Day 272 (Sept. 29): Jesus begins preaching, Jesus heals sick boy, Jesus calls on fishermen, Jesus cast out evil spirits, Jesus set on spreading the Word, crowds follow Jesus

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Mark 1:14-15

Matthew 4:12-17

Luke 3:23a

John 4:46-54

Luke 4:16-30

Mark 1:16-20

Matthew 4:18-22

Mark 1:21-28

Luke 4:31-37

Mark 1:29-34

Matthew 8:14-17

Luke 4:38-41

Mark 1:35-39

Luke 4:42-44

Matthew 4:23-25

Questions & Observations

O. (Matthew 4:12-17): Rob, from this reading, I can better understand what you kept saying in the OT that those directions from God were specifically for the Israelites.  Here we see that one prophecy is true.  I know you also said we could apply them to our lives, if it fits.  But, here we see that the OT prophecies are fulfilled in the NT — just another avenue of validity to the Bible.

Q. (John 4:46-54):  This was the second.  The first was turning the water into wine at a wedding (John 2:1-12):  I do notice that both of these accounts came from John.  Is that a pattern?

A.  Yes, John uses the miracles in his Gospel to point to the identity of Jesus as God in human form.  Because of that, the miracles he includes are very purposeful.  He will include 7 miracles, he calls them signs, (not counting the resurrection), which are accompanied by the so-called 7 “I AM” statements of Jesus about who He is, so watch for both of those in John’s Gospel.

Q. (Luke 4:16-30): This is a very revealing sentiment.  It does seem like those who you grow up around are not privy to what one is capable of.  They tend to be disbelieving and thus walk on their friend’s/family member’s ambition.  Is this what Jesus is talking about?  Any insight to the reason for oxymoronic tendency?

A. I think when you know someone’s history (as this whole town would have known Jesus’), you tend to, as you say, see what they are capable of — if it is radically different from what your previously thought about that person.  The people of Nazareth knew Jesus as a laborer/carpenter, and they knew His earthly father.  (Side note: Joseph is not mentioned again as a player in this story, so most scholars assume that he has died before Jesus begins His public ministry.)  Because they knew all this about Him (Nazareth was not a big city), it surely was strange to hear Him proclaim Himself as the one that Isaiah spoke of 800 years before Jesus read them.

Q. (Mark 1:16-20): Here Jesus doesn’t mean to throw our jobs away, right?  Just maybe if they are jobs that involve sin or maybe aren’t what one is being called to do?  This scripture is saying to throw your troubles, treasures and old ways aside and follow him.  Don’t hold on to what you are used to — the old ways — and ignore the Savior and righteous way that stands before you.  And, more importantly, it is saying that nothing is more important for these men (how about us?) than to bring others to God.  We don’t need fish, Jesus is our food.  This can serve as a test of faith for all of us, right?  I do notice that Jesus is not appealing to anyone (that we know of) to be his disciple who has wives and children at home.

And, we pick up two more disciples: James and John.  That makes six (Andrew, Simon Peter, Philip, Nathanael)

A. If you’re asking if God would NEVER ask us to give up our jobs to serve Him, well, He would, and He does.  But if you’re asking does He expect us to abandon our lives to follow Him, I would say that is not the standard.  Jesus called these men for a particular mission.  They would be responsible for learning from Him and changing the world after His resurrection.  Fishing would seem a lot less important at that point.

Q. (1:21-28): I would tend to think that drawing this evil spirit out had the purpose of showing that Jesus rules over evil.  I know there have been movies about evil spirits, demons and exorcisms, but I have not heard of any real ones in modern times.  Maybe there are.  But, I would think that the sole purpose of this demon being present would be to help Jesus establish his power and authority.

A. You’ve got the idea, but don’t forget Jesus’ love for the man himself, and the desire to see him freed from his bondage to this demon.

O. (Matthew 8:14-17): We are up to four-plus now: water to wine, heals government official’s son, cast out demons and now heals Simon’s mother-in-law and others that same night.

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Day 209 (July 28): A prayer for mercy and pardon, judgment and final salvation, Hezekiah dies

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Isaiah 63:15-66:24

2 Kings 20:20-21

2 Chronicles 32:32-33

Questions & Observations

Q. (Isaiah 63): It’s kind of confusing that sometimes Isaiah talks for himself, sometimes for God and I guess, here for the Israelites?

A. He is dialoguing, if you will, with God.  Isaiah begins in chapter 63, and then God responds in 64 and beyond.

Q. (63:17): Can that happen?  Can God “allow” people to turn from Him?  That seems just to be shifting blame to God.  Is it saying that God created them, so why did He make them where they could turn away from Him?

A. I guess that depends on your personal theology and perspective.  I personally am of the camp that says that God does not override free will, so we choose to turn away from Him, rather then His “allowing” or ordaining that we walk away (which would be much more of a Calvinistic argument, and I don’t want to go into that here).  Note well God’s reply in the next chapter, He basically says, “I was just waiting for you to call on me, but you never did.  You chose the path of sin, and now must deal with the consequences, but it is your own doing, not Mine.”  I think the way God replies sheds much light on His perspective on the matter.

O. (64:1-3): What an awesome picture this is painting.  Humans seem to have good short-term memories though.  And, when we don’t have frequent affirmation of God’s existence, our doubt rises.  But, like here, they are remembering God’s greatness.  We just have to keep that at the forefront of our memory.

O. (64:4-12): This reminds me of a child who keeps returns to home asking for money and forgiveness.

Q. (65:12): Who is the executioner?

A. Babylon, and King Nebuchadnezzar in particular.

Q. (65:20-25): God is describing heaven here?

A. He is describing His own restored Kingdom, as we have seen over the last few chapters.

Q. (66:2b-3a): This basically sums up who will be rewarded with salvation and who won’t, right?

A. I would say it makes for a good foundation, but a contrite heart alone is not enough: our hearts must allow us to see the salvation that God so generously offers, and accept the offer via the blood of His son Jesus.  But frankly, as verse 3 indicates, many choose to go their own way, content in the “knowledge” that they are all right on their own, and don’t need God.  Such thinking is very dangerous according to God.

Q. This reading went back and forth between talking about the resurrection of Jerusalem and judgment day, right?  It’s a little difficult to follow.

A. Actually, it also covered the destruction of Jerusalem as well, but yes.  God explains His position in response to Isaiah’s requests in the first chapter, and God says there is a price to be paid, but for those who survive (the remnant), they will inherit God’s eternal Kingdom.

Day 204 (July 23): Isaiah’s prophecies — Clear the way for the Lord is coming, no one compares to God, Israel’s enemies will shudder, the enemies’ idols will remain motionless, the Lord’s chosen servant, lessons not learned, God is always with Israel no matter the situation, revenge on Babylon, Jacob’s descendants will be blessed

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Isaiah 40-44:5

Questions & Observations

O. (Isaiah 40:1-31): The message I get from this whole chapter is how amazing God is.  We cannot imagine his abilities and reasons, there is no other like Him, He is immeasurable.

Q. (40:3-4): Are these verses just saying to get ready, roll out the red carpet for God?

A. Yes.  Watch the way John the Baptist will apply them to Jesus in the NT.

Q. (40:12-15): God seems so inconceivable and if you think about it, He seems impossible.  He’s so beyond our imaginations.  It makes me question if there is a God and I know I’m not alone.  But, then I think about how I felt on my walk a couple weeks ago.  I felt like I was gushing with glory.  Like my whole body was filled with happy tears.  It was nothing I had ever felt before to that degree.  When I question, I think about how the whole world is tied together, I think about how the Bible refers back and forth to one another of a span of hundreds of years.  But, there are so many questions left unanswered.   Like a Bible study leader I had once said, “at least we have the Bible to guide us.”  I would add, we have the Spirit too!

A. One of the fundamental things that I learned in reading about apologetics (the defense of Christianity) was the central concept to what the Bible claims to be: it is a collection of writings that record encounters with the Eternal.  As you rightly point out, since God is so beyond who we are as people, then while it may be in our nature to conjecture about what this being called God is like, it will only be endless speculation unless God Himself chooses to reveal His nature to us.  That nature is most clearly seen in the God/man, the person of Jesus Christ, what Colossians 2:9 calls the fullness of the Divine in human form.  Like many Christians, I believe that the entire Bible can be best seen through the lens of this understanding of Christ: when we see “through” it properly, everything else about the Scriptures falls into line.

O. (40:31): Just noting a great verse!

O. (41:11-12): God’s word that He will fight your battles for you.  I was talking to my best friend the other day.  The last time we had talked she was struggling to confront someone she really loved with a heavy question.  I asked her what became of that.  She said, “God is taking care of that for me.”  Wow.  I hadn’t realized how powerful God’s care can be.  And, what a burden to be free from!

Q. (41:13): The verse says that God will “hold you by your right hand.”  We talked about the right hand being their sword hands for fighting.  So, this says that God is their weapon?

A. Not in this case, though I confess I’m pleased that you recalled that remark.  In this case, God is describing holding the “right hand” of the nation to keep them from falling and provide support.  It is the same thing I do when I hold the hand (right or left) of my 2-year-old-daughter: if I hold her hand, I can keep her from falling over easily, while she is still learning to walk/run.  That’s what God is describing.

Q. (41:17): This is another repeating, perplexing, hard-for-me-to-shake question about God: If God is God, then why do people have to go thirsty?  Why doesn’t everyone always have food and water that they don’t have to scrounge for?   My guess is that it keeps us looking up.  It keeps us and back then, the Israelites, dependent upon God.  Why do we need to be dependent upon God?  Because He is the truth?  If we follow Him, we will live a good life because the rules that He has made make life work.

A. There’s an old anecdote that comes to mind in discussions like this one.  Two people are having a conversation, and one of them asks, “I’d like to ask God why He allows hunger, thirst, and bloodshed when He can do something about it.”  The other person replies, “I’m afraid God might ask me the same question.”

I don’t mean for that to be snarky.  I’m not saying, “well, if people are thirsty, what are you doing about it?”  What I want to do is point to a broader truth and get us thinking about our role in providing for the needs of those who can’t take care of themselves, for whatever reason.  Part of what God desires for us to do with the central truth of His message is that we are to love those around us sacrificially — if you heard Jim Keller’s sermon today at Summit (Orlando, FL), he was talking about this exactly.  It is our requirement, but also our right and privilege to be the hands and feet of Jesus in a world that is hurting.  That means that we participate in food pantries and well-water programs, we care for the elderly and the malnourished — don’t forget there are many like that right here in America — we work to rehabilitate drug addicts, prison inmates, and others that society is ready to write off.  If we are willing to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can often find ways that God desires for us to serve the needs of our neighbors — be it neighbors around the corner or across the globe.  Following Him, as you put it, is more then just about benefitting us, but also benefitting those who God desires to minister to.

O. (41:21-29): Essentially, this scripture just states that idols are empty!

Q. (42:6): I’m not sure who “you” is here.  It thought it was Israel, but then it says “I will give you to my people, Israel.”

A. This section of chapter 42 is describing a servant of the Lord, as the heading indicates.  Many — Christian and Jew alike — believe that it is describing the Messiah.  Watch for the ways that this Servant is spoken of in future chapters, as it will appear again.

Q. (42:9): The purpose of God’s prophecies are to show that God knows what will happen in the future (how could anyone know that?) thus proving that He is Lord.  Is it also truly a warning to the people too, giving them a chance to correct themselves before the impending doom?

A. Yes, I would say that it is.  But radical changes like that are rare for us: very often the path we have chosen to walk in life is very difficult to “bail out” of, even when it becomes clear that we are in danger.

O. (43:2): So no matter how hard life gets or how desperate we become, those things will not consume us.

Q. (43:14-44:5): OK, here’s another perplexing question I have.  God is a loving God, but He can have a very mean tone of voice.  But, I would think that if I had told someone something repeatedly — like I do with my children J — and they choose not to listen, my voice would — and does — get very impatient and elevated.  In a way, it’s like being a child and someone’s scolding you.  You feel terrible, but you know you did it, so who is to blame?

A. God is seeking to gain the attention of a people that have ignored Him for generations, despite all that He has done for them.  I’d say that calls for a little change in tone, don’t you?  If your child is in danger — and believe me, Judah is in danger, we’ve read about what happened to Israel — you raise your voice if your child isn’t listening.  Sometimes we understand that it is the only way.

Day 202 (July 21): Hezekiah seeks God’s help with Assyrians, King Sennecherib taunts Hezekiah, Isaiah predicts Judah’s deliverance

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

2 Kings 19:1-19

Isaiah 37:1-20

2 Chronicles 32:9-19

2 Kings 19:20-37

Isaiah 37:21-38

2 Chronicles 32:20-23

Questions & Observations

Q. (2 Kings 10-13): This taunting of the Assyrian king reminds me of the devil taunting and tempting Jesus for 40 days in the wilderness.

A. I can see why you might have that type of reading, but I think the events are very different.  Taunting is not the same as tempting, and the devil was tempting Jesus, not taunting Him.  The speaker in this story is mocking the people in order to make them fear the army that is coming.  The devil had particular reasons for tempting Jesus that I really want to save until we read that story, so I look forward to reading that passage (Matthew 4) at some point in the future.

Q. (2 Kings 19:1-19, Isaiah 37:1-20): I take several messages from this text.  Hezekiah is scared, at least he seems that way to me.  But, he takes his fear to God who calms him and lets him know that He can take it from here.  And, He does.  Sometimes I feel bad because even though I am a believer, I still get scared, worried and stressed.  I think that these are feelings that we shouldn’t have as Christians.  But, is God saying in this scripture that it’s OK to be scared as long as you still believe?

A. Fear is never of God, but it is often something that even the most seasoned Christian must deal with.  God desires for us to bring our fears to Him, that He might help us turn our fears into faith.

O. Sennacherib, king of Assyria, is badly belittling God.  He must not have any idea of God’s power.  And, arrogance gets you nowhere with God!

O. (2 Kings 19:28): Wow, what a visual!

Q. (19:35-36): That’s one way to send fear to an enemy!  Also, I didn’t realize that Ninevah was the capital of Assyria.  I guess Jonah had his work cut out for him!

A. Perhaps you can see why Jonah was not eager to fulfill his mission?  Ninevah was a great enemy, though Jonah’s story takes place many years before this one.

Q. (19:37): Why would Sennacherib’s sons kill him?

A. The Biblical story doesn’t tell us, but my notes indicate that Assyrian history from this period records that it was related to the king’s choice of a successor from among his many sons.  Apparently some of his sons didn’t care for his decision, to put it mildly.

Day 197 (July 16): Isaiah prophecies for Ethiopia, Egypt, Babylon, Edom, Arabia, Jerusalem, Shebna and Tyre

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Isaiah 18:1-7

Isaiah 19:1-25

Isaiah 20:1-6

Isaiah 21:1-17

Isaiah 22:1-25

Isaiah 23:1-18

Questions & Observations

Q. (Isaiah 18:1-7): I’m not sure what is going on here.  Why was Ethiopia brought into the picture?

A. Back on June 30th, when we last looked at Isaiah, I mentioned that this is the “Jonah” section of Isaiah.  What I mean by that is it is the section where God commands Isaiah to prophecy to various nations in the area, and now the list includes the various nations and tribes we see here, Ethiopia (other translations call it Cush), Assyria, Tyre, Edom, etc.  God is calling these other nations to repentance just as He does with Israel.

Q. (19:1): Rob, I want to look back to your second answer on Day 195 about angels and demons.  You said that fallen angels may be some of the demonic influences in other nations.   Just to get this straight, can they be associated with some of the man-made gods that were created?  Or is it more like God, unseen, but a lesser power?  I’m just bringing this up because verse 1 says “The idols in Egypt tremble.”

A. The idols worshipped in these other nations are not God, but they may — we can’t be sure — be associated with other spiritual powers such as demons.  Certainly many of the actions required of these “gods” such as human sacrifice reflect a spirit that is certainly against what the true God desires.  So in that sense, these gods are acting in ways counter to what God desires.  But it remains a mystery how much influence these evil, demonic spirits have in the OT.  We only get glimpses: our focus is to be on God.  Regarding the “quaking idols,” I believe Isaiah is using metaphorical language.

Q. (19:3): Rob, can you comment about “spirits of the dead”?

A. It’s referring to a soul or other spirit of a person disconnected from a body by death.  The ancient world believed that consulting with such spirits was one way to control the future, so it is no surprise that we see this here.  Israel was strictly forbidden from doing it, but other nations were not.

Q. (19:23-25): God is just expanding His kingdom here?

A. Sort of.  This is once again a vision of life in the Kingdom of God after the great Day of Reckoning or Judgment.  In that day, Isaiah says, the former conflicts — like the rivalries between Egypt, Israel, and Assyria — will disappear and the people will be united in the worship of God.

Q. (20:1-6): What happened?  I thought Assyria and Egypt were allies.  It seems as the king of Assyria is always a thorn in someone’s side.  Poor Isaiah — naked and barefoot for three years!  That is some servant!  Now, the Philistines are thrown into the ring too.  I don’t know what’s going on here.

A. These various factions are constantly making and shifting alliances.  We see this in the story we are reading as well: sometimes Judah and Israel (before being destroyed) were allies, and sometimes they were bitter enemies.  Assyria and Egypt are the two most powerful nations of this era at this time, so it is no surprise that they both tried to gain the upper hand against each other, even if it meant betraying former alliances.

Q. (22:1-14): So, Jerusalem finally got hit.  Reading the account is strange.  It says they were destroyed by famine and disease.  Famine and disease usually occur over time.  This account sounds like it happened in one day.  Is there any reason to the order of destruction of these countries?  Israel was destroyed some time ago.

A.  Narratively speaking, this is a prophecy of Jerusalem’s destruction, not the “event” itself if that makes sense.  The city will be under siege for several years before it falls — which we will read about in Jeremiah and 2 Kings — with plenty of time for the famine and disease aspects Isaiah talks about to take place.

Q. (22:15-25): The palace administrator was obviously corrupt, but we haven’t heard much about him, right?

A. No, we do not know much of anything about him, other than the fact that his name implies that he was not an Israelite: he was most likely an Egyptian.

Q. (23:17-18): So even the most proud place will convert to God?  Why is Tyre likened to a prostitute?

A. Tyre was a sea-faring nation, and they hired their ships out to whoever gave them the most money.  They didn’t care where it came from or what it was for.  God is saying that they have sold their soul and are “whoring” themselves out in ways that do not please Him.  In the Day of the Lord, all nations will see God’s glory and turn to Him, even the most proud.

Day 181 (June 30): Ahaz dies, Babylon destroyed for its sins, those who raided Israel will be Israel’s servants, Assyria will be trampled, Philistines will see fierce soldiers from north, Moab will be leveled

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

2 Kings 16:19-20

2 Chronicles 28:26-27

Isaiah 13-16

Questions & Observations

Q. (Isaiah 13:4): Who are these armies?  Those who still believe in God?

A. Though the title of the section refers to the Babylonian army, it is actually referring to what we have been calling the Assyrians.  Babylon was their most important city, and so this section (13:1-14:27) all pertains to the Assyrian people, army, and king.  But there will be another Babylon that will come onto the scene and be a very important player in future events for Judah.

Q. (13:16,18): OK, it doesn’t look like these people are followers of God if they are raping women and killing children.  I guess God just mobilized these wicked soldiers so Babylon could look evil in the eye?

A. Isaiah is talking about the same armies we have already been seeing in the story.  The Assyrian army routed the nation of Israel and pretty much everything in their path, and did so with bloodthirsty gusto.

Q. (14:1-23): We haven’t heard much about Babylon, right?  We have mostly heard of Samaria and Jerusalem.  Why Babylon now?  What was the city known for … not counting the evil?

A. For the moment, it is known for being the capital of Assyria.  Hold onto this question, and let’s revisit it later.

Q/O. (14:24-27): You were right in one of yesterday’s questions when you said it wasn’t Assyria who would bring down Israel.

A. Hum, Assyria did destroy Israel.  What I mentioned yesterday is that Assyria would not destroy Judah, and that I stand by.

Q. (15:1-16:14): And why is destroying Moab important?  What is its relationship to Israel?  It seems like I remember battles between the two ever since the Israelites arrived in Canaan.

A. This section of Isaiah contains prophecy against many other nations (he’s going to talk about Damascus and Egypt next, for example).  So in that sense, there’s nothing special about Moab, other than it was a nation that God told Isaiah to prophecy to.  This section of Isaiah is all about God calling the nations in this part of the world to account for their sins (like Jonah was called to), while keeping the long-term focus unto the people of God.

Day 180 (June 29): Jerusalem will rise after destruction, the Lord will reign, Israel will be humbled, Jerusalem will fall, warning to Jerusalem, God will restore Jerusalem, Judah’s judgment

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Isaiah 1:21-5:30

Questions & Observations

Q. (Isaiah 1:23): Dare I say that this sounds like our country.  I can’t stand seeing so much government waste, so much corruption and our tax money being tangled up and not going to the places that truly need help.  Is this a fair comparison to back in the OT?

A. What caught my eye was the portion that talked about not seeking justice for the poor and widowers.  I think there are certain comparisons, but don’t forget we live in a very different world than they did, and not everyone in our society can be expected to be held to Judeo-Christian values.  Part of the reason the light of the gospel is so important to share is that until people see this light, they are often unaware of how dark their world really was.

Q. (1:27): What does Zion mean?  We’ll see more of it?

A. Zion is a term that God and others use to describe Jerusalem, and also the hill/mountain within the city itself, which in turn came to be seen as the Mountain of God (or one of them, along with Sinai/Horeb).  It is a shorthand way to refer to both the city and the Kingdom of God.  And yes, it will be seen over and over again.

Q. (2:1-5): God foretells stories whether it’s destruction or rebuilding.  And the way He talks is that — what I get from it anyway — the next phase whether good or bad will be the last and final.  He talks of how the people will act here, how they would worship.  But, He can’t force them too, right?  He’s just giving them a picture of what their lives could be if they followed Him?

A. I think that’s correct.  I do not believe that God overrides human will, so if we chose not to follow Him and go our own way, we reap the consequences.

Q. (3:1-1-5): God is making a situation where the leadership is already wicked to one that would be pure chaos.  How does this help them to get better?  Or, is it just punishment?

A. He’s warning them right now to stop it and repent.  If they don’t repent, then it becomes a just punishment.  But as we have seen — and these verses talk about — even the punishment serves His purposes: it forces the people to see the error of their ways that they saw no other way.  When the people are ready to repent, God will restore them.

O. (3:16-4:1): I must say that Isaiah is a very good writer!  What pictures he paints with God’s words.  I guess we could say that it was God who is the great writer.  I was looking at our landscape today in Florida, admiring the trees and the blue skies.  But, it was marred with utility lines.  I’m not saying we should do without them, just that humans do a good job of messing up God’s artistry.  But, here, Isaiah did Him justice!

Q. (4:5): With the cloud and smoke covering, we see a reminder of God guiding the Israelites in the desert for 40 years.

A. It is certainly shades of the Exodus, but the point of this verse is the shelter that God provides His children.  It’s a cool image to me.