Isaiah is a story of crisis. Two crises, in fact. In the first, the Israelites are facing the threat of conquest and exile by the mighty Assyrian empire. Unlike their earlier enslavement in Egypt, this time they have no one to blame but themselves. They have deliberately disobeyed God and the prophet is pleading with them to repent before they receive the consequences of their actions. Through poems, songs, and stories, he delivers hard words to a defiant people.
But tenderness and hope are also present in the book of Isaiah. Speaking to a second crisis 150 years later, it reminds the people of Judah, exiled in Babylon, that the God who has called them is faithful, tender, and compassionate toward those he calls. God has a plan not just for their redemption and return, but for the redemption of the entire created world.
Between these historical shifts and its unfamiliar poetic forms, Isaiah can be a challenging book for today's readers. This guide will help us make sense of its parts so that we can understand the scope of Isaiah's message and its importance in the overall story of God's work. And, for a people facing our own crises, these studies will point us to the God who is still faithfully, compassionately speaking and redeeming the creation and people he loves.
The Understanding the Books of the Bible series moves groups away from a typical Bible study format into a new approach to experiencing the Bible together. Instead of following artificial chapter and verse divisions, these study guides lead groups through whole books following their natural outlines and flow. They pose engaging questions for discussion with personal implications all along the way, leading to a community Bible experience.
How These Study Guides Are Different
PART 1: THE ASSYRIAN CRISIS
Session 1 How the Book of Isaiah Is Put Together
Session 2 God Calls Isaiah to Be a Prophet
Session 3 Isaiah Describes the Birth of Children Who Have Prophetic Names and Titles
Session 4 God Accuses Israel and Judah of Injustice and Oppression
Session 5 Israel and Judah Are Found Guilty of Injustice and Oppression
Session 6 God Passes Sentence Against Israel and Judah
Chart of International Events During the Assyrian Crisis
Session 7 The Revolt Against Assyria in 734--732 B.C.
Session 8 The Revolt Against Assyria in 714--711 B.C.
Session 9 Judah Moves from Dependence on Assyria to Alliance with Egypt
Session 10 The Revolt Against Assyria in 705--701 B.C.
Session 11 Assyria Demands Jerusalem's Surrender
Session 12 God's Judgment Against Assyria and the Survival of a Remnant in Judah
Session 13 The Shadow of Babylon Looms on the Horizon
PART 2: THE END OF THE BABYLONIAN EXILE
Session 14 The Rhapsody of Zion Redeemed
Session 15 God Calls a New Prophet to Speak to the Exiles
Session 16 The Case Against the Idols of the Nations
Session 17 Mercy Triumphs Over Judgment
Session 18 The LORD's Unexpected Deliverer
Session 19 "Flee from the Babylonians!"
Session 20 The People Reject the Prophet, but God Expands His Vocation
Session 21 The Arm of the LORD Is Awakened
Session 22 The Suffering Servant Brings Salvation to the World
Session 23 God Proclaims Reconciliation to Israel and the World
PART 3: AFTER THE RETURN FROM EXILE
Session 24 Another New Prophet Calls the Returned Exiles to Justice and Hope
Session 25 The Restored Jerusalem Is Envisioned as a Beacon for the Nations
Session 26 The Prophet Prays for the Nation and God Renews His Promises
APPENDIX: The Authorship of Isaiah