“You have to question the intelligence of someone who worships a god he made in shop class. … Put away your idols, show God some respect!” (MR, 98) 1. Ancient Israel’s spiritual reality
2. Ancient Israel’s political reality: • They are surrounded by three superpowers. • Assyria to the north, • Babylon to the east, • Egypt to the south. • They are always a small nation. Then they divide into two even smaller nations! • How to survive???
“There is a chicken named Judah. This unlucky chicken happens to live in a cul de sac where its neighbors are an alligator, a lion and a coyote. Assyria Egypt Babylon Israel
Judah the chicken would like to go on living. Who should he trust to save him? • the lion; • the alligator; • the coyote OR • Almighty God?
“As naïve as it may sound to you, the answer is actually D. The chicken should trust God. And do you know why? Because God is the only choice WHO DOESN’T EAT CHICKEN!” Mark Russell, God is Disappointed, p. 97-8
Israel and Judah routinely ignore this advice, and make unwise alliances with their powerful neighbors. Eventually the northern kingdom is eaten by the alligator/Assyria. The southern kingdom is consumed by the lion/Babylon. The prophets of Isaiah speak into this mess.
“(The book of Isaiah is) …a large and comprehensive gathering of messages that were preached to the ancient people of Judah and Israel. … Poetry, watercolors, melodies, a symphony!” (Eugene Peterson, The Message)
This “Salvation Symphony” has three movements: • Messages of Judgment 1 – 39 • Messages of Comfort 40 – 55 • Messages of Hope 56 - 66
These movements roughly correspond to three time periods in Israel/Judah’s history: 1. Messages of Judgment 1 – 39 Given in the time period surrounding 722 BCE when the northern kingdom was conquered by the Assyrians and the people carried into captivity. The prophet(s) warned of coming judgment. Most of these messages are attributed to the prophet called Isaiah, and are known as First Isaiah.
Messages of Comfort 40 – 55 Given in the time period surrounding 586 BCE when the southern kingdom was conquered by Babylon and the people were carried into captivity. (722 – 586 = 136 years later) The prophets promised redemption. These messages are attributed to various authors, and are known as Second Isaiah, or Deutero-Isaiah. They tend to be our favorites (!) and are the best known of chapters.
Messages of Hope 56 – 66 Given in the time period surrounding 515 BCE, when Persia conquered Babylon and allowed the Jews to return to their homeland. (586 – 515 = 70 years later) The prophets place Israel’s suffering in a much greater context. Known as Third Isaiah, they offer hope for the present and point far into the future as well, to the coming Messiah.
Any place in your life where you are feeling like a chicken? Who are your alligators, lions, or coyotes? Read the spectacularly beautiful words of the prophets in Isaiah to give you courage!
Isaiah 43:1-3 But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel:Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.