International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending December 12, 2010
Purpose: To remind us that God continues to claim us even though we may feel abandoned
Scripture Text: Isaiah 41:8-10, 17-20 (NRSV)
(8)But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend;( 9)you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; (10)do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.
Isaiah 41: 17-21
(17)When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the LORD will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them. (18)I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. (19)I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive; I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together, (20)so that all may see and know, all may consider and understand, that the hand of the LORD has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
As we continue our study of Isaiah, I think it is important to remember that these words are given by God to His prophet Isaiah about 120 years before the nation of Judah is carried away into captivity by the Babylonians. Now the challenge is for those in captivity to believe these words were written by Isaiah at God's command over a hundred years prior, and these words of hope and comfort applied to them in their present state of captivity, in a land a thousand miles from their homeland and the temple they knew as the dwelling place of their God.
There are a couple of things we can learn from the message from God given to Isaiah. First the entire nation of Israel is addressed, and then narrowed to Jacob, then back to the offspring of Abraham, a friend of God. Remember that Jacob was not, what most would call, a shining example, of someone to emulate. Jacob, prior to “wrestling with God's angel all night at the River Jabbok”, (Gen. 32) was a scoundrel, a cheat, and a liar, after this night of struggle God gave Jacob a new name “Israel.” The invoking of the name Jacob should not be lost; it would serve to remind those in captivity that they too were scoundrels, and undeserving of God's blessing. Thankfully, God does not always look at what we are, but rather what we can become. While Jacob's brother and father may not have seen his potential, God did. As we have stated many times, God does not always call the equipped, but rather God equips the called. We should take comfort that the covenant made with Abraham extends to all humankind not just the descendents of Jacob.
God reminds those in captivity, through the prophet, of some of the things He has done throughout the history of these chosen people. In spite of disobedience, “He has not cast them off.” Then proceeds to list five promises,
(1) “I am with you,”
(2) “I am your God,”
(3) “I will strengthen you,”
(4) “I will help you,”
(5) “I will uphold you.”
God, through the prophet, uses several metaphors to show His caring and concern. God shows both sympathy and empathy for what they are going through in captivity. (Remember: Sympathy is feeling sorry for someone; empathy is feeling sorry with someone.)
Do you have a hard time believing good news? Do you constantly see the glass half empty? Are you constantly asking, what next? Do you feel abandoned by God? That is exactly what those living in exile felt. The picture of hope that God paints may seem to be unrealistic, however He is promising an Emanuel, “God with us.” His promise of making the desert bloom may only have happened in the past years since 1946, when Israel was re-established as a nation. The nation of Israel stands today as a fulfillment of this promise made some 2700 years ago. It would be unrealistic to deny what “the hand of the Lord has done.” Verse 17 says “I will not forsake them.” Today we should be encouraged by what God has done for the nation of Israel and take it as a promise we receive through the birth, life and death of His only Son, that we can still trust a sympathizing and empathizing God. “Do not fear; for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God.”