Renew, Isaiah 61 – part 2

Isaiah 61

God’s heart for Renewal springs from his commitment to Justice. We’ll see in Isaiah 61 that God concerns himself not only with the personal renewal of people spiritually, but he cares about their material needs in the process. The same God who comes bringing healing and freedom, also brings vengeance and judgment against the very things that have devastated his people. Finally we’ll consider how God’s renewal brings a redefinition of identity. God’s people are transformed in how they are recognized from the outside looking in. God’s justice, via renewal, imprints a new image on his people and displays it for the world to see. That image is Righteousness.

Questions for discussion:

1- Name a few places in our world right now that could use God’s renewal like it is described in vv 1-3. What people groups in your own community are experiencing oppression, pain or brokenheartedness? Has your path ever taken you to a place like this – explain?

2- Why does the Messenger talk about the LORD’s favor and the LORD’s vengeance (v.2)?

3- The Spirit of the Lord empowers the Messenger to make an announcement about renewal. In addition to his proclamation, the Messenger will demonstrate his message with his actions? What will he do in addition to what he will say?

Isaiah himself lived at a time when the Northern Kingdom of Israel was being swept into exile by the Assyrians. He could have witnessed the fall of Samaria in 722 B.C. Yet this oracle portrays restoration set in a time long after the fall of Jerusalem by the Babylonian Empire (586 B.C.).

4- Why is the Messenger reassuring God’s people of such material restoration when the devastation of the exile will be so complete and take so long to realize? How will those reading Isaiah’s prophecy be impacted by a vision like this?

5- The rebuilding, restoring and renewing seems to happen through the efforts of the people themselves? What is the Lord’s part? What is the people’s part?

6- In our RE-series, our first study was from Ezra chapter 3 – the period of time when the exiles are coming out of captivity and re-inhabiting their lands (538-516 B.C.). What might Isaiah’s message mean to them as they were permitted (even blessed) to return?

The LORD himself is speaking now. We learn why he desires renewal and restoration for his people. Oddly it has to do with reputation. The nations will see who Yahweh is by looking at the Israelites. Rather than being an oppressed and scattered people, he desires them to be Oaks of Righteousness displaying his attributes.

7- Describe the connection between God’s renewal and God’s justice. Is God the same today with his people, the Church? How does the Church make God’s justice visible today?

8- Righteousness is what the Messenger displays to all who look at him (vv 10-11). It’s how he’s dressed from head to foot. Righteousness in the Hebrew language connotes right actions, doing and being right. What does it mean then that righteousness will be what the Messenger and God’s people will cultivate among the nations?

9- How do God’s people cultivate Righteousness in our world today? In society? In the Church?

A new identity

Oaks of Righteousness. Priests/Ministers of the Lord. The renewal the LORD wants to bring his people lifts their identity out of the pit of the exile and sets it on a new path. The oracle of Isaiah 61 actually continues through the end of chapter 62. The re-branding continues. No longer Deserted, you’ll be called Delight. No longer Desolate, you will be called Married. The Holy People. Redeemed of the LORD. Sought After. City No Longer Deserted.

10- Why is a transformed identity so important to God’s idea of renewal for his people? Why do names matter?

11- Are believers today aware of their reputation “among the nations”? How can our commitments to justice and righteousness affect how Jesus is seen and received in our culture today?

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