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Isaiah 56:4-7 1
4 For this is what the LORD says: “To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths, who choose what pleases me and hold fast to my covenant-5 to them I will give within my temple and its walls a memorial and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that will not be cut off. 6 And foreigners who bind themselves to the LORD to serve him, to love the name of the LORD, and to worship him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to my covenant-7 these I will bring to my holy mountain and give them joy in my house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house will be called a house of prayer for all nations.”

clip_image147Background 2

Isaiah prophesied during the reigns of Uzziah (or Azariah), Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (1:1), the kings of Judah. Uzziah reigned fifty-two years in the middle of the 8th century BC, and Isaiah must have begun his career a few years before Uzziah’s death, probably in the 740s BC. He lived till the fourteenth year of Hezekiah (who died 698 BC, and may have been contemporary for some years with Manasseh. Thus Isaiah may have prophesied for the long period of at least forty-four years.

In early youth Isaiah may have been moved by the invasion of Israel by the Assyrian monarch Tiglath-Pileser III (2 Kings 15:19); and again, twenty years later, when he had already entered on his office, by the invasion of Tiglath-Pileser and his career of conquest. Ahaz, king of Judah, at this crisis refused to co-operate with the kings of Israel and Syria in opposition to the Assyrians, and was on that account attacked and defeated by Rezin of Damascus and Pekah of Israel (2 Kings 16:5; 2 Chronicles 28:5-6). Ahaz, thus humbled, sided with Assyria, and sought the aid of Tiglath-Pileser against Israel and Syria. The consequence was that Rezin and Pekah were conquered and many of the people carried captive to Assyria (2 Kings 15:29, 16:9; 1 Chronicles 5:26).

Soon after this Shalmaneser V determined wholly to subdue the kingdom of Israel, Samaria was taken and destroyed (722 BC). So long as Ahaz reigned, the kingdom of Judah was unmolested by the Assyrian power; but on his accession to the throne, Hezekiah, who was encouraged to rebel “against the king of Assyria” (2 Kings 18:7), entered into an alliance with the king of Egypt (Isaiah 30:2-4). This led the king of Assyria to threaten the king of Judah, and at length to invade the land. Sennacherib (701 BC) led a powerful army into Judah. Hezekiah was reduced to despair, and submitted to the Assyrians (2 Kings 18:14-16). But after a brief interval war broke out again, and again Sennacherib led an army into Judah, one detachment of which threatened Jerusalem (Isaiah 36:2-22; 37:8). Isaiah on that occasion encouraged Hezekiah to resist the Assyrians (37:1-7), whereupon Sennacherib sent a threatening letter to Hezekiah, which he “spread before the LORD” (37:14).

According to the account in Kings (and its derivative account in Chronicles) the judgment of God now fell on the Assyrian army and wiped out 180,000 of its men. “Like Xerxes in Greece, Sennacherib never recovered from the shock of the disaster in Judah. He made no more expeditions against either southern Palestine or Egypt.”

The remaining years of Hezekiah’s reign were peaceful (2 Chr 32:23-29). Isaiah probably lived to its close, and possibly into the reign of Manasseh, but the time and manner of his death are not specified in either the Bible or recorded history. There is a tradition (reported in both the Martyrdom of Isaiah and the Lives of the Prophets) that he suffered martyrdom by Manasseh due to pagan reaction.

Bible Truths 3

Verse 4 – The word ‘eunuch’ is used to describe one who does not marry, so as to be free to serve God (see Matthew 19:12).

  • Isaiah 54:1-3 contains a similar promise for women without children. Men and women do not need to have families in order to receive a relationship with God. and that relationship with God will satisfy completely.
  • This promise for eunuchs was very special. Under the laws of Moses, a eunuch could not join God’s people during public worship (Deuteronomy 23:1). And a eunuch could not enter the Temple area. But now, God promises a new relationship with people. Because of that new relationship, foreigners may join the Lord’s people. And, because of that relationship, a eunuch too can know a complete relationship with God.

Verse 5 – The Jews considered that to have a large family was a sign of God’s pleasure (see Psalm 127:3-5).

  • In the original language, the word ‘honour’ here translates the very common word for ‘open hand’. This meaning suggests that God gives generously and without limit as the reward for people’s trust.
  • The word ‘name’ here means a great honour.

Verse 7 – Jesus refers to the Temple as the ‘House for Prayer for all nations’ (see Mark 11:17).

Items for Discussion

  • In what ways does the notion that families (children, marriage) interfere with the role of keeping God’s covenant?
  • In what ways does the notion of families support God’s covenant?
  • God appears to be very inclusive in these Old Testament verses. Where has today’s religion fallen short of inclusiveness?
  • God asks us not to desecrate worship. How can we inadvertently do that today?
  • What are the benefits to God and to mankind of prayer?
  • No religion, no belief in God can survive without prayer. Why?

 

Luke 11:1-13
1 One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.” 2 He said to them, “When you pray, say: ” ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread. 4 Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.’ ” 5 Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6 because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’ 7 “Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs. 9 “So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 “For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks, finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened. 11 “Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? 12 “Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? 13 “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him?”

Background

Luke wrote two books of the New Testament (NT). Luke’s Gospel tells the story of the life and work of Jesus. Luke’s second book, Acts, continues the story after Jesus went back to heaven. The two books amount to a quarter of the NT. This is even more than Paul wrote.

Luke was a doctor (Colossians 4:14). He was often Paul’s companion in his travels. The book of Acts contains passages in which the author includes himself as a companion of Paul (‘we’ in Acts 16:10-17; 20:5-21:18; 27:1-28:16). Luke shared Paul’s work (Philemon, verse 24). He was a loyal friend. In prison, Paul says, ‘only Luke is with me’ (2 Timothy 4:11).

Luke was a Gentile. He came from Antioch, which was an important town in Syria.

Biblical Truths 4

Jesus gave the disciples a prayer to use. There is a longer record of it in Matthew 6:9-13. Matthew writes that Jesus said, ‘Pray like this’. Therefore, it is a model for other prayers as well. The first three parts put God first. The next three parts speak of what people need. These prayers ask God to do three things:

  1. to provide what we need for the present time,
  2. to forgive us for what we have done wrong in the past,
  3. to guide us in the future.

Verse 1 Jesus wanted the disciples to talk to God as ‘Father’. Christians are members of God’s family. The word ‘Father’ reminds them that they have a relationship with him. They love and trust him.

Verse 2 ‘May we respect your name and keep it holy’. We should not use the name ‘God’ in a negative way. But Jesus meant more than this. In Hebrew, the ‘name’ of someone means his or her whole character. Disciples should give honour to God. Then they should help other people to understand God’s character. They should not do or say anything that would give people a wrong impression of God.

‘May your kingdom come’. This prayer asks that more and more people will accept Jesus as their king. When God’s kingdom is complete, Satan’s power will end. Disciples help God’s kingdom to grow.

Verse 3 People depend on God for food. Jesus wants his disciples to pray for their food each day. They should remember how God gave the Israelites their food (‘manna’) each day in the desert (Exodus 16). They should not worry about the future. The word ‘us’ reminds people that they are part of a great family. Their demands must not be selfish. Spiritual food is important too. People need to learn more and more about God and his purpose Then their spiritual life will be healthy.

Verse 4 Sin separates every person from God, who is holy. Therefore, we need God to forgive us. A person should forgive other people. If they do not, then God will not forgive them. Satan tries to lead people to do wrong things. God does not try to make anyone do anything wrong. God’s disciples ask him to help them to avoid difficult situations. Some situations might be too hard a test for their faith.

Verse 5 The visitor arrived at midnight. He had travelled later in the day when it was cooler. He avoided the heat at midday. This was a common practice. Three small loaves would be enough food for this guest.

Verse 7 The man in the house and his family would be sleeping together on mats on a platform. The animals would be on the floor near the door. He would wake them all, if he got up.

Verse 8 The man got up at last. He did not want the man at the door to continue to bother him. God is different. He is always ready and willing to listen to his children’s prayers. He will answer them when they make their requests. The parable encourages disciples to continue to pray and not to give up.

Verses 11-12 A fisherman sometimes found a water snake in his net. When a scorpion rolled itself up, it was like the shape of an egg.

Verse 13 Human fathers can do wrong. But they would not give their children anything that would hurt them. God, the Father in heaven, has no sin. He has known perfectly what is best for his children. He has perfect power to supply it. Therefore, he can be far more generous than a human father can. Luke says that God will give the Holy Spirit. He is the best gift, from whom everything good comes.

Items for Discussion

  • This may very well be the perfect prayer, why?
  • What can we learn from this prayer that can be applied to our prayer life?
  • Why is the parent child relationship described by Jesus so helpful in understanding who are God is and what He is like?
  • What is missing from this model prayer?
  • Is there any prayer that is wrong?
  • Jesus uses three types of requests that are to be given to God: asking, seeking and knocking – How would you describe each of those with respect to prayers?

Discussion Challenge

  • How do you grow the prayer life of those in our congregation, community, families, etc?
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