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Isaiah 58:8-11 1
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard. 9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer; you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I. “If you do away with the yoke of oppression, with the pointing finger and malicious talk, 10 and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. 11 The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.

clip_image102Background 2

The Book of Isaiah is the first and longest of the books of the Major Prophets in the Old Testament of the Bible. It derives its name from the prophet Isaiah, who lived in Jerusalem, perhaps of aristocratic origin. His prophetic career spanned half a century, from around 742 BC to at least 701.

The book, however, contains the work of more than one man. Scholars now generally agree that chapters 1 to 35, known as First Isaiah, can be ascribed either to Isaiah himself or to his disciples; chapters 36 to 39 have been taken directly from 2 Kings 18:13 – 20:18. Chapters 40 to 55, known as Second Isaiah, or Deutero – Isaiah, were the work of an anonymous prophet – poet during the latter part (c. 545 – 540 BC) of the Babylonian exile. Chapters 56 to 66, known as Third Isaiah, or Trito – Isaiah, were written by authors unknown in detail but working around the end of the 6th century (525 – 500 BC) or the beginning of the 5th (500 – 475 BC). Some of the material may be derived from a period even later than these times (c. 375 – 250 BC).

Biblical Truths

Our key verse is found in the section named Third Isaiah. This section includes 14 independent sayings concerning the operation of the restored Temple, with corresponding emphasis on the Sabbath and cult. The material comprises a short prophetic liturgy (56:9 – 47:13), an oracle of promise (57:14 – 21), an exhortation and promise (58:1 – 12), prophetic invective and threat (65:1 – 2), and a promise (65:8 – 25). The final chapter contains a prophetic denunciation of the Temple and a rejection of the sacrificial cult, as well as three prophetic sayings that announce an imminent end and its results. Isaiah contains some of the most beautiful and best known passages in the Bible. Two manuscripts of the book were found among the Dead Sea Scrolls.

Items for Discussion

  • How would you compare these two questions?
  • “What does my religion do for me?”
  • “What does it make me do for others?”
  • What does Isaiah say when a believer becomes outwardly shining (sharing)?
  • How would you go about conducting a self-assessment of your light?

 

Matthew 5:13-15
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.

Background

Since the times of the early church, the apostle Matthew has always been accredited with the authorship of the first gospel (canonically). Even the title “According to Matthew” is found in the earliest manuscripts, and was the most highly regarded and quoted of the gospels by the church fathers. Matthew was a tax collector, probably stationed on a main trade route near Capernaum where he would have collected tolls for Herod Antipas from commercial traffic. Additionally, being a tax collector might better qualify Matthew for his role as an official recorder of the life and actions of Christ. After the resurrection there is no other mention of him in the New Testament.

Various estimates have placed the date of Matthew’s composition anywhere from AD 50 – to AD 100. It is widely accepted that Matthew was written to the Jews. For one, he focuses on the fulfillment of the Old Testament, even quoting from it sixty-two times, which is more than any other Gospel writer. Secondly it is interesting that Matthew does not explain Jewish culture like the other Gospel writers, which also adds to the argument that he is writing to Jews. Matthew uses the phrase, “kingdom of heaven,” (the only author, in fact, to use this phrase) which can be considered as a “reverential Jewish expression”—a term appropriate to a Jewish audience. His purpose in writing to the Jews was to show them that Jesus of Nazareth was the expected messiah and both his genealogy and his resurrection were legitimate proofs of this.

Biblical Truths

Jesus’ words capture the imagination. He speaks with such depth of meaning that you can see the words on a number of levels. In this passage He employs two metaphors. He calls those who believe in Him salt and light. It is an expression that is meant to help us see us role in the world as He sees it. He is continuing to teach the disciples Kingdom thinking.

Salt has to stay salty to be of value. If you lose your flavor, your distinctiveness, then you have lost your value. The Christian brings savor to life. His presence brings the perspective of the Holy Spirit and that completely changes the way things are seen. The Spirit points out eternal realities. He takes the mundane and fills it with eternal importance. The world needs your saltiness.

Jesus said that He is the light of the world. As Christians, we are the little lights, bringing His light in a way that is comprehendible to man. Out testimony makes the eternal something they can see at work. God is not so distant or unreachable when they see Him at work in our life. But if we hide that light for fear of being different, how is the world to see it? We have something desperately needed by all. Don’t hide it! If you truly have Him you can’t really hide Him. Don’t attempt to hide Him to fit in. The world needs Him! Let the light shine! Let it shine in the world, and let it shine in your home. Let them see Jesus manifested in your mortal life. Remember that He is the One everyone needs most desperately to see.

Items for Discussion

  • How does salt loose its saltiness?
  • There are numerous references to salt and its different uses in the Bible — why use a reference to “salt”?
  • How do people put a bowl over their light?

Discussion Challenge

  • How does a church find balance? That is bright light, preserving and flavorful salt within its work and message without ruining the meal?
Additional Study Notes

Items for Discussion in Isaiah 58:8-11

  • How would you compare these two questions?
    •  “What does my religion do for me?”
      • This comes from a self-centered attitude that church and God are here to give me a good life
      • It is a common problem with society today, even within the Christian church itself.
    • “What does it make me do for others?”
      • Effectiveness of a church, faith, even salvation itself, should bring forth evidence of a generosity toward others.
  • What does Isaiah say when a believer becomes outwardly shining (sharing)?
    • There will be physical healing
    • There will be strength in a hostile world
    • You will be given guidance
  • How would you go about conducting a self-assessment of your light?
    • Break the time you spend in a week down into percentages
    • Church time (worship, committees, teaching, learning)
    • Leisure time (sports, TV, games, music)
    • Sleep
      Study time (for God, for yourself improvement)
    • Time with family in discussion (maybe breakdown the topics too)
    • Volunteer time
    • Work
  • Rank order them as you have prioritized them and then rank order them as God would prioritize them

Items for Discussion in Matthew 5:13-15

  • How does salt loose its saltiness?
    • It can’t. Pure salt, sodium chloride, can’t become unsalty; but the sodium chloride of impure salt can be leached out, especially in humid weather, and the remaining substance can be tasteless. This “salt” cannot become salty again.
    • When the purity of our faith is adulterated, or perhaps “watered down”, the pure “salt” may slowly slip away leaving us with a “tasteless” faith and it may be impossible to restore the pure one.
  • There are numerous references to salt and its different uses in the Bible — why use a reference to “salt”?
    • A very small, can be quite powerful. One tiny crystal of salt can be tasted.
    • It doesn’t take too much extra salt to ruin a recipe.
    • Perhaps, to stretch the salt analogy, as salt can make food taste better, so we are to “add spice to life” — helping others improve their lives; but as too much salt can ruin the good food, sometimes too much help or pushing our faith too much, can destroy the good we are trying to accomplish.
    • Salt can preserve.
  • How do people put a bowl over their light?
    • First, all people must believe that they have light.
    • Next, life’s priorities must reflect God’s priorities (yes, He allows us to work, to sleep, to relax and enjoy leisure activities) – If you were grading yourself on God’s scale, would you deserve a passing grade?

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
  2. George W Coats Bibliography — J H Hayes and S A Irvine, Isiah (1987); G A F Knight, Prophets of Israel: Isaiah (1962); J R Rosenbloom, The Dead Sea Isaiah Scrolls (1970); J W Whedbee, Isaiah and Wisdom (1971).
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