We are studying Isaiah 29:13-24 for Sunday, May 9. This is a portion of the book of the prophet Isaiah that declares both the guilt, and the prospective deliverance, of Jerusalem. [Some notes on the text are here.] Here are some questions we might want to consider, or discuss, in our study of this text:
We are focusing on the last half of Isaiah 29. The chapter begins with a reference to worship – festivals – in Jerusalem; our selection also begins with a reference to worship (v13); the chapter (and our selection) ends with a reference to worship, as well as to understanding or discernment, and to instruction.
Why might these references to worship matter? Do they seem to us to be related to the other parts of the prophet’s message? How, do we think?
What is the specific problem with worship identified in v13? What makes it a problem, do we think? Do we see that problem reflected anywhere else in the text? Where?
[More general] What do we think worship has to do with “understanding” or “instruction”? What do we think worship has to do with human behavior? What does worship “have to do with,” do we think?
[More personal] Who or what do we ourselves worship? How would we say our worship resembles, or differs from, the worship described in v13? How do we feel about that? Any lesson there for us personally?
One of the themes of the text is wisdom of various kinds: understanding or discernment; planning; knowing how things are. What does the prophet seem to be saying about wisdom? What is its source? What demonstrates wisdom, or the lack of it, according to this text? What makes us say this? [For instance, how can we tell this in the text?]
Another pattern in the text is “reversal.” It might be worth listing the places in the text that predict or describe reversals. Do we understand the reversals the prophet is naming – that is, do we understand what the prophet is talking about? Why, or why not? Do these reversals seem to be positive, negative, both, neither? Why?
Can we think of any analogies in our own lives or world, to the reversals named in this text? What would those be? Would those seem to be positive, negative, both, neither, to us? Why? Any thoughts or feelings about that?
What seems to be the intention of this prophetic communication? That is, what effect does its author seem to be trying to bring about in the original audience? What makes us say this?
What effect does it produce on us, its contemporary audience? How does it produce that effect, do we think? Why does the text affect us this way, do we think?
What insight does this text give us into people, do we think? Why? What insight does the text give us into God, do we think? Why?
Image: “Reading,” Alexander Moravov, 1913, public domain, via Wikimedia Commons