Sabbath School Lesson for December 26-January 1, 2021

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Lesson 1 Overview

Isaiah tried to help God’s people through an identity crisis by explaining to them in Isaiah, ch. 1 through 5…

  • Sunday: who should be listening–Isaiah 1:1-9
  • Monday: what the problem was–Isaiah 1:10-17
  • Tuesday: what the answer was–Isaiah 1:18
  • Wednesday: what the short term consequences were–Isaiah 1:19-31
  • Thursday: what the long term consequences were–Isaiah 5:1-7

It’s a sad thing for someone to lose their identity and not know, or be able to tell, who they are. There are mental conditions to blame for this. Sometimes unforeseen and unwanted circumstances can even be the cause of an individual’s loss of identity.

In the identity crisis of God’s people during the time of Isaiah, however, there seemed to be a profound general case of it in the entire nation. They had forgotten they were God’s chosen people.

Evidently, their identity crisis was preventable and reversible though. By recognizing their errors, they could overcome them and return to their special, covenantal relationship with God.

Memory Text: ” ‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the Lord, ‘though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.’ “

Isaiah repeatedly spoke for the Lord in his pleas for a restoration of Israel. God longed for them to return to the relationship He once had with them under previous kings and prophets.

God’s people badly needed to get their hearts right with the Lord. But, the messages for Israel can rightly be applied to God’s people at any time. Especially, in this time of the end, we need the words of Isaiah to guide us back to a close, deep connection with our loving Father God.

Sunday: “Hear, O Heavens!”–Isaiah 1:1-9

The first verse of Isaiah introduces us to…

  • the speaker (Isaiah, son of Amoz),
  • when he is speaking (during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah),
  • and the topic (concerning Judah and Jerusalem).
  • He also indicated that the Lord gave him the message, by mentioning that it is a vision.

The second verse widens who we might think of as the audience intended for Isaiah’s writings.  Isaiah expresses a desire that heaven and earth hear the words of the Lord’s vision to him. This most likely indicates that it wasn’t just God’s people at the time of Isaiah who should be listening. Isaiah knows it is a matter of grave importance to the remnant in any time or place on earth.

At that time, the survival of a people who would be fit vessels for the Messiah’s first coming was a critical issue. We must also listen to God’s word and renew our covenant relationship in these final days before His Second Coming. God will have a people ready who have been sharing the gospel message. How important it is to be in that group of believers.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Isaiah 1:1, 2

  • How can we tell in these first two verses that Isaiah feels God’s vision is important to a very wide audience, not just for Jerusalem and Judah?
  • Why would it especially be important to those living in the last days?

Deuteronomy 4:26

  • Using a witness was, and still is, a typical procedure when treaties or contracts are made. How and why is God using the heaven and earth as His witness?

Isaiah 1:3-8

  • What were some of the sins of Judah?
  • What words did Isaiah use to describe God’s chosen nation?

Isaiah 1:9 and 2 Peter 2:6

  • What would be the fate of the world, if a remnant was not left to welcome the Messiah?
  • Why does God use the example of Sodom and Gomorrah to wake us up from our spiritually weak condition?

Monday: Rotten Ritualism–Isaiah 1:10-17

Isaiah explained the situation to those who would listen. The reason God was disappointed with their temple sacrifices was simple. The temple services were not coming from a people who were manifesting God’s loving character. See Isaiah 1:10-13.

They had become oppressive and unjust to each other. Just the opposite kind of behavior God expected from His representatives to the world.

Their continued worship rituals were not only displeasing to God, they would cause Him to separate from them entirely. Evil cannot exist in the presence of God. The temple would cease to be a place where God could dwell with them. Their evil, bloody ways would lead to the worst consequence ever–God’s leaving them to their fate. See Isaiah 1:14-15

But, even in their despicable state, God was holding out a way for them to come back to their former covenantal relationship. See Isaiah 1:16, 17. By mending their ways, they could once again become God’s ambassadors and preserve that remnant that would welcome the Messiah at His birth in Bethlehem.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Isaiah 1:10-13 and Psalm 51:16, 17, 10, 11

  • What kind of worship does God look for from His people?
  • How do we get our hearts right with God, when we have drifted away from Him?

Isaiah 1:14, 15 and Psalm 91:14-16

  • What does God look for when we call on Him for help? When does He hear our prayers?
  • When has He heard your prayers?

Isaiah 1:16, 17 and Romans 12:9

  • Why isn’t just doing good, enough? Why do we also have to hate evil?
  • How do you define hypocrisy? Why is it a sin?

Tuesday: The Argument of Forgiveness–Isaiah 1:18

God desires to have a dialogue with us. As our Friend, He longs to have a deep conversation with His beloved people. His plea to Israel has always been, “Come now, and let us reason together.” This indicates His willingness to reach out and help His people whenever they are ready to listen and be heard.

God promises to wipe out all our negative behaviors, when we allow Him into our hearts. A complete transformation is always possible, when we determine to do His will, and not our own.

A graphic illustration is to picture our sins as dark red as they can be, but turning as white as new-fallen snow. God covers us with His robe of righteousness, when we accept His invitation to come to Him with a desire to be “born again”.  What a privilege to have that opportunity. See Isaiah 61:10 and John 3:3.

King David took advantage of God’s forgiveness, after his experience with Bathsheba. He longed for God to make him clean–to be washed and whiter than snow (Psalm 51:7). We, too, will find forgiveness and restoration, when we return to God with that simple request to make a new start in life.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Isaiah 1:18

  • What motivates God to desire our friendship?
  • What motivates us to accept His invitation to be forgiven?

Psalm 51:5, 7, 10 and 1 Corinthians 15:31

  • How are our sins covered by God?
  • Why is washing a necessary part of the process?
  • Why do we need that washing or dying to sin, and how often?

Wednesday: To Eat or Be Eaten–Isaiah 1:19-31

God very plainly outlined the short-term consequences Judah would experience, if they continued in their wicked ways. Verses 19 and 20 reveal that they would be devoured (or eaten) by the sword, if they were not willing and obedient to the Lord’s commands. Their survival depended on their willingness to repent and come back to God.

God had spoken similar words and warnings through Moses. Deuteronomy 30:19, 20 describes their obedience to be a life or death situation as well. “Blessing and cursing” were the only options open to them.

As Moses had told them previously, they must obey Him out of love, if they wanted to reverse their dangerous direction. God was offering Himself to be a life preserver. Clinging to that life preserver was the only chance for them not to drown in their desperate, sinful condition.

The benefits of following God were enormous, but the result of remaining disobedient was equally unthinkable. Isaiah tried desperately to bring to Judah an awareness of what was at stake.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Isaiah 1:19, 20 and Deuteronomy 30:19

  • Was God being arbitrary in these announcements of their fate, if they chose disobedience?
  • What was most likely His motive, and why did He have it?

Isaiah 1:21-23 and Jeremiah 2:20

  • What had led to God’s chosen people becoming a harlot?
  • What kind of behaviors indicated their unfaithfulness to God?

Isaiah 1:29, 30

  • What kinds of idolatry still appeal to God’s people, even today?
  • What can we do to keep ourselves away from Satan’s alluring temptations to follow him, instead of God?

Thursday: Ominous Love Song–Isaiah 5:1-7

Just as Samuel used a story as a means of drawing David’s attention to his sin with Bathsheba (2 Samuel 12:1-13), Isaiah delivers a parable, or story, in chapter 5 to hopefully make God’s people aware of their unfaithfulness to God.

At the end of the story, Isaiah leaves no question about its meaning. Isaiah 5:7 says that the vineyard is the house of Israel and the men of Judah are the plants that grow there. The vineyard keeper, obviously referring to the Son of God, had done all He could to make His vineyard productive, but without results.

The description of the wild grapes would hopefully make Isaiah’s listeners see themselves in their true condition. They were a poor substitute for the fruit God was expecting to enjoy, after all His efforts to make them productive.

It was only after everything possible was done to make the vineyard productive. God is not happy with the choice (2 Peter 3:9). He longed for the plants to produce good grapes, but they resisted His efforts to make them productive, and the time came for the destruction of the vineyard. See Isaiah 5:5, 6.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Isaiah 5:4, 30:18 and 2 Peter 3:9

  • How has God shown patience when it comes to dealing with sinners? With you?
  • How was justice served when God destroyed His vineyard in this parable, and how will it be served again when God destroys the wicked?

1 John 4:8, 9 and Revelation 22:11,12

  • How did God show us His love in the most dramatic way possible? How has He shown love to you?
  • When does God decide that the grapes have had enough time to produce fruit?

Friday: Final Thoughts and Analysis

Many have the idea that we must be transformed and be without sin before God will forgive and accept us as His children. But, Isaiah’s message was just the opposite. Isaiah 1:18 says to “Come”. Then, God would forgive and make them whiter than snow.

There was nothing for God’s people to do but accept the invitation to come and reason with God. He wanted them to see their true, sinful condition. Not to make them feel bad, but to make them repent and be sorry for their misguided behavior and ask for forgiveness.

God was more than willing to take them back, but only if they would willingly desire a return to their former relationship. They must be convinced that God’s way was better than Satan’s.

Let’s keep in mind the words in Philippians 2:12, 13. Although it says that we are to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, it adds that “it is God who works in you.” We are just the clay.

Any transforming that happens in our life occurs only because God made it happen. We just have to give Him permission. He asks for nothing that is not in our best interest in the long run.

Blessing or cursing–the choice is ours.

Next Week: Sabbath: Crisis of Leadership–Isaiah 6

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