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God of Restoration: Poetry and Prophesy in Isaiah 40-55. A 13-Lesson series taught by Deanna Munger Over a background image of a small white flower emerging from dry, blackened ground.

God of Restoration:
Poetry and Prophesy in Isaiah 40-55

Do you want to connect to God as the God of Restoration? As the God who stretched out the heavens, who tells the end from the beginning, and who has a surprising plan to bring salvation to the ends of the earth?

Let’s study the second section of Isaiah, an extended poem in which God speaks to Israel in exile. This poetry declares God’s rescue and restoration of the people of Israel who have been suffering in exile, and these passages look forward to God’s plan for our rescue and salvation through God’s Servant. 

Come join us as we study how these chapters celebrate God’s faithful love, look forward to the Messiah, and point to the new creation God has designed for all nations.

Lesson 1 (Jan. 9/10): Comfort My People

Reading Assignment and Study Questions for this lesson: Isaiah 40:1-11
    1. When does the book of Isaiah occur with respect to the larger story of Israel? If you are familiar with the Old Testament, try making a quick timeline (skip the dates unless you want to add some!) of the major events of Biblical history. Mark where the book of Isaiah fits (the following verses may help).
    2. When does the book of Isaiah occur with respect to the larger story of Israel? If you are familiar with the Old Testament, try making a quick timeline (skip the dates unless you want to add some!) of the major events of Biblical history. Mark where the book of Isaiah fits (the following verses may help).
    3. Isaiah is a long book with three sections. The first section, Isa. 1-39, is from the perspective of Isaiah son of Amoz. Read Isa. 1:1-17. What is a main message of this passage? Who seems to be writing this passage–Isaiah ben Amoz himself or someone else (or some of each)?
    4. The second section of Isaiah, chapters 40-55, concerns a later time, when the people of Israel have been in exile for many years. What main message do you hear in Isa. 40:1-11? What other passages or themes do you notice in Isa. 40:1-11? What stands out to you?

You can also watch Tuesday’s Lesson 1 here. In the Tuesday lessons, it can be hard to hear the participants’ comments and sometimes there is a glare on the board. I recommend watching the Wednesday video, above, to remedy these issues!

Key Verse: 1 “Comfort, O comfort My people,” says your God.
2 “Speak kindly to Jerusalem;
And call out to her, that her  warfare has ended,
That her  iniquity has been removed,
That she has received of the LORD’S hand
Double for all her sins.”

Isaiah 40:1-2

Lesson 2 (Jan. 16/17): The Great God Reigns

Reading Assignment and Study Questions for this lesson: Isaiah 40:12-31
  1. What was meaningful to you about last week’s lesson over Isa. 40:1-11? What is the situation of the Israelites at the opening of Isaiah 40? What are some themes (deeper meanings) and motifs (repeated elements that convey those themes) in verses 1-11?
  2. Consider Isa. 40:12—what is the subject of this verse? Where else in the passage does the author return to the idea of creation? Why is it important?
  3. What are verses 18-20 about? How do these verses make idols sound silly?
  4. In verse 27, what is Israel saying? Why would they say that?

You can watch Tuesday’s Lesson 2 here though participant comments may be hard to hear.

Key Verse: Yet those who wait for the LORD
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

Isaiah 40:31

Lesson 3 (Jan. 23/24): The Servant of the LORD

Reading Assignment and Study Questions for this lesson: Isaiah 41:1-42:13
  1. What were some main points of last week’s passage, Isa. 40:12-31? What were the comparisons? What did the Poet say about God? How do you relate to the question of whether God is still taking care of us when we’re suffering?
  2. Notice in Isa. 41:1 that God is calling a meeting “for judgment” or “at the place of judgment.” This is one of the “courtroom” type scenes (v. 1-4) in Isaiah. To what question does God demand an answer?
  3. In verse 8, who is God’s Servant? In verses 8-16, what will the role of the Servant be like?
  4. In verses 10, 13 and 14, what is God’s message to the people? Why shouldn’t they fear?

You can watch Tuesday Lesson 3 here though participant comments may be hard to hear.

Key Verse: I am the LORD, I have called You in righteousness,
I will also hold You by the hand and watch over You,
And I will appoint You as a covenant to the people,
As a light to the nations,
To open blind eyes,
To bring out prisoners from the dungeon
And those who dwell in darkness from the prison.

Isaiah 42:6-7

Lesson 4 (Feb. 6/7): The New Exodus

Reading Assignment and Study Questions for this lesson: Isaiah 42:14-43:21
  1. From last week’s lesson, what was meaningful to you? What questions did God put forward for judgment in the two courtroom sections (41:1-4 and 21-29)? How might a challenge like this relate to us?
  2. Read Isa. 6:8-13, what God tells Isaiah at his commissioning as a prophet in Isaiah’s vision of the throneroom of heaven. What are the people like? What will be the consequence to them? Where can you see parallels in today’s passage?
  3. In Isa. 43:10, who is to be God’s witness? Witness of what? Who are they supposed to witness to, or convince?
  4. What major event of Israel’s history, is the author referring to in Isa. 42:16-21? What allusions can you find in this section or in the whole passage for today? Why is this event being brought up now?

You can also watch the Tuesday Lesson 4 video here though participant comments may be hard to hear.

Key Verse: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.
For I am the LORD your God,
The Holy One of Israel, your Savior…”

Isaiah 43:2-3a

Bonus video: Thinking about Isaiah 42:16

Some thoughts about a special verse in this week’s passage that didn’t fit into the main lesson!

Lesson 5 (Feb. 13/14): The Foolishness of Idols

Reading Assignment and Study Questions for this lesson: Isaiah 43:22-44:23
  1. From last week’s lesson, what passage spoke to you? What was the Servant Israel’s job in 43:8-13? How might that apply to us?
  2. What have the people not done in 43:22-24? What change is God expecting of the people between the situation in 43:22-24 and the situation in 44:5?
  3. What job are God’s people supposed to take up again in 44:8? What do you think is so important about this role that the text keeps returning to it?
  4. What is the main point of 44:9-20? What are the arguments made in this passage?

You can also watch the Tuesday Lesson 5 video here though participant comments may be hard to hear.

Want to read more about the literary chiasm in Isaiah 44? Here’s a printable breakdown of this interesting poetic structure.

Key Verse: “For I will pour out water on the thirsty land
And streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out My Spirit on your offspring
And My blessing on your descendants”

Isaiah 44:3

Lesson 6 (Feb. 20/21): God’s Rescue through Cyrus

Reading Assignment and Study Questions for this lesson: Isaiah 44:24-Isaiah 45
  1. What was meaningful to you out of last week’s lesson? What is God trying to convince the people of in God’s self-description of greatness? What are some futile things in which we might put our trust instead? What would this passage say about that?
  2. What title does Isaiah 44:28 give for Cyrus the Persian? What title is given in 45:1? Who is usually anointed in Old Testament history? How might the Jews have felt about that title being applied to a non-Israelite?
  3. Consider 45:9-10—What is the analogy in the lines about the clay and the potter, the baby and the parents? Who is supposed to be the “clay” who is objecting to the potter? What objection is implied?
  4. In 45:20-25, who does God predict will eventually draw near to God? Who does God call to be saved? How does this relate to Israel’s salvation?

You can watch the Tuesday Lesson 6 here, but participant comments may be hard to hear.

Key Verse: 22 “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth;
For I am God, and there is no other.
23 “I have sworn by Myself,
The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness
And will not turn back,
That to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance.”

Isaiah 45:22-23

Lesson 7 (Mar. 5/6): The Fate of Babylon

Reading Assignment and Study Questions for this lesson: Isaiah 46-47
  1. What resonated with you from our last lesson? What role would Cyrus the Persian have for the Israelites? How would Israel have felt about that? What does that reveal to us about the way God’s plans for good sometimes work?
  2. Bel and Nebo (46:1) are Babylonian gods; what is happening to them in verses 1 and 2? In verses 3 and 4, how is God different from Bel and Nebo?
  3. How is Babylon personified in 47:1 and the following verses? Read Lamentations 1:1-2, which are about Judah/Jerusalem. How are the two passages similar?
  4. What reasons can you find that Babylon is being conquered in 47:4-15? What do these reasons tell us about what is important to God?

You can also listen to the Tuesday Lesson 7 here, though participant comments may be hard to hear.

Key Verse:
3 “Listen to Me, O house of Jacob,
And all the remnant of the house of Israel,
You who have been borne by Me from birth
And have been carried from the womb;
4 Even to your old age I will be the same,
And even to your  graying years I will bear you!
I have done it, and I will carry you;
And I will bear you and I will deliver you.”

Isaiah 46:3-4

Lesson 8 (Mar. 19/20): Salvation to the End of the Earth

Reading Assignment and Study Questions for this lesson: Isaiah 48-49
  1. From last lesson over Isa. 46-47, what was the fate of Babylon to be? What were the reasons given for their fate? What was the theme of “being carried?” What did it mean to you?
  2. Who do you think is speaking in Isa. 49:1-6? Who could it be, since interpretations have differed over the years? Compare Isa. 40:6-8—who was God speaking to in that passage?
  3. In 49:14, who is personified as speaking (and who does God answer beginning in v.15)? Why does God address the city, and what would this perspective mean for the Israelites?
  4. In 49:19-21, what does it mean that the land will be “too cramped” (NASB) or “too small” (NIV)? Is this a good thing or a bad thing—and how so?
Video Discussion Class of Lesson 8: Salvation to the End of the Earth, from Isaiah 48-49

You can also watch the Tuesday version of Lesson 8 here, though participant comments may be hard to hear.

Key Verse:
[The LORD] says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also make You a light of the nations
So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”

Isaiah 49:6, NASB

Lesson 9 (Apr. 2/10): Righteousness Forever

Reading Assignment and Study Questions for this lesson: Isaiah 50:1-51:16
  1. What stood out to you in our last lesson over Isaiah 48-49? What was the meaning of God saving Israel “for my own sake” and how was that a good thing? What was the job of the prophet as Servant on behalf of Israel?
  2. Who is speaking beginning in Isa. 50:4? This is likely the same voice as in 49:1-6. What is going on with “those who kindle a fire” against the speaker in 50:11?
  3. Consider Isa. 51:9-13. The “Rahab” in verse 9 is the word for the Sea Monster (this is a different Hebrew word from the woman Rahab in the story of Jericho in Joshua 2). What elements of creation can you see in these verses? What elements of the Exodus are combined in the same passage?

You can also watch the Tuesday version of Lesson 9 here. This week was on Zoom and should all be audible!

Key Verse:
8 He who vindicates Me is near;
Who will contend with Me?
Let us stand up to each other;
Who has a case against Me?
Let him draw near to Me.
9 Behold, the Lord GOD helps Me;
Who is he who condemns Me?

Isaiah 50:8-9a, NASB

Lesson 10 (Apr. 9/17): Good News

Reading Assignment and Study Questions for this lesson: Isaiah 51:17-52:12
  1. What was meaningful to you from our last lesson over Isaiah 50-51:16? What was it like for the author to be a Prophet? What does that mean about how comfortable it is to hear from God? What did you think of Israel comparing God’s creation to the Babylonian creation myth?
  2. What is “the cup of the LORD’s wrath” (Isa 51:17)? The verses 51:17-23 give different images or metaphors of what it had been like to suffer God’s judgment—what are they? What is the promise going forward?
  3. Beginning in verse 7 we may be hearing the Prophet speaking again, describing a vision. What is happening in the vision? What is the good news?
  4. Verse 11 calls attention to this passage being a reversal of the scene in Lamentations 4:15. Where were the people departing from in Lamentations? Where are they departing from in Isaiah 51:11-12? What is their departure like?

You can also watch the Tuesday version of Lesson 10 here, though participant comments may be hard to hear.

Key Verse:
7 How lovely on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces peace
And brings good news of happiness,
Who announces salvation,
And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”

Isaiah 52:7, NASB

Lesson 11 (Apr. 16/24): The Suffering Servant

Reading Assignment and Study Questions for this lesson: Isaiah 52:13-Isaiah 53
  1. What did you take away from our last lesson on Isa. 51:17-52:12? What was the Good News that the Prophet envisioned in his vision outside the city? What was the image of God presented in that vision? What does that image of God mean to us?
  2. One of the challenges of a passage like today’s is reading it in the original context before we jump to its Messianic meaning. How might these words read to a Judean in exile? How is this passage part of the story of God’s rescue from Babylon that we’ve been reading?
  3. Who were two identities of the Servant we’ve seen so far (see Isa. 41:8-16 and 49:1-6 for examples)? We’ve also seen hints that there may be more to the Servant—re-read Isa. 42:1-7. What elements of the Servant there seem to indicate more?
  4. Read Leviticus 5-6 about Guilt Offerings. What is a guilt offering for? What does it mean? Note the language in 5:9—what does the priest do? Where do you see this same word “sprinkle” in today’s passage in Isaiah?
    “He shall also sprinkle some of the blood of the sin offering on the side of the altar, while the rest of the blood shall be drained out at the base of the altar: it is a sin offering.” Lev. 5:9, NASB

You can also watch the Tuesday version of Lesson 11 here, though participant comments may be hard to hear.

Key Verse:
5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
He was crushed for our iniquities;
The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
And by His scourging we are healed.

Isaiah 53:4, NASB

Lesson 12 (Apr. 23/May 1): Restoration of Israel

Reading Assignment and Study Questions for this lesson: Isaiah 54
  1. What resonated with you about the Suffering Servant passage in Isa. 52:13-Isaiah 53? What was surprising in this passage, from the standpoint of an original reader? What were some reasons that the followers of Jesus were so quick to associate this passage with Jesus?
  2. Who is being addressed beginning in Isaiah 54:1–who is the “barren one”? Look back at 51:17 and 52:1 for parallel passages. What is the message to her in v.1-3?
  3. There is an accusation of God implied in verses 6-8—what is it? Compare it to Psalm 89. Is the accusation true? Why do you think this passage is written to “blame” God in this way?
  4. What is the most prominent characteristic of God repeated in verse 7-10? How is this characteristic an answer to the charge of God forsaking Jerusalem?

You can also watch the Tuesday version of Lesson 12 here now, though participant comments may be hard to hear.

Key Verse:
10 “For the mountains may be removed and the hills may shake,
But My lovingkindness will not be removed from you,
And My covenant of peace will not be shaken,”
Says the LORD who has compassion on you.

Isaiah 54:10, NASB

Lesson 13 (May 7/8): Delight in Abundance

Reading Assignment and Study Questions for this lesson: Isaiah 55
  1. What was important in Isaiah 54? What was the message? How does God’s character show in this passage? What will be the effect of God’s character on God’s people?
  2. What kind of nourishment is the author talking about in verse 1 & 2? Is this literal or figurative (or both)? What does “delight yourself in abundance” mean?
  3. Why does God say “My thoughts are not your thoughts” in verse 8? What does this mean? What is the connection to the verses before and after?
  4. What has Isaiah 40-55 been about? How would you summarize its message? What are its most important themes? What is its application to our lives?

You can also watch the Tuesday version of Lesson 13 here, but participant comments may be hard to hear.

Key Verse:
Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters;
And you who have no money come, buy and eat.
Come, buy wine and milk
Without money and without cost.

Isaiah 55:1, NASB
Sources for this Series:

I’m currently using a commentary and an online course to prepare this series.

Goldingjay, John (2001). Understanding the Bible Commentary Series: Isaiah (eBook Edition, 2012 ed.). (W. Ward Gasque, Robert L. Hubbard Jr., Robert K. Johnston, General Editors) Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Wright, N. T., Seemuth, David P., Loop, Jennifer. “The Servant King” Udemy, Inc.  Accessed Dec. 10, 2023 – May 7, 2024. https://www.udemy.com/course/the-servant-king/. 
————————
In addition I use several technological tools in my writing, which increasingly employ smart / AI functionality. If you are curious or concerned about AI functionality and how it is used, I suggest the resources at www.CreativePenn.com/future (I have no affiliation with this site, I just find it educational).
• Bible Study by Olive Tree – I use the laptop (Windows) and phone (Apple) versions to access several versions of Scripture, in English, Greek and Hebrew; to access the UBC, cited above, several Greek and Hebrew dictionaries; and to perform cross-referencing. All notes, history, highlights and other content sync between my phone and laptop, even though they are not the same operating system.
• ChatGPT by Open AI – I use the laptop and phone versions to capture and expand my brainstorming and to organize content. I do not use it to generate finished content.
• ProWritingAid – I use this software in my editing process. It’s like a spelling and grammar checker, but it does more.

Maybe you have one of these Frequently Asked Questions:

Is there homework? I don’t have a lot of time. I provide a reading and a brief list of study questions each week, but they are optional! Many attendees don’t use them and that is perfectly fine. You won’t be behind in class!

Or maybe you feel the opposite:
Is there homework? I want to really get into this. Yes, there is a reading for each week plus a brief list of study questions that you can use to get into the material before class! It’s optional, but it’s a great way to go deeper. 

I might miss a week, or more, should I even bother? Yes! Nobody can attend every week, but you can still get a lot out the weeks you are there! And we benefit from your presence. If you want to watch what you missed, the videos will be online, but you don’t have to. 

Why are we studying something Old Testament? Shouldn’t we study Jesus? Yes, and the great thing about the Old Testament is that Jesus said it was all about him! These passages delve heavily into the character of God and the plan of God through Jesus. I’m so excited to get into them with you!

Do I have to talk? You don’t have to, but I hope you’ll want to! I won’t put you on the spot, so you can stay in the background. But our best classes happen when people ask questions, share, and puzzle through the Scriptures together.

What if I talk too much? This is a common concern, so you aren’t alone, but it’s really ok. This is a discussion-based study! No one has talked too much yet, even people who have worried about it. Please talk!

Do I need to know a lot about the Bible? You don’t, but please ask if I skim over some knowledge without realizing it. This is an in-depth study, but that doesn’t mean other people know a lot. We have people at all levels of Bible knowledge so when you stop me and ask something, someone else will appreciate your question! We’ll all study and learn together!

I don’t know anybody, are you sure I won’t feel awkward? I get it, we all feel awkward going into a new group. But these two groups–Tuesday morning and Wednesday night–are some of the most gracious people I’ve ever known. I could tell you about how kind and welcoming they are, but I’m sure I’d get choked up! Bring your awkward self, I’ll be there being my awkward self, let’s build our lovely community together!

I might have a friend who wants to come with me, what should I do? That’s great! Send them this link (it’s the link to this page you’re on now) if they’d like more information and of course I’d be happy to meet them and welcome them before hand or in class! Just let me know what I can do to help.

Love what you see?  Wish you could buy Deanna a coffee in support of this free content? Now you can!  buymeacoffee.com/deannamunger

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