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Old Testament Survey - Lesson 21

Isaiah, Micah, & Nahum

In this lesson an overview is provided for the prophetical books of Isaiah, Micah, and Nahum.

Douglas Stuart
Old Testament Survey
Lesson 21
Watching Now
Isaiah, Micah, & Nahum

Judah:  Isaiah, Micah and Nahum

 

I.  Late Eighth Century Prophets

A.  Who is the issue?

B.  What are we dealing with?

1.  Office of prophet

2.  Divine council reporter

3.  Messenger

4.  Intercessor

5.  Preachers to the world

6.  Written prophecy - preservation

C.  Where is it all located?

D.  When?

E.  Why are they preaching?

1.  History of breaking God's covenant

2.  Yahweh treated as national god

3.  God's justice and judgement inviolable

4.  Idolatry, social injustice, class divisions

5.  Punishment of nations and individuals

 

II.  Isaiah

A.  Sample Themes in Isaiah

1.  Creation ongoing

2.  Apocalyptic concept begins

3.  Reuses Canaanite mythic themes

4.  Messiah and nation / Christ and church

5.  The council of Yahweh

6.  Advisor to the king

7.  Blessing / curse / restoration blessing

8.  All nations in plan of God

9.  God is running the show

10.  Redemption dependent on divine opportunity

B.  Overview of Isaiah

1.  Introduction

2.  Early prophecies

3.  Inaugural vision

4.  Present world vs. coming kingdom of God

5.  Oracles against foreign nations

6.  Isaianic Apocalypse

7.  Woes

8.  Judgment on Edom, joy for the redeemed

9.  Historical chapters

10.  Looking forward to Exile and need to return

11.  Zion's glory and shame

 

III.  Micah

A.  First woe / weal

1.  Punishment of Samaria and Judah

2.  Reunification under Yahweh

B.  Second woe / weal

1.  Woe on corrupt leaders and corrupt Jerusalem

2.  Complex set of weal oracles

C.  The final cycle

1.  Covenant lawsuit

2.  Weal of lament

 

IV.  Nahum

A.  This is a foreign nation oracle

B.  Nahum is a southern prophet

C.  There is the timing

D.  What are some of the emphases

E.  Overview

F.  General advice


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  • The purpose of this overview of the Old Testament is to focus on the content of each of the Old Testament books, the historical events that give context to the books, and specific questions that help draw out the overarching principles contained in the Old Testament. There is also an emphasis on identifying ways to use this material that can help people in their daily lives.

  • Genesis narrates ten stories that describe origins or beginnings. These include the origin of the “heavens and earth,” and the origin of specific families that are significant in God’s dealings with Israel and the nations.

  • Themes from selected passages in Genesis about which there are interpretations that differ greatly. These include Genesis 2 regarding creation of women and their roles, Genesis 6 about the "Sons of God," and Genesis 9 about the "curse of Ham." Other themes are the story of Abraham, and God as a punisher of evil.

  • The three major themes in Exodus are Israel's deliverance from Egypt, establishment of the Covenant and the Tabernacle. Other themes are how name repetition in a sentence is significant throughout Scripture, and how humility in the Jewish culture affects the actions and responses of many biblical characters. Exodus contains both apodictic and casuistic laws. There are also paradigmatic laws which are designed to give broad guidance for specific situations that arise. The first part of Exodus is mostly stories, and the second part is mostly a record of the laws which are the basis for how they interact with God and other people.

  • In this lesson, the concept of a covenant is defined as a legal binding agreement between two parties. In the ancient world there were many covenants. There were covenants between individuals, and even between nations. For example, a superior ruling king would make a covenant with a lesser vassal king. Covenants in the ancient near east contained the following six elements.

  • Does God punish the grandchildren for what the grandparents have done? Some people read these passages (Exodus 20:5, 34:7) and assume that they mean God punishes grandchildren based on their grandparents' sins. Unfortunately, they misinterpret these texts because they fail to understand the phenomena of numerical parallelisms. The Hebrew language favors parallelism, so that numbers which are close to other numbers will often be put in parallel to exhibit literary balance.

  • The historical books--Joshua, Judges, and Ruth--are essential reading for understanding how the bible views the progress of history. These books help us understand what the basic stages are in the progress of God’s relations with humanity. There is development, and progress in history we can refer to as epochs. This lecture provides an overview of redemptive history and a summary of the book of Joshua.

  • When discussing violence in the Old Testament it is important to discuss the concept of Holy War. This lesson does not suggest that Christians are soldiers first and nothing else since Christians are also called to be peacemakers. However, this lesson does put forward the idea that God is fighting a holy war. That is, God is seeking to promote blessing for all people by eliminating evil everywhere. The final enemy is death itself, and God is resolute on destroying evil and death. Holy war is a complex set of ideas that should be interpreted in light of the entire corpus of scripture.

  • In this lesson the extent of the conquest is discussed to frame the book of Judges. The orienting data for the book of Judges helps explain how the book recounts the decline of the people of Israel. Finally, the Dueteronomic cycle which recurs in the book is explained and helps frame Israel’s history up to the time of the exile.

  • After the division of the kingdom, 40 kings reigned during this period of the divided monarchy. Only three Kings reigned during the united monarchy—Saul, David, and Solomon. We might be able to assume the time period of the united monarch to be something like 120 years with each of the three kings reigning forty years. But the term “forty” in Hebrew means something like the English expression “several dozen.” That’s why we see the idiomatic expression “forty” so often in Hebrew literature.

  • David is a man after God’s own heart. How is this possible when he made so many moral mistakes? Being after God’s own heart does not mean David is morally upright, but that he has unwavering faith in the one true God of Israel. That is unique to David in these narratives. The narratives are clear that both Saul and Solomon conjoined belief in the God of Israel with the worship of other gods. David, however, is never portrayed as worshipping other gods or setting up altars to Idols.

  • In this lesson several key elements from the lives of Saul, David and Solomon are briefly reviewed. The rejection of Saul as King is explained. The rebellions against David are highlighted. And the disobedience of Solomon is described. Although these three kings are imperfect, God keeps the Kingdom of Israel unified throughout their successive reigns.

  • In this lesson, Dr. Stuart provides an overview of the ten types of Psalms found in Scripture, a few suggestions regarding preaching through the Psalms, and addresses how we are to interact with the hystoricizing statements within the Psalms.

  • This lesson provides an overview of the structure of Proverbs, which seems to be the most secular book of the bible. Proverbs is a book of wise memorable sayings collected by Solomon. These sayings are collected from various individuals in Israel and the Ancient Near East and serve to provide wisdom for how to live in the world.

  • There is a chiastic structure to the book of Job that begins with the prologue and ends with the epilogue. In a chiasm, the middle portion is a convenient hinge of the book, it is not necessarily the most important piece of textual material. The main question the book is asking is, where do you find wisdom? The answer is, wisdom is found in the LORD. Proverbs is monological wisdom, whereas Job is dialogical wisdom. People are debating back and forth throughout the book about the nature of wisdom.

  • This lesson briefly describes existentialism as a philosophical movement in order to frame Ecclesiastes as an ancient type of existentialist literature. Existentialism tends to argue that this life is all there is. Ecclesiastes entertains these various perspectives in the first six chapters, which serve as a literary foil, before ending with a surprise for the reader—life does have meaning because there is a God who will judge our actions.

    There is a storyline to the Song. A clue is found in the term Shulamite, which in Hebrew can be translated as Mrs. Solomon. So this is a story about Solomon marrying his wife. It conveys some of the challenges Solomon and his wife face in coming together in covenant marriage. The beginning of the book outlines their engagement. In the middle of the book they get married, and the end discusses their honeymoon. What we see in the Song is the biblical ideal of a monogamous marriage, which, ironically, Solomon failed to live up to.

  • While it is difficult to preach through the prophets it can be done well if some basic views are taken regarding the prophetic books in general.

  • This lesson provide an overview concerning three contemporaries Prophets during the period of the divided monarchy at the end of the 8 th Century BCE.

  • This lesson provides an overview of the background and content of 2 Kings.

  • Historical context is vital when one moves to reading the prophets. After Solomon’s death in 931 BCE, the kingdom of Israel undergoes an extended period of civil war as rivaling leaders take control of the northern and southern regions of the kingdom. Unfortunately, this split eventually becomes permanent. In the north the kings reigned for short periods and when compared with the southern kingdom of Judah this shows a tremendous amount of upheaval. This may have to do with the fact that the north is never ruled by a descendant of David. In addition, the north fails to worship at the Jerusalem temple, and decides instead to worship idols.

  • In this lesson an overview is provided for the prophetical books of Isaiah, Micah, and Nahum.

  • An overview of the revival under King Josiah, the fall of King Josiah, and the subsequent fall of Jerusalem to Babylon.

  • Jeremiah begins his ministry in 627 BCE. This is five years before the great revival under Josiah in 622 BCE. So Jeremiah spans the time from the Assyrian domination to the invasion of Judah by Babylon. Unlike other prophets who predicted a short exile, Jeremiah preached a long, though not unending exile. Because of this Jeremiah was not popular with the government establishment of Jerusalem.

  • Dr. Stuart provides an overview of Joel, Obadiah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah and how they each relate to end times and God’s eternal reign.

  • Lamentations is a massive, huge, compound, complex lament that seeks to help God’s people see God’s goodness in the midst of tragedy.

  • Dr. Stuart provides a brief overview of Ezekiel, his difficult message of impending judgment on Jerusalem and his uplifting message of the hope to come.

  • In this lesson, Dr. Stuart describes the characteristics of apocalyptic literature and gives an overview of the books of Daniel. Esther, and the latter half of Isaiah.

  • An overview of the background to the post-exilic books including the necessity of the temple and the role of the Persian empire in it’s rebuilding.

  • An overview of Haggai and Zechariah, the beginning of the rebuilding of the temple, the encouragement of God’s people to put the things of God first, God’s sovereignty, the need to be faithful, the nature of God’s covenant, and God’s promises being fulfilled.

  • A look at the latter days, the closing of the prophetic cannon, and the books of Malachi, Ezra, and Nehemiah.

Did you know that the Old Testament contains more than 2/3 of the text of the Bible? Did you realize that the Old Testament timeline covers thousands of years of history and tells us the stories of people whose lives still affect world events today? Are you familiar with the Old Testament prophets that describe in detail the characteristics of the Messiah and the events that happen when he comes, hundreds of years before they take place? Have you ever read the Old Testament books of poetry and wisdom literature that contain inspirational and instructional passages that we still use today to inspire, comfort and inform our lives during life events, and are ubiquitous in both classic and contemporary literary works?

In Dr. Stuart’s Old Testament Survey class, he guides you through each of the Old Testament books by giving you the historical background, major themes and insight into the stories, characters and teaching of the book. In the historical books, you will become familiar with Old Testament Names like Adam, Noah, Abraham, Joseph and David. In the Old Testament prophets, Dr. Stuart will introduce you to the lives and messages of Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and others. When you study the Old Testament books of wisdom literature, Dr. Stuart will give you insights into the teachings, structure and creativity in Proverbs, Psalms and other books in the Writings.

From the description of Creation in Genesis, to the last book of the Old Testament, the book of Malachi, the Old Testament contains stories and teachings that can inform, inspire and transform your life. Dr. Stuart’s years of training and his skill in communicating, provides you with this opportunity to study and learn from one of the best. Now it’s up to you!

You may download a syllabus for the class including the Course Outline by clicking on the link in the Downloads section. We do not have access to the notes or the 130 exam questions that he mentions in the lectures. The Syllabus is from the SemLink class that was originally offered online through Gordon-Conwell Seminary so you can see the class outline and suggested readings. The links are not active. If you want to participate in the assignments and tests and earn credit, you may contact Gordon-Conwell Seminary to find out if they still offer this class.

Thank you to Charles Campbell and Fellowship Bible Church for writing out the lecture notes. Note that they do not cover every lecture.

Course: Old Testament Survey

Lecture: Isaiah, Micah, & Nahum


I. Late Eighth Century Prophets

We now focus even more closely on the prophets that we began to talk about with this reference to Isaiah. We are looking tonight at some late eight century prophets: Isaiah, Micah, and Nahum. There is some possibility that Nahum would not have easily belong in this group. Often times you will have reference made to the eighth century prophets as mainly four: Isaiah and Micah preaching in the south and Hosea and Amos preaching in the north. Jonah is also an eighth century prophet, although not everybody would agree with that assessment, but the evidence for it is good. Likewise, Nahum appears to be preaching right close to this time period as well and is worthy of inclusion.

A. Who is the issue?

1. Assyria is the big issue because God is employing the Assyrians to fulfill the covenant curse that predicts He would give His people to their enemies if they were not faithful.

2. Also, of course, the sinful north and south are described regularly, indicted, and condemned.

3. Many corrupt institutions are involved including the kingship. It is pretty rare in Old Testament history that the nation could go bad if the kings were trying to keep it good. Usually the king has much control over the general direction of things and is also, by definition, the leader of the religion. The king is the commander and chief of the clergy; that is the way it works in the Old Testament. It is pretty hard to miss that the nation will go as the kingship goes.

B. What are we dealing with?

1. We are dealing with the office of prophet. These prophets were treated much the same way that we treat diplomats today. You cannot arrest them, you cannot imprison them, you cannot kill them; they have a diplomatic immunity. A prophet was regarded as a representative from heaven and should be given free speech and allowed to say what he wanted to say; he was supposed to be protected. It was not always so. When you see Elijah running from Jezebel, the queen of the north, that is because Jezebel is not an Israelite woman. She was a Phoenician woman. She was from Tyre, a Phoenician city, and did not hold that the prophets had a prophetic immunity and was willing to kill prophets accordingly.

2. The prophet is also a divine council reporter. 1 Kings 22 is a perfect example of that. The prophet regards himself as someone God allowed to be in on the divine council, God’s heavenly planning sessions, as it were. The place where God speaks with angels and instructs them to do his will. This is presented in a somewhat stylized way and perhaps very simplified for our purposes compared to the complexity and glory that may be involved in the actual heavenly scene.

3. What the prophet often does is indicate, “I’ve seen the future plan for I’ve been there. I’ve heard God give these instructions and I’m the one He has sent in this case.” The prophet also views himself as a messenger. We talked about that last time. He is saying what God has said.

4. We have not talked about much about the prophet as intercessor but you can see this in Moses, the paradigm prophet, the original model for them all. You can also see it in a prophet like Amos who prays for Israel. You can see it in Isaiah who is trying to help the people to understand what God wants them to know so that God’s wrath will not come upon them.

5. The prophets are preachers to the world. God is not just instructing His people, He is speaking about everybody and speaking to everybody who counts. Most of the time these prophecies delivered to foreign nations were heard only by people in Judah or Israel. It is not because God did not have a point to make about other nations. It is just that that was where people were willing to listen at that time to what He had to say.

Then it is important to appreciate that there were plenty of prophets. David had prophets like Gad and Nathan and so on, various prophets you read about at various times in historical books.

6. But now this era of classical prophecy from 760 to 460 BC includes writing. There is a deep desire to preserve what they said. The writing prophets are those who God is inspiring, not just for their own generation but obviously for all time. God is building a Scripture and through them he is helping people to understand how to live and how to think in times of great change, times of great threat, times of great danger, times of uncertainty, times of transition and so on. A lot of the prophetical materials are helpful to people in that very way.

C. Where is it all located?

It is located both in Judah and northern Israel. But, as time goes on, increasingly it is more only in Judah because there is not much to northern Israel after 722 BC. It is a memory, but it is not in actuality a nation anymore.

D. When?

These prophets that we are looking at tonight are preaching around the time of the fall of Samaria. That is the big event for Isaiah, Micah, and Nahum. It is not the only event but it is the biggest single thing.

E. Why are they preaching?

1. They are called to preach because there has been this long history of breaking God’s covenant; a long, long history.

2. Yahweh has been treated increasingly as just a national God. No longer an omnipotent God, just that national God. They have pigeonholed him now. They have got their personal gods and their clan gods; He is still their national God, but He is only that.

3. The prophets are preaching about God’s justice and judgment; a great deal about His righteousness and what righteousness is and how that is inviolable. You cannot disobey and insult God forever without His eventually doing something about it.

4. They are obviously teaching against idolatry. Almost all the prophets attack idolatry in some way or another because it was a constant temptation for the Israelites. They are concerned as well about social injustice. Why? Because what God wants is not merely that each individual to be a nice person; rather, He wants the society as a whole, all of His people, to reflect His values. If you have somebody for his own personal prophet or power misusing or abusing somebody else, that wrecks it for God, as it were. It ruins what He had in mind. It sabotages, it pollutes His purposes in having a people. We are to accomplish His will. We are to do His will on earth as it is in heaven. Social injustice is a terrible thing.

As you may know, in the history of Christianity, often there has been an emphasis on one extreme or the other without proper balance. Some people have pushed social injustice as the problem for a people and not said anything about personal morality. “Do whatever you want personally as long as the society provides proper economic and legal fairness and opportunity.” That is one extreme. The other extreme says, “Who cares what the society is like, just be individually clean and pure and live an upright life.” Both are improper extremes. There should be a balance between caring about social justice so that the whole corporate entity reflects God’s glory and caring about yourself so that you as an individual are upright and moral, as you have in Isaiah, Micah, and Nahum. Even in sins that might involve no one else, just personally, you want your thoughts and actions to be pure and noble. The balance is found there. There is a special emphasis on social justice in these prophets but plenty on personal morality as well.

One thing that was happening is this—class divisions were developing. As you can see in some of the commentaries, an economic shift was behind this. There was increasing urbanization in ancient Israel. Cities like Jerusalem and Samaria began to grow very large. There was greater wealth and greater economic opportunity there. Many people were getting off the farms and coming into the city. The minute that happens they no longer have a means to care for themselves and they are almost totally dependent on somebody else. If the people they are dependent upon are manipulative enough, they can begin to exploit them and make them work hard for not much money. So when you take people away from their access to productivity, the land, you put them at a certain kind of risk. If good people are everywhere, the risk is eliminated, but if people are evil then the risk of exploitation is enormous. One sees Isaiah, Micah, Amos, Hosea, and Nahum preaching against that kind of exploitation, the class divisions, and the rich people that grew up. One example of this is from Isaiah 5.

It was not proper for anybody to ever gain more land than his proper share. When you had a chance to buy land as in the Book of Ruth chapter 4, you bought it only from a relative; it could only be within a family and next of kin had the only right. Well, of course, that is the law. If the law is broken and ignored, anybody can buy any land and the wealthier you get the more you can wait for a bad year, bad harvest. You can go to people and say, “I’ll lend you a hundred thousand, just relax.” This person says, “I don’t need a hundred thousand.” “Oh no, let me give it to you.” You give him a hundred thousand and then you know darn well there will be another bad year soon enough, maybe three, four, five years down the line and they will not be able to make the payments. Then you go to court and you say, “So and so can’t make the payments; I want the land.” That is the way it is done. That is the practice that is described. It is said this way in Isaiah 5:8, “Woe to you who add house to house and join field to field till no space is left and you live alone in the land.” All the poor people are squeezed out by this practice of lending and foreclosing, lending, foreclosing, and violating the law. You cannot do it under the Pentateuchal law. You cannot do lending and foreclosing, but it was being done in Isaiah’s day. The Lord Almighty says, “Surely the great houses will become desolate, the fine mansions left without occupants. A ten-acre vineyard will produce only a bath of wine, a homer of seed only an ephah of grain.” That is less than you started with. “Woe to those who rise early in the morning to run after their drinks, who stay up late at night till they are inflamed with wine. They have harps and lyres at their banquets, tambourines and flutes and wine, but they have no regard for the deeds of the Lord, no regard for the work of his hands. Therefore my people will go into exile for lack of understanding; their men of rank will die of hunger and their masses will be parched with thirst.” It is talking about the class divisions, the rich exploiting the poor. It is a way of saying it in the poetry of that day. People then understood it; with a little bit of explanation we can understand it as well. It is an example of the kind of thing they preached and taught against. Class divisions as almost a subcategory of what produces social injustice.

5. There is also punishment. The punishment is not only of individuals or of nations, it is of both. In the New Covenant there is increasingly an emphasis upon the fact that everybody answers for his own sin at the final judgment. But in the Old Covenant, there was a special corporate emphasis that said, “Part of the way God works is to treat people as blocks.” If He has a people and they are mistreated by another people, that mistreating people has to be punished. It just has to happen; God is not going to allow them to get away with that. So there is punishment for the individual evildoer and also punishment for the evildoing nation. That is how the Israelites got their start as a punishing army to punish the Amorites, Genesis 15. Now it is becoming clear they are getting as bad as the Amorites. How long will it be before they get the same fate being dispossessed from their land by somebody else? That is what they have to look forward to.

II. Isaiah

Here are just some of the preachable themes specific to Isaiah. I am not running you through Isaiah teaching you everything in particular; I am just saying that as you study Isaiah through the years, here are just some of the topics, the wonderful topics, in this book.

A. Sample Themes in Isaiah

1. Creation ongoing

The idea of creation ongoing. Do not forget that for the Bible creation is a constant process from Genesis to Revelation. This is a big theme in Isaiah: new creation, ongoing creation, and God redeeming a people and making a new people for Himself.

2. Apocalyptic concept begins

Also in Isaiah begins the concept of apocalyptic. What is that? Apocalyptic means that which refers to revealed or uncovered material. Isaiah contains some material; sometimes it is called the Isaianic Apocalypse. Chapters 24 to 27 is the Isaianic Apocalypse where you have some of the kind of language that you get in the Book of Revelation. Some of the same kind you get in Daniel also, and in Ezekiel and Zachariah, other Old Testament apocalyptic books. The idea here is that, and we will talk about this much more later, it is looking through the sweep of history to grand, cataclysmic events where God intervenes in human events. There will be much more about apocalyptic after next week. We will begin to talk about some of the themes of apocalyptic and we will especially find that in Daniel, Zachariah and Ezekiel. Isaiah is the starter; he is the first prophet to be an apocalyptic prophet, a special category that we will explain.

3. Reuses Canaanite mythic themes

Isaiah even goes so far as to take some Canaanite mythic themes and reuse them cleansing them. This is a very interesting phenomenon. Back in chapter 5 there is a place where he talks about Mote, which is usually translated death, opening its jaws and clamping over the evil ones. That really is almost the exact wording that you find in some Ugaritic myths. Mote is a god of death. Death because that is what Mote means in Canaanite. He opens his mouth and swallows people. What Isaiah does is to appeal to people who are acculturated with this myth and these pagan stories, and God inspires him to use that as a point of contact but not to exceed to it. Isaiah never shows that he believes it, it is just that he takes some of the language and uses it to talk about what the Israelites have to fear from Yahweh. It is called reuse or cleansed reuse of Canaanite mythic themes; Isaiah has some of that. So much in Isaiah is messianic and particularly brilliant, I think, and this seems to me that it is never tiring to see the intricacy of it.

4. Messiah and nation / Christ and church

It is the way Isaiah links Christ and the nation of Israel. In the servant songs there are places where God says, “My servant Israel,” and you know that when He is talking about His servant it is Israel. Then there are other places where he talks about, “My servant,” and does not add the word Israel but seems to be talking about an individual; “He did this and he did that, and he suffered in this way, and that happened, with his stripes we are healed, and he was bruised for our iniquities and so on,” and you say, “Which is it?” That is exactly the question in the Book of Acts that the Ethiopian eunuch is asking when Phillip connects with him at Gaza. He says, “Who is he talking about? Is it himself or it is somebody else? Who is it, I don’t get it.” Some of these passages seem to be about a nation, some seem to be about an individual and that is the genius of it. Christ is the head of His people. His people are the embodiment of Him. So in the New Testament we talk about the body and Paul uses that analogy a lot. Paul did not make it up out of the blue saying, “I’ve got a great idea, I’m going to make Christ the head and we’ll be His body.” He got it from Isaiah. It is a beautiful thing to see that inner working.

5. The council of Yahweh

The concept of the council of Yahweh is the idea that the prophet is allowed to imagine or inspired to imagine that he is really up there in heaven listing to God make plans for the future. There is a lot of that in Isaiah, “council of Yahweh, council of God” language.

6. Advisor to the king

The prophet as an advisor to the king. That is not always evident in other cases. Other prophets may have done it. We know from the Book of Jeremiah that there were times when the king sought out Jeremiah, usually privately because he was embarrassed to be seen with this critic of his, but he would still do it. We will later see how King Josiah seeks out a prophet like Huldah for advice about the future. Hezekiah and Isaiah have a close relationship. They are talking all the time. Regularly Isaiah comes and advises the king with “thus says the Lord.” God is giving guidance to a good king through a good prophet. It is nice to see that pattern; it is an interesting picture.

7. Blessing / curse / restoration blessing

We have talked before about the blessing/curse/blessing pattern, but Isaiah shows it everywhere. You can really see that. The blessing up until the exile, then exile, the curse, and then the restoration blessings better than ever, far beyond anything yet experienced or even imagined.

8. All nations in plan of God

All nations with a place in the plan of God. You might say, “Oh, come on, really?” Yes, there are a number of themes like that in Isaiah and it is really quite nice to see it. I do not think I have an example to give you. But there are several places where that is a theme.

9. God is running the show

The fact that God is running the show, Israel is not going to fall until God does that and will not return until God causes that.

10. Redemption dependent on divine opportunity

Redemption is dependent upon divine opportunity. This is quite a theme to preach. How are the people defeated, beaten by the Babylonians, sent into exile, how are they going to rescue themselves? What are they going to do, military techniques? No. Political techniques? No way, they have no political clout. Economics? They are in slavery, in exile virtually. What is going to happen? The answer: God is going to provide the opportunity. In the case of Isaiah He provides it specifically through a named individual. What Isaiah does is actually to predict specifically that Cyrus, by name, will come and do some wonderful things. When Isaiah said it, probably everybody who heard it said, “Who, what did he say, who was that?” But he actually predicted long before the event a Persian king who would destroy the empire that was the empire in Isaiah’s day. In Isaiah’s day it was Assyria. They did not know anything about the next empire, the Babylonians, and the empire after that, the Persians. They knew that there were Persians and they knew there were Babylonians, but they could not predict history, but Isaiah does. He basically says, “Well, here is how it’s going to go,” as God inspires him to be able to say it. The Servant of the Lord idea which I have talked about and Christ embodying that zionism, the hope of heaven. Isaiah is a big booster of the concept of Jerusalem as heaven. Remember that we have this theme developing all the time. “When you get into the promise land,” God says in Deuteronomy 12, “I’ll have a place where I’ll cause my name to dwell. I’ll have a place where I make contact with you, where you will be close to me and I will be close to you.” The temple symbolized that, but the temple was located somewhere and that was Jerusalem. In Isaiah you have lots of themes about Zion, Jerusalem, and the importance of getting there. Everybody will come to Jerusalem in the final days. Everybody will be there. He is transforming the idea of Jerusalem from that of just a particular city in Palestine to this concept of where God is and where all the people who are righteous want to be. When you then see at the end of the Book of Revelation all of this wonderful stuff about the city of Jerusalem coming down out of heaven, where all the people will live who are redeemed, it is following right off of what Isaiah predicts. Then forgiveness of sins. We all ought to preach the forgiveness of sins. Do not forget that. People need to hear that or there is no hope. Nobody can do it other than by confessing sins and accepting forgiveness. It is a great theme to preach and emphasize for people.

B. Overview of Isaiah

I am quickly trying to give a feel for this big, complex book. Aside from Jeremiah, which is a little bit longer in the actual word count than Isaiah but so much simpler in structure, Isaiah is the most compound, complex of all the prophetical books. It is the biggest thing, although there is a lot in Ezekiel, too. Ezekiel is a very long book as well, but it is so simply organized that neither Jeremiah or Ezekiel are rivals to Isaiah in their complexity. I am going to take a little bit of time to try to unravel that.

1. Introduction

It starts off with an introduction against external worship.

2. Early prophecies

Then you have some early prophecies. This is part of what I read in chapter 5 for example.

3. Inaugural vision

Then his inaugural vision. This is where he is called. He sees God high and lifted up, his train fills the temple, there is the seraphs yelling holy, holy, holy, and he says, “I’m a people of unclean lips, I’m among them; I myself am one. What am I going to do?” God gives them the reassurance of the symbolism of getting his lips cleansed with a coal from the alter and so he can serve God.

4. Present world vs. coming kingdom of God

Chapters 7 to 12 emphasize what is going on in the world versus the coming kingdom of God. Look at chapter 10 for example, the Doom for Assyria. That was a big thing to say to people. Assyria was all powerful, you saw the size of their empire and yet he is saying, “Yes, they’ve destroyed the north. Yes, they’ve sopped up everything except a little bit of Samaria and that’s going soon.” Some of his prophecies reflect the time after 722 BC when all of the north was gone, just little Judah was left. Yet, he can say, “No, it is the Assyrians, ultimately, that are going right down the drain.”

5. Oracles against foreign nations

Chapters 13 to 23, eleven chapters of oracles against foreign nations. It is important to appreciate that he actually includes Samaria and Jerusalem in some of those. So just like Amos, he can define even the “chosen people” as God’s enemies. Remember oracles against foreign nations are not because God likes to say, “I hate you, I hate you, you’re going to hell,” it is not that at all. It is that God is a just God. If His promise to His people that they will get out of the oppression they are in is to be true, then there has to be suppression of the oppressor. That is what those always are. They are always saying, “You think you are so big now and you’re dominating everybody and you’re bleeding them dry and you’ve done this and that and you cruelly conquered them but the time will come when it will be the other way around.” That is what oracles against foreign nations are. They are, “You will get your just desserts. You will get your comeuppance,” as we also say in English. “You will not have this unfair advantage forever that you now enjoy over my people.”

6. Isaianic Apocalypse

Then the Apocalypse. We will talk more about that next time.

7. Woes

Then some woes against Israel and Judah for unfaithfulness.

8. Judgment on Edom, joy for the redeemed

Then a turning point. It flips, then, because you get both judgment on Edom, and by the way, interestingly, Edom is the most attacked foreign nation in all of the prophetical books. It is very interesting. That is partly because the Edomites just constantly gave the Israelites grief. We will see more about that when we come to Obadiah. Then joy for the redeemed. There is kind of a divider here in the historical chapters. But a little glimmer of joy is starting there at the end of chapter 35.

9. Historical chapters

Then you have some historical chapters that are the same as in 2 Kings where the role of Isaiah in connection with Hezekiah in connection with the great and threatening invasion of Sennacherib. By the way, this has interesting historical correlation. If you read what is going on in those chapters, you see that this great Assyrian king’s huge empire comes to Jerusalem and besieges it, surrounds it, wants to destroy it and he cannot. For a long time skeptical scholars said, “Oh yeah sure, this is the kind of stuff that they write it centuries later and make up this story about little dinky Jerusalem could resist the entire Assyrian army. Oh yeah sure.” that is the kind of historicizing you get until the annuls of Sennacherib were found. Interestingly there is an annul for 701 BC when he does, in fact, surround Jerusalem and he mentions Hezekiah. He says, “This King in Jerusalem, I bottled him up like a bird in a cage.” You might say, “What does that mean?” He says in every other thing in that same annul, “I destroyed and took captive King so and so, I put his city to the torch and so on, I broke down the walls of this and I destroyed… and I destroyed… and took captive… and took captive…” as for Hezekiah of Judah, “I bottled him up like a bird in a cage.” In other words, it is a boastful attempt to make the best of a failed attempt to break Jerusalem and the king.

10. Looking forward to Exile and need to return

There really is a dramatic shift then with chapter 40 because this material has been organized in the typical bifid fashion that so many of the prophetical books are organized in. It is the woe first and the weal second. You have the weal all put together in the second part. There are two big chunks here, 40 to 55 is looking forward to the exile and the need to return from it. So there is new Exodus language in chapter 40. In here God comes up leading His people up out of the south, nations trembling, and Zion rejoicing, and then the servant songs. By the way, that is a Moses figure. My servant suffers for and with the people just as Moses did. So Jesus is a new Moses as well as many other things.

11. Zion's glory and shame

But then another chunk of material. Some people have said, “Wow, this seems like a whole new topic,” therefore, probably from a later epoch. That really is a mistaken way to do it. That is not some new time period that it reflects; it is just a grouping of material. It is topically organized, and this is all on this tremendous emphasis on Zion.

1. Included in that, how God’s salvation is generally available.

2. How important it is that the leaders be corrected.

3. Righteous people have a good future.

4. True religion is the desire.

5. Repentance is needed.

6. God must deliver Zion, it has to be a place that is free and good to live in forever.

7. The need for cleansing from sin and faithfulness to God.

Those are great themes. You could do a long sermon series just from the last eleven chapters; they have great stuff in there. Wonderful pre-Christian prepare-for-Christian-truth kind of preaching from Isaiah. The bifid break is after 39. Another way to say it is, 1 to 35 is a block and 36 to 39 is the hinge or the divider block; we have a similar divider block in Jeremiah.

III. Micah

A quick look at Micah. Micah is kind of easy to understand in one sense because of the patterning. It is organized by three groups of woe and weal. Micah is not bifid, it is trifid; it is put together with three blocks of material. These are the woe/weal progressions that you so often see in the prophets.

A. First woe / weal

Chapters 1 and 2 start out with a woe oracle. Woe means somebody has died. So when you say, “Woe to you,” it is a way of saying, “Hey, you’re going to die.” Woe for you or woe to you means, “I’m singing your death song.” When Jesus says, “Woe to you Pharisees,” that they did not like to hear. That was not some little thing like, “I would like to suggest a problem.”

1. Punishment of Samaria and Judah

Then, woe to the oppressive nation. Who is the oppressive nation? The answer is Samaria and Judah.

2. Reunification under Yahweh

Then, weal, reunification and increase under Yahweh. God has a remedy, an antidote, a solution, and a bright future. It is possible Micah did not preach these in this order. Somebody was lead by God to organize them this way. We just do not know, it could be chronological, but do not assume that. It is obviously thematic, but is it also chronological? Most of the people have said, “if it is so obviously thematic topical in its organization, it is less likely chronological,” but it is a guess.

B. Second woe / weal

Then you have in chapter 3:

1. Woe on corrupt leaders and corrupt Jerusalem

2. Complex set of weal oracles

3. Zion

4. The Messiah and Purification. There is a lot on purification in the Prophets as they are deeply concerned with the question, How can you get right with God, how can you possibly get right with God? Look at the long history of our degeneration as a people, our idolatry, our sin, our flaws, our faults. We are going into exile, we have broken the covenant in every way you could think of breaking it. Is there really any hope? So they are longing for purification. It is wonderful when God says, “Yep, I’ve got a way of doing this, it is coming, there is a method for making it happen and you will be a pure people someday. My people will be pure.

C. The final cycle

1. Covenant lawsuit

There is a covenant lawsuit there. I think I have alluded to that before. The covenant lawsuit is something one also finds a lot in Isaiah. It is a case where the prophet is inspired to imagine Judah or Israel on trial. They have offended God; they have broken His covenant so they are on trial. Who is the plaintiff? The answer is the Lord God. Who is the prosecuting attorney? The answer is the Lord God. Who is the judge? The answer is the Lord God. Who is the warden of the prison to keep them in exile? The Lord God. So, they are not going to win this court case; there is not a chance. That is the way it works. It is really an effective kind of way of saying, “Your doom is coming, you’re in trouble.”

2. Weal of lament

Then it ends with chapter 7, a weal of lament, a kind of a lament ending with a deliverance plea and trust, assurance, and praise. Just like you learn in the ACTDAP formula of the Psalms. If you read chapter 7, you say, “I recognize that, I know that, I can see those ingredients of the ACTDAP format because it ends with a lament. What is the purpose of lament? It is not just to say, “I’m miserable, thank you very much.” The purpose of a lament is to say, “God, we need Your help. We are asking for deliverance.” That is the way the book ends. Micah knows that God inspires him to know and to make clear to the people that they need God’s deliverance. They need help; they need mercy from God; only God can do it. They cannot save themselves. They are in trouble. Only God can do it.

IV. Nahum

We wind up with Nahum and have a quick look at this guy in terms of simple structure. First an acrostic poem. Acrostic means going through the alphabet. So this starts with the equivalent of the letter A in Hebrew and then goes to the equivalent of the letter B and so on right through the Hebrew alphabet. It is about God’s majesty but also His judgment. It is very powerful, very glorious, but He is going to bring judgment for Israel. I said, “For Israel He is going to bring judgment.” I can understand that that would be just the thing that somebody would write in the wrong way. It is for Israel but against Assyria. It is very important that you understand the Book of Nahum is like one great big foreign nation oracle that comprises a whole book in itself. Remember how we saw a number of chapters in Isaiah, oracles against foreign nations. Now the Book of Nahum is like two or three chapters out of the chunk of material in Isaiah. Some of the prophets have a very limited focus, a special purpose, and that is what Nahum is.

A. This is a foreign nation oracle

Nahum is just a foreign nation oracle against Nineveh. Nineveh was the major city and functional capital of Assyria. The siege and sack of Nineveh are coming. What a thing to say. This huge, powerful, unstoppable, unbeatable, massive empire; who is going to knock them off? Who is on the horizon that could do it? It is a lot like saying, “Woe to you United States because Guatemala will someday come and take over.”

B. Nahum is a southern prophet

C. Timing

Then, finally, a description of Nineveh and a comparison with Egypt in 3:8. That helps nail down to some degree when this book might have been written. I have lumped it in with the late eighth century prophets for convenience but, in fact, that reference in chapter 3 to Egypt and its destruction must be a reference to the fall of Thebes. It mentions Thebes specifically. That is the country the Assyrians themselves knocked off in 663 BC. Then in 612 Nineveh fell to the Babylonians. That is the time frame we are in. We are really into the seventh century with this book, but I have included it along with the other two.

D. What are some of the emphases?

Many times Old Testament theologians talk about reversal language. There is a lot of reversal language. Jesus uses it when he says, “The first will be last and the last will be first,” He is using reversal language. In other words, God can just flip what we think is going to transpire, what we think is so certain and definite. He can simply turn it around. So many times the prophets will say, “Yes, here is the way it is now but God is going to turn that thing totally around so that those who are now in power will be out of power; those who are now nothing will be great and special in His plan.” That is what you have, the defeat of those who thought themselves impossible to defeat and the eventual righting of wrongs.

E. Overview

There is again the little overview that we looked at, although it is described this way: God’s righteous anger requires Him to relieve His people of their oppressor so it is for Israel against Nineveh. Remember now, Nineveh is the capital so it is really talking about the whole Assyrian Empire, not just the city. Remember that. It is just like we might say, “Well, Washington and Moscow are disagreeing; it means really the U.S. and Russia. God will cause Nineveh to be destroyed by their enemies and then finally Nineveh’s extensive wickedness gets itself into a place where there is no chance to escape.

F. General advice

Will you join me in prayer as we close?

Father, thank you for the way Your word is rich, is varied, and has a lot in it. That means that there is a lifetime of study that will always yield blessings and encouragements and information that will challenge and sometimes even amaze us. We pray that we can sort it all straight, understand it, and appreciate how we may use it for the benefit of our own faithfulness to you and to encourage the faithfulness of others. In Christ name, Amen.