Resources: Climate change and the purposes of God

Bible study: damage to creation

Posted in: Climate change and the purposes of God, Theology
Resource type: Bible studies and reflections

A Bible study by Isabel Carter on damage to creation.

Chapter 14 in Isaiah begins with a promise to Jacob stating God’s desire to settle his chosen people Israel in their own land. However Chapter 14: 24 onwards is the beginning of a long list of prophecies regarding different nations. In total there is a list of 12 prophecies of destruction and reckoning which includes all the surrounding nations. Sometimes reasons are given (Moab’s pride and conceit – Isaiah 16:6, Damascus’s forgetting God – Isaiah 17:10) – sometimes no reason is given.

At the end of this series of prophecies comes an even more devastating section – this time not referring to specific nations, but to the whole earth.

Read Isaiah 24: 1-3

The first 3 verses provide a terrible image of utter destruction. What is worse is that this destruction comes at the hand of God – who created the earth and rejoiced in its beauty. If possible compare several translations as there are considerable differences in the terms used.

What images does verse 1 bring to mind?

Verse 2 implies that nothing can bring any protection – wealth, faith, influence – none of these will make any difference. Can you think of situations today where that also occurs?

The destruction described in verse 3 seems to be complete and implies that this plunder will be a consequence of removing or abusing the fruits of the earth for financial gain.

Read Isaiah 24:4-12

Here the nature of the destruction is outlined.

What strikes you most as you read through these verses?

What is described as the cause of this devastation in verse 5?

List the characteristics of this destruction. What will occur? (Lack of water, pollution, the earth is cursed, burning fire)

What are the consequences for the earth’s inhabitants?

Why do you think the entrances to houses are blocked up in verse 10?  (Was this to stop people seeing the misery? Was it because the owners had left or had died? Was it to stop the spread of disease? Was it to stop theft of precious food and water? ) Compare this with what happens to the city gates in verse 12.

Read Verse 13

Here the images are poignant – like the morning after a party. Harvesting olives and grapes usually involves lots of people and action. Olives are often harvested by beating the branches. This hard work is often followed by a meal and celebration of harvest together. Now there is silence and just a few old and damaged olives trodden into the ground; a handful of shrivelled tiny, bunches of grapes remaining on the vine.

How do these images indicate the situation of those who remain alive?

Read Isaiah 24:14-16

There is still hope for this miserable remnant. The sun sets in the West – maybe indicating the end of this troubled time – and rises in the East – maybe indicating a new dawn.

What is it that causes these people to cry out in joy?

What do they experience that helps them to give glory to God?

After the destruction of all that has gone before, Chapters 25 and 26 provide some powerful and encouraging images, praising God for his might and steadfastness.

Read Isaiah 26:1-9

What might the characteristics of a righteous and faithful nation be (verse 2)?

We rarely think of God as a rock (verse 4) but in the light of all that we have studied today, how is that image appropriate?

Future directions rarely seem to provide a level path (verse 7). Where do our paths lie as faithful, believing Christians?

What lessons can we take from this study both personally and as a church?

Scientists have warned that too many apocalyptic messages may have a negative effect – making people less likely to take action because they feel so helpless.  How can we respond?

Prayer

Close by reading Habbakuk 3:17-19 as a wonderfully encouraging response of the prophet to devastation in his own life.

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