A JUSTICE-LOVING GOD

 

DEVOTIONAL READING: Isaiah 42:1–9

BACKGROUND SCRIPTURE: Isaiah 61:8–62:12

 

 

ISAIAH 61:8–11

 

8 For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

9 And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the LORD hath blessed.

10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.

11 For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.

 

 

ISAIAH 62:2–4A

 

2 And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory: and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name.

3 Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.

4a Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate.

 

 

 

Photo: Tanjulchik / iStock / Thinkstock

 

KEY VERSE

 

I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.—Isaiah 61:8

 

 

 

 

JUSTICE AND THE PROPHETS

 

Unit 2: God Promises a Just Kingdom

 

LESSONS 6–9

 

 

LESSON AIMS

 

After participating in this lesson, each learner will be able to:

1. Identify the everlasting covenant.

2. Explain why Old Testament parallelism promotes fuller understanding of the text.

3. Repent of a sin of commission concerning a time he or she promoted an injustice.

 

 

LESSON OUTLINE

 

Introduction

      A.      Contrasts

      B.      Lesson Context

          I.      The Priestly Nation (ISAIAH 61:8–11)

      A.      Attitudes and Actions (v. 8)

      B.      Results and Reactions (vv. 9–11)

      Royal Dress Code

          II.      The Righteous Nation (ISAIAH 62:2–4a)

      A.      New Name Predicted (v. 2)

      B.      Old Name Discarded (vv. 3, 4a)

      Fun Names

Conclusion

      A.      Blessed and Blessing

      B.      Prayer

      C.      Thought to Remember

 

 

HOW TO SAY IT

 

Assyria

   Uh-sear-ee-uh.

Cyrus

   Sigh-russ.

Deuteronomy

   Due-ter-ahn-uh-me.

Habakkuk

   Huh-back-kuk.

Hoshea

   Ho-shay-uh.

Isaiah

   Eye-zay-uh.

Persia

   Per-zhuh.

 

 

Introduction

 

A. Contrasts

 

The father of one of my high school friends was a coach for a nearby college basketball team. A group of us went to one of the games. I had gone to many high school basketball games, but this was my first college game. I was immediately struck by how much faster and more highly skilled the players were. My appreciation for their abilities was due to the contrast of what I had observed at the college level compared to high school.

Another time, I overheard two high school boys conversing at a hamburger stand. Before leaving, one realized he had been given too much change. As he started to give it back, his friend said, “If you give that back, you’re stupid!” The young man gave the money back anyway. His simple act was a contrast to the habits of his friend, who clearly had a different set of values.

Lifestyle contrasts can indeed reveal important truths. Today’s lesson will leave no doubt about that fact!

 

 

B. Lesson Context

 

Isaiah (ministered about 740–680 BC) lived in the days when Israel, the northern kingdom, was struggling against Assyria and was finally exiled from the land. For a time, the northern kingdom sent tribute to Assyria; however, Israel’s King Hoshea sought an alliance with Egypt in order to end the nation’s vassal relationship to the Assyrian oppressors. The consequence of Israel’s rebellion against Assyria was that they were carried away into captivity by the Assyrians in 722 BC (2 Kings 17), never to be restored.

The southern kingdom of Judah remained, but Isaiah predicted punishment for its disobedience as well (example: Isaiah 3). His predictions were fulfilled almost a century after his ministry. God used the Babylonians as His instrument to bring down the monarchy of Judah and destroy the temple in 586 BC (see 2 Chronicles 36:15–21; Habakkuk 1:6).

The Lord, in faithfulness to His covenant with David (2 Samuel 7:1–17), brought back the Jews from exile in 538 BC and reestablished them as a nation. He used the Persians as His instrument to accomplish that restoration (2 Chronicles 36:22, 23; Ezra 1:1–8).

The book of Isaiah is typically viewed in terms of two large sections: chapters 1–39 and chapters 40–66 (see Lesson Context of lesson 6). Most of Isaiah 40–66 is conveyed in a poetic style. These chapters can be read as an ancient play.

Imagine a large stage with all the characters present. On one side of the room, there is Heaven with the Lord and the heavenly host present; on the other side, the earth and its inhabitants. Different characters speak, are addressed, or are discussed. The characters are the nation of Israel and the Gentiles.

Within Israel there are the righteous and the wicked, the leaders and the commoners, and the servant of the Lord. The Gentile nations are distant but interested observers. Usually they are talked about, whether for future judgment or for blessing. But sometimes they are addressed directly.

On two occasions, Cyrus, the future king of Persia, is specifically named (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1–7; again, see Lesson Context of lesson 6). Isaiah is at times an actor onstage with the other characters; sometimes he is an offstage narrator to the readers, who are the theater audience.

Isaiah 56–66 begins with the prediction of the salvation of the nations (56:1–8). The text then describes the punishment of the wicked of Israel, especially the leaders (56:9–57:21), for their ritual and ethical sins (chap. 58).

But the Lord is able and willing to deliver the repentant (Isaiah 59). As a result, Israel will become a light to the nations (chap. 60) and embrace its priestly role (chap. 61).

Then comes a lengthy description of Israel’s glorious future with the arrival of their triumphant Lord (Isaiah 62–65). The grand conclusion describes the blessings and ministry of the contrite and the ultimate punishment of the wicked (chap. 66).

Isaiah 61:1–11 is a sequence of four speeches that follow up on the Lord’s declaring Israel a light to the Gentiles in Isaiah 60. The identity of the speakers is not always clear. But paying attention to changes in pronouns helps the reader identify different parts:

 

 Verses

 I/We

Thou/Ye/You

 1–4

 Messenger

Zion

 5–7

 Isaiah

Zion

 8, 9

 The Lord

The Messenger and Zion

 10, 11

 Zion

The Lord and the Messenger

 

 

I. The Priestly Nation

(ISAIAH 61:8–11)

 

A. Attitudes and Actions (v. 8)

 

8a. For I the LORD love judgment.

Isaiah 61:8 identifies the third speaker as the Lord (see Lesson Context). The conjunction for links verses 8, 9 to the previous verses and explains what it means for God’s people to be a nation of priests (see Isaiah 61:6).

First, the priestly people have moral requirements that stem from the very character of God. One of these is to practice judgment (compare Isaiah 5:16). The word judgment as commonly used today implies condemnation. It can mean that in the Bible as well (example: 34:5). But the word judgment also carries the idea of justice. The two words often occur together as synonyms or near synonyms (examples: 9:7; 59:9, 14).

The Lord himself is just (Deuteronomy 32:4; Isaiah 45:21), and He requires the same of His people (compare Proverbs 4:18; 21:3; Isaiah 56:1). This applies especially to their leaders (2 Samuel 23:3, 4). Justice has to do with the setting right of wrongs (example: Isaiah 1:17). In many cases it refers to moral behavior: the Hebrew word being translated “judgment” is used in Genesis 18:19 to describe the actions of God and in Proverbs 21:15 the actions of the righteous.

8b. I hate robbery for burnt offering.

Contrasted with the judgment that the Lord loves is robbery that He hates. Here it stands for all types of wrongdoing.

The Hebrew of the Old Testament was originally written in consonants only. Vowels were not put in until centuries after Christ. This gives translators problems because words with identical consonants can change meaning with different vowels—just like in English. That is the case here with the phrase burnt offering; with different vowels it can also be translated “iniquity,” as it is in Psalm 125:3; Micah 3:10; and Habakkuk 2:12. And there’s always the possibility that the writer intends a double meaning—a play on words.

In his condemnation, Isaiah may be casting the spotlight on the practice of fulfilling requirements of sacrifices only ritually, without keeping the moral requirements of the law (example: Isaiah 1:10–17). God makes clear that acts of worship from those who do not follow Him wholeheartedly are repulsive (example: Amos 5:21–24). The Lord intends to bring about dramatic changes in His people; His righteous standards do not vary.

 

 

 What Do You Think?

     Which kind of change do you need to work on most: learning to love what the Lord loves, or learning to hate what the Lord hates? Why?

 Digging Deeper

     How could enlisting the aid of an accountability partner help you do better in this regard?

 

 

8c. And I will direct their work in truth.

In truth may refer to God’s character and the certainty of His direction or rewarding. Or it may refer to the character of the people’s actions. Both notions are true, and both may be intended. If so, the validity of the people’s actions is due to the Lord’s direction.

8d. And I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

The Lord is giving His assurance that He will not forget His people in their exile. He will keep His promise to them. At the same time, however, those to return from exile likely prefigure the new-covenant people of God (see Jeremiah 31:31–34; Hebrews 8:6–13; 9:15; 10:14–22).

The Hebrew word translated everlasting can refer to an indefinite period of time that has no discernible end from the point of view of the original reader. The word is used frequently in that way with regard to Old Testament laws and ordinances that do not apply in the New Testament era (compare “for ever” in Exodus 12:24; “perpetual” in Leviticus 3:17; etc.). In the verse before us, however, it refers to a truly eternal covenant (compare Hebrews 13:20).

Centuries later, the New Testament writers will confirm the fact of the Lord’s preservation of Israel for the inauguration of a permanent new covenant through the Messiah (see Romans 9:3–5; 11:1–10; Hebrews 8:7–13; etc.). The salvation brought about by the one-time sacrifice of Jesus produces a covenant that is absolutely everlasting.

 

 

B. Results and Reactions (vv. 9–11)

 

9. And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the LORD hath blessed.

One of the most easily observable characteristics of Hebrew poetry is parallelism. This involves using, in adjacent lines, words having either similar or opposite meanings. These phrases can explain each other or offer a contrast. Repetition through the use of parallel terms emphasizes whatever truth the writer is trying to convey.

The verse at hand offers an excellent example of such parallelism in Hebrew poetry: their seed parallels their offspring, and the Gentiles parallels the people (plural in the underlying Hebrew—“the people groups”). The repetitions found in these parallel phrases highlight one aspect of the dramatic transformation to come regarding the ancient Israelites’ reputation. In their future captivity, the Israelites will be derided by foreigners (Deuteronomy 28:36, 37); God’s covenant people will become “a reproach” to the nations around them (example: Jeremiah 29:17–19).

The prophet Isaiah, however, predicts a time when that reputation is to change. The release from captivity and subsequent events will result in the descendants of Isaiah’s current audience being known as the seed which the Lord hath blessed (compare Genesis 12:2; Isaiah 43:5; 48:19).

 

 

 What Do You Think?

     What adjustments do Christians need to make in how they view the concepts of legacy and heritage? Why do you say that?

 Digging Deeper

     What secular stumbling blocks most need to be identified for improvements to happen?

 

 

10a. I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God.

The speaker here is Zion (see the Lesson Context). The partial verse before us and the two that follow each feature a poetic pair in the mold of Hebrew parallelism, just discussed. The parallel here is easy to see:

 

 I

 will greatly rejoice

 in the Lord,

 ↓

 ↓

 ↓

 my soul

 shall be joyful

 in my God.

 

We normally think of cause and effect in just that order. But here Isaiah starts with the effect, then moves to state the cause.

10b. For he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.

The second poetic pairing states the cause of Zion’s rejoicing. Note that we say “cause,” not “causes.” There is one cause mentioned here, not two. That’s a key to interpreting Hebrew parallelism properly. The phrases clothed me and covered me point to one action by God, expressed twice with different words. Likewise, the garments of salvation equate to the robe of righteousness. These are figurative descriptions of a vitally important reality: they describe a person fully clothed by God so as to be acceptable in His sight (see Revelation 3:4, 5; 19:8; contrast Isaiah 64:6).

The parallelism further shows that salvation and righteousness are closely related. Of course, no one earns salvation through personal righteousness (see Ephesians 2:8, 9; Titus 3:5). Instead, the Lord imputes, or credits, His own righteousness to the sinner to make salvation possible. We see the need when we realize that “all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6; see also Philippians 3:9; Romans 1:16, 17; 10:3). To have salvation is to have the imputed righteousness of God.

10c. As a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.

The third pair uses a comparison to describe the beauty of the clothing. The garments given by the Lord are as magnificent as the finest accessories worn by a bride and groom at their wedding (compare Isaiah 49:18). We may wonder what kind of ornaments a bridegroom wears. The Hebrew word may refer to some type of headdress, as the word is used in Ezekiel 24:17, 23; 44:18. A bridegroom in biblical times usually wore a headpiece that resembled a turban.

 

 

 What Do You Think?

     Which of these additional clothing texts motivate you most to praise their “tailor”: Luke 12:28; Romans 13:14; 2 Corinthians 5:2–5; Galatians 3:27; 1 Peter 5:5; Revelation 3:4, 5, 18?

 Digging Deeper

     With reference to 1 Timothy 2:9, 10, how can you use your credit-card statement to evaluate where your priorities need to change with regard to spiritual vs. physical clothing?

 

 

The analogy involving a bridegroom and a bride brings to mind the relationship between Jesus and His church (Ephesians 5:22–33). While recognizing that the language of the verse before us is spoken by Zion, we also note that the blessings described are blessings Jesus shares with His followers. Revelation 19:7–9 informs us of the special clothing that awaits those who are part of the “wife” of the Lamb; He prepares us to join Him at His “marriage” (compare 21:2).

 

 

ROYAL DRESS CODE

 

How do royal families decide what to wear? In Britain, tradition old and new often dictates the answer.

Some rules about dress are driven by the current queen’s preferences. For example, Queen Elizabeth II is not a fan of beards. Another of the queen’s fashion no-nos is for women to wear shoes with wedge heels. And these ladies would not dare be seen wearing bright fingernail polish!

 

 

 

Visual for Lesson 9. While discussing the questions associated with verse 9, ask learners how their answers are affected by the promise of eternal life.

 

Other rules stem from long-practiced traditions. Even when there is a nip in the air, the boys of royalty wear shorts and high socks in public. Hats are fine, but women of royalty should not wear them indoors after 6:00 p.m. And please—no bare legs! Pantyhose are a must, ladies.

British royalty does not have a monopoly on royal dress codes. Long before, Isaiah spoke of the dress code God requires for those who would enter His presence. But once we have such clothing through Christ, are we careful to respect His dress code?

—J. E.

 

11. For as the earth bringeth forth her bud, and as the garden causeth the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.

This verse features two pairs. The first pair introduces the main thought by an analogy. Righteousness and praise will grow out of all the nations just like plants grow in the earth and in the garden. God causes all things to grow—not just flowers or trees but also right living and worship (compare Isaiah 45:8).

The Lord God’s grace shown to Israel will in turn cause the nations to bloom with the same righteousness and subsequent praise. The righteousness that Zion displays will have an effect on the nations as well. They too will know the Lord. The theme of people from among the nations coming to the Lord is highlighted throughout Isaiah (examples: Isaiah 2:2–4; 5:26; 49:6; 60:3; 66:18–20). Their praise is an intended consequence of God’s faithfulness to Israel.

 

 

II. The Righteous Nation

(ISAIAH 62:2–4a)

 

A. New Name Predicted (v. 2)

 

2a. And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory.

In this pair, the second thought builds on the first. Gentiles in the first line corresponds to kings in the second. Kings represent the Gentile nations because of their leadership roles. The word thy refers to Zion, also called Jerusalem (Isaiah 62:1).

Righteousness most often refers to moral integrity in doing what God declares right (example: Psalm 7:8). And so it is here. Parallel to righteousness in the first line is glory in the second. Beyond simple restatement, the glory seen by the kings describes the magnitude of the righteousness of Zion. The people of Zion will live lives so markedly distinct from sin that the nations will take notice (compare 67:2; Isaiah 40:5; 45:14).

2b. And thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD shall name.

A general prediction is made before specifying that the Lord will be the one who acts. Renaming in the Bible communicates some new characteristic of the one renamed. The new name is prophetic, either in condemnation (example: Hosea 1:4–9) or commendation (example: Genesis 32:28). Isaiah often uses prophetic name changes for the redeemed (examples: Isaiah 1:26; 44:5; 45:4). Christians look forward to the new names the Lord will grant after the resurrection of the dead (Revelation 2:17; compare 3:12).

 

 

B. Old Name Discarded (Isaiah 62:3, 4a)

 

3. Thou shalt also be a crown of glory in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of thy God.

The second statement once again builds on the first. A crown is often made of gold and worn by a king (example: 2 Samuel 12:30); diadem occurs parallel to the crown. They both signify the glory … of the Lord and His royalty. Zion is the crown or diadem in the Lord’s hand (contrast Isaiah 28:5; compare 1 Thessalonians 2:19). To be in the hand of the Lord is to be under His control (compare Psalm 75:8; Proverbs 21:1).

4a. Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate.

The Hebrew word translated Forsaken is used over 20 times by Isaiah and represents a theme in the book. Israel forsook the Lord (Isaiah 1:4, 28). Because of this, the land was to be forsaken (32:14). From all appearances, the people will seem to be forsaken in the Babylonian captivity to come (49:14). Once they yield to become the righteous crown in God’s hand, they will know they are not forsaken (42:16; 60:15).

The Hebrew word translated Desolate is used six times in Isaiah, and in every case it predicts the destruction of the land of Israel (Isaiah 1:7 [two times]; 6:11; 17:9; 64:10). Here alone is desolation set in a positive light, because it will be permanently ended.

 

 

 What Do You Think?

     Were God to allow you to choose your future “new name” right now, how would you use Revelation 2:17 as a basis for doing so?

 Digging Deeper

     With regard to your former self (per Romans 6:6; Ephesians 4:22–24, and Colossians 3:9, 10), in what one way can you live more victoriously now in light of your future “new name” (Revelation 3:12)?

 

 

 

FUN NAMES

 

A popular feature on some social media sites is games that give users new nicknames. Matching initials, birthdays, or other information allows users to generate novel names for themselves. For example, John, who was born March 3 might find that his superhero name is The Radioactive Hairy Mutant. His friend Linda, born November 27, is now The Daring Masked Cat!

Marketers use such features to draw people to their websites. A desire to discover a “new identity” as a superhero, a rock star, a unicorn, etc., can entice us to be open to a sales pitch we would never have considered otherwise.

The Lord promised a new name to those who would accept His righteousness as their own. Human desire to have a special identity and a fresh start is understood by God. How will we recognize sales pitches that offer us new names (reputations) that don’t line up with God’s intentions?

—J. E.

 

 

Conclusion

 

A. Blessed and Blessing

 

A few years ago I went on an outing to a retreat center. Among the many activities was horseback riding. One of the wranglers told me two things about horses. First, he said horses can live 50 years or more. Domesticated horses live longer and healthier lives than wild ones because of care. Second, horses thrive when they have work to do.

We are similar. As we place ourselves in the hand of God, under His care and control, we live better: we are blessed. Whether our years be many or few, they are of higher quality. In turn, living under the control and care of God comes with a mandate to take Christ to the world (see Matthew 28:19, 20).

 

 

 What Do You Think?

     In what ways have your views of justice been challenged because of our studies over the past several weeks?

 Digging Deeper

     What viewpoint do you continue to hold even though you sense God wants you to change?

 

 

 

B. Prayer

 

Heavenly Father, empower us by Your Spirit to let our lights shine! May others see Your Son in our good works and give glory to You. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

 

C. Thought to Remember

 

Obeying the righteous God of justice blesses ourselves and others.