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2nd May

Isaiah 52-54; Psalm 119:97-128

Bible in a Year
7 minutes
In this article
2nd May

Isaiah 52-54; Psalm 119:97-128

Bible in a Year
7 minutes


So far in Isaiah, we’ve read through the first half of Isaiah focused on the judgement and future hope of Jerusalem, the nations, and then judgement on Israel's leaders, for here they put their trust.

Through these different preaches and visions, we gathered a series of images. 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.

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.

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.

Then we started the second half of Isaiah, written to the people after the exile, giving them a new hope. It was God that led the other nations to do what they did, not those nations' own strength of own gods. God was always in control and will lead his people to flourish again. As God leads the foreign nations against each other, ultimately he will still see all nations brought under his authority, worshipping him.

We got the introduction of someone God calls ‘my servant’, saying, "I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations." (Isaiah 42:1). This servant will be despised by Israel but is to be a covenant to God's people, loyal to God. This servant is contrasted with Israel, who is described as a blind servant because the continue to reject God. We got imagery of God divorcing Israel, but will one day restore them to himself.

Isaiah 52-54

Today continues the message that God’s wrath over his people is over. God's salvation is now here. Zion will once again be strong. It will once again be clean and pure. No longer will they be oppressed by the likes of Egypt or Assyria. We then get a poem speaking of how beautiful 'are the feet of him who brings good news' (Isaiah 52:7). This may seem odd, but Isaiah is creating this image of one rushing back to Jerusalem to tell them that their God has not forgotten them, but is coming back to the city himself, as their new king.

The words 'Good news' are the same words that the New Testament use for the 'Gospel'. Both here in the Old Testament, in the New Testament and in the culture, this term for 'Good news' was used to declare the new reign of a king. So with this good news, the messenger tells the people of the city to make themselves pure and trust that God is once again going to protect and lead them.

God then turns back to his servant for the third time. He declares that he will exalt his servant. There was a period where many were disgusted by him, but there will be a time when all kings and nations will be astonished and listen to him. But before that, this servant had to suffer.

He came from humble roots and was not much to look at. He was despised and rejected by men. In his suffering, he carried our sorrows and our sins. In doing so, he brought us peace and healing. He allowed himself to suffer, to die for the sins of others, and to be buried an innocent man. But this all happened to because it was God's will. Because of God's righteous servant, many will be considered righteous.

We've mentioned it before that there's people that want to claim this servant is God's people Israel. They've been through a time of suffering, and God is now exalting them back to their original place. The problem with this is whenever God speaks to his people, Israel, he doesn't speak too highly of them. He focuses on their disobedience and his faithlessness. On their sin. Yet when he talks about his servant, his servant is obedient, faithful, and righteous.

It makes a little more confusing because a lot of this section of Isaiah is written in the past tense, so it’s tempting to look backwards to find who he could be referring to. But prophets have a weird sense of tense. They spend their time in visions of the future, so from those future perspectives, it looks like the past, when it's still to come. It seems to me that this servant is a future figure who will be oppressed and hated, but will be obedient all the way to death because there is something in his suffering that will bring righteousness to others.

And then we're back to Zion. God calls out to his city like a woman who has been grieving because she could not bear children. Remember, to not be able to have children was considered a curse, the opposite of blessing. God calls to Zion this barren woman and encourages her, he will pour out blessing on her so she may have children. The blessing will be so great she will have to make a larger tent to fit all her children. God calls his city back to him to once again be his wife.

We read a little while ago that God divorced his wife because she had been unfaithful (Isaiah 50:1) but now we see the marriage restored. God is calling his bride back into an intimate relationship with him, all the while declaring how much he loves her. It’s going to be great. God will restore the city with great walls and gates, filled with precious gemstones. He will teach the new children and they will be righteous, a holy people. And he will protect his people. No one will oppress them again. No one will attack them or destroy them. Everything will be good.

Psalm 119:97-128

We are continuing on with Psalm 119. This psalm isn’t attributed to anyone in particular and falls into the category of wisdom psalm. Each stanza has eight verses each, and each verse within a stanza starts with the same letter of the Hebrew alphabet. With twenty-two stanzas, we have a different stanza for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. In many ways, this psalm can be seen as the A-B-Cs of Biblical wisdom.

Psalm 119:97-104 - Mem (מ): Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day

Psalm 119:105-112 - Nun (נ): Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path

Psalm 119:113-120 - Samekh (ס): I hate the double-minded, but I love your law

Psalm 119:121-128 - Ayin (ע): I have done what is just and right; do not leave me to my oppressors

Stanza thirteen (Psalm 119:97-104) again focuses on how much the psalmist loves the Lord’s laws and commandments. Because the psalmist has spent all their time meditating on the Lord’s teachings, they now have more understanding than their teachers or others much older than they are. The psalmist has kept from evil to better follow God’s way. They can do this because of the understanding they now have to see evil and avoid it.

In stanza fourteen (Psalm 119:105-112) the psalmist talks about how the word of the Lord is like a lamp to their feet. Whether they are struggling with health, or avoiding traps laid by their enemies, the psalmist knows where to place their feet because of God’s commands. The psalmist does their best to live by this guidance and is their joy to do so.

The psalmist spends stanza fifteen (Psalm 119:113-120) reflecting on those who don’t hold to the Lord’s commands. There are those who are double-minded. Who claim to follow the Lord, but don’t know him or his ways well enough to do so. Meanwhile, the psalmist hides in the Lord’s teaching for safety. They see evildoers as a blocker to keeping God’s commands and so wants nothing to do with them. While the Lord holds the psalmist up for his faithfulness, he spurns the wicked and those who turn from his teachings.

Then, in stanza sixteen (Psalm 119:121-128), the psalmist talks more about the struggles and oppressors. The psalmist has held to God’s teachings, so they now ask that the Lord keep them from their oppressors and from the wicked. They have waited patiently for God’s salvation, but now their eyes are failing them. Therefore, let the Lord rescue his servant with love, giving them understanding and punishing those who have breached God’s commands.

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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