Sunday, June 15, 2014

This week in Isaiah

Structure of Isaiah 1-39This past week I started working my way through Isaiah in my year-long study through the New American Commentary Old Testament. So far I have worked through 29 chapters. Again, I have been blown away by the artistry of the prophet and the unified message that comes through the book. Isaiah is a man concerned about real worship of God. He rejects worship that only goes through the ritualistic motions and worship that substitutes human agendas for God’s. Real worship always flows out into the community in righteous lifestyles, stands for justice, care for the poor and needy and love for neighbor. You can expand the picture of my Isaiah chart of you want to see how I see the structure of 1-39.

Here are some quotes from the commentary with my comments.

The question is: Will this audience respond to God’s call and repent of their sins or will it stubbornly continue in its sinful ways and suffer the consequences of their choice? This is still the fundamental question that every nation and person today must answer. The prophet clearly outlines what one must do to be among the redeemed (1:27). Gary V. Smith, Isaiah 1, The New American Commentary, 98.

This is the big issue in Isaiah. What do you focus on when things are going well? Where do you spend what God gives you? In crisis times what is your focus of trust? Where is the first place you go when you need help?

This was not a rejection of the sacrificial system of worship, but of the inadequacy of repetitious religious acts without appropriate confessions of sin, rejection of evil, and a commitment to live according to God’s revealed standards of holiness and justice. Isaiah 1.10-20, 106.

Proud humans are humbled. Isaiah 2.9, 137

When people trust in armies, money, people, or idols instead of God, the glorification of God on earth is diminished. God will not allow other things or people to be raised up above himself for long. If people become proud of their accomplishments and do not put their confidence in God, if they end up trusting their leaders more than God; God will eventually destroy everything they have depended on.  Isaiah 2.12-22, 142.

People should not trust in human leaders to solve their difficulties (2:22; 3:7) because they do not have the power to bring about any real, lasting solutions.  Isaiah 3.1–15, 144.

The major dilemma is, Who believes that God hates sinful human pride and who believes that only those who are holy will enjoy God’s future kingdom with him? None of these other minor theological issues will matter... The primary lesson people must remember is that those who exalt and glorify God in their present life will have many opportunities to exalt him in the future. Isaiah 4, 159.

Isaiah focuses in on the issue of: what is the real object of trust in your life? For most of us, the tendency is for the main object of trust to be ourselves. This is the essence of pride. When times are good we tend to focus on our personal comfort and wealth. In difficult times we tend to rely on our own ingenuity, and prayer becomes a last resort.

From this example one might propose the theological principle that the clarity and reality of a person’s vision of the holiness and glory of the majestic King of Kings is directly related to the clarity of a person’s sense of call and their willingness to humbly submit and serve God in whatever capacity he desires. Isaiah 6.8, 194.

From this passage one can conclude that the servants of the Holy King may be called upon to (a) worship God and praise him with the heavenly hosts; (b) repent of daily sins in order to enter the presence of a holy God; (c) serve the king; (d) speak the message God gives regardless of its popularity or severity; (e) cause some to harden themselves for destruction; or (f) give a ray of hope in times of disaster and hopelessness.  Isaiah 6, 199.

Mission must flow out of worship. Hope must flow out of worship. There is a lot of emphasis on “good doctrine” in many churches. But until it is applied in relationship with God and people and is expressed in God appointed mission, you might as well be a heretic.

God’s message to Ahaz teaches that people need not fear their enemies if God has promised salvation. They need to be careful and calm, standing firm in their faith in God because failure to trust God will lead to their own demise (7:3). This incident in the life of Ahaz also warns the reader not to test the patience of God by repeatedly refusing his assistance or ruling out the possibility that he can do miraculous things (7:10–12). Isaiah 7.1–25, 218.

These negative experiences teach a positive lesson. People need to pay attention to God’s revealed will and follow it, as Isaiah and his followers did. This obedience leads to a faithful relationship of respect and awe before the presence of a holy God, as well as hopeful waiting for God to act and confident assurance in his plan (8:17). Isaiah 8, 232.

We need to live our lives with God’s promises at the center. This means we need to know God’s Word deeply. If we don’t know it, we can’t apply it.

Neither Ahaz nor any modern political figure can ever hope to bring about an era of perfect peace and justice. Only God’s wonderful plans will bring about these ideals, not the plans of Ahaz (8:10) or any other fast talking politician. God’s promises will only be accomplished through his chosen messianic ruler, so placing trust in any other solution is folly. Isaiah 9.1–7, 242–243.

It is often difficult to identify the hand of God in history because he frequently uses human instruments to accomplish his will. It is also difficult for the human instruments chosen by God to distinguish between their own desires and God’s will. Consequently, it is easy to deny God’s involvement in events or to pervert his plans because of human desires or emotions. Isaiah 10.5–6, 256.

These promises can motivate any believer in periods of depression or times of oppression under the forces of ungodliness. Present problems must be evaluated in light of God’s eternal promises. God will be victorious; the Messiah will reign over all the earth! Nothing will stop him from establishing his kingdom. Isaiah 11, 279.

The solutions to the world’s problems are not ultimately political. Jesus’ kingdom is not of this world. The church’s mission is not to support the kingdoms of this world, but to be an instrument of “may your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”

Evangelism is joyfully shouting about the exalted glory of God and retelling his wonderful deeds. Worship is joyfully shouting about the exalted glory of God and retelling his wonderful deeds. For worship to become evangelism it has to be done outside of the four walls of a church, where non-believers can hear God’s praise. Isaiah 12, 284.

Isaiah’s vision of God’s worldwide activity demonstrates that he is not just interested in what will happen to his chosen people; he is also actively involved with all people in every nation in order to incorporate some of them into his eternal kingdom (2:1–5; 14:1–2; 19:19–25). God is the Lord and Savior of Israel, but he is also the universal Lord and Savior of all people on earth. Isaiah 13-23, 292.

It has always been true that what people believe about God will determine their practical walk, just as their practical walk will reveal what they really believe about God. The extent of each person’s trust in God is evident in the decisions they make and the things they do. Isaiah 13–14, 295.

No one can avoid the issue of trust; people either believe what God has said he will do, or in pride they make their own “better” plans. When arrogant people (especially those who profess to be believers) reject God’s plans and try to raise themselves up as the ruler of their lives, they are actually attempting to take God’s place and exalt themselves higher than God. Isaiah 14, 323.

People are challenged not to do what may seem the most reasonable thing from a human perspective, but to do what God instructs them to do. Instead of relying on alliances, money, status, the political influence of others, or any other human support system, they must simply trust in God’s promises to motivate and empower them when things look dark and hopeless. Isaiah 14.32 326.

Faith is not “assent to a group of theological propositions.” It is a commitment to God and his mission in the world. Much of this is just being “the body of Christ” in our neighborhoods and communities.

Isaiah describes how God’s steadfast lovingkindness and grace will enthrone a ruler in Judah who is completely different from the oppressive king who will trample the land of Moab...There is no direct encouragement for the Moabites to trust in this figure, and there is no demand that they submit to his rule. Yet the very existence of this ruler is a source of hope, and the positive character of his rule creates the possibility for the Moabites to look to him in their time of crisis. Isaiah 16.4–5, 334.

Long ago God warned his people to remember who he was and what he has done for them in the past, because he remembers and will judge people according to what they have done for him. The application that Oswalt makes fits what the prophet says: “If God has touched my life, yet my life is not different, then I have not perceived the implications of that touch, and it is in fact void of significance. Isaiah 17.9–11, 346.

The evidence is clear: God can deliver individuals and nations from those who oppose them, but there is no promise to take away all times of persecution or oppression. Believers need to trust him and honor him, because he is God and he sovereignly controls the destiny of every nation and every person on earth.  Isaiah 18, 352–353.

This prophecy seems to be pointing to an eschatological event when Jews and Muslims throughout the Middle East will join God’s people in worshiping Yahweh as one community of believers. This will finally solve the Middle East crisis and bring real lasting peace among these nations.  Isaiah 19.16–25, 360.

Though the people of Judah might take some comfort in the promises that God will judge these nations, the ultimate solution to their problems will happen only when God unites these nations as one people under his rule. The only secure hope for the people of God in every age is for them to trust God in the midst of the turbulent political situations that bring fear and war.  Isaiah 20, 369.

We spend a lot of time worrying about issues we do not need to worry about. God has promised to remove oppression from this world and set up his kingdom. This will not happen by our own political maneuvering. It will happen as we love others the way Jesus did in the power of the Spirit.

God’s sovereign plans are not always what people want to hear and are not always easy to accept. Isaiah 21.3-4, 372.

The person of faith who serves God can recognize when others use selfish pride and human efforts to manipulate circumstances to their own advantage. Godly people should also be able to honestly evaluate their own motives and be willing to admit selfishness when it is discovered. The people of God should refuse to be deluded by powerful rulers who are arrogant and selfish;  Isaiah 22, 394.

Life, liberty, security, and prosperity are dependent on the gracious plan of a sovereign God, not on any arrogant attempts to manipulate circumstances through human wisdom, military might, or political alliances. God has revealed this truth to his prophets and history proves that it is so; therefore, each generation and each nation must choose how it will respond. The proud and self-reliant will be humbled; the humble people who trust God will walk in the security of his plan. Isaiah 23.1–18, 395.

Our default way of doing things is probably wrong. God’s kingdom operates in a very different way than human kingdoms. Christian growth is a process of the Spirit changing our human thinking and default responses into the character of Christ. This is a painful process.

The prophet’s message about God’s final theological and political victory over the forces of evil is a powerfully persuasive argument that should motivate every believer to trust God with the major and minor problems they face each day because God is truly in control of this world. His plan is set; his victory is sure. Isaiah 24, 413.

Although this prophecy did not promise them deliverance from Assyrian oppression or victory in their present battle, it reminded them that everything happens according to God’s plan, that their God can do miraculous wonders to save his people, that God is a refuge in times of trouble, and that ultimately God will win the victory over all ruthless peoples. If this was true, Isaiah’s audience could also trust God in the midst of their present trial.  Isaiah 25, 431.

This lament serves as a good example to all believers, for it contains a healthy acceptance of present pain, a firm faith that God is teaching people the ways of righteousness through it, a recognition that God is the only source of real peace, and a strong yearning to have deliverance from this severe trial. Isaiah 26.7-18, 444.

This second song reminds the reader that God has the ability to transform people into beautiful blossoming plants in spite of their former rebellion. He does not give up on rebellious people but loves them and by his grace gathers them to worship together at his temple (27:12–13). His wonderful grace is still available to those who remain in rebellion against him.  Isaiah 27, 465–466.

God’s way of doing things only makes sense if God is absolutely sovereign and his promises are true. IF God wins in the end, it make sense to trust him and do it his way, even if it brings us pain and suffering.

The theological principle Isaiah promotes is that if people trust God for security, they will have nothing to fear, but if they refuse to trust God and depend on man’s strength, political treaties, or human attempts to fix things, God will purposely work against them (his “strange work” in 28:21) to get them to change their thinking and trust him. Isaiah 28.14–22, 485.

If only God’s people today will listen to God’s wisdom and trust him as their sure foundation, he will expose the inner pride, shameful deeds, deceitful lies of modern preachers, and the false places of refuge in the modern religious culture of our day. It is better to see the light today than have God reveal it when it is too late. Isaiah 28, 494.

First, this message teaches the principle that no nation or place is too sacred that it cannot be destroyed, especially if it becomes defiled and its people reject God...Second, people can become so deeply ingrained in their sinful thought patterns and actions that God will give them over to their sinful ways and harden their misunderstanding... Third, God may choose to miraculously and powerfully intervene in history and marvelously deliver people who do not deserve his grace... All people can do is listen to his voice, stand in awe of his power, and follow in faith. Isaiah 29.1–14, 501.

The prophet rejects the plans of those who do not consult God, do not treat the poor with justice, do not fear God, and do not trust in his promised deliverance from the ruthless Assyrians.  Isaiah 29.15–24, 503.

The issue in the section above is “how do we stop the Assyrian army?” The logical human response was to make an alliance with Egypt, build up the defenses and worry. Isaiah condemns this response because God has already told them that God will himself with deliver them. Isaiah was proven right and the leadership wrong when God killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night. 

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