Judgment and Hope (Isaiah 66)

Scripture Text:

Isaiah 66

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1. What is one of the most beautiful churches or cathedrals you have ever seen? What emotions did it evoke as you walked in? As you joined in the worship service?

2. Before the exile, the temple of Jerusalem was viewed as the proof of God’s dwelling in the midst of Israel. The returning exiles were anxious to rebuild the temple that had been destroyed by the Babylonians. Hence, what is the significance of verses 1 and 2 as God’s final word to the people? What would they mean to you as you signed on to work in the temple reconstruction program?

3. Verses 3 – 6 indicate that the exiles looked forward to being able to resume offering the sacrifices commanded under the Mosaic law. Why would God choose to disavow their cherished temple practices at this time? How does this relate to the warnings given much earlier (see Isaiah 1:10 -17)? What does Isaiah warn them again at this point?

4. The image of a mother is used here (verses 7 – 13) to describe the new Jerusalem and the Lord given birth and nursing their respective children. This contrasts with an earlier picture of Zion as barren (chapter 54:1) and with our usual view of God as Father. Who are these sons and daughters? Are they the same ones as in Isaiah 49:18 – 22? Or as in Isaiah 60:4, 5? Why do you think so?

5. What does the image of God as mother convey about the renewed relationship God will establish with these people (in Question #4)?

6. Verses 14 – 18 and 24 focus on God’s judgment. To whom is this directed (verses 17, 18, 24)? What is God’s purpose in ending this book with this final warning?

7. Throughout Isaiah, God’s ultimate concern has been for all nations. How does that come to its final expression in verses 19 – 22? Looking at a map, in what directions will God’s representatives be sent? (Note: Tubal was an area near the Black Sea.) Why? How is this prophecy to be fulfilled (see Ezra 6:8, 9; Matthew 24:30; 28:18 – 20; Acts 1:8; Revelation 21)?

8. In your background, what religious traditions do you especially value: Communion? Certain holidays? Certain mode of baptism? Saying the creeds? Special type of building? The Scriptures? Other? How important are these things to you now?

9. How would you feel if you were suddenly forced (or asked by God) to stop practicing these traditions? How would you feel if, like the sons and daughters in this chapter, you were once again free to do so?

10. When have you found yourself focusing on the forms of worship and missing the reality of what it’s all about? What is worship all about (verses 2 – 5)?

11. What might help public worship become more in line with the ideal? How does your private worship compare to the ideal? What have you found helpful in cultivating a spirit of worship?

12. Although normally God is pictured as a father, Isaiah has used feminine images to describe God (see also chapter 42:14; chapter 49:15). What does the picture of God as mother tell you about the type of relationship God desires to have with you? What shades of meaning does it represent to you that seeing God as a father does not? In what way do you need to be drawn close and comforted by God as your mother now?

13. What types of people do you find it hard to reach out to or care about? Why? What does the final vision (of the glory of God being declared among the nations) say to you about the loving purposes of God for those hard-to-love people? How might you reflect that love for them this week at home? In your work place? In your church? In your community? What hope is held out that such efforts are blessed?

Additional Note:

We have reached the end of our study of the book of Isaiah!

Each section (or the book as a whole) is a powerful message. Isaiah outlasted four kings, but he finally offended one beyond repair. King Manasseh (notorious for practicing infant sacrifice) found Isaiah’s words too much to bear. Tradition records that he had the prophet killed by fastening him between two planks of wood and sawing his body in half.

 

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