Isaiah: Glimpses of God
Whom do we trust—really? Chapters 34-35 provide a summary conclusion to chapters 13-33 in which Isaiah urged Judah to trust in God, and warned of the folly of trusting in herself or in other nations. It matters who we trust! Those who choose to trust in human solutions to their problems will end up in a desolate desert. Those who repent (turn) and choose to trust in God will see that desert turn into an oasis.
Isaiah has been revealing prophecies both of judgment and salvation which were primarily fulfilled in Old Testament times. The prophecies of the judgment of Assyria, however, are a natural bridge into these prophecies of “the Day of the Lord” when all nations are judged in what is called the Great Tribulation. This is followed by the covenant people of God finally receiving the promised blessings of the Millennial kingdom. Chapters 34-35 take us beyond the events of Isaiah’s day to a time which is future to us, and toward which history is rapidly rushing. Therefore, you and I, like Judah, must pay careful attention.
I. DAY ONE: Isaiah 34:1-4
A. All Nations:
- God, who is loving and merciful, is also a holy, righteous judge. Whereas other gods are local or tribal gods, the God of the Bible is sovereign over the heavens and the earth in their entirety. Reading about the severity and extent of judgment to come is shocking to us, but it should remind us of the gravity of sin from God’s viewpoint. It is so serious that only the substitutionary death of the Messiah is sufficient to satisfy God’s wrath against you and me for our sin. Isaiah 53:5-6; John 3:16 and Romans 6:23 explain how God balances His mercy and His justice.
- Isaiah has been speaking primarily to Judah. Who is he addressing in verse 1? Does that include your nation? Does it also include you?
- As in Isaiah 1:2, the language is that of a courtroom. God has proven His case, declared the verdict and now announces the sentence. This time it is not Judah, but all nations who have been judged and found guilty. Underline the word “all” in verses 1 and 2. Do you see any exceptions?
- Thinking back through chapters 13-33, why would God be angry with the nations?
- Armies represent the strength and pride of a nation. This conflict may seem to be purely on a human level to those involved, but on a deeper level it represents the arrogance of mankind who rebels against God, either passively through indifference or actively in defiance of Him. Are they any match for God? Compare verses 2-3 with Revelation 19:11-21.
- Is it safe to trust any human agency with one’s eternal soul?
B. All the Stars:
- Not only will the people of the earth be affected, so will the entire cosmos. Compare verse 4 with Joel 2:10, Matthew 24:29 and Revelation 6:12-14.
- It is probable that this describes not only the physical stars in the cosmos, but also represents a judgment against false gods. Exodus 12:12 gives support for instances where a judgment in the physical world was also a judgment against “gods” in the spirit world. Interestingly, the “Mesopotamian religion included the idea that the gods were given stations within the heavens…the disappearing of a star or planet always suggested that the related deity had suffered defeat in battle. Astral deities were considered among the most prominent and powerful of the gods. The dissolving of the stars and the fall of the starry host are therefore related.”1
- The heavens being rolled up like a scroll (v. 4 and Revelation 6:14) may represent judgment against the three main deities of the ancient world who were represented not by stars but by the sky and the horizon.2
- Is any god other than the Creator of the universe worth trusting with one’s eternal soul?
II. DAY TWO: Isaiah 34:5-8
A. Edom’s Judgment:
- Judgment moves back to the earth. The imagery changes from the battlefield to the Temple. Normally people offer sacrifices to God. Here God is the one who is presenting the sacrifice—that of unrepentant people. Edom, as Israel’s “prototype enemy,” is representative of all nations who are in rebellion against God. (Numbers 20:14-21 records an early instance of enmity against Israel.) In Ezekiel 35 and in the little book of Obadiah, God expands His reasons for judging the nation, Edom.
- The judgment against Edom seems harsh. Why do you think God calls this a “sacrifice”? Could it represent the fact that all sin must be atoned for with blood? What does God say in Leviticus 17:11? The scales of justice must be balanced! If we don’t accept the sacrifice God offered on our behalf (John 3:16; Romans 3:22-25a; I Peter 2:24) then we must pay the price for our rebellion and rejection of God ourselves (Romans 3:23; 6:23; John 3:36).
- Compare verses 6-7 with Ezekiel 39:17-19. What purposes in Ezekiel 39:21-24 might apply to this final sacrifice described by Isaiah?
B. Zion’s Cause:
- From Genesis 12:2-3, what part of the Abrahamic Covenant is God fulfilling in this passage?
- What additional related information does Joel 3:1-17 give?
- Can Israel and Judah trust God to keep His covenant with them? Therefore can you and I trust the same God to keep His covenant of grace with us? (Ephesians 2:4-9)
III. DAY THREE: Isaiah 34:9-17
A. Edom’s Desolation:
- The devastation of Edom’s land is reminiscent of the judgment of Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 18:16-19:29. We humans are held accountable for our choices. As you read the Genesis account, was God hasty in bringing judgment? Was God fair? Also read Luke 17:28-33. How would you answer the above questions in relation to this Isaiah account?
- The Valley of Siddim under the Dead Sea and near its southern edge has historically been an area with both tar pits and sulfur (Genesis 14:10) making it easy to visualize a literal fulfillment of this prophecy. This may be another reason Edom was used to represent the destruction of the nations.
- In Amos 7:7-9, God used a plumb line to evaluate His people, Israel. Measuring tapes and plumb lines are tools normally used for building. How are they used in Amos 7 and in Isaiah 34:11? What is God’s verdict?
- From our perspective, we may still feel that God’s judgment is too harsh, but what is the viewpoint of those who are in heaven? (Revelation 19:1-4) Why do they say God’s judgment is justified?
- Just as there are laws of nature which must be obeyed, so there are moral laws which are not changeable, and the nations who violate them must pay the penalty. There must be closure for crimes committed. The scales of justice must be balanced.
B. God’s Scroll:
- The desolation will be so vast that the land will no longer be habitable by people. Only animals will be able to live there. Who will gather the animals there? (v. 16)
- What did Jeremiah 9:12-14 say about the destruction of Jerusalem under the Babylonians which also applies here?
- God cares about animals as well as people. (Job 38:41, for example.) What provision will God make for them in verses 16-17?
- What the scroll of verse 16 is, is uncertain. Could it refer to the prophecy of Isaiah? This scroll enables us to verify that this prophecy was fulfilled, and therefore confirms the fact that when God speaks, He fulfills His word. It also reminds us that God’s laws are fixed, His observations are accurate, and His decisions are right!
IV. DAY FOUR: Isaiah 35:1-4
A. Redeemed Land:
- What a contrast when judgment has been executed and the time for blessing has finally come! Don’t you feel happy just reading the poetic descriptions of verses 1-2?
- At that future time, even the land will be released from its bondage which was the result of man’s sin. Read the original curse in Genesis 3:17-19. What is the creation looking forward to according to Romans 8:19-22? With your creative imagination, how would you picture the world without the effects of sin, decay and death?
- What might the rejoicing of Psalm 96:11-13 and 98:7-9 look like?
- Psalms 8, 19 and Romans 1:20 tell us that something of God’s glory can be seen in creation. How much more clearly do you think God’s glory will be recognized in the future from Isaiah 35:1-2? What does Isaiah 55:12-13 add? Can you hardly wait?
B. Redeemed People:
- It is hard to wait for God’s promises to be fulfilled! While we are waiting, we are not to just sit around. What two things does Isaiah 35:3 say we are to do? What does each one mean?
- Who are we to encourage? What are we to tell them? Why are they not to fear?
- Hebrews 12:7-15 quotes Isaiah 35:3 in the context of God’s sanctification process for you and me. What additional encouragement do you gain from Hebrews?
- It seems that God is taking a long time. What might you share to strengthen the faith of a weaker, discouraged, or worried person as they wait?
V. DAY FIVE: Isaiah 35:5-10
A. Holy People:
- When Jesus was on earth, He healed physically as well as spiritually. (See Luke 7:18-23 in which Jesus strengthened John the Baptist’s faith by pointing to His fulfillment of these prophecies.) It was in a sense a “down payment” on the complete healing described in Isaiah 35:5-6 (II Corinthians 5:4-5). One of my friends had a profoundly handicapped child. Each one of these healing touches (and more) was needed for her child. However, she did not receive them on earth, so her mother eagerly looks forward to meeting her daughter in heaven where she will be able to see and hear, talk and walk for the very first time! Can you imagine the joyful laughter as they are reunited? Who among your family and friends has suffered physically while on earth? Are you looking forward to their freedom from the bondage of their physical limitations when God brings in His kingdom?
- Some see these promises in a spiritual sense only, as in Isaiah 32:3-4, but here it may be preferable to see them in a literal sense. Perhaps this also might be the reverse of the “curse” on those who previously refused to believe(Isaiah 6:9-13; 29:17-18; 30:8-14; 32:3-4).
- In places where there has only been a desert, the curse will be reversed and abundant water will be present (Isaiah 35:6-7).
B. Holy Highway:
- Isaiah likes to use the highway theme. (Also in 11:16; 19:23; 40:3; 62:10.)
- Assyria had made many of the main highways unsafe for travel. In the time of the judgment of Edom, her highways would be impassable (Isaiah 34:10). What will be the situation in the Kingdom age?
- The “Way of Holiness” might also be called the way to God. In ancient cities there sometimes were roads that were reserved for the use of kings and priests. One could only walk on them if invited. From Isaiah 35:8-10, who can walk on this “highway”? From Matthew 7:13-14 and John 14:6, how do we get onto that “highway”? (Perhaps it was this verse that caused first-century Christians to call themselves followers of “the Way,” as in Acts 9:2.)
- Once we are one of the redeemed (v. 9), how are we to walk as we journey through life? (John 8:12; Romans 8:12-14; Galatians 5:16; I John 1:7)
- Consider these possible lessons spiritualized from this section. Evaluate them in light of Isaiah to determine whether they are valid:
- God first came to us (Isaiah 35:3-4) which makes it possible for us to then come to Him (vv.8-10). (Also see John 1:10-13; I John 4:10, 19.)
- Any barriers in coming to God are of our making, not His.
- We are saved not so we can be complacent, but so we can walk with God in holiness.
- God will make a way for His people through their most difficult circumstances.
- Walking with God brings deep, everlasting joy.
- How does the picture of verse 10 affect your attitude toward your transition from life on earth to that lived in “heaven” in the presence of God for eternity? “Praise God from whom all blessings flow!”
- These two chapters wrap up the first division of Isaiah. We have learned that it matters where you place your trust. Honestly evaluate your heart to see where your trust is truly placed. Do you often trust in the “Edoms” of the world or is your trust firmly, steadfastly placed in God? Do you keep such tight control over your life (perhaps indicating trust in yourself) that God doesn’t have room to work? Your prayer life may be a good indicator of where your trust actually is placed.
- Are there times when your relationship with the Father has felt dry? Is your life more like a desert or an oasis? Perhaps you might set aside a block of time for prayer and meditation solely to see the Lord and His splendor (Isaiah 35:1-2). A result of seeing Him may be that your “feeble hands, unsteady knees, and fearful heart” are strengthened.
- Has God made a promise to you which has been a long time coming? Take courage from this passage that God remembers and in His timing answers perfectly. Commit to pray and trust and obey as you await the fulfillment of that promise.
- Have you been the victim of injustice? God, not you, is responsible for the ultimate dispensing of justice (Romans 12:19). From what you have seen in Isaiah 34, will you choose to trust Him with that?
- God takes His covenants seriously! What He promises, He fulfills. His timing is not ours, but He is never too early and never too late.
1. John H. Walton, Victor Matthews, and Mark W. Chavalas, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2000), 624.
2. Ibid, 624.
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