Isaiah: Glimpses of God
All choices have consequences. Consequences have a ripple effect. For example, sin pollutes—not only the human heart and human society but even the earth itself, as we see when we look at the air over our cities.
Isaiah has shown us that God’s discipline, and when necessary, His judgment, is applied first to His own people, and then to others. God had done everything He could do for Judah and Israel and yet they had rebelled against Him. We can agree with Him that the discipline He brought was justly deserved. Next, Isaiah looked at the nations surrounding Judah. They too earned God’s judgment. These severe judgments in Old Testament times, however, were merely forerunners of a future, catastrophic judgment of the whole world. Isaiah warns us that all the nations of the earth have earned God’s judgment.
These four chapters have been called Isaiah’s “apocalypse” because they introduce God’s universal judgment. If we had thought that people and nations were in control of the events of history, we learn that in fact it is the sovereign Creator of the universe who is in control. Because God’s judgment is coming, we all need a savior, which God in His grace has provided. By God’s mercy some will survive this judgment of the earth. The consequences of sin will be finally and permanently removed, and God’s victorious, universal rule will commence.
What comfort can we find in the midst of so much judgment? Our sense of justice is validated when we learn that there is a day coming when God, the righteous judge, will judge evil and reward good. We rejoice to find that our trust in God is not misplaced. He is a safe refuge for those who trust in Him. Our hope is renewed as we see that what our sovereign God planned for His righteous people long ago will be accomplished.
I. DAY ONE: Destruction (Isaiah 24)
A. Devastation (Isaiah 24:1-13)
- To all who trust in the status quo, believing that all things will continue as they have always been, this chapter is a wake-up call! How does verse 1 make you feel?
- Verse 2 describes the universality of judgment against mankind. Is anyone immune? Why would God do this? (See Romans 1:18-20; 3:10-18.)
- How many times do you see the word, “earth,” in Isaiah 24?
- Planet Earth has been affected by mankind’s sin, beginning with the curse in Genesis 3:17. In addition, mankind’s failure to properly care for the earth has contributed to earth’s devastation (Genesis 2:15; Isaiah 24:5). Besides air pollution, what other evidences of corruption do you see which mankind has caused? What could you do to be a better caretaker of the part of the earth where you live?
- Worse than our lack of care of our planet is our sin against God and our sins against each other. List some sins against one another which pervade our society. How does Numbers 35:33-34 describe the seriousness of those sins?
B. Terror (Isaiah 24:14-20)
- The righteous remnant who is spared rejoices! What is their song? (vv. 14-16)
- Isaiah, however, overwhelmed by the vision of God’s wrath being poured out on earth, laments. Will any unrighteous people be able to escape God’s judgment? (vv. 17-18)
- Verse 18 reminds us of the devastation of the earth in Noah’s day (Luke 17:26-27). Compare Isaiah 24:17-20 with Revelation 6:12-17 and 16:17-21. What catastrophic effects will God’s coming judgment have on planet Earth? What will the effect be on the people?
- What is the reason for such a severe outpouring of wrath? (Isaiah 24:20)
C. The Day of the Lord (Isaiah 24:21-23)
- Not only will the earth and its people be punished, who else will be judged? What does Revelation 20:1-3 add to Isaiah 24:21-22?
- What do Revelation 20:11-15 and 21:8 say will be the final destiny of all who have not turned to follow God? (Notice from I Corinthians 6:9-11 that there is forgiveness available to those who turn from these sins to faith in Christ.)
- What will this catastrophic judgment finally allow to happen? (Isaiah 24:23 and Revelation 21:1-7)
II. DAY TWO: Praise (Isaiah 25)
A. Trust rewarded (Isaiah 25:1-5)
- If you were to make a declaration of faith, might it sound something like Isaiah’s in verse 1? Journal what you would say.
- Is Isaiah’s statement of commitment at the beginning of Isaiah 25:1 yours as well? What promises which God has already fulfilled cause you to praise Him? What promises has God made which you are looking forward to with confident faith?
- True trust believes God will do what He says, so Isaiah praises God for His future victories as if they had already happened. God is sovereign. He has not been reacting to events which caught Him by surprise. What does verse 1 reveal to you about God’s planning?
- The word “city” sometimes represents a stronghold of opposition to God. In Isaiah’s day, most people lived in the country. The city was a place of wealth and strength, a place to which people fled for protection in times of trouble. Can mankind’s strength protect one from God’s punishment? What will these “ruthless nations” be forced to do?
- What difference will there be for the righteous, who put their trust in God, when in need? How does Matthew 5:3-12 expand on the blessings given to those who, knowing they are poor and needy, seek refuge in God?
B. Trust celebrated (Isaiah 25:6-8)
- When a king was crowned, a coronation banquet was held. The feast in the millennial kingdom is introduced in Matthew 8:11-12. Describe the quality and quantity of the feast in Isaiah. Compare God’s provision for those in the Millennial Kingdom with His ability to provide for you now. (Matthew 6:25-34; Philippians 4:19; 2 Peter 1:3-4)
- How many times do you see the word “all” in verses 6-7? Notice that it does not refer to all persons (as in universal salvation) but to all peoples (as in persons from all nations and people groups). What does that reveal about the extent of God’s salvation?
- Verses 7-8 give a precious promise in poetic language. Interestingly, “in Ugaritic mythology, Mot (‘death’) is a deity of the netherworld who… is often pictured as one who swallows his prey… Here it is Yahweh who swallows death… so that the death masks are removed from those who have been so close to extinction.”1
- I attended a memorial service yesterday, and another one just last month. We who are followers of Christ do grieve for those who die, but not like those without Christ do. What hope do verses 7-8 give to you?
- The following verses allude to life after death, a reason why our fear is removed. After reading them, journal the hope that you have, and the reasons for your hope. (Hosea 13:14; Luke 24:36-44; John 11:21-26; John 14:1-4; I Corinthians 15:50-58; I Thessalonians 4:13-18)
C. Trust required (Isaiah 25:9-12)
- What is required for salvation? Where must saving faith be placed? (v. 9)
- If someone asked you how you put your trust in God, what would you answer?
- What byproduct of salvation do you see in verse 9? Is this your present reality?
- Moab, perhaps symbolic of all who didn’t trust God, was characterized by pride. Her cleverness was not adequate to save her from God’s judgment. Ultimately all opposition to God’s people will be put down. There is salvation for those who trust in God, but God will ensure the death of those who refuse to trust Him.
III. DAYS THREE and FOUR: Peace (Isaiah 26-27:1)
A. Peace (Isaiah 26:1-6)
- “In that day” –After God defeats His enemies there will be great rejoicing. Rather than the proud city of Isaiah 25:2 and 26:5-6 which was humanly conceived and protected and therefore destroyed by God, this will be the city of God and protected by Him. Do you think Isaiah 26:1-2 is describing a geographical location, a relationship, or both?
- Who may enter this “strong city”? (v. 2) Does “keeps faith” refer only to beliefs or also to righteous actions stemming from those beliefs? (James 2:18, 22)
- Peace, or “shalom,” refers not just to the cessation of war, but includes blessings such as wholeness, health, quietness of soul, preservation, and completeness.2 I think of it as including peace with God, peace with others, and peace with myself.
- What do the following verses reveal about how we get true peace? (Isaiah 26:3; John 14:27; Philippians 4:6-7)
- True trust is described in verses 3-4. How does the word “steadfast” (NIV) or “mind is stayed on Thee” (KJV) help clarify what trust looks like in daily life? I have found the promise of this verse to be true in my life in some very stressful situations. Can you give an example from your own experience where you have proved the truth of this verse?
B. Patience (Isaiah 26:7-11)
- Often the “path” for the follower of Christ is difficult, so what do verses 7-8 mean? Is the way of God confusing or misleading or harmful? Where do we learn what God’s way is? In what ways have you experienced God “smooth” the way for you? How do the following verses help? (Psalm 119:105; Isaiah 30:21)
- Waiting patiently for God to act is a demonstration of trust. It is not passive. Find two or three things this waiting includes from verses 8-9a.
- Name some ways God shows grace to all mankind. Why do you think we are so complacent in the face of these blessings? Compare Romans 2:4-5 with Isaiah 26:9b-11. We regularly see this demonstrated in children (or adults) who refuse to change their behavior when treated kindly. We often learn more if the negative consequences to our choices are uncomfortable or frightening. If people refuse to repent when God shows them grace, how does this prove God’s justice in judgment?
C. Prayer (Isaiah 26:12-27:1)
- We like to take credit for the good things we accomplish. We point to our good understanding and our hard work. According to the prayer of the remnant in verses 12-15, who actually allows our efforts to be effective in an eternal sense? Although Judah’s enemies tried to destroy her what did God do for her instead? To whom is glory due?
- God is powerful, but His people have been helpless and ineffective. Verse 16 implies the severity of the discipline Judah received.
- Like a woman in labor (vv. 17-18), Judah struggled but was unable to produce fruit on her own. In our day, are we able to save ourselves or to produce spiritual fruit in our own power? Can anyone? (John 1:10-13; Ephesians 2:1-5, 8-9)
- Not only could Judah not save herself, to whom was she unable to bring salvation? (v. 18) Isaiah doesn’t want the world to only receive justice at God’s hand, but also God’s mercy and salvation. Remembering the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 12:3) and from your own knowledge of the Old Testament, how was Israel to have done this? What resources had God given them? (Romans 9:4-5) How do you and I compare regarding fulfilling our commission? (Matthew 28:18-20)
- Mankind also cannot conquer death. Although God’s people have failed Him in the past and have undergone His discipline, death is not the final word. There will be a bodily resurrection for His people. (Job 19:26; Philippians 3:21; I Thessalonians 4:13-19) What encouragement does Isaiah 26:19 give you?
- God speaks: God will protect those who are alive during the coming judgment of the earth from ultimate harm. Compare God’s instructions in Isaiah 26:20-21 with His instructions to Moses and the Israelites (Exodus 12:21-23). What do you think Isaiah’s instructions mean in practical terms?
- Although there has been much persecution on earth, particularly against God’s people, God will execute justice (Isaiah 26:21). The hidden will be revealed in due time. The godly are to wait until God fulfills His purposes for this present world. How do the following verses encourage you in your time of waiting: I Corinthians 4:1-5; I Peter 2:12, 20-21; 4:1-2; II Peter 3:11-14?
- “In that day”: Isaiah 27:1, in describing the final judgment of the world, borrows from Ugaritic and Canaanite mythology which described a “chaos beast” (Leviathan, a sea monster) to show that no enemy can defeat God or thwart His plan. It is safe to trust in God. He has already won the victory. We are merely waiting for the final consummation of His plan.3
- If you are living in a place where you are suffering persecution, what comfort do these verses give you? How do they help you to persevere in your calling? If you live in a place where you do not face persecution, it is easy to become complacent. Will you commit to pray for those who do? Will you also commit and prepare to stand firm should persecution come to you in the future, trusting God for the fulfillment of His plan and His final victory?
IV. DAY FIVE: Deliverance (Isaiah 27)
A. In that day – a song (Isaiah 27:2-11)
- In Isaiah 5, Isaiah sang a song about God and His vineyard. Now Isaiah sings about God’s restored vineyard. Compare and contrast Isaiah 27:2-6 with Isaiah 5:1-7. What do you think made the difference?
- God is no longer abandoning Judah to the briers but now is fighting the weeds. He will even show mercy to the briers if they make peace with Him (v. 5)!
- The result for Israel (Jacob) and through them, the world, is described in verse 6.
- Isaiah foretold God’s judgment of Israel and Judah; however, their punishment would be different from that of other nations. Why did God disperse Israel under Assyria and exile Judah into Babylon? (Isaiah 27:9; Deuteronomy 28:45-52, 64) What would be the effect on the land during this time? (vv. 10-11)
- In contrast to the description of Israel in verse 11, what is implied that we must do to receive God’s mercy? (Deuteronomy 30:1-3, 9-10; II Chronicles 7:14; Jeremiah 9:23-24 and Acts 3:19)
B. In that day – a sound (Isaiah 27:12-13)
- Finally it is time for God’s harvest. Will everyone be restored to the land? What encouragement does the phrase, “gathered up one by one” give you (v. 12)?
- How do the following parables Jesus gave about this harvest expand your understanding of verse 12? (Matthew 13:36-43; 13:47-50)
- What other descriptions are given about this harvest time? (Matthew 24:31; I Corinthians 15:52; I Thessalonians 4:16; Revelation 14:15)
- What will the redeemed and restored people do? (Isaiah 27:13)
- Have your choices resulted in your life being characterized by joy, trust, hope and God’s peace?
- This life is not all there is! When one recognizes that there are both earthly and eternal consequences for the choices we make now, it becomes a priority to make choices that lead to eternal life and spiritual fruitfulness. Committing to a lifestyle of trust in God brings a “peace that passes understanding” in this life as well as the next. May I suggest memorizing Isaiah 26:3 to help you as you walk on the “path” God has chosen for you?
- What aspects of God’s character stand out to you from this lesson? Journal them and the reasons they are significant to you.
1. John H. Walton, Victor Matthews, and Mark W. Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2000), 618.
2. Warren W. Wiersbe, Be Comforted (Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, 1992), 78.
3. John N Oswalt, The NIV Application Commentary: Isaiah (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 301-2.
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