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Study 1 – A better place (Isaiah 1-5)

One of the hardest things about reading the Old Testament is seeing where it fits within history, and therefore understanding the references. So start by spending 15 minutes looking through the diagrams at the beginning of these studies and placing where Isaiah falls into Israel’s history.

There is a beautiful symmetry to the book of Isaiah. It begins and ends with a picture of cities. The first broken, the second beautiful. And in these cities it paints a picture of the people who live in those cities – at the start broken, at the end restored. So while Isaiah is a big book, and it’s often easy to get lost in the detail, what we’re going to try and do is pick up on the threads that run throughout the entire book. Spend 10 minutes looking at the diagram at the beginning of how Isaiah as a book fits together. Which bits of Isaiah are you familiar with? Which bits have you never looked at?

Isaiah is the Romans of the Old Testament. A vision given to God’s prophet describing why things are so bad, but painting a picture of what God is going to do to fix it for good. This week we’re going to see how God describes the problem within Israel as a nation. And from there we’re going to think about how this might shape, through Jesus, how we view our own city of Brisbane.

Read Isaiah 1:1-28 & 5:1-7


Isaiah 5 paints a picture of pain and betrayal. Who are the characters being portrayed?

What are the emotions, attitudes, motivations of these characters?

How does this picture of the vineyard help us to understand Isaiah 1 and God’s issue with Israel?

From the historical background you discussed before, how have these issues been seen in their dealings with God?

We’ll come back to Isaiah in a second to start thinking about cities again, but first flick over to John 15:1-17. If you were to read this passage in parallel with Isaiah 5, what connections could you draw?

One of the things Isaiah does is use cities as a focal point for describing the best and the worst of what is and can occur. This isn’t just a rhetorical device like when the news will refer to a comment from “Canberra” to indicate who is being referred to. In the bible, and in Isaiah, cities are important.

Some people have describe cities as places that should be safe (power used well), social (culture creators) & reveal what is sacred (what we worship). Flick through the first 5 chapters of Isaiah. How is Judah / Jerusalem going with these three categories? How do you think Brisbane is going?

It doesn’t matter whether you like cities, or you like the country…at the moment we’re living in a city and so we need to see it the way God sees it. It was suggested that the way we need to see the city is not to despise it, but not to idolise it either. How do you see ways of yourself, or others, despising or idolising the city?

In what ways do you think cities are a macro-picture of our own hearts?

Cities have people. So if God is going to build a new people, how does Hebrews 13:12-14 say that begins?

Given the above, what might it look like in Brisbane for Christians to be working within this city to provide places that are safe, social & sacred? How could we do this as a community? How could you do this in your workplace? In your neighbourhood?