This weeks passage is a big one, and it’s a controversial one. Isaiah 13-24 are essentially one long monologue about judgement on Israel, Judah and all the nations surrounding them. It’s extensive, brutal and to our culture not all that palatable.
As you start, discuss the love-hate relationship our culture has with the idea of judgement. (Assuming you agree with that statement…otherwise you can talk about why you don’t agree with it!)
Read Isaiah 24:1-13.
As you flick through the pages of Isaiah 13-19, you see a list of all the nations in the Ancient Near East, and God’s assessment of them. In Isaiah 24 you get a summary of what God is going to bring about.
What’s the picture built in Isaiah 24 of what God is going to bring about?
Why the focus in these verses on wine, partying and merry-making – and the removal of those things?
How do you personally feel about reading these pictures of God’s judgement? Why?
One of the things that is often a struggle when considering the idea of God’s judgement, is that it’s often considered in isolation from the rest of God’s work and character. Firstly, we struggle with the offence that’s brought about the judgement. Secondly, we struggle to see that God’s judgement is not the end-goal.
On Sunday, Derek used an analogy for sin – about living in a house but not acknowledging the owner of the house. How was this helpful to understand sin as both rebellion (trashing the house) and morality (living well but snubbing the owner)? Where does the analogy break-down?
If the problem of sin in the bible is at heart a relational one – we have separated ourselves from our creator, and sin is the manifestation in our lives of that circumstance – then what we should see from God when he judges (if he’s really interested in relationships) is a desire to restore that.
Read Isaiah 25:1-9.
This section immediately follows many, many chapters of judgement. But Isaiah 25-27 contains hope, praise and joy even.
Looking through these verses, what connections can you see with the picture build in Isaiah 24:1-13?
What role does God play in this restoration? And what is it that those speaking in this passage recognise about God, even through the judgement?
God’s desire for his creation, as it has been since Genesis 1, is for them to live and enjoy his creation, in relationship with Him. God judges not because he’s petty or insecure, but because he is a God who hates injustice, and loves us enough to care about the injustices in our lives and in His world. God’s wrath is driven by his love.
Isaiah’s vision is always building a picture of what God will do to solve the problems evident in His creation. It’s a sketch that is painted in when we get to Jesus. And when it comes to God’s love, God’s justice, judgement and us…the most densely packed, but beautiful picture of that is found in Romans.
Read Romans 3:21-26.
From this passage, what do you learn about:
– God and justice?
– Us and judgment?
– God and His love for us? (You could flick over to Romans 8:37-39)
Consider other world-views you might be familiar with. How do they grapple with the idea of justice? Do they have a concept of a loving “mind” behind that? How does the God of the Bible differ from these? (Consider these other world-views generously, thoughtfully, not building straw-men, but attempting to understand them.)
In the talk on Sunday, Derek mentioned that people often came to this issue of God’s judgement from two perspectives. The first group might think that God’s judgement is un-necessary for them, or that if there was a judgement, they’ll be alright. The second group know what they’re like, know they deserve judgement, so they’re struggling with the question of how they could ever be forgiven.
What does Romans 3:21-26 say to both of these groups of people? Which one do you struggle with?
One of the other implications of God being a God who values justice, and who will judge is that we can be confident he will judge in the end. That is, even if it looks like people are getting away with it in this life, they’ve still got to answer to God.
How does this truth reshape how we see revenge, vengeance, defending ourselves (our reputation / actions etc.)? How does the Gospel help us navigate forgiveness, patience, calling people to account?
Pray for each other that we would be able to encourage each other towards finding shelter in Jesus, peace that we are forgiven (and therefore can forgive ourselves), and trust in God that just as he has shown himself to be just in Jesus, that we can trust him in all things.