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4th May

Isaiah 58-60; Psalm 119:153-176

Bible in a Year
7 minutes
In this article
4th May

Isaiah 58-60; Psalm 119:153-176

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. 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. The foreign nations are judged for their pride, oppression, and wickedness.

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 and suffer to the point of death. But this servant is to be a covenant to God's people, an offering for their sin to bring them salvation.

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. God will send one ahead of him to his people, declaring 'Good News' of their salvation. In return, they are expected to keep justice, do righteousness, keep the Sabbath as holy, and keep away from doing evil. Those that hold to these will receive salvation. Those that don't, won't.

Isaiah 58-60

God next challenges those that act like they're being obedient to him but are actually far from him. He uses the example of people who fast and then wonder why God isn't near to them. The problem is their fasting isn't out of obedience. Instead of humbling themselves, they fast out of pride to show how great they are. While fasting, they are still fighting with one another and oppressing those below them.

The fasting God wants produces people who remove oppression and free people from slavery. Who take care of the poor and look after them. It is those people that will be a light in God's new kingdom, and those people God will protect and guide. He encourages everyone listening that if they want to be like those people, take the Sabbath seriously. Don't use it as a day to satisfy your own pleasures, but as a day to draw close to God and treat it as holy.

Next we get a psalm of repentance. In this psalm, the writer recognises that it is not God who has moved away from his people, but it is the sin of the people that has kept God from them. Their sin causes them to lie and be dishonest with one another. They try to trap one another, with their selfishness eventually leading to violence. These people can know no peace, and God cannot be close to them.

Because of this, the writer recognises their own weakness. He recognises that while they may hope for justice, they are like blind people wondering around in the darkness. Their words are like the growls of animals that make little sense. And so the writer confesses his sins to God, hoping God might rescue them. The problem is no one is repenting. Everyone else is content in their sin.

God sees the lack of justice, and the dishonesty, and the fact that no one is willing to repent of it. So he pays them back for their behaviour, so they might remember God and turn from their sin. He then encourages the people that for anyone who turns from their transgression, there will be a redeemer who comes to save them. He then promises for those people he will put his words in their mouth and in the mouths of their children.

In that time, God's glory will dwell among them. It will be like a light that attracts people from all nations. These people will come from all over, and it will be a time of beauty and abundance. And these people will help rebuild Zion, God's holy city.

In the past, it has often felt like it's been God's people against the rest of the nations, and these nations have tried and succeeded to destroy the walls of Jerusalem. But here they are now, all working together to create a great a beautiful city. And those nations that are not willing to come together to build this great city will be destroyed. All the earth with recognise God's holy city. 

Those that have been hated and oppressed will be lifted up in this city. This city will be transformed to be great and holy. Its resources will be great and rich. There will be no more destruction or violence. Only salvation and praise. Rather than living by the light of the sun, the people will live directly from the light of God. Everyone will be righteous, and through their lives, the glory of God will be displayed.

Psalm 119:153-176

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 119:153-160 - Resh (ר): Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your law

Psalm 119:161-168 - Shin (ש): Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of your words

Psalm 119:169-176 - Taw (ת): Let my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to your word

Continuing on from previous stanza (Psalm 119:145-152), in stanza twenty (Psalm 119:153-160) the psalmist continues to ask the Lord to deliver them from their enemies. As a Lord is merciful and just the may he rescue the psalmist, who keeps the Lord’s law, from the wicked, who do not. The psalmist loves the Lord’s decrees because they are steadfast and righteous, so may they not fail the psalmist now.

In stanza twenty-one (Psalm 119:161-168) we read that princes, great leaders, are amongst those who oppress the psalmist. But even that is not enough to deter the psalmist. They continue to rejoice in the Lord’s word. The psalmist praises God for his commands and acknowledges that those who follow them experience peace.

The psalm ends with stanza twenty-two (Psalm 119:169-176). Here the psalmist offers themselves again to the Lord and asks that he continue to redeem them. The psalmist will cry out to the Lord and praise him. They will cling to the Lord's commands, in return ask that the Lord be with them, rescue them, and guide them.

The clear focus of this psalm has been God’s law. His teachings and decrees. The psalmist has made it clear that they will hold on to God’s teaching in the good times and in the bad times. That these teachings are a source of peace and joy, as well as justice and righteousness. They flow out of the very nature of who God is and so if we all were to live according to these teachings, then we would bring God’s nature into our communities that we live.

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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