Isaiah: Glimpses of God
A former king of Israel gave this advice: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
Ahaz was now the king. Unlike his father and grandfather, he did not follow God. Therefore, when a crisis came, he had nowhere to turn but to his own understanding. Even when God took the initiative to offer help, Ahaz rejected it. His mind was made up. His pride wouldn’t let him change. Ahaz is a real-life model of a person who, in the face of God’s mercy, chooses to live in opposition to Proverbs 3:5-6.
Isaiah saw in chapter 6 that God is “big enough” to be trusted. Now God sends Isaiah to the king with a series of signs to enable Ahaz to also trust God. We learn a lot about God, His moral character, and His trustworthiness through these conversations and prophecies.
I. DAY ONE: Isaiah 7
A. Isaiah 7:1-9:
- It was 734 BC. Read verses 1-6 which set the scene. Assyria was becoming an international threat. The kings of Israel and Syria were aligned against Judah, planning to depose Ahaz and set up a puppet king, possibly because Ahaz would not join their coalition against Assyria. Expecting war, Ahaz was checking the city water supply to determine whether it was adequate to withstand a siege (v. 3). Describe Ahaz’s spiritual condition from II Chronicles 28:1-4. What emotion was ruling Ahaz? (Isaiah 7:2, 4)
- What was God’s message to Ahaz? (Isaiah 7:3-9)
- Because of the Davidic Covenant, God would not allow Judah to be completely destroyed. The first “sign” given to Ahaz was in the form of the name of Isaiah’s son, Shear-Jashub, which means “a remnant shall return.” What did that name imply about Judah’s future? (See II Chronicles 28:5-15 for the immediate fulfillment.)
- Judah, however, would not be destroyed by Israel and Syria (Isaiah 7:4-7). In fact, by 732 BC, both of the enemy kings Ahaz feared would be dead. In 722 BC, Israel would be conquered by Assyria, and within 65 years, so many foreigners would have been brought into the land with so much intermarriage that the northern kingdom of Israel would be “shattered” as a people. (Skim II Kings 17 for this sad account.)
- What does Isaiah 7:8-9 imply about the powers behind Syria and Israel (at that time) versus the power available to Judah?
- What was required for Ahaz to avail himself of God’s power? (v. 9) Describe the interrelationship between one’s true beliefs and one’s choices and actions.
- Whom did Ahaz choose to trust instead? (II Kings 16:1-9)
- Think back to a recent crisis time in your life, or forward to one which is looming. Did the decisions you made at that time or are making now reflect fear or trust?
B. Isaiah 7:10-25:
- We are not to “put God to the test” (Deuteronomy 6:16—misapplied by Ahaz), but here God tells Ahaz to ask God for whatever sign it will take to convince him to trust God instead of Assyria. Ahaz’s response sounds pious, but is it really? In this case it is disobedience—a show of faith without the substance of faith. What does that imply about Ahaz’s relationship to God?
- What does Isaiah 7:13 tell us about God’s feelings? (Have you ever tried God’s patience in a similar way?)
- Since Ahaz won’t ask for a sign, God will give one to the whole nation, and in particular to the kingly, Davidic line (vv. 13-14)! Let’s unpack this amazing prophecy which spoke to Ahaz’ immediate problem but which is also one of the most controversial of the Messianic Prophecies.
- “The” virgin: There are several views on the interpretation of verse 14. One interesting one is from Arnold Fruchtenbaum, author of Messianic Christology. He says that following the rules of Hebrew grammar, when using a definite article (“the”), the reader must look for a reference in the immediate previous context, or if none, must look to an earlier commonly known reference. In this case, the only place which might be referring to a virgin giving birth to a son is Genesis 3:15. In this verse, God prophesies about the offspring of a woman, with no reference to a human father. 1
- The son’s name will be “Immanuel.” This reminded Ahaz that God was with Judah in her situation. On the surface it appears this sign is just given to enable Ahaz to trust God in his current political situation. It is likely that a young virgin whom Ahaz had knowledge of would soon marry and have a son named Immanuel. However, God Himself insisted on giving this sign, pointing to a specific child to be born in the future. How do Matthew 1:18-25, Luke 1:26-35 and John 1:1, 14 explain the messianic significance of this prophecy?
- “Eating curds and honey” may refer to the time of desolation caused by Assyria (vv. 15, 22) and “knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right” may be the “age of accountability” or the age at which this child became a “son of the law.”2 (This part of the prophecy may have referred to the unborn son of #5 above, with its fulfillment serving as a confirmation of the messianic portion of the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14.) Within three years, the Syria-Israel alliance was broken and their kings were dead. About 12 years after this prophecy, Samaria fell and Israel was destroyed.
- Verse 17 tells us that the nation Ahaz chose to trust instead of trusting God would become God’s tool of discipline. Verses 18-25 describe the consequences to Ahaz and Judah. (II Chronicles 28:16-25 gives more insight into this time.)
- What lesson regarding trust do you learn from Ahaz’ negative example?
II. DAY TWO: Isaiah 8-9:7
A. Isaiah 8:1-10:
- Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (the longest personal name in the Bible) is the third sign. His name means “quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil” and was the phrase shouted by soldiers when they defeated an enemy. Isaiah’s sons’ names taken together indicated that because Judah rejected God, judgment was coming, but a few would survive.
- Ahaz and Judah did reject God (“the gently flowing waters of Shiloah”), choosing to trust what looked like a safe “river” (Assyria). What would that river become? (This happened to Judah in 701 BC. They didn’t “drown” but the “water” came up to their necks, with the head, Jerusalem, surviving.)
- What would be the ultimate result of Assyria’s attack on Judah? (vv. 9-10) Why?
B. Isaiah 8:11-22:
- God gave Isaiah a personal warning which you and I can take to heart, particularly as we see the winds of change swirling in our nation, and hear voices in the media and elsewhere urging human (and often “PC”) viewpoints and solutions. With your own situation in mind, paraphrase verses 11-12 in your journal. Then journal a practical application for yourself.
- Although we live in the world, what are we to do instead? Journal verse 13 in your own words. If you truly do this, how will it change your response to events in your world? According to verse 14a, God becomes a holy place, a sanctuary for those who fear3 How have you experienced this? (Isaiah 26:3)
- What opposite result occurs for those who refuse to fear God? (vv. 14b-15)
- What is Isaiah’s two-fold response to God? (v. 17) How are these interrelated?
- In addition to his sons’ prophetic names, Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah is salvation.” Whether Isaiah’s words were received or not, he and his sons were signs preventing the nation from forgetting God’s Word. In what way could you and I be the same? (v. 18)4
- We humans feel like we are more “in control” if we know the future. If people refuse to seek God’s “light”, preferring to consult the dead, what will be the outcome? (vv. 19-22)
C. Isaiah 9:1-7:
- Rejecting God resulted in gloom and darkness. The Assyrian conquests began in Israel and devasted Zebulun and Naphtali, the very area God would later bless with His “light” through His Son. Under Gentile rule, this area was called “Galilee of the Gentiles.”
- Read verses 1-7 which anticipate both the first and second comings of the Messiah. People will have joy in the Messiah and the freedom from oppression He will win (vv. 3-5). The Messiah, the “great light” of verse 2, is described in verses 6-7.
- This son will be unique. “A child is born” indicates his humanity while “to us a son is given” indicates deity. He will be both a descendent of King David and will be God the Son, God in human flesh. Relate this to Isaiah 7:14.
- The robe worn by kings was symbolic of their rule of their nations. “The government will be on His shoulders” indicates the kingly authority and responsibility the Messiah will have.
- The names of this Son are significant:
- “Wonderful Counselor”: in Hebrew the word translated “wonderful” is only used of God, never of men, and describes Him as being unique, exceptional. He will speak with authority, and His people will eagerly hear Him teach God’s ways. (Also see Isaiah 28:29.)
- “Mighty God”: confirmation that the Messiah will not be “god-like” but will be true God in human flesh. (See John 1:1, 14.)
- “Eternal Father” literally means “Father of Eternity”, the source of eternal life. This also indicates His shared essence and attributes with the triune God.
- “Prince of Peace”: the one who will bring peace into the world. Can you think of four “types” of peace which are or will become possible because of Him?
- Compare the reign of this Son in verse 7 with the Davidic Covenant in II Samuel 7:11-16.
III. DAY THREE: Isaiah 9:8-10:34
A. Isaiah 9:8-10:4:
- If Ahaz and Judah still didn’t believe Isaiah’s prophecies, all they had to do was observe what was happening to Israel and take to heart the seriousness of God’s warning of judgment to them. God does not take sin lightly! His purpose in discipline is to bring about repentance and restoration, but if we rebel then judgment is certain.
- Ahaz viewed Israel’s situation as being “merely” a political and military one. However, what was the sin causing God’s righteous judgment in Isaiah 9:8-12? What was the punishment?
- When God is rejected, people elevate themselves into what should be His place. What is God’s viewpoint in Isaiah 9:13-17? What was the punishment?
- It seems that each grouping of sins leads to descriptions of progressively greater wickedness. When people presume to take God’s place, society suffers. The consequences in Isaiah 9:18-21 were not only metaphorical, they actually happened when Israel was under siege.
- God cares how we treat each other. What were the sins in Isaiah 10:1-4? How would God evaluate you and me?
- What fearful, sobering statement is made at the end of each of the above sections of verses? Yes, God is love, but God also gets angry. Could it be that this might express God’s feelings about our nation today?
B. Isaiah 10:5-19:
- Assyria was used by God as a tool of discipline. What did God intend for them to do in verse 6? What did Assyria intend instead? (vv. 7-11)
- Just because they were God’s tool, did that relieve them of responsibility for their actions? (v. 12)
- What does God say is behind the wrong actions of Assyria? (vv. 12-14)
- God’s dealing with this arrogant “tool” is described in verses 15-19.
C. Isaiah 10:20-34:
- What would be the ultimate result of this discipline on the remnant of Israel? (vv. 20-21) Is this how you and I respond when God disciplines us?
- Although God will carry out the judgment He has declared against Israel (vv. 22-23), why should the remnant who trust God not fear? (vv. 24-25)
- Comparing verses 21 and 25, notice the timing of God’s dealing with each nation. How would you compare this to God’s dealing with you either in the past or currently?
- Verses 28-32 describe Assyria’s advance against Israel; verses 26-27 God’s punishment of Assyria.
- What will be the ultimate fate of Assyria and of all nations and powers who lift themselves up apart from or against God? (vv. 33-34)
IV. DAYS FOUR and FIVE: Isaiah 11:1-12:6
A. Isaiah 11:1-9:
- Isaiah continues his forest analogy as he brings hope for the future. God will have felled the great trees (kings and kingdoms) in the world, and one of those trees will be Judah. It may appear that the Davidic line is gone, but from the stump God will bring a new King. Why do you think it says the stump of Jesse and not of David?5
- Verses 2-3 give us a glimpse of what this new, messianic king will be like. In addition to the Spirit of the Lord resting on Him, what other Spirit-given qualities will He have?
- In contrast to Ahaz, what will be the basis by which He rules? (vv. 3-4)
- This king will not be weak or indecisive. What personal attributes, which are such a part of Him that they are like a belt, will enable Him to rule fairly and judge impartially?
- Taking the attributes of the Messiah along with the characteristics commanded in Ephesians 6:10-18, which of these are also true of you?
- The scene painted in Isaiah 11:6-9 is so idyllic it almost seems unreal. Could this be a picture of how the Garden of Eden was as well as how the new earth will be which we are looking forward to? Some see this picture as being symbolic. But could it be that when the curse of sin is removed, it will bring peace not only to mankind but also to the animal kingdom and all of creation? What do you think? (Genesis 8:1; 9:2; Ezekiel 34:25-31; Romans 8:18-22)
B. Isaiah 11:10-16:
- In Isaiah 7:18 God called enemy nations to come and discipline Judah, but now He calls all nations to worship Himself. In conjunction with that, the scattered people of Israel and Judah will be re-gathered to their land, and they will again be one people. Verse 11 says this is a second re-gathering, perhaps referring to the exodus under Moses as the first re-gathering.
- Compare the re-gathering of Israel and Judah and their victory over enemies described in verses 11-14 with what you have observed in world history over the past 75 years.
- The events of verses 15-16 are yet future. God, who miraculously parted the Red Sea during the original exodus, will also make a way for the remnant of His people in the future (Exodus 14:18-31).
C. Isaiah 12:1-6:
- “In that day…” Words cannot begin to express the joy Judah will feel! As you read their song of praise in verses 1-3, reword it as a prayer of personal praise for what God has done in your own life—first regarding your spiritual salvation, then in the ways He has brought, or is bringing, salvation in other parts of your life.
- The natural response to what God has done for us is praise. Verses 4-5 command this. To whom is this praise to be proclaimed?
- In addition to proclaiming what God has done, verses 4 and 6 tell us to praise Him publicly for who He is. What aspects of His character are you especially thankful for? Journal that and pray for an opportunity to share personally with someone who needs to hear.
- The intermingling of judgment and hope Ahaz and Judah faced warn us of the dangers of pride and the fact that no person or nation who sets themselves up above God can survive. It cautions us that we must be obedient to God to whom we are accountable, while also reminding us that it is worth it to not rely “on our own understanding” but instead to persevere in trusting and following God. Therefore, pause for a moment and ask yourself in whom you are trusting—in actual fact.
- Ahaz was plagued by pride. An antidote to the problem of pride is to develop a thankful spirit. It helps us remember that our God is God and we are not! Perhaps you might consider making a habit of expressing praise and thanks to God for something specific at least daily.
- What stands out to you about God’s moral character and trustworthiness from this lesson? What implication does that have for you personally? Could you therefore commit to making Proverbs 3:5-6 a guiding principle in your life?
1. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, Messianic Christology (Tustin, CA: Ariel Ministries, 1998), 36.
2. A child would be old enough to eat curds and honey by around 2 years of age. A boy became a “son of the law” at age 12-13.
3. Fear of God can be described as an “awe-filled obedience to the Holy One… [putting] pleasing Him before any other concern in our lives, being fully aware that our relationship to Him is the only factor in life that will determine our destiny.” John N. Oswalt, The NIV Application Commentary: Isaiah (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 153. I Peter 1:14-16 gives more insight.
4. Hebrews 2:13 records Jesus quoting Isaiah 8:17b-18a in relation to Himself.
5. This is puzzling to scholars. Some theories: a) Perhaps this refers to the fact that David came from a humble background of poverty. It will be in a time when Judah is humbled that the new king who is also living in poverty will appear; b) Another opinion holds that this king, although in the Davidic line, will be a different kind of king, one who does not carry the human frailties and sins of Judah’s royal line.
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