Outlaws: Isaiah

At Gateway Church in Austin, we kicked off our series called Outlaws, a series looking at prophets whose stories point towards the Messiah.

Many times in our lives we experience circumstances beyond our control, whether that involves finances, relationships, family, health, or even the weather. Being human, we often feel the need to worry and try to control the various factors in our lives in an attempt to protect ourselves and the ones we love, but ultimately we don’t have the power. What could it look like to let go and trust God to be in control of all the things we care about so much?

The Outlaws series included the following messages:

Moses
Isaiah

Daniel
Jeremiah
Elijah/John the Baptist

Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.

WITH YOUR FAMILY, ROOMMATES, OR LIFE GROUP, WORK THROUGH THE MESSAGE NEXT STEPS:

Isaiah Next Steps

LISTEN TO THE MESSAGE I SHARED AT GATEWAY IN SOUTH AUSTIN:

HERE ARE THE MESSAGE NOTES FROM JOHN BURKE:

Life can feel scary and out of control at times. Kind of like you’re being chased down, hunted, or like the hammer’s poised about to drop.  But what if you could know—really know to the depth of your core that God’s in full control, you have nothing to fear? Ultimately, nothing can harm you. How would that change your life? Your outlook? Your ability to live free of fear, able to take more risks, love bolder, explore, try, create?  Well, God is fully in Control, He’s Sovereign—ruler over everything. And He intends you to live with the confident assurance that You are his, so you have nothing to fear.

Today we’re diving into Isaiah which is a beautiful book that demonstrates God’s Reality and His Sovereignty—He’s real and really in control even when things seem out of control. We don’t have to live in panic, in fear, trying to control everything if we belong to the One in Control of the Universe.

Isaiah has some of the most remarkable prophecies fulfilled in the person of Jesus. Written 700 years before Jesus, Isaiah describes the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus with incredible accuracy.

Just over 70 years ago, a Bedouin shepherd boy chased a goat inside and found the Dead Sea Scrolls, the most remarkable archaeological find of all time in these caves in Qumran in the desert outside of Jerusalem. [Cave Pic],

  • Inside he found it filled with well-preserved sealed clay jars.
  • Inside the sealed clay jars were 2200 year old leather scrolls.
  • In these Dead Sea Scrolls were parts of 38 of the 39 books of the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible.
  • The first scroll the Bedouin boy grabbed was a complete copy of the Book of Isaiah which was dated by scientists using radiocarbon dating somewhere between 335 BCE and 122 BCE!

When comparing these 2200 year old scrolls with what we have in our translations, Jeff Sheler of U.S. News and World Report wrote that “the scholars were astonished at what they found.”

“Of 66 chapters of the book of Isaiah, scholars have found only thirteen relatively small variations—a phrase or two missing or added—that do nothing to alter the meaning.” – Sheler, U.S. News & World Report.

As Sir Fredrick Kenyon, Archaeologist and principle librarian of the British Museum, who knows manuscript authority like no other says:

“The last foundation for any doubt that the Scriptures have come down to us substantially as they were written has now been removed. –Kenyon, British Museum

So in summary, when someone naively tells you—Oh, the Bible has been copied and changed and so full of errors—tell them “That is actually not true.” Be nice about it, but the issue is not whether what we have in the Bible is accurate to the original. The issue is will you believe what is written and live it out.

God is Sovereign, and He’s put His promises in the Bible so you can know Him, and know You’re loved and Secure if you’ve given your life back to him in Christ.

Last week we pointed out that God created the Jewish nation to bless all nations in 2 ways: reveal and preserve the Scriptures and reveal the Messiah, the savior of the world. He also talked about Moses and the Passover which foretold the Messiah as the ultimate Passover sacrifice.

So in 1500 B.C. God says through Moses, the way you’ll know a prophet is truly from God is that only God knows the future.  Don’t accept just anyone claiming to be a prophet, and poser prophets who claimed things that could be checked out but didn’t, faced the death penalty.

God challenges false gods to prove themselves, Isaiah records,

“Tell us what the future holds, so we may know that you are gods…You are my witnesses, says YHWH, and my servant whom I have chosen: so that you may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God…who has announced this from antiquity? Who has told it from then? Is it not I YHWH? And there is no other God beside me; a righteous God and a Savior; there is none beside me. Turn to me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth.  Isaiah 41:23, 43:10-11, 45:21-22 (680 B.C. Dead Sea version)

Remember, this is not Christian, we’re reading directly from a copy of Isaiah dated before Christianity existed.  And God says, I alone foretell what I will do, so you can know the One True God—if you want to find God, you can know him. Isaiah proves that true—God is real and Sovereign over all.  And more importantly, He loves all his children that he created for His love.

So for a little more context. Isaiah 1-39, God is warning His people because He loves them. We discover God’s character, how He can be trusted even when circumstances are going badly. Sometimes we are in a bad spot as a result of the bad decisions we have made. So we learn that

God Warns Us because he Loves us (Isaiah 1-39)

The stories of the Hebrew Scriptures teach us about human tendency—and human tendency is to think we know best and God doesn’t.

  • We all sin and seek our own will, playing God rather than loving God and seeking His will.
  • This is the history of Israel.
  • God makes a covenant with Abraham in 2000 BC to bless all nations, it’s unconditional.
  • God would send Messiah to pay for all our wrongs—so relationship with God could be a free gift, unconditionally.
  • But To Moses, God’s covenant was conditional—if you follow me, you will be blessed. If you go your own way, out from my protection, eventually evil will corrupt you and enemies will displace you.
  • Both still apply, relationship with God is unconditional and free.
  • Experience of God’s blessings of love, peace, joy comes with following his will.

So Israel for many years experiences God’s blessings, and King David’s time ~1000 BC was the high point.

  • His son Solomon is the wealthiest, most blessed ever, and like human tendency—when we are doing well, we don’t think we need God, so he turned away from God.
  • The kings after him led people to worship gods that demanded child sacrifice and all kinds of evil practices.
  • The nation had Civil War and divided into Israel and Judah.
  • God keeps sending prophets to warn the people—don’t keep going this way.
  • But they ignored God’s Word, and in about 740-720 BC the Assyrians invaded Israel and began deporting them.

Isaiah writes to the remaining Israelites and Judah, warning them to turn back to God, He is always merciful and will come to help you. Isaiah begins:

For the Lord has spoken: “I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me…Why do you persist in rebellion? Your whole head is injured, your whole heart afflicted.  Isaiah 1:2-5

Listen to how God pleads and warns as a loving parent with a son or daughter who is making destructive choices.

In all the prophetic warnings in the Bible, understand God’s pleading with people, don’t keep doing this to yourself—I love you, turn to me, be healed.

But he also warns:

Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless. What will you do on the day of reckoning…. Isaiah 10:1 

Are you not a brood of rebels, the offspring of liars? You burn with lust among the oaks and under every spreading tree; you sacrifice your children in the ravines and under the overhanging crags. Isaiah 57:4-5

God is full of love, mercy, compassion he said to Moses, but he doesn’t tolerate evil and injustice without consequence—eventually consequences come. And when it seems God’s not stopping evil, it’s because he’s patiently waiting for the people who he loves to turn from it and to him.

So the first 40 chapters of Isaiah are warnings, always interspersed with God’s hope that they’ll turn and be healed:

Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.19 If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the good things of the land; 20 but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” Isaiah 1:17-20

 Let me now share with you 7 prophecies that were fulfilled in Jesus as a reminder that God can be trusted to fulfill His Word to us and that Jesus is who He claimed to be – the Son of Man – another biblical phrase describing the Messiah.

God’s Messiah Will Prove God’s Love and Save Us

God told us how we could know he is the One True God, he alone can foretell the future.  And in Isaiah, but also many other prophets like Daniel, which we’ll look at next week, God told in advance the coming of Jesus. Remember, what we’re reading was proof-positive written before Jesus birth, yet God tells us in advance so we can know:

God is with Us

14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14. 

Immanuel means “God is with us.” And notice, Isaiah foretells the virgin birth of Jesus. If that seems far fetched, suspend judgement until you see all the specific things foretold, like how, where, why, even when the Messiah would come.

God will enter humanity as a child and live in Galilee

In the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—The people walking in darkness have seen a great light… For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. Isaiah 9:1-7  

And notice, God as human would come to Galilee.

They would see a great light. Jesus said “I am the light of the world, whoever believes in me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” And history inside and outside the Bible verifies that Jesus grew up in Galilee.

So the exact location of Messiah’s ministry is foretold.

Understand, the Jewish creed is that there’s One God, not 2 not 3.

Yet here is the mystery of God’s Sovereign joining of himself with humanity in love.

He said He would become one of us, a child, a son.

Yet this son would be called Mighty God, Everlasting Father—that’s blasphemy unless this is the One True God.

But look, even the mystery of God as One, yet revealed in Father, Son, Holy Spirit is revealed in Isaiah:

[The Lord] said, “Surely they are my people, children [of Father God] who will be true to me”; and so he became their Savior [Jesus means salvation]. In all their distress he too was distressed, and the angel of his presence saved them. In his love and mercy he redeemed them; he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.10 Yet they rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit. Isaiah 63:8-10.

 Father, Son, Spirit but only One God, revealed here in the Old Testament.

Now, skeptics often ask, so if God was on earth as Jesus, who was ruling the Universe?
But you’re thinking 3-Dimensionally, God’s not bound by our dimensions.

  • Science has demonstrated multi-dimensional space that must be around us to make sense of quantum physics and general relativity.
  • So God must exist beyond our dimensions.
  • Which means God’s incarnation as Messiah was not revealing all there is to the Infinite, Sovereign Creator, but a Human representation—a form we could understand and relate to.

Hebrews 1:3 says this:

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being. Hebrews 1:3.  

Isaiah calls the Messiah the Arm of God, reaching into humanity.

So God was always fully in control, infinite, ruling the Universe while sticking his arm into human dimensionality through Jesus.

God will come to Jerusalem

Jesus ministry was done mostly in Galilee and in Jerusalem, and God foretold this as well:

A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God…the glory of the Lord will be revealed…You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” 10 See, the Sovereign Lord comes with power… He tends his flock like a shepherd. Isaiah 40:3-11

It couldn’t be more clear—God, the Sovereign Lord will come to Jerusalem with power, but to tenderly care for his flock.

Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and they know me, and I lead them to good pastures.”

This is the heart of God, to lead us into good things. But we must first realize our rebellious tendency to play God, and realize we need forgiveness, we need to turn back to God. 

“The Redeemer will come to Jerusalem to buy back those in Israel who have turned from their sins,” says the Lord. Isaiah 59:20

Messiah God Comes for All Nations

God’s Servant, the word Isaiah uses for Messiah, Jesus, cares about all people, of all nations—He is the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham—to bless all nations. Jesus came to bless and buy back all nations for himself by making a new covenant, a new agreement:

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations.… I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles,to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.“I am the Lord; that is my name!…new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you.”  Isaiah 42:1-9.

 God alone declares what’s to come, and Jesus stood up in the synagogue and read Isaiah 61 that says almost the same:

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…. Isaiah 61:1-2

Then he said, “Today this prophecy is fulfilled”

He was announcing that He is Messiah.

He wants us, his church, to do the same—to be on the same mission, to announce the year of God’s Favor—God is For you, not against you.

And the Messiah would make a new covenant for all people—for the Jews and Gentiles (all nations), and ultimately He will bring Justice to all nations for all who love Him and trust that He is in control, so we are safe, secure, protected eternally.

This world may harm us, evil may come against us, but one day Justice will come and God will make it all right for all who trust in Him.

That’s why you have nothing to fear, He’s roaring behind you.

There was a kid in the hospital most of life who was asked: “How can that be fair?”

He responded: “God’s got all eternity to make it up to me.”

But the cost of this new relational covenant would be the Messiah’s sacrifice—the final sacrificial lamb.

And now the Lord says—he who formed me in the womb to be his servant to bring Jacob back to him and gather Israel to himself…[He] says: “It is too small a thing for you to be my servant to restore the tribes of Jacob and bring back those of Israel I have kept. I will also make you a light for the Gentiles, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” – Isaiah 49:5-6

But how he would do that would be costly:

The Messiah Will Suffer for Our Sins

As we’re approaching Easter, I wonder how many of you have ever stomached watching Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ? [Hand raise].  It was rated R because of the graphic violence, which Hollywood normally celebrates, but they criticized Gibson for portraying Jesus betrayal and beatings so brutally.

But if you read Isaiah, Mel got it right.

See, my servant will act wisely; he will be raised and lifted up and highly exalted.14 Just as there were many who were appalled at himhis appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any human being and his form marred beyond human likeness—15 so he will sprinkle many nations….” Isaiah 52:13-15

God would enter humanity as an act of love and compassion, healing us, teaching us, caring for the poor and brokenhearted.

  • Read the eyewitness Gospel accounts of Jesus life, miracles, and compassion, but then how brutally he was beaten, mocked, tortured by our evils.
  • The evils of humanity can so blind us, human tendency is to so play God and want to be in control, that if God himself gets in the way, we’ll do anything to ignore him, deny him, kill him.
  • Before you say “Not me.” Answer this: Is there any area of life where you’re resisting God’s Sovereignty—his rightful rule—you’re still calling the shots and saying “Not that God, I can’t trust you with that?”
  • Before we hate on those who crucified Jesus, realize, it’s the same wayward heart.

Even still, He came to rescue us in spite of our hard hearts.

You know there is something miraculous happening in the Jewish community. Many are coming to faith because of this passage – Isaiah 53. It is because they are told Jesus isn’t their messiah and they weren’t allowed to read that passage. They have heard of Jesus’ sufferings from Christian’s and think Jesus is bogus. So when they read this in their Scriptures they are shocked and probably wonder why the passage is forbidden and get suspicious.

Isaiah foretold all this:

Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord [Messiah] been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot…He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain…Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering…he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity [sins] of us all. Isaiah 53:1-6

Do you grasp what I’m showing you—all this was written almost 700 years before Jesus, yet even secular historians like Josephus, Pliny, Tacitus and others verify that Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem, and he did it to pay for all our sins and wrongs. That first Easter resurrection is also right here in Isaiah 53:

though the Lord makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days…11 After he has suffered, he will see the light of life [resurrection] and be satisfied…because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many….  Isaiah 53:10-12. 

God foretold that first Easter 700 years before it happened, so we could know—this is the Sovereign God who is in control, who has my future in his hands. I’m safe and secure if I’m in Christ.

Why would he do it?

  • Because the Sovereign God who is more powerful and in control than you can imagine, is Love.
  • He loves you like no other.
  • He loves you like a mother or father loves a child and would take a bullet for them. God took the bullet for you.
  • Because we all wander off stray from God’s path, we all need forgiveness.
  • But Jesus paid the price for our rebellious treason against our Maker, so he could be Just in forgiving us.
  • So we would love and trust and follow Him into good things.

But Israel and Judah ignored God’s loving warnings, and kept rebelling against his ways. So eventually, God let them go their own way—and out from God’s protection, the Babylonians came in 587 BC and conquered the rest of Israel, Samaria, and Judah destroyed the Temple, and took the Jews into captivity. God told them, you’ll be in Babylon 70 years, then when you look to me, I’ll deliver you back to your land. That’s where we will pick up with Daniel next week.

God of All Nations

but even in Israel’s downfall and Jerusalem’s destruction, God shows how Sovereign He is over all nations, so surely, if God is the God of all history, and He loves you like a child, then He can take care of you—nothing gets out of his control, so you don’t have to be so controlling—you can rest assured that all is well.

If this has not proven to you God’s reality, then consider how in the world Isaiah would know the history of nations?!

God tells Isaiah, Babylon with its arrogant king Nebuchadnezzar who thinks he’s god, will come and deport you, but as we will see next week, God will use the Jews like Daniel to turn this arrogant King back to the True God. But God says:

Babylon, the jewel of kingdoms, the pride and glory of the Babylonians, will be overthrown by God like Sodom and Gomorrah.20 She will never be inhabited or lived in through all generations. Isaiah 13:19-20.   

Do you know critics of the Bible said Babylon was a mythical city for years—like they say the Exodus didn’t happen—then archeologists discovered last century, Babylon, right there in Iraq. It had been uninhabited for 1000s of years, a lost city.  Same with the city of Tyre, the great Phonecian city, like our Los Angeles, yet Isaiah and Ezekiel say

Wail, you ships of Tarshish! For Tyre is destroyed and left without house or harbor. Isaiah 23:1

[Nations] will destroy the walls of Tyre and pull down her towers; I will scrape away her rubble and make her a bare rock. 5 Out in the sea she will become a place to spread fishnets.  Ezekiel 26:1-5 (592-570 BC). 

It actually happened, this once prosperous city by the sea historian Phillip Meyers explains became desolate:

“Alexander the Great…reduced it to ruins (332 B.C.)…the larger part of the site of the once great city is now bare as the top of a rock—a place where fishermen that still frequent the spot spread their nets to dry.” Philip Meyers, historian

Only the Sovereign God, Ruler of the Universe, could know the history of great nations like Babylon and Tyre in advance, yet also foretell what happened in 1948 with barren Israel.

Rebirth of Israel a Sign to the Nations

Isaiah warned Israel and Judah they would be destroyed, deported to Babylon, but after 70 years return to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. But he also foretold a second dispersion and regathering of Israel—when they rejected their Messiah.

As [Jesus] approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you… They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you…[you] will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Luke 19:41-44, 21:24

God’s heart is for our peace—that we would accept him, love him, and follow him.

But Jesus predicted real history, just like Isaiah did.

40 years after his Crucifixion, the Romans leveled Jerusalem, the Jewish people were scattered to all the nations.

What other nation has survived 2000 years with no homeland?  From A.D. 70 until 1948, the Jews had no land, no government, no leader…yet there are Russian Jews, American Jews, Ethiopian Jews, European Jews…who miraculously survived all the evils a world turned away from God can afflict—right? But God also said that in the last days, Israel would resettle Jerusalem—as a sign to all nations, He is the Sovereign God who love you.  

10 In that day the Root of Jesse [the Messiah King David’s father, who Jesus was descended from] will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. 11 In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time [notice first regathering hadn’t happened yet] to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people…12 He will raise a banner [a sign] for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth. Isaiah 11:10-12

In 1948, the year the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, right after the Holocaust, Isaiah’s prophecy happened. Jews miraculously streamed back to Israel. Rom, our drummer is from Israel, his grandfather survived the Nazi concentration camp in Auschwitz, and moved his family to Israel. Zion is the mountain of Jerusalem, so they were called Zionists. And in 1948, the United nations declared Israel a Nation again.  A nation is born overnight—when has that ever happened in History, and yet God foretold it through Isaiah:  

Who has ever seen things like this? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment? Yet no sooner is Zion in labor than she gives birth to her children. Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?” says the Lord…. 10 “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her…. Isaiah 66:8-10

Do you see how Great God is?

He’s proven himself to us again and again.

Remember, all this was proof positive written before Jesus—foretelling all Jesus would do, and the history of nations, right up to our day.

And Jesus said, the Jews would be scattered, until the times of the Gentiles (the rest of the nations) is complete. Is that our era?

I don’t know, but I know it’s time to turn back to God, to trust His sovereignty completely.

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