Ahaz, King of Judah (2 Kings 16)

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2 Kings 16

Surprise! Another post about King Ahaz. Today’s text is a bit more specific about what he did to the Temple in Jerusalem. King Ahaz actually figured large in the histories of Israel and Judah. When Israel threatened his kingdom of Judah, he purchased military aid from Assyria. In response, Assyria obliterated Israel and made Judah a virtual puppet. Worse, Ahaz copied (literally) the pagan religions of his conquered territories, even to the extent of sacrificing his son in the fire (verses 3 and 4).

1. How photographic is your memory? Once seen, always filed? Overexposed? Out of focus? Needs developing?

2. When did you purposely copy someone else’s dress? Hairstyle? Homework? Recipe? Did they get credit?

3. What new standards for sinning does Ahaz set (verses 3 and 4; see also Leviticus 18:21; Deuteronomy 12:2; compare Exodus 13:1, 2, 11 – 13)?

4. Why does Israel join Aram in attacking Judah (verses 5 and 6; see also Isaiah 7:5 and 6)? Why does Rezin do when he can’t take Jerusalem?

5. What is Ahaz’s strategy for repelling Aram and Israel (verses 7 – 9)? What has Isaiah warned him about (see Isaiah 8:6 – 8, an event which took place in 732 BC)?

6. Why do you think Ahaz meets with Tiglath-Pileser after he defeats Aram (verse 10)? Why does Ahaz want to copy the temple in Damascus (verses 11 and 12)? Who is Ahaz’s accomplice in all his schemes?

7. Who consecrates the new altar? Is he qualified? What will it be used for? What’s wrong with that (see Deuteronomy 18:10)?

8. What “deference to the king of Assyria” is going on here (verse 15 – 18)? What symbols of his royal power is this vassal king handing over to the Assyrian?

9. How do you determine acceptable modes of worship? Ar some modes unusual but not a great problem? Are some dead wrong?

10. Are you in any alliances that pang your conscious from time to time? How should you handle these?

11. No one held King Ahaz or Uriah the priest accountable for doing things against the Law of God. How do you respectfully call those in spiritual authority to account when they err? How can it be done gracefully?

12. Where do you go for guidance? How does guidance come? What guidance do you need in this moment?


A Prophecy About Tyre (Isaiah 23)

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Isaiah 23

1. Tyre was the main city of Phoenicia, a prosperous trading country on the Mediterranean Sea. What role did Tyre play in the economy of surrounding nations ((verses 1 – 3)? What was the city like before the events of this prophecy (verses 7 and 8)?

2. How do you feel when introduced to one far more powerful and wealthy than you? Why do you react that way?

3. What loss would be most devastating to you and why:

  • your home
  • your business
  • your ability to communicate
  • your car

4. Ships of Tarshish were capable of sailing to the ends of the known world. What message was given to their sailors as they were returning home? How did this message affect Tyre’s trading partners?

5. Isaiah may be anticipating here one of the Assyrian attacks upon Tyre (about 705 – 701 and 679 – 671 BC), or its final destruction by the Greeks (about 332 BC). In either event, whom does he credit with planning the downfall of Tyre, the king-maker? How is God’s control over the kings and nations evident (verses 9 – 12)?

6. Babylon, the symbol of strength and prestige in the East, was beaten by Assyria in 710 BC and again in 689 BC. What effect would recalling the destruction of both Babylon in the East and Tyre on the West have on Judah as they faced the Assyrians? What would the associate with the “70 years” (verse 15)?

7. In what sense will the Lord “deal with” Tyre (verses 17 and 18)? What will happen as a result of Tyre’s restoration? How does this compare with what Isaiah said of Egypt and Assyria (Isaiah 19:23 – 25)? Since verse 18 has never happened literally, what is the figurative meaning behind this passage? What does it imply about God’s plan for the world (see Revelation 18:3)?

8. Chapters 13 – 23 reflect upon the foolishness of Judah depending upon alliances with the other nations rather than upon God to protect her from Assyria. What do you see as one implication of that loyalty principle for your life today? To what or whom have you looked to fill that God-shaped insecurity in your life?

9. If Babylon represented the height of the world’s culture, and Tyre the apex of its wealth, how would you use Isaiah’s message to challenge people dedicated to power and money? Does this mean power and wealth in themselves are wrong? Why or why not? How does this passage serve as an ongoing warning to the church in every age? To your church in particular?

10. How does the promise in verse 18 (see also Isaiah 19:23 – 25) relate to Jesus’ promise in Matthew 5:5? How would you picture the hope stirred up by these pictures and promises? What specific action will you take to embody that hope for a reconciled world loyal to God?


Prophecies Against Babylon, Edom and Arabia (Isaiah 21)

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Isaiah 21

1. What scary theme recurs in your dreams? Car accident? War casualties? End times? Other? How do you feel when you wake up from a bad dream?

2. When have you been a lookout?

3. What might these three prophecies refer to historically? Explain your answer.

  • the temporary defeat of the Babylonians by the Assyrians (in 710 and 689 BC)
  • their ultimate defeat by the Persians in 539 AD
  • both of the preceding options or
  • primarily that “fall of Babylon” associated with the end times

4. In Isaiah’s day, Babylon sought allies among the other nations (including Judah – see Isaiah 39) to help her resist Assyria. Why is that a faulty, even fatal hope?

5. How does this “dire vision” affect Isaiah? Why is he so upset? What does that show you about him?

6. Though verse 5 may refer to events just before an Assyrian attack, compare it as well with Daniel 5:1 – 30. What were the leaders of Babylon doing the very night of their final overthrow?

7. Why post a watchman (verses 6 – 10)? If Judah in Isaiah’s day hoped that Babylon might protect them from Assyria, how would they react to the news “Babylon has fallen” (verse 9)?

8. Dumah, invaded by the Assyrians when they came against Babylon, was an oasis on a major trade route to Seir (Edom) and an ally of Babylon. In calling the watchman (Isaiah?) regarding these events (verses 11 and 12), what are the Edomites really asking? What’s behind their question? And Isaiah’s puzzling answer?

9. In reference to Question #8, how do you think Edom responds to this divine call in verse 12b (see Isaiah 34:5 – 15 and the book of Obadiah)?

10. What are the Arabian cities of Dedan and Tema told to do (verses 13 and 14)? Which fugitives (or refugees) are they to care for? From verses 16 and 17 (also Jeremiah 49:28 – 33), what does the future hold for Arabia (Kedar)?

11. How might these three prophecies affect Judah’s sense of hope as they consider the Assyrian threat? Why do you think God revealed these things to Judah?

12. What “Babylon” are you betting on to shelter you from the uncertainties of life? Knowing that such temporal security will be swept away (like Babylon), how do you feel? What can you do to fill that God-shaped void of insecurity?

13. When Isaiah envisions a suffering Babylon (even though it was a direct judgment by God), he is moved with God’s compassion. What model does that give you for how to respond to the sufferings of others? Does television or social media help you identify with the sufferings of others, or does it harden you against it? Why?

14. Babylon’s leaders feasted and partied, unaware of their impending doom. Is that typical of people under God’s judgment? How will the fall of this Babylon typical of the final judgment on human pride (Revelation 18:2ff)? What is the lesson for you regarding in whom or what you trust?


Judgment Against the Nations (Isaiah 34)

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Isaiah 34

1. What do you associate with the following words: war? massacre? meat slaughter house? Red Cross blood drive? Hospital surgery?

2. What’s the bloodiest thing that’s ever happened to you? What does the sight of lots of blood do to you? Have you ever fainted?

3. If special effects recreated the cosmic and gory scenes depicted here for a movie, what would God’s anger look like? Feel like?

4. As music director, where would you place the drum roll? The crescendo? The discordant notes? The resolution?

5. Why is the Lord this angry with “all nations” (verse 2; see also Isaiah 10:5 – 19, for the example of Assyria)? What modern political and military leaders does that example bring to mind? What is Isaiah’s purpose in doing so in such graphic detail?

6. How is God’s vengeance related to His saving purpose (verse 8; see also Isaiah 35:4)?

7. Edom (traditional enemy of Judah) represents all the nations as an object lesson here. What is the object lesson meted out to Edom for having refused to willingly offer sacrifice to the Lord (verses 4 – 7)?

8. After making them give their own blood in sacrifice to Him, what will the resulting population and landscape be like for Edom (and all nations under judgment)? Are these images meant to be understood literally, figuratively or both? Explain.

9. How do you feel about God after reading this passage? How might you feel if you read it from the viewpoint of an oppressed person reflecting on the fact that justice would one day overtake your oppressor?

10. What do you think it would mean to have the “measuring line of chaos” and the “plumb line of desolation” stretched out over your country (verse 11)?

11. How would you explain God’s justice to someone if there was no prospect of judgment? How is His wrath related to His love? What does it mean to you that God will fight this hard to save you?

Additional Comment:

Hey everyone. Isaiah’s book includes many references to nations and leaders of the day. Perhaps more than any other prophet, Isaiah had a deep sense of history. In fact, he wrote an account of the life of King Uzziah and a record of the rulers of Israel and Judah (see 2 Chronicles 26:22 and 2 Chronicles 32:32). Although neither of these books has survived, this book that bears his name gives a blow-by-blow analysis of all the nations of his time.


An Oracle Against Damascus (Isaiah 17)

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Isaiah 17

1. What experience (if any) have you had with harvesting? What fascinates you about what grows in your garden and in the fields, and what retards or kill that growth?

2. Whereas the previous two prophecies were dated about 715 B. C., this one refers to events of 735 B. C. (when the norther kingdom of Israel was allied with Aram/Syria) against Assyria (see chapter 7). Comparing verses 1- 3 with 7:4 – 9, what will be the future of Damascus and Israel (Ephraim)?

3. What do verses 7, 8 and 10a imply about Israel’s spiritual condition during this time (see also 2 Kings 17:7 – 18)? Since Israel still worshiped the Lord (as well as other gods), what does mean to “have forgotten God” (verse 10a)?

4. Verses 10 and 11 refer to a pagan fertility rite whereby plants were force-bloomed in hopes of persuading the gods to bless the harvest. How will this practice backfire on Israel?

5. What does the farmer’s image of harvesting and gleaning (verses 4 – 6, 9 – 11) mean for the cities of Israel? What will be the result of this destruction?

6. What does sailor’s image (“raging sea”) and the desert image (“chaff” and “tumbleweed”) mean for the future of “many nations” (verses 12 – 14)? What does such imagery mean for the future of Israel?

7. Where else have you seen Israel’s powerful enemies so quickly cut down, as in verse 14? How is this depicted in 10:28-34 and 37:36, 37?

8. In this section, God is described as the Maker, the Holy One, the Rock and the Savior. Which of these aspects do you tend to forget? What leads you to do so? Instead, what do you find yourself trusting in? What practices can help you remember God and live out your life accordingly?

9. Compare verses 12 and 13 with Psalm 2:1 – 6. What truth about God emerges from these descriptions?

10. How might the story of Jesus calming the sea (Mark 4:35 – 41), together with the image of verse 13, affect you as you face a world full of confusion and tumult?