The first big theme of Isaiah is that God is building a better city. Last week we looked at the problems in Judah & Jerusalem. They were a nation and a city that was characterised by corruption, self-centredness, oppression and false worship. The city was God was everything that God didn’t intend for them to be. He looked for righteousness & justice, and he found murder and power-hungry oppression. And God was deeply grieved and deeply hurt (Isaiah 5:1-7). And he had plans to create a better city that was a city of God both in name and in character (Isaiah 2:1-5).
The second big theme we’re going to look at this week is that God is going to give his people a better leader. In these passages we’re going to see why, and what God’s alternative is.
To get started, talk about the leader who has been most influential in your life?
How do Australians view leadership? Why? (Examples?)
As mentioned on Sunday, it’d be a mistake to think that Jesus (who Isaiah is ultimately pointing to) biggest contribution to the question of leadership was as an alternate “model”. Isaiah says that the leader God is raising up needs to be so much more than that, because the problem is so much bigger than just requiring an alternative.
Read Isaiah 6
This next part of Isaiah’s vision takes place in the temple. You can look at a description of the temple in 1 Kings 6-8 to see the similarities. Discuss the first 7 verses. What do you learn about God, Isaiah, and by proxy Israel (as we’ve had them described to us in the first 5 chapters already)?
How do you see your tendency to explain away “sin”? What do we learn when we see Isaiah come before God here?
Isaiah’s response after having his guilt taken away and sin atoned for (v.7) is to respond to God’s call as to who he’ll send. A response coming not merely from the opportunity to serve such a great God, but also flowing from the gratitude of having guilt removed.
What’s the message that God gives Isaiah for Judah in verses 9-10? What’s troubling about this for you?
Jesus lifts this quote directly out of Isaiah and uses it to explain why he speaks in parables in Matthew 13:14-15. Understanding how he uses it there gives a great depth to what’s happening in Isaiah – if you get time, have a look at the context and try to unravel it.
Isaiah’s message to Judah is one of judgement. Trouble is coming soon (and does in the form of Assyria), but they’re not without hope (v.13). We’ll come back to that soon.
Read Isaiah 7:1-17
(SIDE NOTE: I realise there’s lots of reading…feel free to just read bits of it.)
So here we have Isaiah coming to Ahaz to deliver God’s message to him, and tell him to rely on God not on his own intuition or the might of Assyria.
As mentioned on Sunday night, Ahaz looks like he’s being reasonable when he refuses to put God to the test. To get some perspective on Ahaz, flick to 2 Kings 16. How does Ahaz use religion to keep God at arms length here?
Ahaz wasn’t an anomaly as a leader in Israel. You can see a list of the kings and their rating here. The problems in Israel weren’t only with the people, they were also being led astray by their leaders. And even the good leaders (like Hezekiah we’ll see soon, and Josiah who lived after Isaiah) can’t help Israel get back on track for any length of time. But God doesn’t abandon Israel. He does something radically different.
Read Isaiah 9:1-7
What are the characteristics of the person God is going to send as an alternative leader for Israel? If you were an Israelite, what would have struck you as remarkable in this description? (As an aside, in Matthew 4:12-16 Zebulun and Naphtali are the places Jesus begins his public ministry).
So somehow (and Isaiah will develop this as we work through the book), this new leader will not only be of a different order (he’ll be God himself) but he’ll do something in people that other leaders have not been able to. Last week we look at the song of the vineyard in Isaiah 5, and briefly looked at John 15.
Spend a bit of time in John 15:1-8, and discuss the claims that Jesus is making here about himself, and about how he’s different to anyone else? (Compare it to Isaiah 5 if you’ve got time)
The order is all important here. What’s the order of being acceptable to God and then what we do in Jesus description? Explain this in terms of how the Gospel works?
What comfort can we as people who know we’re flawed take from following someone like Jesus?
How does who we are in him change the way we lead others? Follow others? See ourselves in relation to others?