Isaiah: Glimpses of God
Perhaps you know people who have very low self esteem, and as a result, make poor decisions or have difficulty forming healthy relationships. Maybe that includes you. Sometimes that is the result of a shy, sensitive personality; sometimes it is the result of some form of abuse. This week’s lesson should be encouraging to people dealing with that issue. Rather than listening to the lie our inner voice repeats, listen to God as He presents the truth of our worth. It is amazing to see what high value God places on us, and the extent to which He has gone to prove it!
More importantly than that, however, we also learn more truth about the God we serve. Throughout Isaiah, God has proven Himself to be absolutely trustworthy. Will we choose to trust our sovereign Creator? As we see more of His character and hear His heart, we can’t help loving and trusting Him!
I. DAY ONE: God Redeems (Isaiah 43:1-13)
A. God’s Personal Presence (Isaiah 43:1-7)
- To Israel living in captivity, God identifies Himself in terms of relationship! What comfort would that give to people who had experienced His severe discipline, and who were wondering if God had rejected them? What similar encouragement does Hebrews 12:5-11 give you and me when we fall under God’s discipline?
- For what three reasons in Isaiah 43:1 is Israel not to be afraid. What additional reason is repeated in verses 2 and 5?
- The possibility that the Jews could leave Babylon safely must have seemed highly improbable. But the precious promises of verse 2 should have reminded them of God’s mighty acts of redemption in the past.
- What miraculous event did the water refer to? (See Exodus 14; a second, similar miracle is recorded in Joshua 3:9-17.)
- Of what miraculous event was the fire reminiscent? (Daniel 3:13-27) Where was God during this trial, which occurred near the beginning of the Babylonian captivity?
- How do the above true events affect your faith as you face your trials?
- What additional reason does Isaiah give for not being afraid in verses 3-4? Do you believe that what God says about Israel, He is also saying about you?
- Because Babylon had captured all of Assyria’s territory, when Cyrus permitted the Jews to return from Babylon to Judah, his proclamation also potentially allowed any from the northern tribe of Israel who wanted to, to return from the various countries to which they had been deported by Assyria. (See Ezra 1:3-4)1 Isaiah 43:5-6 seems to refer to this, while verse 7 looks beyond to a future return when people who are not physical descendants of Abraham are also included. How are these people described? Why were they created?
B. God, the Only Savior (Isaiah 43:8-13)
- Israel and Judah have been spiritually blind and deaf. They are in no condition to save themselves, let alone anyone else. God’s fulfillment of His prophecies regarding Israel proves again that He, not idols, is the only true God.
- It is amazing that God would trust Israel to be a witness for Him. However, if they will open their eyes and if they will listen, then they will be able to know God (with their hearts), believe (with their wills) and understand (with their minds). Notice that Israel is not commanded to be a witness, they are a witness (v.10). Israel is a witness for God by the very fact of her continued existence as a people. But additionally, she can be a witness through her experiences that God is, in fact, who He says He is. Unless there is a firsthand experience with God, then there is nothing to witness to. Israel is about to have another firsthand demonstration of God’s sovereignty through His fulfillment of this prophecy.
- For what purpose had God chosen Israel? (v. 10)
- What does God say about Himself in verse 11?
- There is both an implied warning and encouragement with reasons for security in verse 13. What two lessons do they teach about God?
II. DAY TWO: God’s Mercy (Isaiah 43:14-28)
A. God’s Sovereignty (Isaiah 43:14-21)
- Babylon reached its zenith around 600 BC. It was strategically located on both sides of the Euphrates River. It was a beautiful city and was extremely well fortified. Visitors to the Berlin Museum today can view the impressive reconstructed Ishtar Gate which hints at Babylon’s grandeur. Isaiah’s prophecy of Babylon’s demise would seem to be impossible, but who is actually giving this prophecy? (vv. 14-15) How should the way God identifies Himself give confidence to the Jewish refugees in Babylon?
- If God could accomplish the exodus from Egypt and miraculously open a way through the Red Sea for Israel, could He not make a way through the wilderness for His people currently in captivity under the Babylonians? Was one deliverance more impossible than the other?
- Yesterday you read Exodus 14 for the description of the “former thing” God did, described in Isaiah 43:16-17. Was God limited to one way of doing things? (Isaiah 43:18-19)
- If you have time, read Daniel 5 for the event that set into motion the “new thing,” the eventual release of the captives from Babylon.
- To spiritualize verses 18-19, is your testimony of God’s faithfulness based only on your salvation, “the former thing,” or does it include “new things” He is doing in and through you today? Verse 21 expresses God’s desire for His people: for you and me as well as Israel!
B. God’s Forgiveness (Isaiah 43:22-28)
- Although God had just proclaimed a glorious future, there were problems in the present that need to be addressed. Although the exile cured Israel of idolatry, the people had not come back to wholehearted trust in God. God had placed very few demands on them. It was not ritual offerings God wanted, but changed hearts and lives! God was not deceived. Sacrifices that were brought for the wrong reasons were viewed by God as not really being for Him, and He was not honored by them. The Jews were continuing to pile up sins to their account, without wearying, burdening, or bothering themselves to bring sin offerings (vv. 22-24).
- So why had God forgiven their sins? Was it because their sacrifices had manipulated Him into a position where He was forced to bow to their will and forgive them? (v. 25)
- The Jews were implying that God was unfair to send them into exile. But God said, take a look at your past. Neither you nor your ancestors have earned My favor but only destruction. Although God loves and forgives, sin has consequences!
III. DAY THREE: God’s People (Isaiah 44:1-8)
A. Israel’s Election (Isaiah 44:1-5)
- I love the words, “but now”! In spite of what Israel has earned and deserves, what two commands does God give in verses 1-2, and why do they not need to fear?
- The name, “Jeshurun” means “upright one.” She is not that by nature, so what will God do for Israel’s offspring to enable this to become true? (vv. 3-5)
- God will provide for both her physical and spiritual needs. When will this happen in its fullness? (Ezekiel 36:24-28; Joel 2:28-29) To a lesser degree, how is it true today? (John 7:37-39; Ephesians 1:11-14)
- From past study and from your own experience, what difference does it make to have the Holy Spirit in your life?
- What could you add from the following verses: John 14:16-17, 26; John 16:7-15; Romans 8:10-11, 15-16, 26-27; Galatians 5:22-23. You may also choose other references.
- Why is the exhortation of I Thessalonians 5:19 so critical? If you have done this, will you stop immediately, confess and repent of that sin, and prove that repentance by quickly and completely again following Him?
B. God’s Pre-eminence (Isaiah 44:6-8)
- Who is speaking in verse 6? This proclamation is made for the nations to hear. The Lord is the only God. An incredibly bold claim which if not true would leave us without hope in the world!
- Isaiah says it is true, and reminds us again in verse 7 of one of the reasons we can be confident of the reality of that claim.
- What difference does it make to your world view, which is the basis for all your hopes and life choices, that the claim of these verses is true? See if you can articulate your world view in your journal. “Because the Almighty God is the Creator, Redeemer, and Sovereign King, therefore I…”
IV. DAY FOUR: God’s Superiority (Isaiah 44:9-28)
A. Foolishness of Worshiping Idols (Isaiah 44:9-20)
- Continuing to speak to the nations, God gives His ultimate accusation against idolatry. It is utter foolishness and futility. Because an idol is worthless, of what value is idol-making? (vv. 9-11)
- From verses 12-20, do you see any reason for trusting in or worshiping something made by mankind? If people in your neighborhood worship man-made objects, how might you, from a heart of love, gently and respectfully explain this passage?
- Idolatry can take many forms, but at its essence it is anything that takes God’s place in our hearts and lives. One way to recognize an idol can be to examine one’s checkbook or one’s calendar.
- People in your neighborhood may worship other, more abstract idols. We commonly mention power, wealth, health, prestige, and having the latest “stuff” as 21st century idols. A very subtle, but demanding “god” is self. Which idols (these or others) do you most commonly encounter? How could you use the logic of this passage in relation to these more modern idols?
B. Wisdom of Worshiping God (Isaiah 44:21-28)
- Pay attention, Israel! By contrast with idols, God is fully alive. Israel didn’t “create” God, God created her (v. 21).
- God remembers His people and they are to remember Him (v. 21).
- God alone has the power to forgive. God has paid the price. Now a response is required on the part of the people (vv. 22-23).
- “This is what the Lord says.” God, the Redeemer, alone, created and controls creation (v. 24)
- God confuses false prophets (v. 25).
- God confirms the word of his servants (v. 26).
- God predicts the future, and what He prophesies is as certain as if it had already happened (vv. 26-28).
- Isaiah called for heavens and earth to sing and shout praise to God. How might you incorporate similar praise into your private worship of God? How might the thoughts in these verses also help your public worship be true and heartfelt?
V. DAY FIVE: God’s Uniqueness (Isaiah 45)
A. God’s Jealousy for His Reputation (Isaiah 45:1-8)
- One of the most amazing prophecies in Scripture is that of Isaiah 45:1. Refer to Isaiah 41:2-4, 25 and 44:28 for more of this prophecy. Israel’s God was not a mere tribal deity. As sovereign God, He could use anyone He chose to accomplish His purpose. Cyrus may not have known God, but God knew Cyrus!
- Cyrus, founder of the Persian Empire, conquered the Medes in 549 BC, becoming ruler of the combined empires. In 539 BC, he conquered Babylon, and in 538 BC issued the decree that the Jews could return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. This was completed in 515 BC. Later, in 444 BC, the city walls were rebuilt under Nehemiah’s direction.
- To understand the sequence of events, read Daniel 5:30 and 9:1-19 for the downfall of Babylon and Daniel’s prayer during the period of rule by the Medes. Next read Jeremiah’s prophecies in Jeremiah 25:12 and 29:10-14. Then read II Chronicles 36:23 and Ezra 1:1-4 for Cyrus’ astounding proclamation.
- Besides being His agent to return the Jews to Israel, God also commissioned Cyrus to avenge the nations.
- Was Cyrus a “believer” in God? (v. 4) From past lessons, why then would God call Cyrus his anointed? (v. 1)
- Underline “I am the Lord” (or similar phrase) each place you find it in Isaiah 45. Could it be that God wants us to pay attention to this statement and its implications? (A teenager would say, “Duh!”) Could it be that God is trying to shake Israel (and us) out of complacency? Could it be that God is also calling out to our post-modern way of thinking, saying, “Yes, there is absolute truth! It matters what you believe about Me! I am still the only true God!”
- Verse 7 has caused some to ask whether God is the author of evil. In this verse, it is not moral evil, but physical or natural adversity such as earthquakes which is being referred to. The pagans believed there were two equal forces, one good and one evil, which were constantly warring. Isaiah is saying that God who is sovereign is all good, and if evil occurs it is only because God allows it. But therefore, you ask, isn’t God responsible for not only natural disasters, but evil? In brief, the Christian understanding is that when mankind fell (Genesis 3), the consequences of sin fell not only on mankind but also on the natural world. Because of His omniscience, any disaster that occurs is not a surprise to God, but falls under His permissive will. Nevertheless, God is not and was not the originator of evil, nor is there any evil in Him or His character (Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 5:4; Habakkuk 1:13a).3 Is God neutral about the issue of sin and evil in the world? No, He is passionate about this, so much so that He entered the world in the person of the Messiah to judge sin and to provide redemption from sin and its consequences (John 3:16; Romans 6:23).
B. God’s Omnipotence (Isaiah 45:9-17)
- Sometimes we disagree with how God chooses to do things, either now or in reference to His future plans. How do verses 9-12 answer us? Do we have the right to criticize the method God chooses to use to provide redemption (in this case, through Cyrus)?
- Since Cyrus would be giving up the Jews, who would God give him in exchange? (Isaiah 43:3-4; 45:14) What greater exchange did God make for you and me? (John 3:16; II Corinthians 5:21)
- Verses 15-17 explain that even if the nations don’t yet clearly understand who God is, Israel will know who delivered them. God, not an idol, not another nation, not even Cyrus, is their savior.
C. God’s Invitation (Isaiah 45:18-25)
- God the Creator says to all nations: I am the only God; I have not spoken in secret4; seeking Me is not a futile exercise because I can be found5. I speak the truth, therefore, “Come to Me!” (vv. 18-19)
- God says to all peoples: Consider the impotence of idols versus my omniscience, sovereignty and righteous character. Therefore, “Come!” (vv. 20-21)
- Rather than calling out condemnation, God cries out from the depths of His heart to all people in all generations in all parts of the earth, “Come to me and be saved!” (v. 22) God is the only God, and therefore He is also the only Savior.6
- Time is running out. God says in verses 23-25 that there is a day coming when final justice will be meted out. Every knee will bow before Him!7 Many will be forced to bow as they recognize they have rebelled against the only Savior. But others will bow out of love and gratitude for God their Savior. Which group will you be in?
- List the names and attributes of God in these chapters. If you haven’t done so previously, you might like to put each one at the top of a separate page so you can easily add to your list as you find new references. Under each name record the reference and a description of what it means in your own words.
- God’s love for His people jumps off the pages of these chapters. Journal the value you have as a person based not on how you feel about yourself, nor on the evaluation of others, but on God’s view of you. Include scripture references that validate this.
- After reviewing the verses you have memorized, add one more passage, perhaps Isaiah 43:1-2. If God seems to be speaking to you from a different verse, select that one to memorize and meditate on instead.
1. The “Cyrus Cylinder” at the British Museum supports the accuracy of this Biblical account.
2. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament (USA: Victor Books, 1988).
3. See also: Walter C. Kaiser, Peter H. Davids Jr., F. F. Bruce, and Manfred T. Brauch, Hard Sayings of the Bible (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1996) 306.
4. Romans 1:19-20.
5. Jeremiah 29:13.
6. The New Testament identifies God the Savior as Jesus in John 14:6; Acts 4:12.
7. Quoted in Romans 14:11-12 and Philippians 2:10-11 where Jesus is identified as that Savior.
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