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HERE I AM. SEND ME!Isaiah
By Edward (Les) Middleton
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2005 Thomas Nelson, Inc.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneIndicted in the Courtroom of God
Before We Begin ...
Do you have any favorite quotations from the book of Isaiah, not already mentioned in the introduction? If so, please list them below.
What do you think Isaiah's "commission" from God was all about? What was he specifically called to do?
No one would ever accuse the prophet Isaiah of "modernism" in any form whatsoever. Neither would anyone suggest that he might be called a "modern thinker." After all, Isaiah was an ancient prophet of God, a man who devoted his entire life to telling people things they didn't want to hear—about themselves, about their actions, and most of all about the consequences of what they were doing.
That is what often comes to mind when we think about Isaiah, perhaps the best-known of the Hebrew prophets. And yet Isaiah begins his book with a remarkably clear statement that instantly answers four of the famous five "W questions" of modern journalism. Once again, here is the opening verse, and here is how those answers lay out:
The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. (Isa. 1:1 NKJV)
Who?—The "who" is Isaiah, the son of Amoz, which was about as clear an identification as you could make in eighth-century BC Hebrew society.
What?—The "what" is the vision given to him by God.
Where?—The "where" is Jerusalem.
When?—The "when" is during the reigns of four well-known kings of Judah, the first of which began in 790 BC and the last of which ended in 686 BC (although Isaiah was clearly still around in 681 BC—see the introduction).
Why?—This is the only question Isaiah does not specifically answer in the first verse. But his work itself provides its own explanation. He wrote the book because God gave him a specific message to relate.
On the other hand, it's not likely that Isaiah really believed that his words would change the course of what was then contemporary history. Nonetheless he probably had two basic reasons for writing them down—first, to put them in front of as many people as he could while they were still fresh and while they might still have current application; and second, to pass on the words of God to future generations, that we might be aware of how loving and fair God has always been with His people, even when their actions required stern parental discipline.
In that sense, the book of Isaiah serves as both a historical record and a warning to future generations. And also, of course, it provides the entire world with additional, irrefutable proof that the God who created the universe and exists "outside of time" knows—even now—what will happen hundreds of years into the future.
However, in one sense, much of the "vision" Isaiah referred to in his first verse literally did come true during his lifetime. Most of what he wrote was directed toward Judah, the Southern Kingdom, for this was where he lived and these were the people he was most familiar with. But Israel, the Northern Kingdom, was captured by Assyria in 722 BC, just as Judah would be captured by Babylonia fewer than 140 years later.
The Lord's Lawsuit Against the Nation (1:2–31)
In his first chapter, Isaiah essentially "lays out God's case" against the children of Israel. He follows a simple format. First, in verse 2, speaking on the Lord's behalf, he appeals to the heavens and the earth to "hear and give ear" to what he is about to say about God's children. Those children have rebelled against the Lord even though He nourished them and brought them up.
In verse 3, Isaiah compares Israel unfavorably to two animals. Unlike Israel, which animal knows its owner?
Unlike Israel again, which animal knows its master's crib?
Isaiah then lists a series of consequences, all phrased in the present tense as though they were happening "in the moment." Here is how this particular series is organized in verses 4–7:
First, Isaiah calls Israel a sinful nation; "a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers."
Then he recounts some of the specifics—they have "forsaken the Lord," provoked Him to anger, and turned away from Him.
Next, Isaiah begins to list some of the consequences of the above; for example, Israel will be sick "from the sole of the foot even to the head."
Can you name three additional consequences that Isaiah lists in verse 7?
In verses 8–10, Isaiah continues his list of comparisons, now likening Israel to the ultimate cities of sin and corruption. Those two cities are:
Isaiah follows, in verses 11–15, with a list of the ways in which God was no longer willing to accept the self-righteous, hypocritical offerings that Israel still tried to make. Name three things that God said He had had enough of, or that He no longer delighted in:
In verses 16–20, as God had so often done down through the centuries, He once again (via the words of Isaiah) comforted His people and told them how to undo much of what they'd done. "Make yourselves clean," He said; "Put away the evil of your doings before my eyes" (v. 16).
Fill in, below, the remainder of verse 18, which begins, "Come now, and let us reason together ..."
This is truly the voice of a God of infinite patience, love, and understanding. Isaiah then concludes chapter 1 with two segments—first a lament, in verses 21–23, and then another warning of judgment in verses 24–31.
What has befallen the "faithful city" (Israel/Judah) according to verses 21–23?
What will happen to Israel, according to verses 24–31, if things continue as they have been?
Sowing and Reaping (2:1–4:6)
Isaiah begins chapter 2 with a dramatic shift, from an indictment of Judah for her sin to a long section, spanning two complete chapters, in which he does four things:
First, in verses 1–4 Isaiah reaffirms Jerusalem's eventual position as the spiritual capital of the world, which is what it would become in the one thousand years of peace (i.e., the millennial kingdom) that would follow Christ's return to earth.
For example, complete these familiar lines from Isaiah 2:4 (NKJV):
They shall beat their swords into __________, And their spears into __________ __________; Nation shall not lift up __________ against nation, Neither shall they learn __________ anymore.
Second, in verses 6–11, Isaiah again described Judah's current condition.
To get a sense of these verses, fill in the blanks below:
Their land is also full of __________; They __________ the work of their own hands. (Isa. 2:8 NKJV)
Third, in chapters 2:12–4:1, Isaiah describes the consequences that would follow in the meantime if Judah continued on her present course. The individual comments are too varied and numerous to list here, but the overall thrust is clear. Read these verses carefully for the rich imagery and vivid descriptions Isaiah includes. In the eyes of your imagination, you can almost see the finery that the Lord will take away in that day:
... the jingling anklets, the scarves, and the crescents; the pendants, the bracelets, and the veils; the headdresses, the leg ornaments, and the headbands; the perfume boxes, the charms, and the rings; the nose jewels, the festal apparel, and the mantles; the outer garments, the purses, and the mirrors; the fine linen, the turbans, and the robes. (Isa. 3:18–23 NKJV)
This description sounds amazingly modern in many ways! And who says we are now any more "beautifully adorned" than the ancients, anyway?
Fourth, in 4:2–6, Isaiah gives us a lovely description of the way things would be for Israel in the distant future. What is most striking here is the comparison of that yet-to-be time to the nation of Israel's own exodus from Egypt when, led by Moses, they followed a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
In verse 6, Isaiah also refers to a tabernacle that would provide __________, a place of __________, and a shelter from __________ and __________.
A Song by Isaiah (5:1–7)
In the first seven verses of chapter 5, Isaiah sings a song he composed himself, a song in which he again expresses God's love for His people, whom he clearly identifies in verse 7 as "the house of Israel." Nonetheless, he pulls no punches; especially poignant is verse 2, which, after describing the care God took in digging up the ground, clearing out the stones, and building a tower and a winepress, declares that the "grapes" God got in return for all His labor were not sweet and domestic but "wild" instead.
Isaiah then asks the reader, once again, to judge between God and His people, to see who had been faithful to whom. And the answer, of course, is beyond doubt, as expressed at the end of verse 7 (NKJV): "He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; for righteousness, but behold, a cry for help."
More Indictments (5:8–30)
In the next twenty-three verses, Isaiah mentions several more unpleasant results that would someday befall the people of Judah for their sin. He also pronounces a series of "woes" on specific people, or groups of people. Here are several examples; can you find the verses (all in chapter 5) in which these quotations appear?
1. Woe to materialists ("those who join house to house"). Verse __________
2. Woe to drunkards ("those who rise early ... [to] follow intoxicating drink"). Verse __________
3. Woe to the amoral ("those who call evil good"). Verse __________
4. Woe to the vain and conceited ("those who are wise in their own eyes"). Verse __________
5. Woe to peddlers and those who take bribes ("those who justify the wicked for a bribe"). Verse __________
Isaiah's Commission (Chapter 6)
This section of Isaiah ends with chapter 6, which presents several intriguing questions right off the top. Here are just three worth thinking about:
1. As we have mentioned in previous books in this study guide series, not all Hebrew writings were sequential in the modern sense. In other words, not all of the chapters and sections within the chapters are presented in chronological order. Chapter 6 could be one of those chapters, for even though Isaiah said previously that he prophesied during the reign of Uzziah, he now speaks about a vision that came to him in the year Uzziah died.
Does this seem like a sequencing problem to you, or would you interpret this in some other way?
2. In verse 1, Isaiah says that he "saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up," with the train of His robe filling the temple. But even though God could take any form He wants, He would normally be invisible.
So who do you believe Isaiah saw? God the Father? Jesus Christ? Or a vision given to him by God that Isaiah could express only in terms that were familiar to him and his historical era?
3. In the rest of this chapter, Isaiah provides a series of fascinating details about what he actually saw. Many of these are intriguing on several levels—read each verse carefully! Pay particular attention to verse 8, one of the more familiar quotations from Isaiah in which he literally volunteers to do the work of the Lord.
But verse 8, again, raises the question of sequence. Isaiah was already commissioned by God back in chapter 1. How do you, therefore, interpret this verse and the chapter that contains it—is it "out of order," or is it simply repeating a portion of Isaiah's original calling as a way of emphasizing something of huge importance to him—and to us as well?
Pulling It All Together ...
Isaiah begins by recounting his commission, telling who he is, what he was called to do, where (and to whom) he ministered, and when he did it. Only the why aspect is not spelled out specifically ... but this will emerge from Isaiah's own words as we study the rest of the book.
Even in this short section (just six chapters), Isaiah speaks in a number of different voices and modes, from indictment and condemnation to comfort and assurance. Thus the sheer variety of his message is amazing all by itself.
Also, like so much else of Isaiah, the first six chapters provide a number of memorable quotations, many of which have been part of "contemporary" language for hundreds of years.
Chapter TwoThe Coming Messiah
Before We Begin ...
In historical terms, two huge misfortunes (both quite similar, even "symmetrical") befell the nation of Israel in Isaiah's time, one while he was alive and the other after he died. What were those misfortunes?
Why do you believe Isaiah would accept the commission God gave him, to take on the sometimes difficult duties of a prophet? What kind of man must he have been?
Chapters 7–12 of Isaiah include prophecies about the deliverance that God would provide for Judah/Israel. Though some of these prophecies were fulfilled fairly quickly, others are generally considered "messianic" in character, meaning that they pertain exclusively to Jesus Christ the Messiah, who was born to a virgin named Mary hundreds of years later in what is known as His First Coming.
Other prophecies made by Isaiah refer to events yet to come in the end times. These also involve Christ, the promised Messiah, coming for the final time to rule earth during the one-thousand-year millennial kingdom. This will occur prior to the final judgment of all men and women by God, at which time heaven and earth will pass away and the spirits of all will then be either with God for eternity in heaven or separated from Him for eternity in what is commonly called hell.
In particular, Isaiah 7:14 is usually considered one of the most striking references to the birth of Jesus Christ. Here is part of the text; please fill in the blanks below to reacquaint yourself with this ultra-familiar passage:
Behold, the __________ shall conceive and bear a __________, and shall call His name __________. (Isa. 7:14 NKJV)
(Immanuel is only one of many names by which Isaiah refers to God the Father and God the Son.)
The only problem some readers might have with these six chapters of Isaiah (i.e., 7–12) is in understanding what Isaiah was referring to at various points. So, as we will do several times in this study guide, let us deal with the organizational issue via the following outline, which breaks these chapters down into four parts. In each case, there is a very brief explanation of what Isaiah had to say, followed by questions on each of the chapters and verses themselves.
1. Birth Of The Messiah (Chapter 7)
This chapter begins with a message from Isaiah to King Ahaz, one of the most evil of the kings of Judah. Ahaz refused Isaiah's invitation to ask for a sign from the Lord, but God gave him one anyway in verses 14–16. Though parts of this short passage have been interpreted in various ways, most scholars agree that they refer to the birth of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ.
The remainder of chapter 7, beginning with verse 17, deals with King Ahaz and his experiences with the Assyrians, the details of which can be found in 2 Kings 15:38–16:20 and 2 Chronicles 27:9–28:27.
What was the name of Isaiah's son, as given in Isaiah 7:3?
What did King Ahaz refuse to do in Isaiah 7:12?
In Isaiah 7:23, Isaiah says that a place in the land of Judah that could support a thousand vines for growing grapes would support something else instead. What would that "something else" be?
2. The Coming Deliverer (8:1–9:7)
This section deals with the same subject as the previous section—troubles between the Northern and Southern Kingdoms and the coming Assyrian invasion that would first swallow up the Northern Kingdom, then affect the Southern Kingdom too. But Judah (i.e., the Southern Kingdom) would be delivered from Assyria. Then, in chapter 9:1–7, Isaiah again describes the ultimate Deliverer who would one day deliver from their sin all the people of the world who were willing to accept His offer.
In Isaiah 8:3, Isaiah says he "went to the prophetess" (i.e., his wife—see "Can a Woman Be a Prophet Too?" on page 26) and she bore a son. What name does God instruct Isaiah to give to his second son?
Excerpted from HERE I AM. SEND ME! by Edward (Les) Middleton Copyright © 2005 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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