Daily Bible Studies
|Series Theme: Isaiah Studies (Series 1 of 8 - chapters 1 to 8)|
General Introduction to these studies
PRELIMINARY to reading Isaiah
I started on the studies in Isaiah in 1997 and finished them in 2012 with large gaps in between. You may therefore find a slightly different style appearing in the 'Comment' section of each individual study, as over the years I have changed my approach. I make this comment in the light of the book of Isaiah. You will see shortly I make a comment about 'scholars' and some have seen differing styles in Isaiah and therefore attributed the writing to different authors. You will see below that he probably prophesied over a period of some 39 years through the reigns and changes of four kings.
Imagine you are a prophet- imagine you are Isaiah - and from time to time over that 39 years you catch a sense of God's heart for His people, surrounding nations, and indeed, the world. He learns to write them down for that is the only way to hang on to what the Lord has said - but it stretches over 39 years. Imagine, if you had started at 25, prophesying until you were 64. You have changed a great deal in that time and you have 'heard' many facets of God's heart. There is unlikely to be a sense of continuity in these writings and, indeed, it is possible that by the end of that period, you are not sure of the exact order of some of them. The only part that really contains historical narrative is in the middle of the book we have today, covering chapters 36 to 39, although there are a few other historical references (e.g. Isa 7 & 8).
With this particular book, read each chapter as a separate passage (although there will be links). In that way you can focus on what Isaiah was 'hearing' at the particular time and about a particular thing or people.
Originally these studies were designed to be used on a daily basis, with a month's set of individual studies to each 'series'. Because of the size of Isaiah there are now 9 series following chapter by chapter through the book, plus one 'mixed' series for the person who wishes to catch an overall 'flavour' of the book. You are advised to use the chapter guide on the front Contents page for the Old Testament.
Over the past century scholars have argued over whether the book was the work of one or several authors. We will assume one, Isaiah the son of Amoz (1:1) and he prophesied during the following kings' reigns (1:1):
His calling came in the last year of Uzziah's reign (6:1) and prophesied from 739 on up to the time when Sennacherib invaded Judah and threatened Jerusalem (36:1-). He also records the death of Sennacherib (which was in 681), which occurred after the death of Hezekiah in 686, so he obviously lived beyond the reign of Hezekiah. It seems he prophesied from about 739 to about 700BC.
About His Prophecies
He prophesied mainly to Judah and Jerusalem (1:1 & 2:1) but also to Babylon (13:1), Israel (14:1), Assyria ( 14:25 ), Moab (15:1), (look them up) and a variety of other places. It would be another hundred years before Nebuchadnezzar came against Jerusalem and a further fifteen years or so before Jerusalem was finally destroyed, yet the warnings of impending judgment for apostasy come again and again. Within Isaiah are many messianic prophecies, clearly pointing to Jesus, and so Isaiah's spirit clearly catches events out of his own time, and therefore these prophecies of later-judgment should not surprise us. These first eight chapters in these studies give us snatches or samples of prophecy that probably came after his calling.
About these Prophecies in Chapters 1-8
Many commentators classify chapters 1-39 as “The Book of Judgment”, simply because most of the chapters are words or rebuke or correction. In order to better understand these studies, the following overview may be helpful:
Part 1 : “Failure but Hope”
In this first chapter we will see the Lord calling creation to witness the awful fact of His nation having forsaken Him. The state of the land described may be purely predictive prophecy or it may have been written after Sennacherib invaded the land. Watch for the strong rejection of false religion and God's demands for righteousness. See also the hope that is also there as the Lord reveals His objective: to bring restoration. An amazing chapter!
Chapter: Isaiah 1
Passage: Isaiah 1:1-4
A. Find Out:
1. Through how many reigns did Isaiah see visions? v.1
2. Who does the Lord call as a witness? v.2a
3. What does he call them to witness? v.2b
4. To whom does he contrast the nation and how? v.3
5. In what ways does he describe this nation? v.4a
6. What does he say they have done? v.4b
God has a claim against the nation of Judah and it is quite specific. First, He raised up Israel as a nation, He brought them into being and established a relationship with them and they became a special people, a holy nation (see Exodus 19:5,6). One would expect from that a certain loyalty, perhaps like an ox knows of its master or a donkey knows of its provider.
Second, Judah (this half nation) have rebelled and gone their own way. They have forgotten who they were and no longer know or understand the wonder of the relationship that had been theirs previously. They had spurned or given up on God and had left Him and gone their own ways.
Third, their state as a result, was that they were full of sin, full of guilt, given over to doing evil and bent on corruption. A godless nation never stays good. When a nation turns its back on God, evil soon follows, it is always so. Every man is tainted with sin and it is only the presence of God which restrains that sin. When His presence is rejected sin rises up and dominates.
Finally the Lord calls for all the earth to act as observers and see the truth of these things. Justice must be seen to be done.
Chapter: Isaiah 1
Passage: Isaiah 1:5-9
A. Find Out:
1. What has happened to the nation, why and with what result? v.5
2. How is the nation described? v.6
3. Who has done what to the nation? v.7
4. How is Jerusalem described? v.8
5. What had the Lord done? v.9a
6. If He hadn't who would they have been like? v.9b
First let us consider the state of the land: the head is injured and the heart is afflicted. Head refers to authority, those in charge and heart refers to the morale of the whole nation. They are beaten by an enemy; they are in disarray and feel low. The whole body of the nation is damaged, has been attacked and affected by the enemy. In literal terms cities have been destroyed and fields stripped; this is a picture of a pillaged land, ravished by an enemy.
Second, let us consider the state of Jerusalem : Zion has been left and stands out alone like a hut in a field. It is a city on its own; it is almost all that is left of this once proud nation. Yet the Lord had left some survivors otherwise they would have been totally destroyed like Sodom and Gomorrah had been (see Genesis 19).
Third, let us consider the reason for this: it is because they rebelled against the Lord and He withdrew His protection from them and even invited the enemy to come in and chastise the land.
Whether this is a picture of what HAS happened to the land or what WILL happen is unclear. Whatever it is the warning is still clear: a nation deserting God is vulnerable to ravishing by the enemy!
Chapter: Isaiah 1
Passage: Isaiah 1:10-17
A. Find Out:
1. How does the Lord refer to the people of Jerusalem ? v.10
2. What does He reject? v.11
3. What does He query? v.12
4. To what also does He object? v.13b,14
5. To what does He say He will not listen? v.15
6. Why, and what does He require them to do? v.15c-17
In this passage is one of the clearest rejections in the Bible of meaningless ritualistic religion. If you were a visitor just arriving at the temple and you were given the Law of Moses you would think these were good obedient Israelites, they were doing what the Law required. They were coming and bringing the required offerings, they were holding to the required special feasts or holy days and they were seen in public prayer. It all looked good, yet God condemns it all! Why?
The answer is in the latter verses of our reading today: the state of their national life was terrible! There was evil, there was violence, there was injustice, the strong oppressed the weak, the needs of orphans or widows were ignored. They had drifted far from that godly, righteous, just, caring and compassionate society that God had designed them to be.
The point that the Lord is making so strongly here is that you cannot separate religious activity from daily living. It is one of our greatest failures, even today, to be one thing on a Sunday and something completely different on a Monday. We may divide our lives into spiritual and secular but God doesn't! Beware!
Chapter: Isaiah 1
Passage: Isaiah 1:18-20
A. Find Out:
1. What does the Lord suggest they do? v.18a
2. What does He say their sins ARE like and SHALL be like? v.18b,c
3. What do they need to be to be blessed? v.19a
4. What will be the blessing? v.19b
5. What is the alternative they may do? v.20a
6. What will happen if they are like this? v.20b
So far we have had prophecies pointing out the sinful state of the nation and the city and the broken down state that has occurred as a consequence. The voice of the Lord now comes in a very conciliatory manner; let's talk this out, let's work this out together. Yet we must be quite clear, this is not an offer of compromise, for God never compromises. What we have here is an offer from the loving heart of God to restore His people after the ravages of the enemy.
The first stage of the transformation must be a transformation of heart. The Lord asks for there to be a willingness for them to look at who they are and go for change. He asks for obedience to His ordained ways, His decrees, His laws. These are necessary prerequisites.
The second stage of the transformation will need to be a twofold change: first there needs to be the Lord dealing with their sin and removing the guilt and punishment, then there needs to be the activity of the nation which must change and become sinless.
The third stage of the transformation will then be a change in the affairs of the nation, the blessing of God on what they do so that the land prospers again. This order is always the necessary order in any situation. The opposite does not bear thinking about!
Chapter: Isaiah 1
Passage: Isaiah 1:21-26
A. Find Out:
1. How is Jerusalem described now, & what had she been? v.21
2. What two illustrations are used of her? v.22
3. How are the city authorities described? v.23
4. What does the Lord say He will do? v.24,25a
5. Yet with what outcome in mind? v.25b, 26a
6. How will the city eventually be known? v.26b
In the continuation of this prophecy about Jerusalem the Lord denounces the civic leaders who have become corrupt and who allow unrighteous behaviour to prevail. Jerusalem had become a place where the strong and the immoral prevailed over the weak and the poor. So, says the Lord, I will come and deal with all those who are evil and against me.
A casual glance at what follows may make us feel that restoration is on the way and that the Lord is being soft with them, but a more detailed look shows that the restoration that is coming will come because God will purify the city and destroy all that is impure in it. This is no “painless blessing” that is coming but a strong purging by the Lord who will remove who and what is evil!
When He has done that the Lord will raise up again those godly men who can act as judges of the people, to ensure that justice and righteousness continue, as it was in the earliest days of Israel 's life. It will be clearly seen and all will know that Jerusalem is Righteous.
In a day when we (rightly) emphasise the love and grace of God, we need to remember that God still judges and destroys sin. We either forsake it and let Jesus take it or we take the punishment that comes to remove the sin!
Chapter: Isaiah 1
Passage: Isaiah 1:27-31
A. Find Out:
1. How was Jerusalem to be redeemed? v.27
2. But what will happen to rebels etc.? v.28
3. Why will they be disgraced? v.29
4. What will they become like? v.30
5. What will happen to them? v.31
Restoration is coming to Jerusalem but it is coming by a purging (v.25) when God will separate out and deal with people according to their response to him; He will bring justice, what people deserve. First of all, those who are penitent, who repent, who turn back to God, they will be redeemed. God will take their past sins and now give them His forgiveness. Repentance and seeking God with a genuine heart are always keys to receiving restoration.
Second, there are those who remain rebels, staying in their sin, turned away from God. These ones will perish; it is as simple as that. They have had their warning and ignored it, so God will come and deal with them. The picture given of Jerusalem is of a tree dropping leaves or of a garden in drought. So many in Jerusalem would fall and then be burnt up. And an additional reason is given: they had given themselves over to idol worship; they had had sacred trees and sacred gardens where they worshipped other gods. That would all be shown up for what it truly was, false worship, and those who remained would be ashamed of what they had done and would return wholly to the Lord. This coming restoration will restore those who will be restored to their original relationship with the Lord, but for all others, they will be swept away. Jerusalem WILL be righteous.
RECAP - "Failure but Hope" - Isaiah Chapter 1
In this first group of 6 studies we have seen the Lord:
The prophet describes the state of Judah and Jerusalem using a number of prophetic pictures: a rebellious child, a beaten up body, a hut in a field, Sodom and Gomorrah, a tree with dropping leaves. They all show the land desolate, and Jerusalem in an unrighteous state. Yet the Lord offers conciliation and restoration but the restoration will only be for those who turn and repent.
1. A godless nation is an unrighteous nation.
2. An unrighteous nation is vulnerable to the enemy.
3. Religiosity without righteousness is a sham.
4. Restoration follows repentance.
5. Refusal to repent eventually brings destruction.
Seek the Lord with a whole heart. Turn from any sin that you are aware of in your life.
PART 2 : "The mountain and day of the Lord"
In this next Part we will see God's intended destiny for Jerusalem in the last days, but also how He will deal with all those who are proud and arrogant and who refuse to turn to Him. There is both encouragement and warning in this next chapter and both are intended to draw us closer to the Lord and to His purposes for us.