Too often, we choose to ignore books like Isaiah, putting them in the 'too hard for Bible study' basket. And yet, Isaiah is frequently quoted in the New Testament and tells us much about God's plan of salvation. It's a book we should read.
Two Cities is designed to help us get a grip on—and to grip us with—the message of Isaiah. It cuts a highway through the 'branches', 'stumps' and 'deserts' that are scattered across Isaiah's terrain. It takes us to a two-way intersection and shows us the road to the city of destruction and the road to the city of God. Careful explanations of difficult passages and well-crafted, challenging questions make studying this crucial Old Testament book a whole lot less daunting.
An ideal guide for individual Bible study or for use in small groups.
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Table of contents:
- Choosing a city
- Hiding from reality
- Facing the real king
- God's dream
- How to insult God
- The God of all comfort
- The servant of God
- God's richest banquet
- God's future world
- Appendix 1: The historical context of Isaiah 1-39
- Appendix 2: The servant songs
How to make the most of these studies
1. What is an Interactive Bible Study?
Interactive Bible Studies are a bit like a guided tour of a famous city. They take you on a tour through the Bible, looking at material related to the topic (in this case, prayer), helping you to know where to start, pointing out things along the way, suggesting avenues for further exploration, and making sure that you know how to get home. Like any good tour, the real purpose is to allow you to go exploring for yourself—to dive in, have a good look around, and discover for yourself the riches that God’s word has in store.
In other words, these studies aim to provide stimulation and input and point you in the right direction, while leaving you to do plenty of the exploration and discovery yourself.
These studies are like a tour of a famous city in another sense—they don’t hope to look at everything; just the important things. We can’t cover in detail everything the Bible says on a given topic, but we do aim to finish our tour without having missed any significant landmarks.
We hope that these studies will stimulate lots of interaction— interaction with the Bible, with the things we’ve written, with your own current thoughts and attitudes, with other people as you discuss them, and with God as you talk to him about it all.
2. The format
The studies contain five main components:
- sections of text that introduce, inform, summarize and challenge
- numbered questions that help you examine the Bible and think through its meaning
- sidebars that provide extra bits of background or optional extra study ideas, especially regarding other relevant parts of the Bible
- ‘Implications’ sections that help you think about what this passage means for you and your life today
- suggestions for thanksgiving and prayer as you close.
3. How to use these studies on your own
- Before you begin, pray that God would open your eyes to what he is saying in the Bible, and give you the spiritual strength to do something about it.
- Work through the study, reading the text, answering the questions about the Bible passage, and exploring the sidebars as you have time.
- Resist the temptation to skip over the ‘Implications’ and ‘Give thanks and pray’ sections at the end. It is important that we not only hear and understand God’s word, but respond to it. These closing sections help us do that.
- Take what opportunities you can to talk to others about what you’ve learnt.
4. How to use these studies in a small group
- Much of the above applies to group study as well. The studies are suitable for structured Bible study or cell groups, as well as for more informal pairs and triplets. Get together with a friend or friends and work through them at your own pace; use them as the basis for regular Bible study with your spouse. You don’t need the formal structure of a ‘group’ to gain maximum benefit.
- For small groups, it is very useful if group members can work through the study themselves before the group meets. The group discussion can take place comfortably in an hour (depending on how sidetracked you get!) if all the members have done some work in advance.
- The role of the group leader is to direct the course of the discussion and to try to draw the threads together at the end. If you are a group leader, the material in the appendix ‘Tips for group leaders’ (at the back of this book) is designed to help you think through how to use these studies in a group setting.
- We haven’t included an ‘answer guide’ to the questions in the studies. This is a deliberate move. We want to give you a guided tour of the Bible, not a lecture. There is more than enough in the text we have written and the questions we have asked to point you in what we think is the right direction. The rest is up to you.