Women's Fall Isaiah Study
Do you have your Christmas Tree up yet? Because you know, if you don’t you’re already behind. And did you get all your gifts? What about Christmas cards? And the perfect picture of your family to go on the cards? … Did your heart rate increase just reading that list? Friends, the timing of Isaiah 28-30 could not be more appropriate. The main theme of the prophet in this section is that God’s people can’t sit still. And if ever there were a season that we struggle to sit still and wait, it is the season before Christmas.
God’s people were turning to other nations, stronger kings, for protection, promised security, prosperity and rest. But Isaiah’s message is that they will always come up short...
- “Therefore shall the protection of Pharaoh turn to your shame,
- And the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation.”
God’s people couldn’t wait for him to act, couldn’t trust his word, couldn’t sit still long enough to listen to his word before they took matters into their own hands… sound familiar? Me...more
Friends, there has been thick darkness this week, in our world, our nation, our community
- “Any they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish, And they will be thrust into thick darkness”
There is war, fierce political division, abuse, illness, and death.
- “But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish… The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in the land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.”
We have, as God’s people so often do, as Israel did, turned to that which cannot save us. To other men, to ourselves, to anger, to anything that offers the ever-enticing allure of control and safety.
- “O Lord our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone we bring to remembrance, They are dead, they will not live; they are shades, they will not arise”
But these are not our God.
Do you know those nights when you turn and look at the clock every 10 minutes to see if it’s morning yet? Maybe you were woken up by something that won’t let you go back to sleep and the morning holds promise, hope that things will look better in the light. That’s how the people in Isaiah’s oracles feel, and thus, the question posed by one: “what time of the night?”
Things are dark, and not just for Judah, but for all the nations, all the world. What happened to the promise in chapter 2 that all the nations shall flow to the house of the Lord? That it would be a place of peace? Where’s that place and how long do we have to live like this? How long? What time of the night is it? Is it almost morning?
“The watchman says, morning comes, and also the night.”
Morning comes… It’s not exactly the time stamp we were hoping for. Is it midnight? Half past two?
Morning comes... As surely as the morning follows the evening, so the light of God’s promises will follow the darkness.
Once again, Isaiah gives us a taste of the extent of God’s promise to gather...more
What gives you comfort? Where do you find joy? Is it a thing? A person? A cup of coffee or lunch with a friend? A concert? A sunset? All of these are good, beautiful, and comforting. And they point to something better, more beautiful – a taste of a God who is able to comfort us in our own brokenness and sin, to bring joy in the midst of deep suffering. In Isaiah 9-12, the prophet seeks to show this God to his people. The nation had wandered, rebelled, sinned, and been trampled by the surrounding kings and countries. Time after time the word of the Lord was ignored and now that hand stretched out offering deliverance is stretched out in holy anger.
“For all this his anger has not turned away, and his hand is stretched out still”
But despite this, there is always the promise of a remnant from the house of Jacob who the Lord will deliver. Isaiah writes to bring hope to this remnant and remind them who it is that they serve.
“In that day the Lord will extend his hand yet a second time to recover the remnant that remains of his people”
Our lesson this week hinges on a name – Immanuel – God with us. There’s a lot in this name.,,
- “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
God told King Ahaz to ask for a sign, for something that would show him that God was going to do what he said he’d do. But Ahaz wouldn’t ask. So God gave it anyway. And this sign, this Immanuel, would be born into the same line of kings from which King Ahaz descended. But it would look very different by the time it got to him. Ahaz was the last King of David’s line to sit on a throne and rule over Judah. He was negotiating with Assyria to form an “alliance” which would ultimately lead to a long string of oppressive foreign rulers all the way up to Rome at the time of Jesus’ birth. Why did he want this alliance? It seemed safe, it seemed wise in the face of danger to make just such an alliance with your bigger, stronger enemy.
- “Depth of mercy, can there be
- Mercy still reserved for me?
- Can my God His wrath forbear
- Me, the chief of sinners, spare?”
- -Charles Wesley
That’s the question we’re left with at the end of chapter 5. In these final three chapters of Isaiah’s prologue he again paints several vivid pictures of the condition of God’s people – leaving us to wonder, is there an end to God’s mercy? And, if so, has it been reached?
In Chapter 2 (after leaving off in chapter 1 with an unquenchable fire) Isaiah starts off with the ideal condition of Zion – a place all other nations “flow” to like a stream that can’t help but go in one direction, toward the house of God of Jacob. A place of peace and continual seeking after God.
But the current state of things is, in fact, just the opposite – the stream is flowing the wrong direction, away from God, there is war instead of peace, striving after material wealth instead of seeking the things of God,...more
I have a weakness for British detective shows… really. I had to pull myself away from one to write this. And a large part of the appeal of these shows, besides the accents and the rolling countryside, is that everything is always wrapped up neat and tidy – the offending party is always caught, justice is served and everyone is home in time for tea.
The courtroom scene in Isaiah chapter 1 is neither neat, nor tidy – festering wounds, cities burned with fire, a land devoured, and a people who have forsaken their God. From verse two on, the Lord rains down a horrifying list of offenses against the accused. And the accused are his own people, his very children. And the sentence is inevitable – “for the wages of sin is death.” But this is not a daytime courtroom drama, this is a divine court, and the judge is God himself whose judgement is inhibited only by his own mercy.
- “If the Lord of hosts
- Had not left us a few survivors,
- we should have been like Sodom,
- And become like Gomorrah.”
Sodom and Gomorrah (see...more
If you’ve been following along with lesson one of our study this week, you’ll have noticed that Kathleen Nielson takes us to 9 different books of the Bible… in day 1 of lesson 1. Don’t be daunted by this, rather, be encouraged! Isaiah, like most of the rest of scripture points to one thing (or person, rather)… Jesus. Jesus as fulfillment of promise. Jesus as rescuer and redeemer. Jesus as King. God’s people knew kings. But they didn’t have the greatest history with kings…
The first few verses of Isaiah give us a snapshot of the internal state of Israel…
- They are in rebellion.
- They have forsaken the Lord and despised the Holy One of Israel.
- They are utterly estranged.
Sound bad? After the litany of spiritual offenses, he dives into their physical reality, what has happened to them…
- The country lies desolate.
- Cities are burned with fire.
- Foreigners devour the land.
So, despite the efforts of all of their earthly kings in all of their splendor and might, the...more
Chiaroscuro- “light” and “dark” – is a technique in art that uses contrasting light and shadows. Your eye is drawn to the light because of the presence of shadow. This is the message of the prophet Isaiah – a conversation between the shadows and the light.
- “The people who walked in darkness
- have seen a great light;
- those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
- on them has light shone.”
We’re familiar with many of the more hopeful, messianic passages from Isaiah, such as the one above that we hear read every Christmas. For some of us they bring up memories of evergreen trees, and cookies, and candle flames flickering in the darkness – but despite our nostalgic tendencies, these verses, quoted so frequently in the New Testament, are a part of something much larger than soft candle light. They’re part of 66 chapters in which God – The Holy One of Israel - and his redemptive plan for his people are...more