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28th April

Isaiah 39-41; Psalm 118

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
28th April

Isaiah 39-41; Psalm 118

Bible in a Year
6 minutes


So far in Isaiah, we’ve read through the section focused on the judgement and future hope of Jerusalem, and the section focused on the judgement and future hope of the nations. Then  we started the section focused on accusations against Israel's leaders.

Through these different preaches and visions, we gathered a series of images. We saw Isaiah in God's courtroom, purified to be in God's presence and then commissioned to be a warning to the people that they will ultimately ignore. God was about to pour judgement on the Israelites for their wickedness and corruption. This punishment was described like God laying an axe to a tree and just a stump remaining. It was destruction intended to purge and purify.

Out of the remnant of his people, this tree stump, God would raise up a branch from the line of David, who would be king who reigned over the earth and brought peace. Isaiah mentioned a future son who would be born and who would come after the period of judgment. He would be king over, God's people, bring peace to the world, and restore all nations under his rule.

Focusing on the foreign nations, we got mention of a 'day of the Lord'. On this day, God will bring judgement, waging war on evil and wickedness. He will destroy powers that set themselves up against him, whether they be human kings or spiritual beings. These foreign nations are judged for their pride, oppression, and wickedness. Isaiah specifically mentions Babylon, Assyria, Philistia, Moab, Cush (Ethiopia), Egypt, and Tyre.

Focusing on Israel's leaders, Isaiah pointed out that the judicial leaders, the priests, and even some of those who claimed to be prophets were proud drunkards who put their trust in their own power and authority rather than God. They ignored God's principles and teachings while paying him lip service. These leaders have repeatedly put their trust in foreign nations like Egypt to save them, rather than put their trust in God. Yesterday, Isaiah worked through the example of Hezekiah and how he trusted in God rather than foreign nations when Assyria attacked and then when he fell ill.

But through these preaches, Isaiah highlights some key ideas. The Israelites are not to turn to these foreign nations for support and protection. God is in control and will use all this for his purposes. Eventually, even these foreign nations will be brought into God's future kingdom. In that time, all people will celebrate, feast, and worship God, led by a king who will bring peace and flourishing.

Isaiah 39-41

The story of Hezekiah continues, and unfortunately, he chooses to put his trust elsewhere. The king of Babylon sends an envoy to Hezekiah to congratulate him on getting better and offer him gifts. Hezekiah then shows this envoy every room in his palace, along with his wealth. This might seem like a minor thing to us, but Hezekiah is trying to impress Babylon.

By showing them all his wealth, he is trying to build a relationship with them so if Assyria comes back, the Babylonians can help fight them off. He is putting his trust in Babylon, not God. And so Isaiah comes and rebukes Hezekiah, predicting that Babylon will come and claim Hezekiah's wealth and take all his people into exile. And nearly 100 years later, that is exactly what happened.

This ends the first half of the book, which has been Isaiah prophesying God's judgement over Jerusalem, but also offering a future hope and encouraging the people to put their trust in God. The next half of the book is speaking to the people that have returned from exile, over 150 years later.

There are two ways we can read this. First, Isaiah is speaking prophetically to those people that don't yet exist. Or second, and the understanding we’ve been working with so far, is that Isaiah has passed on his teachings to his disciples, who have passed them on to their disciples. Now that the people have been exiled and then released from exile, these new disciples are taking Isaiah's message and bringing it to their new context.

Either way, the message is the same. This is the word of God to those who have been exiled and are now free to come back to Jerusalem. This second half of the book focuses on announcing hope to the people. Many of the people of Jerusalem have lost their faith in God. After seventy years in exile, they are wondering if God cares for them or if he is even as powerful as he claims. So the writer focuses on declaring this hope to the people and reaffirming for them how great their God is.

The writer starts this section with a simple message. Be comforted, because God is coming. Yes, people and nations have come and gone, but God and his word stand forever. He will once again return to Jerusalem, to Zion, and be a shepherd to his sheep, to his people. This is such a great message to a people that have been through some dark times. Take courage and be comforted, because God is coming and he will be with you and care for you.

The writer then gives us three paragraphs on the greatness of God, each one starting with a series of questions. The first paragraph opens with asking if anyone has ever been able to measure God? Has anyone ever taught him or advised him? The writer then answers these questions by comparing God to the nations. These great nations are like a drop of water in a bucket or a grain of sand compared to God. Who is like God? In comparison to God even the other gods are just idols, bits of wood covered in gold.

The second paragraph opens with the simple question 'do you not know?' The thing the people do not know is God's authority to lead. It is him that sits on high, far above any king or prince. Who can compare with him? The writer encourages his reader to look up at the stars, because their God can call out each of the stars and name them. That's how much authority God has.

The third paragraph asks why the people say that God cannot see them and that God does not care. The writer encourages the people that this is not a god who grows weary or bored. Instead, he is the God that gives strength to the weak.

Next, God himself speaks to his people. He reaffirms his own authority, that not only kings but the land and the coastlines obey his voice. He reminds the people he chose them when he chose Jacob and Abraham. They are his people, and so they need not be afraid. God is with them. God will strengthen them. They need not be afraid because he will turn their fear into joy.

He will transform nature, tearing open rivers and fountains to provide water, and turning desserts into vibrant gardens, so that the people can enjoy his blessing.

God then challenges the gods of the other nations. He tells them to bring their proof and state their case before God. But they cannot do anything. Their idols are worthless. God was the one that brought enemies from the north. God was the one to rescue his people and give them good news. He looks around to see what the other gods are doing, and there's no one. They are all delusions. Empty object of wood or metal.

Psalm 118

This psalm is not attributed to anyone in particular and falls into the category of thanksgiving psalm. It was likely sung during the Passover as the people enter into God’s presence.

Psalm 118:1-4 - A call to thanksgiving

Psalm 118:5-9 - Personal testimony of deliverance.

Psalm 118:10-14 - Declaration of trust in God

Psalm 118:15-18 - Thanksgiving for victory

Psalm 118:19-29 - Entering through the gates into the house of the Lord

The psalmist opens with a call to ‘give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever!’. Israelites should thank him, priests (those of the house of Aaron) should thank him. Really, anyone who fears the Lord should thank him and declare his faithfulness and love.

The psalmist then gives their personal testimony of deliverance. In their struggle, they called out to the Lord and he answered. With the Lord on their side, they do not need to fear. Putting their trust in the Lord is greater than any trust they could put in fellow humans or kings.

Even if all the nations came against them, buzzing around them like bees, the psalmist’s confidence is in the Lord that he will deliver them. Because of this, the psalmist sings songs of victory. The right hand of the Lord is strong and will protect them. Even when the Lord punishes the psalmist for their mistakes, the Lord still cares for them.

And so the procession begins to enter into God’s presence starting with the gates. Open up the gates so that the psalmist and all those who are righteous can enter and give thanks to the Lord. They can give thanks because the Lord is their salvation. He is a God that takes the things that humans see as useless and builds them up.

Because of all this, the psalmist and others come and praise the name of the Lord. They recognise that they are blessed because they get to enter into God’s house, his presence. He is their God and his loving faithfulness lasts forever.

Psalm 118 is one that is picked up by many of the New Testament writers to talk about Jesus. Jesus is the one who won a victory. He is the one that was rejected by humans, but God lifted up. It’s through him that we may now enter and celebrate, giving thanksgiving and praise to God.

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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