Isaiah: Glimpses of God
Chapters 46-48 provide a “summary” in a sense of what we have been learning about our almighty, sovereign God. Judah and Israel have been slow learners. Although we have the completed canon of Scripture and are sometimes proud of our knowledge of God and His word, the same may be said of many of us.
Isaiah reminds us in these chapters that we can test God to determine whether God is who He says He is. God has proven Himself in many ways, and one is through fulfilled prophecy. God can also test us to determine whether our professed faith in Him is genuine. Those with authentic faith listen to God and do what He says.
God accomplishes His purpose in His way, and invites us to cooperate and participate with Him as He does so. God can use anyone whether they believe in Him or not, but how much better when our hearts and lives are surrendered to Him! God is not defeated by idols, gods, human powers or even by our sin. I am so thankful!
I. DAY ONE: Isaiah 46
A. God versus Babylon’s gods (Isaiah 46:1-7)
- Isaiah has told us over and over that God is the only Savior! Chapter 46 begins with an illustration of the truth of that claim.
- Babylon was used by God to judge Judah, but Babylon’s own gods which were merely idols, would not be able to protect her from God when her time came to be judged by Him. Bel (different from the Baal of the Canaanites) was Babylon’s sun god, also known as Marduk. Nebo was his son, the god of writing, learning and astronomy. Heavy statues of these gods were carried around at Babylon’s New Year’s Day festival. Although the Babylonians had worshiped these gods, when Babylon was conquered by the Medes, not only did these gods not save Babylon, the Babylonians had to save them! In fact, when the Babylonians were sent into captivity, the idols representing these impotent gods were loaded onto ox-carts to be taken with them into captivity. Read Isaiah’s description in verses 1-2.
- God frequently told His people to listen rather than hardening their hearts.
- Listen! Contrast Israel’s God (vv. 3-4) with Babylon’s gods. At what stages of the nation’s life has God been present? What has He done for His people during these life stages?
- The proclamation and promise of verses 3-4 are also true for individuals. What does Psalm 139 add about God’s relationship with you, His knowledge of you, and His sustaining of you? How does this encourage you? What parts of this psalm might you pray back to God?
- God does not allow us to think of Him as being like other gods. There is no comparison (v. 5). If we insist on making our own “gods” then we are condemned to “carry” and protect them (vv. 6-7). From your personal experience, have you found that elevating something or someone to a higher place than God produces stress as you have to work hard to keep that person or thing satisfied? Can self-made “gods” save you on any level?
B. God’s purposes accomplished (Isaiah 46:8-13)
- Remember! God has presented sufficient evidence throughout Israel’s history, and through Isaiah’s prophecies, that it should be obvious He alone is God (vv. 8-9). Therefore, Israel (and you and I) must make a decision. Do we believe what God says about Himself? If we do believe it, how will we respond?
- “Remember the former things.” The exile in Babylon did not catch God by surprise. It was prophesied by Him long before He brought it to pass.
- What does verse 10 imply about God’s omniscience?
- What do verses 10-11 state about God’s uniqueness in giving and fulfilling prophecy?
- What do you learn about God’s sovereignty? Can anyone or anything prevent God from accomplishing His purpose?
- Is God limited in the “tools” He can use? (verse 11) What surprising “tools” has He used in your life?
- How does God describe His people in verse 12? Would He ever say that about you and me?
- When we compare ourselves to other people or when we live independently of God we may be tempted to feel self-righteous. What does God say about our righteousness in relation to His true righteousness? (verse 12) How does Romans 3:10-18 confirm that this evaluation of Israel is true of all people? God will not deliver Israel because her actions are righteous. What one thing should they do which would be “counted as righteousness”? (Romans 4:1-5)
- God is about to display His righteousness and bring glory to Himself by fulfilling His promise to free Israel from captivity through bringing Cyrus to the throne. Israel has a choice to make. Will they trust God to do what He says He will do in verse 13?
- Another interpretation of verses 12-13 is that God would bring His righteousness, Cyrus, the ‘bird of prey’ of verse 11, to carry out God’s will against the Babylonians who were far from righteousness.1
II. DAY TWO: Fulfilled prophecy
A. God’s challenge
- One of the ways God has differentiated Himself from other “gods” is by the fact that He proclaims and fulfills prophecy. (See Isaiah 41:22-24; 46:10.)
- We, like Israel, are challenged to believe what God prophesies about the future based on the fulfillment of prophecies in the past. Therefore, today let’s look beyond Isaiah’s prophecies related to Israel and Judah in connection with Assyria and Babylon, and consider some other prophecies God has fulfilled. The following verses are just a few of the over 300 prophecies about the Messiah. Compare these Old and New Testament references to see what some of these prophecies were and how they were fulfilled. Based on what you discover, how seriously will you take prophecies of Scripture regarding the future?
B. Messianic prophecies
- Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 7:14 – Matthew 1:20-23; Galatians 4:4
- Micah 5:2 – Luke 2:4-7
- Isaiah 9:1-2 – Matthew 4:12, 16, 23
- Isaiah 35:5-6 – Matthew 11:4-6
- Psalm 41:9 – John 13:18, 21, 26; Luke 22:48
- Zechariah 11:12 – Matthew 26:15
- Isaiah 53:7 – Matthew 27:12
- Psalm 22:7-8 – Matthew 27:39-44
- Psalm 69:21 – Matthew 27:34
- Psalm 22:18 – Matthew 27:35
- Exodus 12:46; Psalm 34:20 – John 19:33
- Zechariah 12:10 – John 19:34
III. DAY THREE: Isaiah 47
A. Babylon’s Fall (Isaiah 47:1-7)
- For God to fulfill His promise to Israel, Babylon needed to fall, and the exiles in Babylon had to trust God enough to go back to Judah when their opportunity came.
- In times of war, the most vulnerable were young, unmarried girls. Babylon was a “virgin” in that she was not subject to another nation; her walls had never been breached. This had given her a false sense of security and importance. In her pride, she assumed she was entitled to be the eternal queen, the premier city and empire of the world into perpetuity.
- By contrast, what does God say will happen to Babylon in verses 1-3? (Note: Sitting in dust was a characteristic of mourning. Hard menial labor, rape, and abuse are also described.)
- How is God identified in verse 4? With whom does God claim a relationship? Judah would call God her Redeemer, recognizing that God had done for her what she could not do for herself!
- Babylon was like a pampered noblewoman, tender, delicate, living in luxury off the work of others, arrogantly exploiting those God put under her power. She had shown no mercy to Israel. Like Assyria, Babylon went beyond the limits God gave her in her treatment of Israel, and now God would punish her for those sins without mercy. What should she have understood about why she had been victorious over Judah? (vv. 6-7) If she had, how might she have moderated her behavior toward Judah?
B. Babylon’s Destruction (Isaiah 47:8-15)
- Babylon was also guilty of the sins of complacency, self-indulgence, and arrogance. These sins prevented her from considering that she was not omnipotent or invincible; that there could be negative consequences to her actions. In addition, she indulged in the sins of astrology, the worship of stars, and dabbled in magic. Could these save her? (vv. 8-9)
- What two lies did she believe? (v. 10)
- What else could not save her, which westerners often see as the solution to their problems? (v. 11)
- Do you hear the sarcasm in Isaiah’s voice? (v. 12)
- Babylon was proud of her sorcerers who told the future and cast spells to influence others. “Sorceries” is a word that “suggests seeking information about the future by means of demonic forces.”2 What would come of the astrologers and other people she relied on? Could their “wisdom” protect her from God’s judgment? (vv. 12-15) Babylon wasted her life on false teachers (v. 15).
- With such a strong indictment, is there any type of occult experience which we would dare take part in, including horoscopes, tarot cards, Ouija boards, or deeper occult practices? If you are dabbling in any of these, will you deal with them in a radical way? Do not show mercy as you dispose of them! God calls us to trust Him for the future, not the occult.
- And so Babylon fell to the Medes who then gave way to the Persian, Cyrus, as Isaiah had prophesied more than a century before it happened. If you would like a reminder of the fall of Babylon, read Daniel 5.
IV. DAY FOUR: Isaiah 48:1-11
A. Israel’s Profession of Faith (Isaiah 48:1-6a)
- Listen, Judah and Israel, a change in attitude is required! Babylon was guilty of pride, but the Jews were guilty of hypocrisy (vv. 1-2). The prophet, Jeremiah had told the people that when they went into captivity, they should settle down there (Jeremiah 29:4-7). Many had become so comfortable in exile that although they claimed to be citizens of Jerusalem, they had no desire to go back to their land, ignoring Jeremiah’s prophecy that in time God would bring them back (Jeremiah 29:14).
- God refuses to accept hypocritical worship. Religious rituals without truth or righteousness are worthless. What words in verses 1-2 imply a professed faith in God, but not a true faith? Because this was the case, what was God’s analysis of them? (v. 4)
- What does James say to us about a faith that is only professed? (James 2:14-24)
- What had God done to get the attention of His people? (vv. 3-5) Judah was witness to the fact that all of God’s prophecies had come true. God not only announced the future, He acted to make it come to pass. Our eternal God is not limited by the constraints of time. Therefore, it should not surprise us that God had allowed His prophet Isaiah to write in these chapters as if he were looking “back” on a time that was still future to him.
- When God acts, what response does He expect? (vv. 5-6a)
- God had predicted long ago what had happened. In spite of that, the Jews hadn’t changed. They continued to be stubborn, refusing to give God the glory due to Him alone (Exodus 32:9; Deuteronomy 9:6).
B. Israel’s Profession of Knowledge (Isaiah 48:6b-11)
- God isn’t limited to acting in any particular way. What does He say in verses 6b-7?
- These prophecies weren’t new in the sense that God hadn’t thought of them before, but rather that God was just now putting them into effect. What should the Jews have known from Deuteronomy 30:1-5? Even those who remembered the ancient prophecies didn’t know how God would accomplish them until now.
- Because this revelation was new, they couldn’t say they already knew it, therefore refusal to listen this time would be because of their presumption and rebellious attitude.
- The people still deserved God’s wrath (v. 9). Why was God keeping His anger under control? What might that also imply about our day? (II Peter 3:9-11)
- God’s judgment was designed to refine His people so they would return to their land in belief. Suffering is often God’s most effective tool. Like the illustration of refining silver in a furnace, severe affliction was necessary to refine those Jews who chose to learn from it (Malachi 3:3).
- God states that He is a jealous God; one thing for which He is jealous is His reputation (Exodus 34:14). What important phrase is repeated in verses 9 and 11?
- Verse 11 says that to protect His own reputation, so He cannot be compared to idols, He will do new things that idols cannot do. If God went back on His word about bringing the Jews back to their land, His reputation would be tarnished. Considering how easily our faith can be functionally transferred to unworthy recipients, can you explain why this statement of God’s is so critical to our spiritual well-being? If you or I rely on anything or anyone other than God for our salvation, what are the eternal results? (John 3:36; 14:6; Acts 4:12)
V. DAY FIVE: Isaiah 48:12-22
A. God’s Omnipotence and Omniscience (Isaiah 48:12-16)
- Listen! Underline “listen” each place you find it in this chapter. The Hebrew word used “does not permit a separation between perception and action. Thus, if you truly ‘hear’ an admonition, you will obey it.”3
- Why should we listen to God? (verses 12-13) In addition to His creative power, what do you see of His sustaining and controlling power over those parts of His creation which some nations feared and worshiped instead of fearing God?
- From verses 14-15, what is another reason for listening to God? God required 100% accuracy in prophecy which no idol or “god” could achieve. In addition to His foreknowledge, is there any limit to His ability to accomplish what He prophesies? Can anyone stand against Him successfully?
- God is not limited by time like we are, so verse 16 tells us He easily communicates His purpose with us in advance, and is also present when it is fulfilled. (Some also see evidence for the Trinity in this verse.4
B. God’s Guidance and Provision (Isaiah 48:17-22)
- Over Israel’s history, God has been constantly teaching and guiding Israel through the Law and the prophets, but they have not paid attention. If they had, they wouldn’t have had to go through this exile but rather would have experienced God’s blessings in their land (vv. 17-19). God is essentially giving them another chance.
- How does God identify Himself in verse 17?
- What promise does He give in the same verse which we can also apply to ourselves?
- What three commands are given in verse 20?
- To spiritualize this section, it is possible that you or I have ignored God’s direction in our lives and have become enslaved to something harmful. We don’t have to stay there! God who was Israel’s redeemer is also ours. God who says He will teach Israel the way to go will teach us. God who told Israel to flee the Babylonians tells us to flee those sins that hold us captive. If we choose to stay captive to sin, we will miss out on God’s peace. If we trust and obey Him, then peace and joy are ours.
- It is time to go home! God is calling the Jews to trust Him in another new exodus, similar to first one from Egypt. God will provide for their needs now like He did then. When Cyrus gives his edict, trust God and go!
- God has been crying out to us saying, “I am the only God! No other god is like me!” What evidence would you use to support that claim?
- Why is it so important for God to protect His own glory or reputation? How do your attitudes and actions help or hurt Him in this regard? Might He have to send you or me into “time out” so that we don’t distort His image to the watching world?
- What do your actions reveal about the reality of your faith?
1. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament. (USA: Victor Books, 1988) 1101.
2. Ibid. (Other places where this word is used are II Kings 9:22; Micah 5:12; Nahum 3:4.)
3. John N. Oswalt, The NIV Application Commentary: Isaiah. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003) 536.
4. Just like God sent Cyrus to successfully accomplish His redemptive purpose for Israel (Isaiah 48:14-15), so God would send the Messiah-Servant (the second person of the Trinity), endowed with the Holy Spirit, to accomplish God’s redemptive plan for the world, and He would not fail (Isaiah 48:16).
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