Isaiah 54

  1. In verses 4-10 consider all the reasons given why God’s reconciled people should not fear.
    In what ways will God be like a ‘husband’ to his people (verses 4-7)?
    How does God reveal in his treatment of his people that he is faithful to his covenants (verses 9, 10)?
  2. ‘This is the heritage’, says the prophet, ‘of the servants of the Lord’ (verse 17).
    What is this inheritance?
    List the blessings promised here.
    What guarantees that we can enjoy them?
  3. William Carey applied verses 2 and 3 to the missionary enterprise, and summoned the church to reach out to the unevangelized nations. What does this chapter mean for you?
    In what direction does it summon you to ‘lengthen your cords and strengthen your stakes’?
    Have you grasped how great your God is, how far-reaching his purposes of blessing?

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

This is the fourth of the ‘Servant’ passages, which portray with such marvelous accuracy the mission, character, and redemptive work of the Lord Jesus Christ. (See Introduction and Analysis.) Today’s portion falls into three parts: (1) an introductory summary, announcing the Servant’s exaltation after extreme suffering, and the effect of this on surrounding nations and kings (52:13-15; (2) the story of his life and suffering even to death, told by his now penitent fellow countrymen (53:1-9); and (3) the glorious issue, both for himself and others, of his sufferings and redemptive work (53:10-12).

  1. How is God’s Servant the Lord Jesus Christ depicted in 52:13-15? Notice the depth of his suffering, his exaltation, and the effect of this on the nations. Cf. 49:7; John 19:1-5; Eph. 1:20, 21.
  2. Work out in detail the many close parallels between 53:1-9 and the actual life of the Lord Jesus, as, for example:
    (a) the form of his manifestation to the world;
    (b) the reception accorded him;
    (c) his sufferings and the meaning of them;
    (d) his behavior when arrested;
    (e) the manner of his death and of his burial.
  3. Who are the ‘offspring’ spoken of in 53:10, and what benefits are shown in this whole passage to have been procured for them by the Servant’s substitutionary death? Cf. Heb. 2:10. Do you belong to this number?

Notes

  1. 53:1. The nations had not heard (52:15); but Israel, hearing, had not believed.
  2. 53:8. ‘Who can speak of his descendants?’. RSV ‘Considered’: or possibly ‘complained’, in the sense of making an appeal against the sentence. All were indifferent and even scornful. Cf. Matt. 27:39-41.
  3. 53:11. ‘By his knowledge’ many mean ‘by means of his knowledge’ or ‘by the knowledge of him’ (on the part of others.) Cf. John 17:3.

 

Isaiah 51:17-52:12

  1. Consider the seeming hopeless of Zion’s condition in 51:17-20, 23.
    How and why does God promise to act on her behalf (51:22; 52:3-6)?
    What must she herself do (52:1, 2)?
    What message has this for a backsliding Christians? Cf. 1 John 1:9.
  2. Let your imagination picture the joy of Zion described in 52:7-12.
    What application does the apostle Paul make of this passage in Rom. 10:14, 15 and 2 Cor. 6:17?

Notes

  1. 51:23. An allusion to the picture of making captives lie face downward on the ground, and using their backs as a road to walk on.
  2. 52:8. ‘with their own eyes’: i.e., face to face. This is how they will see the Lord when he returns to Zion

 

Isaiah 50:4-51:16

  1. What qualities are reveled in this picture of God’s servant? Meditate on the fulfillment of these in Christ. Cf. John 12:49; Matt. 26:67. Consider from his example and experience what you may count on God to do for you, and on what conditions.
  2. What comfort and encouragement for your own faith do you find in 51:1-6? What divine reassurances are given to those who are frightened by the hostility of men (verses 7, 8, 12-16)?

 Notes

  1. 51:23. An allusion to the picture of making captives lie face downward on the ground, and using their backs as a road to walk on.
  2. 52:8. ‘with their own eyes’: i.e., face to face. This is how they will see the Lord when he returns to Zion

Isaiah 49:1- 50:3

In chapters 40-48 the prophet has been concerned to show the supremacy of the God of Israel over the nations and their gods, and that God’s purpose is to be accomplished through Cyrus. These two themes now disappear, and attention is turned to Israel’s glorious future. Much of the section 49-55 consists of words of encouragement, spoken to overcome the doubts, hesitations and difficulties that the message of the preceding chapters had aroused in many minds. It contains also three of the ‘Servants’ passages in which the mission, the sufferings, and the atoning death to the Lord’s Servant are set forth. (See Analysis)

  1. Verses 1-6. The ‘Servant’ speaks to the nations. What does he say concerning:
    (a) his call;
    (b) his equipment;
    (c) his initial non-success, and his attitude in face of this;
    (d) the new task that God gave him to do?
    Although the passage applies to the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul uses part of it of himself and Barnabas. See Acts 13:47. How is this? Have we then a share in the Servant’s task? Cf. John 20:21.
  2. How does the Lord answer Zion’s doubts, first that the Lord has forsaken her (49:14); second, that her children are taken from her and lost to her (49:21); third, that Babylon was too strong to give up its prey (49:24); and fourth, that her covenant relation with Jehovah is broken (50:1)?
  3. Try to put yourself in the position of Israel in exile, as described in 49:7a (cf. 41:14, ‘worm’); and then contemplate the faith that could see and declare the transformation announced in 49:7b-13. On what is the prophet’s faith founded? With verse 7 cf. Ps. 22:6 and 27-29a.

Notes

  1. 49:12. See mg. Some scholars connect ‘Aswan’ or ‘Sinim’ with China, but it seems unlikely that Jewish exiles would have traveled so far East by this period. The ‘Syene’ refers to the more southerly country mentioned in Ezek. 29:10; 30:6.
  2. 50:1, 2. ‘What writ of divorce did I ever hand to your mother?’ (Moffatt). The meaning is that the breach between God and Zion and her children is not irreparable.

Isaiah 48

There seems to have been a party among the exiles that received God’s message concerning Cyrus with disfavor. God has already rebuked them more than once (45:9-13; 46:12, 13); and now in verses 1-11 of this chapter he answers an objection they seem to have raised that the teaching was novel, and not in accord with God’s usual procedure. He tells them that in spite of their rebellious attitude, he will carry out his plans.

  1. What does God condemn in the nominal religiosity of the Jews?
    Why did this cause God to announce his intentions beforehand (verses 3-5), and yet to keep some of his purposes hidden (verses 7, 8)?
    Do we grieve God by failing to acknowledge him, and to give him glory?
  2. Verses 17-22. What conditions does God lay down before we can experience the fullness of his grace and peace in our lives?

Notes

  1. Verses 3-6a. ‘The former things’: a reference to prophecies long foretold and now fulfilled; see also verse 5a. In verse 6b God acknowledges that he has now used a different method, keeping back the revelation of his intended action until just before it happened, but in this also he had a purpose (verse 7).
  2. Verse 10. ‘Though not as silver’: a phrase that seems to express the divine sorrow that the refining process had not given a better result, such as happens when silver is refined. Cf. Jer. 6:29, 30.
  3. Verse 14. ‘All of you’ refers to Israel; ‘which of the idols’ to the nations’ idols; and ‘the Lord’s chosen ally’ to Cyrus.

Isaiah 46 & 47

These two chapters concern Babylon: the first showing the impotence of Babylon’s gods and the folly of worshipping them (46:1-7), and rebuking those Jews who would not receive God’s revelation of his purposes (46:8-13); and the second depicting Babylon as a proud queen humbled to the position of a menial slave, with none to her help.

  1. Observe the difference in 46:1-4 between the gods of Babylon that have to be borne by beasts, and carried away by their worshippers, and the God of Israel who bears his people throughout their history. Is your religion one that is burden to you, or do you know One who will bear you even to old age?
  2. What sins brought about Babylon’s downfall, and God’s judgment upon her? What did she assume was her security against future disaster (47:8-13)?
  3. What is the attitude of the Word of God to all forms of fortune-telling, crystal-gazing, and the like? What can we learn from chapter 47 about what will happen in the hour of judgment if we have been trusting in any other than in God?

Notes

  1. 46:1, 2. The inhabitants of Babylon laid their chief idols (Bel and Nebo) on beasts, and carried them away in their flight.
  2. 47:6. ‘I … desecrated my heritage’: i.e., allowed the holy land to be defiled by foreign conquerors.