Daily Bible Study Tips: The Prophets
Miscellaneous Comments on the Prophet Isaiah


Introduction, Jeremiah 1:4-10
Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 
Isaiah 1:6-13
Isaiah 1:1-20, Indictment of Judah in general for its sins.
Isaiah 1:21-31, Indictment of Jerusalem in particular for its sins.
Isaiah 2:1-5
Isaiah 5:1-7
Isaiah 5:1-7, The Song of the Vineyard.

Isaiah 6 - 63


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Jeremiah 1:4-10

Being called by God to be a prophet is awe-inspiring, humbling, more than a little frightening, and often dangerous:
In similar circumstances, all we can do is say, with Isaiah, “Here am I. Send me.” God’s assurance is that he will go with us, protect us, and tell us what to say.

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 

We who are reading these scriptures every day probably regard ourselves, with good reason, as "religious."  Unfortunately, God is not impressed by religion, and in fact, when religion is accompanied by obdurate sinfulness, God is out and out offended by religion.  What God wants from us is not religion but righteousness, which is in pretty short supply most of the time.  God does not leave us in doubt about what he wants us to do:  "cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause."

By the way, Isaiah is not talking to Sodom and Gomorrah.  He's talking to Judah, and telling the nation that it might as well be Sodom and Gomorrah, the way it's acting.

Isaiah 1:6-13
(2007)
Many of the prophets present the word of the Lord in poetry, but usually we don't recognize it. English poetry sounds like this: "I'm a poet, and I know it." The meter is the same in the two lines, and the final words rhyme. Hebrew poetry sounds more like this, "I'm a poet, and my words come out in doggerel." The second phrase repeats the content of the first phrase in different words. So when you see a verse like "Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah!," you may think that the prophet is just repeating himself to get people to listen to him. In fact, he is preaching in poetry.

Isaiah 1:1-20, Indictment of Judah in general for its sins.

Several weeks ago, one reader asked whether the prophetic books deal with Judah. I promised you that we would see indeed prophecy about Judah, and here it is. In the kingdom of Israel, the main religious problems were false shrines and Baalism. You would think Judah – home of Jerusalem and the Temple – would be better off. But no! God explains through Isaiah that all the sacrifices and religious observations in the world are hateful to him if they are offered by unrepentant sinners. God even asks, "Who asked you for all these sacrifices?" The sacrifices were required by the Mosaic Law, but the people are acting like they don't even know the Law exists. If you don't do justice and defend the widows and orphans – if you don't act out your love for God in love for your fellow man, then sacrifices won't help your situation. They only add insult to injury. Nevertheless, you can always repent. "Come now," says God. "Let's talk this over. You are incredibly sinful, but if you come to me, I can fix it."

Isaiah 1:21-31, Indictment of Jerusalem in particular for its sins.

Jerusalem has gone bad. When David became king, he didn't want to cause contention between the northern and southern tribes by choosing an existing city as his capital. He captured the city of Jerusalem from a Canaanite tribe to be his own city and the political capital of the whole country. Then he brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem to make it the center of worship as well. Solomon built a beautiful Temple to replace the Tent of the Tabernacle. Jerusalem was a holy city. Now it is a den of corruption, comparable to an unfaithful wife or adulterated silver or wine. Doom is sure unless ... you guessed it ... the city and its inhabitants repent. God hates sin, but he loves sinners in spite of ourselves. The text says several times that God is going to punish the inhabitants, but it's important to notice the bottom line that "people will be destroyed by their own evil deeds."

Isaiah 2:1-5

When David became king, he conquered the city of Jerusalem (which was held by a Canaanite tribe) and made it both his capital and the center of Jewish worship.  Jerusalem came to be a symbol of the Jewish nation and of its relationship with God.  One of the main themes in Messianic prophecy is "the exaltation of Zion," which means roughly that Jerusalem will become important to all nations as a place of worship of the one true God.

Isaiah 5:1-7

The emblem of the vine is probably the one most strongly identified with the people of Israel (followed closely by the adulterous wife!).  Both of our passages today talk about God as the husbandman of the vineyard.  He plants it, guards it, waters and fertilizes it, and what happens?!  Bad grapes!  So he breaks down the wall and lets it be trampled.  There is never any suggestion in the Old Testament that God was not justified in punishing his people, but rather, an acknowledgement that they deserved punishment for their sins. See also Psalms 80:1-2, 8-19 

Isaiah 5:1-7, The Song of the Vineyard.

Several times in the past few weeks we have seen Israel represented as an adulterous wife. Another common emblem is the vineyard – God took his people out of Egypt and planted them in the Promised Land. In Isaiah's time, however, God is a vinedresser who is disappointed in his vines. The Song of the Vineyard starts off like a love song, but once everyone is listening, it turns into a song of betrayal and retribution. (This may be the oldest Country & Western song ever written.) Jesus also used the emblem of the vineyard: "I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. ... I am the vine; you are the branches." Now we understand that he is claiming to be the true Israel, in whom the vinedresser is not disappointed.


Copyright 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 by Regina L. Hunter.  All rights reserved.

Opinions expressed on this page are solely those of the author, Regina Hunter, and may or may not be shared by the sponsors or the Bible-study participants.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit for any useful ideas presented here, and thanks to all the readers for their support and enthusiasm.  All errors are, of course, the sole responsibility of the author.

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