Bible Study Recap – Isaiah 1

I am so so SO excited about the bible study session we started this morning.  We are doing ISAIAH!  Isaiah is the most quoted prophet in the New Testament and it’s just fascinating to read the book – through a Christian lens AND through a historical lens.  Like I did last year, I’ll be sharing my notes if you would like to follow along with the study.  Please feel free to post some thoughts in the comments section!

Here we go … chapter 1 (we spent a lot of time doing history today so we didn’t get far!).

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Isaiah 1 

Introduction

  • The book of Isaiah is broken up into three sections – 1-39, 40-55, 56-66
  • Chapter 1 is an introduction to the entire book of Isaiah, not just the first section (it was mostly written after the three sections where put together)

1:1-9

Indictment

  • God’s indictment against Jerusalem
  • The prophesy explaining why God had let the Asyrians in, why God had allowed the exile

Parent/Child relationship

  • V. 2 – “I reared children; I raised them, and they turned against me!” (CEB)
    • Was this intentional?
    • The human condition is far from perfect – as children, we often both intentionally AND unintentionally disobeyed our parents. We do the same things as human beings, children of God. We know what the right thing to do is, but often do not do it.
  • V. 4 – “evildoing offspring, corrupt children!”
    • You can hear God’s frustration with Jerusalem – almost like a parent saying to their child, “I raised you better than this!”
  • V. 5 – “Why do you invite further beatings? Why continue to rebel?” (CEB)
    • It feels like a parent saying to their rebelling child, “Why do you keep doing this to yourself? Why are you making this harder on yourself?”
    • God knows that Jerusalem has been given the laws and knows that the consequences will be if they do not follow them – why are they not following them?

Destruction of land

  • V. 7-9
  • Reference to Sodom & Gomorrah – the indication is that some people were spared … spared from what?
    • If this was written after the rest of Isaiah had been put together, this could have been referring to the exile (in the second part of Isaiah).
    • It could have been referring to past exiles / past destruction – even going back as far as creation/flood narratives
    • This could also be a general commentary on what will happen if Jerusalem continues on their self-destructive path

Daughter Zion

  • V. 8 – “Daughter Zion” is referring to Jerusalem

1:10-20

V. 10-14 – The prophet tells Jerusalem to listen to God’s teaching and to turn away from their worship, sacrifice and offerings

  • V. 13 – “Stop bringing your worthless offerings.”
    • Our actions/offerings are not necessarily worthless, but there needs to be true meaning behind it – we need to change our mindset, not necessarily our action.
    • We need to change our hearts – focus on God and not on our human traditions.
    • Does this verse ring true today? Do we get caught up in our rituals and traditions and allow them to pull us away from God?
  • V. 14 – “I hate your new moons and your festivals.”
    • We should think about the pieces of our church life that monopolize our time, our focus and our hearts – I don’t necessarily think we should get rid of them (not the Church Bazaar!) but I do think it’s important not to lose sight of what is important and why we come together as a community to begin with.
  • V. 14 – “They’ve become a burden that I’m tired of bearing.”
    • You can hear a frustration in this prophesy – that God is tired of us allowing sacrifices/offerings to monopolize our time.
      • Think about it – when we bear heavy burdens, God bears them for us.

Justice

  • Offerings & Issues of class
    • If someone cannot afford to bring offerings/sacrifices to the temple, what happens to them? We cannot create structures in our earthly lives that prevent someone’s access to God.
  • V. 17 – “Learn to do good. Seek justice: help the oppressed; defend the orphan; plead for the widow.”
    • The prophet is calling Jerusalem not only to let go of their rituals, but also turn their energy to justice and do something good / make a difference in society.
  • Radical cry for justice – turning away from rituals that allow the wealthy access to God and turning towards actions that help others.

V. 18-20 – Forgiveness of sins

  • V. 18 – “Though your sins are like scarlet, they will be white as snow. If they are red as crimson, the will become like wool.”
  • If you read this through a Christian lens (which it is hard for us not to), this prophesy points to Christ.
  • If you read this through a historical critical lens, the prophet is basically saying that Jerusalem needs SOMETHING – the offerings aren’t working. They cannot continue on the path they are on – they need to find a way to re-focus themselves to God.
  • I think this is still true today – forgiveness of sins is a powerful theology. This verse should be our starting point – that we all (regardless of “who we are or where we are on life’s journey) have access to the God’s grace and reconciliation.

1:21-31

What happened to Jerusalem?

  • V. 21 – “This faithful town has become a prostitute! She was full of justice; righteousness lived in her—but now she murders.”
  • “She” – referring to Jerusalem
  • The good news is that God saw Jerusalem as good at one point – if she was good once, then can be again. Redemption is ALWAYS possible. Therefore, even when we sin, there is still hope for us.

Stressing God’s authority as judge

  • V. 24 – “Doom! I will vent my anger against my foes; I will take it out on my enemies.”

Refining impurities

  • V. 25 – “I will turn my hand against you. I will refine your impurities as with lye, and remove all your cinders.”
    • God “turning his hand against Jerusalem” implies something negative; that what is about to happen will not be easy.
    • Refining metals
      • Process is NOT an easy one
      • Requires extremely hot temperatures
      • Breaks down the raw material so that the final material is identical chemically to the original one, but much purer
    • God refining Jerusalem
      • This is not going to be an easy process, in fact it might be a painful one
      • But the end result is that Jerusalem is more pure than before
    • SURRENDER! Are we willing to surrender ourselves and let God refine us?
      • It is easier to follow rituals and give offerings that make up for what we’ve done wrong than to look in the mirror and really examine our impurities.
      • Sometimes we are afraid to do the hard work – partially because we know the hard work is going to be a painful process
      • But don’t we want to be pure? We need to surrender ourselves to God; let go of the notion that we have to be perfect or keep up with those around us and let God refine us. This won’t be easy, but this is also incredibly freeing!

V. 29-31 Letting go of the tangible things that we think give us protection

  • V. 29 – “You will be ashamed of the oaks you once desired, and embarrassed by the gardens you once chose.”
    • Refers to unjust worship in the temple and also worship associated with Canaanite gods.
    • You almost get the sense that God doesn’t think Jerusalem knows any better, that they are just blindly following what society is telling them
  • Unjust worship and worshiping other Gods won’t get Jerusalem anywhere – they will end up weak and dried out

Overall thoughts on Isaiah 1

“God doesn’t want lip service”

  • God wants Jerusalem to live out their faith, not just go through the motions in the temple.

God never deserts us

  • Even though it is clear God is angry and frustrated at Jerusalem, it is also clear that God is not going anywhere.
  • God is going to be part of the refinery process.

Parent/Child relationship

  • There are a lot of parallels between the God/Jerusalem relationship and a parent/child relationship – a lot of the dynamics are similar.
  • We often hear that the “God of the Old Testament is angry and violent” but it seems to me that this God is a dwelling God who is trying to nurture and grow a creation that is rebelling. It would be easy to get frustrated and angry.

Worshipping other Gods

  • The prophet was speaking out against worshipping other Gods – how much has changed since then?
  • We may not literally be worshipping other Gods, but there are other parts of our lives that pull us away from God (superstitions, secular habits, sports, etc.). So many things divert us from worshipping God. How can we re-focus ourselves on God?
  • The human condition hasn’t changed, even if the practice has. We may not be worshipping other Gods, but we are filling our days with activities and thoughts and practices that are pulling us away from God.
  • How do we change this?

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