Sunday School: A Justice-Loving God
Please join us for a hymn.
When we meet together, we usually shares joys and concerns. Please take a moment to be thankful for any joys you have had this week, and to give any concerns to God. If you would like, feel free to share these below.
The scripture referenced throughout this lesson has been linked to an online text. If you click on a scripture, it will open up in a new window.
Our scripture for today's lesson is Isaiah 61:8-11 and Isaiah 62:2-4.
Isaiah (ministered about 740-680 BC) lived in the days when Israel, the northern kingdom, was struggling against Assyria and was finally exiled from the land. For a time, the northern kingdom sent tribute to Assyria; however, Israel's King Hoshea sought an alliance with Egypt in order to end Israel's vassal relationship to the Assyrian oppressors. The consequence of Israel's rebellion against Assyria was that they were carried away into captivity by the Assyrians in 722 BC (2 Kings 17), never to be restored.
The southern kingdom of Judah remained, but Isaiah predicted punishment for its disobedience as well (example: Isaiah 3). His predictions were fulfilled almost a century after his ministry. God used the Babylonians as his instrument to bring down the monarchy of Judah and destroy the temple in 586 BC (see 2 Chronicles 36:15-21; Habakkuk 1:6).
The Lord, in faithfulness to his covenant with David (2 Samuel 7:1-17), brought back the Jews from exile in 538 BC and reestablished them as a nation. He used the Persians as his instrument to accomplish that restoration (2 Chronicles 36:22-23; Ezra 1:1-8).
The book of Isaiah is typically viewed in terms of two large sections: chapter 1-39 and chapters 40-66 (see the Lesson Context from "A Just Servant" as well). Most of Isaiah 40-66 is conveyed in a poetic style. These chapters can be read as an ancient play.
Imagine a large stage with all the characters present. On one side of the room, there is Heaven with the Lord and the heavenly host present; on the other side, the earth and its inhabitants. Different characters speak, are addressed, or are discussed. The characters are the nation of Israel and the nations.
Within Israel there are the righteous and the wicked, the leaders and the commoners, and the servant of the Lord. The Gentile nations are distant but interested observers. Usually they are talked about, whether for future judgment or for blessing. But sometimes they are addressed directly.
On two occasions, Cyrus, the future king of Persia, is specifically named (Isaiah 44:28; 45:1-7). Isaiah is at times an actor onstage with the other characters; sometimes he is an offstage narrator to the readers, who are the theater audience.
Isaiah 56-66 begins with the prediction of the salvation of the nations (Isaiah 56:1-8). The text then describes the punishment of the wicked of Israel, especially the leaders (Isaiah 56:9-57:21), for their ritual and ethical sins (Isaiah 58).
But the Lord is able and willing to deliver the repentant (Isaiah 59). As a result, Israel will become a light to the nations (Isaiah 60) and embrace its priestly role (Isaiah 61).
Then comes a lengthy description of Israel's glorious future with the arrival of their triumphant Lord (Isaiah 62-65). The grand conclusion describes the blessings and ministry of the contrite and the ultimate punishment of the wicked (Isaiah 66).
Isaiah 61:1-11 is a sequence of four speeches that follow up on the Lord's declaring Israel a light to the Gentiles in Isaiah 60. The identity of the speakers is not always clear. But paying attention to changes in pronouns helps the reader identify different parts.
Verses 1-4: I/We is the messenger & Thou/Ye/You is Zion
Verses 5-7: I/We is Isaiah & Thou/Ye/You is Zion
Verses 8-9: I/We is The Lord & Thou/Ye/You is The Messenger/Zion
Verses 10-11: I/We is Zion & Thou/Ye/You is The Lord and the Messenger
Normally, we discuss the lesson during our Sunday School class. Please take some time to think about and reflect on each question. If you are reading the lesson with someone else, discuss your thoughts together. If you would like to, you may post some of your thoughts and answers below.
A few years ago I went on an outing to a retreat center. Among the many activities was horseback riding. One of the wranglers told me two things about horses. First, he said horses can live 50 years or more. Domesticated horses live longer and healthier lives than wild ones because of care. Second, horses thrive when they have work to do.
We are similar. As we place ourselves in the hand of God, under his care and control, we live better: we are blessed. Whether our years be many or few, they are of higher quality. In turn, living under the control and care of God comes with a mandate to take Christ to the world (see Matthew 28:19-20).
Heavenly Father, empower us by your Spirit to let our lights shine! May others see your Son in our good works and give glory to you. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in Thy sight, O Lord, my strength and my redeemer.
4/26/2020 03:14:46 pm
There is so much in this lesson! Much to think about.
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We are a small, rural Presbyterian church in southwestern Pennsylvania.