Isaiah 1-39 - Lesson 7

By Harold Shank

Isaiah 11-12

Joy to the World


  1. The student can show how God is not only concerned with the poor in Jerusalem, but with hurting people well beyond that city, and how God acts not only in the immediate crisis of Jerusalem, but acts to create a better world coming.
  2. The student can explain the glorious future planned for those who are not afraid to trust and give their lives in worship and evangelism.


  1. A Bible for each student.
  2. A copy of the song Joy to the World. See: htm
  3. One of the pictures of “Peaceable Kingdom” by Edward Hicks. See:
  4. A map that includes the Mediterranean, Ethiopia and Babylon.


The song Joy to the World, written in 1719 by Isaac Watts, captures the positive theme in Isaiah 11-12 that looks beyond Judah and beyond the 8th century to a better world. Indeed God "comes to make His blessings flow far as the curse is found."

Setting the stage

  1. Review
    1. At its core the book of Isaiah is about God. He is a God who seeks righteous relationship with and among his people and who will go to any length to accomplish his mission. Despite his repeated rejection by Jerusalem and Judah, he maintains his exalted status and his holy nature.
    2. Isaiah 1-10 addresses two crises.
      1. Isaiah 1-6 takes up the oppression in Jerusalem.
        1. As a result of Jerusalem not really knowing God, the people have created an oppressive community. Faithful living for God has both a horizontal (how they treat each other-love your neighbor as yourself) and a vertical element (how they worship God-love God with all your heart). The people failed in the former which threatened the latter.
        2. Isaiah seeks to break through the refusal and denial of Jerusalem with vivid poetic images that include threats of judgment.
      2. Isaiah 7-10 takes up the threat of the Syro-Ephraimite War and the aftermath.
        1. Faithful living is not confined to one's private relationship with God but includes the nation's decisions. Chapters 7-10 illustrate the faithfulness of Isaiah over the unfaithfulness of Ahaz.
        2. God promises that the threat of the Syro-Ephraimite War will pass quickly and that the nation of Assyria in which Ahaz places his trust will prove to be their ultimate curse and downfall.
        3. God responds by promising a messianic king. God plans to work in three ways.
          1. Case Study #1-Galilee and the World (9:1-7).
          2. Case Study #2-North Israel (9:8-10:4).
          3. Case Study #3-Assyria (10:5-32).
      3. Isaiah 1-12 alternates between three major concerns.
        1. Oppression-Isa 1, 2:5-4:1, 10:1-4 describe the reality of a Jerusalem that does not know God as evidenced by the way the powerful oppress the powerless.
        2. Judgment-Isa 1, 3, 5-8, 9:9-10:32 reflect on God's judgment of both Judah and North Israel and eventually on Assyria.
        3. Hope-Isa 2:1-4, 4:2-6 and 7:15; 9:1-7 focuses on what God will do with an obedient Jerusalem.
      4. Isaiah 9-27 moves in some new directions.
        1. Isa 9-12 moves beyond Jerusalem and the Syro-Ephraimite War.
          1. Geographically-from Jerusalem then Galilee and finally to Assyria.
          2. Temporally-from the aftermath of the war to the distant future.
        2. Isa 13-27 will make the same move in a more drastic way.
          1. Geographically-from Israel to all the known world.
          2. Temporally-from now to the end of time.
  2. Preview
    1. Isaiah 11-12 moves beyond the narrow confines of Judah and the recent events of the Syro-Ephraimite War to envision a new kind of world.
    2. That new world unfolds in three parts:
      1. 11:1-9-Joy to a world: Let earth receive her King (righteous leadership).
      2. 11:10-16-Joy to a world: Let every heart prepare Him room (restored peoples).
      3. 12:1-6-Joy to a world: Let men their songs employ (the remnant at worship).

Learning Experiences

  1. Isaac Watts in his hymn "Joy to the World" expresses God's plans and our hopes for a better world. The curse of sin touched every part of Isaiah's world, and ours, but just as the curse spread, so God's blessing flows just as far. The hopes of this old hymn are partially based in passages such as Isa 11-12. These two chapters can be divided into three parts that parallel lines from what has become a favorite Christmas carol.
  2. 11:1-9-Joy to a world: Let earth receive her King (righteous leadership).
    1. The hymn Joy to the World announces the coming of a king. The coming king is the topic of Isa 11:1-9.
    2. Read 11:1-5.
      1. Explore the qualities of the new ruler.
        1. Identify the seven gifts that the spirit gives the new ruler.
          1. The spirit of the LORD will rest on him.
          2. He will have wisdom.
          3. He will have understanding.
          4. He will have counsel.
          5. He will have might.
          6. He will have knowledge.
          7. He will have the fear of the LORD.
        2. See previous references to how the spirit came on David-1 Sam 16:13; 2 Sam 23:2.
        3. The coming king will be an excellent judge. Identify at least 6 qualities of his judgment.
          1. He will not judge by what his eyes see.
          2. He will not judge by what his ears hear.
          3. He will judge with righteousness.
          4. He will judge with equity.
          5. He will smite the wicked.
          6. He will be known for faithfulness.
      2. Jesus fulfills these expectations to perfection. In fact, Jesus quotes the book of Isaiah as he begins his ministry in Luke 4:18f and when John the Baptist sends representatives to Jesus, Jesus reports that the community around him is one of righteousness and equity (Lk 7:22f) just as Isaiah here imagines.
        1. Jesus' concern for righteousness (Mt 6:33) and for the oppressed (see Luke 14) makes him the only one to fully meet these expectations.
        2. Give other examples from the Gospels (especially Luke) of how Jesus in his ministry did the exact things stated in Isa 11:1-6.
        3. Give examples of how the early church in Acts (see especially chapter 4) briefly rose to the expectations of God expressed by Isaiah 11.
      3. Read 11:6-9
        1. Show one of the pictures of “Peaceable Kingdom” by Edward Hicks. Tell the story of Hicks. See for example:
        2. Discuss the point of these verses. Consider these issues.
          1. Isaiah uses extravagant language to describe a reconciled world. When God's lofty expectations (11:1-6) are fulfilled, it is as if all the natural enemies in the world become friends. All conflict ends. See the same dream in Isa 2:1-4.
          2. Isaiah recognizes that human conflict disrupts the world. Think about the bloodshed described so far in the book of Isaiah. When humans live together in righteousness and equity, Isaiah imagines that the animal world will follow.
          3. Isaiah uses these seemingly impossible images to contradict the naysayers who read Isa 11:1-6 and say, "it will never happen." Look up all the passages using the word "impossible" in the Bible. God is frequently the one who does the impossible. A God who can create the world or raise his son from the dead can make a wolf friends with the lamb.
          4. Compare the point of Isa 11:6-9 with Rom 8:19-23 and 1 Cor 15:24-25.
        3. 11:10-16-Joy to a world: Let every heart prepare Him room (restored peoples).
          1. The hymn Joy to the World" issues a call to the entire world's people to prepare for the coming king. The line from the song is a fitting summary of one of the first "homecoming" passages in Isaiah.
          2. The passage divides into two parts:
            1. The plan for homecoming-10-14.
            2. The power behind homecoming-15-16.
            3. The plan for homecoming. Read 11:10-14.
              1. Using a map or a simple diagram on the marker board note how the cities in v11 mark the four points of the compass (south-Ethiopia; west-islands of the sea; north-Hamath; and east-Babylon). This world-wide focus anticipates next week's oracles against the nations in Isa 13-23.
              2. Discuss when this homecoming will occur. Isaiah notes at least two attempts (cf. v 11 "a second time") at homecoming. Among the homecomings listed in Scripture are:
                1. Hezekiah's call to Israel to come to Jerusalem for the Passover (2 Chron 30:10-12).
                2. Isa 40-55 is a call to come home from Babylon (Isa 48:20; 52:11).
                3. Call of the Christian Gospel to all nations to come home to God (Matt 28:19-10; Acts 2).
                4. Paul cites this text to justify the Gentile mission, bringing the Gentiles home to God (Rom 15:12).
                5. Heaven is the ultimate homecoming.
            4. The power behind homecoming-Read 11:15-16.
              1. The imagery of the Red Sea and the Euphrates ("the river," see 8:7) suggests that God's power to restore nations will even dictate powerful forces of nature.
              2. Review how the future homecoming will compare with the Exodus out of Egypt. The Exodus theme will be a major image in Isa 40-55 (cf. Isa 40 and the link with John the Baptist).
      4. 12:1-6-Joy to a world: Let men their songs employ (the remnant at worship).
        1. Isaac Watts understood that the most appropriate response to God's coming work was worship. Isaiah, however, suggests there are two responses to God's coming work.
        2. Read Isa 12:1-6 and note the repeated use of the phrase "you will say in that day" which divides the chapter into two parts, one looking backwards and the other forwards. This backward and forward looking already used in 9:1-2 (former and latter times) will become more prevalent in the coming sections of Isaiah.
        3. Isaiah calls the survivors to two responses to God's work.
          1. Worship-1, 3, 6.
          2. Evangelism-4-5.
        4. Discuss the relationship between God's work, worship and evangelism. How does evangelism arise out of worship which arises out of a response to God's work?
        5. Isa 12 returns to a God-centered focus.
          1. God seeks a relationship with his people (1:2-7) which he now has with the remnant (12:1-6). They understand that he is the only great one and the only one worthy of praise.
          2. God seeks to be the only exalted one. Compare Isa 12:4 with Isa 2:11, 17; 5:15; 6:1; 33:5, 10.
        6. Isa 12 concludes the first section of Isaiah on two dominant notes.
          1. The work of the remnant is to be faithful.
          2. Despite the world's wicked ways, there is reason to be hopeful about the future.
        7. Consider how Isa 12:4-6 offers a succinct summary of Isa 1-12.


  1. Social observers regularly talk about the frustration and fatigue (often called compassion fatigue) of those who seek to help the poor. Despite living in abundance the United States has the largest prison population in the world, nearly 700,000 unwanted children (see, and substantial poverty in most American cities (see for example: How does Isa 11-12 speak to those who have given up or think any substantial change in a community of righteousness and equity is impossible? Is this kind of world only possible in heaven?
  2. Many voices and statistics note the decline of churches in America. Churches of Christ are in the midst of a decline ( How does God's call for homecoming reflect on the response? Why do people give up? What reasons are there not to give up? What challenge does this passage present to those congregations not in decline? What are the elements of hope? What emotional response do people have to the vision of Isa 11-12?
  3. Isaiah links worship and evangelism. Is this thinking part of the theology of today's churches? What are ways in which worship and evangelism are linked? Why do many Christians do little evangelism?

For Further Study.

Use this material if the class spends more than one week on Isa 11-12.

  1. 11:1-9-Joy to a world: Let earth receive her King (righteous leadership)
    1. There are links between the king described in Isa 11 and the references to God's expectations of leadership in Isa 1-10.
      1. The statement that God is sending a new ruler out of the stump of Jesse depends on previous material in Isaiah.
      2. Isaiah has previously expressed hope in a brighter future. Review Isaiah's hope for:
        1. Better leaders-1:26; 7:14; 9:6-7.
        2. Worldwide influence-2:1-4.
        3. Healthy community-4:2-6; 9:1-7.
      3. Note the frequent use of the tree/vine imagery especially the idea of new growth emerging from what seems to be a dead plant.
        1. Compare 1:30; 2:13-14; 4:2; 5:1-7; 6:13; 9:6; 10:15, 33-34.
        2. Note that destruction is compared with agricultural disaster and hope with new life coming out of the ruins.
        3. Jesse was David's father.
          1. Recall that Isa 7 referred to Ahaz three times as being from the house of David.
          2. Some have thought that God was so disappointed with the Davidic dynasty that he went back to Jesse to symbolize his intent to start over.
    2. The qualities of the coming king reflect the expectations of other passages:
      1. Wisdom and understanding were standard qualities expected of monarchs.
        1. See Psa 72:1-4.
        2. David-2 Sam 14:17.
        3. Solomon-1 Kings 3:9.
        4. Josiah-Jer 22:3; 15-16; 23:5.
      2. Counsel and might-see Isa 9:6; 36:5.
      3. Knowledge, righteousness and faithfulness are the basic tenets of OT theology. See 1:3; 11:9.
    3. God's call for a righteousness and equitable community dominate the early chapters of Isaiah.
      1. It was often practiced by previous rulers-2 Sam 8:15; 2 Chron 19:5-7; Jer 22:15-16.
      2. It was called for by the law-Lev 19:15; Deut 16:19-20.
      3. Review the references to righteousness and justice in Isa 1, 5, 9-10.
    4. Isa 1-9 paints a dismal picture of the rulers of Jerusalem, from the unnamed oppressors in Isa 1-5 to the unfaithful Ahaz in Isa 7. In contrast God renews hope in a ruler who will be given the necessary qualities to rule in a righteous way so that all members of the community participate in the quality of community God had planned. The strong coming king contrasts with the weak existing kings.
      1. The Bible presents God's ideal world. From the Ten Commandments to the Beatitudes, God's expectations are high.
      2. Each OT ruler placed on the throne faced the expectations Isaiah outlines in this passage. By the power of God it was always possible for a ruler to preside over a community of righteousness and equity, but in every case the dream fell on hard times.
      3. Isaiah will again speak of a coming figure in Isa 40-55. He will call him the suffering servant. Many see the coming king of Isa 9 and 11 and the suffering servant in Isa 40-55 as anticipations of Jesus.
    5. Read 11:6-9
      1. Explore how this passage parallels Isa 2:1-4 and 4:2-6.
      2. Compare this passage with Isa 65:25ff.
  2. 11:10-16-Joy to a world: Let every heart prepare Him room (restored peoples).
    1. The plan for homecoming. Read 11:10-14.
      1. Google the phrase "ten lost tribes of Israel" and note the massive speculation of what happened to the exiles of North Israel in 2 Kings 17:22. Based on Isa 11, God knows where all his people are and calls them home.
      2. The homecoming of God's people calls for giving up violence (see 2:1-4; 11:6- 9, 13) and the use of violence (14) which seems contradictory. These verses may anticipate the bitterness between the later Jews and Samaritans seen in Ezra and Nehemiah and in the NT (cf. Jn 4). There also seems to be evidence of conflict in post exilic Jerusalem discussed in Isa 56-66.
        1. Discuss the contradiction.
        2. Compare the issue with Isa 2:1-4 where a future time of peace is imagined (swords into plowshares) but yet God himself will do conflict resolution. Even in peace there are problems.
        3. Consider that enacting the kind of righteous and equitable community of Isa 11:1-9 may call for firm measures against those who oppose a righteous and equitable community because they hoard resources and refuse to participate in community well-being.
        4. Consider that the wicked of any age challenge the kind of community that God imagines. God often uses violence. Our in depth look at God's violence will come in Isa 34.
      3. Compare the homecoming here with these homecomings.
        1. Isa 35 (especially v 8-10)
        2. Isa 48-55
        3. Lk 13:29-30
        4. Lk 15:11-32
      4. Discuss how both the peaceable kingdom (6-9) and the homecoming (10-14) have an impossible element to them. What are the implications of Isaiah great vision of the future?
  3. 12:1-6-Joy to a world: Let men their songs employ (the remnant at worship).
    1. Note the parallels between the worship language of this chapter and other passages including: Ex15:1-21; Psa 105:1, 41-43; 118:14; 148:13.
    2. Understanding this section depends somewhat on identifying the speaker. Most understand this chapter to come from the remnant.
      1. See 1:9, 26-27; 3:10; 4:1; 6:13; 7:3 (the meaning of the boy's name); 8:16-22; 10:19-23.
      2. The response of Isa 12 comes from the remnant, those who by faith have survived the judgment of Jerusalem and the exile of some of its people. This passage is the first time their voice is heard (outside of Isaiah himself) in the book. Their experience of being survivors is itself an anticipation of all those who walk by faith.
      3. Discuss the confession of the survivors in v 2. Contrast it with Ahaz' response to God (7:4-9) and Jerusalem's response (8:12).
    3. Review Isaiah's story of God's anger (5:25; 9:12, 17, 21; 10:4, 5, 25; 11:1). What prompted God's anger in Isaiah 1-12? Why has God's anger abated?
    4. Discuss the water imagery in v 3. Some believe it refers to an ancient ritual, or to God providing water in the wilderness (cf. 41:18) or simply to a metaphor. Compare a similar double meaning of water in John 3 when Jesus meets Nicodemus. What does the water symbolize here? (grace)

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