Isaiah: Wait on the Lord, Renew Your Strength
"Wait on the Lord, Renew Your Strength." This Isaiah lesson booklet was originally designed for a class that met 50 times.
“You must pay close attention to what [the prophets] wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts.” (2 Peter 1:19 NLT-SE)
The destruction of Israel (north) is certain, but Judah (south) still has hope if only they will trust in the Lord. But if they will not stand in faith, they will not stand at all. Through Isaiah, God begs his people to trust him - the true King - and all will be well. But they refuse. They are full of idols and social injustices. Worship is a weariness. Faith is non-existent. They will trust a stick or a nation, but not the Holy One of Israel. So, Isaiah declares God’s message: it is time to purge evil from Judah with fire.
“When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness. But when grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and do not regard the majesty of the Lord.” (Isaiah 26:9–10 NIV-11)
It is only through fire that God will have the righteous city he longs for. Therefore, Isaiah declares that God’s wrath will come against Jerusalem by the hand of the Chaldeans (i.e., Babylonians). But Judah is not the only one that needs to be reminded who the true king is - all the nations have become arrogant. So God will judge them as well. But there is hope for all who will bow to YHWH of Armies.
“In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.”” (Isaiah 19:24–25 ESV)
Isaiah frequently declares in the first 39 chapters that there is a future hope for Judah and the nations. This is a constant reminder of the aim of God’s wrath: one day, the peoples will know and fear him; one day, God will have his holy city.
The more we read the prophets, the more we will find that they lived and prophesied in a world similar to ours. Isaiah’s pictures of what angers the Lord aren’t foreign to our world. Furthermore, Isaiah’s pictures of hope are precisely what we need to hold onto until the day when Christ comes from heaven. Our aim will be to study Isaiah 1-39 in the fall and Isaiah 40-66 in the winter. Our goals for the class are below.
- Read in a way that respects both original and new covenant contexts.
- Wrestle with and apply Isaiah’s highly relevant pictures of what angers God.
- Appreciate Isaiah’s pictures of our current blessings in God’s kingdom.
- Emphasize Isaiah’s pictures of our future hope in the fullness of God’s kingdom.
“They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles.” (Isaiah 40:31 ESV)
God urged Jerusalem to be the fruitful vineyard he planted them to be, but they were full of idols and injustice. When God tried to wake them up with foreign enemies, they trusted their leaders and other nations to deliver them. But when Assyria came against Jerusalem a second time, King Hezekiah finally called out to the Lord for help. The Assyrians mocked Hezekiah for trusting the Lord, but the angel of the Lord struck down 185,000 of their army. The Holy One of Israel will be feared and respected by the world. Because of this, God would still send Judah into exile when they turned from him, but he would bring them back in a new exodus, of which Isaiah 40-66 speaks.
God issues a challenge against idols in Isaiah 40-66. “Do good, or do harm. Do anything so we can fear you.” God is determined to do something that will cause all to throw away their idols and fear him. He will declare the end before the beginning. He will make promises about a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist yet. God's people are still living on their land, but he will start talking about a time when he will gather them from the nations to which they have been scattered.
God has many agents through which he will glorify himself. His servant, the people of Israel. His servant, Cyrus. His suffering servant - who we know as Jesus. God’s suffering servant will have offspring - servants - after him who will do the work of the Lord. God’s servant will set the prisoners free. They will become God’s servants to rebuild the ancient ruins of Zion.
But God did not complete this new exodus and rebuilding of Zion in one stage. He called his people out of Babylon to rebuild Zion in the days of Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. He calls us out of Babylon to rebuild Zion today through Jesus and his apostles. We are the offspring Isaiah spoke of and we are awaiting the day when God will complete his kingdom restoration project. As we study and mediate on Isaiah 40-66, we will have a few goals.
- Study what idolatry really is, why it is so foolish, and why it angers God so much.
- Study God’s use of the term “servant” and “servants” toward different people.
- Understand and apply God’s pictures of who he wanted his new “Israel” - us - to be.
- Understand the nature of progressive revelation and fulfillment in Isaiah.
- Learn how to interpret and hope in God’s visions of grace and restoration today.