Isaiah 45 begins with the proclamation that the Lord is about to use King Cyrus of Persia to show the Israelites the folly of idolatry and that He is the one true God. He asks His people to turn to Him that they might be saved, that He will not give His glory to another. The next chapter points out the folly of idolatry, and the Lord asks what man can make that can truly compare to the glory of God. He mocks their use of metals, that a man would shape cold iron or gold and then fall over himself giving it honour and praise, even though it cannot save or hear or deliver.
The 47th verse speaks of the indictment against Babylon, who, despite their magic and sorcery, will be brought low and made into nothing. After this, the Lord promises that He will continue to guide Israel even though “your neck is an iron sinew and your forehead brass.” He says how He has deferred His anger on account of His promise and calls Israel back to Himself as the only one who can deliver and save, the one who brought forth water in the wasteland.
These chapters contain many themes; however, the lampooning of idols and the supremacy of Yahweh are overarching. Nothing quite mocks idolatry like the Hebrew scriptures, just read the last paragraphs of Isaiah 44! The Lord not only judges Israel for their disobedience and idolatry, but Babylon as well, as they practice magic and divination and think themselves secure in their wickedness. These people cast metal and engrave it, they chop wood and worship it, they carry around their own sin on their shoulders, praising it.
The Lord, oh how He is merciful! How He never forsakes His covenant or breaks His end of the bargain! Israel commits abomination after abomination, and the Lord is merciful even in His judgement, not wiping out this obstinate people, yet their deeds cry out for it.
The Lord goes on to establish yet again that He is the only God, He is the one from beginning to end, He is the one who has first and final say on all matters, that he is the Holy One, the Redeemer, and Saviour. Like a loving father, He patiently waits and welcomes back His children.
Idolatry in the modern age looks different now as opposed to what went on in the ancient Near East. Engraved images don’t pop up on our street corners, churches are not beset by pagan worshippers sacrificing within them. As is ever the case, it has only become more subtle, better at hiding in plain sight. There is no less idolatry now than then, it has only changed it’s mask.
There is an incredible push to follow your heart, believe in yourself, and do what you feel is right. Instead of venerating carven images, we put ourself and our own personal feelings and experiences on that highest pedestal that exists within our hearts. We put our phone time and friends and television as close seconds, and our comforts are seen as the number one concern, even though it may not be a conscious thought. We must not fool ourselves that simply because idolatry is harder to see it must not exist. A careful examination of all our hearts will reveal how scarcely we “revere Christ in our hearts as Lord …” (1 Peter 3:15a).
To do anything less is to hinder our growth and restrict our freedom before God. To make ourselves slaves to anything other than God is to find true imprisonment. Jesus came that we might have our bonds burst and be free to love God with our whole hearts and minds and soul and strength – so let us get to it today!!
What or who has the highest place of honour within your own life? How can we make sure that we honour and revere Christ as Lord with our whole self?
Father God, we thank you that you have given us true freedom to love you and live for you, for life on your terms. We pray that we may never submit again to a yoke of slavery, that we can carry our cross and follow you, and that we do not look back. Please show us what it means to live fully for you, whether by teaching or your word or by the example of those around us. Amen!
Song: All I Have is Christ (Shane & Shane)
Text: Isaiah 42-44
Observe We meet the first of four “Servant Songs" in Isaiah that focus on the call and work of "the Lord's servant"(42:1-9). This poem unveils the One to "bring justice to the nations" (42:1). These few verses reveal much about this unnamed Servant.
‘He will not break a bruised reed or snuff a smouldering wick’ (42:3). Faithfulness permeates His strong, gentle rule. His determined justice will spread through His creation (v.4). His leading out of exile reveals the Servant is a light to the world (6,7) opening the eyes of the blind, freeing captives, renewing, restoring, because ‘I have put My Spirit upon Him’. (42:1b). He is glorious, unique, powerful (8). In righteousness, the Servant heals blindness and softens hard hearts (recall the oracle against Babylon in chapter 14); forgettable “former things” yield to the new. (9) The chapter ends with God’s burning wrath against Israel, yet…
… the first two words in 43:1 shift us onto another plane: ‘But now … I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine… ‘ He does not promise ease, but His Presence in exile (Fear not…), the I AM with them. As at the Red Sea, He leads through waters (the image of chaos in Genesis 1:2) to safety, for I am doing a new thing.(19) He brings His people through fire; like the fiery pillar in Exodus, it does not destroy but lights the way to life (43:2c).
Yahweh as the only God is made clear. ‘I am the First and I am the Last; and beside Me there is no god.’ (44:6) We hear distant echoes in Rev. 1:8 where Alpha and Omega, eternal God, is declared – ‘who is, who was, and who is to come’. An abrupt change from poetry to prose (44:9-12) mocks the manufacture of wooden idols that provide … kindling. The return to praiseful poetry speaks God’s restoration of Jerusalem, and again Cyrus, God’s agent, is mentioned in v.28.
Interpret In the ancient Near East, establishing justice was a principal kingly function, but ‘ justice’ was often brutal containment of conquered people. In chapters 40-66, (“Second Isaiah”) the Lord grounds messianic kingship in mercy, a new justice – and suffering love.
Jewish readings of these chapters see Israel as the [Suffering] Servant, bringing not only Godly justice, but a wellspring of hope for the nation of Israel; the early followers of Jesus read the Servant as Messiah Jesus (Mark 10:45). Isaiah writes Gospel – in the Hebrew Bible! We have his prophetic foretelling of Jesus and His purpose, revealing relentless faithfulness, offering redeeming grace to all who follow Him, making all things new (42:9,10,16; 43:18;44:3,22), removing fear (43:1b; 44:2b, 8). Humanity turns from Him time and again, yet He repeatedly offers salvation to His recalcitrant people.
Deep love is shown in these beautiful and moving words: ‘… you are precious in my sight, and honoured, and I love you…’(43:4) Precious: of great value, highly esteemed, cherished – made for a King. He blots out sins like a cloud… like a mist when they/we, precious in His sight, turn to Him in repentance and faith. (44:22)
Apply As we look closely at the poetry of the coming Messiah, short phrases introduce and recall for us His significant promises: ‘But now…” “Fear not…”; “… I am doing a new thing”; “I will pour my Spirit…”; “I am the Lord…”.
Isaiah foretells our wonderful Saviour and forthtells His purposes. As we respond with quiet wonder, God gazes lovingly at us; we too are those ‘whom I created for my glory…’ (43:7). He delivers us from our personal exiles because He knew exile – didn’t Jesus leave His Father’s glory for the Cross? He did this, our Servant King of wondrous love, our Servant King of saving grace.
Ask Let me be still and quietly gaze at you, Jesus. I am precious to You, am I not? (How can this be?) And are You truly with me, always? (Even in my dark times?)
Pray Lord Jesus, as Your Spirit breathes Your life into mine, I realize (so pitifully slowly) how utterly precious You are. We flourish under Your suffering, renewing, transforming love, in humble thanksgiving.
Song: What Wondrous Love Is This Michelle Tumes
“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand”
Isaiah 41: 10
Isaiah 39-41 (Psalm 118)
King Hezekiah fell from trusting God, (who saved him from death - 38), to trusting others and himself (he made implied alliances with the King of Babylon, the enemy of the Assyrians – 39). The consequences were great for God’s people but not for Hezekiah.
Scholars and theologians debate whether the next set of chapters are written by Isaiah himself, as foretold prophecy, or by a school of prophets following on from Isaiah’s teaching. God is quite able to ordain, and speak through either route! It is the message that is important; and what a message. Three voices speak of: a prepared path for salvation (40: 3-5, Mark 1: 1-3); the eternal Word of God (40: 6-8); and the Shepherd deliverer (40: 9-11). God’s nature absolutely guarantees these promises. In chapter 41, we see them affirmed through what Pastor Roger Ellsworth* calls ‘unbreakable cords of comfort.’ In verses 8-10, 14, we see these cords cemented in statements made by God; I have, I am and I will. God has chosen and called His people, He is their God and He will strengthen, uphold and help them.
*The God of all Comfort by Roger Ellsworth
For the ‘Big Picture’ on Isaiah click here for the second video
When we have nowhere else to turn, we will turn to God, and trust Him. There is a challenge in delivery though. Will we stay trusting God in the good times or like Hezekiah revert back to trusting ourselves and/or others? In stewardship of our gifts and roles in life, will we be only concerned for our times, or be equally concerned for our legacy and its impact on those that follow us (Is. 39: 8).
We are in times of challenge now, exasperated by a further form of lockdown. History, is however, in God’s hands; He IS working His purposes out in all that we face. We need to turn to God and trust Him. He has given us hope for the present, in the presence of Jesus Christ. He has made a way for the eternal Word of God to be our Shepherd and deliverer through these times. He provides three unbreakable cords of comfort for us, His children: He has called and chosen us; He is our God; and He will strengthen, uphold and help us.
The Question of Application
Where, and how, do you see God working in our current times? How does the present and future hope God gives us in Christ provide comfort, strength and help?
Lord, you bring good news of salvation; lift your voice that we may hear your love. You come to us with your reward of recompense; reconcile us to yourself. Be our Good Shepherd, tend and guide us; lift us close to your heart and gently lead us. Amen
From Isaiah 40: 9-11
O God, our help in ages past by Grace Community Church
Eagles Wings by Hillsong
This account of Hezekiah’s prayer, and God’s compassionate response says to me that I, too, have permission to ask God to have compassion and to heal me. It reminds me of Jesus’s response to the people when a lame man asked for healing, and the people wanted to know who was the ‘sinner’, i.e. who was to blame for this man’s lameness. Jesus tells the people that “neither this man nor his parents sinned” but that this lameness was allowed so that God alone would receive the glory when the man was healed.
This is an age-old question but worth pondering: What is the nature of God’s mercy? How is it that God loves me? Just little ole insignificant me? Like Elijah of old and like Hezekiah, you may not answer that question but you draw me to bow down and worship you.
Dear God, apparently you care about me—even though I have done nothing either good or evil to try to draw your attention. I’m just me. But, please will you bring new life to me, fill me with your Spirit, and draw me near to You? I want the joy-filled abundant life that you talk about. I want to have that living water bubble up inside me and overflow to all around me. Please hear the longing in my heart and answer.
SONG: Good and Gracious King
Isaiah (Chapters 23-35)
OBSERVE: In several places throughout the Bible, God describes his Son by using the metaphor of a building’s cornerstone – a stone set in the foundation of a building’s structure that all other stones are set in reference to. We see this clearly in the book of Isaiah; “Look! I am placing a foundation stone in Jerusalem, a firm and tested stone. It is a precious cornerstone that is safe to build on” (Isaiah 28:16). Isaiah prophesied that this cornerstone could provide a safe foundation for Israel, but he also said that this stone could be a stumbling block (Isaiah 8: 14).
INTERPRET: A stone that makes someone stumble would have had a lot of meaning to those living in this time, especially in battle. A single loose stone could cause someone to stumble in battle and lose their live because of it. One stumbling stone could be the difference between life and death on the battlefield.
Jesus made it clear that he is the cornerstone spoken of by the prophet Isaiah. Our response determines our experience of him as either a safe foundation to build life on or a stumbling block. Speaking to a group of leading priests and elders who confronted him while he was teaching in the temple, Jesus asked if they had ever read in the Psalms: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Psalm 118:22). Then Jesus said, “I tell you that The Kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to those that will produce the proper fruit. Anyone who stumbles over that stone will be broken to pieces, and it will crush anyone it falls on” (Matthew 21: 43-44).
APPLICATION: The religious leaders of Jesus’ day were unable to recognize the foundation stone of salvation that God had placed in Jerusalem – Jesus himself. All who build their lives on the foundation of the person and work of Christ will rest in safety. But while Jesus is a stone of safety, he is also a snare or a stumbling block. Those who reject Christ and build their lives on the sinking sand of their own goodness and desires will not be secure.
We need to examine closely whether Jesus is our secure foundation or if he is a stumbling block for ourselves. Is Jesus the cornerstone of our life or are we trying to build Jesus into a house that we have built ourselves? On the spiritual battlefield today, this structural arrangement will make all the difference to the outcome of our battle.
REFLECTION: Is Jesus your secure foundation or a stumbling block to your life?
Prayer: Jesus, your righteousness is the cornerstone of my existence. I desire that everything about my life is determined in reference to you. You are the only cornerstone that is safe to build my life on. Help me to trust in your firm and tested foundation. AMEN.
SONG: Cornerstone (By Hillsong)
Isaiah begins these chapters with indictments against Cush and Egypt, that their people and handiwork and idols will be brought to nothing as the sun dries up the river, the canals become foul, that fishermen and farmers will lament their misfortune.
Near the end of the nineteenth chapter, it is told that in the midst of Egypt will be an altar to the Lord and that soon after the demise of Egypt will be many peoples and cities within its borders that will recognize the authority of the Lord. They will worship Him, sacrifice to Him, and He will hear their prayers, mend their hearts and lands, and be near to them. There will be highways between Egypt and Assyria, both of which will bless the Lord and follow Him alongside His inheritance, Israel.
Isaiah then is told by the Lord to walk around naked for three years as a sign and a portent against the people of Egypt and Cush for their coming destruction, that their peoples would be taken captive and led away naked, no longer able to rescue themselves or others.
What follows next is the description of a fallen Babylon and Dumah, then an oracle concerning Jerusalem. The Lord had asked for weeping and mourning for the sins of the people, instead they continued to celebrate and feast and ignore the Lord who said that their sins would not be atoned for.
The Lord demands vivid imagery from His prophets, laying on their sides for hundreds of days on end, building small walls and enacting a siege, walking around naked – though it may seem strange to our sensibilities, the word of these prophets and their outrageous methods would have caught the attention of the people as a last-ditch way to get the people of Israel to actually listen.
The Lord has given His word along with signs, wonders, and a rich history of divine blessing and deliverance. His word is always among them and in their very DNA as a people, yet Israel and Judah continue to live like those around them, worshipping their gods and adopting their practices, even child sacrifice.
While this book might have long spells of doom and gloom, it is important to recognize that the large part of people for which these prophecies were intended had every chance to examine their behaviour and compare it to what the Lord expects of them. In the ancient Near East, your name and your tribe and your history were your identity. It meant so much more than our own nationality means to us today, so they all would have known even the roughest outline of who the Lord was and what He did for them and the rich tradition and relationship upon which Israel was founded.
With just the barest effort, they could have seen that their ways were evil and that the consequences were real and near, yet they stubbornly refused and rejected Him who saved them. The Lord’s holiness is real, and the positive and negative consequences of pleasing or offending Him are real too! To ask them to be anything else is to ask Him not to be who He is.
We all have those parts of our lives we know are rough around the edges. The pieces of our personalities, our minds, our habits that does not line up with God’s original plan. We like the Israelites have a real opportunity to examine ourselves against the Word of God every day and walk with our eyes wide open. The Lord does not demand perfection in order to be united with Him, however that is His goal for us and His work in us – to make us more and more into the perfect image of Jesus Christ. To be obedient is a choice that yields real fruit and has real consequences in our real lives. Do not be afraid to do a real search (see Psalm 139) and lay it all down at the foot of the cross each day! By doing this, we leave lots of room for Christ to work and invite Him into each part of our hearts and minds.
Application Question –
How would you like Christ to make you more like Himself? What sticks out the most? Do we feel confident that He is gentle and loving, even when He works evil out of us?
Lord, we thank you for the example of your prophets. We thank you that you are patient and kind and discipline your people out of love like a true Father. Please search us and know our hearts, find any offence, sin, or evil in us and help us surrender all these things to you in the mighty name of Jesus Christ. Amen!
Song - Goodness of God, Adoration Music
Text: Isaiah 13 -1 7
Isaiah prophesies God’s judgment against nations opposing and surrounding Israel/Judah:
1. The Lord condemns Babylon (the empire that sent Judah into exile) for its pride and declares that the empire will be overtaken by the Medes and the king of Babylon will experience a shameful death and no surviving offspring—a complete sweep with the broom of destruction. Furthermore, the Lord says He will have compassion for Israel and will settle them again in their own land when this happens.
2. Isaiah also prophesies God’s decisive plan and purpose to crush Assyria (the empire that sent the northern kingdom of Israel into exile).
3. When King Ahaz of Judah dies, Isaiah prophesies to the historic enemy of Israel, the Philistines that they should not rejoice at his death. Isaiah uses intermingled metaphors of roots and snakes to say that Ahaz’ offspring will trouble them and they will also suffer because of a God-sent famine in their land.
4. Chapters 15 and 16 show us a picture of the nation of Moab in exile and God lamenting over them. The Lord says in three years Moab’s splendour will be gone and survivors few.
5. The city of Damascus is condemned to be a heap of ruins, yet with some survivors. Cities in Ephraim (another name for Israel’s northern kingdom) will also disappear. This will cause those left to look to the Holy One of Israel and away from hand-made altars and Asherah poles, the cause of the city’s inhabitants to forget their true God.
Using other Biblical references, let’s take a closer look at how Isaiah’s prophecies of judgment on these nations were fulfilled and a bit about why they were judged (match the numbers for easy reference).
1. We see the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy of Babylon’s destruction by the Medes and Persians in the book of Daniel when Darius the Mede overtakes the kingdom the night Belshazzar, king of Babylon is slain (Daniel 5:30-31) after the prophet Daniel interprets divine writing on the wall. Under Persian king Cyrus, Judah’s exiles are permitted to return home (books of Ezra and Nehemiah will tell us more about that).
2. We know from the book of Jonah, which records Jonah’s journey to the Assyrian city of Ninevah to announce God’s destruction on that city, that God has compassion on Assyria and does not destroy the people when they repent. But the book of Nahum announces Nineveh’s final destruction, which happened around 632 BC when the Babylonians, Medes and Scythians rose up against them.
3. Judah’s King Ahaz is succeeded by Hezekiah (a good king!), who defeated the Philistines “as far as Gaza and its territory (2 Kings 18:8).
4. We hear more about Moab’s judgement, exile to Babylon like Judah, in the book of Jeremiah (Ch 48). Initiated through Solomon’s wives, the people of Moab corrupted Israel and Judah with their god Chemosh, who demanded child sacrifices.
5. Damascus was the prominent city of Syria, which was friendly allies with the northern kingdom of Israel. Here, both are judged. We see the fulfillment of this prophecy in 2 Kings 15:29 when the king of Assyria attacks Israel during the reign of Pekah. In 2 Kings 16:9 we are told he also attacks Damascus, captures it and deported its inhabitants.
If the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah can’t escape the consequences for their idolatry and evil, neither will the nations who overtake them and put them into exile. Through Isaiah’s prophecies and their fulfillments, we see the timeless truth that God is sovereign above all kingdoms of the earth, He is the one who sets kings up and He is the one who tears kingdoms down. God is the ultimate authority over all the earth.
What does it mean to you personally when you ponder God’s authority? Does his sovereignty give you peace or cause you to fear? What does your response to his authority say about your heart’s posture—are you humble before Him or do you have areas of undealt-with pride? Be honest with God and acknowledge his rule over your life and circumstances today.
Prayer: There is no one higher than you, Lord. Thank you for the love, forgiveness and grace I experience when I turn to you and acknowledge your greatness and authority and my need for you to save me from sin. Help me to live in a humble posture before you today and help me to trust your authority over my life and being. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Song: No One Higher (Aaron Shust)
“The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this!”
Isaiah 9: 7b
Isaiah 9-12 (Psalm111)
If you haven’t, I would encourage you to watch the video on Isaiah (found in the Read Scripture app and via our website on April 19th). Having this background understanding to this amazing book will help you to grasp its depths and truths, including those within our rich chapters for today.
We see in these chapters the reality of dealing with present horrors whilst looking for a future hope. The scriptures reveal, however, that the difficulties facing God’s people are because of their abandonment of Him; deciding to go their own way. He has called them back many times but their leaders and prophets simply confirm the people’s lies guiding them away from God. God uses foreign powers to bring His judgement on His people; nevertheless, He will not abandon them. In His grace, He describes a return to blessing in the not too distant future. An eternal future is also described; it will be open to all. Here we see God’s plan of salvation in action and the foretelling of Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God. These chapters are so rich I would encourage a deal of meditation upon them.
Prophecy is the telling forth of God’s truth into current context and the foretelling of future events (present and future). In Isaiah we will find both sides of prophecy; indeed we do in these chapters. Isaiah speaks into the current situation with God’s truth, he also foretells the future, predicting Christ’s arrival and mission. It is estimated that there are over 350 prophecies, pertaining to Jesus, in the Old Testament. We see in these chapters, prophecies that Jesus has fulfilled in detail, and prophecies yet to be fully achieved. As we look into our world today we see the consequences of going away from God, of false teaching that guides us further in separation and the need for hope. We see in Christ the arrival of God’s Kingdom and real hope. In current challenges we are able to look to the present presence of Christ and the eternal future hope with renewed confidence. Imagine life without hope!
The Question of Application
How would you speak God’s truth into our world, country, city, church and personal context? What is God’s message of hope for the present and in the future?
(We will unpack some of this on Sunday in the service).
Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Prince of Peace, we give you thanks for the light you bring to our darkness. We praise you for your present providence and thank you for the hope of eternal future. Salvation and glory belong to you alone, you are our strength and song; HALLELUJAH. Amen
Rejoice the Lord is King! Emu Music, Keswick Convention 2020
Salvation belongs to our God! Randy Rothwell
TEXT: Isaiah 5-8
A little background to the book of Isaiah.
Woe is me for I am lost, I am a [man] [woman] of unclean lips. Cleanse me, oh God. Show me your glory, oh Lord. Call me to yourself.
Song: Steve Bell, The Lorica
2 Kings (Chapter 25)
Before we move into the book of Isaiah with our blogs, it would be helpful to first bring some closure to the book of 2 Kings.
OBSERVE: Jerusalem had become the capital of the southern kingdom and the location of the temple that Solomon built for God. It had been a place that had been conquered over the centuries by the Egyptians and the Assyrians, retaken by the kings of Israel, and then eventually taken by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon in the last chapter of 2 Kings.
The entire Babylonian army……….tore down the walls of Jerusalem on every side. Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard, then took as exiles the rest of the people who remained in the city. (2 Kings 25: 10-11)
INTERPRET: Ancient cities were surrounded by think, strong stone walls. The walls provided protection from enemies, and security and safety to all who lived within the walls. So when the Babylonian army broke down the walls of Jerusalem, it put an end to safety and security for Jerusalem’s inhabitants. They were carried off to exile in Babylon.
God’s people had always needed a city to live in with walls that were impenetrable by their enemies, where they can live in peace and safety and without fear. But no human king could ever construct such a city. No wall built by human hands could ever provide security that would last forever.
APPLICATION: The writer of the book of Hebrews says that the country God’s people have longed for is “a heavenly homeland” and that God “has prepared a city for them” (Hebrews 11: 16). The apostle John was given a vision of this city, and he saw that it is a city with walls – magnificent, beautiful, impenetrable walls “made of jasper,” built on foundation stones “inlaid with twelve precious stones,” nothing evil will be allowed to enter, nor anyone who practices shameful idolatry and dishonesty – but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life” (Revelation 21: 18-19, 27).
It is the saving work of Jesus, the slain Lamb of God that provides the foundation for an eternity of peace and safety from the enemies of sin and Satan. All those whose names are written in his book – all those who have come alive to Christ Jesus – will live with him forever in his city, surrounded by beautiful, impenetrable walls. It is this city that we are to long for and desire to become residents of.
REFLECTION: Are you preparing for the heavenly homeland that is being prepared for you?
PRAYER: Lord Jesus; how I long to live in the place that you have gone to prepare for me. To live free from attack of the enemy and of my own sin. It is here in the New Jerusalem, that I will no longer be carried off into captivity by my selfishness and fear. With you, I will dwell in perfect safety.
SONG: New Jerusalem (Vertical Worship)
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.