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?