International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending January 9, 2011
Purpose: To acknowledge and live in response to God's sovereignty
Scripture Text: Isaiah 45:18-24a (NRSV)
(18)For thus says the LORD, who created the heavens (he is God!), who formed the earth and made it (he established it; he did not create it a chaos, he formed it to be inhabited!): I am the LORD, and there is no other. (19)I did not speak in secret, in a land of darkness; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, “Seek me in chaos.” I the LORD speak the truth, I declare what is right.
(20)Assemble yourselves and come together, draw near, you survivors of the nations! They have no knowledge— those who carry about their wooden idols, and keep on praying to a god that cannot save. (21)Declare and present your case; let them take counsel together! Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I, the LORD? There is no other god besides me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is no one besides me. (22)Turn to me and be saved, all the ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other. (23)By myself I have sworn, from my mouth has gone forth in righteousness a word that shall not return: “To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear.” (24)Only in the LORD, it shall be said of me, are righteousness and strength; all who were incensed against him shall come to him and be ashamed.
My Thoughts by Burgess Walter
This week's lesson is about the sovereignty of God, and that always raises serious questions about what God's sovereignty really means. It is obvious from Isaiah's writings that it may have meant something different to the nation of Judah and Israel, at the time it was dictated by God. God is speaking to a nation that is now in captivity in Babylon, where other gods were the mainstay of that countries religion. Many of those carried away into captivity, especially those that were born and raised in Babylon, were probably guilty of worshiping and making idols of local gods.
God, through the prophet Isaiah, is trying to reinforce some of what they had heard or had been taught prior to being taken captive. He seems to be reinforcing the fact that there is only one true God, and that He is the creator of everything, and the redeemer of Israel and Jacob's offspring. Furthermore God is willing to redeem everyone through the offspring of Jacob, which is the Messiah, the Christ.
When God speaks of the “survivors of the nations,” He is speaking to that remnant that will not only return to God, but will also return to Judah and Jerusalem and rebuild. God separates them from the idol worshipers. As I read verses 20 and 21 God seems to draw a line in the sand and welcomes a challenge between Himself and the so called gods of Babylon. God is reminding this remnant that only He predicted all of the years prior through this very prophet.
The other important declaration God makes in verse 21 is that He is the only one righteous and He is the only one that can save them, and His righteousness makes Him the only qualified judge.
In verses 22 &23 God makes it clear that salvation comes from Him and through Him in the person of the Christ, and that it is received by turning to Him; the term “all the ends of the earth,” reflects the fact that through the “Great Commission” given by the Christ, (God in the form of the Word), that salvation is opened up to all humankind through the proclamation by Jesus of the “Great Commission.” Today's remnant are called to proclaim that (Acts 1:8) “to the ends of the earth.” Isaiah 55:11 says, “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it". In the end, every knee shall bow and every tongue shall testify (swear), that God alone is the only one righteous enough, and strong enough, to judge the world and humankind.
We have no cause to complain, the plan has been explained, and we are all given an opportunity to participate. Choose your gods wisely, because it really does matter which one you serve.