Thursday, February 28, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 40

In chapter 40 of Isaiah today we will see the prophet Isaiah move on from his prose style and back into poetic prophesy. We also see the focus shift from the Assyrian threat of the previous chapters up to the looming threat of the Babylonian exile. As king Hezekiah was promised in chapter 39, the kingdom of Judah would eventually be overrun and shipped off to exile in Babylon. Hezekiah reigned from 716 B.C. to 786 B.C., while the actual exile to Babylon began in 605 B.C. and continued to 581 B.C. The Israelites would not return until 537 B.C., so Isaiah is talking about an event today that would happen nearly 200 years after his own death.

Though his initial prophetic verses contain a warning about the suffering that the Israelites would face during their exile, there is also hope in them. In chapter 40 here Isaiah offers hope that any exile would be temporary. Eventually they would return to Jerusalem, and the exile itself would be used as a disciplinary action from God directed at Israel for turning away from God. Even though His people would suffer, God would not forget them.

2 Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the LORD's hand
double for all her sins.

3 A voice of one calling:
"In the desert prepare
the way for the LORD ;
make straight in the wilderness
a highway for our God.

4 Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.

5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
and all mankind together will see it.
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken." – Isaiah 40:2-5

The unfortunate thing is that even forgiven sin has its consequences. The nation of Israel had sinned, therefore it had to suffer with the Babylonian exile. Isaiah clearly points out here that it would not be permanent suffering, however. God would never and will never forget His people even when it looks like He has. We can carry this over today when we see the quiet hand of God working in our lives even in the face of trouble.

During a conversation Tuesday night a friend of mine asked what it is like to feel the Holy Spirit. The way I explained it was that once you realize you are feeling for the first time, especially in quiet prayer and reflection, you can look back and see other times that it was at work in your life. That relates to today's reading because there is a promise here not only for the Babylonian exiles, but for everyone on earth beyond that because this relates to Christ's life as well. The voice calling in the desert here is a reference to John the Baptist who prepared the way for Jesus by preaching the need for repentance. He prepared the way for God Himself in human form to come to earth. We see this glory of the Lord in Christ, and we feel it with the promise of the Holy Spirit. As we saw in Acts, the Holy Spirit was given on the day of Pentecost and therefore it cannot be taken away. Isaiah prepares the way for this promise nearly 800 years before it happens, but it is still relevant today because we already have the Holy Spirit.


  1. What is your own form of exile as discipline?
  2. Could Isaiah himself be considered a voice in the wilderness?
  3. How do you interpret feeling the Holy Spirit?

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 39

Even when we are blessed and follow the Lord it does not mean we cannot be foolish. This lesson is on display in chapter 39 of Isaiah, which is another very short chapter, but it sets the stage for something much larger. Yesterday we discussed of king Hezekiah was given another 15 years on his life and how he praised God for the opportunity to continue serving Him. We also recently saw, in chapter 38, how God delivered Jerusalem from the armies of the Assyrians. By the time we get to the events of chapter 39, king Hezekiah is feeling pretty good about both himself and how things are going.

1 At that time Merodach-Baladan son of Baladan king of Babylon sent Hezekiah letters and a gift, because he had heard of his illness and recovery. 2 Hezekiah received the envoys gladly and showed them what was in his storehouses—the silver, the gold, the spices, the fine oil, his entire armory and everything found among his treasures. There was nothing in his palace or in all his kingdom that Hezekiah did not show them. – Isaiah 39:1-2

This is nothing short of a colossal blunder. During the Cold War in this country many of our secrets were closely guarded from spies. The purpose behind this was so the Soviets would not find out our defense capabilities and defeat us in a proposed war. They did the same on their end, as they did not want us to know how weak economically they were becoming by the end of the Cold War. What Hezekiah does here is basically show the Babylonians everything he had, all his wealth, and in the process he reveals the weaknesses of Jerusalem and Judah.

Now why would he show a potential enemy around like this? Some think that maybe he was trying to entice the Babylonians into being an ally against the remaining Assyrians. Others think it may have been a show of strength in order to scare the Babylonians off. If they saw that the nation of Judah was strong they may second guess any invasion plans they had, especially if the Assyrians had just failed. In either case, Hezekiah was back to his old ways of relying on men rather than relying on God for strength. Here God had accomplished a great feat not just by destroying his enemies, but by lengthening the king's life and moving the sun backwards. This show just how weak we are as humans because we forget to rely on God even when things are easy. It's easy to turn to him in times of crisis and hopelessness. It's something completely different and, in my opinion, harder to turn to God when things are going well.

4 The prophet asked, "What did they see in your palace?"
      "They saw everything in my palace," Hezekiah said. "There is nothing among my treasures that I did not show them."

 5 Then Isaiah said to Hezekiah, "Hear the word of the LORD Almighty: 6 The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the LORD. 7 And some of your descendants, your own flesh and blood who will be born to you, will be taken away, and they will become eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon."

 8 "The word of the LORD you have spoken is good," Hezekiah replied. For he thought, "There will be peace and security in my lifetime." – Isaiah 39:4-8

There were consequences to Hezekiah's mistake, but the Lord recognized that he was still a good king for Judah. Though the nation would eventually suffer for turning away from God yet again, they would not suffer under the reign of Hezekiah. This had to be both pleasing and vexing at the same time. The king knew he would have peace, but he had to have been saddened by the fact his descendents would suffer under the rule of Babylon.


  1. How is your faith when things are going well?
  2. How can we avoid mistakes similar to Hezekiah's?
  3. How would you respond if you knew you would have a peaceful life, but your children would suffer?


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 38

Chapter 38 of Isaiah contains one of my favorite Old Testament stories. That story is the dramatic recovery of Hezekiah and how God caused the sun to move backwards in the sky. We all know several stories of God performing miraculous signs such as the burning bush, feeding the 5,000, and the like. What I like about this story is that God does something that leaves little doubt as to His power. Basically, God reversed the rotation of the earth briefly, without the side effects that such a change would cause, and then turned things back the way they were. If you look at the sheer physical energy needed to accomplish such a task, you realize that it is virtually impossible to do. It is not impossible for God, however.

4 Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: 5 "Go and tell Hezekiah, 'This is what the LORD, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will add fifteen years to your life. 6 And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city.

 7 " 'This is the LORD's sign to you that the LORD will do what he has promised: 8 I will make the shadow cast by the sun go back the ten steps it has gone down on the stairway of Ahaz.' " So the sunlight went back the ten steps it had gone down. – Isaiah 38:4-8

This raises an important question: Does God change His mind based on our prayers? As I was studying this chapter in my study Bible this morning, it had an interesting theory about this. Basically the commentary on this passage stated that God always has a plan in place, but He allows for slight changes along the way as long as the ultimate goal is achieved. The author of the commentary likened it to a traveling who has a specific goal when driving, say going from New York City to Los Angeles. The goal remains the same along the way, but the plan would allow for detours, side trips, and stopping wherever the heart desires. Perhaps I relate to this vision of God so easily because I have always been the type of person more concerned with the result and not the journey. In relating that to Hezekiah's situation, God may have seen that the ultimate plan He had in mind could be accomplished with or without Hezekiah. When King Hezekiah came to Him with this prayer, He rewarded the king with a longer life of serving Him.

15 But what can I say?
       He has spoken to me, and he himself has done this.
       I will walk humbly all my years
       because of this anguish of my soul.

 16 Lord, by such things men live;
       and my spirit finds life in them too.
       You restored me to health
       and let me live.

 17 Surely it was for my benefit
       that I suffered such anguish.
       In your love you kept me
       from the pit of destruction;
       you have put all my sins
       behind your back.

 18 For the grave cannot praise you,
       death cannot sing your praise;
       those who go down to the pit
       cannot hope for your faithfulness.

 19 The living, the living—they praise you,
       as I am doing today;
       fathers tell their children
       about your faithfulness. – Isaiah 38:15-19

I have never faced a serious illness or death. Still, verse 17 speaks to me because it talks of how even in our suffering God does not forget us. It takes a deep commitment to the Lord to stare suffering in the face and still see God. In doing so, we have no choice but to praise Him. When we are in these moments of suffering and despair we have two choices: we can wallow in our self-pity or we can rely on God to show us what lesson needs to be learned. As long as we are living we can give praise to God, even if that praise simply consists of being thankful for being alive. King Hezekiah saw this in his suffering, and even though he could have squandered the wonderful gift of life that God gave him he chose to devote himself praising God and following the plan laid before him.


  1. What are your opinions on God changing His mind?
  2. What are some other miracles that have left little doubt God was behind them?
  3. Why would God make Hezekiah suffer in order to learn something?

Monday, February 25, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 37

The power of faith is once again on display in chapter 37 of Isaiah. By Isaiah's time it was clear that as a nation, Israel had lost its way from God. They have come to rely on help from other nations against their enemies. They had started to make their own plans and hedge their bets against God coming through for them as He had promised. As we saw in chapter 36, the people of Israel were now facing a new danger thanks to the Assyrians and Sennacherib. They were on the outskirts of Israel and threatening to overrun the city. They were also openly mocking God and trying to undermine the faith of Jerusalem's citizens.

5 When King Hezekiah's officials came to Isaiah, 6 Isaiah said to them, "Tell your master, 'This is what the LORD says: Do not be afraid of what you have heard—those words with which the underlings of the king of Assyria have blasphemed me. 7 Listen! I am going to put a spirit in him so that when he hears a certain report, he will return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword.' " – Isaiah 37:5-7

It is important to remember here that Isaiah himself had no official authority in the court of Hezekiah. He was merely a private citizen, but clearly the king recognized him as a prophet of God. Isaiah was very close to God and his faith never waivered, so it is here that he built up the faith not only of the citizens of Jerusalem, but the king himself. Even Hezekiah feared that the lies the field commander was spreading would come true. But Isaiah and God remind him in this chapter that God will deliver.

18 "It is true, O LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste all these peoples and their lands. 19 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. 20 Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God." – Isaiah 37:18-20

This is a big step for King Hezekiah. As the leader of Judah, he needed to show strength and faith in the Lord. He had been weak before, but here he completely puts his trust in God. Though many in the nation of Judah and in Jerusalem had fallen away, there were still those that were completely faithful to God. Because of that, God delivered on his promise to protect the city from the Assyrians even in the face of hopeless odds.

    33 "Therefore this is what the LORD says concerning the king of Assyria:
       "He will not enter this city
       or shoot an arrow here.
       He will not come before it with shield
       or build a siege ramp against it.

 34 By the way that he came he will return;
       he will not enter this city,"
       declares the LORD.

 35 "I will defend this city and save it,
       for my sake and for the sake of David my servant!"

 36 Then the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! 37 So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there. – Isaiah 37:33-37

It was anything that that the people of Judah did, but it is what God did. We have seen over the past few chapters that this threat was coming and the people of Jerusalem had tried everything to prevent it from happening. They had contacted Egypt for help, made provisions, and huddled inside the city walls. None of this was as effective as what God did for them simply because of those that had faith He would deliver on His promises. This is an important lesson to remember when we face challenges of our own. God may not always deliver us in the way we expect Him to, but he has promised to take care of us in our time of need.


  1. Why would Hezekiah have the sudden change of heart?
  2. Why would the field commander have his own sudden change of heart?
  3. Would Judah still have been saved if not for Hezekiah's newfound faith?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Isaiah, chapter 36

You will notice that today's chapter is written in an entirely different style than the previous chapters we have studied in the book of Isaiah. In chapter 36, Isaiah takes a different approach away from poetic visions and figurative language. Instead, he chooses to write in straight prose, much like a historian giving an account of something he personally witnessed. What we see today is the beginning of a culmination of all the prophesy aimed at the nation of Assyria. We have heard much about how Israel and king Hezekiah of Judah were not trusting God. They had instead decided to make their own plans and look to Egypt for protection.

We begin chapter 36 with the Assyrians at the gates of Jerusalem. They had already conquered much of Israel to the north, and essentially their envoy, the field commander, was coming to Jerusalem to tell them they had no chance at being saved. This envoy was essentially asking the people of Jerusalem to give up, and telling them that their faith in God was a sham. In this passage the Assyrians come off as extremely cocky, stating that it was indeed God that had told them they would conquer Jerusalem.

4 The field commander said to them, "Tell Hezekiah,
       " 'This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: On what are you basing this confidence of yours?
5 You say you have strategy and military strength—but you speak only empty words. On whom are you depending, that you rebel against me? 6 Look now, you are depending on Egypt, that splintered reed of a staff, which pierces a man's hand and wounds him if he leans on it! Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who depend on him. 7 And if you say to me, "We are depending on the LORD our God"-isn't he the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed, saying to Judah and Jerusalem, "You must worship before this altar"? – Isaiah 36:4-7

Let us think about this for a moment. The field commander here is attacking the core beliefs of the people of Jerusalem. Not only that, he is telling them that if they return to the Lord, God will not deliver them as promised. How would you feel if your core beliefs were attacked? Essentially, the field commander was asking the people of Jerusalem to roll over and surrender without a fight. In later versus he is asked not to speak in Hebrew so the people would understand him, to which he openly mocks the people again.

18 "Do not let Hezekiah mislead you when he says, 'The LORD will deliver us.' Has the god of any nation ever delivered his land from the hand of the king of Assyria? 19 Where are the gods of Hamath and Arpad? Where are the gods of Sepharvaim? Have they rescued Samaria from my hand? 20 Who of all the gods of these countries has been able to save his land from me? How then can the LORD deliver Jerusalem from my hand?" – Isaiah 36: 18-20

The second half of this chapter shows the power of temptation. Jerusalem very easily could have taken the easy way and surrendered without a fight, but in doing so they would have turned their back on God by believing He could not deliver them. Though Hezekiah had faltered in the past concerning this, specifically with the alliance and Egypt, but he is asked here to stand strong one more time. It's almost like he is given as second chance at being a leader, and we will find out his response over the next few chapters.


  1. How easy would it have been for Israel to give up?
  2. In what instances has God faced you with a similar type of situation and asked you to trust Him?
  3. How did you respond?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 35

Chapter 35 of Isaiah is a very short one, but it one full of hope instead of dire warnings. One of the reasons I decided to write about the book of Isaiah was because of the amount of prophetic writing that it has in reference to Christ's life. Because of this writing, we have a record comparing what was predicted about His life long before He came to earth. From that record we can compare it to what we know of His life and time on this earth. It is not some mere coincidence that all of this was written down. This is God's way of getting us the message about Christ's life and proving that He is indeed who He is. God challenges us to get into His Word and figure it out for ourselves, and this is part of that challenge.

4 say to those with fearful hearts,
       "Be strong, do not fear;
       your God will come,
       he will come with vengeance;
       with divine retribution
       he will come to save you."

 5 Then will the eyes of the blind be opened
       and the ears of the deaf unstopped.

 6 Then will the lame leap like a deer,
       and the mute tongue shout for joy.
       Water will gush forth in the wilderness
       and streams in the desert.

 7 The burning sand will become a pool,
       the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
       In the haunts where jackals once lay,
       grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.

 8 And a highway will be there;
       it will be called the Way of Holiness.
       The unclean will not journey on it;
       it will be for those who walk in that Way;
       wicked fools will not go about on it. – Isaiah 35:4-8

This is clearly about having hope when it looks like all things are lost, and Jesus is that hope. We must remember that Jesus is fully God and fully man at the same time. Verse four talks about God coming to save us, and that is what Jesus did in His time on earth. The Way of Holiness that Isaiah refers to in verse 8 is more than a physical highway. It is a Way that is provided by Christ through His sacrifice on the cross that allows us to become righteous. When we accept that gift of righteousness we begin to walk in the Way. When that happens, it becomes more than a physical highway, it becomes a way of life that offers protection from the world.

Verses 9 and 10 continue to talk about this highway and how only the righteous will walk on it. When we think about our spiritual walk with Christ we can see how this parallels this Way of Holiness. Think about your own life before you accepted Christ and how it has differed since you have accepted His gift. If you have yet to accept Christ into your heart, how does the path of your life look? In both cases, how does the path look without Christ? These are the questions I want to close with today.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 34

Today's entry is likely going to be very brief because we have seen most everything mentioned in chapter 34 of Isaiah before. Chapter 34 continues on the theme of judgment against nations that do not accept God as God. These are nations that not only in Isaiah's day went against him, but it is also a preview of the future. This judgment carries over to today because many nations have lost their way from God. Because of that, these nations will face judgment on the Day of the Lord. We see that judgment illustrated here in chapter 34.

2 The LORD is angry with all nations;
       his wrath is upon all their armies.
       He will totally destroy them,
       he will give them over to slaughter.

 3 Their slain will be thrown out,
       their dead bodies will send up a stench;
       the mountains will be soaked with their blood.

 4 All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved
       and the sky rolled up like a scroll;
       all the starry host will fall
       like withered leaves from the vine,
       like shriveled figs from the fig tree.

 5 My sword has drunk its fill in the heavens;
       see, it descends in judgment on Edom,
       the people I have totally destroyed.

 6 The sword of the LORD is bathed in blood,
       it is covered with fat—
       the blood of lambs and goats,
       fat from the kidneys of rams.
       For the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah
       and a great slaughter in Edom. – Isaiah 34:2-6

This sounds suspiciously like a judgment against present day nations when you look into the symbolism of it. The fat mentioned on the sword of the Lord is a symbol of extravagance. In Isaiah's time fat was a symbol of the elite, since they could afford to be plentiful. This judgment here is against those who wallow in their extravagance without giving credit to the Lord. To me at least, this sounds a lot like the present day because there are certainly people in this world who wallow in their wealth, but do not acknowledge the Lord.

For the rest of today's section I am going to forgo the typical three questions I end each entry with and just pose a single question. From this question I want you to study this chapter and come to your own conclusions on the subject. Why would God continue to speak of judgment against His enemies so much?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 33

Yesterday I talked about compromise and how bad it is from a faith perspective. When we compromise we sell God short. For example, when we choose to follow God, we must follow Him all the way. We are subject to His rules and His guidance. If we choose not to follow or believe in certain aspects of His guidance, we compromise. We are then not giving ourselves fully over to God, making us hypocritical. This is a label that most people try to avoid in their everyday lives at work, school, and home. Naturally, we want to avoid it in the eyes of the Lord as well.

Chapter 33 of Isaiah shows the results of that compromise and hypocrisy. It is important to remember that throughout the book of Isaiah, the nation of Israel was seeing the unfortunate results of their compromise. Yesterday's mention of Balaam and Balak was just an example of one time in her history that Israel had compromised her faith in God. We have seen several other instances throughout Isaiah where Israel has merely paid lip service to God instead of truly following Him. Because of that, Israel was now facing judgment as a result of that compromise.

1 Woe to you, O destroyer,
       you who have not been destroyed!
       Woe to you, O traitor,
       you who have not been betrayed!
       When you stop destroying,
       you will be destroyed;
       when you stop betraying,
       you will be betrayed.

 2 O LORD, be gracious to us;
       we long for you.
       Be our strength every morning,
       our salvation in time of distress.

 3 At the thunder of your voice, the peoples flee;
       when you rise up, the nations scatter.

 4 Your plunder, O nations, is harvested as by young locusts;
       like a swarm of locusts men pounce on it.

 5 The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high;
       he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness. – Isaiah 33:1-4

This is clearly a warning against those who have chosen not to follow God, be they from Israel or otherwise. God's ultimate plan was to use the nation of Israel as a beacon unto the world for salvation. He intended to have them as an example to other nations so they may know Him. Because Israel had compromised her position in a variety of ways, however, those nations instead turned against her. Therefore, God judged them, and this is the cost of Israel's compromise.


  1. Does this seem fair to the people that were attacking Israel?
  2. How did God try to reach these people?
  3. How does this carry over to today?


Monday, February 18, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 33

It wasn't until yesterday that I viewed compromise as a bad thing. In our society today, compromise is viewed as critically important. We must be willing to compromise so that everyone is happy with a decision. Try to think of someone in your life that is uncompromising. How easy are they to get along with? In certain context, such as deciding which movie to go see or which restaurant to eat at, it is okay to have an attitude of compromise. When discussing matters of faith and salvation, however, the Lord hates those who compromise.

Here, compromise is bad because we end up not selling ourselves short, but God. The world would have us believe that we are intolerant if we don't accept and welcome other people's religions. It is okay to accept that they exist, and according to Christ, we must love these people and not persecute them. Accepting the beliefs as right though is something we cannot do. Revelation 2 carries a warning about compromise in the letter to the church at Pergamum, and it is related to today's message in Isaiah 33.

14Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: You have people there who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin by eating food sacrificed to idols and by committing sexual immorality. 15Likewise you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth. – Revelation 2:14-16

The short version of the story of Balaam and Balak comes from the book of Numbers. Basically, the Israelites were an unstoppable force because they were following God with all their hearts. Balak, king of Moab, feared they would soon invade his land and contacted Balaam, a prophet, to curse them. Though he wouldn't curse them, he did tell Balak how to defeat them. Basically, he had Balak send all the attractive women of Moab out to camp around the Israelites army and party. Naturally, this distracted the Israelite armies, they began to intermarry, and their beliefs began to mix with the Moabites. They did not hold strong and follow God as they were asked, and it turned out to be their downfall because they compromised.

So how does this carry over to Isaiah 33? Well, Isaiah 33 talks about a distress and hope. Whom could the people of Israel turn to in times of distress? They could turn to God, but as we have seen throughout the book of Isaiah, God would not compromise for them. God wanted their whole hearts, just as he wants all of us today.

5 The LORD is exalted, for he dwells on high;
he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness.

6 He will be the sure foundation for your times,
a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge;
the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.

7 Look, their brave men cry aloud in the streets;
the envoys of peace weep bitterly.

8 The highways are deserted,
no travelers are on the roads.
The treaty is broken,
its witnesses are despised,
no one is respected.

9 The land mourns and wastes away,
Lebanon is ashamed and withers;
Sharon is like the Arabah,
and Bashan and Carmel drop their leaves.

10 "Now will I arise," says the LORD.
"Now will I be exalted;
now will I be lifted up. – Isaiah 33:5-10

Even if we come to the Lord in times of great fear and loss, He is still uncompromising and asks for all of us. Much of Isaiah has been a warning against compromising when it comes to God. We must serve Him with our whole hearts, not just a small part that feels obligated for protection. We see in verse 10 that God is exalted especially when His enemies are defeated, which is alluded to in the previous verses. Therefore, why should we wait until we absolutely need God and He gives us no choice but to be uncompromising? Why not serve Him wholeheartedly, without compromising any principles for the convenience of the world?


  1. What do you view being uncompromising with God as?
  2. How do you see yourself compromising your faith?
  3. How can we learn from the Israelites here in Isaiah?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 32

What would this world be without hope? In chapter 32 of Isaiah, we see another representation and prophesy of the greatest hope the world has ever known: Jesus. Chapter 32 promises that Messiah will come and deliver a kingdom of righteousness. This would set Israel back on the correct path away from the rulers who had grown complacent with the wealth and a false sense of strength. As we have seen in previous chapters, this had caused them to turn away from God as a source of strength. Yesterday we learned the dangers of not relying on that strength. Today we will see why that is a strength.

1 See, a king will reign in righteousness
       and rulers will rule with justice.

 2 Each man will be like a shelter from the wind
       and a refuge from the storm,
       like streams of water in the desert
       and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land.

 3 Then the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed,
       and the ears of those who hear will listen.

 4 The mind of the rash will know and understand,
       and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear.

 5 No longer will the fool be called noble
       nor the scoundrel be highly respected.

 6 For the fool speaks folly,
       his mind is busy with evil:
       He practices ungodliness
       and spreads error concerning the LORD;
       the hungry he leaves empty
       and from the thirsty he withholds water. – Isaiah 32:1-6

After reading about all the doom and gloom of the previous chapters, this is a welcome relief. It once against shows God's promise to take care of us if we trust Him. This does not always mean things will be perfect. There will be trials we must face, as we see later in this chapter. If we earnestly seek God, however, our eyes will be opened as we are told in verse 3. This is not always a dramatic, eye-opening experience. It is more of a subtle guidance and deep-seated joy in all things. In Tony Dungy's book, Quiet Strength, he describes it as the still, small voice of God.

18 My people will live in peaceful dwelling places,
       in secure homes,
       in undisturbed places of rest.

 19 Though hail flattens the forest
       and the city is leveled completely,

 20 how blessed you will be,
       sowing your seed by every stream,
       and letting your cattle and donkeys range free. – Isaiah 32:18-20

If God can provide peace in an instance such as this, what do you think He can do in your life today? This is an illustration that, even with God on our sides, life isn't always peachy. It is our devotion and our act of faith to continue following and trusting in Him even when things look bleak. Throughout the book of Isaiah, the Israelites are warned of an impending invasion from Assyria. It was going to happen, and in fact did happen. God did not forget His people, however, and He continues to watch over them to this day.


  1. What exactly is God's promise to us in your own words?
  2. How do we grow complacent today?
  3. Do these prophecies still apply today?

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Isaiah, Chapters 30 & 31

An illness prevented me from writing yesterday, but as we will see today, both chapters 30 and 31 of Isaiah are related to each other. Both focus on how obstinate and untrusting the nation of Israel was, and what we can learn from this. The basic message from both chapters is that Israel had lost its way. It was no longer trusting God for protection. Though God had promised to watch over and protect the nation of Israel, the people felt that this was not enough. They sought alliances with other nations, specifically Egypt, to protect them from their enemies.

1 "Woe to the obstinate children,"
       declares the LORD,
       "to those who carry out plans that are not mine,
       forming an alliance, but not by my Spirit,
       heaping sin upon sin;

 2 who go down to Egypt
       without consulting me;
       who look for help to Pharaoh's protection,
       to Egypt's shade for refuge.

 3 But Pharaoh's protection will be to your shame,
       Egypt's shade will bring you disgrace.

 4 Though they have officials in Zoan
       and their envoys have arrived in Hanes,

 5 everyone will be put to shame
       because of a people useless to them,
       who bring neither help nor advantage,
       but only shame and disgrace." – Isaiah 30:1-5

Clearly Isaiah is saying here that Israel was not trusting in Him. We can learn from this because there are numerous times in our lives that we do the exact same thing. We try to rely on God, yet we make our own plans in case he doesn't come through. This lack of faith is no different than the lack of faith that Israel showed in the days of Isaiah. It is almost like God's word was not good enough to them. I am just as guilty of this as anyone, as I am still learning to trust Him in all things. Recently, I've felt like I have several decisions to make soon.
In those decisions I have tried to seek God, yet I find myself also trying to make my own plans. It is a very difficult line to walk.

 1 Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help,
       who rely on horses,
       who trust in the multitude of their chariots
       and in the great strength of their horsemen,
       but do not look to the Holy One of Israel,
       or seek help from the LORD. – Isaiah 31:1

It's hard to sit here and avoid repeating the same lesson over and over again about trusting the Lord, but Isaiah obviously thought it was important to do so. Here, he reiterates his point that there is trouble when we rely on others before we rely on God. It's not a matter of never relying on anyone else. It's about priorities. We must put God first because He is the most important thing. It is when we don't put God first, using His strength first, that we get in trouble.


  1. In what areas do you put others' strength before God's?
  2. Why would Isaiah essentially repeat himself in consecutive chapters?
  3. Does this mean we should never rely on others?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 29

One of the most dangerous things we can do in this life is pursue our own way instead of pursuing God's way. As independent creatures, our natural inclination is to go off on our own and try to figure things out for ourselves. This is dangerous in multiple ways. First, we often have no idea what we are doing when we are being so headstrong. Second, if we pursue something without seeking God first, it is not always right. Third, what we often pursue without God is a shortcut, and shortcuts are not always good. Chapter 29 of Isaiah is a continuation of judgment against Israel, and that judgment comes from them pursuing shortcuts and their own way.

9 Be stunned and amazed,
       blind yourselves and be sightless;
       be drunk, but not from wine,
       stagger, but not from beer.

 10 The LORD has brought over you a deep sleep:
       He has sealed your eyes (the prophets);
       he has covered your heads (the seers).

 11 For you this whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll. And if you give the scroll to someone who can read, and say to him, "Read this, please," he will answer, "I can't; it is sealed." 12 Or if you give the scroll to someone who cannot read, and say, "Read this, please," he will answer, "I don't know how to read." – Isaiah 29:9-12

Why would the nation of Israel be stunned and awed at the vision presented before these verses? It is because when the Assyrian invasion that Isaiah alluded to actually happened, the people of Israel were stunned it was happening. They had pursued their own way in order to prevent and their best laid plans had gone awry. God was trying to speak to them and trying to get them to rely on Him, but they were not listening. They felt they knew better than God, so here God is basically saying, "Fine. Have it your way."

This carries over into our own lives even today. When I was going through college, I was not as close to God as I am right now. I sought Him for general guidance, but when graduation came and the time to get a real job was at hand I felt I knew best. I felt that if I didn't get the job for the very first interview I had then everything that I had learned in four years was a mistake. To my own inflated abilities, the job was beneath me and was merely a starting point for someone with my overwhelming talent. I probably had this attitude in the interview as well.

In the ensuing six years, God has humbled me. He has shown me that I am not nearly as good as I made myself out to be back then, and that my attitude, even through school, of having everything nicely set up and handed to me because of my talents was wrong. It was a hard lesson to learn, and took several failed interviews to do so, but I finally learned that I am where God needs me, and I need to go at His pace instead of my own. I too was once stunned and amazed that what was happening wasn't according to my plan, but in that I learned to trust God.

We see more of this in the rest of chapter 29, as Israel had even begun bending the rules for worshipping God according to verse 13. God is not someone or something that can be put into a box or have a shortcut for. He is not something we can bend the rules on for our own benefit. It is His grace that allows a way to become righteous, and in that righteousness we must serve Him.


  1. What shortcuts do you have with God?

  2. How do your own plans differ with God's plans for you?

  3. How does seeking God in all things begin?


Monday, February 11, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 28

God is the ultimate master when it comes to getting His point across. As humans we aren't always the swiftest bunch when God is trying to tell us something. I am a prime example of this, because there have been numerous points where I have either ignored or simply not heard what God is trying to tell me. We see in Isaiah 28 that God is persistent in getting His message across to Israel. This chapter primarily focuses on the northern kingdom. Though it is concentrated mostly on judgment in the form of an Assyrian invasion, it also focuses on mercy and wisdom. This is the mercy and wisdom of God, and He is using this judgment to get the attention of Ephraim, a prominent tribe of the northern kingdom.

1 Woe to that wreath, the pride of Ephraim's drunkards,
       to the fading flower, his glorious beauty,
       set on the head of a fertile valley—
       to that city, the pride of those laid low by wine!

 2 See, the Lord has one who is powerful and strong.
       Like a hailstorm and a destructive wind,
       like a driving rain and a flooding downpour,
       he will throw it forcefully to the ground.

 3 That wreath, the pride of Ephraim's drunkards,
       will be trampled underfoot.

 4 That fading flower, his glorious beauty,
       set on the head of a fertile valley,
       will be like a fig ripe before harvest—
       as soon as someone sees it and takes it in his hand,
       he swallows it. – Isaiah 28:1-4

The wreath Isaiah is referring to here is Samaria, the capital city of the northern kingdom. Isaiah is giving a preview of the Assyrian invasion that occurred in 722 B.C. In the following verses, he also goes on to state how the leaders and priests of Ephraim mocked him for his prophecies. They did not believe they would come to pass because they had thumbed their nose at God. They believed they controlled their own destinies, not the God that had brought them into this promised land of Israel. They felt Isaiah's teachings were too simplistic about loving God with all your heart. This is why the Assyrians had to invade, so they could teach God's people a lesson.

24 When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually?
       Does he keep on breaking up and harrowing the soil?

 25 When he has leveled the surface,
       does he not sow caraway and scatter cummin?
       Does he not plant wheat in its place,
       barley in its plot,
       and spelt in its field?

 26 His God instructs him
       and teaches him the right way.

 27 Caraway is not threshed with a sledge,
       nor is a cartwheel rolled over cummin;
       caraway is beaten out with a rod,
       and cummin with a stick.

 28 Grain must be ground to make bread;
       so one does not go on threshing it forever.
       Though he drives the wheels of his threshing cart over it,
       his horses do not grind it.

 29 All this also comes from the LORD Almighty,
       wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom. – Isaiah 28:24-29

Here we see the point of all this judging. I think you'll agree that to this point, the book of Isaiah has painted a pretty dark picture. There has been more prophesy, judgment, and punishment than I have seen almost anywhere else in the Bible. Behind that, though, is a purpose. That purpose is seen here with a wonderful metaphor in verses 24 through 29. Since threshing is a known symbol of judgment, we learn here that there will be a time that the threshing ends. God cannot punish forever. He is merely trying to produce a good harvest in us. Isaiah wants here to not think of it as punishment, but as discipline. From discipline we can learn strength and how to follow God on our own. That is the root lesson in all of this.


  1. Why would the priests, those closest to God, think they knew it all?
  2. How does the metaphor of the cornerstone in verse 17 relate to the ending verses?
  3. Should we fear God's judgment, or welcome it as correction?

Friday, February 8, 2008

Isaiah Chapter 26 and 27

I apologize for not writing yesterday. Sometimes the Spirit calls me to a day of rest away from this so I can come back fresh and more focused on my work here. Yesterday was one of those days. It does set up today's writing, as chapters 26 and 27 of Isaiah are linked. They are both linked to chapters 24 and 25 as well in terms of the deliverance of the remnant of Israel and the judgment of her enemies, but today's chapters focus mostly on the praise that the followers of God give Him in the face of these judgments. This is still a day that will come, as many scholars believe that the judgments Isaiah refers to here symbolize the end of the world.

9 My soul yearns for you in the night;
       in the morning my spirit longs for you.
       When your judgments come upon the earth,
       the people of the world learn righteousness.

 10 Though grace is shown to the wicked,
       they do not learn righteousness;
       even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil
       and regard not the majesty of the LORD.

 11 O LORD, your hand is lifted high,
       but they do not see it.
       Let them see your zeal for your people and be put to shame;
       let the fire reserved for your enemies consume them.

 12 LORD, you establish peace for us;
       all that we have accomplished you have done for us.

 13 O LORD, our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us,
       but your name alone do we honor. – Isaiah 26:9-13

How is grace shown to the wicked? Well, because all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, we are all wicked. We see this grace not only in the love of Christ, but in the fact that God has provided a way through Christ to overcome our wickedness and obtain righteousness. Many do accept this wonderful gift, but many don't. That is what Isaiah means here when he states that grace is shown to the wicked, but they still do not learn righteousness.

So how does this carry over to today? It carries over in that we see wickedness and brokenness now more than ever before in the history of the world, but there is still God's grace. It is up to God alone to grant this grace, providing peace and love to all of us even though we do not deserve it. Those who have accepted this gift praise Him for it, as the people of Israel praise Him for it here in Isaiah 26. It is praise in the face of judgment because we know that we are clean and forgiven.

2 In that day—
       "Sing about a fruitful vineyard:

 3 I, the LORD, watch over it;
       I water it continually.
       I guard it day and night
       so that no one may harm it.

 4 I am not angry.
       If only there were briers and thorns confronting me!
       I would march against them in battle;
       I would set them all on fire. – Isaiah 27:2-4

This is just one verse, but it is beautiful in its imagery of the dilemma that God faces with humanity. We are the vineyard, and God watches over us and tends to us with great care. Still, we rebel against him. In this He still loves us. The allusion of briers and thorns shows that He could easily show his anger against us when we rebel, but instead He shows grace, as shown in chapter 26. Isaiah tells us here that God is not angry, but it is still difficult for Him to deal with us. It is almost like He wants to be angry with us, but He knows He can't be. This grace is simply overwhelming.


  1. Does this show that grace is enough?
  2. How important is it to praise God in all things?
  3. Is God justified in this anger if He showed it?

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 25

The true measure of faith is praising God even in the face of adversity. We discussed this in my Bible Study small group last night. It is easy for one to praise God when things are going great but it takes great faith to praise God when we are facing trouble. We see this exhibited in chapter 25 of Isaiah, as we are still dealing with God judging the entire earth, but we see Isaiah praising God for this judgment. This was seen a little near the end of yesterday's reading of Isaiah 24 in verses 14 and 15, but today's chapter is entirely about praise in the face of the end of the world.

1 O LORD, you are my God;
       I will exalt you and praise your name,
       for in perfect faithfulness
       you have done marvelous things,
       things planned long ago. – Isaiah 25:1

I think the key phrase here that Isaiah mentions is that this judgment comes in perfect faithfulness. When I picture God, I picture perfect faithfulness, because whatever He promises comes to pass. Even his judgment here was promised, and because it will be
delivered, it is another example of perfect faithfulness. Isaiah praises God for this because even though it is a terrible judgment, it is God delivering on a promise and exhibiting His awesome power. We also learned yesterday that if we are the Lord's, we have nothing to fear when this judgment occurs. Remember: Isaiah was not just predicting this. Many scholars believe it was revealed to him in a vision that offered more clarity than any flat-screen TV today. We see this throughout the Bible with other prophets as well.

6 On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare
       a feast of rich food for all peoples,
       a banquet of aged wine—
       the best of meats and the finest of wines.

 7 On this mountain he will destroy
       the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
       the sheet that covers all nations;

 8 he will swallow up death forever.
       The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears
       from all faces;
       he will remove the disgrace of his people
       from all the earth.
       The LORD has spoken.

 9 In that day they will say,
       "Surely this is our God;
       we trusted in him, and he saved us.
       This is the LORD, we trusted in him;
       let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation." – Isaiah 25:6-9

Once again, we are presented with a promise from God. We see that if we are His, we will join Him in the celebration of this ultimate victory. Now what is this ultimate victory? Verse 8 promises that God will swallow up death and it will no longer have any power over this. We know that Jesus promised the same thing, and through His death on the cross he took the keys for the gates of Hades and won victory over death. It is through Jesus that this promise is delivered, but I find it even more amazing that God laid this entire plan out more than 800 years before Christ's sacrifice. He delivered on this promise exactly through Christ.


  1. How hard is it to praise God in the face of trouble?

  2. Could God have accomplished victory over death in any other way?

  3. How important is it that we praise God in all things?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 24

Today's message from Isaiah 24 is not a happy one. Dealing with the destruction of the world is not an easy topic to digest, but that is where we find ourselves in Isaiah 24. Previously, we have seen specific judgments against Israel and Judah's enemies. We know from history that many of these judgments, like the one discussed yesterday against Tyre, actually did come to pass. This next one, however, has yet to occur because it involves the entire earth. This is a sweeping judgment against everyone because of sin. Sin has invaded everyone, as there is not one single person that is immune to sin. Only Christ was sinless, and therefore has the power to forgive sin.

1 See, the LORD is going to lay waste the earth
       and devastate it;
       he will ruin its face
       and scatter its inhabitants-

 2 it will be the same
       for priest as for people,
       for master as for servant,
       for mistress as for maid,
       for seller as for buyer,
       for borrower as for lender,
       for debtor as for creditor.

 3 The earth will be completely laid waste
       and totally plundered.
       The LORD has spoken this word.

 4 The earth dries up and withers,
       the world languishes and withers,
       the exalted of the earth languish.

 5 The earth is defiled by its people;
       they have disobeyed the laws,
       violated the statutes
       and broken the everlasting covenant.

 6 Therefore a curse consumes the earth;
       its people must bear their guilt.
       Therefore earth's inhabitants are burned up,
       and very few are left. – Isaiah 24:1-6

In the face of this dire prediction, is there any hope? Since we are all sinners, we are all subject to this judgment. We see in verse two that the judgment will be equal for everyone regardless of their station in life. So where is the hope? Well, at the very end of verse six there is a small ray of hope, and there are small rays of hope throughout this chapter. The end of verse six states that there are very few left after this judgment. Who are those few? These are the ones that have trusted in the Lord and sought Christ for forgiveness. God is not willing that anyone should perish, but there are many who will because they refuse to accept this simple gift of salvation.

The message is so simple that it is understandable why God would be so dramatic and thorough in His judgment. God hates sin, but He loves us. He has provided a way out of that sin that is so simple that many scholars have debated it in its simplicity for centuries. By accepting Christ into our hearts, we become His and we are therefore separated from our sin. This makes us exempt from this judgment. When that happens, we will see this from a completely different perspective, sheltered away as children of God. That is yet another small ray of hope that we see in this message.


  1. How will this judgment take place in the future?
  2. Why is it God is still praised in the face of this judgment in verses 15 and 16?
  3. How can you take this warning to heart today?

Monday, February 4, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 23

It is appropriate that we are having a discussion of Isaiah 23 the morning after one of the greatest upsets in sports history. On one of the message boards where I regularly post, I actually picked the Giants to win on Friday afternoon. As long as they play the game any team has a chance to win. The media did not agree, as many were saying it was merely a coronation for the Patriots last night. There was no way they would lose, and when Tom Brady drove down the field with the latest entry for his highlight reel in Canton it certainly looked to be true. It was true, until Eli Manning did the same thing because there was enough time left to do so.

How does all this relate to Isaiah 23? Well, Isaiah 23 is a lesson in being too confident. It is a lesson that even when you think you are invincible, you are not because God is in full control. This does not mean the New York Giants are God in anyway, but they merely present an abject lesson in being too confident in one's abilities. We see the same thing in Isaiah 23 with the city of Tyre.         

At the time Isaiah was written, the city of Tyre was one of the most prosperous in the world. It was a center of commerce and thrived on the trade from its harbor. It had an island fortress in the harbor that made the residents feel invincible. Their rationale was that, in case they were attacked, they would merely flee to the fortress on the island and wait for the invaders to leave. This strategy worked in 572 B.C. when Babylon invaded, but the people of the city waited 13 years in the fortress from the Babylonians to leave. Because of this, the people of Tyre were overly confident that they would never lose their place in society. God, as normally happens when we become too confident, had other plans.

1 An oracle concerning Tyre:
       Wail, O ships of Tarshish!
       For Tyre is destroyed
       and left without house or harbor.
       From the land of Cyprus
       word has come to them.

 2 Be silent, you people of the island
       and you merchants of Sidon,
       whom the seafarers have enriched.

 3 On the great waters
       came the grain of the Shihor;
       the harvest of the Nile was the revenue of Tyre,
       and she became the marketplace of the nations.

 4 Be ashamed, O Sidon, and you, O fortress of the sea,
       for the sea has spoken:
       "I have neither been in labor nor given birth;
       I have neither reared sons nor brought up daughters."

 5 When word comes to Egypt,
       they will be in anguish at the report from Tyre.

 6 Cross over to Tarshish;
       wail, you people of the island.

 7 Is this your city of revelry,
       the old, old city,
       whose feet have taken her
       to settle in far-off lands?

 8 Who planned this against Tyre,
       the bestower of crowns,
       whose merchants are princes,
       whose traders are renowned in the earth?

 9 The LORD Almighty planned it,
       to bring low the pride of all glory
       and to humble all who are renowned on the earth. – Isaiah 23:1-9

Here we see the prophecy of Tyre being thrown down from its perch, and this actually came to pass in 332 B.C. At that time, a gentleman by the name of Alexander the Great was building one of the largest empires in the history of the world, and the first of its kind. He conquered the city of Tyre, then using timber and stone from the city, built a bridge to the fortress and conquered the island itself.

This is proof that even our best plans can still be conquered by God. The Lord had something specific in mind for the city of Tyre. We see at the end of the chapter that when Tyre was restored it was going to be restored as a place that had its profit set aside for the Lord. It is important, then, to remember that we cannot be too confident unless that confidence is placed in the Lord.


  1. How does God use a world-wide historical event, like Alexander the Great, to accomplish His aims?

  2. Why is it important that we don't become too confident?

  3. Where else in history have we sent his confidence?

Friday, February 1, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 22

This week has been a big week for repentance in my life. My home church here in Indianapolis is in the middle of a sermon series on the book of Revelation right now, and on Sunday we touched on the issue of repentance. Repentance really doesn't mean anything if it doesn't spark a change in actions or behavior. The point of repentance is not that you are sorry for sin, but the real value comes from the change that results from that repentance. Without this, the forgiveness we are granted is meaningless.

This message is echoed in chapter 22 of Isaiah, as it is a prophecy against the city of Jerusalem itself. By this time, Jerusalem had almost totally lost its way from the Lord. They had turned from God and not only were intent to rely on themselves for all things as previously mentioned, but they had turned from God by continue to live and even glorify their sins. What we see here in chapter 22 is the judgment for this sin that God has in store for Jerusalem.

 2 O town full of commotion,
       O city of tumult and revelry?
       Your slain were not killed by the sword,
       nor did they die in battle.

 3 All your leaders have fled together;
       they have been captured without using the bow.
       All you who were caught were taken prisoner together,
       having fled while the enemy was still far away.

 4 Therefore I said, "Turn away from me;
       let me weep bitterly.
       Do not try to console me
       over the destruction of my people."

 5 The Lord, the LORD Almighty, has a day
       of tumult and trampling and terror
       in the Valley of Vision,
       a day of battering down walls
       and of crying out to the mountains. – Isaiah 22:2-5

These are very strong words used by Isaiah, but they illustrate just how much God hates sin. Jerusalem is God's chosen city, and this illustrates what was in store for her when the Babylonians would eventually conquer her. It is important to remember, however, that it is not the sinner that God is punishing here. He is still a loving God that is not willing that anyone should perish. His judgment here is more of a last resort, as he had tried to remind people of his love before this to no avail. This is a judgment borne out of discipline, not out of hatred. God often uses our own sin as a way of getting our attention when He wants us to learn something.

This has proved to be especially true in my own life, as some of the most important lessons I have had to learn were as a result of my sin and God forcefully getting my attention to make me turn away from it. This is where the lesson of repentance can be learned, or it can be ignored. Jerusalem had ignored this lesson, and as a result, was stripped bare by the Babylonians almost without a fight. I, in turn, saw the result of my sin and had it stare me in the face on numerous occasions. Eventually, I chose to not live my life in opposite to what God has planned for me and changed what needed to be changes. I am far from perfect in this, but I at least know I am pointed in the right direction. Those that had to face the judgment of Jerusalem here in Isaiah 22 weren't as lucky.


  1. Why did the Lord not want to be consoled about the destruction of His people?
  2. How important is the allusion to Jesus as ruler of Jerusalem at the end of the chapter?
  3. What is your own definition of repentance?