Isaiah: Glimpses of God
Have you ever faced a decision or situation and suddenly realized you were trusting in yourself—your own wisdom or experience—and not in God? Have you noticed it is natural to trust God when we are in crisis, but then in “normal times” to relax, confident that we can handle the “ordinary stuff” by ourselves?
Judah was coming out of a prolonged period of peace and prosperity; I suspect they were feeling pretty smug—trusting in themselves and thinking the status quo seemed to be fine. However, things were about to change. After delivering His lawsuit in Isaiah 1, God through Isaiah announced some astounding things. Although the majority of this prophecy foretold severe judgment, it also included a vision of the glorious kingdom to come, some of which even our popular culture is aware of.
I. DAY ONE: The future nature of Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:1-5)
A. The mountain of God (Isaiah 2:1-3)
- When will the events of this vision occur?
- In ancient times, many believed that the various gods lived on high mountains. Mount Zion is not the highest mountain, even in Jerusalem. Perhaps there will be some geological upheaval which raises its elevation (Zechariah 14:10). What might be another interpretation for it being the “chief” or “highest” mountain?
- In comparing this passage with others, this appears to be a reference to the “Millennial Kingdom”1 when Christ reigns on earth for 1,000 years. At that time some believe that God’s Temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem on Mount Zion. Compare this passage with
- Isaiah 56:7
- Ezekiel 40-43 (a vision regarding a future temple, fulfilled in the Millennium)
- Revelation 20:1-10 (which also refers to the Millennium. Revelation 21:22 refers to the “new heavens and new earth” which is the final event recorded in Scripture after Christ’s return.)
Why do you think a new temple might be needed during the Millennium?
- Who does verse 2 say will come to the mountain of the Lord’s temple?
- Why will people come to God’s mountain? What might be the catalyst for this search?
B. The Peace of God (Isaiah 2:4-5)
- What will God do which will pave the way for true peace?
- Picture with me a properly functioning symphony orchestra. Before the conductor steps up onto the podium, each person tunes their instrument and practices their own part independently, creating a confusing and dissonant sound. When the conductor raises his baton and all instrumentalists submit to his authority, then the strings, brass, percussion, and woodwinds all combine to produce music that is harmonious and pleasing to the ear. When each person and each nation submits to the Lord of lords, peace will be possible.
- In a lesser way, how are you seeing this lived out in your family? In your team? In your fellowship group?
- Because all nations will be coming to learn and obey God’s teaching, how should we be living now? (Isaiah 2:5; II Peter 3:11-14; I John 3:2-3)
- You may enjoy reading Micah 4:1-5 which is a parallel passage to this one.
II. DAY TWO: The destruction of Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:6-4:1)
A. Judah’s rebellion described (Isaiah 2:6-21)
- Although the end times hold a glorious future for people of all nations who follow the Lord, there must first be a purging of sin from the earth. “The Day of the Lord” ultimately refers to the time when God judges and purifies Israel and the nations in preparation for the coming of the Messianic Kingdom. But first, in Isaiah’s day, it referred to the invasion of Judah by the Assyrians followed by the Babylonian captivity in which God would judge Judah while setting aside a remnant of the people for Himself. It would be a horrible time of much suffering and death.
- Why was God “abandoning” Judah, His chosen people? Didn’t He love them anymore? Was He lacking in power to defend them? Describe at least four reasons from verses 6-11 which are descriptive of the nation under Uzziah’s reign.
- What parallels do you see in our culture?
- Verses 10-21 seem to be predictive not only of Judah’s judgment under Babylon, but also the greater cataclysmic judgment on the world described in Matthew 24 and Revelation 6-19.
- If verses 13-16 are taken metaphorically, it could be that Judah was proud of its leaders (vv. 13-14), its military strength (v. 15), and its economy (v. 16).
- Although you and I may not worship idols made by human hands, it is human nature to elevate our importance in others’ eyes as well as in our own. According to this passage, who or what may be exalted or worshiped? What two key phrases are repeated in verses 11 and 17? What exclamation point does Isaiah 42:8 put on this principle?
- One description of humility is “not thinking less about yourself, but thinking about yourself less.” Oswalt defines humility as “refusing to put oneself in the place of God…”2 How would you define humility? Journal your answer.
- What do you think would cause the reaction in verses 19-21?
B. Judah’s supports removed (Isaiah 2:22-3:3)
- In what did Judah trust? Did this make sense? (verse 22 and Jeremiah 17:5)
- God was preparing to remove both human and material resources (Isaiah 3:1). Why would He do this?
- What are you and I trusting in—really? Do we place too much confidence in political, military or religious leaders, or in our own abilities and wisdom and the many resources available to us? Is it possible that God might need to remove some of these supports from us for our eternal good?
C. Judah’s leaders charged (Isaiah 3:4-15)
- What two charges did God make against Judah’s leaders in verses 13-15? (Note that one was related to spiritual leadership and one to social justice.)
- When God removed Judah’s proud leaders, would the people repent or would they seek another solution to their problem? How effective would their human solution be? (This predicts the coming situation in Judah after the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon.)
- Was God fair? (vv. 8-11)
D. Judah’s women charged (Isaiah 3:16-4:1)
- It is not just the men who must answer to God for their attitudes and actions. Describe the character of these women. What have they trusted in? Might their pride have pushed others into sin as well?
- How does their punishment fit their crime?
- It is good to be physically attractive, but what type of beauty should we focus on cultivating? (I Peter 3:2-4)
III. DAY THREE: The hope for Jerusalem. (Isaiah 4:2-6)
A. The Branch
- After the dire prophecies we’ve just read, the abrupt change from judgment to hope catches us by surprise. I’m encouraged that judgment is not God’s final word!
- What phrase from 3:18 is repeated in 4:2? It is the purging of sin through judgment that will usher in the time promised in Isaiah 4. Again, the language suggests that this prophecy which has an initial fulfillment after the Babylonian captivity will have a greater fulfillment in the Messianic kingdom.
- Some think that the Branch refers to the remnant of Judah who have survived the judgment and are restored to the land and its blessings. Another interpretation is that the Branch, in the context of verse 2, refers to the land. How could either of these be a reaffirmation of the Abrahamic covenant? (Genesis 17:7-8)
- What else might the Branch of the Lord refer to? (Jeremiah 23:5; 33:15; Zechariah 3:8; John 15:1)
B. The Remnant
- God who is holy cannot dwell with an unholy people (Habakkuk 1:13a). What will be the results of judgment in Isaiah 4: 3-4? (See also Malachi 3:2-4.) How does the washing of the women illustrate that (Zechariah 13:1)?
- From verse 3 and Ephesians 1:4, what is God’s purpose for us? If this is God’s goal for us, shouldn’t it also be our goal? Could it be that when God allows or brings problems into our lives it is to achieve this very purpose? Would you therefore bow, worship God, and thank Him for your trials? (Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4; I Peter 1:6-9)
- Although this prophecy is not yet fulfilled, it is interesting to note that after the Babylonian captivity, Judah never again had problems with idol worship.
- Following this cleansing, what will God do for the remnant who are now called holy? Along with Exodus 13:21, what would Isaiah 4:5-6 represent regarding the relationship with God which was now possible?
IV. DAYS FOUR and FIVE: The song about Jerusalem. (Isaiah 5)
A. Song of the Vineyard (Isaiah 5:1-7)
- Isaiah composed and sang this song as a parable—a story with a lesson and a rhetorical question that must be answered.
- Who is the “loved one” in verse 1? Who does the vineyard represent? Who are the vines? (Isaiah 5:7, Jeremiah 2:21; Hosea 10:1)
- If you have planted a garden, you can relate to the care which God took in preparing, planting and caring for His vineyard (v. 2). Does a gardener have a right to expect specific results from his plants? Does the Creator have a right to specify the results He expects in your life and mine?
- How would you answer God’s first question of verse 4 regarding Judah? How would you answer it regarding yourself? How would you answer the second question?
- Comparing verses 4 and 7, what was the bad fruit that was produced? Is God saying that our treatment of others reflects our attitude toward Him? Can a person who truly loves God act wrongly toward others? Should they? How does Mark 12:30-31 help you?
B. Six woes against Jerusalem (Isaiah 5:8-24)
- There are consequences to our choices whether for good or for bad. Isaiah continues with a listing of consequences for Judah’s bad fruit. The word “woe” indicates sorrow, regret, anger, and threats of judgment. Summarize each of the six woes with a word or phrase describing the underlying sin.
- Next to each “woe” summarize the appropriate consequences for each.
- From the following verses, what attitudes led to these ungodly actions?
- One of the clearest indicators of our relationship with God is how we treat one another. This is reinforced by the fact that six of the Ten Commandments address our relationships with people.
- “The Yombe (people of the Congo) have an expression kambu lumbu, which means that people can do anything they want, but that one day they will be trapped by what they have done. That is what is happening here.”3 This also raises a question you and I must face: Do we think that God is obligated to bless us when we make good choices, and to excuse or overlook our sin when we make bad choices? Although God promises to forgive when you and I repent, if we confess a sin and then repeatedly disobey Him in that area, are we not trapping ourselves in self-deceit when we say we have repented? Conversely, have we so submitted our “rights” to God that we choose righteousness even when no one is looking?
- Are you and I producing good or bad fruit? Colossians 3:5-17 is one check list comparing good and bad fruit. What will God do in our lives according to John 15:1-4 to help us produce good fruit? Might this pruning be painful at times? Given the results, what should our attitude be toward this pruning? What does Hebrews 12:7-11 add?
C. Coming judgment (Isaiah 5:25-30)
- Social status and former relationship is no protection. Now God not only removes His protection from Judah—God himself strikes her down (v. 25).
- What tool does He use in verse 26?
- Describe the relentless intensity of the punishment in verses 27-30. (I’d rather submit to His pruning than face His punishment due to my stubborn unbelief!)
- Why does God bring such harsh judgment? Isaiah 5:16 gives us a clue. God will act to vindicate His holiness. He won’t permit people who are called by His name but who live contrary to His character to tarnish His righteous reputation. The world needs to see the glory of our holy God—clearly.
- In Isaiah 6 we will have a contrasting picture. Unlike Judah who in trusting herself turned her back on God and received severe discipline, Isaiah acknowledged His sin, trusted God and was cleansed. This might be a good time to stop and ask God to shine the light of His holy Word into our hearts, minds, and lives. Is there anything in your life or mine on which He would pronounce a “woe”? Let’s apply Psalm 139:23-24 to ourselves right now.
- What glimpse of God most impacts you from this lesson? Journal it and any response you need to make as a result.
1. There are three primary views on the millennium. Briefly, “a-millennialism” believes the Revelation account is allegorical and that the millennium is the church in which Christ rules with His saints. “Post-millennialism” believes the millennium will come as the world becomes increasingly godly as a result of Christian preaching, and that the number, 1,000 is a symbolic number. “Pre-millennialism” believes in a more literal interpretation of Scripture, including the millennium being preceded by the appearance of the Anti-Christ and the Great Tribulation. More detail on these views can be found in: Elwell, Walter A., Ed, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1984) 715-718.
2. John N. Oswalt, The NIV Application Commentary: Isaiah (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 103.
3. Tokunboh Adeyemo, Africa Bible Commentary (Nairobi: The Zondervan Corporation: 2006), 813.
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