Scripture Text:(click to open in a new window)
Again and again, Isaiah blasts the Israelites for a superficial faith – all words and no heart. Notice that hundreds of years in the future, Jesus quoted verse 13 of today’s text. Apparently Isaiah words applied precisely to the Israelites of Jesus’ day too (Mark 7:6, 7).
1. In what part of your family heritage do you take special pride? What part is less flattering, even embarrassing, to talk about?
2. What things do you display around the house (even on your refrigerator) that you once made with your hands (out of clay, wood, metal, etc.)? Which creation do you treasure the most?
3. In calling David’s city “Ariel” (which sounds like “altar hearth” in Hebrew), what word play is Isaiah making here (verses 1, 2, 7)? What happened regularly on the temple’s altar that Isaiah is warning is mere lip service and unintelligible at that (verses 4, 13)? Who is being criticized in this mockery of the city’s unwarranted hope in their immunity from God’s judgment?
4. Although it will be the Assyrian army outside their gates, who is really encamped against Jerusalem (verse 3; also Isaiah 28:21)? How would this realization affect the city’s proud leaders (verse 4; compare also Isaiah 28:14, 15)? What might they expect to happen next?
5. Instead, what serendipity will God bring about, “in an instant” (verses 5 – 8)? What will happen, like a dream in the night, to those who have been devastating Jerusalem (see Isaiah 10:5 – 19 and 27:1; which refer to the destruction of Assyria’s army in 701 B. C.)?
6. Even though the 11th hour defeat of Judah’s enemies has been foretold, what effect will these events have on the people (verses 9 – 14)? What will the impact be, specifically, on the prophets and seers? On the uneducated? On the literate? On the wise and intelligent?
7. How do you account for why they are so unable to grasp what Isaiah is saying to them (verses 10 – 13; compare Isaiah 26:8)?
8. Verses 15 – 24 comprise another “woe” to the leaders of Jerusalem. What hidden agenda do you think was going on in their hearts or behind closed doors to bring on this woe (verses 15 and 16)? What does such secrecy show about their view of God?
9. What will be the future of these unjust leaders (verses 20 and 21)? By contrast, what will become of their victims (verses 17 – 19)? What irony do you see here (compare verses 10 – 12)?
10. What will be the net result of all that the Lord promises to do (verses 22 – 24)?
11. What spiritual high (verse 9), human rules (verse 13) or hidden agenda (verse 15) do those in political and religious circles today use to try to keep God on “their side”, regardless of what is going on in their hearts? What such rituals or routines do you see in your church?
12. In reference to Question #11a, which of these traps do you fall into at times? When was the last time you tried to sneak something past God so He wouldn’t notice? What did the “Potter” then say to the “clay”? What else would it take to break you out of such presumptuous thinking (that God the Creator is like we humans – His creation)?
13. Describe a time when God turned things around for you “in an instant” (verse 5). What were you doing at the time when you were “surprised by joy”? How did God show His love to you in a special, personal way? What does such serendipity show you about God’s grace?
14. The apostle Paul echoes Isaiah in saying that the “wisdom of the wise” (which advocates that people find spiritual reality in some other way than Christ) will perish (see 1 Corinthians 1:19). Have you found Christ to be a more reliable ally in your spiritual life than the other alternatives people turn to? Why? What does this ally do to your faith in God?
15. How has Jesus opened your ears and eyes to learn His message in a way you never could before? In what ways do you still feel like you can’t quite hear or see what’s going on in Isaiah? What hope do the promises in verses 17 – 24 give you even in that situation?