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30th April

Isaiah 45-48; Psalm 119:33-64

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
30th April

Isaiah 45-48; Psalm 119:33-64

Bible in a Year
6 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. Yesterday 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 is contrasted with Israel, who is described as a blind servant because the continue to reject God. 

Isaiah 45-48

Yesterday we read how God encouraged his people. He was still in control, always had been, and that he had not forgotten them and will bless them.

Today we see a little of how he will do that.

God speaks to someone called Cyrus, most likely Cyrus, king of Persia, who was the one who freed the Jews and allowed them to return to Jerusalem. It was Cyrus who conquered Babylon. And so here is God summoning Cyrus, calling him to come and conquer Babylon on account of God's people, Israel.

God is using the foreign king so that all nations will know that he is God. And no one can question him. Do clay creations question the potter, or do children question their parents? (Not during this time they didn't).

In the same way, he has formed all creation and so if he wants to use a foreign king to do his bidding, then he will. This would have been in response to people arguing that there's no way God would use a foreigner, someone who doesn't even know him, to rescue his people.

God then points out that the end goal is for all the foreign nation to know him. There will be a time when the likes of Egypt and Cush (Ethiopia) come to Israel because they want to know more about God. There will always be those who cling to their foreign idols, hoping that they will save them, but it is God who created all and is God over all.

And so God calls out to all the nations, all the ends of the earth, to trust in him, because it is only in him that righteousness and strength are found. This paragraph is a double-edged sword. On one hand, it's a call to the foreign nations to come to know God. On the other, it lays out the expectation on Israel that they need to live in a way that others can see God is with them.

But still the Jewish people seem unconvinced, so God continues calls out to them to trust him. He points to the Babylonian gods, to Bel and Nebo. They need to be carried around by beasts of burden. They are an effort and a hassle to move around with you.

But God does not need to be carried. He carries his people and cares for them. He then points back to the idols. They are made of metal. They cannot move. They cannot speak. They can't save his people. Yet God is all powerful. He speaks to his people, letting them know the beginning and the end of history. He comes forward, bringing his righteousness and salvation with him. He's not stuck in place.

With this in mind, he encourages his people to remember all that he has done in their history, all the evidence that he is the all-powerful God. Know that he is God and that he is bringing his salvation.

Having declared his authority over foreign gods and idols, God turns to Babylon to speak his authority over her. First, he speaks over Babylon the humiliation that is coming their way. Second, he tells them why. While he chose Babylon to humble his people, Israel, Babylon did not have any mercy on them and oppressed them instead. They have been a hard people who love pleasure and have played with sorcery and magic. They have been proud, believing they are secure in their own strength.

So third, God lets them know that they are not secure and that he will bring evil and disaster on them for their actions. Not even their leaders or their sorcerers will protect them. There's a lesson to be learned here. Any society can fall into the trap of Babylon, where we become lovers of our own pleasure and overly confident in our own 'wisdom' and way of doing things, so they keep us from God.

Finally, God makes one last call to his people to trust in him, finishing this section of the book. He reminds them they are his chosen people, called to be a holy city. He then reminds them of how all these bad things that have happened he warned them about all the way back in Deuteronomy. They were warned that if they turned from him, they would eventually be led into slavery and oppressed. So when they still turned from him, he had to let these things happen to discipline them and lead them back to him.

He is reminding them that this was something he had said long ago, so that there's no chance anyone can argue that somehow the gods of Babylon made it happen. But turning away from the past and what has happened, God declares that he is doing a new thing. He will lead them into a new hope.

And so he calls Israel once more to return to him and listen. Listen and hear that he is God and his plans will succeed. Listen and obey so he may pour out blessing and righteousness on them, as he would have done if they had listened before. So leave Babylon now, for God's redemption has come. As he did many, many years ago with Egypt, he will lead his people out of slavery.

Psalm 119:33-64

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 119:33-40 - He (ה): Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes

Psalm 119:41-48 - Waw (ו): As the Lord loves me, I love his commandments

Psalm 119:49-56 - Zayin (ז): The words of the Lord are my comfort

Psalm 119:57-64 - Heth (ח): The Lord is my portion; I promise to keep your words

The psalmist again asks the Lord to teach them his ways. Note the importance of this. The psalmist would already have access to much of the Lord’s teaching through early forms of the Torah and other writings. But the psalmist recognises these alone are not enough. They need the Lord to bring his teachings and guidance to life. To apply it to the psalmist’s life and heart.

They ask the Lord to teach them his ways and give them understanding. To lead them in the right path and turn their heart and eyes towards the right things. All of this is because the psalmist recognises their own selfish desires could pull them away from what God says and lead them to disgrace. The psalmist wants to know that God won’t abandon them but will keep leading them back to him.

In the next stanza (Psalm 119:41-48) they as for the Lord’s steadfast love to be with them. In return, they will love and delights in the Lord’s commands. They will keep them, walk in them, and speak of them to others. The psalmist with meditate them.

Then echoing the fourth stanza (Psalm 119:25-32), stanza seven (Psalm 119:49-56) acknowledges that the Lord’s words are a comfort in times of distress. When arrogant people accuse them, or wicked people oppose them, it is the Lord’s promises that give the psalmist life. The psalmist sees God’s word as their home and place of comfort. It is because of these teachings that the psalmist has been blessed.

In stanza eight (Psalm 119:57-64) the psalmist reaffirms their commitment to the Lord. They promise to keep the Lord’s word, turning their feet to keep in step with them, and hurrying to keep them. Even when the wicked seek to trap them, or they are in the middle of darkness, they will continue to hold on to them.

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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