Lent is a time of washing ourselves so that we
might be clean vessels filled for Christ,
experiencing more of Him!
Whenever I asked theologians I respect
about the best commentary on Isaiah,
every single one said “Alec Motyer.”
He spent 30 years writing his massive volume for IVP,
and he has his own translation of Isaiah.
A few years ago, after he finished, he went to be with the Lord.
There are three sections in Isaiah:
The King, The Suffering Servant, and The Anointed Conqueror.
This is what Motyer writes:
I love everything about Isaiah — the way he writes, his mastery of words,
the rhythmic beauty of his Hebrew and, above all,
the magnificent sweep of his messianic vision,
taking in the glory of Jesus as God and King,
the wonder and fullness of the salvation he accomplished,
and the shining hope of his coming again….
Isaiah is as much the crown of the Old Testament
as Hebrews is of the New Testament —and for the same reason.
Isaiah saw the coming King, Saviour, and Conqueror.
This week and next we will be in the first section,
particularly the 5 chapter preface
which occurs in a courtroom.
You will also get your bearings with a wonderful sermon
from a preacher from Scotland.
You might have heard about last month’s stirring courtroom testimony
from Rachael Denhollander, a former olympic gymnast,
who was the first to come forward to accuse the renowned physician,
Larry Nassar, of sexual molestation.
After Rachael came forward, 200 other former gymnasts,
some who had been as young as six years old, also came forward.
Rachael was the first to accuse and the last to testify at Nassar’s trial.
Her testimony was so stirring it was broadcast around the world.
Rachael not only accused Nassar of grievous sin,
but beautifully and articulately shared the gospel,
a gospel of “costly grace.”
This is what Isaiah communicates as well.
Our sins are grievous, and we must see this,
and then we see how great is His forgiveness.
Here is an excerpt from Rachael’s testimony: both written and in video.
In our early hearings. you brought your Bible into the courtroom and you have spoken of praying for forgiveness. And so it is on that basis that I appeal to you. If you have read the Bible you carry, you know the definition of sacrificial love portrayed is of God himself loving so sacrificially that he gave up everything to pay a penalty for the sin he did not commit. By his grace, I, too, choose to love this way.
You spoke of praying for forgiveness. But Larry, if you have read the Bible you carry, you know forgiveness does not come from doing good things, as if good deeds can erase what you have done. It comes from repentance which requires facing and acknowledging the truth about what you have done in all of its utter depravity and horror without mitigation, without excuse, without acting as if good deeds can erase what you have seen in this courtroom today.
The Bible you carry says it is better for a stone to be thrown around your neck and you thrown into a lake than for you to make even one child stumble. And you have damaged hundreds.
The Bible you speak of carries a final judgment where all of God’s wrath and eternal terror is poured out on men like you. Should you ever reach the point of truly facing what you have done, the guilt will be crushing. And that is what makes the gospel of Christ so sweet. Because it extends grace and hope and mercy where none should be found. And it will be there for you.
I pray you experience the soul crushing weight of guilt so you may someday experience true repentance and true forgiveness from God, which you need far more than forgiveness from me — though I extend that to you as well.
Throughout this process, I have clung to a quote by C. S. Lewis, where he says, my argument against God was that the universe seems so cruel and unjust. But how did I get this idea of just, unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he first has some idea of straight. What was I comparing the universe to when I called it unjust?
Larry, I can call what you did evil and wicked because it was. And I know it was evil and wicked because the straight line exists.
You can also see and hear Rachael in the following – if you begin at 26:46 you will hear the above and can listen as long as you like. In the first 26 minutes she describes his crime and also the refusal of authorities to believe her and help her when she came to them long ago. Nassar was sentenced to 175 years in prison.
I want to welcome our many new sisters who have come for Lent — most seem to be silent followers, but we welcome you anytime you want to make a comment or have a question!
1. What stands out to you from the above and why?
Monday: The Straight Line and The Rebellious Children
2. Rachael Denhollander quotes the above from Lewis. Comment on it. What are some of the ways God makes us aware of His straight line?
Isaiah’s first section (The King: Chapters 1-38) begins in a courtroom. The gospel has both bad news and good news, but we begin with the bad news. For the scene is a courtroom.
1st Charge: Iniquity
3. Read Isaiah 1:1-3
A. Who, according to verse 2a, are God’s witnesses?
B. And who, when He looks down from His bench, does He see? (2b)
C. Why is it so grievous when it is your own children who are sinning against you?
D. What do you see in verses 2-3?
Motyer: “There is a war on, but Isaiah says, in this war it is strictly unnatural for the Christian to choose the way of sin and leave the path of privilege. Look at the beasts. The ox naturally turns to its owner, and the donkey naturally eats its owner’s food. It is living according to its true nature. So what about us? What nature do we choose to make dominant?”
4. The prophets often show us the broken heart of God, our Father. How do you see it in Hosea 11:1-4. What word pictures speak to you?
5. When your own child rebels against you or reveals a cold heart, what insight does this give you into God’s broken heart?
6. Iniquity is falling short of the holiness of God, knowing the straight line, but rebelling against it. We sin because we want to. What light does 1 John 1:3-6 give to Isaiah’s pictures?
7. So often it is that we run to our idols instead of Him. What idol are you endeavoring to forsake and how are you replacing it with the Lord? What lie do you believe when you run to this idol?
Tuesday: 2nd Charge: Insincerity
Larry Nassar put on a caring persona to the parents of his victims to gain access to their children. Then, when he was brought into court, he carried his Bible, as if he were a man who did what was right. Likewise, God’s people are still going to temple, still sacrificing lambs, but their hearts are far from God.
8. Last week we looked at Isaiah 58. How did you see insincerity there?
9. Read Isaiah 1:10-15
A. What is the second charge that God makes? What examples does He give?
B. Why is their religion a burden to Him?
10. According to Isaiah 29:13, what does God hate – and what does He want?
11. It is so easy for any of us to go through the motions of any of the spiritual disciplines without our heart really engaged. Ask God here to help you and be conscious of engaging your heart with Him today in whatever you do. Then report back.
Wednesday: 3rd Charge: Injustice and Cultural Breakdown
12. We are to be like a city on a hill, shining light to a dark world. God charges His people with failing to be just. What does He say in Isaiah 1:21-23?
Motyer: “Isaiah’s final topic in his review is social breakdown. Leadership is corrupt and care for the vulnerable has disappeared.”
It is almost as if we are reading today’s newspaper!
But we are to be a city on a hill!
Some of the best moments in my life have to do with being obedient to God’s call for justice. There is such an excitement in seeing light come to dark places, and there are so many who are lost, hurting, imprisoned, or without a voice. But God cares so much about justice, if you ask Him to show you what you could do, and then be alert, He will show you. Here are some of my favorite pictures from Discipleship Unlimited, the prison ministry, where they are washing the women’s hands as an outward sign of an inward heart for God. Look at the joy!
13. Can you share a time when God filled you with joy when you were ministering to those in need? No story too small!
14. Give us a progress report on how you are doing in not lifting up your soul to an idol but running to the Lord!
Thursday-Friday: Get Your Bearings in Isaiah with this Free Sermon from Eric Alexander.
If the above doesn’t open easily, try this:
15. Share your notes and comments.
16. What is your take-a-way and why?
Listening to Eric Alexander’s sermon I felt like a sponge! I liked his comment and not a direct quote about people saying the Old Testament isn’t contemporary but it’s like picking up tomorrow mornings newspaper. I really encourage everyone to listen…so packed with wonderful truths!
Sharon — my heart leapt for joy to see you here. Sharon’s father’in-law was a pastor for Steve and me when we were young and impacted Steve profoundly. He was pure love.
Hi, Sharon! Yes, I totally agree. So packed with wonderful truths-I couldn’t write fast enough!
16. What is your take-away and why?
I just got through the study this morning! I have also been doing a daily devotional by Charles Stanley and am endeavoring to read through the Bible this year. So….when we did the study of The Songs, it gave me a beautiful picture of Jesus as my heavenly Bridegroom, and how God Himself uses the illustration of marriage to describe how He feels about us, how our relationship with Him is to be. This week’s study is another picture, one of a father and his child/children. Because I’ve been reading through the OT and am now in Deuteronomy, I have seen how truly, God chose one man, Abram, and through him, “birthed” a nation. So when God says in Isaiah 1:2, “I reared children and brought them up but they have rebelled against me”, He really did “birth” and bring-up the Israelites; He was their Father. And so here is another beautiful picture in the OT (before Jesus came and talked so much about God being our Father) in Isaiah and in the passage in Hosea, where God uses tender word pictures of Himself as a Father who holds His child’s arms as they take their first steps, and says, “When Israel was a child, I loved him.”
As He uses the marriage metaphor to describe His broken heart when we turn away from Him to our idols, using the picture of adultery, so in Isaiah and Hosea He gives us another picture of the broken heart of a father whose child scorns, ignores, reacts with coldness, to the love of his father. One of the saddest things I’ve seen, and saw again this week at the hospital where I work, a case where the social worker was brought in because an elderly woman claimed that her own daughter, with whom she lives, was mean to her and stole her medications. It is unthinkable to me how a daughter or a son could mistreat, steal from, and physically abuse their elderly, vulnerable mother. These metaphors and pictures, I hope, will help me to turn away from my idols; not because “I ought to and I should”, but because they can only be replaced with Him, and these pictures of Him as a tender, loving Father should stir my affections towards Him.
#13, sharing a time when I was filled with joy in ministering to others….last week at work I met a dear African American patient who has a brain tumor. We talked for a while and I learned a little bit about her life. She wanted my office number and I told her I’d come back later in the day and bring her a card. At the end of the day, I returned with the card and she said, “Susan, I like you; you do what you say you’ll do.” I said oh, I really didn’t do anything, and we laughed and then I told her good-bye and we held hands. I looked down at our hands, one white, one black, and I thought about all the racial tension in our country right now, but here are just two hands connecting and it doesn’t make a difference, our race. The next day as I was doing my devotional, the topic was faithfulness, and how God is faithful, and it was defined as God does what He promises He will do. I thought, “Wow, I was being faithful, to bring back the card with my number, as I had said I would do.” It made me happy to think that I was behaving just a little bit like God.
Susan — you bring a richness here — with your knowledge and heart. Love your last story so much.
Susan, I, too love what you wrote here. Such reflections and always from the heart. Your story with the African American patient touched my heart. I like the fact that God permeates our little acts of kindness-No ministry so small when one is faithful.
14. Can you share a time when God filled you with joy when you were ministering to those in need?
Operation Christmas Child comes to mind…my family assembled shoe boxes for Operation Christmas Child for some time. My church wasn’t involved in Operation Christmas Child, so I volunteered to transport shoe boxes brought to church to the regional receiving place. The thought of my car (trunk, back seat, floor areas, etc.) jam packed with shoe box gifts that would be distributed to children in need across the world warms my heart.
16. What is your take-a-way and why?
a. What Moyer said “Isaiah- taking in the glory of Jesus as God and King,
the wonder and fullness of the salvation he accomplished,
and the shining hope of his coming again…” Here is the Gospel-salvation through Jesus and the promise of eternal life.
b. There is a straight line and that is of God and the principles of it are clear in God’s Word
c. What Alexander expounded on in Isaiah- he did not mince words about the condition of Judah and its parallel to what is America now. The magnificent way by which he brought in v.4 to point to the suffering Messiah-what joy and hope for us who believe!
14. Give us a progress report on how you are doing in not lifting up your soul to an idol but running to the Lord.
As others have said, it requires continuous conscious effort; when I’m on “autopilot” I can easily fall into the trap of judging and comparison. I’ve made some progress in awareness and repentance, praying to the Lord for others and sometimes self. Indeed is is a “battle;” I am a work in process and there is progress yet to be made. I do believe that the Lord is working in me…it is ironic (or not 😀 ) that I have come across texts in my weekly bible reading plan and podcast interviews from the week that I routinely listen to have related to this struggle/idol directly or indirectly.
15. Share notes and comments.
In times of prosperity God is easily forgotten despite past examples of God’s provision; adversity stimulates movement towards God.
The Northern Kingdom–Israel, 10 tribes. The Southern Kingdom–Judah, 2 tribes.
Amos and Hosea were prophets to Israel. Isaiah and Micah were prophets to Judah.
Isaiah is a book of 66 chapters. Chapters 1-39 are all about judgment. (Eric Alexander explains differing opinions related to the unity of Isaiah.)
Chapter 1 of Isaiah introduces the reader to the book of Isaiah (Isaiah himself is introduced in Chapter 6). Chapter 1 begins the theme of judgement in a courtroom manner. The Lord’s witnesses are heaven and earth.
The Lord makes three charges against Judah…
1. iniquity (v. 2-9)…God’s own children are rebelling against Him; worse than dumb animals, as they do not know or understand authority. Judah is a a sinful nation who has forsaken and despised the Lord, they are estranged from the Lord. The people don’t understand why they are in the plight they are in; they don’t recognize the judgement hand of God.
2. insincerity in the temple (v. 10-20)…The people go through the formality of worship in an outward form (for appearance-sake). The Lord takes no pleasure in their insincere worship, He has had enough of the pretense. God wants to settle this matter through repentance. (v. 16) God spells out what repentance means, He offers mercy, grace, and salvation through repentance, but if the people resist and rebel, the people will be devoured.
3. injustice in the city…the Lord will address this in the future.
Alexander notes that the very expressions from Chapter 1 (i.e., forsaken, despised, estranged) are used in Chapter 53 in regards to the Messiah…Jesus was forsaken, despised, turned their backs on Him.
This is a wonderful sermon, information filled and thought provoking. As I listened, I learned. I have always found Isaiah a bit intimidating. This sermon was a welcome step in better understanding of this book.
Yes, Nanci, all you shared is a good review for me of the sermon. I agree with all you have said. It was “a welcome step in better understanding of this book.”