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.
Do you agree with this idea?
What are some of the difficult things you find about maintaining relationships? What’s the same, and what’s different, in your relationship with God?
Israel’s history has been chequered when it comes to God. God has invited them into relationship, but they’ve been like an unfaithful spouse – playing the field and bringing down God’s judgement on them. And it’s obvious when you read the story of Israel in the Old Testament that this can’t keep going on forever. God’s got to move on, or something fundamental has to change.
That something is what we saw in Isaiah 53 last week.
From Isaiah 53:4-5 and 53:12, what has God done to change the relationship?
For the rest of Isaiah, we begin to see the implications of the work of the servant in regards to Israel’s relationship with God, God’s work in them and the whole world. And we start in Isaiah 54-55 with an invitation into a new type of relationship with God.
Read Isaiah 54
From Isaiah 54:1-8 there are three images of Israel portrayed. The barren woman (v.1-3), the widower (v.4-5) and the deserted / unfaithful wife (v.6-8). But these descriptions are paired with unexpected descriptions.
What are the descriptions for each of these? Why are the unexpected?
What we’re beginning to see unfold is that God has taken the initiative and changed the playing field. And whereas judgement found it’s focal point upon the servant, we see from Isaiah 53 onwards blessing flow out from the servant (54:17).
Look through Isaiah 54 and describe the relationship that God has with those who are “servants of the Lord.” What’s different in this relationship to the previous one?
One of the things that God longs for people and this world in Isaiah is that of peace, shalom (Isaiah 9:6-7;26:3,1;52:7). It’s not merely calm – It’s the idea of complete wholeness, the sum total of the promises and blessings of God, and the full enjoyment of those things. And that begins with being in right relationship with God, which has been achieved through the servant (Isaiah 53) and now found in a new type of covenant (54:10) open to all generations (54:13).
Read Isaiah 55
Because of what the Servant has done, what does God’s invitation look like? (VERSES 1-7)
Do you ever doubt this invitation, the basis for the invitation, or the ongoing nature of the invitation? Why or why not?
In the talk, it was mentioned that one of the things that makes it hard difficult in dealing with others is that we can never quite predict how they will react, what they’ll do, and we can never know with 100% certainty what they’re thinking. But while we can’t know all God’s thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9) there are some things we can know with absolute certainty.
And we can know this because God is in himself as he is towards us. That is, what God does reveals his heart and his intentions.
How does the work of the servant help us understand God’s invitation and ongoing attitude towards us? How does Isaiah 55:10-13 fill out that invitation & God’s desire for us?
What are some of the things in your life that make you doubt God’s attitude towards you, or make it hard to believe this?
In John’s Gospel, Jesus speaks of peace not as something we find, but something we’re given:
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
When he greets the disciples after his resurrection he says the same thing to them “Peace be with you” (John 20:19,21,26). In both of these places, Jesus talks about the Holy Spirit that he would give them. One of the purposes (and we’ll see a second next week) of the Holy Spirit is to remind them & lead them into truth.
How does the truth of the Gospel, and the work of the Holy Spirit, help us in those moments where we doubt God’s goodness towards us and his intentions for us?
Below are the characteristics of this new relationship from Isaiah 54. They describe how God is toward us because of the work of the servant. As a group, discuss which aspects you struggle with, how Jesus life, death and resurrection answer those struggles, and then pray for each other.
- Deep compassion; (v.7)
- Everlasting kindness; (v.8)
- Unfailing love; (v.10)
- A covenant of peace (v.10)
- Of richness of quality (v.11-12)
- Of intimacy (v.13)
- Without retribution or revenge (v.15)
- Of protection (v.14,16-17)