Isaiah

Isaiah

Suggestion on How to Read

Chapter 1 - 39

Come and meet Isaiah! A man with rich vocabulary, poetry and imageries that provide deep insight into human nature. A man who opposed social political evils at all social levels. He even rebuked kings for their willfulness and indifference, denounced wealthy, influential people who ignored their responsibilities.

Isaiah ben Amoz lived in Jerusalem, the capital of Judah and appears to have been married to a woman named “the prophetess” (8:3), by whom he had at least 2 sons (7:3; 8:3), and possibly a third (7:14). Being an insider, Isaiah enjoyed access to Judah’s rulers.

The first 39 chapters of Isaiah were written in eighth century BC. This was in the era before the Kingdom of Judah was exiled. Isaiah served under 4 different kings: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. These chapters tell the story of a prophet Isaiah and his ministry to the Israelites calling the people to realize their sin and trust in God’s forgiveness.

His prophetic ministry took place amidst political and cultural turmoil. The nations around Judah, Aram and Israel ally went against Judah. Judah trusted in Egypt but Egypt has failed them. Assyria’s, the super power during that period of time, siege of Jerusalem. Judah was pressed on all sides.

Look out for the “song” in chapters 5,12,26 and the poem in chapter 38. It’s a song of praise to God birthed from personal experience. It will help you to capture the heartbeat of God.

“This is the story of the LORD’s people.

They are the vineyard of the LORD Almighty.

Israel and Judah are his pleasant garden.

He expected them to yield a crop of justice, but instead he found bloodshed.

He expected to find righteousness, but instead he heard cries of oppression.”

(Isaiah 5:7)

Suggestions for reading in 6 sittings (about 20 minutes per sitting):

1. Chapters 1-5 The sins of the people of God
2. Chapters 6-12 The hope for the people of God
3. Chapters 13-20 The sins of the nations of the world – part 1
4. Chapters 21-26 The sins of the nations of the world – part 2
5. Chapters 27-35 Hope for restoration for Jerusalem
6. Chapters 36-39 Jerusalem under King Hezekiah

Chapter 40 - 66

Isaiah 40-66 brings the message of hope and restoration. It is also known as ‘The Book of Consolation’ to comfort the Jewish remnant in Babylon. The prophet Isaiah seeks to assure the people of God that God is Sovereign; that God was with them; and He will take them safely home. Along with words of consolation, Isaiah the prophet also reveals the Messiah, God’s suffering servant and describes the future re-gathering of Israel and the promised kingdom.

Keep in mind as you read Isaiah 40-66 that it was originally addressed to a group of disillusioned ‘Jewish refugees’ who were still in exile. It can be further divided into 2 sections. In Isaiah 40-55, the promise of restoration was not in terms of a great king or future leader but in terms of Israel’s as servant. The final section chapter 56-66 paints a picture of universal deliverance and justice. The deliverance of Israel points to the greater deliverance from sin through Christ.

Take 3 weeks to read Isaiah 40-66: 3 days a week and 3 chapters a day. Try reading aloud. You might be surprised!

Week 1: Isaiah 40-48 (9 chapters)

Week 2: Isaiah 49 – 57 (9 chapters)

Week 3: Isaiah 58-66 (9 chapters)

The heart of Isaiah 40-66 found in chapters 49-57. Note also the 4 servant songs.

Isaiah 42:1-7

Isaiah 49:1-6

Isaiah 50:1-11

Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12

As you read, listen to God’s Heartbeat as He reasons with His people. Notice how He brings hope and restoration to the nation. Note also how often God says to them ‘Fear not!” and how frequently He assures them of His pardon and His presence.

Reflection of Chapter 1 - 39

The cycle of judgment and restoration keeps repeating itself throughout Isaiah 1-39.

When the people of Judah or the nations around Judah sinned against God, the Holy One of Israel was impartial and did not let them go unpunished. He was deeply offended by the immoral bahavior of His people. They could not escape the punishment of invasion and devastation that followed.

But after the punishment, there also came a period of restoration.

The Lord’s justice (mishpat) is part of His divine order. This is good news for the poor and needy whose rights have been denied by those who are in.

This theme – a GOD who is just and righteouscan be seen throughout the book of Isaiah and He is referred to as the Holy One of Israel. It is because of these characteristics that prophecies against nations who were oppressive, proud and acted unjustly towards God’s people were recorded in this book.

The Holy One of Israel heard the cries and saw the tears of King Hezekiah. The king knows the Lord personally as he proclaims Him as the Living God, Creator of Heaven and Earth and the God of All Kingdoms.

When he became deathly ill, he prayed, broke down and wept bitterly. As a result, the Lord added 15 years to his life and rescued Judah from the king of Assyria. King Hezekiah wrote a praise poem as he experienced “A gift from God”.

Hezekiah’s Poem of Praise (see 38:9-20 in its entirety) (NLT)

15But what could I say?

For he himself sent this sickness.

Now I will walk humbly throughout my years

because of this anguish I have felt.

16Lord, your discipline is good,

for it leads to life and health.

You restore my health

and allow me to live!

17Yes, this anguish was good for me,

for you have rescued me from death

and forgiven all my sins.

18For the dead cannot praise you;

they cannot raise their voices in praise.

Those who go down to the grave

can no longer hope in your faithfulness.

19Only the living can praise you as I do today.

Each generation tells of your faithfulness to the next.

20Think of it—the lord is ready to heal me!

I will sing his praises with instruments

every day of my life

in the Temple of the lord.

“Now I will walk humbly throughout my years…”

Life is a gift from God. This gift can be withdrawn from us at anytime. It’s not up to us to say, “I’m at the prime of my life and there are many things I want to do.” Don’t assume that you have many more years to go before you enter into the place of the dead. Our life is entirely in God’s hand. It could suddenly be over and never again will we be able to see our friends and family.

“But what could I say?”

King Hezekiah, who had experienced the gift of an additional 15 years of life from God, teaches us to walk humbly throughout our lives. Just like a toddler who needs to hold his parents hands to walk so that he will not fall. We must understand that we do not know the way, but that He does. We are little and weak, but He is powerful and strong. When we walk humbly with our God, then we will automatically do the right thing because God will lead us only to do what’s right. He will never lead us to do evil or to remain indifferent for God is never indifferent or evil.

But we know that the Chronicler (2 Chronicles 32:25) records that King Hezekiah was not grateful and his heart has become proud after he received an extension for his life.

What has gone wrong with the man’s heart? Did he forget the Giver? What would help you to walk humbly?

“Each generation tells of your faithfulness to the next…”

Tell your story. The story of God’s faithfulness in your life. Pass on your story to the next generation so that we can all see that God is working in our generation.

What story or poem can you write to recall His faithfulness in your life?

Reflection of Chapter 40 - 66

“A call to U-turn as HOPE awaits”

Isaiah 58 begins with God commanding Isaiah to shout out the loud the sins of the nation. Their religious hypocrisy was exposed as God judged their attempts of worship insincere, superficial and merely a show (v2-5).  Their fasting and prayers were made unacceptable by unjust and violent deeds.

Are we also stuck in the vicious cycle of rituals and religion? Do we just go through the religious motions “praying, fasting, holding religious observances, ceremonies and so on? Are these merely on outward show while our hearts are far away from God?

What is the LORD asking of His people then AND of us today? We find this in Isaiah 58:6-14.

To U-turn to righteous living, not meaningless rituals (v6-7)

The Lord is calling for a people characterized by justice, fairness and a concern for the poor. Their righteous living is to be reflected in freeing the oppressed, feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the homeless and clothing the naked.

To U-turn to true devotion (v13-14)

In addition to caring for the needs of others, they are to demonstrate true devotion to God by honoring His Sabbath day. True devotion involves more than observing an outward ritual. It involves the inward discipline of submission and outward obedience to the Lord.

These U-turns call for a transformed heart and life which will eventually birth a kingdom community, a people whose actions demonstrates authentic personal and social transformation. To this kind of kingdom community, God offers this amazing promise (NIV, v8-12)

8“Then your salvation will come like the dawn,

and your wounds will quickly heal.

Your godliness will lead you forward,

and the glory of the lord will protect you from behind.

9Then when you call, the lord will answer.

‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.

“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.

Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!

10Feed the hungry,                                                              

and help those in trouble.

Then your light will shine out from the darkness,

and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.

11The lord will guide you continually,

giving you water when you are dry

and restoring your strength.

You will be like a well-watered garden,

like an ever-flowing spring.

12Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.

Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls

and a restorer of homes.

What a promise! His people would experience His protective presence, experience joy and victory in Him, enjoy His blessings and witness the rebuilding of the land. These can only come through repentance and a willingness to live God’s way.

What ‘religious’ U-Turn do you need to make in order to be such agents of transformation in our society and nation?