BSF Study Questions Isaiah Lesson 18, Day 3 Isaiah 41:5-10

Summary of passage: When the people met with God, they trembled in fear.  They turned to one another and told each other to “Be strong.”  They made idols together, ones that cannot stand on their own.  God explains that Israel is His chosen people.  They are descendants of Abraham, His friend.  He called them from the ends of the earth to be his servant.  “So do not fear, for I am with you.”  I will strengthen you, help you, and uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Questions:

6a) They trembled in fear and turned to one another instead of to God.  They got together and made idols.

b) Similarly.  People turn to whatever is immediate comfort instead of to God’s word: alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, food, and one another.  Whatever to numb the pain and get a high.

7a) There were enemies on the road (Ezra 8:22).  The city was destroyed when they returned.  As soon as the temple began to be re-built, the surrounding neighboring countries felt threatened again and managed to stop the process (Ezra 4).  There was foreigners already living there.  Intermarriage was a huge threat (Ezra 9:1-4).  This was against God’s law (Deuteronomy 7:3-6) and Ezra saw it as a huge threat.  He prayed to God and the people repented (Ezra 10).  Mainly, expectations exceeded reality.  Re-building after war is not instantaneous.  The people would have to rely on God for many generations to come.  It’s a long road ahead.

b) Israel is God’s chosen people.  They are descendants of Abraham, God’s friend.  They are God’s servants.  He chose them.  God promises He is with them, will strengthen them, and uphold them in His hand.  For me, knowing God is with me always and He will help.

c) Most people say everything will be okay.  It’s just a phase or temporary.  God says, “Do not fear for I am with you.”  Much more powerful.  Inherently, when others comfort, this is what they mean but they just don’t say it.

8 ) The right hand is usually the dominant and the strongest for most people.

Psalm 44:3  “It was not by the sword that they won the land, nor did their arm bring them victory; it was your right hand, your arm, and the light of your face, for you loved them.”

Exodus 15:6  “Your right hand, O Lord, was majestic in power.  Your right hand, O Lord, shattered the enemy.”

Here, the right hand symbolizes God’s intense love and faith for us.  He is offering us his best when He upholds us in His hand.

God’s righteous right hand is also Jesus who sits at God’s right hand.  Hebrews 12:2  “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.  After he had provided purification for our sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.”  Hebrews 1:3

Since Jesus is love, God’s hands are love.

Conclusions:  I love how everything here is interconnected.  Lesson 17 emphasizes the importance of comfort.  Lesson 18 seems to be about our fears (and hence we need comfort).  Of course, it’s all about God. How we have no need to fear because of His comfort.

But, as always, we are human.  We have to have things repeated over and over again and pounded into us for it to stick.  For me, I need to be told constantly I am one of God’s people, chosen by Him, and thus sitting in His righteous right hand.  Fear, led by the Devil, creeps in and tries to push God out.  I need to hear God’s words of comfort, “Do not fear for I am with you.”  I hold you in my righteous right hand–the same hand where Jesus sits!  How amazing is that!

Great re-iteration of God’s almighty presence in our lives.

End Note: Ezra headed the second wave of returning exiles from Babylon.  He was a scribe, a descendant of a priest.  He was in a leadership role, teaching the people God’s word.

I found this site helpful in understanding the exile:

http://www.myjewishlearning.com/texts/Bible/Writings/Ezra_and_Nehemiah.shtml

BSF Study Questions Isaiah Lesson 18, Day 2 Isaiah 41:1-4; 44:28-45:1, Ezra 1:1-4

Summary of passages:  Isaiah 41:1-4:  God is speaking to all nations to be silent before Him as they come together and have a chat.  God asks who has stirred up one from the east and called him into righteous service?  Who has done this (handed nations over, subdued kings, turns people to dust by the sword and chaff by the bow, pursues people and moves them) since the beginning of time?  “I, the Lord..I am he,” God answers.

Isaiah 44:28-45:1:  The Lord calls Cyrus (king of Persia) his shepherd and Cyrus will accomplish what the Lord pleases, which is rebuilding Jerusalem and the temple and subduing nations, stripping kings, and opening doors that God chooses.

Ezra 1:1-4:  The Lord commands Cyrus, king of Persia, (unbeknownst to Cyrus) to proclaim:  The Lord has given me all the kingdoms of earth and appointed him to rebuild the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem.  Anyone of God’s people may go to Jerusalem and accomplish this task.  And other nations (peoples) are to provide Judah with silver, gold, livestock, goods, or whatever else they require for this task.

Questions:

3) Who has called up one from the east (either Abraham or Cyrus, the king of Persia) to serve God righteously?  Who has done all of this (subdued kings, routed nations, turned to dust and chaff, and pursued and secured) throughout all the generations since the beginning of time?  “I, the Lord, the first and last–I am he.”

4a) Either Abraham or Cyrus

b) Abraham is the patriarch of Jewish people and the father of the faith.  Scholars believe this may be in reference to him because he is most righteous.  Isaiah 41:22  “Tell us what the former things were, so that we may consider them and know their final outcome.”  Abraham is referencing the “first” in verse 41:4

Cyrus was the king of Persia (directly East of Judah) who defeated the Babylonians and captured Babylon in 539 BC.  Hence, he fulfills that prophecy that Babylon will be punished.  Then, as we read in Ezra, Cyrus allowed God’s exiled people to return to Jerusalem, rebuild the temple of God, and commanded other countries to contribute resources for this project.  Hence, Cyrus fulfills this prophecy of the return of God’s people as well.

I think Cyrus here is whom Isaiah is speaking of.  Cyrus better fits the time period that Isaiah is prophesizing about and he would be more relevant to the people Isaiah is speaking to.  In Ezra, God does move Cyrus’s heart, which made him righteous in relation to God’s chosen people.

But I included Abraham here since everywhere I read this passage, I found his name in addition to Cyrus’s.

5a) God

b) Cyrus, Sennacherib–Persians, Assyrians, Babylonians.  Civil War, Hitler, American Revolution.  All the major battles, you can see God’s hand at work.  In all of history’s mysteries, you know that is God at work. My favorite, the one hardest to explain to my kids: the Dinosaurs.  Why can’t we figure out why they died? Perhaps because God did it.  Snapped his fingers and that was that.  Time for man, His history to begin.

c) God is faithful to his people and will use nations and rulers for His purposes to enact His will.  We belong to Him.

d) When we see God predict the future and it comes true time after time, it strengthens our belief and awe in God.  We know God is controlling present history like He did the past history and we can feel secure and trust in Him.  No other religion has such prophecies fulfilled.  History is tangible.  Most don’t dispute it–recent times at least.  Logically, one cannot dispute God’s word when He knew the history before it occurred.  God is the writer of history.

Conclusions:  Yeah!  More history.  So,we’ve gone from the Assyrians to the Babylonians and now to the Persians.  For me, this is a very weak area in my history knowledge so it’s great to learn all this stuff.

God again is emphasizing that He is the one and only God and He is the one in charge.  He is the unseen hand in history and therefore in all of our lives.  So trust in Him and His word for your future.

End Notes:  In Ezra, Cyrus issues his proclamation “in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah.”  This can be found in Jeremiah 29:10-14:  “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place…from captivity…and places where I have banished you…from which I carried you into exile.”

Jeremiah was a prophet who lived after Isaiah, which makes sense since the book of Jeremiah is after the book of Isaiah.  He began his ministry about 60 years after Isaiah’s death. Like Isaiah, he warned the Babylonians were coming for Jerusalem but he was hated for his message and not having the ear of the King (Isaiah had Hezekiah), Jeremiah suffered much.  God even told him not to marry since God knew the future hardship he’d have to endure to follow Him.  Jeremiah also referenced the coming Messiah. Jeremiah lived after Jerusalem fell, which is recorded in the book of Lamentations, believed to have been written by him.  Hence, Jeremiah is known as the Weeping Prophet mainly due to his feelings expressed in Lamentations and the compassion with which he writes.