Friday, September 16, 2016

WEEKLY SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON
An international Sunday school lesson commentary
For Sunday September 18, 2016

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THE ULTIMATE POWER
(The everlasting GOD renews our strength)
(Isaiah 40:21-31)

   Isaiah chapters 1-39 were rift with “messages of judgment” upon the Israelites for their many sins against GOD. Now, beginning in chapter 40, we see the beginning of many messages from Isaiah that are “messages of restoration and peace”. Chapters 40-66 features prophecies of deliverance from captivity in Babylon, and a re-gathering of GOD’s people back into their homeland.
    This section is divided into three parts that consists of nine chapters in each part (40-48, 49-57, & 58-66). The first two parts each conclude with the statement “there is no peace for the wicked”. All of the prophecies in this section are centered around three events;

·         Deliverance from captivity in Babylon.
·         The rejection and restoration of the “SUFFERING SERVANT”.
·         The consummation of Israel, and indeed, the whole world by CHRIST JESUS HIMSELF.

    At the time when Isaiah received these prophecies from GOD, Israel still had to endure another 100 years of difficulties before the Babylonian invasion actually began. Here in Isaiah 40 the prophet attempts to convey a message of comfort from the LORD, to HIS downthrodden people, Israel, who now stood on the brink of what they considered to be a very real threat of an invasion by the powerful Assyrian army, early in the seventh century B.C. However now, King Hezekiah’s concerns of fear of Assyria must shift to Babylon because of these new prophecies.
    In the Hebrew, the word used for “comfort” is “naham”. It is a deeply emotional expression that exudes feelings of compassion and concern. In chapters 40-48 Isaiah reminds the Israelites of their coming deliverance by a great and sovereign GOD WHO still wished to form a unique and personal relationship with them. GOD wanted to address them with gentle, encouraging words of hope and comfort, not unlike a father would speak to his children.
    In verses 3-5 we see the origins of the message that was re-iterated by John the Baptist, the desert prophet who often shouted out in the wilderness, this same warning to Jerusalem, that they should prepare for the coming of the MESSIAH, JESUS CHRIST, by repenting and getting back into a personal relationship of friendship with the GOD of their ancestors. However, here in this passage of Isaiah 40, the whole nation of Israel had become a “spiritual wilderness”, or stronghold for idol god worship and disobedience.
    GOD’s love for Israel had never diminished one iota, and so HE now sends HIS prophet Isaiah with a message that will, perhaps, bring comfort to those survivors who would later come out of the Babylonian ordeal that was itself yet to come. But first, they would have to clean up their act spiritually, and prepare to “roll out the red carpet” as it is said in one of today’s popular terms, and get ready for the visit of ONE WHO is more than a world leader, or dignitary of high regard, HE is the MESSIAH, JESUS CHRIST, our LORD.
    In verses 6-8, a different voice other than Isaiah’s is heard telling the prophet to shout! When Isaiah asks “what should he shout?” the voice replies, “Shout that the people are like grass that dies away. Their beauty fades as quickly as the beauty of flowers in a field. The grass withers, and the flowers fade beneath the breath of the LORD. And so it is with people. The grass withers, and the flowers fade, but the Word of our GOD (that is to say, JESUS CHRIST) stands forever”.
    JESUS CHRIST is coming in all of HIS glorious power, just as HE promised HE will. HE will rule with awesome strength, and HE will bring HIS reward with HIM as HE comes. And HE will feed HIS people as a shepherd feeds his flock. HE will carry the lambs (the faithful) in HIS arms, holding them ever so close to HIS heart. HE will lead the mother sheep with her young (women and children) into the safety of HIS fold (Vs.9-11).
    The sovereign LORD is our hope. Who else can hold the oceans in his hands? Who else has measured off the heavens with his fingers? Who else knows the weight of the earth, or is able to advise the SPIRIT with wisdom, and teach HIM to teach the faithful all about HIM and HIS plan for us? GOD can do it all without the help of our grossly inferior “human ingenuity” (Vs.12-17).
     Nothing and no one in the universe can compare to the GOD WHO created it. Nothing can be made unless it is made from something that HE made. HE sits high above the circle of the earth’s horizon. From HIS sovereign vantage point in Heaven, HE watches over all that HE created, all the time, and HE simply sees all, hears all, and knows all that we do.
    In verses 21-26 Isaiah references “the creation” to illustrate GOD’s greatness, as GOD made and sustains all things that HE made. More importantly, GOD rules all things. In the Hebrew the word used for “create”, “bara”, is only used in reference to GOD. It is a technical theological term, and it means, quite literally, “To make something out of nothing”.
    There are certain things that only GOD can do, and by now, many a man has found that out. Only GOD can create “matter” (the material universe) and incorporate and establish the processes of nature. HE created all the stars in the heavens, named them, counted them, and continues to make sure that, none that HE desires to keep are ever lost. And HE feels the same way about HIS greatest creation, mankind.
    No one can measure the depths of GOD’s understanding. HE gives power to those who are tired and heavy laden, both young and old. Everyone who is willing to wait and depend on the LORD will find new strength. They will fly high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk exceedingly strong, and never faint (Vs.27-31).
    GOD wants us to believe in HIM with enough confidence to actually do what HIS Word (JESUS) requires us to do. That is what “saving faith” really is, for it is, “believing to a point of knowing”. Believers who acknowledge GOD’s sovereignty and greatness this way have confidence in everything that the Scriptures say about HIM, and about us. HE is involved in all of our day to day existence, and HE does not change the way HE is, simply because, we are, the way we’ve become.

A Sunday school lesson by,
Larry D. Alexander







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