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6th May

Isaiah 65-66; Psalm 121

Bible in a Year
7 minutes
In this article
6th May

Isaiah 65-66; Psalm 121

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. Those that do will become a nation of priests that lead others to God.

Isaiah 65-66

We start with another contrast between the wicked and the faithful. God points out that he has been making himself available, but people have not been seeking him. Instead, he looks out and sees people making offerings and sacrifices to other gods. Because of this, God will pour out on these people the consequences of their actions.

Near the end of grape harvesting season, a farmer will often find clusters that have dried up or gone sour, and then other clusters that are still good for wine. It would be foolish then to destroy all these clusters, as some of them are useful. In the same way, God will no longer destroy all the people because there are still some that are faithful to him. Those people he will set up in his city and provide for. But those who haven't sought him he will allow them to face their own destruction.

We then get a contrast between God's servants and the unfaithful. Because ‘servants’ is plural here, we can trust that it means everyone that is faithful, not just the servant we talked about in Isaiah 49-55. The faithful servants will eat, drink, and rejoice, while the wicked will go hungry, thirsty, and be put to shame. The wicked will cry out in pain, and their names will be cursed, but the faithful will sing with gladness and be given a new name.

Then God declares a new creation; a new heaven and a new earth. In this new creation, there will be rejoicing, and God's people will be blessed with a long life. They will be fruitful, producing plenty of food and having many children. In this new earth there will be peace, where even the animals are able to lie down together without fighting.

And so we come into a final stretch ending with where we started this section, what is expected to enter this new kingdom. God points out that everything on the earth belongs to him. He doesn't need a temple. But he does want a people who are humble.

He's not interested in those who practise abominations. In short, people who bring sacrifices to God pretending to be holy, when inside they are just as bad as those who do horrendous things like offer pigs (pigs were often associated with the worship of other gods). Those people he will punish, along with people who refuse to listen to him.

But those who remain humble and listen to God he will protect, even as he is destroying those who aren't. He then encourages his people that all that he has promised will happen. This will not be like a mother who spends nine months being pregnant to only find out she can't have children.

If anything, he will do the miraculous and bring forth this child, this new kingdom, before the earth even starts labour. It's unclear what is meant by this, but the message is simple. God will definitely do what he has promised, and he will do it in a miraculous way. And so he encourages his people to rejoice, because he will bring them great peace and will be like a mother to them.

Then, to end, God declares that he will come with fire. He will bring an end to the wicked and their worship of foreign gods. Once that is done, he will bring all nations to himself, and all the different nations will come to worship God. The ultimate fulfilment of what God promised to Abraham. Through Abraham's descendants, God will bless all nations.

And then the book ends on a warning. In that time, God's people will look out from the city and see the corpses of the wicked who have been punished. Another simple message; make sure you are one of the people looking out from the city, not one of the corpses outside.

Isaiah served as a message of warning to those before the exile and a message of hope to those after. It explains why everything that happened to the Israelites happened, and showed God in control through it all. It points forward to a future time when all nations will submit to God. This will come about through a descendant of king David, who will reign as king and a suffering servant, who will be hated but will take on the sins of many so they can experience salvation. And the way to participate in this new kingdom is to live a life of obedience, pursuing justice and righteousness.

Psalm 121

This psalm isn’t attributed to anyone in particular, but is named as a psalm of ascent. These psalms were sung by worshippers as they ascended to Jerusalem for the three pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Festival of Weeks, and Festival of Tabernacles) or possibly by the Levites as they ascended the steps of the Temple. Psalm 120-134 are all psalms of ascent.

Psalm 121:1-2 - My help comes from the Lord

Psalm 121:3-4 - The Lord does not sleep

Psalm 121:5-6 - The Lord provides shade

Psalm 121:7-8 - The Lord will keep you

In Psalm 120, the psalmist was trapped in a foreign land far from God. Now they seem to be on the move, looking around for the source of their help. Hills and mountains were common dwelling places of the gods, hence why initially they look there. But then the psalmist confirms that their hope come from ‘the Lord, who made heaven and earth.’

This Lord, ‘who keeps Israel’, does not sleep. As his people travel towards Jerusalem, he will be able to watch over them as they walk and as they sleep. He protects them by providing shade from the sun during the day, and cover from the moon at night. The Lord is the one who keeps you from evil and protects your life.

This psalm is a reminder to God’s people that he watches over them throughout their journeys. As the people travel from afar towards Jerusalem, they will likely be reminded of how God brought them out of a foreign land and through the wilderness to green pastures. In geographic areas where you would not typically expect gods to have authority, like the wilderness, the Lord is still watching and in control, protecting his people.

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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