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Monday, February 8, 2016

Introduction to Isaiah

We looked at Amos. We looked at Hosea. We made our plans to study the minor prophets (plus a bit of history). And here we are reading a... well... a fairly major prophet after all. But he was speaking at the same time as Hosea, so we really ought to look at what he said.

While Hosea spoke to Israel, another famous prophet was speaking in Judah. Both countries were inclined to form alliances. Both were going to fall. And God gave warnings to both.

It’s easy to fit Isaiah into the timeline, because he tells us precisely when he was called. Read Isaiah 1:1. Uzziah and Jotham were co-regents of Judah from 750 to 740BC. Ahaz was king from around 730 to 715BC. The next king, Hezekiah, saw Israel fall to Assyria under Sargon (720BC), and ruled during Assyria’s siege of Jerusalem under Sennacherib (700BC). Hezekiah brought the people back to faith in God, and restored their prosperity.

The call of Isaiah
1.       Read Isaiah 6:1-3. Did you know the word seraphim comes from a Hebrew word meaning flying serpent? Does this change how you imagine these seraphim? Does it matter? Have you ever seen something you really couldn’t describe? Have you ever tried to describe something incredible and had people complain that bits of your description didn’t agree with each other?

2.       Read Isaiah 6:4-5. My neighbor might think shaking floors mean an earthquake. Isaiah thinks shaking floors mean the presence of God. Is it helpful or harmful to agree that it might be both?

3.       Read Isaiah 6:6-8. Live coals were carried into the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement, so this isn’t so odd. But Isaiah stepping forward without knowing what he’s being called to do is kind of brave. How willing are we to enter into something without knowing all the details?

4.       Read Isaiah 6:9-10. What is God asking of him? (Read Psalm 119:70,  Mark 4:12) Do you think Isaiah might regret his impulsive response? What do you think of his reply in the next verse, “How long?”

5.       Read Isaiah 6:11-13.  Why might this be comforting, then and now?

The words of Isaiah
1.       Read Isaiah 1:2-6 Why will the people (and the land) suffer? Can any nation or church claim the right not to be punished?

2.       Read Isaiah 1:9-10 What image would Sodom and Gomorrah bring to mind? Is there somewhere we would really hate to be compared with? Why?

3.       Read Isaiah 1:12-17 What is God’s complaint against his people? What might be his complaint against us? Is it more important to worship right or to live right?

4.       Read Isaiah 1:18-20 Can we “reason” with God?

5.       Read Isaiah 1:21-23 Can you list the sins mentioned here? Is our society guilty? Are our churches?

6.       Read Isaiah 1:24-26 Who is God’s enemy? What is God’s punishment? And what is the final outcome?

The Promise of Isaiah
1.       Read Isaiah 2:2-4 What are the latter days? Who tells the people to beat their swords into pruning hooks? What has happened, historically, to nations that tried to do this job for God?

2.       Read Isaiah 2:6-8 Is there anything wrong with silver? With horses? What sins is this written about?

3.       Read Isaiah 2:10,19-21 What image does this convey? What happens to those who do hide in holes in the rocks during a major disaster?

4.       Read Isaiah 4:3-6 What might these images have evoked for Isaiah’s listeners? What time do you think he is referring to?

Isaiah’s prophecy
1.       Read Isaiah 3:1 What do you think happened to the food supplies when Jerusalem was under siege?

2.       Read Isaiah 3:2-4 What happened to the leaders and well-educated when Babylon attacked (what happened to Daniel and his friends)?

3.       Read Isaiah 3:4, 2 Kings 21:1-3, 10-12 Menasseh was the next king after Hezekiah. He started as a child king who didn’t share the experience of watching Israel fall. Are there other historical countries where disaster has been preceded by foolish, or foolishly chosen leaders, or by leaders who don’t remember history?

4.       Read Isaiah 3:12 Does this mean God doesn’t like women leaders, or that he doesn’t like Asherah poles? Why is it important to think about context?

Isaiah’s anger
1.       Read Isaiah 3:13-15 What specific things is God angry about?

2.       Read Isaiah 3:16-17 What is he angry about here?

3.       Read Isaiah 4:1 Is this a threat or a prediction?

4.       Read Isaiah 5:1-2 What other places can you remember where God’s people are compared to a vineyard?

5.       What is wrong with wild grapes? How might they overtake a cultivated vineyard?

Isaiah’s woes
6.       Read Isaiah 5:8 What is wrong with joining fields together? Do we do anything comparable?

7.       Read Isaiah 5:11 Is this just condemning drunkenness?

8.       Read Isaiah 5:13 Could Isaiah be reminding Judah of what’s happened to Israel here? Could he be reminding us of anything?

9.       Read Isaiah 5:18-19 What sin is Isaiah referring to? When might we be guilty of it?

10.   Read Isaiah 5:20 What sin is this?

11.   Read Isaiah 5:21 and this?

12.   Read Isaiah 5:22-23 Is this just condemning drunkenness, or does verse 23 put a different slant on it?

13.   Read Isaiah 5:24-25 What images is Isaiah using? What modern images could be used today?

14.   Read Isaiah 5:26 How do you think Isaiah’s listeners felt at the threat of foreign, non-holy nations being called by God?  How does that thought make us feel?

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