Sabbath School Lesson for February 20-26, 2021

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Overview for Lesson 9 (Isaiah 41-49)

Isaiah 41-49 helps us understand where our comfort comes from, as proclaimed in last week’s chapter 40. Several kinds of servants are explored in its verses:

  • Sunday: God’s chosen nation (Israel/Judah) was to be a servant to other nations. (Isaiah 41:8-20)
  • Monday: The Messiah would be a Servant to all those in need. (Isaiah 42:1-7)
  • Tuesday: A Persian named Cyrus would serve God by restoring Jerusalem. (Isaiah 44:26-28-45:1-6)
  • Wednesday: The prophet Isaiah served God by giving hope to the oppressed remnant. (Leviticus 26:40-45)
  • Thursday: Jesus Christ fulfills all the Servant duties mentioned in these passages. He is our Servant and our King. (Isaiah 49:1-12)

The Messiah came to earth to both serve and save mankind. This dual role of Servant and King are themes taken up by Isaiah in these chapters. Other servants and kings that are alluded to include the nation Israel, the Persian king Cyrus, and even the work of Isaiah himself.

All these entities merely reflect the work of the Messiah to save the world by serving the world. Isaiah’s prophetic role was similar to Christ’s mission of giving hope to the oppressed. And one hundred and fifty years later, Cyrus would demonstrate the kingly function of Christ’s work that will result in setting up His Kingdom on earth.

Memory Text: ” ‘Behold! My Servant whom I uphold, My Elect One in whom My soul delights! I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.’ ” Isaiah 42:1 NKJV

We will discover in these chapters who the Servant was and what He would accomplish. This will help provide comfort needed to endure the many trials and hardships we are bound to experience in a world of sin. Comfort is available to all who are called by His name.

Sunday: Servant Nation (Isaiah 41:8-20)

After a few verses about God at the beginning of Isaiah 41, Israel (“Jacob whom I have chosen, the descendants of Abraham”) is called God’s servant (Isaiah 41:8). God’s people were chosen for a purpose similar to the Messiah’s. They were to serve God by serving the nations around them and by bringing to them a knowledge of the true God.

This passage in Isaiah is full of promises to the servant nation of Israel. Verse 10 reminded them that God will take away their fear, give them strength, and help them overcome their enemies. God’s blessings on them would show the surrounding pagan nations that God has closely identified Himself with His chosen people.

There were abundant blessings reserved for Israel, if they remained in that covenantual relationship with God that started with Abraham, who was called God’s friend.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Isaiah 41:8, 9, Deuteronomy 7:6, and James 2:23

  • What made Abraham a friend of God?
  • What did being chosen mean for Israel? Did it rely only on their behavior and actions?

Isaiah 41:14 and John 15:4, 5

  • Why was Israel referred to as a worm?
  • How dependent were they on the Lord for any success or blessing?

Monday: Unnamed Individual Servant (Isaiah 42:1-7)

Isaiah 42 highlights another Servant, who was mentioned in previous chapters (in Isaiah 9:6, 7 and chapter 11). This Servant is spoken of as an individual, rather than a nation. We are provided with more information about His role and character in the first seven verses of chapter 42.

Here are some of His qualities and accomplishments:

  1. He upholds justice for all. (Isaiah 42:1)
  2. He works quietly and peacefully to achieve His purposes. (Isaiah 42:2, 3)
  3. He plays a key part in the covenant God has with His people. (Isaiah 42:6)
  4. He serves the afflicted and oppressed wherever He finds them. (Isaiah 42:7)

Matthew quotes these verses in Isaiah 42 that speak about this Servant, known as the Messiah, and links them with Jesus. See Matthew 12:15-21. Matthew and all the disciples saw a fulfillment of these verses in the life of Jesus. It gave them the courage and conviction to follow Jesus during His ministry.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Isaiah 42:1-7

  • What were some of the ways Isaiah described this Servant, and how does it sound like he’s talking about an individual, rather than a nation?

Matthew 12:15, 16

  • What were some of the things Jesus did that made His disciples think He could be the Messiah, spoken of in Isaiah?

Tuesday: Persian “Messiah” (Isaiah 44:26–45:6)

Isaiah speaks back and forth about God’s servant Israel and His Servant Jesus in the next two chapters. But in Isaiah 44:26, another servant is introduced. In verse 28, he’s even called a shepherd, and in Isaiah 45:1, he’s called His anointed.

The most surprising thing of all is that Isaiah identifies this servant by name as Cyrus, and predicts that he will build Jerusalem (Isaiah 44:28). As we know, the Persian king Cyrus was responsible in large part for resettling and rebuilding Jerusalem, but it occurred about one hundred and fifty years after Isaiah.

This has caused skeptics to question the authorship of Isaiah, claiming that it must have had two authors, with someone other than Isaiah writing the second half of the book. Those who know and understand our powerful God accept that predictions of this nature are quite possible, and have no reason to question the prophecies given to Isaiah.

Cyrus turned out to be a savior for God’s people, but a surprising one, since he wasn’t an Israelite. God used him, however, for a very important work. He was sent by God, just like Moses, to deliver His people from their long captivity.

God uses every avenue possible to reach those He loves. Cyrus, like many other people and events in the Old Testament, prefigured the work of Christ. We can learn much from their stories, and rejoice in the fact that we, too, can be servants of God.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Isaiah 44:28 and John 21:16

  • What requirement is needed to be God’s shepherd?

Isaiah 45:1

  • What does it mean to be anointed by God?

Wednesday: Hope in Advance (Leviticus 26:40-45)

The prophet Isaiah must be recognized for his efforts to comfort and save God’s people. He gave them hope for the trials of the present, and also for those hardships they would struggle with in the future.

It was traditionally believed that Isaiah’s own fate was horrific. It’s thought that his death consisted of being sawn in half. That method of martyrdom is even mentioned in Hebrews 11:37. This is interesting when we study the book of Isaiah, because there is such a shift in his writing that some believe there must have been two authors, two “Isaiah”s, who wrote its chapters.

Isaiah can be seen to be split in half, with chapters 1-39 and 40-66 showing us different messages.

  1. The first half deals mainly with the superpower Assyria, warning God’s people of attacks to come and the serious, unpleasant consequences of rejecting God.
  2. In the second half, we are shown more about their Babylonian captivity, focusing on the comfort that God will provide, and the relief and rejoicing that happens when their captivity is finally over.

The interweaving of these themes, and the literary style and expressions used throughout, brings us to the conclusion that this author could have been Isaiah throughout the book. Especially when one believes in the power of God to predict the future and relay His warnings through prophets like Isaiah.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Leviticus 26:40-45

  • How did God stay true to the words in the covenant described here, and how does it give us hope even today?
  • What part did Isaiah play in seeing that these words were not forgotten and their hope lost?

Thursday: A Feeling and Suffering Servant (Isaiah 49:1-12)

Isaiah 42 presented a Servant, who was clearly an individual, the Messiah. Chapter 49 once again returns to the theme of this Messiah, who would be a “light to the Gentiles” (Isaiah 49:6).

The attributes of this Servant were revealed in the New Testament life of Jesus Christ. They covered features that pertain to both His first and second coming. A new thing to consider was found in this chapter. Here we are told that the Servant labored and spent His strength for nothing; it was in vain (Isaiah 49:4). Also, that the nation would abhor, or despise, Him (Isaiah 49:7).

Isaiah 49:3 is a bit puzzling, because it identifies His servant once again as Israel. Isaiah 48:1 spoke about the nation Israel’s failure to represent God “in truth or in righteousness”. Isaiah 49:5 helps us understand though, by saying that He would bring Jacob back to Him. This Messiah would represent the nation that had failed God so miserably–who had clearly not kept their covenant with God.

Bible Verses to Read and Discuss:

Isaiah 48:1, 49:6, 7 and John 1:3, 3:19

  • Why did God choose this Servant to represent Israel?
  • What had Israel failed to do?

Friday: Final Thoughts

Going all the way back to Isaiah 1:18, we find the invitation to “Come now, and let us reason together.” God repeats that invitation in Isaiah 41:1, “Let us come near together for judgment.” He encourages us to present our case and bring forth our strong reasons (Isaiah 41:21).

Only a totally just and transparent God would welcome such dialogue. Only a totally merciful, forgiving God would offer the possibility of such open discussion with His creatures.

The primary mission of God through His Servant, His own dear Son, is to serve mankind and to save them for eternity. These goals are introduced in several ways throughout these particular chapters in Isaiah. Whether it’s…

  • through the nation Israel, showing them how to worship the true God–
  • Cyrus the Persian king, making their return to Jerusalem possible–
  • or the prophet Isaiah, delivering messages of warning and hope through his testimony.

All these measures were used to further God’s Kingdom and make it possible for every willing soul to be there. To be served and saved leads to wanting to serve and save others. We, too, are servants of God, when we choose His Kingdom over this earthly one.

Next Week: Sabbath: Doing the Unthinkable

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