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Monday, February 20, 2017

What Did The Refugees Hear?

We're reading bits from Isaiah in our Bible study this week, remembering how these same passages would have been read by refugees in Babylon, and looking at how they apply to us today. Was Isaiah one prophet or many? Do we care? The words and the meaning are the same...

(41) What Did Isaiah Say?

There are passages in Isaiah that sound very similar to passages in Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Obadiah. Scholars suggest:

1.       Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Obadiah, being familiar with Isaiah, used similar words when they saw Isaiah’s prophesies come to pass.
2.       Editors/prophets at the time of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Obadiah expanded passages from Isaiah in the light of later events.
3.       Parts of Isaiah were written in the time of Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Obadiah, by prophets from the school of Isaiah, rather like painted masterpieces come from the school of famous painters.
4.       Isaiah lived to a very very great age.
5.       Isaiah really did prophecy the names of kings to come in a later generation.

What matters more—knowing which argument is true, or knowing that the words are in the Bible and therefore truly represent God’s word?

Which is easier—arguing about Bible interpretation, or reading the Bible?

Isaiah makes various prophecies about Babylon.
1.       Read Isaiah 13:1, 9-10. What time do you think this refers to?

2.       Read Isaiah 13:11-14. What time might this refer to?

3.       Read Isaiah 13:17-19. The Medes invaded Babylon and deposed its rulers. What have silver and gold to do with invasion? Do wealth and politics always make a bad combination?

4.       Read Isaiah 14:3-15. Isaiah combines Jewish teaching with Babylonian mythology – Lucifer is the Day Star, Venus, god of the morning; in mythology Lucifer attempts to ascend the mountain to the throne of Baal but isn’t big enough to sit there. Dead gods were sent to the Babylonian netherworld, and Baal’s throne was empty because the god of the dead had captured Baal. Is it okay to use the language of legends in conveying spiritual truths? (Read Acts 17:23)

Would you expect Isaiah to be pleased to see Babylon’s demise? Would we be pleased to see our enemies fail?

1.       Read Isaiah 21:2-5 Why is he dismayed? Should we be delighted or dismayed at the fall of God’s enemies?

2.       Read Isaiah 21:6 Why do we need a watchman?

3.       Read Isaiah 21:11-16. Dumah was an Ishmaelite city. Some scholars suggest Isaiah’s successors make this prophecy in response to taunting from the Ishmaelites. Does verse 16 mean within a year of the prophecy, or that the fall will start and end within the period of a year?

4.       Read Isaiah 33:1. Have we seen this happen in modern times? Could this make us more likely to echo the prayer of verse 2?

5.       Read Isaiah 33:5,10,14-16. What does “exalted” mean to you?

6.       Read Isaiah 33:17-22. Do we look toward Zion? What do we “see”?

Isaiah’s prophecies extend to all nations.
1.       Read Isaiah 34:1-2. Where do you imagine the prophet might be as he says these things?

2.       Read Isaiah 34:3-4. Does this remind you of end-time prophecies? Why? And why might end-time prophecies be made at this time?

3.       Read Isaiah 34:5-6. Why might Edom (and its capital, Bozrah) be named here? In what ways might we be like Edom?

4.       Read Isaiah 34:9-10. Does this remind you of Sodom and Gomorrah? In what ways might we be like Sodom and Gomorrah?

Isaiah’s prophecies aren’t all doom and gloom
1.       Read Isaiah 33:9, 35:2. What was (and still is) special about Lebanon, Carmel and Sharon?

2.       Read Isaiah 35:5-6. Who quoted this in the New Testament and why? Do the blind see? Where do miracles fit with modern faith?

3.       Read Isaiah 35:8. What comforts you most about this? And what doesn’t?

The author of the later chapters of Isaiah, from chapter 40 onwards, is sometimes referred to as the “second Isaiah,” because much of what is written seems to refer to the return from Babylon (including the name of King Cyrus Isaiah 44:8, 45:1,13). But the message of God’s love and God’s plan remains the same, as it does throughout the whole Bible. Whenever the verses were written, they would have been read as words of comfort to Jewish refugees in Babylon.

1.       Read Isaiah 40:1-2. Why would this message have resonated with the refugees? In what sense does it resonate for us today? Are we refugees?

2.       Read Isaiah 40:3-5.  Who applied these words to himself? In what sense were John the Baptist’s listeners refugees?

3.       Read Isaiah 40:6-8. In what sense does this comfort you? It what sense doesn’t it?

4.       Read Isaiah 40:9. We hear this quoted in Handel’s Messiah. Remember that lifted up, exalted theme? What might this have meant to the refugees? What does it mean to you?

5.       Read Isaiah 40:11. Would people have thought of this when Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd?

6.       Read Isaiah 40:12-14. Does this remind you of Job? Are measuring and calculating good things?

7.       Read Isaiah 40:15. How important is our nation?

8.       Read Isaiah 40:18-19. How do we describe God – to ourselves, to our children, to our neighbors…?

9.       Read Isaiah 40:26. We’re lifting up our eyes again. What does lifting up your eyes do to you – spiritually, physically, emotionally…?

10.   Read Isaiah 40:27-29. Are we ever tempted to imagine God doesn’t see our need? Why? What can we do about it?

11.   Read Isaiah 41:1-4,25. Why is it so hard to remember that God is in control?

12.   Read Isaiah 41:21. Why is it so hard to believe that we really are allowed to question God? (And so are our neighbors and kids.)

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