Act on Revealed Truth

Explore the Bible Series

March 15, 2009

 

Background Passage: Isaiah 7:1-23:18

Lesson Passage: Isaiah: Isaiah 7:1-14, 16

 

Introduction:

 

Personal word: Okay, the LifeWay writer has finally beaten me! For nearly five years I have managed to write outlines for some lengthy lesson materials, as many as eight chapters, on occasion.This weekís lesson includes seventeen chapters from Isaiah, and it seems unlikely that the average teacher (or outline writer) can digest this much material.Therefore, this outline will center attention on Isaiah 7:1-25 and provide a brief summary of the rest of the background text. I extend my sincere regrets to readers who want a broader overview of the lessons and for the lateness of the outline.

 

Higher textual critics have faulted this section of the Prophecy of Isaiah for its lack of thematic cohesion, a result, they claim, of a host of editors who introduced disparate materials into the text. John Oswalt, along with a host of other conservative Old Testament scholars, has sought to answer these concerns about the unity of the text.

 

Oswalt suggests that this section forms a clearly defined, coherent unit.The recurrence of the word massa (ďoracleĒ or ďburdenĒ), throughout this section, ties the unit together.In addition, the judgments pronounced upon the nations denote a clear structure and unity. At first reading this section may appear to address the nations that surrounded Judah; however, more careful study of the text suggests a different purpose.Judah and Israel faced constant temptation to find their security in political alliances with the nations of the Middle East.Invariably, these alliances got the Lordís people in trouble.The warnings of this section of Isaiah alert the Jews to their need to ally themselves with Jehovah.All of the nations will, in time, face destruction.Only Jehovah would prove a faithful, dependable, and unfailing ally to the Jewish people.

 

The message of this portion of the Prophecy of Isaiah focuses on the transitory nature of the power structures of the world.Political and social strength does not arise from human contrivance and ingenuity; rather, it comes from faith and obedience toward God.The nations of the earth may form their alliances, but that is not the way of the Lord.Godís people must possess greater moral vision.They must understand that Godís ways are not manís ways.Jehovah will, according to his covenant promises, provide for, nurture, sustain, and protect his people.Human devises are not necessary for the Lordís people.

 

Perhaps these chapters may, to some, seem dry and unappealing.Some will fail to see the important implications of the text.It has ever been the plight of sinful man that he tries to foster his own security, strength, and salvation through inventions of human design.Adamís fig leaves foreshadow all of manís efforts to cover their guilt, weakness, and shame.The political alliances of Judah serve as another reminder of the inadequacies of our own ďfig leaves.ĒThe message of these chapters pierces through the efforts of sinners to find security, meaning, and salvation through any means other than faith in Christ Jesus.All other ways will ultimately fail.My dear reader, I encourage you to think much of Christ as you read these chapters.What contrivances and schemes have you formulated to find salvation and refuge in your own devises? What unholy alliances and compromises have you tolerated in your life?O dear reader, you must abandon your contrivances and venture upon Christ alone for your hope.He will not fail or falter.He remains, inviolate, the rock of your security and salvation.Repent and believe.

 

Brief Summary of the Background Passage:

 

I.                    The Sign of Immanuel (7:1-25): This chapter poses some formidable difficulties for Bible students.A general understanding of the historical context and a good Bible atlas will provide invaluable assistance in working through the text.The chapter deals with the reign of Ahaz, son of King Jotham.He governed Judah for about twenty years (c. 735-715 B.C.), and refused to follow the commandments of Jehovah.During his monarchy, Judah was threatened by a military alliance between Israel and Syria, and he sought security for Judah by aligning himself with the wicked Assyrians.

A.     Godís message to Ahaz (vv. 3-9): The Lord sent Isaiah to challenged Ahaz concerning the proposed alliance with Assyria. From a divine perspective, Israel and Syria were like smoldering firebrands that the flames of judgment would soon consume.Isaiah encouraged the embattled king to act in faith and not in fear. Within sixty years the nation of Israel (Ephraim) would be broken to pieces.This prophecy came true when the Assyrians defeated Israel, in the late Seventh Century.

B.     Godís promise to Ahaz (vv. 9-25): In a second oracle God commanded Ahaz to ask for a sign of the Lordís redemptive goodness to his people.Ahaz apparently had some fear of the Lord, and he recoiled from asking for a sign.Jehovah persisted in his command, and he promised Ahaz the birth of a promised son.A young maiden (a virginal woman of marriageable age) would bear a son, and she would call his name Immanuel, God with us.Old Testament scholars have struggled with the interpretation of this prophecy.Clearly, the text indicates that this son would come as a sign to Ahaz; however, the New Testament applies this prophecy to the Virgin Mary and the Lord Jesus (See Matthew 1:23).Perhaps it is best to understand a double application of the promise; that is, a son, born to a young woman, in the days of Ahaz, would provide an initial fulfillment, and the birth of this son would serve as a type of the incarnation.Isaiah followed the Immanuel prophecy with a four-fold description of the Day of the Lord.

1.      the oracle of the flies and bees (vv. 18-19): Like swarming insects, invading armies will inundate the Assyria.

2.      the oracle of the razor (v. 20): Shaving the head, in the ancient world, was a symbol of shame and morning.Godís judgment on Assyria would bring great grief to these enemies of the Lordís people.

3.      the oracle of the cow and sheep (vv. 21-22): The devastation of Assyria will produce such devastation that a man with a cow and two sheep will seem affluent.

4.      the oracle of the vines (vv. 23-25): In the day of judgment the beautifully cultivated areas with be neglected and overtaken by the brier and thorn.

 

II.                 The Preservation of the Remnant (8:1-12:6): This rich passage deserves thorough treatment, but the limitations of this outline allow only a general overview.

A.     The Assyrian invasion of the Northern Kingdom (8:1-22): Israel had disobeyed the Lord for many years, and judgment was inevitable.At the Lordís appointed time the armies of Assyria would overrun Israel, and nothing could turn away the wrath of the Lord.God warned Isaiah to avoid the sin of the Northern tribes.

B.     The promised child (9:1-10:19): This wonderful chapter outlines some of the characteristics of the Messiah (See 9:6-7) and scathing denouncements of Israel (See 9:8-10:4) and Assyria (10:5-19).

C.     The preservation of the remnant (10:20-12:6): Despite Godís pledge to judge Israel, he would not forget his covenant with his people.The Lord promised to save a remnant and send a branch out of the root Jesseís stump, clearly a messianic prophecy.This section concludes with a heart-warming hymn of praise (See 12:1-6)

 

III.               The Babylonians (13:1-14:27)

A.     The future destruction of Babylon (13:1-22)

1.      God will gather his army against the Babylonians (13:1-5).

2.      The catastrophic destruction of Babylon (13:6-16).

3.      God will use the Medes to destroy Babylon (13:17-22). The Medo-Persian Empire defeated the Babylonians in 539 B.C.

B.     Judahís future restoration from Babylonian Captivity (14:1-23)

1.      God will gather the House of Jacob and make it a refuge for many sojourners (14:1-2).

2.      Jacobís House will know peace, and the Babylonians will experience decline, death, and decay (14:4-23)

 

IV.              Judgment on Assyria (14:24-27): Godís purpose of judgment on the Assyrians cannot be thwarted. The Babylonians overturned Assyrian power during the reigns of Nabopolassar and Nebuchadnezzar (late Seventh Century B.C.).

 

V.                 Judgment on Philistia (14:28-32): Israelís ancient nemesis will finally meet its end at the hands of Jehovah.Some commentators believe the ďstaffĒ refers to the fallen Davidic Monarchy, and others think it denotes the fallen Assyrian Empire.

 

VI.              Judgment on Moab (15:1-16:14): Like Philistia, Moab had troubled the Lordís people for generations.Their military back was broken by the time of Isaiah, but the prophet, nonetheless, predicted their utter ruin. Moabís pride led to its downfall (See 16:6ff).The prophet marks three years as the limits of Godís patience with this haughty people (See 16:14).

 

VII.            Judgment of Damascus (Syria) and Ephraim (17:1-14): Isaiah treated Syria and the North Tribe of Ephraim together.Perhaps the religious and moral compromise of Ephraim had made this Northern Tribe nearly indistinguishable from the Syrians.

 

VIII.         Judgment of Cush (Ethiopia) (18:1-7): The nations, Isaiah predicted, would pick the bones of the Cushites like birds eat carrion in the wilderness.

 

IX.              Judgment of Egypt (19:1-20:6): God promised to judge Egypt by means of a civil war.This horrific war would leave Egypt a desolate nation and a vassal to a powerful king (See 19:4).The people of Egypt will, Isaiah predicted, tremble before Israel.Remarkably, God also promised that Egypt would experience a great spiritual reformation.The Egyptians and the Assyrians would one day worship God and keep his commandments (19:21-25).Chapter Twenty focuses on the folly of a Jewish alliance with Egypt.The great African nation will fall before the Assyrians, and Israel, therefore, must seek its security elsewhere.

 

X.                 Judgment of Babylon Revisited (21:1-17): This is a very difficult chapter to interpret.At first glance, it appears to center attention on Babylon; however, the text also includes oracles concerning Edom and Arabia (See 21:11-17).Babylon will fall, and all her gods will be shattered.The people will be like wheat and chaff on the threshing floor (See 21:9-10).Great darkness will fall on Edom and Arabia.

 

XI.              Judgment of Judah (22:1-25):Judahís foreign alliances apparently displeased the Lord; so, the prophet denounced Judah with all the other surrounding nations.They people celebrated their ďsecurityĒ, but, in time, their rejoicing would turn to grief.The prophet promised a worthy servant and leader of the people, Eliakim, who would ďfartherĒ Judah during this time of national disloyalty to Jehovah.

 

XII.            Judgment of Tyre and Sidon (23:1-18): These great Phoenician cities boasted a lucrative sea trade with the wealthiest cities in the Mediterranean.Greed and luxury eroded their moral sensitivities, and these avaricious people, Isaiah predicted, would know the judgment of the Lord, within seventy years.