So... did Isaiah live to an enormous age and continue writing in a rebuilt Jerusalem? Did his followers rewrite or revisit his words? Did a follower write in the voice of Isaiah? Or are the words in the book even more ancient than they appear?
Perhaps a better question would be: are details of dates and age of a prophet as important as the message conveyed from that "age of the prophets"?
I'm still hoping we'll reach John the Baptist by the summer break, but we'll see. Meanwhile, whenever we believe Isaiah and Zechariah were written, their words were surely read in that rebuilt Jerusalem, where enemy nations warred over coast and highway, and rebuilding/nation-building led to thoughts of an age to come.
(48) Isaiah and the Promise of Salvation
The latter parts of Isaiah and Zechariah must have seemed particularly relevant to Jews recently returned from exile, whether or not we believe that’s when they were written. They lived in a world that felt almost like home, but their neighbors didn’t understand, didn’t love their faith, didn’t want their success, and felt threatened by them. Do we ever feel that way about our world?
Returning to Judea was almost like hitting a reset button—a chance to get things right this time. What reset buttons might we find in earlier parts of the Bible? (Read Genesis 6:5-8) Is there a sense in which the life and death of Christ offers another reset button? What reset button do we look forward to?
The newly returned Jews looked forward to a permanent restoration. This time they wanted to get it right. This time they would be ready to deal with corrupt priests and politicians. And if they didn’t succeed today, then maybe tomorrow… They looked forward to a Messiah (city or person) and a Messianic age of triumph. Do we ever feel that way about our future?
The promised future and the promised end-of-days are both triumphant. Why might the end messages of Isaiah and Zechariah be of particular interest today?
1. Read Isaiah 60:22, Genesis 15:5. Do you spot a theme?
2. Read Isaiah 61:1-3, Luke 4:16-22, Matthew 3:16. Another theme?
3. What about Isaiah 61:4-5, Micah 4:2-3.
a. How does this relate to rebuilding Jerusalem, and
b. how does it relate to Christianity?
c. Read Acts 10:9-15 How might Isaiah 61:5 relate to our relationship to non-Christians?
d. Is there a theme of inclusivity or exclusivity looking toward the future?
4. Read Isaiah 61:8 Is God directing our work? (Some translations say; I will direct their work rather than reward.)
5. Read Isaiah 61:10-11 Do we / should we rejoice?
a. What things make you rejoice?
b. What things should make us rejoice?
6. Read Isaiah 62:2-4 We have choruses about God giving us new names. What would these names have meant to the first listeners?
a. Read Revelation 2:17 What old name do you regret?
b. What new name do you hope for?
c. Read Revelation 3:12-13 Does this change the name you hope for?
7. Read Isaiah 62:6-7 What is the point of a noisy watchman?
a. Are we noisy watchmen?
b. Do we make helpful noises or distracting ones?
8. Read Isaiah 62:10,40:3, Malachi 3:1, Mark 1:2-3 What’s the theme?
9. But God is not an indulgent spouse, blind king, or careless guardian. Can you paraphrase Isaiah 63:1-6?
a. Does this remind you of Genesis 6:13?
b. Why do we need a savior?
10. Read Isaiah 63:8-9 Who was afflicted (distressed)? Why?
a. Can you paraphrase Isaiah 63:10-14?
11. Read Isaiah 63:16 Who are His people?
a. Father might have meant ownership rather than generous parenthood. In what sense do both meanings apply to God?
12. Read Isaiah 64:1-4 Have you ever wanted to make a similar prayer?
a. When did mountains shake in the New Testament?
13. Read Isaiah 64:6-8 The potter takes dirty clay and makes something beautiful. Can you think of a personal description for what God has done / is doing with your sinful self?
14. Read Isaiah 65:1 Do we find God or does God find us?
a. As individuals?
b. As nations?
15. Read Isaiah 65:3,5,7,11-12 We don’t often put food on the altars of fortune an destiny, but what do we do? And how do we respond to faiths that include the placing of food on altars to their god?
16. Read Isaiah 65:17,43:25, Psalm 103:12,2, 2 Corinthians 5:17 How does this encourage you?
17. Read Isaiah 65:18-20, Revelation 21:1-4 Another theme?
18. Read Isaiah 65:25,11:6,Genesis 1:29-30 What image does this give you of heaven, or of Eden?
19. Read Isaiah 66:1-2 Does God need perfect churches? Or perfect people?
20. Read Isaiah 66:3-4 Who might this have referred to? Who might it refer to today?
21. Read Isaiah 66:12-13,18-24 Does God love the Gentiles?