Study 29 From the Book of Isaiah is: Isaiah 49: 1 – 50: 3
In Chapters 40-48 the prophet has been concerned to show the supremacy of the God of Israel over the nations and their gods, and that God’s purpose is to be accomplished through Cyrus. These two themes now disappear, and attention is turned to Israel’s glorious future. Much of the section 49-55 consists of words of encouragement, spoken to overcome the doubts, hesitations and difficulties which the message of the proceeding chapters had around in many minds. It contains also three of the ‘Servant’ passages in which the mission, the sufferings, and the atoning death of the Lord’s Servant are set forth. (See Analysis)
- Verses 1-6. The ‘Servant speaks to the nations. What does he say concerning (a) his call; (b) his equipment; (c) his initial non-success, and his attitude in face of this; (d) the new task which God gave him to do? Although the passage applies to the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul uses part of it of himself and Barnabas. Wee Acts 13:47. How is this? Have we then a share in the Servant’s task? Cf. Jn.
- How does the Lord answer Zion’s doubts, first that the Lord has forsaken her (49:14); second, that her children are taken from her and lost to her (49:21); third, that Babylon was too strong to give up its prey (49:24); and fourth, that her covenant relation with Jehovah is broken (50:1)?
- Try to put yourself in the position of Israel in exile, as described in 49:7a (cf. 41:14, ‘worm’); and then contemplate the faith that could see and declare the transformation announced in 49:7b-13. On what is the prophet’s faith founded? With verse 7 cf. Ps. 22:6 and 27-29a.
- 49:12. See mg. Some scholars connect ‘Sinim’ with China, but it seems unlikely that Jewish exiles would have traveled so far East by this period. The rsv ‘syene’ refers to the more southerly country mentioned in Ezk. 29:10; 30:6
- 50:1-2. ‘What writ of divorce did I ever hand to your mother? The meaning is that the breach between God and Zion and her children is not irreparable.
Study 28 From the Book of Isaiah is: Isaiah 48
There seems to have been a party among the exiles which received God’s message concerning Cyrus with disfavour. God has already rebuked them more than once (45:9-13; 46:12, 13; and now in verses 1:11 of this chapter He answers an objection they seem to have raised that the teaching was novel, and not in accord with God’s usual procedure. He tells them that in spite of their rebellious attitude, He will carry out His plans.
- What does God condemn in the nominal religiosity of the Jews? Why did this cause God to announce His intentions beforehand (verse 3:5), and yet to keep some of His purposes hidden (verses 7, 8)? Do we grieve God by failing to acknowledge Him, and to give Him glory?
- Verses 17:22. What conditions does God lay down before we can experience the fullness of His grace and peace in our lives?
- Verses 3:6a. ‘The former things’: a reference to prophesies long foretold and now fulfilled; see also verse 5a. In verse 6b God acknowledges that He has now used a different method, keeping back the revelation of His intended action until just before it happened, but in this also He had a purpose (verse7).
- Verse 10. ‘But not like silver’: a phrase that seems to express the divine sorrow that the refining process had not given a better result, such as happens when silver is refined. Cf. Je. 6:29, 30.
- Verse 14. ‘All of you’ refers to Israel; ‘who among them’ to the nation; and ‘the Lord loves him’ to Cyrus.
Study 27 From the Book of Isaiah is: Isaiah 46 and 47
These tow chapters concern Babylon, the first showing the impotence of Babylon’s gods and the folly of worshiping them (45:1-7), and rebuking those Jews who would not receive God’s revelation of his purposes (46:8-13); and the second depicting Babylon as a proud queen humbled to the position of a menial slave, with none to help her.
- Observe the difference in 46:1-4 between the gods of Babylon that have to be borne by beasts, and carried away by their worshipers, and the God of Israel who bears His people throughout their history. Is your religion one that is a burden to you, or do you know One who will bear you even to old age?
- What sins brought about Babylon’s downfall, and God’s judgment upon her? What did she assume was her security against future disaster (47: 8-13)?
- What is the attitude of the Word of God to all forms of fortune telling telling, crystal-gazing, and the like? What may we learn from chapter 47 about what will happen in the hour of judgment if we have been trusting in any other than in God?Notes
1. 46: 1, 2. The inhabitants of Babylon laid their chief idols (Bel and Nebo) on beasts, and carried them away in their flight.
2. 47:6. ‘I profaned my heritage’: i.e., allowed the holy land to be defiled by foreign conquerors.
Study 26 From the Book of Isaiah is: Isaiah 44:24 – 45:25
Allusion has already been made to Cyrus, but not to name (41:2, 25). Now he is directly and personally addressed, as one whom God has chosen as an instrument of His purpose of good towards Israel, and the purpose for which he has been raised up is declared (44:24-45:8). Those who object to this view of God’s relation to Cyrus are rebuked (45:9-13), and there follows a remarkable prophecy of universal acknowledgment of the God of Israel as the one God, in whom alone is salvation (45:14-25).
- What is said in 44:24 -45:8 concerning (a) God’s power in creation and in human history; (b) Cyrus, and what God will do for him and through him? What assurance should such a passage afford us?
- What is the twofold answer given in 45:9-13 to those who question God’s purposes and ways? Cf. Rom. 9:20. Are you ever guilty of feeling resentment against God?
- In 45:14-25 what are the reasons given for the turning of men of all nations from their idols to the worship of the one true God? How does this anticipate the universal scope of Christ’s redemption? Cf. Rom. 1:16.
- 44:28. ‘Shepherd’: used frequently with the meaning of ‘ruler’.
- 45:13. ‘Not for price or reward’: this seems to contradict 43:3, 4, but that passage speaks of the reward God gave, this of Cyrus’ motive.
- 45:14-17. Spoken to Israel. Verses 14b, 15 are the confession of the nations mentioned in verse 14.
Study 25 From the Book of Isaiah is: Isaiah 43:14 – 44:23
In making reference to Babylon’s impending downfall (43:14, 15) God answers an unspoken objection that such a thing is incredible. ‘Do you not remember what I did at the Read Sea? He asks (43:16, 17). ‘Yet what I am about to do now is greater still’ (43:18-21). He answers, too, a deeper cause of their unbelief, namely, a guilty conscience (43:25). ‘My purpose toward you is one of blessing’ (44:1-25).
- What was the new thing that God was about to do, greater even than His deliverance of Israel at the Red Sea? Cf. Chapter 35. What application has it to ourselves?
- How does 43:22-28 show that Israel was not justified by works, but only by free grace? Cf. Rom. 3:23, 24. What further gift had God in store for His redeemed people, and what blessings will it bring (44:3-5)? Cf. Jn. 7:37-39).
- What is the effect of idolatry on the mind of the worshiper? See 44:18-20. Have you realized the greatness of our privilege in knowing the true God? See 44:6-8.
- 43:2224. During the exile, God had not burdened them with demands for sacrifice and offering. But, they had burdened Him with their sins.
- 43:27, 28. ‘Your first father’: a reference probably to Jacob; cf. 48:1. ‘Your mediators’ may refer to priests and prophets; cf. Je. 2:8.
Study 24 From the Book of Isaiah is: Isaiah 42:1 – 43:13
In chapter 41 Isaiah has shown that God has great purposes for Israel, His servant. That purpose is now declared. It is a purpose of blessing to all nations (42:1-4 and 5:9; cf. Gn. 12: 3b). In order to accomplish it, God will redeem His people from their present plight (42:13-16), confounding those that trust in idols (42:17), and calling forth from far and near a paeon of praise to His Name (42:10-12). Israel’s present condition, under God’s chastisement for her sins, is indeed pitiable (42:18-25), but God will ransom His people, letting other nations suffer subjection in their stead (43:1-7), and Israel shall then bear witness before the assembled nations to Jehovah’s sovereign might and glory (43:8-13).
- 42:1-4. The prophet, in this picture of God’s ideal Servant, perfectly portrays the Lord Jesus, Cf. Mt. 12:18-21. What is said concerning (a) His relation to God; (b) His equipment for His task; (c) the purpose and scope of His mission; (d) the qualities that characterize Him; (e) the method of His ministry; (f) His endurance; (g) the final fulfillment of His work?
- What does God promise to do for His people Israel in their distress (42:16-17; 43:1-7)? What witness will Israel, when redeemed, bear to God and His saving power (43:10-13)? Have we a similar testimony to the world around us concerning the reality of God’s work of redemption?
- 42:19. ‘Blind: i.e., to destiny and mission.
- 43:3, 4. The meaning seems to be that God will give to Cyrus other people to serve him in payment for setting the Jews free.