The Suffering and Glory of the Servant (Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12)

Scripture Text:

Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12

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1. When you were growing up, who was the kid in school who everyone picked on? Why? Did you join in? How do you feel about that now?

2. In what circumstances might you consider giving up a body organ or even your life for another person?

3. This is the last of the four “Servant songs” (see Isaiah 42:1 – 7; Isaiah 49:1 -6; Isaiah 50:4 – 9). If all we had were Isaiah 52:13 – 15, what would you imagine happened to this one that so many were appalled by?

4. The songs in chapters 42 and 49 indicated that the servant would “be a light to the Gentiles”. How is that idea communicated in the opening lines of today’s passage?

5. If you had grown up next door to “the Servant”, how would you describe his childhood to a newspaper reporter who interviewed you about him (Isaiah 53:2, 3)? How does that contrast with God’s perspective of him (Isaiah 53:2a)?

6. If all you knew about the Servant’s adult life was summed up in Isaiah 53:7 – 9, what would you assume must have happened to him? How does this relate to the picture of the servant in Isaiah 50:6?

7. What was the purpose of the Servant’s suffering (Isaiah 53:4 – 6)? What was the nature of his suffering? What benefits come to others because of his suffering and death?

8. How do you account for the paradox between his death (verse 9) and his seeing the “light of life” (verse 11)?

9. Verses 7, 10 and 12 use sacrificial imagery to speak of the Servant. How does that make his death more than a mere martyr’s death?

10. The New Testament freely applies this song to Jesus (Matthew 27:38, 57 – 60; John 1:29; Acts 8:32 – 34; 1 Peter 2:22, 23). From this song, how would you explain to someone else the meaning of Jesus’ death and resurrection? How does it bring reassurance to you of God’s forgiveness and love?

11. The apostle Paul applies Isaiah 53:1 to the ministry of the Christian (see Romans 10:16). How have you experienced rejection from others because of your faith? Has obedience to God ever left you feeling “cut off from the land of the living” (verse 8)?

12. Does knowing of God’s approval give you courage to serve, even when others turn against you? How so?

Additional Comments:

Chapter 53 has a statement of Christ’s suffering (verses 1 – 3), after which that suffering is set forth as vicarious (verses 4 – 9) and victorious (verses 10 – 12). Because of this sacrifice, salvation can be offered (as we will see next week in Isaiah 55).

If you are familiar with the words of Jesus and the New Testament writers, you will find a multitude of references to and quotations from Isaiah 53. You may have also observed in the four Servant songs (passages), that the Servant is sometimes spoken of, sometimes spoken to and sometimes speaks of Himself.

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The Cup of the LORD’s Wrath (Isaiah 51:17 – 52:12)

Scripture Text:

Isaiah 51:17 – 52:12

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1. Drawing either upon personal experience or empathy for others, what is one of the most unpleasant things about being drunk?

2. Who is responsible for making Jerusalem drunk (chapter 51:17 – 23)? What would such a portrait of herself teach Israel?

3. What six things does Zion need to do to change this picture (chapter 52:1 and 2)? What does each mean? What is God going to do to change it?

4. This section continues the long poem begun in chapter 51:1. Whereas in chapter 51:9, God was called upon in awake, who is called upon in chapter 51:17 – 23?

5. What has been the effect of God’s punishment upon the people? What promises are given to them now? Why is God’s anger turning upon the Babylonians (see chapter 45:5 – 7)? What does this judgment show about God?

6. In the third “awake” section (chapter 52:1 – 10), what promises are given to the exiles?

7. What have the watchmen been faithfully saying? What will be their reward for this? Who are the watchmen?

8. The rulers of Egypt, Assyria and Babylon only saw themselves as working to build up their power, yet they were actually accomplishing God’s plan to reach all types of people. Do you think it is legitimate to view political movements and upheavals in our day from a similar perspective? Why or why not? What examples might you use as evidence for your position? What cautions need to be observed?

9. What does the apostle Paul say about the “beautiful feet” of verse 7 (see Romans 10:14, 15)? When you share your faith with others, what image fits best?

  • messenger clicking your heels with joy
  • messenger dragging your feet
  • operator of the travel booth just passing out information
  • doomsday prophet

10. If your “feet” were judged in a “Gospel beauty contest”, how would they appear? full of warts? well-calloused? smelly? shapely?

11. When have you sensed and conveyed real joy and peace in witnessing? How could you share more of the “good tidings” of the Gospel next week?

12. When is it helpful for a non-Christian to be confronted with a portrait of how He appears to God? When might it be harmful? What can we learn from this passage about proclaiming the Gospel?

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Everlasting Salvation For Zion (Isaiah 51:1 – 16)

Scripture Text:

Isaiah 51:1 – 16

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1. Who is your favorite Bible character? Why? When do you find the most encouragement from that person’s biography?

2. Chapters 51:1 – 52:12 are an extended poem, summing up God’s intent for the exiles. How is their current situation like that of Abraham and Sarah (verses 1 – 3)? Since Abraham was old and Sarah was barren, why would God use this example for the exiles?

3. If verses 1 – 3 were meant to give hope to the exiles, what would verses 4 – 6 do for them? What effect will their deliverance have upon the other nations? What does this indicate about God’s purpose in restoring Jerusalem?

4. Compare verse 6 with Genesis 15:5. How does the “starry” lesson of the exiles compare with that of Abraham? What does this stress about God?

5. How are the people here (verses 1 and 7) different from those addressed in chapter 48:1 – 4? What effect should the heavenly vision (verse 6) have upon these exiles as they face their oppressors (verses 7 and 8)?

6. Who is speaking in verses 9 – 11?For what nation was Rahab the nickname (see Isaiah 30:7)? To what event is the speaker referring? What does the speaker mean by calling upon God to “do it again”? What effect would recalling this event have upon the exiles?

7. What words or pictures are used to describe what the exile felt like to these people who loved God (verses 12 – 16)? How would you sum up God’s message to these people? What would that word do for you if you were a discouraged exile?

8. When has God’s promises seemed to you like mere words? At those times, what forces seem to be stronger to you than God? When you felt like that, how might the faith of Abraham (who waited 25 years to see one child born) encourage you?

9. If you were an exile, what would it mean to you that God’s promises are more enduring than the stars or the earth around you? How might meditating upon the lesson of the stars give you a new perspective on the problems that you face today?

10. When feeling discouraged, what event in your personal history can you look back upon and call on God to do again?

11. What promises of God especially encourage you to keep on following Him even when things get hard? Why do they mean so much to you?

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