As mentioned in last weeks study, this final section of Isaiah paints a picture of where God is taking the world. Last week we looked at the trajectory God was taking His people on and towards, and this week we get a picture of what the new creation he’s taking them towards will look like.
In the last part of Isaiah’s vision he pictures the final piece of God’s solution to the problems in the world. Not only a spiritual solution, but a physical solution that removes the pain and hurt we experience now.
The last 11 chapters of Isaiah is God’s picture of the trajectory God is taking His people and His world. Whereas at the start of this vision (Isaiah 1-12) we saw a picture of what was wrong with the city, the people and the leadership – at the end of the vision we’re seeing a restored city, a restored people because of a unique leader, the Servant.
One of the issues in Israel as outlined in the first half of the book is that injustice & unrighteousness were rife. But in the last 10 chapters we see the new people that God is creating – new people with new hearts.
The idea of freezing hedgehogs has been used to describe human interactions. The hedgehogs huddle together for warmth. But the closer they get the more they spike one another. So they move further away…but get cold…so move closer together…but get spiked. The idea has been used to describe how humans long for relationship (or are put in places of relationship) but these context provide conflict which drives us away…so we tend to find a happy medium where we can connect…but not be hurt.
After Isaiah 53 where we’ve seen the work of the servant – that he would bear away the sin of the people – what does it look like to live in a relationship with God without the sin coming between us? That’s what the invitation is to in Isaiah 54-55.
Isaiah 53 is one of the most famous passages in Isaiah, in fact in the whole of the Old Testament. Because of it’s clarity in painting the one who would come to bear sin (the person we know as Jesus) and because of the time it was written (hundreds of years before Jesus) it’s the go-to passage in the Old Testament for Christians.
But the problem with familiarity is that we lose the shock and beauty of the picture Isaiah paints of the one God was going to send. The Servant here isn’t anything like Israel expected God’s deliverer to be like, and doesn’t do what Israel expected God’s deliverer to do. So to feel the impact Isaiah 53 would have had on the Jews who first heard and read it, and to feel once again the uniqueness of Jesus a swell as understanding what his primary mission was, we need to go back to basics with this person Isaiah calls “The Servant”.
This week we start looking at the second half of Isaiah. If the first half of Isaiah was characterised by the idea of judgement, the second half of Isaiah is characterised by hope.
Discuss what differences and similarities you see between the ideas of “comfort” and “rest”. How can you have one without the other?
After 39 Chapters of judgement, with only glimmers of hope, we now see God turning to his people who have lost everything to tell them of the comfort he offers and the comfort to come in Jesus.
This week we’re taking a slight excursus from the main line of Isaiah to talk about the thing Isaiah says is a plague amongst God’s people Israel, and is what’s brought them to this place.
It’s been said that we are built to worship. What do you think of that? Do you think it’s true of you?
Have a look at the below diagram that was spoken about in the talk on Sunday night. Talk about the connection between our desires, idols and what we offer. What are some examples of how this operates in our (or others) lives.
Are the above examples discussed always problematic? When do you think they become problematic?
Read Isaiah 44:6-23
Isaiah is saying in this passage that the idea of idolatry sells both God short and sells us short.
Discuss the ways in which it sells God short? (vv.12-16)
Looking at the first two commandments and the introduction to them (Exodus 20:1-6) why doesn’t God want to be reduced to an idol?
Discuss the ways in which it sells us short? (v.17)
Augustine talks about the idea of “disordered love”. That is, it’s not that we don’t love, and we might even love good things, but we love them in the wrong order. We love some things so much that it crushes others, or the thing we love so much can’t bear the weight of our expectation.
What are some examples of this in our culture? In what ways might we ask created things to “save us”?
For some they might not seem to struggle much with the idea of idolatry. They’re balanced, not all their eggs are in one basket, and they seem to be navigating life pretty well without God. Discuss the idea that in these circumstances, the thing that we worship is ourselves – our own reason & ability to navigate life. What’s the danger here?
So if the question the bible puts to us is not “Will you worship?” but “what will you worship?”, how do we move from unhealthy worship to healthy worship?
Read Colossians 3:1-5
Paul’s “since then” at the start of this passage is premised on what he’s said before, exploring the person and work of Jesus.
What is it that Jesus offers in his work & person that we look for in creation?
In his book Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller says:
“The living God, who revealed himself at Mount Sinai and on the cross, is the only Lord who, if you find him, can truly fulfil you, and if you fail him, can truly forgive him.”
What do you think of this?
Paul’s instruction here then is, set your hearts and minds on Jesus. That is, move the focus of your worship from the creation to the creator. What does it look like to set your hearts and minds on Jesus?
It’s often hard to identify the idols in our lives. One of the things suggested is that if we “pull our emotions up by their roots” you’ll find the idols clinging to them.
To finish (as far as you’re comfortable) talk about the emotions you struggle with and what idols might be clinging to them. Pray for each other in this that in setting our hearts and minds on Jesus we might be able to find the reality of worship, not the shadow.