Tag Archive: exile


“The Story” Quiz

The Story logo

After a long study it is good to follow-up with a test. How many of these can you get right? There could be some prizes for the winner. Try not to use any resources unless you have given up. I’ll be posting answers to the test next week

Kings

1. Who held the final reign over the united monarchy of Israel which ended in 931 BC?

2. Who was the king by whom all other kings were measured?

3. Who is the king that lacked the wisdom of his father Solomon because he rejected the advice of the elders and split the kingdom?

4. Who is the evil king of Israel that set up Baal worship and even sacrificed his firstborn son in the rebuilding of Jericho?

5. Which king became king of Judah at twelve years old and perpetrated horrific evil, including shedding innocent blood, star worship and idolatry in the temple?

Prophets

1. Which prophet did God tell to marry an adulterous woman as a lesson on Israel’s unfaithfulness?

2. Who is the greatest of writing prophets that helped King Hezekiah thwart Sennacherib’s Assyrian threat?

3. Who promised that the Shunammite woman would have a son whom he later raised from the dead?

4. Who was the last Old Testament Prophet and said that Elijah would come before the great and dreadful day of the Lord?

5. Who is the prophet that was the shepherd of Tekoa and warned Israel to prepare to meet her God?

Locations

1. After fearing for his life, what mountain did Elijah flee to where the Lord spoke to him in a gentle whisper?

2. Which mountain did Elijah call down fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice to defend God against Baal?

3. What capital city of the Persian Empire did Mordecai live when King Xerxes took Esther as queen?

4. What city became the capital of the Northern territory of Israel?

5. What is the name of the place Jeroboam placed a golden calf, installed priests, offered sacrifices and instituted a new festival to mimic authentic worship and hold onto his power?

Exile

1. Which Babylonian King destroyed Jerusalem in three sieges and took thousands captive?

2. Which young Judean nobleman was put in charge of the province of Babylon after correctly interpreting the king’s dream?

3. Who reigned over Israel when they were taken captive by Assyria?

4. Which prophet was already in exile when he warned Judah of coming doom for their unbelief?

5. Who was reigning over Judah when he and ten thousand Judeans were taken prisoner to Babylon?

Home Again

1. Who prophesied that Judah would be in exile for 70 years and then return to the land?

2. Which King of Persia issued a decree allowing the people to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple?

3. Which festival celebrates God’s deliverance of the Jewish people from Haman’s attempted genocide?

4. Which leader is credited with rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem?

5. Which prophet did the people obey who warned Zerubbabel to get back to work on the Lord’s house?

Teachings of Jesus

1. Which parable did Jesus use to explain what it means to love one’s neighbor?

2. Which parable did Jesus use to explain different people’s responses to the gospel?

3. Which parable did Jesus use to explain why he has compassion for sinners?

4. Which long teaching of Jesus began with many “blessed” and came to be known as one of his greatest sermons?

5. Which Pharisee did Jesus teach the need to be born again of the Spirit to enter the kingdom of God?

Signs and Wonders

1. What was Jesus’ first miracle that reveled his glory?

2. Who’s 12-year-old daughter was raised back to life?

3. What items did Jesus feed the 5000?

4. What are the names of the sisters that witnessed their brother being raised to life?

5. Which disciples healed a man lame from birth and were then arrested?

Notable Quotes Who said,…

1. “Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!”

2. “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called Son of God.”

3. “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

4. “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”

5. “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”

Book of Acts

1. Who was the author of Acts?

2. On which festival day did the Holy Spirit come upon the disciples?

3. Who was the first Gentile to receive the Holy Spirit?

4. Which apostle went to Samaria to preach the gospel there? (Hint: you should recognize his name)

5. Which prophet did Peter quote when he explained their speaking in tongues?

Church on Mission

1. Where was Paul’s home base church that sent him out on his missions located?

2. Which city did Paul and Silas share the gospel with their jailer and his family?

3. Which couple did Paul stay with during his year and a half in Corinth?

4. Which city did Paul spend more time building a church than in any other?

5. Which island was Paul shipwrecked for months while on his way to Rome?

When it comes down to it these are all facts that you may remember or you may not. My prayer is not that you have memorized some facts or have all the knowledge of the world, but I hope God’s story has moved the foot from your brain to your heart. It is sometimes the hardest distance to overcome.

What has been the most memorable part of “The Story” for you? What are the areas that you have a hard time taking out of your head and believing them in your heart?

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Daniel in Exile (Bible Study)

Dark-Days-screen-one

Recap of Chapter 18-

Judah’s best and brightest were deported to Babylon when Jerusalem was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar’s armies. Daniel and his trio of friends were among their ranks. King Nebuchadnezzar introduced them to their new homeland by enrolling the four young men in his exclusive three-year “How to Live Like a Babylonian” Training Academy.  Students were lavished with food and wine from the king’s table and invited to enjoy the cosmopolitan pleasures of the world’s most sophisticated city. Daniel and his companions graciously resisted. They asked for vegetarian meals so they could stay faithful to Jewish dietary laws. The king’s official worried that their meager diet might leave them pallid and weakened, but God blessed their choice with academic success and physical stamina. They flourished and the ruler of the world’s greatest empire took notice.

The king awoke one morning having been greatly troubled by a dream.  He demanded an explanation of its meaning from his wise men and also expected them to tell the dream itself as a guarantee of accuracy.  Failure was no big deal except for the accompanying death sentence.  The request was impossible, of course, except that God revealed both the events of the dream and their meaning to his servant, Daniel.  Nebuchadnezzar had dreamed of a four-layered statue.  Its head of gold represented Babylon’s might.  The remaining layers of silver, bronze and iron symbolized world empires that had not yet risen to power.  Daniel’s interpretation satisfied the king and saved his life and the lives of all the magicians and wise men in the kingdom.  King Nebuchadnezzar promoted Daniel to ruler over Babylon, made high-level officials of his three friends, and worshipped Daniel’s God.

This devotion, however, was only temporary, as the king’s advisors played to his pride.  He built a gold statue in his own honor, and all were commanded to bow down and worship at its feet. Daniel’s three friends, Meshach, Shadrach and Abednego, were faced with a grim choice: idolatry or death. They refused to bow. The king was enraged and ordered them to be thrown into a fiery furnace. They defied the king’s last chance order and chose to remain faithful even in the face of death. The fire was stoked, the young men were bound and thrown into the inferno. An astonished king watched a fourth man join them as they walked unbound and unharmed through the fire. And once again the king praised their God.

Nebuchadnezzar was succeeded by Belshazzar.  King Belshazzar threw a grand party using the holy goblets they had stolen in the raid of Jerusalem’s temple.  The LORD sent him a mysteriously written message that appeared on the wall of the banquet hall.  The king was terrified…for good reason.  Daniel explained that the message said the king would soon meet his Maker.  That same night the Persian army invaded Babylon.  Belshazzar was killed, and Persia became the silver layer in the statue King Nebuchadnezzar had dreamed of years before.

The new king, Darius of Persia, gave Daniel a promotion. Daniel’s rivals were jealous and plotted his death. They deceived Darius into signing an irrevocable decree forbidding prayer to anyone except the king. The penalty was a single night stay in a cave of hungry lions. Daniel responded by doing as he had always done; he knelt and prayed.  Of course, the king’s officials felt “duty bound” to bring such dangerous activity to the king’s attention, and Darius was forced to throw his trusted servant to the lions. So the king spent a restless night and rose in the morning to find that Daniel was safe and sound in the lions’ den.  And the great King of Persia worshipped Daniel’s God.

While Daniel, his friends and the other exiles were kept in Babylon during the seventy years of captivity, the prophet Jeremiah carried out his duties in the ravaged city of Jerusalem. Jeremiah sent a letter of hope to the captives reminding them that God would one day bring them back to Jerusalem and encouraging them to prosper even as exiles in a foreign land. Daniel had done just that. He watched the rise and fall of kings and kingdoms and remained faithful. In the great Upper Story of God, Babylon had been a detour rather than a destination.

Exiles in Babylonia

Jewish Exiles living in a new land

Who is Daniel?

Little is known about Daniel’s family background except that he was likely from a royal family and of noble birth (Dan. 1:3, 6).  He lived at least until the third year of Cyrus, 536 BC (10:1).  Therefore he was likely to have been around 15 or 16 when he was taken captive to Babylon.  That would make him about 85 years old in Cyrus’ third year.

Daniel was not a prophet in the traditional sense.  He did not preach publicly to the Israelites before or during captivity.  Nevertheless, Jesus refers to him as a prophet (Matt. 24:15).  He was a prophet in the sense that he received God’s inspired message and revealed the truths that God showed him.  His stellar character stands out in both his words and deeds.  While one could argue that he authored the words about himself and therefore they could be biased, his contemporaries confirm his exemplary character.  Ezekiel, who was a contemporary exile to Daniel, wrote of his righteousness (Ezek. 14:14, 20).  He was grouped with Job and Noah who stand as heroes of the faith.

Faithful Living in a Foreign Land

Dietrich Bonhoeffer knew the cost of discipleship from his study of the Scriptures.  He authored a book by the same name wherein he wrote, “Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate…Costly grace is the kingly rule of Christ…it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him…Above all, grace is costly because it cost God the life of his Son.” (The Cost of Discipleship, trans. R. H. Fuller, (London:  SCM Press, 1959) 36-37). This Lutheran pastor and seminary professor studied the Scriptures diligently, meditated and prayed daily, discipled young men in seminary, and spoke around the world.  But more than that, Bonhoeffer’s life choices expose the depth of his commitment to Christ.  As a young man in his twenties and thirties, he sought reformations in the German national church.  He repudiated its blatant neglect of the gospel and he resisted the influence of the Nazis.  In the early 1930’s, he studied at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer knew the cost of discipleship from the life choices he made.  Discipleship was more than an academic pursuit for Bonhoeffer.  In June of 1939, he knew that war was imminent so he accepted an offer from them to return there to teach.  He knew, however, that his place was in Germany.  So a month later, he returned to Germany to actively resist the cruel power of the Nazi regime, to boldly lead the underground Confessing Church movement and to fight against evil.  He was arrested in April of 1943.  A year later, on April 9, 1944, the 39-year-old Bonhoeffer was hanged in a concentration camp in Flossenburg, Germany.  Three days later the camp was liberated by Allied forces.

In a 1942 letter to his closes friends he wrote, “Who stands firm?…Only the one for whom the final standard is not his reason, his principles, his conscience, his freedom, his virtue, but who is ready to sacrifice all these, when in faith and sole allegiance to God he is called to obedient and responsible action:  the responsible person, whose life will be nothing but an answer to God’s question and call.”  Yes, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a 20th century martyr faced the hangman’s noose for living out his faith.  And his question remains for all time—Who stands firm?

He was not the first man to face death for standing firm in his faith.  Daniel and his three friends faced death for their faith in God and for resisting the worship of foreign gods.  Together they teach us a valuable “how-to” lesson in faithful living in a foreign land.

I.     Daniel in Exile

A. Daniel did not choose to become a captive to the Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar.  There were many things that Daniel did not choose, but rather were chosen for him.  He was taken captive as a young man of probably fifteen or sixteen years of age, based on him still living through the whole seventy year captivity.  His circumstances as a young man of nobility in Jerusalem dictated that he be taken in the first siege but also that he be groomed in the foreign palace to serve the king.  We have to marvel that this young man who, so firmly grounded in his faith, prospered against great odds without the slightest hint of ethical or religious compromise. Daniel serves as an excellent case study for faithful living in a foreign land.  He was an A.L.I.E.N.

Associations:  Daniel developed a close community of like-minded faithful friends.  Together they committed to resist the king’s food and strong drink.  Although the four were exiles, they were treated to a life of luxury and privilege.  They were not enslaved in the traditional sense.  Together they resisted the lure of unlawful luxuries. Their relationship with one another was especially important during their time of transition from Judah to Babylon. Together they refused to bow down to the golden idol.  Together they faced the fiery furnace.  When Daniel was promoted, he asked that his friends also be promoted to positions of influence.  Their friendship served to strengthen their faith and their resolve in the face of temptation and persecution.

Live Peaceably:  Daniel and his friends chose to live peaceably in Babylon.  They used a great deal of tact and discernment with government officials.  When given food from the king’s table, they respectfully asked for an alternative diet and test.  Daniel used wisdom and tact when dealing with the king’s commander and Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.  Even when the decree was issued that forbade Daniel to pray to His God, he peaceably went to his room to pray as usual.  He lived peaceably under various kings and even kingdoms.

Identity:  Immediately after Daniel and his friends were chosen for the king’s academy of Chaldean Culture, the commander assigned them new names.  Their Hebrew names all reflected devotion to God in some way.  Daniel’s name means, “My judge is God;” Hananiah’s name means, “Yahweh has been gracious.”  Their new names were associated with Babylonian gods.  By changing their names from the Hebrew God to the Babylonian gods, they would be seen as under the control of the new gods.  This ancient practice would have encouraged these young men to assimilate themselves into their new culture and separate themselves from their former Israelite culture.  The Babylonians could impose outward changes, but they could not change the inward identity of these young men.  They held fast to YHWH and grounded their identity in Him.

Engage:   While Daniel and the others could have refused to participate in the social and political life in Babylon, they did not.  Instead, they fully engaged in life where they were exiled.  Though aliens, they did not keep to themselves in small Israelite enclaves.  They became more than fully functioning members of society—they became leaders in a foreign land!  They were leaders under various regimes and prospered through the knowledge, wisdom, skills and favor of the LORD.

Non-negotiables:  Daniel chose his friends wisely.  He lived peaceably in a foreign land.  He maintained his identity as a man of God all the while recognizing and respecting the governmental authorities placed over him.  But he also knew what was non-negotiable.  He and his friends refused to bow down and pay homage as ordered by the king.  They faced death in the fiery furnace and the lion’s den for their faith.  These men had been compliant, cooperative servants of foreign kings but were now persecuted for their religious practices.  They would not break the Law by bowing down.  They knew the LORD could rescue them from the flames and the feline, but they did not have a guarantee that He would.  They stood firm anyway.

II.  Exiles on Earth

A. Is there an application for us, the Church?  What do we have in common with Daniel and the three friends?  The New Testament writers remind us that we are also “foreigners.”  The author of Hebrews recounted the faith of Abraham and Sarah who lived as aliens in the land of promise but were looking for the city whose architect and builder is God (Heb. 11:9-10). They confessed that they were strangers and exiles on the earth who desire a heavenly country and because of this, God is not ashamed to be called their God (Heb. 11:13-16). Peter wrote to those “who reside as aliens” to abstain from their worldly lusts (1 Pet. 1:2, 2:11-12).  Paul wrote to the church in Philippi that “our citizenship is in heaven,” (Phil. 3:20) and our blessings are heavenly (Eph. 1). We have been raised up and seated with Him in the heavenly paces (Eph. 2:6).  Yes, Church, we too are aliens.  Therefore, we can model our own lives after the ALIEN Daniel.

Associations:  We were never meant to go at it alone.  God created us to live in community with one another and the Church is the Body of Christ.  We are to be members of one Body and therefore responsible for and in harmony with one another (1 Cor. 12).  Believers are called to love one another to demonstrate to the world that we are disciples of Jesus (Jn. 13:34-35).  We are to be devoted to, honor, accept and admonish one another (Rom. 12:10, 15:7, 14).  We are to serve one another, be kind to one another and be subject to one another (Gal. 5:13, Eph. 4:32, 5:21).  As Christians, we want to encourage one another and build one another up (1 Thess. 5:11).  We are to bear one another’s burdens and correct and restore our fallen brethren (Gal. 6:1-2). Our Christian community is necessary for a vital relationship with Christ!  Choose your associations carefully so that they will help you stand firm in your faith.

Live Peaceably:  Christians are called to be subject to our governmental authorities and to be peaceable and considerate of all mankind (Titus 3:1-2).  Though we are aliens in this world, we are in this world and should represent Christ to the unbelieving world.  Paul wrote to the believers in Rome and encouraged them to live peaceably there.  “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men,” (Rom. 12:18).  How much more, then, should we strive to live peaceably with other believers!  Paul corrected the Corinthian believers who were splintering into various groups (1 Cor. 1). Moreover, our homes should be marked by peace.  We should strive to have peace in our marriage, with our children and with our extended family.

Identity:  Like Daniel, our identity is in Christ Jesus.  We reside in a “foreign land,” but our identity should remain tethered to Christ.  Believers are all sons of God by faith in Christ (Gal. 3:26) and therefore clothed in Him (Gal. 3:27).  We have be sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13).  In Christ, you are complete (Col. 2:10).  We resist becoming conformed to the world by the ongoing renewal of our minds as we live as life sacrificed to the Lord (Rom. 12:1-2).

Engage:   Engage wherever you are!  Engage in the social, political and daily life of the community in which God places you.  While Israel was and is a nation, the Church is not a nation in the traditional sense.  We are scattered throughout a neighborhood, a city and the world.  Some Christians are in prisons while others are in positions of great power and privilege.  Prosper there.  Practice good citizenship.  Participate in the political process that shapes our city, state and nation.  Some Christians withdrawal from the world to protect themselves from its defilement.  Jesus did not live that way.  He engaged His community.  Adaptation is not synonymous with conformity.  We can become leaders in our communities and workplaces. What better way to change a business, a school, a neighborhood or a nation than to be an engaged “foreigner” whose character is trustworthy, neither corrupt nor negligent like Daniel’s (p. 212). Jesus did not ask the Father to take us from the world, but to protect us from the evil one while we are here as aliens (Jn. 17:15).

Non-negotiables:  We have to know what our non-negotiables are and stand firm in our faith for them.  As we become fully devoted, mature followers of Christ, we identify those things for which we are willing to be persecuted.  These may interrupt living peaceably, as it did for Daniel.  They may interrupt your work or your relationships.  But that takes us back to our A-associations.  Through the support of our Christian community, we gain the extra support to stand firm in our non-negotiables.  As ALIENs in this world, we have to know what is and is not negotiable, what is and is not worth sacrificing for, perhaps even dying for.

Daniel and the three faced dreadful consequences for their faith.  Christians all over the world continue to face persecution today.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s question must still be asked—Who stands firm?

What about the Western Church?

How would we stand up for Christ under the threat of death?  In August of 2006, FOX news reporter Steven Centanni and his cameraman were kidnapped in Gaza by Palestinian gunmen.  They were forced to convert to Islam at gunpoint before they could be released.  Persecution still exists around the world.  In fact, the 20th century had more martyred Christians than the previous nineteen centuries put together.  Western Christians continue to be appalled as we experience more brazen insults and audacious acts. Atheist groups have recently been allowed to post a sign next to nativity scenes throughout the country that reads, “There are no gods, no devils, no angels, no heaven or hell.  Religion is but myth and superstition that hardens our hearts and enslaves our minds.”  How should Christians respond?  How do we live in an increasingly anti-Christian, hostile world?

The Church around the world is truly persecuted.  Here in the West, the Faith is trampled on more and more blatantly and brazenly with each passing day.  I want to challenge you to stand firm in your faith while fostering Christian empathy and action by exposing you to the dangers our brethren face around the world.  The Voice of the Martyrs is an excellent resource for downloading case studies of persecuted believers.

Read an article of a persecuted person somewhere in the world.  You can go to www.persecution.com to find some stories. This is the site for The Voice of the Martyrs. After reading the stories think about this:

  • What do suppose this person must have experienced?
  • How did this person develop such a strong faith?
  • What might you have done in a similar situation?
  • Do you know anyone who has experienced persecution for their faith?
  • What can we do to make a difference?  To support our Christian brothers and sisters?

Anguish: Jeremiah 1:4-8; 4:31; 29:1-14; 30:6

This is the portion of the study that you will need to open up your Bible and look up the passages and reflect on the questions. If you have any questions please let me know.

Having children is a blessing according to God. But childbirth, from conception to delivery, is used as a metaphor in Scripture, and childbearing is a major theme throughout the Bible. The prophet Jeremiah, who warned of the coming exile that is discussed in chapter 18 of THE STORY, compared the anguish that Israel would suffer to labor pains.  In the book of Matthew, Jesus expressed his concern for women who would be pregnant or nursing during the destruction of the temple which occurred in 70AD. Nevertheless, the anguish associated with childbirth is powerful whether we are speaking in real terms or metaphorically.

 

I.  The anguish of labor. Jeremiah 4:22-31

The scriptural references and comparisons to childbearing are interesting, but they are also important for our understanding God’s will and God’s ways.

1.  From the following passages note what the comparison or the teaching is:

Genesis 3:16

Isaiah 13:6-9

Jeremiah 4:31

Jeremiah 6:22-24

Matthew 24:3-7

1 Thessalonians 5:1-3

2.  God’s word also uses the natural to explain the course of sin in our lives through graphic detail.  We have seen this bitter truth clearly through the history of God’s people, Israel.  We should learn from their experiences.  Note the process and result of sin from the following passages.

Psalm 7:14-15

James 1:13-15

II. Labor and delivery

Jesus also demonstrated that he cared for women and children during his earthly ministry. He saw children as good. Childbirth as a good thing despite the difficulties of labor and delivery.  A natural, healthy pregnancy brings the birth of a new baby.  This is a joy and a blessing.  This natural process of life is also used to help us understand the results of faithful living.

1.  From the following passages what is the joy and blessing.

John 16:20-22

Acts 2:24-28

Romans 8:18-25

2.  What do the following passages show about Jesus’s understanding of women?

Matthew 19:13-15

Matthew 24:19-21

III. God coaches his people through their anguish. Jeremiah 1:4-8; 29:1-14; Daniel 1:3-20

Through Jeremiah, God gave warnings to Judah about their coming destruction as a nation.  He promised that, as a nation, they would experience agony that could only be compared to the pain of childbirth.   But he also gave interesting instructions about how they should carry on their lives during this time of suffering and exile in Babylon.  Although they would be punished, they would not be abandoned.

 1.  When did God choose Jeremiah to be a prophet? Jeremiah 1:4-8

2.  How were God’s people instructed to live while in exile?  Jeremiah 29:5

3.  What was God’s instruction about marriage and children?  Jeremiah 29:6

4.  How did God say they would be able to prosper even though they were in exile?  Jeremiah 29:7

5.  What does God promise about his plans for them? Jeremiah 29:11

6.  How will they be able to find God? Jeremiah 29:12-14

IV. Living above the anguish.

We still go through suffering because of the consequences of sin that controls our lives.  The passages above offer valuable insight to us as well as to the ancient Israelites.  We don’t have to be overcome by the pain and suffering of sin, even though we may experience it.  The advice God gave to His people through Jeremiah is still good advice.  Each of these concepts is also a strong teaching in the New Testament.

1.  How do we know that God has plans for us? Acts 17:26

2.  How should we live our lives? Acts 17:28; Titus 3:1-2

3.  What is God’s instruction about marriage and children?  Titus 2:3-5

4.  How does God say we will be able to prosper?  Titus 3:4-8

5.  What does God promise about his plans for us? Titus 2:11-14

6.  Why will we be able to find God?  Acts 17:27

7.  How do we know that there will someday be an end to all distress and anguish? Isaiah 9:1, 6-7

Key question:  What steps do you need to take to have victory over the sins that bring anguish into your life and that bring anguish to God’s heart?

For additional reflection:  Read Romans 1:18—2:16.

Consider the parallels in this passage to the things you have learned from the history of the Israelites—from their crossing the Red Sea until their destruction.  What sins still bring anguish to God’s heart?

What will be the result for those who choose to rebel against God as the Israelites did?

Living in Exile…I wouldn’t last!

Exile 2

This week’s reflection is written by Karen Kennedy. She has done some work on this blog in the past and I am positive you will enjoy her thoughts today.

This chapter has intrigued me.  I keep on thinking about the concept of being exiled.  I personally have known some refugees who have come to America with only the clothes on their back. They don’t know the language and our customs. Let alone, they often have left their loved ones in their homeland. I often wonder, what would I do if I was thrown out of America? How would I react? Would I be as gracious as they are? How would I feel if I couldn’t get into my car and drive to Hy-Vee? What if a Starbucks was not accessible? What if I couldn’t get a job in my vocation? How would I react?

Well, as I ask these questions, I realize that I probably wouldn’t fare well. In fact, I like my familiar comforts so much, that I would probably not last a day. Let’s face it. It would not be pleasant if we were forced to move somewhere else. The familiar sounds, tastes, friends and family would soon become a distant memory. Everything that was familiar would become unfamiliar.

However, Daniel and his three friends show me a way that I could survive—looking up and not at my changing circumstances.

Ahhh, I get it. Throughout the Bible, God tells us to not put our treasures on things that are temporary, but to rely on him.

“Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” Colossians 3:1-4

So, there is great hope in this chapter, I see a godly thread that is weaved through the scriptures—keep him at the center. Period.

Even if I were to go into Exile, an unfamiliar place, people and setting, when everything is unfamiliar I know that I have a familiar God who is with me always.

What would be the scariest thing about exile for you? What good could come from it?

The Beginning of the End (Bible Study)

Dark-Days-screen-one

Recap for Chapter 16-

For 209 years, the northern kingdom of Israel had endured one evil king after another.  Their failure to keep God’s covenant meant they would be expelled from the covenant.  They had been chosen to be a blessing to all other nations, but now they would be delivered over to those very nations.

Shalmaneser, King of Assyria, set up a puppet government for the northern tribes of Israel and appointed Hoshea as king. Hoshea was as defiant of Shalmaneser as he was of God, the true King of Israel.  He stopped paying tribute and as a result, the Assyrian army destroyed the capital city of Samaria and captured Hoshea.  The king, along with many of his fellow Israelites, was deported by Shalmeneser’s successor, Sargon II.   By resettling them throughout Assyria, God was settling His own accounts.  Idolatry, disobedience and stubbornness provoked God’s anger, and led him to expel the northern kingdom from His land.

Meanwhile, just to the south in the kingdom of Judah, godly King Hezekiah was nervously watching these world-shaking events on his northern border.  Hezekiah stands out from all of the other kings of Judah for his efforts to remove every vestige of idolatry in the land.  He rebelled against the new Assyrian king Sennacherib.  The Assyrians sent envoys, claiming that they wanted to negotiate a peaceful surrender with Hezekiah in Jerusalem.  Their reasoning was faultless: What other nation had been able to stand against the Assyrian might?  Had not God Himself commissioned them for this task?  Sennacherib’s commander appealed directly to the populace of Jerusalem, speaking to them in Hebrew.

King Hezekiah trusted in the LORD and prayed for deliverance.  The prophet Isaiah promised that God would deliver them.  What faith it must have taken to trust the prophet’s prediction!  The angel of the LORD swept through the Assyrians army as they slept.  The next morning Sennacherib’s camp was littered with 185,000 dead Assyrian soldiers.  The army retreated, and Judah was saved.

Isaiah had been called to be a prophet during the last year of King Uzziah’s life.  In a majestic vision of the LORD, he was commissioned to speak for God to turn the people of Judah away from sin and toward their God.  He warned that Judah was walking in her sister Israel’s footsteps, and therefore would reap similar judgment.  Unfortunately, he seldom found a listening audience.

The threat of foreign exile failed to curb the widespread social injustice, moral decay and religious apostasy.  Judah’s pride would be her downfall; God loved His people too much to allow their sin to go unchecked.  And although He warned of judgment, He also promised a future restoration.  When Israel perceived herself as forsaken and forgotten, her compassionate God would fully restore her.  The whole world would know that the LORD is their Savior and Redeemer.

What a comfort Isaiah’s prophecies must have been to the faithful remnant of Judah:  God’s Upper Story of redemption would triumph over the sin of His people.  Even the godliest of kings could not overcome the sin nature of mankind.  In his most memorable passage, Isaiah described a Suffering Servant, who took on was “pierced for our transgressions.”  Looking down from the Upper Story, we can see that this was a description of the true King, who would suffer for all mankind.

The Suffering Servant:  The Salvation of the LORD

When you were a kid, did you ever do a paint-by-number kit?  I discovered that now you can even do paint-by-number art online!  Why would anyone want to do a paint-by-number?  Perhaps it is because it is fail-proof.  Everything that you need to be a successful artist is provided for you—paints, brushes and a number-coded canvas to guide you.  All that is required is the time to fill in the outline so that, with time, the painting comes to life.  It is foolproof.  But it is also limited.  The paint-by-number kit has a single outcome.  Your creativity is replaced by a predetermined plan that guarantees that, when your work is finished, all who see it will know what it is and understand what it communicates.

God did a similar thing through the Scriptures.  He did not want anyone—even those with an “untrained eye”—to miss the picture He was painting of the coming Messiah, the Savior.  In every book of the Bible, Jesus is present.  In the Old Testament, He is there, but often somewhat concealed.  The Old Testament Scriptures form the outline of God’s paint-by-number portrait of the Messiah.  But when Isaiah comes on the scene, this prophet began to bring that faint framework to life.  He began to fill in the colors on the portrait of the Messiah so that no one could mistake Him.  All we have to do is catch a glimpse of the Texas bluebonnets, see the breathtaking views of the Rocky Mountains or look into the face of child to see that God is an artist.  He clearly loves joyful creativity—the duck-billed platypus is proof of that!  But He was not an abstract artist when it came to painting a picture of His Son.  He was very specific when He put the brush into the hands of Isaiah.

I.       Israel’s and Judah’s Problem

A. Isaiah began his ministry in the year the King Uzziah died (739 BC) and it extended through Hezekiah’s reign, which would make it at least 53 years.  Though never mentioned in Scripture, Jewish history records that Isaiah was sawn in half by King Manasseh (son of Hezekiah) which is alluded to in Heb. 11:37.

B. Isaiah was probably a cousin to King Uzziah which would help explain why he was so familiar with the royal court in Jerusalem and had so much influence on the various kings.

C. Isaiah 1 graphically describes the state of Judah that compelled God to speak through this prophet.

  1. Isa. 1:2 -9  Rebellion against YHWH, the Holy One of Israel.  “Alas, sinful nation, people weighed down with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who act corruptly!  They have abandoned the LORD, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away from Him.”  (Isa. 1:4)

  2. Isa. 1:10-20 Empty religion.  “Bring your worthless offerings no longer, …I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly.”  (Isa. 1:13)

  3. Isa. 1:21-31  Social injustice.  “Your rulers are rebels, and companions of thieves; everyone loves a bribe and chases after rewards.  They do not defend the orphan, nor does the widow’s plea come before them.”  (Isa. 1:23)

    1. Notice the natural progression.  Rebellion against God will inevitably lead to empty worship.  One cannot fool God.  It is an abomination to Him to worship with insincerity, to go through the motions with one’s heart filled with rebellion.

    2. Naturally, the social structure disintegrates into chaos.  Self-centered people will oppress and mistreat others; only God-centered people will seek true justice.

     

II.       Isaiah’s Point

A. God intended Israel to be a blessing to all nations (Gen. 12:1-3).  They were to be His “servant” on earth, a people through whom He would work to redeem all nations.  But they never met His expectations.

B. You need a Savior!  You, Judah, are sick with sin and desperate for cleansing.  Isaiah began to paint a picture of the “ideal servant” that soon narrowed it down to a single individual who would die on behalf of all others.  If the nation would not serve the LORD, then this Servant would.

III.       Isaiah’s Prophecy of the Death, Burial and Resurrection of the Suffering Servant, the Messiah (Isa. 52:13-53:12)

A. Isaiah has sometimes been called the “5th Gospel” or the “Gospel of the Old Testament” because he has so much to say about the Messiah.

B. This is the pinnacle of Messianic passages in Isaiah.  Some have attributed the Servant to Israel herself (she was to be a servant of God), but the contrast in 52:14 between you (Israel) and Him makes it clear that they cannot be one and the same.  The Him must be the Messiah.

C. Due to the length of this passage, it is probably best to cover each prophecy with its fulfillment.

Prophecy

Isa. 52:13

Isa. 52:15

Isa. 53:1

Isa. 53:3

Isa. 53:4

Isa. 53:4-5

Isa. 53:6

Isa. 53:7-8

Isa. 53:9

Isa. 53:10a

Isa. 53:11

Isa. 53:12b

Isa. 53:12c

Fulfillment

Acts 3:13

Rom. 15:20-21

Jn. 12:37-38, Rom. 10:16

Mark 9:12

Matt. 8:16-17

Matt. 26:67, 1 Pet. 2:24, Jn. 1:29

1 Pet. 2:25

Acts 8:32-33, Matt. 26:63, Matt. 27:12-14

1 Pet. 2:22-23

Jn. 18:11

Rom. 5:19

Lu. 22:37, 23:33

Lu. 23:34,  Heb. 9:28

IV.       Applications and Implications

A. The predictive prophecies of Isaiah strengthen my faith in an all-knowing God.

B. Isaiah described the Messiah so clearly that the people of Israel and the whole world could recognize Jesus as the One.  The prophecies fulfilled by Jesus remind me that no one else could be the Messiah.  Therefore, I should learn to trust Him more.

C. The accuracy of Isa. 53 is another excellent proof that the Bible is the inspired, inerrant Word of God.

D. These Messianic prophecies, written 700+ years before Christ, could be used to show others that the Bible is true and that Jesus alone saves.

E. Christ who was sinless paid a horrific price for my sin.

F. The saving work of Messiah was God’s plan all along to reconcile helpless, rebellious sinners to Himself.

G. He alone is worthy of appropriate honor, worship and praise.

H. Because of the work of the Messiah, believers do not need to fear condemnation before God.

I. I will not be like Judah.  I will not be rebellious; I will not worship insincerely, praying to God with sin-stained hands; I will seek and uphold justice for the poor, oppressed and weak among us.

map_captivity_routes

A map indicating the places of the exile for the Northern and Southern Kingdoms

Behind the Mask

This is the portion of the study that you will need to open up your Bible and even have a notepad near by to write down some answers or thoughts. Today, a portion of this study will focus on the women of Israel. Often times we focus on the kings or false prophets, but this section of scripture also talks about the women.

The judgment of Israel is the theme of chapter 16 in THE STORY.  God had had his fill of their defiant disobedience, so much so that he advised “Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils.  Of what account is he?” (Isaiah 2:22).  The Israelite women could not escape the judgment either. God described their masquerade, from head to toe, in fearful detail; what He saw behind the mask was even more chilling.  The evil that controlled the hearts of individual men and women ultimately brought about their destruction as a nation.

I.  Israel’s weakness. 2 Kings 17—19

For approximately 200 years God’s people had been separated into two kingdoms: the northern kingdom of Israel, which included most of the tribes; and the southern kingdom of Judah, which consisted of the tribe of Judah, the Levites, and those who had originally wanted to observe God’s laws and worship in Jerusalem.  By the time Isaiah came on the scene Ahaz, King of Judah, and Hoshea, King of Israel, were weakened to the point that they had to placate a formidable enemy- Assyria.  Both were headed for destruction but Israel went down first.

1.  What kind of king was Hoshea? (17:2)

2.  What happened to him? (17:3-4)

3.  What happened to the people of Israel? (17:5-6, 23)

4.  Note some specific reasons why this came to pass from chapter 17:

v. 7

v. 12

v. 15

v. 18

5.    What was the status of The Kingdom of Judah at this point? (18b-19)

II. What Isaiah saw in Judah. Isaiah 3—4:1

1.  What is the Lord about to do to Judah? (3:1)

2.  Why is Judah falling? (3:8-9)

3.  What is the thing that has brought God to the point of judging Judah? (3:14-15)

4.  What is God’s ‘vineyard’? (3:14-15)

5. Isaiah puts a moving picture into our minds by way of four verbs that describe the haughty women of Zion.  List them from verse 16.

______________________________                                    ____________________________

______________________________                                    ____________________________

6.  What is the startling decree of verse 17?

7.  From 3:18-23, list the items that you have in your jewelry chest or closet at this moment.

8.  Note the predictions from verse 24:

Fragrance to_______________________.                            Sash to _________________________.

Well-dressed hair to_________________.                            Fine clothing to___________________.

Beauty to_______________________ .

9.  What would the prospects be for unmarried women from Isaiah 4:1?

10.  What is troubling about this picture of the destruction and destitution of women?

III.  Behind the masquerade.

Isaiah’s condemnation of the women of Zion has two aspects.  Women are used as a metaphor for Judah through this picture of pride, injustice toward the poor, and self-indulgence. Eventually “she” will be struck down to the ground (v.26).  But the aspect that must penetrate our hearts is a real-life depiction that mirrors what God may see in women today. Isaiah could be describing the women who walk the streets of our towns, and many who walk the corridors of our church buildings.  Isaiah laments that “there is no end to their treasures” (Isaiah 2:7).  We as well are all rich beyond imagination, but too often we lack things that delight God.

1.  What deadly beliefs are buried beneath hair-dos? What belief leads to life? (John 12:44-50)

2.  If our eyes recorded our thoughts, what would the world see?  What would Jesus like to see? (Philippians 4:8-9)

3.  What makes our hands dirty in God’s eyes?  What work of our hands would be a beautiful adornment in God’s eyes? (1 Corinthians 6:4—7)

4.  What steps lead us away from God?  When would our feet be beautiful to God?  (Romans 10:15; Isaiah 52:7)

IV.  A beautiful day.  Isaiah 4:2-6

1.  What will appear in “that day”?  (4:2)

2.  What is the branch metaphor used to describe? (4:2b-3) (cf. Isaiah 11:11; Jeremiah 23:5; Zechariah 3:8)

3.  What will God do in that day?  (4:4)

4.  Fill in the blanks from verse 6.  The branch will be a _________________, a ____________________

and a ___________________   ______________.

The church of Jesus Christ is what God planned from the beginning.  The beautiful picture of the church from Isaiah 4:6 is just the opposite of what the Israelites turned out to be because their hearts were far from God.  In The Emotionally Destructive Relationship, Leslie Vernick explains that we cannot overcome pride, and a myriad of other destructive attitudes, until we change the “internal heart themes of entitlement and self-centeredness” (86).   But when His indwelling spirit controls our hearts, we can be Jesus’ eyes of love, hands of service, and feet that carry the good news to all people.

Key Question:  What are you doing to change the feelings of entitlement and self-centeredness that threaten to control your heart?

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