Tag Archives: isaiah

With the Word online Bible study: the promise of joy


Isaiah 61.1-4, 8-11 (Common English Bible)

The LORD God’s spirit is upon me,
because the LORD has anointed me.
He has sent me
to bring good news to the poor,
to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim release for captives,
and liberation for prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor
and a day of vindication for our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
to provide for Zion’s mourners,
to give them a crown in place of ashes,
oil of joy in place of mourning,
a mantle of praise
in place of discouragement.
They will be called Oaks of Righteousness,
planted by the LORD to glorify himself.
They will rebuild the ancient ruins;
they will restore
formerly deserted places;
they will renew ruined cities,
places deserted in generations past.
I, the LORD, love justice;
I hate robbery and dishonesty.
I will faithfully give them their wage,
and make with them
an enduring covenant.
Their offspring will be known
among the nations,
and their descendants
among the peoples.
All who see them will recognize
that they are a people
blessed by the LORD.
I surely rejoice in the LORD;
my heart is joyful because of my God,
because he has clothed me
with clothes of victory,
wrapped me in a robe of righteousness
like a bridegroom in a priestly crown,
and like a bride adorned in jewelry.
As the earth puts out its growth,
and as a garden grows its seeds,
so the LORD God
will grow righteousness
and praise before all the nations.

What word, phrase, or image stands out to you in this passage? Sit with that for a moment. What does it bring up for you? What questions do you have? What connections do you hear (to other stories, images, art, movies, music…)?

What feelings come up when you think about this God?

Have you ever prayed like this? (not with these words necessarily, or so eloquently, but in this kind of spirit?)

Who is speaking? The prophet? The Messiah (which means “anointed one”)? The people of Israel? You? Why does it matter, and how does it change the reading if you imagine it being spoken by different people (including yourself)? How does it change if you read these words as being spoken TO you? (are there parts of your life that are brokenhearted, poor, captive, discouraged, without joy?)

Jesus uses these words to sum up his ministry, to declare his mission statement. Is this how you understand the purpose of Jesus’ coming–for these very earthly things, these concerns that might be considered political (in the sense that they are about the polis–the way we live together)?

The word “righteousness” means “right relationship”–so to grow in righteousness or to be clothed in righteousness is to be in right relationship with God. How do you find yourself growing in righteousness?

The prophet (and later Jesus) tells us that God’s vision is for global transformation–from discouragement, poverty, and captivity to joy and righteousness. What does that vision have to do with your faith? How do you work to be a part of God’s mission statement?



With the Word online Bible study: preparing peace


Isaiah 40.1-11 (Common English Bible)

Comfort, comfort my people!
says your God.
Speak compassionately to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her that her
compulsory service has ended,
that her penalty has been paid,
that she has received
from the LORD’s hand
double for all her sins!
A voice is crying out:
“Clear the LORD’s way in the desert!
Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God!
Every valley will be raised up,
and every mountain and hill
will be flattened.
Uneven ground will become level,
and rough terrain a valley plain.
The LORD’s glory will appear,
and all humanity will see it together;
the LORD’s mouth
has commanded it.”

A voice was saying:
“Call out!”
And another[a] said,
“What should I call out?”
All flesh is grass;
all its loyalty is
like the flowers of the field.
The grass dries up
and the flower withers
when the LORD’s breath blows on it.
Surely the people are grass.
The grass dries up;
the flower withers,
but our God’s word
will exist forever.
Go up on a high mountain,
messenger Zion!
Raise your voice and shout,
messenger Jerusalem!
Raise it; don’t be afraid;
say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
Here is the LORD God,
coming with strength,
with a triumphant arm,
bringing his reward with him
and his payment before him.
Like a shepherd, God will tend the flock;
he will gather lambs in his arms
and lift them onto his lap.
He will gently guide
the nursing ewes.

What word, phrase, or image stands out to you in this passage? Sit with that for a moment. What does it bring up for you? What questions do you have? What connections do you hear (to other stories, images, art, movies, music…)?

What feelings come up when you think about this God?

How do you clear the way for the Lord, getting ready, making uneven ground level?

Later, John the Baptizer will say these same words, placing himself in the long line of the prophetic tradition. He will speak these old words into a new time and context–and so God’s word will again be involved in making something new out of something old. The command to “make straight the way of the Lord” is an old one. A commentator says “In every age only faithfulness to this command can make room for God’s dramatic entrance into the desert of our lives.” Do you agree? How does God make an entrance into the world? Into your life? What is required of you to make a way for God?

What word would you use to sum up this passage, its tone and undercurrent?

Read the passage again, this time through the lens of “peace”–what new things pop out when you read this thinking about peace?

What is the good news in this text? What is the challenge for us?

With the Word online Bible study: where is God?


Isaiah 45.14b-19 (Common English Bible)

“Truly God is with you;
there’s no other, no other God.”
Surely you are a god who hides himself,
Israel’s God and savior.
They will all be shamed and disgraced;
the makers of idols
will end up disgraced together.
Israel has been saved by the LORD
of everlasting salvation.
You won’t be shamed,
and you won’t be disgraced
forever and always.
For this is what the LORD said,
who created the heavens,
who is God,
who formed the earth and made it,
who established it,
who didn’t create it a wasteland
but formed it as a habitation:
I, the LORD, and none other!
I didn’t speak in secret
or in some land of darkness;
I didn’t say to the offspring of Jacob,
“Seek me in chaos.”
I am the LORD,
the one who speaks truth,
who announces what is correct.

What word, phrase, or image stands out to you in this passage? Sit with that for a moment. What does it bring up for you? What questions do you have? What connections do you hear (to other stories, images, art, movies, music…)?

How do you know God? How do you nurture your relationship with God? What kind of God is the God you know?

What do you make of the assertions in this passage–first that God is one who hides himself, and second that God didn’t speak in secret? Which of these is more like your experience?

What do you do when you feel that God is absent or hidden?

How does your head-knowledge that God is always present, that God is a creative force working for good, that God is found everywhere (not only in chaos and not only in calm), change the way you live? The way you think? The way you believe? would other kinds of knowledge (heart or spirit or body knowledge) change that?

God has a habit of revealing Godself to the people–especially to the Israelites. They know God through mighty wonders and deeds, through conversation, and through the creation. Other nations know God through the Israelites and their actions. How does God reveal himself today?

In the inter-testamental period (between the prophets whose writings we have in the Old Testament and the birth of Jesus), many of the Jewish people thought that heaven was sort of shut-up, closed…that God was not speaking or sending prophets or revealing anything new. Knowing that this idea came long after Isaiah, and that people had the opportunity to hear the prophet’s words in the synagogues and Temple…do you hear any of that in this text? Now imagine yourself in the time of Jesus, hearing this passage read. What would you think?

There are subtle hints here of a theme of light and darkness–do you sense that? What light do you see in this darkness?

Do you think God is still revealing things today, still sending prophets, still speaking?

With the Word online Bible Study


Isaiah 65.17-25

For I am about to create new heavens
and a new earth;
the former things shall not be remembered
or come to mind.

But be glad and rejoice for ever
in what I am creating;
for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy,
and its people as a delight.
I will rejoice in Jerusalem,
and delight in my people;
no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it,
or the cry of distress.

No more shall there be in it
an infant that lives but a few days,
or an old person who does not live out a lifetime;
for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth,
and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.

They shall build houses and inhabit them;
they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.
They shall not build and another inhabit;
they shall not plant and another eat;
for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be,
and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands.

They shall not labour in vain,
or bear children for calamity;
for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord—
and their descendants as well.
Before they call I will answer,
while they are yet speaking I will hear.

The wolf and the lamb shall feed together,
the lion shall eat straw like the ox;
but the serpent—its food shall be dust!
They shall not hurt or destroy
on all my holy mountain,
says the Lord.


What pops out at you in this vision/prophecy/poetry/prayer? Is there anything that makes you go “hmm….” or “huh?” or “hey!!!!” Are you reminded of any other stories–whether in the Bible, in literature/movies/music/TV, or in your own life? As you read, do you hear any music in your head?

This is a great vision of hope, a poem about what God’s kingdom is like, a vision of God’s future. What do you notice most?  Is anything missing from what you would expect in a vision of God’s future or of the kingdom of heaven?  If you were to imagine the kingdom of God, is this the kind of picture you would paint?  If not–what would be in your picture?

How do you see the Kingdom of God coming (or being thwarted) in our time?  How do you see the church helping or hindering the coming of the kingdom?  How about you personally–how are you a part of the coming of the kingdom, and how are you hindering it?

What do you hear as the good news in this text? What do you hear as a challenge? What might this passage have to say to our community today?

Advent e-votions, day 12


Isaiah 12.2-6

You will say in that day: I will give thanks to you, O Lord, for though you were angry with me, your anger turned away, and you comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid, for the Lord God is my strength and my might; he has become my salvation. With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.
And you will say in that day: Give thanks to the Lord, call on his name; make known his deeds among the nations; proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be known in all the earth. Shout aloud and sing for joy, O royal Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

This Bible verse reminds me of Advent. This is because Isaiah talks about hope and giving thanks for God giving us what he did. Every time we do something, we should think that we would not be able to do that without God. We also should hope, especially during Christmas when we hope for Jesus. This verse made me think of Advent and Christmas because everything feels right. For me in this time, I am with family and we always give thanks, and I believe that everyone, some how, thinks of hope. Isaiah tells us to “sing praises to the lord” and I think Christmas time is the best time because everyone is merry. We should hope and give thanks to the lord. In the season of Advent, the world seems happier and it is the best time to perform the deeds that Isaiah writes in this section of the Bible.

Dear God, help me to give thanks and to be full of hope. Thank you for family and friends and for helping me. I will praise you! Amen.

–may the Spirit move through the words of Alex Sowa