New Heavens and New Earth – Isaiah 65

Read the Passage: Isaiah 65

Superficial Worship (65:1–7)

In the final nine chapters of this book (cf. Isa. 58–66), Isaiah confronts the false religion of some within Israel, exhorts the nation to repent, and describes the future blessings of God’s people. Continue reading New Heavens and New Earth – Isaiah 65

Fasting and the Sabbath – Isaiah 58

Read the Passage: Isaiah 58

Counterfeit Religion (58:1–5)

The first half of the book of Isaiah is largely focused upon messages of rebuke and judgment (cf. Isa. 1–39), while the second part of this oracle contains messages of hope and salvation (cf. Isa. 40–66). Even so, as he writes about the future glory of God’s people, Isaiah continues to remind his readers of their need for repentance. Continue reading Fasting and the Sabbath – Isaiah 58

The Abundant Life – Isaiah 55

Read the Passage: Isaiah 55

Invitation (55:1–5)

This chapter begins with an invitation to “everyone who thirsts” (Isa. 55:1), which includes both Jew and Gentile. In giving and describing an open call to the abundant life, Isaiah is likely utilizing the image of a vendor in the market selling food and drink to passers-by. Yet, unlike street vendors who often charged exorbitant prices for their wares, the offer of salvation extended by the Suffering Servant is “without money and without price” (Isa. 55:1) for all to whom it is offered. In his illustration in Isa. 55:1–2, Isaiah mentions water, wine, milk, and bread. Observe that water is frequently used in Scripture as a metaphor for the Holy Spirit (cf. Isa. 32:15; John 4:10–14; 7:37–39; Rev. 21:6; 22:17), wine and milk are often symbolic of abundance (cf. Song 5:1; Joel 2:19; 3:18), and Jesus would later refer to Himself as the bread of life (cf. Matt. 26:26; John 6:32–35; 1 Cor. 10:17; 11:23–24).

Next, in Isa. 55:3–5 the prophet likens God’s call to salvation with the Davidic Covenant, which Isaiah refers to as God’s “sure mercies of David” (Isa. 55:3). The idea here is that just as God had been faithful to keep His covenant with David (cf. 2 Sam. 7:12–16; Ps. 89:27–29), so will He be faithful to keep the New Covenant with His people (cf. Jer. 31:31–34). Observe the connection with Jesus, as Christ is both the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant (cf. Acts. 13:34) and the object and facilitator of the New Covenant. It is important to note that in Isa. 55:4–5 the subject is Christ; for Jesus is our witness (cf. John 8:18), our leader and commander (cf. Acts 5:31; Heb. 2:10), and the One to whom the nations will run (cf. Matt. 25:32; Rev. 7:9). Note that the citation of “nations” in Isa. 55:5 is a reference to Gentiles, which shows—as was previously noted—that the call of salvation in Isa. 55:1 includes both Jews and Gentiles.

Exhortation (55:6–7)

After generally inviting all mankind to receive the Lord in Isa. 55:1–5, the prophet specifically exhorts his readers to salvation in Isa. 55:6–7. These two verses may be the most concise summary of the process of salvation in the Old Testament. In this passage Isaiah gives four clear steps toward salvation. First, man must freely “seek the Lord . . . [and] call upon Him” (Isa. 55:6). Of course, no one can seek the Lord unless they are first sought by God (cf. John 6:65). Second, “the wicked [must] forsake his way” (Isa. 55:7a). This entails repentance of sin (cf. Acts 3:19). Third, man must “return to the Lord” (Isa. 55:7b). Such a return entails repentance and the idea of admitting that we have broken our relationship with God (cf. Isa. 53:6). Fourth, the lost can know that God “will have mercy on him. . . [and] He will abundantly pardon (cf. Isa. 55:7c). Indeed, God is a merciful God (cf. Heb. 4:16).

Exaltation (55:8–13)

Isa. 55:8–9 are often cited—and rightly so—to demonstrate God’s sovereignty. Here God declares, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are My ways you ways. . . . As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways.” Earlier, Isaiah gave a similar teaching, as he recorded God’s declaration, “To whom will you liken Me, and make Me equal and compare Me, that we should be alike. . . . Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me” (Isa. 46:5, 9; cf. Job 23:13–15; 26:14; Ps. 50:21; 94:7–11; Acts 17:25). It is important to note, however, that Isa. 55:8–9 is not just a declaration about God’s sovereignty. Rather, in the context of this chapter, God is referring to His sovereignty in offering salvation by grace alone through faith alone, and not by works.

In Isa. 55:10–11 the prophet continues to write about the sovereignty of God in salvation, as he mentioned the means of salvation, which is the Word of God. Here God declares, “My Word . . . that goes forth from my mouth . . . shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please” (Isa. 55:11). This is as inevitable, writes Isaiah, as the rain and snow that fall from heaven, water the earth, and produce a bountiful crop. As the New Testament repeatedly affirms, we must remember that the Word of God is the divinely designed conduit through which God births faith (cf. Rom. 10:17; 1 Cor. 1:21; Titus 1:3; Jas. 1:18, 21; 1 Pet. 1:23). In Isa. 55:12–13 Isaiah blends the present effects of salvation with the eschatological results of salvation. Presently the gospel results in joy and peace; at the end of the age the gospel will result in the “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21).

Application Questions:

  1. Why do so many who hear and know about God’s free offer of salvation reject it? Has God been faithful to you since accepting His call?
  2. In what sense is salvation both costly and free (cf. 1 Pet. 1:18–19)? If salvation is not by works, how can we verify the authenticity of salvation?
  3. What does someone need to know in order to be saved? What is the proper relationship between repentance and faith?
  4. Why do many people prefer an effort or works-based salvation over a free or grace-based salvation?
  5. In what ways do believers experience the present blessings of salvation that are a foretaste of the future restoration of all things?

The Suffering Servant – Isaiah 53

Read the Passage: Isaiah 53

Appearance (53:1–3)

As was previously noted, the book of Isaiah contains four so-called “Servant Songs,” which are sometimes referred to as “Servant Poems.” These Songs, given at Isa. 42:1–4; 49:1–6; 50:4–7; and 52:13–53:12, describe a Servant of God, who ultimately is Jesus Christ. Continue reading The Suffering Servant – Isaiah 53

The Servant of God – Isaiah 49

Read the Passage: Isaiah 49

Called and Restored (49:1–13)

The book of Isaiah contains four so-called “Servant Songs,” sometimes called “Servant Poems,” which describe a particular Servant of God, who ultimately is Christ. These Songs, which especially emphasize Jesus’ sufferings, are recorded at Isa. 42:1–4; 49:1–6; 50:4–7; and 52:13–53:12. Continue reading The Servant of God – Isaiah 49

The Folly of Idolatry – Isaiah 46

Read the Passage: Isaiah 46

Weakness Described (46:1–2)

In this section of his book, Isaiah comforts a future generation of exiled Jews who are in captivity in Babylon. In this larger division of the book (cf. Isa. 40–48) Isaiah encourages this future remnant by giving prophecies of peace. Continue reading The Folly of Idolatry – Isaiah 46

Fasting and the Sabbath – Isaiah 58

Read the Passage: Isaiah 58

Counterfeit Religion (58:1–5)

The first half of the book of Isaiah is largely focused upon messages of rebuke and judgment (cf. Isa. 1–39), while the second part of this oracle contains messages of hope and salvation (cf. Isa. 40–66). Even so, as he writes about the future glory of God’s people, Isaiah continues to remind his readers about their need for repentance. Indeed, the nation of Israel would only experience the new heavens and new earth, which Isaiah writes about in Isa. 58–66, if they were redeemed. In the opening of Isaiah 58 God instructed His prophet, saying, “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up your voice like a trumpet. Tell my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins” (Isa. 58:1). The issues that Isaiah confronts here is not that God’s people were neglecting religious practices; rather, it was that they were merely going through the motions of external obedience (cf. Isa. 1:11).

In Isa. 58:2 God speaks in jest about the veneer of religion among the Israelites, which included their charade of seeking God, delighting in His ways, doing righteousness, and approaching Him. However, since these acts were done with pretense, God took no notice of them—other than His offense. Consequently, the people complained that God did not regard their fasting, which ironically was true. Notice, however, that since the people’s religion was self-centered, it did not occur to them that the problem with their rituals was not God, but themselves. In Isa. 58:3–5 God points out that the people were fasting for personal pleasure, without repentance, and for self-glory. In this passage the Lord teaches that these are not the elements of proper worship, nor is this “the fast that I have chosen” (Isa. 58:5). In fact, God implies the people should be ashamed of viewing their fasting as acceptable.

Authentic Fasting (58:6–12)

In contrast to the counterfeit religion exhibited by God’s people that was detailed in Isa. 58:1–5, in Isa. 58:6–12, God describes what authentic religion actually looks like, especially in regard to fasting. Fasting denies one’s fleshly appetites. Since the flesh wars against the Spirit (Gal. 5:17), proper fasting results in an increase in the fruit of the Spirit, including self-control. Indeed, God declares in Isa. 58:6–7 that proper fasting will lead to: (1) loosing bonds of wickedness, (2) undoing heavy burdens, (3) freeing of the oppressed, (4) ministering to the needs of others, (5) feeding the hungry, (6) sheltering the poor, (7) clothing the naked, (8) and caring for oneself. In Isa. 58:8–9a Isaiah indicates these things are not a way to earn favor with God; rather, they are the result of having a relationship with God. Thus, he who does these things will experience answered prayer (cf. Isa. 58:9).

In Isa. 58:9b–12 Isaiah highlights several indicators of being in a right relationship with God. To elaborate, after reiterating a number of markers of authentic fasting, in Isa. 58:10b–11 God notes that: (1) His people will shine as lights in the darkness, (2) He will guide them continually, (3) He will satisfy their souls, and (4) He will strengthen their bones. Therefore, the follower of God, writes Isaiah, will be like a well-watered garden or an unfailing spring of water. Furthermore, in Isa. 58:12 Isaiah writes of the recovery of certain “old waste places,” and notes that God’s people will inevitably “raise up the foundations for many generations.” This addresses the multi-generational effects of righteousness upon a family or a nation (cf. Exod. 20:4–6). Indeed, God notes that righteous people will have a reputation for their good works, which may even extend beyond their own lifetime.

True Sabbath-Keeping (58:13–14)

In Isa. 58:13–14 God changes the immediate topic of discussion from fasting to Sabbath-keeping. Yet, the point under consideration is the same, as both fasting and keeping the Sabbath are external forms of religion that can either be distorted or be enjoyed. As God addressed proper fasting in Isa. 58:6–12, so here in Isa. 58:13–14 God describes how to properly keep the Sabbath, which includes: (1) not engaging in one’s own pleasures, (2) being delighted in the Sabbath itself, (3) honoring God and the Sabbath day, (4) not speaking one’s own words, and (5) delighting in God’s Being. When the Sabbath is kept properly God will cause man “to ride on the high hills of earth” and to be fed “with the heritage of Jacob” (Isa. 58:14). The larger idea here is that when religion is merely external, it becomes self-glorifying; yet when framed properly, religion glorifies God.

Application Questions:

  1. Before you became a Christian, were you religious? How can followers of Christ avoid falling into a self-centered, works-based model of sanctification?
  2. If someone claims to be a Christian yet has no desire to be with the people of God, what might this indicate?
  3. Is fasting a practice in which Christians should engage (cf. Lev. 16:29–31; Matt. 6:16)? If so, what are the parameters for proper fasting?
  4. In what ways have you benefited from the spiritual faithfulness of other believers in the past (i.e., family, friends, neighbors, colleagues, etc.)?
  5. Do you find yourself prone to a self-exalting, works-based view of sanctification? How can we keep Christ as the central figure of our worship?

Redemption of God’s People – Isaiah 43

Read the Passage: Isaiah 43

God’s Deliverance (43:1–7)

Isaiah 43 is one of the high-point chapters in all of the Old Testament, as here God makes it clear that the reason for the creation, salvation, and deliverance of Israel did not arise from something within the nation itself, but from God’s own sovereign choice of Israel as a people to worship Him. Continue reading Redemption of God’s People – Isaiah 43

Comfort of Salvation – Isaiah 40

Read the Passage: Isaiah 40

Comfort from God (40:1–8)

Isaiah 40 marks a turning point in this book, as beginning here Isaiah’s message changes from one of dread and judgment to one of hope and salvation. Continue reading Comfort of Salvation – Isaiah 40

Trusting in God – Isaiah 37

Read the Passage: Isaiah 37

Isaiah’s Assurance (37:1–7)

Isaiah 36–39 is an historical narrative that punctuates the prophecies of Isaiah. These four chapters are almost copied verbatim in 2 Kings 18:13–20:19 and again in 2 Chron. 32:1–23. It is probable that the writer of 2 Kings, whom tradition holds was Jeremiah, copied from Isaiah, not vice-versa (cf. 2 Chron. 32:32). Continue reading Trusting in God – Isaiah 37