Isaiah: Glimpses of God
Do you sometimes wonder whether the promises God has given you in Scripture will ever come true? Do you feel instead as if you are destined to keep plodding through life, one day much like the next? I wonder whether the Jewish exiles felt like that. Isaiah had given many prophecies of a glorious future for Israel, but Israel was not experiencing any of it. Instead they were living in the darkness of exile. Now in the rest of his book, Isaiah expands on the prophecies of the renewed kingdom which God will give to His followers. I can imagine God’s joy as He reveals this future to Isaiah, and Isaiah’s joy as he shares it with the people!
Because the Messianic servant would indeed complete His redeeming work as prophesied, the glorious future promised Israel was possible and in fact, certain. Isaiah announced God’s decision to show mercy to repentant people in Isaiah 59:16-17, 20. In Isaiah 59:21, he introduced the new covenant God had for his people. Now Isaiah highlights the future restoration of Israel – first through the deliverance of her people and then through the rebuilding of Jerusalem. God’s light will shine on Israel who is to then shine that light out to the nations.
The ultimate fulfillment of this glory will come in the end times. To a lesser extent we see the beginnings of that fulfillment now. God’s light did shine on the world through Jesus. Through His (initially) Jewish followers, that light has gone out into the world, and continues to do so today.
I. DAY ONE: Glory (Isaiah 60:1-14)
A. Isaiah 60:1-3
- In Isaiah 59:9, people were walking in the spiritual darkness which covered the world. Acts 26:18 and Colossians 1:13 reveal that it is still the condition of our world.
- Some believe that the “thick darkness” in Isaiah 60:2 goes beyond the spiritual darkness of John 1:4-10 and 2 Corinthians 4:4-6 and refers specifically to the tribulation period that will precede the Messiah’s return. (Isaiah 13:6-13; Amos 5:18; Matthew 24:29) What do you think?
- Verses 1-3 provide a dramatic contrast to the darkness of the world. What is the source of that light? (verses 1-2)
- Initially God’s glory dwelt in the tabernacle, but departed because of Israel’s sin. (Exodus 40:34-38; 1 Samuel 4:21-22) God’s glory later came into the temple when it was dedicated, but departed when Israel turned to idolatry. (1 Kings 8:10-11; Ezekiel 9:3; 10:4, 18; 11:22-23)
- How did God’s glory next appear? (John 1:1-5, 9; 8:12; 9:5)
- From Isaiah 60:1-3, for what purpose did God reveal His glory to Jerusalem?
- Who initially carried that light to the world? Who does so today? (Ephesians 2:19-20; 1 Peter 2:9) Who does Zechariah 8:20-23 say will do so in the future?
- Some believe this prophecy is being fulfilled now, but the language of the chapter suggests that complete fulfillment awaits the Messianic servant’s return as divine warrior when the last enemies of sin and death are destroyed (1 Corinthians 15:24-26), and when Israel finally recognizes her Messiah. (Isaiah 2:1-5) Habakkuk 2:14 seems to be another description of this time.
B. Isaiah 60:4-9
- It is exciting to anticipate the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecies! Who will return to Israel in verses 4 and 9? I wonder whether verse 8 could be referring to airplane travel? What other modes of travel are mentioned in verses 4-9?
- Who will assist in the return? (verses 5, 9)
- In addition to their wealth, what will these foreigners bring with them? Why will they do so? (verses 6, 7, 9) What does Isaiah 56:6-8 add?
- It may surprise us that there will be a temple in the Millennial kingdom1. (verse 7; Ezekiel 40-42) Why do you think it will be needed2
C. Isaiah 60:10-14
- At the end of the Babylonian exile, Cyrus provided the opportunity and means for the Jews to return to Judah and rebuild their temple, although it was a poor imitation of Solomon’s temple. (Ezra 1:1-4; 3:12; 6:3-5) Later, Artaxerxes allowed Nehemiah to go to Jerusalem with supplies to rebuild the city wall. (Nehemiah 2:5-8)
- Similarly, in the end times, new walls and a new temple will be built with the assistance of foreigners. (Isaiah 60:10, 13) Not only will these foreigners provide their wealth, they will serve Israel!
- Jerusalem will become the most honored city with economic, political and spiritual dominance. (verses 11, 12, 14)
II. DAY TWO: Everlasting Light (Isaiah 60:15-22)
A. Isaiah 60:15-18
- Through much of Israel’s history, they have been “forsaken and hated”. What will Israel’s new status be? (verse 15)
- Will this transformation come through their own efforts or from another source? (verse 15) What spiritual revelation will become certain knowledge for Israel? (verse 16) How would both of these changes be acts of God’s grace?
- This might be the “day” when the song of Isaiah 12 is sung by Israel! Is this also your song?
- As an infant is nurtured and grows through its mother’s feeding, Israel will grow strong through the wealth of the nations. What does this metaphor suggest about God’s relationship with Israel? (verse 16)
- What are some of the resources they will receive? (Isaiah 60:5-9, 17)
- What will be the source of Israel’s security: wealth, walls, weapons, or something else? (verse 18; Isaiah 54:14a) What will be Israel’s response?
B. Isaiah 60:19-22
- What is the difference between the “light” and the “everlasting light” of verses 19-20? Compare this to Revelation 21:10-11, 23-27; 22:5
- “ In Hebrew, the word ‘glory’ (kabod) does not have the ephemeral connotations that ‘glory’ has in English… [it] connotes what is weighty, significant, even real… So the ‘glory’ of God … is the solid reality of God’s holy character.”3
- We are meant to reflect God’s glory, but sin in you and me distorts that reflection. Just as it is only by God’s grace that we enter into a personal relationship with Him, (Ephesians 2:8-9), so it is only by God’s grace that we can reflect His glory clearly as we live in relationship to Him. (2 Corinthians 3:18; Galatians 3:1-6) Isaiah described it earlier as the outworking of a heart submissive to God. (Isaiah 57:15; 58:6-14)
- What will be the spiritual and moral condition of all people in God’s kingdom? What will they now be able to clearly reflect? (Isaiah 60:21)
- Compare Isaiah 51:2; 54:3 and 60:22 with Genesis 15:5. Although at times it seemed impossible, what promise to Abraham will be fulfilled?
- This description of the restored kingdom was not fulfilled at the return from Babylon. In conjunction with other prophecies, we understand it will be fulfilled in the end time
III. DAY THREE: Favor (Isaiah 61:1-9)
A. Isaiah 61:1-3
- The way the promises of chapter 60 (and in particular verse 21) will be possible is through the Messiah. Read verses 1-3. Then compare them with Luke 4:16-21. How does this reinforce the identity of the Messianic servant of Isaiah?
- Can you find all three members of the “trinity” in verse 1? Compare this with Matthew 3:16-17. What further evidence does this give for the identity of the Messiah? With Whom was Jesus anointed at His baptism?
- Isaiah 61:1-3 delineates the calling of the Messiah. Where did Jesus end His quote in the Luke passage? Why do you think He did so?4 What was Jesus’ work during His first coming?
- The first and primary restoration the Messiah comes for is spiritual. The Servant not only proclaims God’s favor, He accomplishes it! The language of verses 1-2 reminds us of the picture given by the “Year of Jubilee” during which God guaranteed He would meet the needs of His people. (Leviticus 25:8-13, 23-28, 47-55) It seems that Israel never observed the Year of Jubilee5. But now, Isaiah proclaims that with the first coming of the Messianic servant, the “spiritual” year of Jubilee, “the year of the Lord’s favor”, begins.
- The Messiah’s second coming will bring both deliverance and judgment. (verse 2) What do the following verses add? Romans 2:5-8; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10; 2 Peter 2:9)
- Compare the year of God’s favor in Isaiah 61:3 with Jeremiah 31:3-14. What do you find most touching about God’s favor toward Israel? How does this increase your love for God and your confident anticipation of the fulfillment of His promises to you?
B. Isaiah 61:4-9
- The second part of the restoration is physical. Israel will be held in such esteem that foreigners will join her in construction and farming, etc., freeing the people of Israel to serve God as a nation of priests.
- Firstborn sons received a double portion of the inheritance. This would be the case for Israel. (verse 7)
- God is no one’s debtor! What does He promise in verses 8-9?
- Compare the promise of an everlasting covenant with Jeremiah 31:31-37. What makes this possible? (Matthew 26:28; Hebrews 10:1-18)
- What is implied about family life in the Millennial kingdom? How will God receive glory through them?
IV. DAY FOUR: Joy (Isaiah 61:10-11; 62:1)
A. Isaiah 61:10-11
- This song may be sung by the Messiah, but it is more likely that Zion (the redeemed remnant) is the singer.
- In 59:17, the Messiah was dressed for spiritual battle. Now God gives His people new clothes, suited to the new covenant God is introducing. What are these garments? (Isaiah 61:10)
- The Messiah didn’t come to merely save us from the penalty for our sins, but also to save us from the power and presence of sin in our lives so that our character and lives reflect His. How is that symbolized by the putting on and off of “garments” which we do as His followers? (Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:5-17) Are any of the areas mentioned in these verses ones the Lord is speaking to you about putting off or on personally?
- Israel has been a barren desert spiritually, but God will cause righteousness and praise to grow much as good seeds in a well-tended garden grow.
- How does this relate this to the work of the Messiah? (John 12:23-24)
B. Isaiah 62:1
- God speaks in verse one, promising He will not cease speaking and working until His purposes for Jerusalem are fulfilled. What are those purposes?
- What similar promise can you and I claim? (Philippians 1:6)
- What additional promises have we been given which assure us that our salvation is a gift which is protected for us by God? (Romans 8:23; 2 Corinthians 1:22; 5:5; Ephesians 1:13-14)
- What encouragement and confidence do you receive personally from the promise of 1 Peter 1:3-9?
- Journal a prayer of thanksgiving which expresses your confident trust in the secure position you have because of God’s work and word.
V. DAY FIVE: New Name (Isaiah 62:1-12)
A. Isaiah 62:1-5
- Let’s revisit verse 1b and God’s purposes for Zion. Although a few translations give the first purpose as “vindication” (RSV, TNIV), most translate it as “righteousness” (NIV, KJV, NASB, ESV). In concert with Isaiah 59:16; and 61:10, it seems that righteousness would be the preferred translation. It is instructive that righteousness and salvation are listed together in this verse as God’s purposes. Why would that be? Is it possible to be declared righteous if one has not received God’s salvation? Isn’t righteousness in one’s life the expected outcome of one’s salvation?
- Compare verse 2 with Isaiah 60:3. How does the righteousness of a person or a nation serve as a light which draws people to themselves? How should that ultimately also point them to the source of light identified in Isaiah 60:1-2, 19?
- Names are important to us, but were even more important in Old Testament times, as they signified either the hopes for a person, or that person’s character. A change in character called for a new name; a righteous change in character for a righteous name. (Genesis 17:5; Revelation 2:17)
- Isaiah told us in 28:5 that “in that day” the Lord would be a glorious crown for His people. Paul speaks of his spiritual children in a similar way. (1 Thessalonians 2:19-20) How does God view His redeemed remnant, Israel, now that they display His righteous character in their lives? (Isaiah 62:3) How does He now view you?
- In addition to being one in whom God finds great joy, how is this also a demonstration to the world, which has historically persecuted Israel, of the truth of His relationship with her? What similar principle applies to you and me? (Colossians 3:1-4)
- This new righteous character also allows a new righteous relationship. Although Israel and Judah had been abandoned for their sin in the past, this was because they had initiated the process by leaving God. He had not divorced them but sought them out and redeemed them. (Isaiah 50:16; Hosea 1-2)
- From verses 2-5 what were the former names? What will be the new names? From your translation notes, what do those new names mean? What intimate relationship is pictured?
- God delights in His people and enjoys demonstrating it! How does Zephaniah 3:17 phrase it? Can you picture the Lord delighting over you this way? Does He? What does His word say? (Psalm 147:11; 149:4)
B. Isaiah 62:6-12
- God will not rest until He has accomplished His purposes. He calls on His people, including you and me, to participate with Him.
- What is the job of a watchman? The former watchmen of Israel had not been faithful (Isaiah 56:10) so new watchmen were needed. What might the faithful watchmen of verses 6-7 represent? How does this tie in with the command of Psalm 122:6?
- To spiritualize this, who or what is the Jerusalem for whom you stand as a watchperson, and for whom you pray? What command have we been given in that regard? (Ephesians 6:18; 1 Thessalonians 5:17)
- Knowing God’s Word enables us to be more effective in our prayers. If you aren’t already in the habit of doing so, may I suggest including scripture references next to your requests in your prayer journal?
- Considering the depth and breadth of the persecution of the Jews over their history, what would the promise of Isaiah 62:8-9 mean to them? What does God swear by?
- Verse 9 refers again to the temple in the Millennial kingdom. Now that they recognize their Messiah, they will finally understand the spiritual meaning of the temple worship. (2 Corinthians 3:14-16)
- In Isaiah 11:12-16 there was a call to prepare a “highway” for the remnant of God’s people to return home. In Isaiah 40:3-5 the call was to prepare a “highway” for the Messiah to come on. Isaiah repeats the call in Isaiah 62:10-12 with urgency as He looks forward to the final return in the end times. The Messiah is coming. Get ready now! Israel is also to raise a banner as a signal to the nations that the Messiah is coming.
- What will the Messiah bring when He comes? (verse 11)
- What will Israel finally be called?
- You and I live in a privileged time when we have a “down payment” of the glory of God in us. If you have time, you might enjoy reading John 17 with Isaiah 60-62 in mind. What are the implications of this glory for you?
- What promises of our glorious future are you particularly looking forward to? Record them in your journal, and prayerfully watch for their fulfillment.
- If you haven’t done so before, may I suggest keeping a prayer journal? As you claim God’s promises in relation to your requests, it will be an encouragement to your faith as well as an opportunity to give glory to God as you record evidence of His answers!
1. Careful analysis of these passages assures us that a future, literal temple is being described. Walvoord, John F. and Zuck, Roy B., The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament. (USA: Victor Books, 1988) p. 1303-1304.
2. We don’t know why a temple will be necessary in the Millennial kingdom, but as so much space is devoted to it, primarily in Ezekiel, we know it is significant. Some possible reasons for the temple: 1) As God’s glory was seen leaving Solomon’s temple, this temple will be a visible symbol of God’s presence with the restored Israel; 2) As the first temple was built in conjunction with the Mosaic covenant, this temple will be a visible reminder of Israel’s new relationship with God through the New Covenant; 3) The sacrifices practiced at the temple never paid for sin but only covered it, also serving as a picture preparing people to understand what Messiah would do in propitiating sin. At the Millennial temple, sacrifices will serve as memorials or object lessons, providing a vivid reminder of the sacrifice of the Messiah, the Lamb of God. Walvoord, pp 1304-5.
3. Oswalt, John N., The NIV Application Commentary: Isaiah. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003) p. 646.
4. Jesus fulfilled the part He read during His first coming, but vengeance on those who reject Him, and comfort for Israel will be fulfilled with His second coming. (Isaiah 34:8; Daniel 7:22; Micah 5:15)
5. Adeyemo, Tokunboh, Africa Bible Commentry. (Nairobi: The Zondervan Corporation: 2006) p. 848
6. God “divorced” Israel, but “separated” from Judah for a period of time for disciplinary reasons. See Isaiah Lesson 14, Day 2.
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