Summary of Isaiah: thought questions to ponder, study, and learn from Isaiah
1. What is Isaiah’s vision? How would you describe the Vision? What is the Vision about? How does this Vision relate to you as an individual? Our church? Our nation? The whole world? What if Isaiah’s Vision were to capture our hearts? What does this Vision have to say about how life should be lived, our lives and our church and our nation?
2. One of Isaiah’s strong messages is that God is holy. But what does that mean? What does it mean for us that God is holy? How would you describe the holiness of God? If God is holy, what difference does that make in how we live? What difference does that make in how our church operates and what we do as a church of the holy God?
3. What are we to make of the anger of God and the violence that seems to come from God?
Why is God angry? What are the purposes of God’s wrath?
4. According to Isaiah, God judges the nations and directs the actions of nations as agents to do his work. Does that apply today? How?
5. It seems clear that Isaiah described the coming of Jesus. And in Luke 4 Jesus claimed his mission as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s message. What are we to make of that? How would Jesus’ teachings about the kingdom of God and in the Sermon on the Mount, and etc. relate to Isaiah’s vision? Could Jesus have brought Isaiah’s vision to life?
6. Do you think we need a new prophet Isaiah today? What would his vision be? What message would he be giving? What would he tell us to do?
7. Throughout Isaiah there is mention of justice and righteousness. What is this about? What does justice and righteousness have to do with us today?
8. Idols. Isaiah says God is against them. What is that to us?
[10/2/2015 maybe one of the appeals of the other gods is their lack of ethical demands on the worshipers. The God of Isaiah made strong ethical demands of the people for justice and righteousness in society. When people have material means in excess of bare necessities, Yaweh expects the excess to be shared to those in need. This still goes against our natural inclinations even today as well as then. We prefer a god who lets us live in comfort and lets us hate our enemies so we can fight against them. ]
Great Themes in Isaiah
1. The holiness of God.
2. God judges the nations, including Israel and Judah.
3. God oversees the actions of the nations and uses them as his agents. God is in control of history.
4. God demands that life and societies be lived with justice and righteousness and not lip service. The is the strong ethical demands of God.
5. A time of judgment is coming when all things will be made right. Injustice will be undone; reconciliation and restoration will occur. Especially, the poor will be lifted up.
6. God desires his people’s genuine love and wants to bless all people.
Isaiah on Justice and Righteousness
1:11-17 Faithful religious observances do not interest God if the worshipers do not promote a just society and help the needy.
5:7 Song of the Vineyard. Israel was planted by God as a vineyard, but it yielded bad grapes. “And he (God, the vine keeper) looked for justice, but saw bloodshed; for righteousness, but heard cries of distress.”
9:6-7 the one who will reign on David’s throne will do so “with justice and righteousness.”
10:1-2 “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees,
to deprive the poor of their rights and rob my oppressed people of justice,
making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.”
Such has been the history of mankind, where people of power, authority and privilege use their position of advantage selfishly instead of willingly sharing with those of no power or privilege.
11:1-9 A shoot from the stump of Jesse… “with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.”
Even the animal kingdom will reflect this new society where the strong do not prey on the weak.
16:5 “In love a throne will be established; in faithfulness a man will sit on it – one from the house of David – one who in judging seeks justice and speeds the cause of righteousness.”
32:1-8 A king who reigns in righteousness and rules with justice is contrasted with a foolish person who, among other things, leaves the hungry empty, and neglects the legitimate needs of the poor.
58:1-10 vv. 6-7 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer
with shelter –
when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own
flesh and blood?”
61:1-2 Jesus used this to describe his mission (leaving out “the day of vengeance” part).
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God.”
Other verses: 28:17; 29:20-21; 32:16; 33:5; 56:1; 59:15b;
God Is Holy
What does this mean for us? Gleanings from Isaiah.
1. God’s purposes are good. When God created, he called it “good”. The Hebrew word for this has the meaning of something fulfilling it’s intended purpose. It was God’s purpose to create life and humans in God’s own likeness. If we do not believe that God’s original intention was for his children to live a glorious life of joy and meaning and fulfillment, then none of the rest of this matters!
2. God’s holiness puts God above his creation, including mankind. Since God made everything, including mankind, with a purpose in mind, God is in a position to make judgments based on the fulfillment of his purposes. Yet God being above his creation does not mean that God is not involved. On the contrary, God is intimately involved with his creation, both living and non-living.
3. Mankind, made in God’s image, was meant to live a certain way – in dependence on God and trust in God which would result in peace and harmony among all God’s children and the earth. It would be a life of incredible joy for all mankind. But having free will, mankind chooses not to depend wholly on God or trust God completely which leads to living in fear and greed, which leads to all kinds of grief as mankind seeks in vain to live other than how we were made to live. God’s holiness enters in by not allowing life lived without dependence on God or trust in God to ultimately succeed. Then we are foolish enough to blame God for our troubles and even accuse God of being cruel. But was it cruel for God to make life to be lived in a certain way? Was it cruel for God to give a free will to his creatures to decide to trust and love their Maker?
4. Any nation, society, or person not in harmony with God’s purposes will be under God’s judgment, which is meant to bring mankind back into harmony with God and among ourselves. We tend to think of judgement as a form of punishment. But this is not God’s intent – just to punish wrong-doers. God’s intent is to restore us into the closeness of relationship with Him and all other of His children.
5. God will not be deceived into accepting mankind’s praise without the accompanying life that is lived in accordance with God’s way to live. Religious traditions give us many words to use in song and prayers and creeds that can easily be spoken without much thought as to their actual meaning while giving us the illusion of true worship. [ this explains at least to me why in part the social surveys in the US indicate that the Christians have the same amount of troubles as those who claim no religion. The reason is that God cannot bless the lip service of shallow, thoughtless worship. ]
6. Any person or group that puts other of God’s children down violates God’s purposes for his creatures. This is a violation against God’s holiness, who loves all his children. Thus the domination of one people over another is an affront to the holiness of God. Any action by mankind that harms the earth, human or non-human, is violating God’s desire for creating and sustaining life. This is a message of Jesus that the church chooses to ignore – ALL PEOPLE are made in God’s image and equally loved by their Creator! The earth itself is God’s creation and must not be violated by man’s greed for profit. Jesus shows clearly that this goes even further; to not care for or help the poor, who may be poor through no fault or action of your own, is also a violation of how life is to be lived.
Woe to the ones who contribute to causing the poor to suffer!
7. God’s terms are non-negotiable. We are experts at making excuses, some of them even sounding very religious. In fact, maybe even religion is one of the best ways to avoid the ultimate demands of God with a well structured fascode. (see N.T. Wright in some book?)
God’s Anger versus Human Anger
1. Our anger is meant to hurt, to vent our frustrations, to get revenge. That’s why God’s anger is a puzzle to us – we can’t see God being as petty as we are.
2. God’s anger is meant to end injustice and oppression, to make things right, to reverse wrongs through reconciliation. To reverse wrongs is different than revenge.
3. God’s anger comes from God’s holiness.
4. Our anger comes from being hurt, a self-defense; we fight to protect ourselves and to be in control. We fear that if we are not in control we feel weak and fear we will get hurt. We would rather hurt others than for ourselves to be hurt.
5. God’s anger is not meant just to hurt but to restore what has been lost. [ If a person is sick, we think nothing of hurting them! They are cut open, or irradiated, or whatever, to rid them of disease. When a person’s heart is sick with hurts, greed, selfishness, fear, or unloving, it will take some painful medicine to bring healing. ]
6. It almost seems that the God of the Old Testament and New Testament are not the same. But not so.
The God of Jesus is just as passionate against injustice and evil to bring righteousness and peace and joy, but the difference is that God is more like a lamb, silently suffering and absorbing the world’s suffering and evil rather than a warrior dishing out revenge and suffering on the enemy.
Does God punish sinners for their sins, or do the sins themselves lead to their own punishment?
If God made life to be lived in a certain way, trusting God in faith, etc. then when people do not live that way life does not go well. It is the holiness of God that does not let a life of non-trust succeed.
The punishment for our sin, a life lived less than full, etc. is just the natural consequence of living without God. But then we blame God for our suffering! Analogy: if a kid takes a wheel off his wagon, it won’t pull very well or work very good. He will complain and not enjoy his wagon, but he is the one who took it apart.
Punishment can cause a person to further rebel and harden further against making any corrections (repenting) or it can cause a person to reassess the situation and look for what is really going on and take responsibility for his part (confession) and desire to change going forward (repentance). If God judges, it is to move us to repentance, to healing and restoration of God’s grand and glorious intentions for us. God’s judgment will seem crushing and cruel only by those who do not see their rebellion, lack of trust, and thus will not turn from their ways against God.
The following on Isaiah’s vision was originally separate from the exploration of the meanings of God is Holy, but with further thought it now seems to all fit together. Isaiah’s vision was based on the holiness of God and flows from that out to society and life in general. It is significant that Isaiah began his work as a prophet after a vision of God in the temple, Isaiah 6. (Even though this is not introduced until chapter 6 it is still regarded as his initial, formative moment.) Above all in his vision is God and the holiness of God. All that follows from Isaiah flows from this vision of the holiness of God.
What is Isaiah’s Vision? How would you describe the Vision? What is the Vision about?
How does this Vision relate to you as an individual? Our church? Our nation? The whole world?
We need to think deeply about these questions otherwise the study of Isaiah will be only a matter of so much information to put in our heads. But what if Isaiah’s Vision were to capture our hearts? What does this Vision have to say about how life should be lived, our lives and our church and our nation?
One of Isaiah’s strong messages is that God is holy. But what does that mean? What does it mean for us that God is holy?
How would you describe the holiness of God? If God is holy, what difference does that make in how we live? What difference does that make in how our church operates and what we do as a church of the holy God?
The vision is BIG, not small, not limited to his own clan or country or region.
1. Isa. 6 – In the year that the king of Judah died, Isaiah saw God seated on a throne. Uzziah had been a good king for many (?) years, but now all that suddenly ended. The people were in shock and grief. What would follow? No one had much confidence in the son of Uzziah that would rule next. Other nations were threatening Judah from all sides. It was a very troubling time. But Isaiah had a vision of God seated on a throne, high above any throne on earth. Here was the real ruler over earth. God’s rule extends to every nation, every person.
From “People of the Covenant An Introduction to the Old Testament”, by Henry Jackson Flanders, Jr., Robert Wilson Crapps, David Anthony Smith; The Ronald Press Company, 1963: Page 307. “The prophet was tragically disturbed because the long and prosperous reign of Uzziah had ended. The immediate situation was critical; the future ominous. The life of the people of Judah centered in their king, and grief was great at the death of a good one. How could Judah face the increasing Assyrian menace under the leadership of Uzziah’s weak and ineffectual son Jotham? In the disheartening sorrow of such an hour Isaiah became a prophet as he saw The King Yahweh, the real ruler of Israel, seated upon his throne. The prophet then realized that while kings on David’s throne might come and go, Yahweh was Judah’s everlasting king and upon him the security of the Davidic state depended.”
2. God is in a position to make demands.
3. God demands righteousness. This means right living. It involves fair treatment to everyone. It means people of wealth and power use their influence to aid the poor and powerless. God seeks justice for all people on earth.
4. Trusting God is the only way to live. How many ways do we not trust God? Political treaties with other nations. Living selfishly, hoarding our own treasures instead of sharing with the needy, seeking revenge when wronged, not telling the truth to protect ourselves, trusting in a huge military for our security,
5. Because God loves all of his children, he is not pleased when some of his children suffer at the hands of other of his children. Even if suffering is not caused by others, if those others turn their back to the suffering, God is angered.
6. Judgment from God is always followed by compassion and a chance to turn back to God to receive mercy and find life. But God is not fooled by insincere lip service. He looks for changed lives by looking for a just society. It is not enough for me to “be good” as an individual. I must stand up for the poor or else I side with the oppressors. A just society is God’s measuring stick for true repentance. As long as people are being oppressed and exploited, as long as the poor are left in poverty, as long as the wealthy and powerful hold on to their advantages, God stands in judgment.
In our prayers, do we pray for the world? Including our enemies? We pray for our troops and rightly so. But I don’t hear us praying for the people of Iraq or Afghanistan or our enemies.
Our country’s military spending is not only the largest of all the nations, but exceeds the military budgets of the next 30 biggest military budgets combined! Yet we piously say “In God We Trust”. Where is our real security?
If the USA tithed our military budget, that alone could solve over half of the world’s hunger and poverty. Wouldn’t that buy us some credibility as a Christian nation a million times more than our military strength?
If we shared our wealth with the rest of the world, maybe we wouldn’t have to build a wall around our borders to keep out the poor riffraff.
Many voices are saying that the American way of life is not sustainable. This is not coming from a lunatic fringe but from main stream groups like IEEE which reported in a technical journal that for the rest of the world to live as we do by the year 2100 there will be no more copper in the earth’s crust. Texas farmers in the panhandle irrigate with massive amounts of underground water such that the water table is declining every year. How long can that go on?
Our unsustainable lifestyle goes way beyond recycling. The day is coming when we will be forced to scale back on the way we live.
[ new thought on Nov. 24, 2010 – God does not demand punishment. God demands holiness and justice. There is a world of difference between these. God uses judgment to bring about holiness and justice – not just for the sake of punishing evil and evil doers. ][ however, in the theory of substitutional atonement it looks to me like God demands punishment, that the object of God’s demand is that sin must be punished. I believe now that God’s real object is not to punish sinners but to restore sinners to sons and daughters, to bring us back who have run away from the One who loves us. ] further [ There IS punishment for our sin and evil doing. But it does not come as a direct result from God as if God enjoys meting it out. No, our punishment comes at our own hands, we the humans, God’s creatures, when we live life other than the way God intended. When we don’t trust our Creator, don’t believe that we will be taken care of, chose to let fear control us, then life will not go well. Living a life apart from God’s way leads to its own punishment. Seven centuries of recorded human history is proof enough. ]
Isaiah has no doubt who is really in control of things. The masses are swayed by public opinion and fearful for their future.