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Isaiah Week 04 Group Discussion Guide

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BEFORE YOU GATHER

  • Familiarize yourself with this Group Discussion Guide
  • If you missed it,CLICK HEREto watch the weekend sermon
  • Read Isaiah 30
  • Get a feel for the Book of Isaiah as a whole byWATCHING THIS VIDEO
  • Sit in prayerful silence with God for a while, and ask the Holy Spirit if there is anything that he wants you to share during your group's time together.

ISAIAH DEVOTIONAL: THE POETRY OF GOD'S REDEMPTION
Every week, enhanced content will be provided for those who want to take things beyond their group's gathered time to be used for personal enrichment.

In the West, when we want to make a point, we tend to order our argument like this: 1) Introductory Words 2) Point One 3) Point Two 4) Point Three 5) Conclusion

The Conclusion is "the heart" of what we're trying to say, it shows up in the end, and everything that we've been saying has been building towards the end.

But in the Middle East, where the Old Testament was written, "the heart" of what someone is writing (or saying) is usually smack-dab in the middle. And so, in poems like Isaiah 35, "the heart" isn't at the beginning or the end, it's in the middle.

But there's more! Surrounding the middle are the outer parts that "rhyme" with one another. Hebrew is a tough language to rhyme, so the Old Testament poets don't necessarily rhyme sounds, but they rhyme thoughts, images, and symbols.

With that in mind, here's the structure of Isaiah 35

A1: A transformed creation greets The Redeemed Exiles (v1-2b)

B1: In a glorified world, The Redeemed Exiles see God's glory (2c-f)

C1: "God is coming to save you, so be strong!" (v3-4)

HEART: Our hope is that God will redeem our humanity (v5-6b)

C2: God's renewal will extend to creation, even the wastelands! (6c-7)

B2: The Redeemed Exiles will be able to return to Zion on a safe highway (v8-9a)

A2: The Redeemed Exiles will return to Zion with joy (9b-10)

Crack open Isaiah 35 right now and see this for yourself!

Isaiah 35 is about God's work of bringing his exiled people back home. The imagery that Isaiah uses connects their return with the renewal of creation. God's redemption reaches every part of creation humans, creatures, and this whole created world! Passages like this one provide the hopeful backdrop for the New Testament writers who describe the future redemption of our bodies, and all of creation! And so in Romans 8:18-25, Paul reminds us of our hopethat the destiny of humans and creation are interconnected. After all, the fallout of humanity's sinful rebellion spilled out into the created realm, and so creation also needs to experience release from exile! All throughout the Bible, we see that God is committed to his creation. If he created it, he intends to redeem it, and restore it to Himself!

Read Romans 8:18-25 and Ask Yourself: if this is the destiny of the whole world, am I treating my body and the earth as gifts from God, or am I mismanaging and polluting them? If my physical senses are gifts from God that allow me to experience this good world that God has made, what can I do this week to get away from the excess of electronic screens in my life, and instead, enjoy the gift of creation? Where in creation am I reminded that "this is my Father's world," and that He is going to set everything right?

GROUP DISCUSSION

Opening Prayer: (1-5 minutes)
In light of what God is saying through this week's message, here's some suggestions of how your group can invite God into your time together.

Pray that God would speak to us about any way in which our hearts and lives and actions are far from Him, and that we would not harden our hearts and resist His voice. Pray with the words of Augustine, an early Christ follower and leader of the church: You never go away from us, yet we have difficulty in returning to You. Come, Lord, stir us up and call us back. Kindle and seize us. Be our fire and our sweetness. Let us love. Let us run.

Quick Connection: (5 minutes)
Haveeveryone take 30 seconds each to share a phrase or a moment from this weekend's message that is still resonating with them. You also have the option to say "Pass."

Large Group Discussion: (30 minutes)
This weekend's message came from Isaiah 30 and 35. If everyone has a Bible, let's go there together.

  • When we are confronted about how we are living outside of God's best for human life, what does true repentance look like? Is true repentance more than just a feeling of sorrow?
  • (Read Isaiah 30v1-2) When your life is not submitted to God's leadership, how are you tempted to forge alliances that God cannot bless? On the same note, who are you tempted to consult, and they wouldn't offer the same kind of wisdom and counsel that the Spirit would give you?
  • The people in Jerusalem didn't listen to the warnings that came through God's prophets, and so they were eventually taken into exile. Are there modern-day forms of exile, where we experience a terrible distance in our relationships with God and with other people, and this distance is the consequence of our own choices? What are some examples of this kind of exile?
  • (Read Isaiah 30v9-14) Consider how the people of Jerusalem responded when they were faced with a message of hard-hitting truth. When God confronts you, what are the variety of ways that you have responded? Lately, have you shown a willingness to listen to the Lord's instruction, or do you just want to hear what you want to hear?
  • (Read Isaiah 30v15-26) This week, we were reminded that no matter how our sin has stained us, no matter how far we have gone down the path of rebellion, there is always hope for anyone who will stop pleading their own innocence and blaming someone else. For anyone who will just plead guilty, throwing themselves on the mercy of the court, admitting, "I blew it. I failed. I sinned. I am guilty as charged," their exile will take a turn for the better. God doesn't only forgive us, he intends to transform us. He will lead us back to himself, saying, "This is the way, walk in it."How has God shown this to be true in your own story?
  • Isaiah 35:5-6a says: Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then the crippled shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute will sing. This is a poetic description of what waits for us on the other side of true repentance. Do any of these images describe the essence of what you have experienced in a time of repentance?

CLOSING PRAYER (5-15 minutes):
In light of what God is saying through this week's message, here's some suggestions of what your group could talk about with God in prayer.

Perhaps there are folks in your group who are experiencing their own form of exile. Close by reflecting upon where and how we need to return to God. If you are able to pull up this music video on your phone, tablet, or laptop, your group could use it as an aid to prayer (load the video ahead of time and pause it after the ad has played): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6smGew7dGto

Otherwise, have someone with a poetic speaking voice read the lyrics as the group reflects on them.

Clear the Stage, by Ross King (performed by Jimmy Needham)

Clear the stage and set the sound and lights ablaze
If that's the measure you must take to crush the idols.
Jerk the pews and all the decorations, too
Until the congregation's few, then have revival.
Tell your friends that this is where the party ends
Until you're broken for your sins, you can't be social.
Then seek the Lord and wait for what he has in store
And know that great is your reward so just be hopeful.

'Cause you can sing all you want to and still get it wrong;
worship is more than a song.

Take a break from all the plans that you have made
And sit at home alone and wait for God to whisper.
Beg him please to open up his mouth and speak
And pray for real upon your knees until they blister.
Shine the light on every corner of your life
Until the pride and lust and lies are in the open,
Then read the word and put to test the things you've heard
Until your heart and soul are stirred and rocked and broken.

'Cause you can sing all you want to and still get it wrong;
worship is more than a song.

We must not worship something that's not even worth it.
Clear the stage, make some space for the One who deserves it.

Anything I put before my God is an idol.
Anything I want with all my heart is an idol.
Anything I can't stop thinking of is an idol.
Anything that I'd give all my love is an idol.

'Cause you can sing all you want to and still get it wrong;
worship is more than a song.

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