Old Testament

Second Isaiah

Divine Word – Discussion Questions

Questions for Discussion:

1. Isaiah 40 begins with a call for human help to implement God’s plans for Israel’s salvation, just as in Isaiah 6 God seeks agents to bring about divine judgment on Israel. In chapter 6 the prophet volunteers to be God’s servant. Who are the servants addressed at the beginning of Isaiah 40?

2. In Isaiah 40:3-5 God’s return to Jerusalem is described in cosmic terms. The implication of this language is that God has not simply sent Israel into exile in Babylon but has actually gone with them and shared the experience with them. This suggests that God voluntarily suffers along with the people. How does the New Testament understand this idea, and how do the Gospel writers relate it to their understanding of Jesus?

3. In Isa. 40:8 the writer affirms what may be the central theological truth of the whole book: God’s word, once given, will inevitably be fulfilled, not just once, but over and over again. How did this belief help the early Church to understand Jesus and to understand its own role in the fulfillment of God’s will. Do you think that this same belief can be applied in the contemporary church?

4. Beginning in Isaiah 40, Second Isaiah places a particularly strong emphasis on the role that human agents play in doing God’s work in the world. The text up to this point has talked about several kinds of divine servants: individuals like the prophet, divine beings who are servants, the unidentified group addressed at the beginning of Isaiah 40, the unidentified individual in Isa. 52:13-53:12, whose suffering and eventual exaltation are redemptive for the whole community, and the city of Jerusalem itself, which perhaps suffers for the redemption of Israel and which proclaims God’s salvation to all the cities of Judah and ultimately to the whole world. What are the implications of this idea of servanthood for understanding the role of individual Christian communities in the world?

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