Follow the Lord’s Will

Explore the Bible Series

March 22, 2009

 

Background Passage: Isaiah 24:-35:10

Lesson Passage: Isaiah 29:13-16; 30:1-3, 15-18

 

Introduction:

 

Some Bible scholars have called this section of Isaiah (Chapters 24-27) the “Little Apocalypse”, and have questioned the connection between these chapters and the previous passages.  However, John Oswalt (NIC Commentary on Isaiah) seems correct when he points out that this passage does not fit the apocalyptic model because it does not deal with event that occur at the end of the world, outside the parameters of time; rather, it deals with predictions that came to fulfillment some years after the life of Isaiah.

 

This passage also fits well with the preceding chapters.  Last week’s background passage addressed God’s displeasure and impending judgment on the nations surrounding Judah.  This week, the passage builds on the previous material by asserting God’s sovereignty over history, his triumph over the enemies of his Kingdom, and his redemptive purposes for his people.

 

One other issue merits a few introductory comments.  Some might criticize Isaiah for his seeming constant barrage of threatening judgments.  The sensitive reader may recoil from the straightforward negative assessment of the spiritual condition of Judah (and the other nations). I answer with a couple of observations. First, recall that this prophecy covers an extensive time period that spanned the governance of four kings.  This book acts as a summary of many years of prophetic work, and it does not seem fair to distort Isaiah’s work based on a written summary of his preaching. More importantly, the Book of Isaiah has many passages that address God’s love and forgiveness, some of the richest texts in the Old Testament.  Indeed, several of these warm, redemptive texts occur in the section we will study this week.  Perhaps we should also remember our own religious context.  Modern Americans have, to a large degree, embraced a “gospel” that has little place for confrontational preaching.  Certainly, preachers should express the gospel in gracious, inviting ways; however, the failure to deal straightforwardly with sin has, in some circles, watered down the authentic proclamation of the Bible.  We must not judge the preaching of Isaiah in strictly contemporary terms.

 

Personal word: As before, this week’s lesson is quite long, Eleven chapters.  The sheer volume of chapters forbids much more than a very general overview of the lesson.

 

 

Lesson Outline:

 

I.                   God’s Judgment over the Whole World (24:1-23): Chapters Thirteen through Twenty-Three deal with the particular offences of Middle Eastern nations (Babylon, Assyria, Moab, Syria, Cush, Egypt, Judah, and the Phoenicians), and Chapter Twenty-Five expands the application of God’s righteousness to all the nations of the earth.  Isaiah compared God’s judgment to a terrible drought and resulting famine, a famine that would bring utter disaster.  Moreover, the prophet identified three reasons for this tragic circumstance (See v. 5).

A.    “they have transgressed the laws”: God gave the Jews a special revelation of his laws, but the Apostle Paul claimed that all men have the law God written on their hearts (See Romans 2: 12-16).  It is this law that the nations had flaunted.

B.     “violated the statutes”: This claim is more specific.  All people understand some aspects of the principles of God, and the nations of the earth had, according to Isaiah, sinned against the light they possessed.

C.     “broken the everlasting covenant”: Oswalt thinks this phrase has reference to the Noahic covenant concerning the sacredness of life; thus, the violent, bloodthirsty, war-like nations had broken God’s covenant.

 

II.                A Response to the Dreaded Judgments of God (25:1-12)

A.    A brief hymn of praise (vv. 1-5): This hymn praised God for his steadfast love and defense of the poor and distressed.

B.     The analogy of a feast (vv. 6-8): Like a great banquet, the Lord will bless his people with abundance and joy.

C.     God’s ultimate victory for his people (vv. 9-12): As typified in Judah’s triumph over Moab, the Lord will win victory over all of Judah’s enemies.

 

III.             The Meaning of God’s Victory over his Enemies (26:1-27:13)

A.    A song of thanksgiving (26:1-15): This hymn centers on the peace God promised for his people.  If they would simply trust the Lord, he pledged to make their paths level before them.

B.     The helplessness and vulnerability of Judah (26:16-21): Like an expectant mother, Judah had no power to save itself from peril.  Labor pains caused the nation to writhe in anguish, but the Lord promised to act in their behalf to avenge them before the nations.

C.     The redemption of God’s People (27:1-13): Leviathan (the serpent) denotes the autocratic despots that threatened Judah, and God promised to strike down his enemies.  The Lord’s vineyard (Israel) would be made secure and God desolated the impressive cities of the ancient world.

 

IV.             The Foolishness of Trusting in Earthly Alliances (28:1-33:24): These chapters sound a similar theme to Isaiah 7:1-9 concerning Ahaz’s foolish alliance with Assyria.  This time, Judah had looked to Egypt to provide security from the threat of Assyria (how ironic).  Israel had fallen to Assyrian tyranny, in 721 B.C.; now, Judah, fearful of Assyria’s military threat, turned to Egypt for help.  Clearly, they Judah had not learned anything from her dalliance with Assyria.  Only God could bring security to his people. 

A.    The foolishness of earthly leaders (28:1-29:24): Judah’s leaders had utterly failed to provide wise direction for the nation.  Again and again, they proudly turned to idols, engaged in drunken debauchery, and failed to trust the Lord.  The prophets had warned these foolish leaders, line upon line and precept upon precept, but they refused to listen to divine counsel. Unlike these imprudent monarchs, God is a wise counselor (See 28:29).

B.     A lament over Jerusalem (29:1-24): Because Judah would not listen to God’s wisdom she would suffer a terrible siege and bring destruction on herself.

C.     Judah’s unwise alliance with Egypt (30:1-31:9): The stubborn leaders of Judah persisted in their foolish efforts to secure themselves through foreign alliances, this time with Egypt.  Again, they had not learned anything from their unfortunate agreement with Assyria.  They continued in their rebellion against God, never learning from their mistakes.  Nevertheless, the Lord had not forsaken his people.  He waited for their repentance that he might show them great mercy and teach them the ways of righteousness (See 18-26). This section concludes with a lament for those who seek refuge with an alliance with Egypt (See Chapter 31).

 

V.                The True Hope of Judah (32-1-35:10)

A.    The rise of a righteous king (32:1-20): To some degree this prophecy may have been fulfilled in the reign of good King Hezekiah, but ultimately this passage foreshadows the coming of the Lord Jesus.  Though Judah was like complacent women (See vv. 9-14), God planned to send a Prince of Peace to deliver the people from their oppressors. 

B.     A plea for grace (33:1-24): Isaiah injects a request for mercy, and, in doing so, he spoke for the nation.  The bad, unrighteous decisions of the monarchs had brought ruin on Judah, but God’s people had hopes for better things, blessings that rest upon the mercy of the Almighty.  Godly fear gripped the Lord’s people, and they turned from their insolent behavior in hopes that God would behold the beauty of Jehovah and enjoy his gracious benefits. 

C.     An interlude of admonition (34:1-17): for a moment, Isaiah returned to the theme of God’s impending judgment on the nations.  The day of vengeance had already begun on those who oppressed Judah.

D.    Recompense for the Lord’s people (35:1-10): What a wonderful chapter!  Though Judah’s rebellion threatened to bring ruin upon the land, god promised that he would save a remnant and reveal his glory and majesty.  He will set them in a path of holiness and bring joy to the people.  Furthermore, he shall ransom the repentant and dispel their sorrow.