A. The Dream Team
The film The Dream Team is a 1989 comedy about mental patients who meet for group therapy. When their psychiatrist takes them on an outing, he witnesses a slaying and is nearly killed by the perpetrators. The group, not knowing what happened to their doctor, is left in New York City alone. They soon learn they are wanted both for the slaying and for the attempted murder of their doctor, who has ended up in a hospital.
The humor results from the need of this “dream team” to grapple with reality. How will they find their way out of the trouble they are in? In our days of psychiatrists and psychologists, support groups, and abundance of self-help books, it sometimes makes us wonder where previous generations got mental and emotional help. What did Christians do in all those centuries before professional Christian counselors came along?
Once I came across an ancient work entitled Conferences. It was written by John Cassian, a monk who lived about AD 365-433. In this book, monastery leaders are portrayed as meeting with Cassian in groups to discuss issues of how to live the Christian life. In other words, they would counsel together for the spiritual benefit of themselves and for those to whom they ministered. Those with greater spiritual maturity could help guide others.
Today’s lesson also offers us a picture of members of a group coming together for counseling. Chief among the group members are the future Jewish exiles. The prophet Isaiah writes 100years before the Babylonian exile, but Isaiah knows that the Judeans will find themselves in deep trouble. They will not know where to turn. The counselor, however, is the Lord himself. His wisdom and knowledge are infallible. We often wonder, as though in a dream, where to turn in times of trouble. God often uses our Christian friends who are wise enough to help us deal with reality. At other times He provides those with professional training to help. But behind any of these counselors must be the wisdom of the Lord, who alone can bring hope from despair.
B. Lesson Background
In last week’s text, the Lord sought to shock Judah into repentance. Their acts of worship were in vain unless their lives demonstrated inward purity and outward righteousness. Isaiah’s ministry was a call to repentance. Failure to repent meant destruction. Isaiah was told two things about Judah. First, since his preaching would fall on deaf ears, destruction would occur.(In fact, it did in 586 tic.) Second, in order to keep His covenant, the Lord would preserve a remnant of faithful people in spite of this destruction (Isaiah 6:8-13). This remnant was the exiles surviving the Babylonian captivity, which ended in 539 BC. This week’s lesson stresses that message again.
The first section of Isaiah, chapters 1-39, is mostly judgment. The second section, chapters40-66, is mostly blessing; almost all of it is poetry (except for 66:17-24), which means there is To spend money or exert one’s own labor summarizes the human pursuit for happiness. The Lord uses a rhetorical question to stress that these yield what is not really bread. Whatever the Judeans are striving for is not food that truly nourishes. It satisfieth not the deepest human need.
The command to hearken diligently means to understand and heed. The structure of the He-brew indicates that both of the next two statements will be the results of obeying Him. First, the readers will eat that which is good. Second, they will experience delight in the plenty(fatness) of the land.
These images may be taken in a physical sense, since the future exiles will return physically to “the land of milk and honey” that the Lord provides. But as figures of speech the implications are much more profound: godly living will bring great spiritual blessings. To take the promise merely in a physical sense would be to miss the main message.
B. Benefits (v. 3)
3. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.
Every parent knows the frustration of giving instructions and warnings to a child, only to have the child blithely skip off to do whatever he or she wants to do anyway. That must be how God feels on occasion. His prophets must feel the same way as well (compare Ezekiel 33:31, 32).The people will behave sinfully right in the midst of the exile itself! Yet the result of their coming back to the Lord will be that He will make an everlasting covenant.
The please the sure mercies of David is quoted in Acts 13:34. There the phrase is applied to the resurrection of the Messiah. The name David usually refers to the human king in historical writings. David may also stand for his royal descendant. However, David is sometimes used by the prophets in an ultimate sense as a title for the Messiah (see Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 34:23, 24;37:24, 25; Hosea 3:5). The next two verses offer clues as to which the Lord intends here.
C. Agent (vv. 4, 5)
4.Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people. The tense of have given does not rule out an event later than the time of writing; the context is future. Therefore the historical King David cannot be in view. A strictly human king of the line of David could be possible, except that no such ruler is ever the cause of the actions inverse 5, below.
Therefore, the name David as used in verse 3(him here in v. 4) seems to refer to the ideal, ultimate one: the Messiah. As witness to the love of God, the Messiah will make plain God’s love to His people. As leader and commander, the Messiah is qualified to rule the people.
5.Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee, because of the Lamp thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee.
As we work through our lesson text, remember that we are trying to figure out who is speaking and who is being spoken to at every point. Here the words thou and thee may refer to Zion being spoken to. If so, then the Lord’s future kingdom, redeemed Zion, will call a nation it previously did not know. This seems to look forward to the time when redeemed Zion is the church.
If thee and then refer ultimately to die church, then shalt call refers to the preaching of the gospelto the world by the church, and shall run refers to the Gentiles’ inclusion into the church. From Isa-iah’s perspective, this will happen because of the Lord thy God. From our perspective, this has in-deed happened and continues to happen.
The phrase for he hath glorified thee probably also refers to redeemed Zion and to the church. Isaiah 46:13 predicts the glorification of redeemed Zion (Israel; see also Isaiah 61:3). Romans 11:11-24 describes the glorification of the church in terms of a restored relationship between God and all believers, both Jewish and Gentile.
We should realize, however, that it is also attractive to understand thou as indicating that the Lord now turns to speak to “David,” meaning the Messiah, while in the presence of Zion. If this is the case, then it is the Messiah who will call nations to the Lord; the nations will run to the Lord because He will have glorified His Son (see Acts3:13; Hebrews 1:1-3).
Hebrews 5:5 implies that the Son was glorified by the Father. Under this idea, the divine Messiah calls a nation that thou knowest not and nations that knew not thee in the sense of establishing relationships.
The Messiah will indeed have that relation-ship with the Gentiles under the new covenant. That relationship was not really a part of the old covenant (Hosea 1:10; 2:23; both quoted in Ro-mans 9:25, 26; see also 1 Peter 2:10).
11. Acceptance Urged(Isaiah 55:6, 7)
A. Seeking Required (v. 6)
6. Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near.
The speaker is now the prophet Isaiah. This is indicated in verse 7 (below), where he refers to “our God.” The idea in the verse before us is not that the readers should seek God before God moves away and becomes distant. Rather, the idea is for the readers to seek God while their hearts are soft and willing to believe. They need to seek Him and grow in their faith.
In Hebrew poetry, the center of a poem often is the main point. Isaiah’s urge to Zion is the center of the chapter. Therefore, this appeal to seek the Lord is the main point.
B. Forsaking Required (v. 7)
7. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lou, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
Isaiah tells Zion that two things are involved n seeking the Lord. First, the wicked must for-sake his way; that means that unrighteous lifestyles are to be left behind. Second, the un-righteous man must forsake his thoughts: this is a challenge to abandon the internal sins of the heart. These are summarized with the challenge to return unto the Lard. . . and to our God. The results of returning to the Lord are twofold: first, the Lord will have mercy upon the one who does so. Second, the Lord will abundantly pardon. What comfort this must bring the exiles while they are suffering! They will be in exile some 70years, without temple or homeland. When that time comes (in about 100 years from Isaiah’s perspective), many will see no hope of restoration. The years will drag on and on. Well may they wonder, “Has the Lord rejected us forever?”The Lord affirms that there is abundant forgiveness. Even so, every individual outside of Christ today is God’s enemy. Once one learns the reality and depth of the life of sin—a life governed by self without God—one asks the samequestion, “Is there no hope for what I have done in rejecting God?” The good news is that there is the “wonderful grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin.” IS. question #3, page 374.1
III. Unfailing Word Affirmed(Isaiah 55:8-11)A. Thoughts and Ways (vv. 8, 9)
8, 9. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Clearly the Lord has resumed as speaker be-cause it is the Lord’s thoughts that are unsurpassed. That He is speaking to Zion is clear because the pronoun your in Hebrew is plural. The fact that God’s thoughts are so far beyond ours has at least two applications. First, this fact can give us hope when we see no way out of trouble. God can see a way out when we can’t. Second, this fact should make us humble about our own ability to know. When we are “sure” that we know the motives of others who have hurt us, we ought to remember that only God truly knows the human heart (Jeremiah 17:9, 10).(See question #4. page 374.(
HIS THOUGHTS, AND OURS
Enrico Fermi (1901-1954) was an Italian immigrant and nuclear physicist who played an important role in building America’s atomic bomb His brilliance was evident early in his career. He received his PhD in 1922 at the age of 21. At his graduation ceremony he gave a lecture that put some of his professors to sleep; it was more intricate than they could follow.
He was present at the explosion of the first atomic bomb on July 16, 1945. Wills others, he was safely some distance away at the moment of explosion. Most of the witnesses were transfixed by the nature of the explosion itself. But Fermi was focused on determining the amount of power that the explosion released. Fermi dropped pieces of paper before, during, and after the passage of the blast wave. By measuring the displacement of lire pieces, he was able to estimate the strength of the blast.
We can see the grandeur of God’s creation, and that is well and good as far as it goes (Psalm19:1). Yet we can miss the power and force of His values if we’re not careful. His thoughts and ways are indeed far beyond our OW11, and one of His highest values is the repentance of the sinner and the power of forgiveness. Though none of or saw the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, the immeasurable power of the cross still reaches us.—J. B. N.
B. Intent and Outcome (vv. 10, 11)10, 11. For as the rain commeth down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto or void. but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
The Lord illustrates the certainty of His word by referring to ruin and snow from heaven in relationship to what gives life on earth. Returned)not thither brings out the point that the precipitation does not go back into heavers without having a useful effect.
Verse 11 is the lesson to be learned from the illustration. Precipitation Irons above corresponds with the Lord’s Word that goeth forth out of His mouth. He sends it down to earth through His prophets, but His Word does not return to Him without effect. Rather, it accomplishes what He intends. (See question #5, page 3741
A. “You Can’t Miss It”
I do not have a reputation in my family for al-ways being able instinctively to find my way around while traveling. Since I know this, I (un-like many men) do not have any qualms about stopping to ask directions.
However, some people are better at giving directions than others. Upon finishing the description, he or she may utter those often heard words, “You can’t miss it.” Since on occasion I have indeed “missed it,” those words do not offer me much comfort!
However, the Lord is saying to the exiles who will experience His punishment, “If you listen to what I say, if you give up trusting in your own ways, and if you seek me, then restoration will occur. Its scope will be beyond anything you can imagine. And this restoration is as certain as my Word: you can’t miss it.”
His directions are clear: seek Him. This always leads home. This was comfort to the faithful remnant. It is comfort to all who seek the Lord today. No one is too far away to come to the Lord. One does not have to be free from sin to do this (otherwise no one would come). One has to be willing only to stop demanding to be the boss of one’s life and let the Lord be the boss.
Dear Father, We thank You for being absolutely trustworthy and effective. For all the times we still struggle wills wanting to run our own lives apart from You, we ask Your forgiveness. We, the most defiled, thank You for the relationship You have built with us through Christ, the Messiah, in whose name we pray, amen.
C. Thought to Remember
“Behold, what summer of love the Father bath bestowed upon us” (1 John 3:1).