6/21/2016

Isaiah 40 questions

Theme:
  • Chs.1-39 is Trust: the Basis of Servanthood.
  • Chs. 40–55 is Grace: Motive and Means for Servanthood, for trusting God.
    • Ch. 40 is the intro.
    • Ch. 41–48 is part A, Motive.
    • Ch. 49– 55 is part B, Means.
Most students of Isaiah agree that ch. 40–55 were written to the Judeans exiled to Babylon after the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. Some, doubting that Isaiah could have written this ~150 years in advance, think that an anonymous prophet, a devotee of Isaiah, wrote it about 550 B.C. The book makes no reference to this. It seems to want its readers to believe that it is all the work of Isaiah. What might be God's possible reasons for inspiring Isaiah to do this?
Who is your God?
  1. The God of Comfort (1-11).
  2. The Incomparable God (12-26).
  3. The God Who Makes Man Fly (27-31).
Questions:
  1. (40:1–5) What attitude requires encouragement? Why would the exiles be experiencing this emotion? What might some of the questions the exiles would be asking? What encouragement does the prophet offer here? How would these be encouraging? [Comfort" is not a good translation. The idea is to encourage, strengthen.]
  2. Compare 40:3 to Mark 1:1–3. In that light, to what are 40:3–5 referring? How does that event fulfill these promises? Compare also to the promise of 7:14. What do these verses say about Yahweh's desire to deliver?
  3. (40:6–11) If the goal here is encouragement, how could 40:6–8 be understood as encouragement? Compare the final clause of 40:5 with the final clause of 40:8. What is the point of this repetition?
  4. Jerusalem (Zion) and the cities of Judah (9) have been destroyed. How can they be the heralds of deliverance? And to whom are they speaking? What is the good news Jerusalem is to declare (10–11)? What are the two different uses of "arm," and how do they relate to the message of good news?
  5. (40:12–26) What is the expected answer to the rhetorical questions in 12–14? What is the point? [In the myths the gods were always taking counsel with one another to decide what to do (40:13–14).] Relate 40:15–17 to the points made in chs. 13–23.
  6. What is the point of 40:18–20 (46:1–7)? Of 40:21–24? Who is Yahweh being compared to here? How is he different?
  7. Who is Yahweh being compared to in 40:25–26. [In paganism the stars are considered to be the visible representation of the gods. "The Host of Heaven" is an expression for "the gods."] What do 40:12–26 say about Yahweh's ability to deliver?
  8. (40:27–31) Relate these verses to the theme of trust. What do these verses say about Yahweh's intent to deliver?
Notes and questions adapted from John Oswalt.