Monday, March 31, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 62

In Revelation 2:17, there is a promise about receiving a new name if we are able to overcome that ways of the world. It comes from the letter to the church at Pergamum, and it is God’s promise of endurance. The people of Pergamum lived in a place where false gods were common. They practiced their Christian faith, yet they allowed these other practices to go on around them. God was asking them to endure this temptation for His sake, and if they would endure it He would bless them and give them a new, holy name that only they would know.

Names are quite important in the Bible. Abram had his name changed at God’s request, as did Saul. That is why here, in chapter 62 of Isaiah, we see this tradition continued when God offers a new name for Zion. During biblical times names revealed many things about people. When a name was changed, it was a way of expressing a change in that person’s character. With the two famous examples of Saul and Abram becoming Paul and Abraham, respectively, we see that this was true. When those changes occurred it was a huge change in circumstances for both men.

4 No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate. But you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah; for the LORD will take delight in you, and your land will be married.
5 As a young man marries a maiden, so will your sons marry you; as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you. – Isaiah 62:4-5

This is not merely a prophecy for Israel. In these verses I see a prophesy and a promise for all who believe. If you believe that the Bible is indeed the living, breathing Word of God you know it is interlinked. I see one of those links here in this verse with the promise in Revelation 2. This is a metaphor for our hearts, which are desolate and deserted if we do not have Christ. When we do accept Him, we know that God rejoices over each and every one of us like we are the first to find him.

As we know, life does not instantly become easy once we accept Him. That is why the vision of Zion throughout the book of Isaiah is presented as a promise, rather than a physical place. The promises here serve a dual purpose as both a promise to deliver Jerusalem from the hands of the Babylonians and the future Zion for all of God’s people. These people are not just the Jews, but God’s people who are saved by grace through faith. We are all God’s people if we believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Once we believe that and ask for Him to take our sins from us we are promised that new name mentioned in Revelation.


1. How does your life in Christ compare to your life before Christ?
2. What do you see as the significance of having a new name?
3. Are there still times you feel desolate and deserted?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 61

It has been a very eventful week both in my life and in the book of Isaiah. Yesterday we saw the wonderful promise of the glory of Zion that is meant as a reward to those who follow Christ. Today, in chapter 61, we will see what it means to have the Lord's favor. It is a very short chapter, but it is one that is full of praise because it is the continuing fulfillment of God's promise to His people. It also is a reference to a message that Christ Himself would later preach.

1 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 freedom for the captives
       and release from darkness for the prisoners,

 2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor
       and the day of vengeance of our God,
       to comfort all who mourn, -- Isaiah 61:1-2

If you have studied the gospels you have seen these verses before. They are found again in Luke 4:16-19. When Jesus gave His first public sermon in His hometown of Nazereth He proclaimed these verses. This was His statement that they prophecy they laid out was fulfilled in Him. Naturally, this was quite a radical stance. We must remember that His audience did not know they were in the Bible. They had heard of these prophecies for centuries, but it was quite audacious for Jesus, whom they thought was just another man, to stand up and proclaim He was the fulfillment of this Scripture. Imagine hearing someone do this in your home church. It would be more than a little off-putting, as it was to the people in the synagogue at Nazareth.

As we go back to the original text in Isaiah we see the author continue to describe the Lord's favor. Much like chapter 60, it is a promise of rest and peace after persecution. It is a promise that states that no matter how big of a mess we get ourselves into, God is more than capable of cleaning it up. We need only believe in Him and there will eventually be rest. Right now, that may seem far off for you or very near for you. Still, we can rely on these promises, as they come straight from the mouth of God.

8 "For I, the LORD, love justice;
       I hate robbery and iniquity.
       In my faithfulness I will reward them
       and make an everlasting covenant with them.

 9 Their descendants will be known among the nations
       and their offspring among the peoples.
       All who see them will acknowledge
       that they are a people the LORD has blessed." – Isaiah 61:8-9


  1. In your own words, what is the Lord's favor?
  2. Why must there sometimes be suffering before this favor?
  3. Why would Jesus be rejected like he was in Luke 4?

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 60

When I opened my Bible today I could already feel God's overwhelming hand on my life. With as much turmoil as I have faced in the last few days, today is different. Today I feel as if God Himself has His hand on my shoulder, telling me that everything is going to be okay. I feel as if I have vetted out all I need to vent in terms of my thoughts and fears through personal journaling. I have examined my own failings in that time as well and presented them before God. It's almost like the air is clean between us, and I no longer have to dread the next two weeks as I face doubt once I return from vacation on whether He will provide or not. It is appropriate, then, that we are in chapter 60 of Isaiah today, as it deals with the glory of Zion.

In The Matrix trilogy, Zion is the last human city. It is a place of refuge for humanity and represents a promise of hope for all humanity. This is no coincidence, as the trilogy relies heavily on spiritual and Christian influences. Biblically, Zion has often been a reference for God's Holy City. It is also a place of refuge and hope for humanity because it is where God Himself rules. In chapter 60 we see it as a promise of wealth and riches in a world full of darkness. It is God's reward for His people if we choose to follow Him. It is also a place that sometimes leads to our own arrogance.

12 For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish;
       it will be utterly ruined.

 13 "The glory of Lebanon will come to you,
       the pine, the fir and the cypress together,
       to adorn the place of my sanctuary;
       and I will glorify the place of my feet.

 14 The sons of your oppressors will come bowing before you;
       all who despise you will bow down at your feet
       and will call you the City of the LORD,
       Zion of the Holy One of Israel.

 15 "Although you have been forsaken and hated,
       with no one traveling through,
       I will make you the everlasting pride
       and the joy of all generations. – Isaiah 60:12-15

We are part of God's nation once we give our hearts to Him. As we discussed yesterday, however, we are far from perfect even after making this transaction. We often see this glory and think that it automatically means smooth sailing for the rest of our lives. In reality, it is a cycle as we discussed yesterday. We can easily become arrogant when blessings continue to come from God. This can lead to sin and defeat. I admit that recently I have been led to be somewhat arrogant as God continued to bless me up until this past weekend. I tried constantly, every day to deflect the glory on Him of His blessing, but in the end I find myself back in a period of defeat.

It is in this period of defeat that I begin to question God's motives. Why would he do this to me? In the case of this job, I felt I was doing everything right. There was no sign any one was unhappy enough with me to let me go. I gave glory to God, yet I am still here. I consider it a test of my faith, because I could easily turn from God right now and walk away. He didn't give me what I wanted, and He continues to work on His own plan instead of mine. I could easily be the spoiled child here and throw a fit.

I choose not to, however. I choose in this moment to follow God because I know he will provide. In the grand scheme of things this is merely a minor trouble, and one that I have experienced before on multiple occasions. I know there is still the promise of Zion, as mentioned throughout this chapter. Life is full of its ups and downs, but God has shown me on multiple occasions that He is in total control. I may not always agree with this control, as I don't at the moment, but I still follow Him and long to serve wherever He will send me. I did not know until this week that my life could be more confusing that it was. I found out this week it can be, yet God is still in control?


  1. To what extent is control an illusion?
  2. What does God's promise of Zion mean in your life?
  3. How can this promise be a joy even when all seems dark?

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 59

I apologize once again for how late this is going up today. Last night my parents were forced to put my grandmother in the hospital. This meant I had to pay a visit to my home town today, and an already hectic life took another crazy turn. I admit right now that I am struggling at the end of my already limited strength, but I still come here because I know that God is in full control.

It is times where we are tested by so many things that sin becomes a strong temptation. Isaiah 59, today's lesson, deals with that sin. It also deals with the confession and redemption of that sin. Redemption has been a recurring theme throughout the book of Isaiah. We have seen it in the repeated promises of Christ being sent as a redeemer for all mankind. We are far from perfect once we are redeemed. It is our human nature, because of sin, that it becomes a repeating cycle even after we are redeemed. This chapter teaches us that even in this cycle we have a choice. We can choose to follow God and change in light of our sin and redemption, or we can choose to ignore it and God will ignore us.

1 Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save,
       nor his ear too dull to hear.

 2 But your iniquities have separated
       you from your God;
       your sins have hidden his face from you,
       so that he will not hear.

 3 For your hands are stained with blood,
       your fingers with guilt.
       Your lips have spoken lies,
       and your tongue mutters wicked things.

 4 No one calls for justice;
       no one pleads his case with integrity.
       They rely on empty arguments and speak lies;
       they conceive trouble and give birth to evil. --
Isaiah 59:1-4

This does not mean God refuses to hear our prayers if we sin. Like all things with God, it depends on where our heart is when we approach Him. This section is a warning against taking God for granted and not changing our ways once we repent. We accomplish nothing if we repent but don't change our ways. This is like running headfirst into a wall. The only thing it accomplishes is likely a bloody nose. In some cases it is even worse because we are thumbing our nose at God by asking Him to forgive us when we have no intention of changing our ways.

This is an area of my life where I have often struggled. It's not just one way either, but several ways. It took me years of battling my anger before I realized that I needed to change something about it rather than ask for forgiveness from my actions. An alcoholic accomplishes nothing if he asks for forgiveness from drinking unless he actually stops drinking from it. The actions here are twofold. God promises that He will never walk away from us. He will never take away His forgiveness. We must still do our part, however, and commit ourselves to a relationship with Him.

21 "As for me, this is my covenant with them," says the LORD. "My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever," says the LORD. -- Isaiah 59:21

This represents that covenant with us. We saw in verses 16-17 that God came as a redeemer Himself in the form of Christ. He came because there was no other that could come in His place. We have seen these characteristics, which are given to Christ here, before when Paul uses them too describe how we must put on the full armor of God. It is because of this covenant in verse 21 that we can put on the full armor of God and face our own sin.


  1. How do you deal with the temptation of sin?
  2. In what ways have you failed to move past sin and repentance before?
  3. Why does God allow us leeway for failure after forgiveness?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 58

Chapter 58 of Isaiah resonates with me today. It is essentially a warning against going through the motions in the hope that God will recognize these motions and bless them when our hearts are not truly in it. This resonates with me today because I recognize that I am once again at the end of my own personal reserves of strength. I am physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted because of the events over the past few days. Still, I turn to the Lord and His Word. I turn to His word honestly searching for strength and not simply because I am supposed to turn to the Word in times like this. While this chapter deals with fasting and what the Israelites thought they could make God do with it, the same can be applied to whenever we pray, study the Word, or seek the Lord without our hearts being fully into it. It is my prayer this morning that I come here honestly seeking, and not just because I have to.

3 'Why have we fasted,' they say,
       'and you have not seen it?
       Why have we humbled ourselves,
       and you have not noticed?'
       "Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
       and exploit all your workers.

 4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
       and in striking each other with wicked fists.
       You cannot fast as you do today
       and expect your voice to be heard on high.

 5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
       only a day for a man to humble himself?
       Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed
       and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
       Is that what you call a fast,
       a day acceptable to the LORD ?

 6 "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?

 7 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?

 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
       and your healing will quickly appear;
       then your righteousness will go before you,
       and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. – Isaiah 58:3-8

We are guilty of this when we fast and do so merely to expect results from God. It is like doing something merely to do it instead of doing so as an honest act of worship. The Israelites were warned against this because they merely thought the act of fasting would bring about blessings. The same is true when I write here. The mere act of here does not change things in my life. It does not instantly mean I no longer have worries or I am lifted out of the exhausted, depressive state I am currently in. There is a difference between mere works and spiritual disciplines, as disciplines come when we focus our hearts on God.

13 "If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath
       and from doing as you please on my holy day,
       if you call the Sabbath a delight
       and the LORD's holy day honorable,
       and if you honor it by not going your own way
       and not doing as you please or speaking idle words,

 14 then you will find your joy in the LORD,
       and I will cause you to ride on the heights of the land
       and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob."
       The mouth of the LORD has spoken. – Isaiah 58:13-14

It is not what we do, but how we do it. That is where the true joy of the Lord resides. These last verses illustrate how God can help us rise above our troubles if we are truly seeking Him. He asks only for our hearts. I know that is a repeat of what I have said above, but it is a point that is worth repeating. Even when I have nothing left I am trying to point my heart towards Him and rely on Him to get me through this difficult period.


  1. What does it mean to align your heart with your disciplines?
  2. What do you see as the difference between disciplines and works?
  3. Is this a promise that everything will be perfect?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 57

Today is one of the hardest times ever for me to write. Mentally and emotionally I am an overwhelmed shell of myself. Yesterday was Easter Sunday. As a Christian, it marks the fulfillment of the promise of Christ through His resurrection. It is the day we celebrate being separated from the bondage of our sin. It is a day of strength, but for me personally, it was a day of terrible news. Yesterday afternoon I found out I was let go of my job without any warning whatsoever. I am saddened, but at the same time encouraged because God has already provided work this week in form of at least four days of substitute teaching and three random writing assignments. I am going to make it until we go to Florida, and my temp agency, who is just as shocked as I was at being let go, is already working to find something for me once we return.

I say this today because there is a similar hope in Isaiah 57. Once again we see a warning against the wicked to begin this chapter. There is also a promise to those that are faithful. It is promises like this that are giving me the strength to move forward today even though I want to curl up and lie down in fear.

16 I will not accuse forever,
       nor will I always be angry,
       for then the spirit of man would grow faint before me—
       the breath of man that I have created.

 17 I was enraged by his sinful greed;
       I punished him, and hid my face in anger,
       yet he kept on in his willful ways.

 18 I have seen his ways, but I will heal him;
       I will guide him and restore comfort to him,

 19 creating praise on the lips of the mourners in Israel.
       Peace, peace, to those far and near,"
       says the LORD. "And I will heal them." – Isaiah 57:16-19

Yesterday my pastor spoke of Friday and Sundays. He referred to Friday in the sense of Good Friday, the day that Christ was crucified. It is, without argument, the worst day in all of humanity. The following Sunday, however, was the greatest day in all of humanity when Christ conquered the grave. On that day there was hope for all mankind because the price for sin had been paid. In His resurrection, we are healed and comforted if we merely ask Him for it. MY pastor compared Friday the down times in our life, when all seems lost. I, personally, have had many Fridays in my life. There is, however, hope in the Sunday's. That is when Christ comes to us, victorious, and we are vindicated. Right now in my life I am on a Saturday, which is the intervening period between a Friday in my life and a Sunday. I do know that Sunday is coming because of the promise of Christ. He rose Himself and conquered the grave, so this is nothing for Him to overcome.

So I remain faithful, even though it is hard today. I found out my news yesterday around 6pm. By 6am I already had work today. By 9am I had work for three other days this week. I also have writing assignments and through all this I have already recovered most of what was taken from me this week. In just 15 hours God has provided. Even though I had to scramble, He did not and he was in full control. I cannot help but offer Him praise in this today.


  1. How was your Easter?
  2. How do you transition from the Fridays to the Mondays in your life?
  3. How do you praise God in the Fridays?

Friday, March 21, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 56

Christ's gift of salvation is for everyone. This is a point I have tried to illustrate over the course of the last several chapters here in the book of Isaiah. Today, we take this message somewhat for granted because we have heard it many times in our lives. It has become one of the central tenets of the Christian faith. Much of the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is considered historically Jewish, however. Many books in the Old Testament were written with the Jewish faith in mind, and in fact they are still used in Judaism today. They still search for the promised Messiah because they deny that Jesus Christ was indeed their Messiah. At the time many of these books were written, Jewish society was not very accepting to those that were not considered holy. The very idea that foreigners and outcasts of society could be granted salvation was, well, foreign.

3 Let no foreigner who has bound himself to the LORD say,
       "The LORD will surely exclude me from his people."
       And let not any eunuch complain,
       "I am only a dry tree."

 4 For this is what the LORD says:
       "To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
       who choose what pleases me
       and hold fast to my covenant-

 5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls
       a memorial and a name
       better than sons and daughters;
       I will give them an everlasting name
       that will not be cut off.

 6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD
       to serve him,
       to love the name of the LORD,
       and to worship him,
       all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it
       and who hold fast to my covenant-

 7 these I will bring to my holy mountain
       and give them joy in my house of prayer.
       Their burnt offerings and sacrifices
       will be accepted on my altar;
       for my house will be called
       a house of prayer for all nations." – Isaiah 56:3-7

These verses clearly illustrate, even to the Israelites, that salvation is meant for everyone under Christ. People are not rejected by Christ because of where they were born. They do not get cast out because they are undesirable in society. Though the Israelites had an elitist view when it came to some people, God did not. An example of how this carries over to today can be seen with the homeless. Some people are elitist in that they don't want to see them. They may blame the homeless for not taking charge to change their plight. Those that are homeless can still believe though and find salvation in Christ. They are living examples of what it means to be blessed by God even when they are not outwardly blessed.


  1. What are other ways that we see salvation as not for certain people?
  2. Why did God need to specify this?
  3. Why did God still have his "chosen people" even if salvation is meant for all?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 55

One of the many beauties of Christ is that He is unique among major religious figures. The God of the Bible is the only God that constantly seeks us. In Islam, one must ascribe to a daily regimen of prayer, fasting, and devotion. In Buddhism, one searches for Buddha and inner piece. Christianity is the only religion that, at its root, has its God constantly seeking us. The manifestation of that search is seen very clearly in chapter 55 of Isaiah. We still have to do our part, however. It is not an automatic salvation just because God is coming to us to make things easier. Our part of the transaction is simple: we must only accept His gift and welcome Him when He comes.

1 "Come, all you who are thirsty,
       come to the waters;
       and you who have no money,
       come, buy and eat!
       Come, buy wine and milk
       without money and without cost.

 2 Why spend money on what is not bread,
       and your labor on what does not satisfy?
       Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
       and your soul will delight in the richest of fare.

 3 Give ear and come to me;
       hear me, that your soul may live.
       I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
       my faithful love promised to David.

 4 See, I have made him a witness to the peoples,
       a leader and commander of the peoples.

 5 Surely you will summon nations you know not,
       and nations that do not know you will hasten to you,
       because of the LORD your God,
       the Holy One of Israel,
       for he has endowed you with splendor."

 6 Seek the LORD while he may be found;
       call on him while he is near. – Isaiah 55:1-6

The very first verse here illustrates beautifully that this gift is free. We do not have to pay for this salvation. It is available for rich and poor alike. It is God's gift to us through His Son Jesus Christ. He is constantly seeking us even when we are not seeking Him. At all times, God is knocking on the door of our heart, separating Himself from other beliefs because He is an active participant in wanting us as His. Whenever His Word is shouted, it does not return void because it is constantly seeking. If He does not find one person, He will find another. Imagine this repeated billions of times every second as He is seeking the hearts of every human on earth. That is something I simply cannot get my mind around.

9 "As the heavens are higher than the earth,
       so are my ways higher than your ways
       and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 10 As the rain and the snow
       come down from heaven,
       and do not return to it
       without watering the earth
       and making it bud and flourish,
       so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,

 11 so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
       It will not return to me empty,
       but will accomplish what I desire
       and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. – Isaiah 55:9-11

The poetic vision of the power of God throughout this chapter is incredible. I don't think it is something we can even begin to comprehend. This past fall, I attended a football game at Michigan Stadium. At the time, it was the largest football stadium in the United States. That day, there were more than 110,000 people in the stands. It was an overwhelming sight to see that many people in one place. Consider that God was knocking on the hearts of every single person there at that time, asking them to come to Him. Undoubtedly there were some there that had already accepted this gift, but some that had not. Now imagine if there had been someone preaching the Word of God that day? From this verse we are guaranteed that it would have bore fruit. In the grand scheme of things, 110,000 people is still an incredibly small fraction of the 6,500,000,000 people currently on the planet. Still, God is working on all of those hearts at the same time. To me, that is nothing short of astounding.


1.       How do you perpetuate the Word of God?

2.       How do you see God knocking on the door of your heart?

3.       Where do you see the Word of God bearing fruit in your life?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 54

It has been an intriguing journey this week. Of the past few chapters of Isaiah, we have seen the suffering and glory of Christ foretold. We have seen why there was a need for this suffering, and why this suffering occurred as a voluntary act of God reaching out to a lost and broken world. Many people do not attribute perseverance as a trait high on God's list of characteristics. When you look at the past few chapter of Isaiah, however, it is easy to see that perseverance may be one of God's greatest traits. Through these past chapters, indeed through this entire book, we have seen how God is ultimately patient. Even as he disciplines, He still knocks on the door of our hearts. There is not one time as long as we draw breath that He turns away from us. Not once does He say, "I am done with you. You're on your own."

Here in chapter 54, we begin to see some of the reward for that perseverance. We know that it must go both ways as we must do our part to meet him and open that door He is knocking on. We see the reward for persistence on both ends, our own as well as God's end, in chapter 54 as the author speaks about the future glory of Zion. Here God promises that even in a time of great trouble there is hope because God will deliver us. At the time this was written the time of great trouble was interpreted as the Babylonian exile. Currently, this time of great trouble could be happening now, or individually it could be any number of things. Trouble is different for each person, but in the end we will be delivered.

5 For your Maker is your husband—
       the LORD Almighty is his name—
       the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
       he is called the God of all the earth.

 6 The LORD will call you back
       as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—
       a wife who married young,
       only to be rejected," says your God.

 7 "For a brief moment I abandoned you,
       but with deep compassion I will bring you back.

 8 In a surge of anger
       I hid my face from you for a moment,
       but with everlasting kindness
       I will have compassion on you,"
       says the LORD your Redeemer. – Isaiah 54:5-8

God's promises are ever-enduring. If He says something, it WILL come to pass. Even in His anger He is righteous and just as he shows here. We also see His patience and perseverance in His anger here because He promises that He will come back for us after we have been punished. It is because we have free will that we are allowed to make our own mistakes, but like a loving parent he does not completely abandon us in these mistakes. We have the free choice to follow Him, so it is up to us to make that choice.


  1. Does God allow bad things to happen for a reason?
  2. How has this promise been fulfilled in your life?
  3. What do you do when you feel abandoned?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 53

My wife is a wonderful source of spiritual strength. Yesterday, I wrote about how I felt that once you receive Christ in your heart, it is impossible to be a lukewarm Christian. In my estimation, God won't let you be one because you have become His. Matthew 7:17-19 states that good trees will bear good fruit. Once we accept Christ into our hearts we become good trees, therefore, we must produce good fruit. My wife yesterday was a little concerned about my stance on being a lukewarm Christian though. As with many things in life, it is not a black and white issue. Even the best of Christians can go through lukewarm periods where we don't accomplish what God wants us to accomplish in our lives. It is in these times that we feel distant from God. Over time, however, He continues to call to us because we have committed ourselves to Him. These periods can be short, or they can be long. I would even say I have had a period in my life that lasted about six years, or longer, of being lukewarm. God continued to knock, as I mentioned yesterday, however. Now I know He is accomplishing a wonderful thing in me, and all the glory is due to Him.

We see the epitome of that glory today in Isaiah 53. This chapter is one of the most complete chapters in terms of outlining the coming Messiah for the Jews. We have seen allusions to Christ's coming in previous chapters, but this entire chapter is essentially one giant prophecy. It also explains why a Savior like Jesus must come. Inside us, we are not worthy of God's grace. There is nothing we can do to save ourselves, so God Himself chose to suffer and die so that we might live. This is merely the culmination of a centuries long love story between God and humanity. God has loved us as His creation for ages, so much so that only He can save us.

3 He was despised and rejected by men,
       a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
       Like one from whom men hide their faces
       he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

 4 Surely he took up our infirmities
       and carried our sorrows,
       yet we considered him stricken by God,
       smitten by him, and afflicted.

 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
       he was crushed for our iniquities;
       the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
       and by his wounds we are healed.

 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
       each of us has turned to his own way;
       and the LORD has laid on him
       the iniquity of us all.

 7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
       yet he did not open his mouth;
       he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
       and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
       so he did not open his mouth. – Isaiah 53:3-7

Have you ever taken the blame for someone? In that case, you know you are innocent, but you take the fall so that someone else does not have to suffer. That is what Christ does for us with our sin. Think of Christ like a Secret Service agent. We are like the President and He is there to take an assassin's bullet. The bullet in this case is sin. As we know, the wages of sin is death. Only God can erase sin, and here He pays the penalty of that sin through Christ.

The first part of this chapter depicts an inglorious fate for the innocent One that must suffer for us. It is appropriate, during Easter, to remember that the story is not in the suffering though. The real story is in the resurrection. Up until Christ's time the system of sacrifices that Israel carried out was only temporary. Once a sacrifice was done, it was only good until the next one was necessary. In Christ, we have an everlasting sacrifice because He rose again. He is therefore glorified where He has been shamed. We see this glory at the end of the chapter in verse 12 where He takes his rightful place atop the great.


  1. How does this chapter fit in with the Bible being God's love affair with humanity?
  2. Why did Christ have to suffer and be disgraced at the same time?
  3. What is the significance of Christ being silent in His suffering?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 52

At my church yesterday, we had a lesson in what it is to be a lukewarm Christian. We have recently been in a sermon series dealing with the seven churches that receive letters in the book of Revelation. Yesterday was the last church in that list, the church in Laodicea. This entire series has been fascinating, so much that I am considering it as my next topic after Isaiah. This final letter to Laodicea is a warning against being a lukewarm Christian. It is Revelation 3:14-21, and paints a pretty ugly picture for how Christ feels when we do not have our entire hearts attuned with him. Basically, we can do many things for Christ, but what matters most is where our hearts lie in tune with what he wants. One of the worst things we can do is simply "play Christian" while not being totally consumed by Christ. He asks us to be hot or completely walk away, not to sit in the middle. The beautiful thing is that even as He rebukes us here, He is knocking, asking to come fully into our hearts and change our lives.

I feel this relates to today's chapter 52 in Isaiah because it feels like a lukewarm type of chapter, but I am praying this morning that God will work in my heart and reveal its truth. Friday's writing was short because I felt the message clearly stated what God wanted us to get out of it. Today's chapter is not as clear, but it is a continuation of Friday's theme of everlasting salvation. I call it lukewarm because I am not exactly sure what to do with it.

 3 For this is what the LORD says:
       "You were sold for nothing,
       and without money you will be redeemed."

 4 For this is what the Sovereign LORD says:
       "At first my people went down to Egypt to live;
       lately, Assyria has oppressed them.

 5 "And now what do I have here?" declares the LORD.
       "For my people have been taken away for nothing,
       and those who rule them mock,"
       declares the LORD.
       "And all day long
       my name is constantly blasphemed.

 6 Therefore my people will know my name;
       therefore in that day they will know
       that it is I who foretold it.
       Yes, it is I." – Isaiah 52:3-6

What does it mean to be sold for nothing? This is easily a metaphor for sin. In the end, sin is nothingness. It is worthless, yet it is what keeps us in bondage and separates us from God. It is worthless because it has no value in God's economy. Here, we see a correlation with the passage in Revelation 3 because the people of Laodicea were wealthy and proud of it. Their wealth meant nothing, however, because we cannot be redeemed through wealth. Even though we suffer and are ridiculed for being God's people, we are redeemed only through the blood of Christ.

This is why I believe that if you truly have God in your heart, it is impossible to be just a lukewarm Christian. We see here that following God means we offer ourselves to persecution because we separate ourselves from the world. Here in Isaiah, we have seen the Israelites deal with both the Assyrians and the Babylonians, yet those that stayed true to God were delivered through this suffering. Those that tried to adapt and welcome the invaders are the ones that suffered the most. They were being lukewarm when they tried to play both ways against the middle, and God cast them out.

From my personal experience, however, I have seen that accepting this redemption is truly a life-changing event. Once we do this, I think it is impossible for us not to grow further and become lukewarm. God won't let us because we have made the decision to ask Him into our hearts and redeem us. When that happens, it is almost like a physical transformation takes place. I think of the scene at the end of The Matrix Revolutions where Neo finally accepts the piece of himself that he lost to agent Smith. It is like fully accepting God into our hearts. When it happens, the Spirit just pours out of us in an explosion of light like it does with Neo in the real world. Once we accept the Spirit of God, it consumes us totally and we cannot contain it.


  1. What does it mean to be a lukewarm Christian?
  2. How do Isaiah's warnings and the warnings from Revelation relate?
  3. Do you feel you are lukewarm?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 51

This has been a great week for God revealing His Word through the book of Isaiah. Yesterday was one of those rare powerful experiences where I felt as if the Word of God was breaking me down inside and putting me back together with a message of hope. Today we see the manifestation of that hope in Isaiah 51. Chapter 50 yesterday showed us how sin separates us from God. It showed that the separation is total and complete, and only the blood of Christ on the Cross can bridge that separation. Today we see that once that bridge has been crossed, the salvation is everlasting.

5 My righteousness draws near speedily,
       my salvation is on the way,
       and my arm will bring justice to the nations.
       The islands will look to me
       and wait in hope for my arm.

 6 Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
       look at the earth beneath;
       the heavens will vanish like smoke,
       the earth will wear out like a garment
       and its inhabitants die like flies.
       But my salvation will last forever,
       my righteousness will never fail.

 7 "Hear me, you who know what is right,
       you people who have my law in your hearts:
       Do not fear the reproach of men
       or be terrified by their insults.

 8 For the moth will eat them up like a garment;
       the worm will devour them like wool.
       But my righteousness will last forever,
       my salvation through all generations." – Isaiah 51:5-8

I honestly don't feel like I can add a thing to the power of God's words here, so I will leave today's entry very brief at this. Feel free to add any of your thoughts on this week's entires in the comments section.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 50

It is hard to understand in human terms what sin does. In chapter 50 of Isaiah we get a better picture of that sin, as the prophet Isaiah outlines how that sin separates us from God. This chapter also delves into the servant's nature of Christ and how He obeyed His mandate to take away that sin. When we sin it may not seems like much. A white lie can end up hurting no one. A minor discretion can only hurt us temporarily, but we are quickly able to get over it. In a spiritual sense, however, it removes us from God. It separates us from the person that God wants us to be. Without Christ's sacrifice there is also no way for us to mend that separation in our own ways.

1 This is what the LORD says:
       "Where is your mother's certificate of divorce
       with which I sent her away?
       Or to which of my creditors
       did I sell you?
       Because of your sins you were sold;
       because of your transgressions your mother was sent away. Isaiah 50:1

Sin is a form of bondage. It is something that we have no hope to escape from except in the person of Jesus Christ. Every single person that is currently living or has ever lived, except for Christ, is bonded by this sin because it is inherent in our human nature. We cannot absolve it through ourselves because of our nature. It has tainted our souls to the point we are separated from God because of it. Because Christ was perfect, because He was both fully God and fully man, and sacrificed Himself on the cross the penalty for that sin has been paid. Through this sacrifice the price has been paid and if we accept this gift of salvation Christ pays our way out of bondage through His blood. It is literally hard for me to sit here and write these words without breaking down. Isaiah saw the need for this more than 800 years before the sacrifice and was called to write it down so we would know today that it was true. He even goes further in this chapter by removing all doubt there is only one light to search for in this darkness.

10 Who among you fears the LORD
       and obeys the word of his servant?
       Let him who walks in the dark,
       who has no light,
       trust in the name of the LORD
       and rely on his God.

 11 But now, all you who light fires
       and provide yourselves with flaming torches,
       go, walk in the light of your fires
       and of the torches you have set ablaze.
       This is what you shall receive from my hand:
       You will lie down in torment. – Isaiah 50:10-11

This is a great poetic metaphor. Isaiah is telling us that when we light our own fire we are trying to find our own way out of darkness. This is foolish because we know from verse 10 that Jesus is the only light of the Lord. He is the only way we can properly find our way out of the darkness. When we light our own fires we are relying on ourselves to find our way. Since "our way" was what got us into the darkness in the first place you can easily see the folly in this.

6 I offered my back to those who beat me,
       my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard;
       I did not hide my face
       from mocking and spitting.

 7 Because the Sovereign LORD helps me,
       I will not be disgraced.
       Therefore have I set my face like flint,
       and I know I will not be put to shame. – Isaiah 50:6-7

Again we see Isaiah looking to the future here. This is an apt description of the way Christ suffered before the Crucifixion. Through it all, though, he is not disgraced, but glorified. He did not back down from what He had to do. It is a wonderful, unspeakable act of humility that Christ lowered Himself to this role of servant so that we may be set free from the bondage of our own sin. It weakens my knees just to think of this.


  1. How is Christ the light in your darkness?
  2. How have things turned out before when you have tried to create your own light?
  3. How can we serve to honor this sacrifice?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 49

This next chapter in the book of Isaiah is the first in a long line of chapters that has a strong Messianic tone. When looking at the life of Jesus, I find it amazing how His life was contradictory to the human expectations placed before Him. The Pharisees thought that their Messiah would be a conquering king that would lead the people of Israel away from Roman rule. They clashed with Jesus when He did not do this immediately. He contradicted their expectations because Jesus knew He had a more important mission. He was also contradictory because His own disciples tried to constantly raise him up to an exalted place, yet Jesus was the ultimate servant. This shocked them because they knew Him to be the Son of God. One example of this was when He washed Peter's feet at the Last Supper. In that time period, to wash someone's feet was the ultimate supplication to that person. When Jesus did this, he blew the minds of everyone in the room because, to them, it was beneath the Son of God to perform in such a lowly, subservient role.

Christ, however, was the ultimate servant. If we study the Scriptures, specifically this passage in Isaiah 49, we see that this servanthood was foretold long before He came to earth in human form. I love that Jesus is a man of paradoxes. If you read His words throughout the four gospels, He often preaches that if you want something, you must do the opposite of that. If you want to be rich, you should give your money away. If you want to be exalted, you must serve. If you want eternal life, you must give your life in service to Him. Chapter 49 here deals with being the servant of the Lord, and how Jesus, as that servant, will restore the nation of Israel.

3 He said to me, "You are my servant,
       Israel, in whom I will display my splendor."

 4 But I said, "I have labored to no purpose;
       I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing.
       Yet what is due me is in the LORD's hand,
       and my reward is with my God."

 5 And now the LORD says—
       he who formed me in the womb to be his servant
       to bring Jacob back to him
       and gather Israel to himself,
       for I am honored in the eyes of the LORD
       and my God has been my strength-

 6 he says:
       "It is too small a thing for you to be my servant
       to restore the tribes of Jacob
       and bring back those of Israel I have kept.
       I will also make you a light for the Gentiles,
       that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth."

 7 This is what the LORD says—
       the Redeemer and Holy One of Israel—
       to him who was despised and abhorred by the nation,
       to the servant of rulers:
       "Kings will see you and rise up,
       princes will see and bow down,
       because of the LORD, who is faithful,
       the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you." – Isaiah 49:3-7

These words are beautiful prophesy because it tells how Jesus, who is certainly the Holy One of Israel, will be hated by His own nation, yet He is raised up. Since Jesus was both fully God and fully man, He had the ability to do whatever he wanted. He did not have to submit Himself to the whims and laws of man, but He chose to. He did this out of His desire to serve man as the bridge over the chasm of sin. Even in these verses, Israel is more than a nation in the Middle East. It is a metaphor for the nation of believers in Christ, both Jew and Gentile. In verse six, Isaiah specifically says that He is also the light for the Gentiles, which is a concept that many in Isaiah's time struggled to understand. In that light, you could say that Isaiah's words mean even more now because they are easier to understand in the entire context of the Bible. This is further proof that it is indeed the living Word of God.


  1. In what other ways did Jesus serve?
  2. Can this passage be interpreted in other ways?
  3. Why would Israel struggle to understand this?

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 48

I know a little something about being stubborn. It may take me awhile to make up my mind about something, but once I do, it is very hard for me to change my mind. Chapter 48 of Isaiah deals with that stubbornness as it pertains to the nation of Israel. In this chapter, the prophet Isaiah points out to the people of Israel that they are being warned in advance of what is coming. If you remember our discussion on the timeframe of these late chapters, you will see that this warning against the Babylonian exile was given well in advance as it was happening. The opening verses of this chapter deal with this warning.

1 "Listen to this, O house of Jacob,
       you who are called by the name of Israel
       and come from the line of Judah,
       you who take oaths in the name of the LORD
       and invoke the God of Israel—
       but not in truth or righteousness-

 2 you who call yourselves citizens of the holy city
       and rely on the God of Israel—
       the LORD Almighty is his name:

 3 I foretold the former things long ago,
       my mouth announced them and I made them known;
       then suddenly I acted, and they came to pass.

 4 For I knew how stubborn you were;
       the sinews of your neck were iron,
       your forehead was bronze.

 5 Therefore I told you these things long ago;
       before they happened I announced them to you
       so that you could not say,
       'My idols did them;
       my wooden image and metal god ordained them.' – Isaiah 48:1-5

Basically, Isaiah is saying here that the people of Israel had no excuse for their actions. God told them in advance what was going to happen, not only when it comes to the Exile, but to other things. By the time these things would actually happen, God made it clear he had told them in advance so they could not attribute those actions to someone or something else. This left the people of Israel little doubt that God was in control of all things. It is important to remember here that we are dealing with a very detailed prophesy of the Babylonian exile centuries before it actually happened. By the time it happened, the people of Israel would have little doubt God "called His shot" so to speak, and even King Hezekiah recognized this prophesy back in chapter 39.

It is our human nature to be stubborn, and this warning against being stubborn can carry over to us as believers. There have been numerous times in my life where I have been warned about my actions, but I have continued along that path even though I knew there would be consequences in the future. This is a case of me being "stubborn with a forehead made of bronze," and I have run that bronze forehead directly into a wall before I got the point.

9 For my own name's sake I delay my wrath;
       for the sake of my praise I hold it back from you,
       so as not to cut you off.

 10 See, I have refined you, though not as silver;
       I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.

 11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.
       How can I let myself be defamed?
       I will not yield my glory to another. – Isaiah 48:9-11

This is a beautiful passage because it points out the basis for all this testing and affliction. God does not want us to worship Him as mindless drones who worship Him simply because we have not. Instead, He has us face trials so that we can see the glory in His actions. It is a test we must pass that makes us stronger spiritually. God does this so that we see His glory, not our own. Verse 11 here even states that God cannot let His name be defamed, and He will not yield that glory to another. This includes claiming His glory for ourselves. We remember that we are refined and glorified through Christ and Christ alone, who is God in His own right.


  1. How do you combat your own stubborn nature?
  2. What tests do you face as you are refined?
  3. Why would Israel still be stubborn in the face of these words?

Monday, March 10, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 47

Chapter 47 of Isaiah takes on an interesting tone as Isaiah appears to be openly mocking Babylon for what is to come. I find this interesting because it is not usually God's style to be mocking. We have seen numerous times throughout the New Testament that God is ultimately merciful. He does not delight in punishing people. Still, He is a God of discipline as we know from Isaiah here. While he does not delight in causing pain, in His mercy he will use His hand of correction in order to guide us when we lose our way.

We see part of that in this chapter. God is certainly not a fan of those that are prideful, and at the time Babylon was one of the most proud nations on earth. They felt they were invincible, and Isaiah uses the comparison to a virgin daughter to show this. Here we see this virgin daughter as a pampered princess in a palace that always gets her way. This can also be seen if you turn on MTV and watch My Super Sweet 16, but we're not going to get into that today. The leaders of Babylon were proud of their accomplishments, but that pride would be their downfall.

 5 "Sit in silence, go into darkness,
       Daughter of the Babylonians;
       no more will you be called
       queen of kingdoms.

 6 I was angry with my people
       and desecrated my inheritance;
       I gave them into your hand,
       and you showed them no mercy.
       Even on the aged
       you laid a very heavy yoke.

 7 You said, 'I will continue forever—
       the eternal queen!'
       But you did not consider these things
       or reflect on what might happen.

 8 "Now then, listen, you wanton creature,
       lounging in your security
       and saying to yourself,
       'I am, and there is none besides me.
       I will never be a widow
       or suffer the loss of children.'

 9 Both of these will overtake you
       in a moment, on a single day:
       loss of children and widowhood.
       They will come upon you in full measure,
       in spite of your many sorceries
       and all your potent spells. – Isaiah 47:5-9

These five verses illustrate both God's mercy through discipline and His desire for justice. His desire for justice comes from the fact that Babylon never recognized him, and in fact had openly flaunted His authority. Still, God's mercy through discipline comes through because God used the nation of Babylon to discipline Israel. Unlike Babylon, Israel recognized God's power at one time and had turned away from Him. God was angry with Israel for turning away from Him, but He still loved them.

13 All the counsel you have received has only worn you out!
       Let your astrologers come forward,
       those stargazers who make predictions month by month,
       let them save you from what is coming upon you.

 14 Surely they are like stubble;
       the fire will burn them up.
       They cannot even save themselves
       from the power of the flame.
       Here are no coals to warm anyone;
       here is no fire to sit by. – Isaiah 47:13-14

I found these couple of verses interesting because of how they deal with astrology. Personally, I don't understand how any sane, thinking person can believe that looking at stars will tell the future. The heavens are a wondrous creation, and when I look at the stars on a clear night I marvel at God's power to create and control something so vast. The fact he can make everything dance in such harmony in the midst of chaos is incredible. Still, there is little meaning other than that behind them.


  1. Are there times when you doubt God's love?
  2. Could God have disciplined Israel in other ways that would have been as effective?
  3. What are your thoughts on Astrology?

Friday, March 7, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 46

I wanted to interject on a personal note first that this week has been an absolutely amazing week in terms of God revealing his word to me here in Isaiah. It has been incredible to see how documented history has interacted with the actual Word of God. We will see more of that today in Isaiah, chapter 46 as the prophet continues talk about the impending Babylonian exile. Today's passage focuses once again on the weakness of the Babylonian gods and how they were powerless to do anything in the face of God. It is another prophetic vision involving Cyrus the Great and how God used him to accomplish his aims as well. There is an interesting note I found about this that helps give credence to the theory that Isaiah wrote this section. Cyrus the Great is referred to as a bird of prey in this prophetic writing. It is documented that he had an Eagle depicted on a royal banner, so it could have been one of the visions Isaiah saw.

5 "To whom will you compare me or count me equal?
       To whom will you liken me that we may be compared?

 6 Some pour out gold from their bags
       and weigh out silver on the scales;
       they hire a goldsmith to make it into a god,
       and they bow down and worship it.

 7 They lift it to their shoulders and carry it;
       they set it up in its place, and there it stands.
       From that spot it cannot move.
       Though one cries out to it, it does not answer;
       it cannot save him from his troubles.

 8 "Remember this, fix it in mind,
       take it to heart, you rebels.

 9 Remember the former things, those of long ago;
       I am God, and there is no other;
       I am God, and there is none like me. – Isaiah 46:5-9

Wednesday's writing on chapter 44 took on a very similar message to this. In both cases it is not so much the physical objects that we have in our lives, but the importance that we attach to them that makes them false gods. There is a certain amount of absurdity in attaching godly characteristics to something that is manmade. That is what the Babylonians are guilty of here and it is the cause of their downfall. Idols are not limited to physical objects either, as they can be anyone or anything that becomes more important to us than God.

A disturbing example occurred earlier this week when LeBron James had a great night for the Cleveland Caveliers. James scored 50 points, had 10 assists, and 8 rebounds in an all-around incredible game, but what was disturbing was the actions of a fan near the end of the game. A fan came on the court and risked arrest and prosecution just to talk to James and be his presence. One writer, Dan Shanoff, described the event as such:

(Of course, the big night in Gotham prompted instant speculation about LeBron's fit as a future New York Knick or Brooklyn Net. The former is wishful thinking, the latter is quality conspiracy theory. LeBron laughed it off, as easily as he did the scary-but-not-really fan who ran on the court to touch King James' hem. Laugh ... for now.) – Dan Shanoff

To me, that is creepy about touching the hem of King James, and it is disturbing to attribute Christ-like characteristics to a mere basketball player. Isaiah 46 serves as a warning against such false idols because Babylon was a great society. They stood in the face of God, however, and were erased from the earth.


  1. What are your thoughts on the LeBron James comparison?
  2. How is Cyrus the Great a bird of prey?
  3. What would Babylon think about this if they received a copy in advance?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 45

Chapter 45 of Isaiah is quite interesting. It is here that the author mentions Cyrus the Great by name and outlines his deeds in regards to freeing the people of Israel from Babylon's control. What make it so interesting is that Cyrus the Great lived from either 590 of 576 B.C. to about 529 B.C. Isaiah was born in the 8th century B.C. and is believed to have died in 698 B.C. Since the Babylonian Exile ended in 537, B.C. we are presented with an interesting dilemma here. Obviously Isaiah could not personally witness an event that occurred 161 years after his own death. Still, this chapter is written almost like a historical account after the fact. This means either one of two things: either this part of the book of Isaiah was written by someone else, or it was written by Isaiah in a very specifically detailed prophetic vision. Both are clearly within God's power.

We do know that there was one prophet (Ezekiel) who wrote during the actual exile, but we have no indication that he had any input on this part of Isaiah's book. Ezra and Nehemiah also wrote their books around the time the Exile ended as well, but there is no indication they had input here. There are clearly two schools of thought in terms of the authorship of this second part of Isaiah's book, but because of the style of writing, I tend to believe this is a clearly prophetic vision revealed to Isaiah and written down. In that case, one can view it as a message of hope for those Israelites that were faithful to God during the time of the exile. They knew they were going to be delivered based on God's promises, so they had something to maintain their faith. It is clear that Isaiah wrote several prophecies about the life of Jesus in the first part of this book that we know were definitely written by him, so why wouldn't God clearly outline the role of Cyrus the Great?

1 "This is what the LORD says to his anointed,
       to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of
       to subdue nations before him
       and to strip kings of their armor,
       to open doors before him
       so that gates will not be shut:

 2 I will go before you
       and will level the mountains;
       I will break down gates of bronze
       and cut through bars of iron.

 3 I will give you the treasures of darkness,
       riches stored in secret places,
       so that you may know that I am the LORD,
       the God of Israel, who summons you by name.

 4 For the sake of Jacob my servant,
       of Israel my chosen,
       I summon you by name
       and bestow on you a title of honor,
       though you do not acknowledge me.

 5 I am the LORD, and there is no other;
       apart from me there is no God.
       I will strengthen you,
       though you have not acknowledged me, -- Isaiah 45:1-5

To me, this sounds more like prophetic writing that sets up the reign of Cyrus the Great before he even came to power. Though Cyrus did not follow God per se, he was still anointed by God for the purpose of freeing the exiles from Babylon. We know that when he conquered Babylon he also released the treasure of Israel back to the Israelites. When the Babylonians originally conquered Jerusalem, they also looted and destroyed the temple. In a magnanimous gesture, Cyrus chose not to horde these treasures for himself and the large empire he had built. He released them to the Israelites and allowed them to return home and rebuild the temple.

There is also an important lesson here in the area of works. Clearly Cyrus the Great accomplished great works by releasing the captives, allowing them to go home, and returning their treasures. Still, these works were not enough for his personal salvation. Verse four states this, as God and Israel honored him for his works though Cyrus did not acknowledge God. In this, we learn that it is important to do good works, but it is more important still to acknowledge that Jesus is the only way to salvation since he intervenes with God on our behalf.


  1. How is this still a message of hope today?
  2. How does this allow us to overcome doubt in our own lives?
  3. What signs do you see throughout this chapter that make it a a prophetic vision rather than a historical account?

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 44

Chapter 44 of Isaiah certainly takes on a different tone than some of the previous chapters. Instead of providing a warning or speaking in prophetic tone the author takes a position in defense of God. He attacks the other gods and false idols of the day as he defends God's position of authority. Basically, our author is calling out the religions and idols of other people and showing them that their gods and idols were powerless in the face of God. He even goes as far as to use sarcasm to show just how ludicrous people were in worshipping idols.

10 Who shapes a god and casts an idol,
       which can profit him nothing?

 11 He and his kind will be put to shame;
       craftsmen are nothing but men.
       Let them all come together and take their stand;
       they will be brought down to terror and infamy.

 12 The blacksmith takes a tool
       and works with it in the coals;
       he shapes an idol with hammers,
       he forges it with the might of his arm.
       He gets hungry and loses his strength;
       he drinks no water and grows faint.

 13 The carpenter measures with a line
       and makes an outline with a marker;
       he roughs it out with chisels
       and marks it with compasses.
       He shapes it in the form of man,
       of man in all his glory,
       that it may dwell in a shrine.

 14 He cut down cedars,
       or perhaps took a cypress or oak.
       He let it grow among the trees of the forest,
       or planted a pine, and the rain made it grow.

 15 It is man's fuel for burning;
       some of it he takes and warms himself,
       he kindles a fire and bakes bread.
       But he also fashions a god and worships it;
       he makes an idol and bows down to it.

 16 Half of the wood he burns in the fire;
       over it he prepares his meal,
       he roasts his meat and eats his fill.
       He also warms himself and says,
       "Ah! I am warm; I see the fire."

 17 From the rest he makes a god, his idol;
       he bows down to it and worships.
       He prays to it and says,
       "Save me; you are my god." – Isaiah 44:11-17

This passage does a good job of putting the practice of idol worship into perspective. Basically, the author is saying here that worshipping the idol and turning to it for guidance is the same as turning to the material it is made of for guidance. Here the material in question is wood. Isaiah asked the absurd question of whether someone would turn to a block of wood for guidance or salvation. That is what happens when we worship idols because the idols themselves have no power. How absurd would we be if we worshipped a block of wood? This carries over to today when people place too much faith in physical objects. How different is this from placing too much significance in a crucifix, or a rosary, or a stone like the Kabba?

We also have the potential to make certain things in our lives idols or false gods. Idols don't necessarily have to be made out of wood or stone. They can be other things like money, sex, power, or anything else we place too much emphasis on. For example, in high school I would say I had basketball as a false idol. For three years from late October until late March it consumed everything I was. I only went to school because it allowed me to be on the basketball team. I savored going to practice and games more than anything. Because we were a very good team losses were few, but when we did lose it affected my mood for days, especially if it was a tournament loss. Even now I still feel this somewhat, as Purdue's loss to Ohio State ruined my good mood and still has me feeling down this morning. I have realized though that this is not everything. I realize that my true strength and what defines me comes from God, and that is what Isaiah is trying to teach us here.


  1. What do you feel is your false God?
  2. Is Isaiah's use of sarcasm here more powerful?
  3. How is God like a rock when other idols fail?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Isaiah, Chapter 43

We have seen much punishment throughout our study of the book of Isaiah, but out of that punishment comes hope. Today that hope manifests itself as Isaiah outlines in chapter 43 Israel's need for a savior. We have seen allusions to Christ's coming before as we have gone through this book, but today's chapter deals exclusively with the coming of Christ - the first time, more than 800 years from the time these words were written. There are some that believe from chapter 40 forward the book of Isaiah was written by a different person around the time of the Babylonian exile, but even then it was still more than 550 years before Christ came.

4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,
I will give men in exchange for you,
and people in exchange for your life.

5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you;
I will bring your children from the east
and gather you from the west.

6 I will say to the north, 'Give them up!'
and to the south, 'Do not hold them back.'
Bring my sons from afar
and my daughters from the ends of the earth-

7 everyone who is called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed and made." – Isaiah 43:4-7

These four verses outline a beautiful promise, and one that I am not sure was completely understood at the time it was written. Much of the Old Testament is centered on the lives of God's chosen people. We know from Peter's vision and from what Paul preached in the New Testament that the gift of salvation is not limited to the Jews. This passage is also evidence of that, because while it is stating that Israel will be gathered together once again, it is also saying that all are created for God's glory. Those that call on His name, through Christ, are saved because all are created by God.

10 "You are my witnesses," declares the LORD,
"and my servant whom I have chosen,
so that you may know and believe me
and understand that I am he.
Before me no god was formed,
nor will there be one after me.

11 I, even I, am the LORD,
and apart from me there is no savior.

12 I have revealed and saved and proclaimed—
I, and not some foreign god among you.
You are my witnesses," declares the LORD, "that I am God.

13 Yes, and from ancient days I am he.
No one can deliver out of my hand.
When I act, who can reverse it?" – Isaiah 43:10-13

Isaiah takes his message a step further here. In the first passage we looked, at he outlines the need for a savior and informs us that one is coming. In this passage he states that this is the only way that salvation can be attained. Many Israelites believed falsely that works decided one's salvation. One of the fallacies of Judaism today is that it ignores the needs for this savior as outlines in verse 11. Isaiah clearly states that this savior is God incarnate, and that only He has the power to deliver us. These writings clearly point to Christ as that savior.

So how does this apply today? Many people believe that the Bible is a literary collection of stories and fairy tales, but that cannot possibly be true. How then could someone write about the life of a man in great detail more than 800 years before his birth? If this is not the word of God, then why does it flow together so well? To me, Isaiah's words in this chapter are an affirmation of my faith. To me, it affirms Christ's life and sacrifice because we have the proof that it was written long before He walked the earth, then what we have of His life confirms it. There will always be skeptics and questions, but that is the nature of ideas that are based solely on faith. Faith is what we are asked to have, and it is through God's written Word that we are given the tools to grow this faith.


  1. Did the Israelites understand this need for a savior at the time?
  2. How did this need for a savior lead to the false belief in Jesus' time that He would be a conquering king?
  3. Why did God take man out of the salvation equation?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Isaiah, Chapters 41 and 42

There are two primary characters that are referenced in the prophesies of Isaiah 41 and 42: Cyrus the Great, and Jesus. We all know who Jesus was, but Cyrus the Great is a bit more of an obscure character. Cyrus the Great was a Persian ruler from 559 B.C. to 529 B.C. During his reign, he expanded the borders of the Persian Empire and helped build it to one of its greatest heights in history. He also took on several other empires of the time, including Babylon. It is because of his actions against the Babylonian Empire that he is held in such high regard in both Jewish and Christian history. Cyrus the Great is one of very few people outside of the Israelites that is held in incredibly high esteem because it is through him that the Israelites were allowed to return to Jerusalem from Babylon after the exile. We see this return referenced in chapter 41, and it is important to remember here that Isaiah is talking about an event more than 200 years in the future.

 2 "Who has stirred up one from the east,
       calling him in righteousness to his service?
       He hands nations over to him
       and subdues kings before him.
       He turns them to dust with his sword,
       to windblown chaff with his bow.

 3 He pursues them and moves on unscathed,
       by a path his feet have not traveled before.

 4 Who has done this and carried it through,
       calling forth the generations from the beginning?
       I, the LORD -with the first of them
       and with the last—I am he." – Isaiah 41:2-4

Even though Cyrus the Great was an outsider the Lord was still working in him. We see in later verses, specifically verse 25, that Cyrus would be a ruler that would conquer many lands. Historically, Cyrus conquered Babylon, Central Asia, Southwest Asia, and even Egypt. He created the largest empire the world had ever seen, and in doing so he honored the gods of all the people he conquered. The people of Israel viewed him as a liberator since he allowed them to return to their homeland and worship their own God.

This brings us to chapter 42 and another set of prophecies that can be linked to either Cyrus the Great or Jesus. While Jesus could certainly fulfill many of the prophecies in chapter 41, they are meant for Cyrus. The reverse is true in chapter 42, as now Isaiah has knowledge of events almost 800 years in the future.

1 "Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
       my chosen one in whom I delight;
       I will put my Spirit on him
       and he will bring justice to the nations.

 2 He will not shout or cry out,
       or raise his voice in the streets.

 3 A bruised reed he will not break,
       and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
       In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;

 4 he will not falter or be discouraged
       till he establishes justice on earth.
       In his law the islands will put their hope." – Isaiah 42:1-4

Both Cyrus and Jesus were servants of the Lord, but here we see Isaiah take on an almost reverential tone. As great as Cyrus was, he was still a mere man. Jesus, however, was the chosen one. In Matthew 3:17, Jesus hears a divine voice as he is baptized, and it references Isaiah 41:1. Part of the beauty of Christ is that, even with his power, he taught an attitude and a posture of servanthood. We discussed this in many areas throughout the New Testament, but it was one of the most important lessons Jesus had for us.

Personally, this lesson was brought to the forefront yesterday in a lesson on Revelation 3 and the church at Sardis. Though they felt they were serving the Lord, they were guilty of merely completing busy work and forgetting the true purpose of serving the Lord: creating disciples. It is a lesson that much of the church today is guilty of because its definition of service is service to the church, not to the Lord. If we do not truly serve the Lord, we don't truly know Him. I have thought long and hard about this over the last 24 hours and wondered how much of my life is spent in this service. I like to think that much of what I write here is part of that service and I think it is because of my attitude going into it. I think we are each given specific things we are supposed to do as part of that service without fully knowing why. It is then up to God to do the rest. I don't know why I am supposed to write here, I just know I am and I trust God to fill in the gaps I don't understand.


  1. What do think it means to serve?

  2. How was Isaiah treated in his day with these prophecies?

  3. What else can we take from Isaiah 41 and 42?