 31 worked out in history. After chapter 38:6 there is only one brief reference to Assyria (52:4) and no more warnings about depending on Egypt.

 

The overthrow of Babylon was prophesied in chapters 13:1,19, 14:4, 22 and 21:9; Isaiah foresaw that God would stir up the Medes against Babylon (13:17). In 39:5-7 Isaiah predicted that Jerusalem’s treasures and some of Hezekiah’s descendants would be carried off to Babylon. In chapters 45 to 48 there are more prophecies about Cyrus who will carry out God’s chosen purpose against Babylon, rebuild God’s city and set the exiles free (48:13). Thus chapters 36 to 39 are a historical bridge between a section concentrating on Assyria and a section revealing more about Babylon.

 

Q 16. What can we learn about God from this period in history?

 

To think about: On what are we basing this confidence of ours (36:4)? On whom are we depending (36:5)? Look at the positive statements challenged by the enemy in 36:7 and 18, 37:10 and God’s promises in 37:35, 38:6. How can we train ourselves to distinguish good from evil and defend ourselves from enemy attack? See for example the challenge in Hebrews 5:11-14 “…you are slow to learn …You need milk, not solid food! …solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” See also Ephesians 6:10-18 “Put on the full armour of God, saying that they were fulfilled in John , so that when the day of evil comes you may be able to stand your ground … pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, keep alert and always keep on praying for all the saints”. King Hezekiah’s prayer in Isaiah 37:15-20 can help us pray.

 

Study 6 Here is your God; Here is my Servant Isaiah 40 to 45

For 20 years before the attack on Jerusalem by the Assyrian king Sennacherib, Judah had been the only remaining part of the original united kingdom of Israel. In about 722 BC the Assyrian king Sargon had destroyed the northern kingdom, deported many people and resettled other ethnic groups there. Judah had been expecting an attack by the king of Assyria. Common sense said it would come; since the time of king Ahaz, king Hezekiah’s father, God had been warning it would come. They had prepared in every way. Hezekiah’s engineers had brought the water supply into Jerusalem and cut off any water source for the enemy. The walls had been strengthened and military equipment manufactured (2 Chronicles 32:1-9). They had made a strategic alliance with Egypt (Isaiah 30:1-5). Hezekiah had tried to pay Sennacherib off with heavy tribute (2 Kings 18:13-15). Sennacherib, king of Assyria, had attacked and destroyed the fortified cities of Judah. Now he was besieging Lachish, a city just 30 miles from Jerusalem (Isaiah 36:1-2). The field commander with a large army had come to the gates of Jerusalem, mocked Hezekiah and God, and addressed the people directly with his propaganda of submission. King Hezekiah, the palace officials and leading priests, dressed in the sackcloth of mourning and repentance, asked Isaiah to pray. It was 701 BC.

 

God said through Isaiah “Do not be afraid”. God promised he would put a spirit in Sennacherib so that when he heard a certain report he would return to his own country and be assassinated (Isaiah 37:7). King Sennacherib totally defeated the fortified city of Lachish, the last city he would destroy, and heard of the advance of the Egyptian army towards Philistia. Postponing his plans for the siege of Jerusalem, he wrote a threatening letter to king Hezekiah, saying he would be back. Hezekiah prayed “Now, O Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God” (Isaiah 37:20). Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. Sennacherib withdrew from Judah, defeated the Egyptian army and returned home to decorate his palace with pictures of his defeat of Lachish. According to Sennacherib’s own records, he had destroyed 46 cities of Judah and deported 200,150 people of all ages. Many others would have died.

 

The agricultural cycle had been broken by war. But Hezekiah had been promised by God that, although for 2 years people would eat what grew by itself, by about 699 BC they would be sowing and reaping and planting vineyards (Isaiah 37:30-32). Responsibility for feeding his people, rebuilding the cities of Judah and maintaining national security lay with king Hezekiah; the remnant of the house of Judah and Jerusalem had hard work to do.

 

Maybe 40 years before this, on the day he saw the King in the temple, Isaiah had been sent by God to tell the people of Judah and Jerusalem: “Be ever hearing but never understanding; be ever seeing but never perceiving”. Isaiah had asked “For how long, O Lord?” And God answered: “Until the cities lie ruined and without inhabitant, until the houses are left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged, until the Lord has sent everyone far away and the land is utterly forsaken. And although a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land” (Isaiah 6:9-13). Isaiah may have felt that time had come. From now on he received new messages for Jerusalem and Judah.

 

Read Isaiah 40

Q 1. In verses 1-11, what messages did God ask Isaiah to give his people, Jerusalem and the towns of Judah?

 

Note:

Isaiah 40:3-5 reminds us of the Way of Holiness on which the ransomed, redeemed of the Lord will walk (Isaiah 35:8-10). Isaiah 40:3-5 is fulfilled in the New Testament. Matthew, Mark and Luke all referenced these verses in Isaiah directly, saying that they were fulfilled in John the Baptist. See Matthew 3:1-3, Luke 3:4-6. Mark wrote in Mark 1:2-4 “It is written in Isaiah the prophet: “I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way – a voice of one calling in the desert, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him’’. And so John came, baptising in the desert and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”. John the Baptist identified himself as the voice in Isaiah 40:3 (John 1:23).

 

Q 2. Hezekiah had prayed for deliverance from attack by the God-mocking king of Assyria “so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God” (37:20). How do verses 12-26 show us that the Lord God is unique?

 

Notes:

Notice the repeated questions about God in verses 12-26, many of which start “Who…?” or “To whom…?” and the repeated statements about God in verses 15 to 29, many of which start “He…”.

Paul in Romans chapters 3 to 11 considered the grace of God to the Gentiles (non-Jews) and the mercy that will be shown to Israel. He then used 2 questions from Isaiah 40:13 to express his worship of the unsearchable God: “Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counsellor?” (Romans 11:34).

 

Q 3. The people that remained in Israel complained that God had ignored them (verse 27). In verses 28-31 what was Isaiah’s message to these weak and weary people?

 

Read Isaiah 41:1-14

Q 4. What did God say about the mysterious “one from the east” in verses 2-4? How did the islands and the ends of the earth respond to the “one from the east” (verses 5-7)?

 

Q 5. The people of Israel were afraid (verses 10, 13 and 14). In verses 8-10 and 13-14, how did God describe Israel, and what did he promise them?

 

Notes:

Isaiah 41:7 repeats some ideas from Isaiah 40:19-20 about idols that topple over.

Isaiah 41:14 introduces a title of God “your Redeemer”, used frequently from now on in Isaiah.

Read Isaiah 41:21-29

Q 6. What strong argument did God use against idols in verses 22-23 and 26-27? What did God say about the mysterious “one from the north” and “one from the rising sun” (verses 25-27)?

 

Note:

Chapter 41:26-27 state that God gave the facts about “the one from the north”, “one from the rising sun” to prove to people that, unlike their idols (verses 22-23), God can foretell what the future holds.

Read Isaiah 42:1-9

Q 7. What did God say about his servant in verses 1-7? To whom will God’s servant bring justice (verses 1 and 4) and for whom will God’s servant be a covenant and a light (verse 6)?

 

Notes:

Matthew referenced Isaiah 42:1-4 when describing Jesus’ refusal of publicity in Matthew 12:14-21: “The Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, warning them not to tell who he was. This was to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. He will not quarrel or cry out; no-one will hear his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smouldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory. In his name the nations will put their hope”.

Peter and the early disciples used the title “servant” (Isaiah 42:1) to describe Jesus in Acts 3:13 (“the God of our fathers has glorified his servant Jesus”), Acts 3:26 (“When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you”), Acts 4:27 (“to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed”) and Acts 4:30 (“through the name of your holy servant Jesus”). We can expect Peter and the early disciples had in mind the prediction of Isaiah in chapter 42:1-9.

 

Read Isaiah 42:18-22

Q 8. What did God say about his servant in verses 18-22? Do you think this is the same servant as in 42:1-9 or as in 41:8-9? Explain your answer.

 

Read Isaiah 42:23-25 and 43:1-13.

Q 9.

- Why did the violence and flames of war consume Israel (42:23-25)?

- Describe God’s relationship to Israel (43:1-4).

- What will God do for Israel (43:4-7)?

- 43:9-13 picture a court of law with the nations and Israel called as witnesses for foreign gods and the Lord. What can the Lord’s witnesses say about the Lord?

 

Read Isaiah 44:6-20

Q 10. What strong arguments did God use against people who make idols in

- verses 6-8

- verses 9-20?

 

Read Isaiah 44:2-26

Q 11. What did God say of:

- Israel (44:21-23)?

- Himself (44:24-26)?

- Jerusalem and the towns of Judah (44:26)?

 

Read 44:28, 45:1-7, 13.

Q12. What did the Lord say about Cyrus (44:28, 45:1-5, 13)?

 

Cyrus who? And why should Jerusalem need rebuilding and the temple need its foundations laid (44:28)? Sennacherib destroyed the cities of Judah in about 701 BC but left Jerusalem intact. After Sennacherib’s destruction of Babylon in 698 BC, the Babylonians slowly built up their power and obtained revenge by defeating Assyria (about 612 BC). The Babylonian Empire thrived and carried the people of Judah and Jerusalem into exile in Babylon from about 597 BC onwards, finally destroying Jerusalem and the temple in 587 BC. For Isaiah, the era of Babylonian power was about 80 years in the future; the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem was about 110 years ahead. The overthrow of Babylon was about 160 years ahead – Babylon was overthrown by Cyrus, king of Media, king of Persia, king of Babylon, in 539 BC, as Daniel records. Cyrus allowed some exiles, “a remnant”, to return to Jerusalem and Judah, beginning in 538 BC as described by Ezra. The famous Cyrus cylinder in the British Museum, discovered in the foundations of Babylon, describes Cyrus’s policy of returning exiles to their own lands to build temples to worship their own gods.

 

Do we believe that the God whom Isaiah has described in chapters 40-45 can fulfil the predictions of his messengers (44:26) and specifically name Cyrus about 160 years before the event? If we do not believe this, we will have to say that Isaiah 40-45 was not written by Isaiah but by someone else, writing at least 160 years later, writing godly literature but deliberately making a fake argument that the Lord had foretold the future. But we have seen that Isaiah predicted the overthrow of Babylon by the Medes in Isaiah 13:17-19, and the exile of the Jewish people to Babylon in Isaiah 39. The prediction about John the Baptist in Isaiah 40:3 and about God’s servant Jesus in Isaiah 42:1-4 reach ahead not just 160 years but over 700 years into the future.

 

Read Isaiah 45:16-25

Q 13. What did God say of:

- Himself (45:18-19, 21-22)?

- The makers of idols (16, 20)?

- Israel (45:17, 25)?

- Everybody (22-24)?

 

Note:

In his letter to the believers in Rome, Paul quoted Isaiah 45:23 to remind us that we will all stand before God’s judgement seat: “It is written “As surely as I live” says the Lord, “Every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God”. So then each of us will give an account of ourselves to God” (Romans 14:10-12). Paul gives the idea in Isaiah 45:23 a wider meaning in the poem about Jesus in Philippians 2:10-11: “ …that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.

 

Q 14. What reasons do Isaiah 40 to 45 give us to trust in God?

 

To think about: How do chapters 40 to 45 of Isaiah help us to describe to our friends the God we believe in?

 

[]A Summary of Isaiah’s Vision Concerning Judah and Jerusalem Isaiah 1 to 45

Isaiah’s book is long, written mostly in poetry, and involves historical events with which we are unfamiliar. It’s easy to forget what we have already read. You might like to write your own review of what you have read in chapters 1 to 45 but, if you need it, here is a summary.

 

In the first five chapters of his book, Isaiah described the moral state of Judah and its capital city Jerusalem perhaps around 740 BC. In chapter 1 the people were described by different Hebrew words for “rebels”. God said ““If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land, but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword”. For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 1:19-20). God warned of food and water scarcity, death in battle and exile (Isaiah 3:1-2, 25-26, 5:13, 25). He had sent a signal to a fierce enemy coming from the ends of the earth (5:25-30). Yet in the same chapters there is a beautiful promise of peace among nations (2:3-4) and a promise that those who remain in Jerusalem, all who are recorded among the living, will be called holy (4:3). When Isaiah saw the King, the Lord Almighty, in the temple in Jerusalem, he was told to speak to people who would not hear or see or understand, until the cities lay ruined, the houses were left deserted and the Lord had sent everyone away. Although a tenth remained in the land, it would again be laid waste. But like the stump of a cut-down tree, the holy seed will be the stump in the land (Isaiah 6). Isaiah’s sons’ names reflected this message: “A Remnant Will Return” and “Quick to the Plunder, Swift to the Spoil” (7:3, 8:3).

 

In about 732 BC, Isaiah gave God’s message to unbelieving, idol-worshipping king Ahaz: “The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father…the king of Assyria” (Isaiah 7:17). This warning was followed by a promise “To us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace…He will reign on David’s throne…for ever” (Isaiah 9:6-7). God also promised that the king of Assyria, although he was acting as the rod of God’s anger, would be punished for his wilful pride; the Lord will send a wasting disease upon the king of Assyria’s sturdy warriors (10:12-19). Isaiah spoke of someone coming, descended from Jesse, king David’s father, who would be a righteous judge and have the Spirit of the Lord (11:1-5). There will be a time when “they will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (11:1-10). In Isaiah’s time the military super-power was Assyria; Judah was sandwiched between the Assyrian Empire to the north and east and the decaying super-power Egypt to the south. Peace among nations was as unlikely then as it is now.

 

In chapter 13 Isaiah was given an oracle concerning Babylon, on the far eastern edge of the Assyrian Empire, at that time struggling to assert its identity under Assyrian occupation. “The Lord is mustering an army for war. They come from faraway lands…See I will stir up against them the Medes, who do not care for silver, and have no delight in gold…Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the glory of the Babylonians’ pride, will be overthrown by God” (Isaiah 13:4-5, 17-19). Babylon was going to have a great impact on the house of Israel: “On the day the Lord gives you relief from suffering and turmoil and cruel bondage, you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon: “How the oppressor has come to an end!”” (Isaiah 14:3-4). The exile of the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judah to Babylon was witnessed by the prophets Jeremiah and Daniel (597-587 BC). The overthrow of Babylon by the king of the Medes and Persians was witnessed by the prophet Daniel (539 BC). Isaiah told us (1:1) that he was writing in about 740 BC to 687 BC approximately. So he was foreseeing events approximately 160 years ahead in his nation’s history.

 

Meanwhile the leaders of Judah were preoccupied with the Assyrian threat. God promised “I will crush the Assyrian in my land: on my mountains I will trample him down. His yoke will be removed from my people” (Isaiah 14:25). The northern kingdom of Israel was turned into a province of Assyria in 722 BC. In 712 BC the king of Assyria attacked and captured the Philistine city of Ashdod, centre of a rebellion against Assyria in Judah’s western neighbour Philistia. Isaiah was told “the king of Assyria will lead away stripped and barefoot the Egyptian captives and Cushite exiles” (Isaiah 20). This happened in about 667 BC. Jerusalem’s leaders made practical preparations for siege (22:8-11) but left God out of their plans (22:11-14). Despite Isaiah’s warning that Egypt’s help was utterly useless, Judah’s leaders made an alliance with Egypt (Isaiah 30:1-5 and 31:1-3). God told Isaiah to make a written record: “These are rebellious people … children unwilling to listen to the Lord’s instruction. They say to … the prophets “Give us no more visions of what is right! … stop confronting us with the Holy One of Israel!” (Isaiah 30:8-11). But God added to his promises of a wasting disease afflicting the Assyrian army in the land of Israel in 10:12-19 and 14:25 another promise in 31:8 “Assyria will fall by a sword not of man”.

 

This section of Isaiah contains precious promises and songs of praise. “On this mountain … the Lord Almighty will swallow up death for ever. The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces … This is the Lord, we trusted in him, and he saved us” (Isaiah 25:6-9). “You will keep him in perfect peace, him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you” (26:3). “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed” (28:16). The section ends with the vision of a Way of Holiness on which the redeemed and ransomed of the Lord will walk to return and enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads (Isaiah 35:8-10).

 

The army of the king of Assyria came to Jerusalem with many threats and insults to God, considering God as just another idol to be captured. In great distress, king Hezekiah prayed “Now, O Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God” (Isaiah 37:20). Then the angel of the Lord went out and put to death 185,000 men in the Assyrian camp. But Assyrian king Sennacherib had already attacked and captured all the fortified cities of Judah. According to his own records, Sennacherib had deported 200,150 men, women and children from Judah. Agriculture had been destroyed. After the invasion Isaiah’s task to tell the people God’s message until the cities of Judah lay ruined, the houses were left deserted and the fields ruined and ravaged (Isaiah 6:11) might have been completed. Isaiah’s final task might have been to pass on the message: “And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste (6:13)” and tell king Hezekiah “The time will come when everything in your palace…will be carried off to Babylon. And some of your descendants…will be taken away and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon” (Isaiah 39:5-7).

 

But God next spoke words of tender comfort, good news and encouragement to the fearful and weary city of Jerusalem; the Sovereign Lord looks after his flock like a shepherd (Isaiah 40:1-2, 9-11). He said to Israel “Fear not, I have redeemed you, I have summoned you by name, you are mine… Do not be afraid, for I am with you” (43:1-5). Isaiah wrote of God the Creator who gives strength to the weary (40:28-29). As in 9:6-7, 11:1-5 and 16:5, Isaiah continued to point to the coming of Jesus. Isaiah 40:3 was used by John the Baptist to explain his mission to prepare the way for the Christ, and 42:1-4 was used by Matthew to explain why Jesus withdrew from publicity. While God used the term “my servant” to apply to Israel (Isaiah 41:8-10, 43:10, 44:1-2, 21, 45:4), he also used it to describe to one in the future who we now know to be Jesus (42:1-7, see Matthew 12:14-21).

 

The Assyrian king and army commander had equated God with the helpless idols of the nations the army had conquered (36:18-20, 37:12). Isaiah contrasted the power and knowledge of the creator God (40:12-18, 21-26) with the idol of wood and metal that was in danger of toppling over (40:19-20, 41:7, 44:12-20). The idols were unable to explain the outcome of things from the past or declare things to come (41:22-23). But God fulfils the predictions of his messengers (44:26). God has stirred up “one from the east … he hands nations over to him and subdues kings before him” (41:2-3), “one from the north and he comes – one from the rising sun who calls on my name. He treads on rulers as if they were mortar … Who told this from the beginning so that we could know? … No-one told of this … I was the first to tell Zion” (41:25-27). God says of Cyrus “He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem “Let it be rebuilt”, and of the temple “Let its foundations be laid”” (44:28); “I will raise up Cyrus … He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but not for a price or a reward” (45:13). As described by Ezra (Ezra 1), Cyrus, king of Media, king of Persia, overthrew Babylon in 539 BC and sent Jewish exiles back from Babylon to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. We have read in Isaiah 45 that God repeatedly said “I am the Lord and there is no other” (45:5, 6, 18, 22), “apart from me there is no God” (45:5), “there is no God apart from me…there is none but me” (45:21). Isaiah tells us God is unique.

 

Study 7 This is What the Lord Says – Listen Isaiah 46 to 52

Isaiah tells us he spoke God’s words. In the last 4 chapters we have read 11 times “This is what the Lord says…” (42:5, 43:1,14,16, 44:2, 6, 24 and 45:1, 11, 14 and 18). We will read “This is what the Lord says…” 8 times more in chapters 48 to 52. God asked his hearers to listen to him in 44:1 and we will read “listen”, “listen to me” or “hear me” 12 more times in chapters 46-52. Ask God to help you to listen to what he is saying to you in this study.

 

Read Isaiah 46

Notes:

Bel (as in the name of the Babylonian ruler Belshazzar who saw the writing on the wall (Daniel 5:1)) and Nebo (as in the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 2:1)) were gods of Babylon.

Isaiah repeated pairs of verbs, translated in the NIV as carry, uphold, bear, sustain and lift, to show that, while people carried idols, God carried Israel. The verb pairs are in verses 1 (applied to idols) and 3 (applied to God), verses 3 (God) and 7 (idols) and verses 4 (God) and 7 (idols).

 

Q1. What is the contrast made between Bel, Nebo (verses 1-2) and God (verses 3-4)?

 

Q2. To whom was God speaking in verses 3-5 and 8-13? How did he describe them (3, 8,12)? What was God’s purpose and plan for them (4, 11, 13)?

 

Notes:

The bird of prey summoned from the east, the man from a far-off land who will fulfil God’s purpose (46:11), refers back to 41:2 and 41:25 where God stirs up and calls one from the east and north to his service, one who calls on God’s name and treads on rulers; also to 44:28 and 45:1-4, where God names this person as Cyrus and says he “will accomplish all that I please, he will say of Jerusalem “Let it be rebuilt” and of the temple “Let its foundations be laid””. 45:3-4 says twice of Cyrus that God has summoned him “by name”, although Cyrus does not acknowledge God. 45:13 says “He will rebuild my city and set my exiles free, but not for a price or a reward, says the Lord Almighty”. Looking back, we see that these verses spoke of Judah’s liberation from exile in Babylon by Cyrus, king of Persia, king of Media. and of his order to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. See 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 and Ezra chapter 1. God’s words written by Isaiah must have been a great comfort to Jewish believers when these events were fulfilled about 160 years later, just as our faith is strengthened by God’s words about Jesus written by Isaiah and fulfilled about 700 years later. God knows the future and his plan can be trusted.

Chapter 47 is a poem about the destruction of Babylon – a catastrophe the Babylonians could not foresee would suddenly come upon them (47:11), in a single day (47:9). Daniel described this in Daniel 5. The Babylonian interest in predicting the future by astrology is described in 47:12-13.

 

Read Isaiah 48

Q 3. To whom was God speaking in this chapter and how did he describe them in verses 1-2, 4, 8, 20?

 

Q 4. Why did God foretell things in the past (5-6)? Why was God telling Israel new things that they have not heard of before (6-7)? What future things was God predicting in 14-15, 20? (See also the note on 46:11 above).

 

Q 5. God said “Listen” in 48:1, 12, 14 and 16. How could Israel have had peace like a river (17-19)?

 

To think about: Are we listening to God?

 

Note:

Chapter 48:20 is the last mention of Babylon in Isaiah.

Read Isaiah 49:1-9a

Q 6a. What was the servant going to do and be (verses 5-7)?

 

Notes:

Paul and Barnabas quoted Isaiah 49:6b to Jewish people in a town now in modern Turkey. The Jews there refused to believe in Jesus as the Christ (Messiah) and Paul and Barnabas turned to speak to the Gentiles (non-Jews) saying “For this is what the Lord has commanded us: “I have made you (singular) a light for the Gentiles, that you (singular) may bring salvation to the ends of the earth”” (Acts 13:47). Paul and Barnabas were using Isaiah 49:6 to show God’s purpose for the Messiah.

Verses 8-9a are similar to Isaiah 42:6-7, which we presume refers to Jesus – Isaiah 42:1-4 is quoted in the New Testament (Matthew 12:14-21) as referring to Jesus.

 

Q 6b. Who do you think is the servant (verses 3 and 5-6)? Do you think Israel mentioned in verse 3 is the nation of Israel? What do you think is the significance of verse 4?

 

Note:

Paul quoted Isaiah 49:8 in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 as part of his urgent appeal imploring his readers to be reconciled to God. Speaking of Jesus, the apostle Paul said: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favour I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you”. I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation”.

 

Read Isaiah 49:9b-21

Q 7. What will happen to those who are released from captivity and darkness (9b-12)?

 

Q 8. From verse 14, what did the people of Jerusalem feel like after 701 BC? What comfort did God give his people in verses 13-21?

 

Q 9. If you had been deported from Jerusalem to Babylon and were reading the book of Isaiah in exile, what do you think Isaiah 49:14-21 would mean to you?

Read Isaiah 50:4-9

Q 10. What is happening to the person who is speaking these words?

 

Q 11. Who do you think is speaking in these verses? Explain your answer. What has the Sovereign Lord done for the speaker (verses 4,5,7,9)?

 

Notes:

Pilate had Jesus flogged (Matthew 27:26, John 19:1, Isaiah 50:6). The officials of the High Priest (Matthew 26:67, Mark 14:65, Luke 22:63-65 and John 18:22) and the Roman soldiers (Matthew 27:27-31, Mark 15:16-20, and John 19:1-3) struck Jesus in the face, spat on him and mocked him, as did Herod and his soldiers (Luke 23:11).

Paul quoted two of the three questions from Isaiah 50:8-9 to encourage us and provided answers in Romans 8:33-34: “Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies” and “Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, who was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us”.

 

Read Isaiah 51:4-8, 11-16

Q 12. How do these verses comfort us and help us not to be frightened by insults and oppression?

 

Note:

Chapter 51:11 repeats 35:10, the final verse before Isaiah’s account of the attack by the king of Assyria, Sennacherib, on the cities of Judah and the threat to Jerusalem.

 

Read Isaiah 52:7-10

Q 13. What is the good news and comfort for Jerusalem, and for all the nations, in these verses?

 

Notes:

The words “good news” or their Old English equivalent “gospel” are used many times in the New Testament. Mark begins his gospel “The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ”.

Isaiah 52:7 was quoted by Paul in Romans to show that both Jews and Gentiles need to hear the good news about Jesus: … “And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news”. But not all the Israelites accepted the good news. For Isaiah says “Lord, who has believed our message?”” (Romans 10:14-16, Isaiah 53:1). Paul walked thousands of miles to tell people the good news about Jesus. By our time there has been great progress in bringing news of the salvation of our God to the ends of the earth, and we ourselves have the responsibility to bring good news and proclaim salvation.

 

Read Isaiah 52:13-15

Q 14. What can we learn about the servant from these verses? Compare this with what we learnt about the servant in Isaiah 49:6-7 and 50:6-7.

 

Notes:

For the translation of verse 15a “”so will he sprinkle many nations” see the alternative in the footnote in your bible “so will many nations marvel at him”. Sprinkling is an Old Testament picture of cleansing, applied to our cleansing by the sacrifice of Jesus in Hebrews 9:14, 10:19-22 and 1 Peter 1:2.

Following the idea of “many nations” in Isaiah 52:15a, Paul used 52:15b as a statement about his concern for non-Jewish people in regions as far away as modern Croatia, where Christ was not known, to whom he had always had the ambition to preach the good news: “Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand” (Romans 15:21).

 

Use what you have read to thank God for sending his servant, Jesus, and to thank the Lord Jesus for what he has done. Next, Isaiah in chapter 53 gives a beautiful full description of what Jesus has done and is doing for us.

 

Study 8 The Punishment that Brought Us Peace was on Him Isaiah 53 to 56

When Isaiah in the temple saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, with the seraphs calling “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty”, Isaiah said “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty”. One of the angels flew with a live coal from the altar and said “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for” (Isaiah 6:1-7).

 

God said to the people of Judah and Jerusalem in Isaiah 1:18-19 ““Come now, let us reason together” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow, thought they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool””. God said in Isaiah 40:1-2 after the horrendous events of 701 BC: “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins”. God said in Isaiah 43:25 “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more”, and in Isaiah 44:21-22 “I have made you, you are my servant; O Israel, I will not forget you. I have swept away your offences like a cloud, your sins like the morning mist. Return to me, for I have redeemed you”. Do we have to pay for our sins? How can we? How can God take away our guilt, blot out our transgressions, sweep away our offences and redeem us? Isaiah 53 describes the indescribable.

 

Read Isaiah 53

God described the person in Isaiah 53 as “my servant” (52:13) and “my righteous servant” (53:11).

 

Q 1. What happened to our infirmities, our sorrows, our iniquities and the sin of many (verses 4, 6, 11-12)?

 

Q 2. What did it cost Him to do this (verses 3-9)?

 

Q 3. What was the Lord’s will for his Servant (verse 10)?

 

Q 4. What happened to Him after his life was made a guilt offering (verses 9-12)?

 

Notes:

Verse 1 The answer to the question “to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” was given in 52:10: “The Lord will lay bare his holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God”.

Verse 4. Matthew wrote that Jesus fulfilled the first lines of this verse: “Many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfil what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: “He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases”” (Matthew 8:16-17).

Verses 5-9. Peter quoted from Isaiah 53:5-9 in his first letter to challenge our behaviour, especially when we suffer unjustly (1 Peter 2:21-25). “Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth”. When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls”.

Maybe only a year after the death and resurrection of Jesus, God sent Philip the evangelist to meet an important official in charge of the treasury of the queen of the Ethiopians. This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, travelling about 2,000 km by boat and road. In Jerusalem he would not have been allowed to enter even the part of the temple that was open to foreigners (Gentiles) as he was an eunuch (Deuteronomy 23:1). He had obtained the book of Isaiah the prophet which he was reading as he travelled home by chariot. When Philip reached him, the words he was reading were these: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before the shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth. In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth”. The eunuch asked Philip “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” Then Philip began with that very passage of scripture and told him the good news about Jesus (Acts 8:26-39).

Verse 9. The grave assigned to Jesus by the Roman authorities would have been a mass grave for criminals. Read Matthew 27:57-60 to see how Jesus was assigned a grave with the rich.

Verse 10. The life of the Lord’s righteous servant is made a guilt offering (verse 10). Under the Law God gave Moses, if people sin and do what is forbidden in any of the Lord’s commands, even though they do not know it, they are guilty and will be held responsible. The person is to bring to the priest as a guilt offering a ram without defect and of the proper value and the animal will be killed. In this way the priest will make atonement for the wrong the person has committed unintentionally, and they will be forgiven. It is a guilt offering; the person has been guilty of wrong doing against the Lord (Leviticus 5:17-19). John the Baptist described Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

Verse 11. See the footnote in your bible for the alternative reading “He will see the result of the suffering of his soul and be satisfied; by knowledge of him my righteous servant will justify many…”.

“My righteous servant”- this is the last mention of the title “the servant” in Isaiah. After this the word is only used in the plural. The early disciples recognised this title applied to Jesus. About 700 years later in Jerusalem, in the days following Jesus’ death and resurrection, Peter and John described Jesus as God’s servant. To people who witnessed a man healed in Jesus’ name in the temple, Peter said “The God of our fathers has glorified his servant Jesus…you killed the author of life…this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. You are the heirs of the prophets… When God raised up his servant he sent him first to you to bless you…” (Acts 3:11-26). The believers in Jerusalem were threatened following this healing, and prayed about the authorities who had conspired “against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed … Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness. Stretch out your hand to heal ... through the name of your holy servant Jesus” (Acts 4:29-30). These believers recognised that they too were God’s servants. Paul says to us: “your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant …”” (Philippians 2:5-7).

Verse 12. Note the footnote in your bible giving “many” as an alternative translation to “great”. It is suggested (Motyer 2011) that a better translation is “I will give him the many as his portion … For he bore the sin of many”.

Jesus in Jerusalem at the Last Supper applied part of Isaiah 53:12 to himself to warn his disciples: “It is written: “And he was numbered with the transgressors”; and I tell you this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfilment” (Luke 22:37). Following his resurrection, Jesus said to his disciples “Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. Then he opened their minds so they could understand the scriptures. He told them “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem”” (Luke 24:45-47).

“He made intercession for the transgressors”. As we saw in Study 7 (Note to Q 11), Paul quoted from Isaiah 50:8-9 in Romans 8:33-34 and ended by saying “Christ Jesus, who died – more than that, was raised to life – is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us”. We have Jesus now as our high priest who always lives to intercede for us (Hebrews 8:25-26). He is able to save us forever, completely.

 

Thank Jesus for what he has done for us in bearing our sin, and for what he is doing for us now, interceding for us. Thank God that he laid on Jesus the iniquity of us all; that it was the Father’s will to cause his beloved son to suffer for us; that the punishment that brought us peace was upon Jesus. Jesus is raised and lifted up and highly exalted (Isaiah 52:13 and Philippians 2:9). Give thanks that the Spirit of Christ predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow (1 Peter 1:11) so we can have evidence for our faith and certainty that God’s plans for the future will come to pass.

 

Read Isaiah 54:1-15

Isaiah’s vision (Isaiah 1:1) concerned Judah and Jerusalem. God spoke to Jerusalem (the afflicted city not comforted, 54:11) as if the city were a woman who could not have children (verse 1), a widow (verse 4) and a rejected wife (verse 6). God told Jerusalem to shout for joy and promises children (verse 1), a husband, himself, (verse 5) and restoration (verse 7).

 

Notes:

In Galatians 4:21-31 Paul used the picture of Jerusalem as a desolate woman who through God’s promise has more children than a woman with a husband. The Galatian Christians were turning away from the grace of Christ to the old covenant based on the law, which Paul described as slavery. Paul wrote that the actual city of Jerusalem (which would be destroyed by the Romans in AD 70) was “in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother” (Galatians 4:25-26). There is a Jerusalem above, where we belong – believing Gentiles as well as believing Jews. Paul quoted Isaiah 54:1 in full (Galatians 4:27) to show that Christians are like the many children of the free woman who received God’s promises, not like children of the slave woman, who represents the old covenant from Mount Sinai, the earthly Jerusalem.

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews also tells us we have come to Mount Zion, the heavenly Jerusalem, in contrast to the terrifying mountain where the old covenant was given (Hebrews 12:18-22). He reminds us “For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14).

The apostle John had a vision of the Jerusalem that is above. He saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband, coming down out of heaven from God (Revelation 21:2). In Revelation 19:7-8, John saw the bride ready for the wedding of the Lamb, Jesus. Paul explained that marriage is a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church (Ephesians 5:23-32). The new Jerusalem and the bride of Christ are pictures of the church, believers from all time and every place.

 

Q 5. What comfort do you think Isaiah 54:1-15 brought:

*
p<>{color:#000;}. to God’s people hearing God’s message in the decades immediately after 701 BC?

*
p<>{color:#000;}. to God’s people in exile in Babylon after the destruction of Jerusalem in 587 BC?

 

Read Isaiah 55

Q 6. Who is invited to come (verse 1)? From Isaiah 55, how will people be satisfied if they come, seek, call on and turn to the Lord?

 

Q 7. Isaiah has written many times “This is what the Lord says”. What do verses 10-11 tell us about God’s word?

 

Read Isaiah 56:1-8

Jesus quoted “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:7) as he drove out of the temple those who were buying and selling there (Mark 11:17).

 

Q 8. What do you think the baptised Ethiopian eunuch, described in Acts 8:39 as going on his way rejoicing (see note to Isaiah 53:5-9 above), thought and felt as he read Isaiah 56:1-8?

 

Q9. Does Isaiah 56:6 describe us non-Jewish believers? If so, what does God promise us in verses 7-8?

 

Note:

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews said: “We have an altar from which those who minister at the tabernacle” (the tent of Meeting in Exodus 25-31, 35-40 and Leviticus 1-9, 16, the prototype for the Jerusalem temple) “have no right to eat… For here we do not have an enduring city but we are looking for the city that is to come. Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased” (Hebrews 13:10, 14-16).

 

To think about: God’s word will not return to him empty but will achieve the purpose for which he has sent it (Isaiah 55:11). Think about God’s purposes for his word given to Isaiah, and what God’s word written down by Isaiah has accomplished so far. Has God spoken to you through his word recorded by Isaiah?

 

Study 9 Isaiah 57 to 61:3 I Live with Those who are Contrite; Your Sins have Separated You from God

We have seen that idol worship was a major theme in Isaiah chapters 40 to 48, but was hardly mentioned in chapters 1-35. This is surprising since chapters 1-35 include the time of king Ahaz, who sacrificed one or more of his sons to idols, shut the doors of God’s temple and built altars to idols on every street corner (2 Kings 16:2-4, 2 Chronicles 28:2-4, 22-25). God said “To whom then will you compare me?” (40:18, 25, 46:5); “apart from me there is no God” (44:6, 45:21); “I am God and there is no other” (45:5, 6, 18, 22, 46:9) and “which of the idols has foretold these things?” (48:14). There are descriptions of the process of making useless idols from metal and wood (41:7, 44:9-30, 46:6-7) and of the worthlessness of idols (41:22-24, 45:20, 46:1-2). Good king Hezekiah died about 687 BC and was succeeded by his son Manasseh. Manasseh rebuilt the high places his father had destroyed on the hill-tops where idols were worshipped, bowed down to all the starry host and worshipped them. In both courts of the temple of the Lord he built altars to the starry hosts. He sacrificed his own son in the fire, practiced sorcery and divination and consulted mediums and spiritists (2 Kings 21:1-6). God’s words recorded by Isaiah in chapter 57 were particularly appropriate for the new king Manasseh. We do not know if Isaiah lived to see Manasseh as king – Isaiah stated he saw his vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the reigns of Uzziah through to Hezekiah (1:1) but it is thought Hezekiah and Manasseh may have ruled together for a period. Adults other than Hezekiah and Isaiah must have powerfully influenced young Manasseh to support and practice idol-worship.

 

Isaiah chapters 49 to 56:8 are full of good news, comfort and descriptions of the work of God’s servant. In Isaiah 55 people are invited: “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the Lord and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon” (55:6-7). Isaiah returned to the idea of repentance in chapters 57-59. These final chapters of Isaiah include strong warnings of God’s judgement and vengeance, as well as promises of redemption, peace and salvation.

 

Read Isaiah 57:1-2

Q 1. How can these verses help us when someone who follows God dies?

 

Read Isaiah 57:3-13

Note the strong contrast between the death of a righteous man (verses 1-2) and the actions and attitudes of the idol-worshippers (verses 3-10).

 

Q 2. What shocking words and images were used by God to describe the idol-worshippers of Judah and Jerusalem?

 

Q 3. What was God’s reaction to their idol worship (verses 6, 12-13)?

 

Note:

Molech (verse 9) is related to the word “the king” – see footnote in your bible. 1 Kings 11:5 says Molech was one of the detestable foreign idols king Solomon worshipped (1 Kings 11:5). Anyone who sacrificed his child to Molech deserved the death penalty (Leviticus 20:1-5). King Manasseh sacrificed his sons in the valley of Ben Hinnom (later called Gehenna, a synonym for hell) (2 Chronicles 33:6). 2 Kings 23:10 records that Josiah, Manasseh’s grandson, destroyed the place in the valley of Ben Hinnom that had been used to sacrifice children to Molech.

 

Read Isaiah 57:14-21

Q 4.

- Who does the Lord live with (verse 15)?

- What will the Lord do for a person who has this correct attitude (verses 15, 18-19)?

 

In 2 Chronicles 33:10-20 we read that God sent against Manasseh the army commanders of the king of Assyria who took Manasseh prisoner, put a hook in his nose, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon. In his distress, Manasseh humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers, and the Lord brought him back to Jerusalem. Then Manasseh knew that the Lord is God, he got rid of the foreign gods, restored the altar of the Lord in the temple and told Judah to serve God. This is an illustration of God’s promise to the contrite in Isaiah 57:15-19. The Assyrian king who probably dealt with Manasseh, Esarhaddon, king of the universe, king of Assyria, regent of Babylon, reconstructed Babylon which his father Sennacherib had destroyed. The prism of Esarhaddon, dated 674-672 BC, containing his policy for Babylon is in the British Museum, as is another prism (dated 673-672 BC) recording his assembling of kings including Menasi king of Judah (Manasseh?) to provide material for his palace in Nineveh.

 

Note:

This is the second time God has said there is no peace for the wicked – see 48:22.

 

Read Isaiah 58

Q 5. What were the people saying to God (verses 2-3)? What was God’s answer (verse 4)?

 

Q 6. What were the people doing on their fast days (verses 3-5)?

 

Q 7. What is the kind of fasting God has chosen (verses 6-7, 9-10, 13)? What do you think is the correct kind of fasting for a Christian believer? See Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 6:16-18, and examples of fasting in Acts 13:3 and 14:23.

 

These are God’s words to us, not just to Judah and Jerusalem around 700 BC. They are challenging words. Read verses 6-7, 9b and 10a again and think of any action you should take. Also consider what verse 13 means for you. Pray about these things.

Q 8. What will be the result for people who live as God requires (verses 8, 9a, 10b-11)?

 

Notes:

The ideas in Chapter 58 are similar to those in Isaiah chapter 1, maybe written 40 or 50 years earlier. Then people were described as rebels (1:2) and were bringing meaningless offerings and prayers (1:13, 15). God said “Your hands are full of blood; take your evil deeds out of my sight! Stop doing wrong, learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow…If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land” (Isaiah 1:15-19).

Isaiah 58:12 would be especially encouraging to people living after the attack and capture of all the fortified cities of Judah (Isaiah 36:1), and also to those returning to rebuild Jerusalem after the exile (Nehemiah chapters 2 to 7).

 

Read Isaiah 59:1-8

Note:

Paul quoted from Isaiah 59:7-8 in Romans 3:15-17: “Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know”. Paul was writing about the common Jewish idea that Gentiles (non-Jews) were much worse sinners than Jews. Paul illustrated from the psalms and Isaiah 59 the sinfulness of both Jewish and Gentile people. In Romans 3:21-30 Paul explained that a righteousness from God has now been made known, which comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, both Jews and Gentiles.

 

Q 9. What was Isaiah’s main point as he spoke to the people in 59:1-8?

 

Read Isaiah 59:9-15a

Q 10. In these verses Isaiah used the words “we”, “us”, “our”. What did he say to God here on behalf of himself and his people? Can we use these words ourselves on behalf of our society?

 

Read Isaiah 59:15b-21

Q 11. What do these verses say about righteousness, salvation, vengeance and repentance? Do you think it is good that God will have vengeance and repay wrath to his enemies? See also Paul’s lesson for us in Romans 12:17-19: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil… Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay” says the Lord”.

 

Notes:

In Ephesians 6:11-17 Paul used the imagery of the breastplate of righteousness and the helmet of salvation when describing the armour God has given us so we can stand against evil. In those verses Paul also mentioned the sword of the Spirit which is the word of God – see Isaiah 59:21.

In Romans chapters 9 to 11 Paul, a Jewish Christian, wrote about the refusal of many Jewish people to believe in Jesus as the Messiah. Paul used Isaiah 59:20-21 to show the final salvation of Israel was predicted by Isaiah. “Isaiah cries out concerning Israel “Though the number of the Israelites be like the sand by the sea, only a remnant will be saved”” (Romans 9:27 and Isaiah 10:22). “For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?” (Romans 10:16 and Isaiah 53:1). Addressing the Gentiles Paul said “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited. Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins” (Romans 11:25-27 and Isaiah 59:20-21). Possibly Paul also had in mind Isaiah 45:17 “But Israel will be saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation; you will never be put to shame or disgraced, to ages everlasting”. In conclusion Paul quoted Isaiah again “Who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counsellor?” (Romans 11:34 and Isaiah 40:13).

 

Isaiah 60 is a glorious description of the future for the City of the Lord, Zion of the Holy One of Israel (60:4), reminding us of the promises of Isaiah 2:2-5 and 4:2-6. “The Lord rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn” (60:2-3). “Your gates will always stand open, they will never be shut, day or night, so that men may bring you the wealth of the nations” (60:11). “I will make peace your governor and righteousness your ruler…you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise. The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory.” (60:17-19).

 

In Revelation 21 John saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God (Revelation 21:2) and described it in terms similar to Isaiah 60:11, 19-20. “The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of the Lord gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendour into it. On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there” (Revelation 21:23-25). The angel who was showing John features of the city said “These words are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place” (Revelation 22:6). Thank God that he spoke through the prophets about our future hope.

 

Read Isaiah 61:1-3

Part of this passage was read in public by Jesus, who said to his audience “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”. Read Luke 4:14-21.

 

Q 12. How much of Isaiah 61:1-2 did Luke tell us that Jesus chose to read? Why do you think Jesus did not read the whole of Isaiah 61:2? Explain your answer.

 

Notes:

Isaiah 61:1. “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me…” The Hebrew word Messiah (Christ in Greek) means the Anointed One (as in Isaiah 61:1), God’s servant, God’s chosen king, who is descended from king David. See the person related to Jesse, king David’s father, spoken of in Isaiah 11:2 “The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him – the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord”; see also Isaiah 42:1 “Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him… “.

For the translation of Isaiah 61:1 (“release from darkness for the prisoners”) in Luke 4:18 as “recovery of sight for the blind”, see the footnote in your bible to Isaiah 61:1 giving an alternative translation “release from darkness for the blind”. Isaiah used a Hebrew phrase that included the meaning “to open the eyes”.

 

Study 10 Isaiah 61:4 to 66. The Day of Vengeance; the Year of my Redeemed

In Isaiah 58:1, God told Isaiah “Shout it aloud, do not hold back. Raise your voice like a trumpet. Declare to my people their rebellion and to the descendants of Jacob their sins”. Isaiah told the people in 59:1 “Surely the arm of the Lord is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear”. Isaiah included himself with the people of Judah and Jerusalem when he said to God “So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us… For our offences are many in your sight, and our sins testify against us…. So justice is driven back, and righteousness stands at a distance; truth has stumbled in the streets, honesty cannot enter” (Isaiah 59:9,12,14-15).

 

Isaiah described God’s response to the people’s sin: “The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him and his own righteousness sustained him. He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak” (Isaiah 59:15-17). That chapter ends: ““The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins” declares the Lord. “As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord. “My Spirit who is on you, will not depart from you…”” (Isaiah 59:20-21). In Romans 11:25-27 Paul wrote to non-Jewish believers: “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. As it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion: he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins”. Isaiah and Paul were writing of the coming of Messiah both as redeemer and as judge.

In Isaiah 60 God promised a glorious future for Jerusalem: “No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise. The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory… the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end” (60:18-20). At the start of Isaiah 62 we find the verses which Jesus read out in the synagogue and said he fulfilled: “The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour…” (Isaiah 61:1-2a, quoted by Jesus in Luke 4:18-19a). Jesus did not proclaim “the day of vengeance of our God” (Isaiah 61:2b). In 61:1-3 Isaiah wrote both of things fulfilled when Jesus first lived on earth and judgement that so far has yet to be fulfilled.

 

Read Isaiah 61:4 to 62:12

Q1. What good things are promised by God to his people in 61:4-9 and 62:8-12?

 

Q2. Who do you think is the person speaking about righteousness and salvation, the bride, the bridegroom and rejoicing in 61:10 and possibly 62:7? For example, could it be Isaiah himself, near the end of his life, rejoicing in God and the future of his city?

 

Notes:

For the meaning of Hephzibah (62:4) see the footnote in your bible: “my delight is in her”. See also 2 Kings 21:2 which tells us that Hezekiah’s wife, king Manasseh’s mother, was called Hephzibah. Beulah means “married”. The meaning of these words is explained in 62:4b: “for the Lord will take delight in you, and your land will be married”.

In 40:9-10 Isaiah wrote: “You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” See the Sovereign Lord comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him”. This last sentence is repeated in Isaiah 62:11.

 

Q 3. Compare 40:9-10 with 62:11. Who comes in each case?

 

Read Isaiah 63:1-6

Although 63:4 is translated in the NIV as “the year of my redemption”, Motyer (2011) states a better translation is “the year of my redeemed”, meaning redeemed people, as in 62:12, 51:10, 35:9.

 

Q4. How would you answer the questions “Who is this … ?” in 63:1?

 

Isaiah 63:5 says “I looked but there was no-one to help, I was appalled that no-one gave support; so my own arm worked salvation for me, and my own wrath sustained me”. Isaiah 59:15b-17 says “The Lord looked and was displeased there was no justice. He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm achieved salvation for him and his own righteousness sustained him”.

Q 5. In Isaiah 59:15b-17 and 63:5, who looked and was appalled, and whose arm worked salvation in each case?

 

Notes:

Isaiah 63:1. Edom means red. The nation of Edom (in modern Jordan, see Figure 1) was a neighbour and an enemy of Israel; Bozrah was the capital city of Edom. In Isaiah 34:6-9, Bozrah in Edom and the Lord’s day of vengeance were also linked: “The sword of the Lord is bathed in blood…for the Lord has a sacrifice in Bozrah and a great slaughter in Edom…For the Lord has a day of vengeance, a year of retribution to uphold Zion’s cause”.

63:2-3. In Revelation 19:11-16 we read of One dressed in a robe dipped in blood. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. His name is the Word of God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The great winepress of God’s wrath is described in Revelation 14:14-20.

63:4. Redemption in Hebrew has the meaning of a close relative who is responsible to care for a family member who is in debt. Boaz in the book of Ruth is a good example. The same word “redeemer” is used for the close relative who had the right to carry out the death penalty in the case of the murder of a family member, see for example Deuteronomy 19:6-12 and Numbers 35:12-27 where the word redeemer is translated “avenger of blood”. Vengeance and redemption are closely linked in Isaiah 63:4.

 

Romans 12:19 and Revelation 6:10 tell us that avenging wrongs against us believers must be left to God’s wrath. The Greek word for vengeance (which translates the Hebrew word vengeance in Romans 12:19) is used in Revelation 6:10 by the martyrs who say “How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?” In Isaiah 35:4 Isaiah said: “Say to those with fearful hearts “Be strong, do not fear; your God will come, he will come with vengeance, with divine retribution he will come to save you.” As in Isaiah 61:2, the promise of God’s vengeance is a comfort to people suffering injustice. God has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all people by raising him from the dead (Acts 17:31). Peter testified that Jesus is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead (Acts 10:42). God has given Jesus authority to judge because he is the Son of Man (John 5:27).

 

Q 6. Who do you think Isaiah 62:11 and 63:1-6 was speaking about? Explain your answer.

 

Read Isaiah 63:7 to the end of chapter 64

Q 7 Isaiah 63:5-6 spoke of salvation, anger and wrath. 63:7-8 spoke of kindness, compassion and salvation. Do you think verses 6 and 7 are both speaking of the same God? Explain your answer.

 

Q 8. What good things did Isaiah remember that the Lord had done for his people (63:8-9, 11-14)?

 

Q 9. Look at the questions that Isaiah asked God in 63:15, 17 and 64:5 and 12. What do you think Isaiah was feeling as he wrote from 63:7 through to the end of chapter 64?

 

Read Isaiah 65:1-16

In Romans 10:16-21, Paul explained the meaning of Isaiah 65:1-2 for our time. He wrote especially to Gentile believers in Rome about the majority of the Jewish people who have not accepted the good news about Jesus: “… faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. But I ask: did they not hear? Of course they did…Again I ask: did Israel not understand? First, Moses says “I will make you envious by those who are not a nation; I will make you angry by a nation that has no understanding.” And Isaiah boldly says “I was found by those who did not seek me; I revealed myself to those who did not ask for me.” But concerning Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and obstinate people””. Paul went on to warn Gentile Christians against arrogance toward Jewish people who have not believed in Jesus: “… did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious. But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their full inclusion bring! I am talking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch as I am the apostle to the Gentiles, I make much of my ministry in the hope that I may somehow arouse my own people to envy and save some of them. For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?… Do not be arrogant but be afraid” (Romans 11:11-20). Paul was looking forward to a time when all Jewish people will believe in their Messiah. This will bring greater riches to non-Jewish believers too.

 

Q 10. From 65:2-7 and 11-12, who will the Lord pay back and why?

 

Q 11. What hope can be found in verses 8-10 and 13-16?

 

Note:

Achor (65:10) means “trouble”.

 

Read Isaiah 65:17-25

Isaiah was the first person to record that there will be new heavens and a new earth. Peter knew this promise and reminded us of it in his second letter (2 Peter 3:13): “But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness”. John saw the new heaven, the new earth and the new Jerusalem: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband…There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:1-2, 4). Isaiah had already heard the beautiful promise in 65:25: “The wolf will live with the lamb…the lion will eat straw like the ox…They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain” (Isaiah 11:6, 7, 9). We are included in these promises.

 

Q 12. What do you think Isaiah felt as God told him the words of 65:17 and of verses 18-25? What do you feel as you read these verses?

 

Read Isaiah 66

Notes:

Stephen, just before seeing Jesus in heaven and becoming the first Christian martyr, had in mind Isaiah’s words: “The Most High does not live in houses made by men. As the prophet says: “Heaven is my throne and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me?” says the Lord. “Or where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things?”” (Acts 7:48-50).

Isaiah 66:4 repeats what was said in 65:12: “I called but you did not answer, I spoke but you did not listen” and is contrasted with God’s promise to his people in 65:24 “Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear”.

Jesus quoted Isaiah 66:24 as a description of hell. In some memorable, hard-hitting teaching about the choices we have to make, Jesus said “If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where “the worms that eat them do not die and the fire is not quenched”” (Mark 9:47-48).

 

Q 13. What contrast does Isaiah give between the people who are God’s enemies, who God will judge (3-4), and the people God esteems, God’s servants (verse 2)?

 

Q 14. “As a mother comforts her child, so will I comfort you” (66:13); “See, the Lord is coming with fire … he will bring down his anger with fury” (66:15); “…the Lord will execute judgement upon all people” (66:16); “I … am about to come and gather all nations and tongues, and they will come and see my glory” (66:18); “They will proclaim my glory among the nations” (66:19)…”; I will select some of them also to become priests and Levites…” (66:21); “”As the new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me…so will your name and descendants endure” (66:22); “…all mankind will come and bow down before me” (66:23); “And they will go out and look upon the dead bodies of those who rebelled against me…” (66:24). Does Isaiah end in the way you expected and in the way you hoped?

 

Appendix

Appendix Study 4.

Paul quoted Isaiah 29:10 in Romans 11:8 when explaining why only a remnant, the elect of Israel (including him), believed in Jesus: “God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day”.

The statement in Isaiah 29:13 “These people come near me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men” was said by Jesus to be also a prophecy about the attitude of the Pharisees in the time of Jesus (Mark 7:6-7).

The message of Christ crucified looks like foolishness to unbelievers, but to us who are being saved Christ crucified is the power of God and the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). Paul next quoted Isaiah 29:14 “For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate” to show us this is God’s way of working so that no one can boast before him (1 Corinthians 1:26-31).

Paul used Isaiah’s God-given metaphor of the clay saying of the potter “He did not make me… He knows nothing” (Isaiah 29:16) to show us it is useless to argue with God “Why does God still blame us? … Why did you make me like this?” (Romans 9:18-21).

 

Appendix Study 5.

The title King of Babylon (39:1) had changed hands a number of times during Hezekiah’s reign. Shalmaneser, king of Assyria and Babylon, died in about 722 BC and Merodoch-Baladan (named after the god Marduk) claimed the right to be King of Babylon. Merodoch-Baladan remained King of Babylon until 710 BC, when Babylon was captured by Sargon king of Assyria. Sargon was King of Babylon and Assyria till his death in 705 BC and was succeeded as King of Babylon and Assyria by Sennacherib. Merodoch-Baladan defeated Sennacherib in about 703 BC and became King of Babylon for maybe 9 months until his defeat by Sennacherib in 702 BC. Merodoch-Baladan fled to Elam (south-east of Babylon, see Figure 1) and died a few years later. Sennacherib destroyed Babylon in about 698 BC.

Babylonia was on the east side of the Assyrian Empire, Judah on the west (see Figure 2). Presumably the Babylonian king Merodach-Baladan thought Judah would be a strategic ally. If these events happened after 701 BC, Merodoch-Baladan was ex-king of Babylon in exile. Some scholars think that, because Hezekiah had stores, weapons and treasures to show the envoys, it is more likely the events of chapters 38 and 39 happened during the period of Hezekiah’s military success before 701 BC (2 Kings 18:7-8) and while Merodoch-Baladan was king in Babylon. By 701 BC Hezekiah had given all the silver in the temple and the palace treasuries and the gold from the doors of the temple to Sennacherib king of Assyria (2 Kings 18:14-16). If the envoys visited after 701 BC it is less likely king Hezekiah would be proud of his resources and wish to display them. Isaiah may have chosen to tell the story of the defeat of the Assyrian army first because the events of chapters 36-37 fulfilled prophesies about Assyria in chapters 7 to 31; then he gave the story of Hezekiah’s illness and the Babylonian envoys’ visit to link with the prophesies about Babylon which came in chapters 45 to 48.

 

Postscript

Isaiah is a long book. We have left out many beautiful and significant verses, which you will enjoy if you now read the whole book. Look for topics and themes in Isaiah, e.g. the Holy One of Israel, the redeemer and the redeemed, the Spirit, singing and song, comfort, peace, God’s plan, the nations, the king, the servant. Use Bible Hub Interlinear (http://biblehub.com/interlinear) to help you track word usage, for example using the very useful Hebrew word catalogue developed in 1890 by Professor Strong where every Hebrew word is assigned a Strong’s number.

 

Find out what happened next. Read 2 Kings chapters 21 to 25, 2 Chronicles chapters 33 to 36, Jeremiah (chapters 1, 11, 19 to 21, 25, 26 to 29, 32, 36 to 43, 51) and Jeremiah’s sad war poetry, Lamentations, Ezekiel (chapters 1 to 5, 24, 33 and 37), Daniel (chapters 1 to 6), Ezra and Nehemiah.

 

Look out for the use of Isaiah’s writings in the New Testament, particularly the gospels. Read Paul’s letter to the Romans and see how Paul uses many words of God recorded by Isaiah in his argument, especially about non-Jewish people (Gentiles) and the future of Israel. Read Revelation and find how the ideas introduced in Isaiah (such as God wiping away all tears, the new heaven and the new earth, the nations coming to Jerusalem, the fall of Babylon, the winepress of the wrath of God, vengeance and redemption) are developed.

About the Author:

Professor Emeritus Freda Hawkes (BSc, PhD) is a biochemist, a graduate of the University of Bristol, UK. After a teaching and research career in the University of Glamorgan (now the University of South Wales) in applied microbial biochemistry she retired in 2009. Throughout her scientific career Freda has been a practicing Christian and has for many years been involved in teaching the bible in small groups with internationals and young professionals.

Other books written by Dennis and Freda Hawkes can be downloaded free from www.bibleview.co.uk

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Recommended Reading

Anderson C and Edwards B. Evidence for the Bible. Day One Publications Leominster UK. (2014). ISBN 978-1-84625-416-1. www.dayone.co.uk

 

Motyer A. Isaiah by the Day. A New Devotional Translation. Christian Focus, Tain, UK. (2011). ISBN 978-84550-654-4 (book) and 978-1-78191-377-2 (ePub). www.christianfocus.com

 

Webb B. The Message of Isaiah. Inter-Varsity Press Nottingham UK. (1996). ISBN 978-085111-167-4. www.ivpbooks.com

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The Man Who Saw the King - 10 Studies in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah

Isaiah the prophet wrote during a violent period in Middle Eastern history. Populations were on the move, cities were destroyed and leaders brutally executed by the superpower Assyria. But at the start of his work as God’s prophet, Isaiah saw who was truly the King, the Lord Almighty. Isaiah delivered God’s message to his nation and its kings for more than 40 troubled years. He gave urgent warnings, calls to depend on God when all seemed lost, comfort in disaster, encouragement and clear predictions of events fulfilled during and after Isaiah’s lifetime. Most significantly for Christian believers, Isaiah prophesied the coming, about 700 years later, of Jesus the Messiah, the servant King, who would suffer, save, judge and rule for ever. You can use these studies individually or as a small group. Each study should take about an hour. In the 10 studies we will read right through Isaiah. Isaiah is a long book, much of it written in poetry. Poetry is more difficult to read than prose, but it involves our emotions and touches our hearts. These studies help you see Isaiah’s book as a whole, putting well-known passages in their context. There are notes on the historical background, on related passages in the Old Testament and on quotations from Isaiah in the New Testament. You may know that some academics cannot accept the specificity of Isaiah’s prophecy about king Cyrus and attribute the later part of Isaiah to other, later, authors. Reasons are given here for assuming that the whole book was written by Isaiah son of Amoz. God promised Isaiah “my word … will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it”. God’s word had a great effect on Isaiah’s family life, and on his nation’s life in a time of crisis. God’s word through Isaiah would give comfort to future generations of the people of Judah who read Isaiah’s book during their exile in Babylon or as they returned to rebuild Jerusalem. Isaiah’s writings came alive to people in New Testament times as they saw God’s word fulfilled in Jesus the Messiah. We will see how Jesus himself, his apostles and the gospel writers understood and used Isaiah’s writings. As we read Isaiah’s book, God’s word through Isaiah will still achieve the purpose for which he sent it. We can find words from God to challenge us personally, to give us warnings and also hope for the future of our world, to comfort us and to cause us to worship our unique and holy God. Isaiah was writing God’s message for us.

  • ISBN: 9781370938872
  • Author: Freda Hawkes
  • Published: 2017-07-26 14:05:11
  • Words: 27247
The Man Who Saw the King - 10 Studies in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah The Man Who Saw the King - 10 Studies in the Book of the Prophet Isaiah