BSF Study Questions Isaiah Lesson 26, Day 2 Isaiah 58

Summary of passage:  God directs Isaiah to shout out to His people, the house of Jacob, their sins.  Day after day they seek me (God) and are eager to know His ways as if they were a righteous and law-abiding nation.  They ask for just decisions and for God to be near.

Yet the people ask, “Why have we fasted and humbled ourselves if you (God) have not noticed?”

God answers, “You do as you please and exploit your workers.  You quarrel and strike each other.  You cannot fast as you do today and expect to be heard.”  In essence, the people’s hearts were not God’s heart.  They fasted for wrong reasons and with evil hearts.

God asks, “Is this the kind of fast I have chosen where you bow your head and lie on sackcloth and ashes?  Is this acceptable to the Lord?”  The answer is No.  God reveals the fast He desires:

“To loose the chains of injustice, set the oppressed free, and break every yoke. To share your food with the hungry and provide the poor with shelter. To clothe the naked and not abandon your relatives.”

Then your light will break forth like the dawn, your healing will appear, you will be righteous with the glory of the Lord at your rear.

Then when you call I will answer: Here am I.  [So when you fast with a heart of God, He will answer.]  Your light will rise in the darkness if you do away with oppression, malicious talk, and satisfy the needs of the oppressed.

The Lord will guide you always and satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and strengthen you.  You will be a well-watered garden whose waters never fail.  You will rebuild and build up things.

If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and doing what you please on God’s holy day then you will find joy in the Lord and He will cause you to ride on the heights of the land and feast on the inheritance of Jacob.

Questions:

3a)  The Israelites fasted, sought God day after day, seemed eager to know His ways, portrayed righteousness and obedience.

b)  They sought to please themselves.  On the day of the fasting, they did as they pleased and exploited all their workers.  They quarreled and hit each other.  They fasted without their heart on God.  They went through the motions of bowing their heads and putting on sackcloth and ashes but still their heart remained aloof.

c)  He did not answer their prayers and He told them what fasting He has chosen:  to see the oppressed free and break every yoke, to share your food with the hungry and provide shelter to the wanderer, to clothe the naked, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood.  Only then will He say:  Here am I.

d)  Personal Question.  My answer:  I’m working on praising God more in prayer and praying more for others.  When I feel far away from Him, I tend to pray less so I’m working on praying no matter what mood I am in.  Sometimes I do pray and my heart is not in it (mainly because my brain is elsewhere, dwelling on something I should have let go which I haven’t yet or on future events) but I feel it’s better than not praying at all and in time God will turn my mind and heart to Him again as long as I am seeking.

4a)  The purpose was to make atonement to God for your sins and to cleanse yourself of sins so you will be clean before the Lord.  The attitude was strict:  it must be on the tenth day of the seventh month and the people must fast (deny themselves) and not do any work. Everyone had to do this–whether native Israelites or foreigners living amongst them who did not necessarily believe in the Lord.  This was to be the Sabbath, the day of rest and to be a lasting ordinance.

b)  God desires an authentic fast:  one where we obeyed His commands and were eager to know Him.  We are to set the oppressed free, share with others what God has given us, and follow His will, not ours.  We are to do what pleases God, not ourselves.  And only then when we call will He answer.

c)  Donate to the poor or serve in soup kitchens.  Find charities that work with the poor and support them.  Help your relatives when they are on hard times (this could also be members of the church or Christian body as your own flesh and blood since we are all the body of Christ).  Give to your church to help your sisters and brothers who are struggling.  God ultimately wants our heart to lie where His does–which is with those struggling.

Conclusions:  God is so good!  This was EXACTLY what I needed to hear in this time in my life.  “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.”  So, no matter where I go, I will have no fear or inhibitions because God is guiding me and He will satisfy my needs in that place.  He will build things, which I constantly see in my work.

If I honor God by not doing my own thing or going my own way, then I will be filled with joy in the Lord, ride on the heights of the land, and feast on the inheritance of Jacob.

What better message right now in my life than one of Hope.  I think this is my favorite message in the Bible for I know I can’t live without it.

End note:  We are no longer required to do no work on the Sabbath since we now find rest in Jesus.  This was only required before Jesus died for us.  Hebrews 4 explains it best.  We enter a Sabbath-rest:  “There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God.” Hebrews 4:9 which is not necessarily on Sundays.  Or we are free to not technically “rest” at all.  But I think most Christians rest with God through prayer and in His word–essentially in God since His spirit now dwells in us.  See also Colossians 2:16-17 and Galatians 4:9-11

BSF Study Questions Isaiah Lesson 25, Day 4 Isaiah 56:1-8; Exodus 31:12-17; Deuteronomy 23:1-8

Summary of passages:  Isaiah 56:1-8:  The Lord says to maintain justice and do what is right for salvation and righteousness are close.  Blessed is he who does this, keeps the Sabbath, and does not do evil.  No foreigner can say the Lord excludes them from His people for foreigners and eunuchs who keep the Sabbaths, pleases the Lord, and keeps the covenant, the Lord will give them everlasting life.  If foreigners serve, love, worship the Lord, keep the Sabbaths and the covenant, then the Lord will bring those to his holy mountain and give them joy in the temple.  Their sacrifices will be accepted and the Lord’s house will be a house of prayer for all nations.  Others will be gathered besides Israel.

Exodus 31: 12-17:  The Lord says to observe the Sabbaths because it is His holy day and so it extends to His people as a holy day.  Anyone who desecrates the Sabbath must be put to death and anyone who does work on that day must be cut off from his people.  The Sabbath shall be a sign between the Lord and the Israelites forever as a symbol of the six days God worked and the one day He rested.

Deuteronomy 23:1-8:  No one emasculated by crushing or cutting (made a eunuch) may enter the assembly of the Lord.  No one born of a forbidden marriage (would be foreign blood if an Israelite married a foreigner) nor any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the Lord.  No Ammonite or Moabite may enter the assembly of the Lord as punishment when they did not help as the Lord led His people to the promised land.  Do not be friends with them as long as you live (harsh punishment, huh?).  An Edomite is your brother (Edom being founded by Esau, Jacob’s twin brother) as is Egypt since you abided in his country.  After three generations have passed, they may enter the assembly of the Lord.

Questions:

8a)  “In the gospel, a righteousness goes forth–a righteousness that God delights to see and accept.  This righteousness is the provision of a right relationship with himself through the saving work of Jesus.”  The salvation is the salvation Jesus brought us when he died on the cross.  The righteousness is the gift of righteousness Jesus gave us when he died on the cross.  Through his death we were made righteous (a right relationship with God) through Jesus.  This righteousness is by faith alone from the first to the last (essentially from the beginning of time to eternity).  If you believe in Jesus and accept he died for you then you are made righteous in God’s eyes, which is an act of faith.  To be righteous is to have a right relationship to God.  Essentially, through Jesus’s death, we can have a relationship with God.

“To receive this gift of righteousness is to be justified by faith.  And those who receive the gift then are to live as righteous people, devoted to the service of what God declares to be right.”

All quotes are from Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary by Douglas and Tenney.

b)  Verse 7.  The outer courts were the only place the Gentiles could come and pray. They were not allowed inside the inner courts of the temple.  It was not holy ground and non-Jews were not permitted there.  Buying and selling were permitted as well but mainly for sacrificial animals and money exchanges for tithes.  Jesus got mad because the outer court had become more of a market motivated by profit than for religious purposes.  Also, the market had grown so big that the merchants were pushing out those who had just come to pray.  The religious intentions had turned into a bazaar of exchanging goods and services; whereas God’s expectations had been for worship only.  (Some phrases summarized from Zondervan’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary).

9a)  All foreigners and eunuchs–all nations.  Traditionally, foreigners and eunuchs were excluded from worshiping God (Exodus 12:43, Deuteronomy 23:1, 3, 7-8, Leviticus 21:18-20).  Israel had come to be arrogant as God’s chosen people during their exile, thinking only of themselves and how God was only for them.  But here God says no–I love all people.

b)  In John 10:14-16, Jesus explains He has other sheep (the Gentiles) whom He will bring also.  They listen to Him and shall be one flock (shall be as equal as the Jews on the same footing).  Acts 8:26-40 tells how an angel of the Lord sent Philip to explain the Bible and baptize an Ethiopian eunuch (so both a foreigner and a eunuch).  The Spirit of the Lord was present.  In Acts 10:34-38 Peter realizes Jesus’s death was for all.  Jesus himself never discriminated while on earth.  While Peter was talking the Holy Spirit came on all circumcised believers and he baptized them all.

c) Personal Question.  My answer:  Unbelieving family members

Conclusions:  I LOVED Acts 8: 30-31 “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.  “How can I,” he said (the Ethiopian eunuch), “unless someone explains it to me?”  Awesome!  I am so excited BSF has embraced such a goal.  I wish other churches and bible studies would be as effective.  Explaining the Bible so we can understand and when we understand we can do better, be better, and share the gospel as Jesus instructed.  Great stuff!  Sometimes I wonder if my church has this at its heart when it’s mission statement is to bring others into a growing relationship with Jesus.  I think they forget the growing part of it and just focus on accepting Jesus and then you’re on your own.

This was a rough lesson for me in many ways.  Question 8a once again challenged my thinking on what is righteousness (something I’m still trying to get a grasp of in my mind).  Romans is such a key passage in all the Bible that I’m still struggling to get.  I had to read about the inner and outer courts to make sure I understood why Jesus was so upset and make sure I had it straight who eunuchs were in the Bible.  It took me two days to do this lesson.

I’m not for sure how Exodus ties in here (since no question points to it) besides to make the point of keeping the Sabbath holy and how Isaiah repeatedly stated if foreigners keep the Sabbath holy, then they are accepted by God.  I’m assuming this is for emphasis and to show its importance to God.  Therefore, it is a requirement to be accepted by God in the Old Covenant as Isaiah records in Isaiah 56.

End Note:  Traditionally, eunuchs are castrated males, usually slaves turned into servants who serve for a king and tend his harem of women so no adultery can occur.  They also attend the king as well.  Castration was also a form of punishment for rape in ancient China.  It was also used for religious purposes.

Biblically speaking, the term eunuch could have referred not only to castrated men but also to a male official or confidant.  The Hebrew word had both meanings.  The context must be taken into account to get the full picture.  Here, I’m thinking Isaiah is referring to the castrated male since no one with imperfections could enter the inner courts (which included those cut–Deuteronomy 23:1).