While being chiefly an historically themed lesson, this lesson for the Sunday Schools held on 5 August 1934 does address the same general purpose as this year’s lesson: to focus on Isaiah’s prophecies of the coming of Jesus Christ and his mission, together with our obligation to preach the gospel He taught. Also included is the chapter from Ezra C. Dalby’s Land and Leaders of Israel recommended in the lesson.
Isaiah. The Prophet Who Said, “Send Me”
Isaiah in telling us of the call that came to him to serve our Heavenly Father in trying to teach His people to leave off their sinning said: “Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I: send me.” Isaiah 6:8.
The Lord early in the beginning of this church made that same call to the members of the church and it applies to us today just as though the Lord had spoken to each of us individually.
What is to be your answer to God’s call? If you can secure the book used by the Church Seminaries entitled “Land and Leaders of Israel,” please read the chapter on Isaiah. It will help you to answer.
Since we began our study of the prophets following the division of the kingdom, we have followed Amos, a native of the southern kingdom, in his work with the people of the northern kingdom and Hosea, a native of the northern kingdom, in his work with his own people. Neither was able to turn the people from their sins and we saw Israel carried away in bondage – lost completely until some day in the Lord’s own time they shall return. (Recite the tenth Article of Faith)
We turn now to the southern kingdom, the people of Judah, to find how they lived and what was done for them. From Isaiah’s writings we learn that Judah was also very sinful and that the Lord called for those that would go out to try and save His people for Him and that Isaiah answered as first herein set out.
Isaiah then is the first prophet to Judah. He was not of the poorer people as was Amos and Hosea, but he was just as humble and fitted himself into the work just as well. He came of parents who were close to the ruling family and as a result of that, Isaiah was interested in the government as well as in the religious life of the people. He has always been known as a prophet and statesman.
In teaching he visited the people and rulers. To each class he gave his message of repentance and advised them to turn to righteousness. He loved Jerusalem passionately and tried very hard to get the people and the rulers to see that they should all do better by each other and remember their Heavenly Father. It was his greatest ambition to get all the people to know and understand God. He was God’s great champion.
He told the people of Christ’s coming and of his mission. He told of how cities would be destroyed and the people taken captive unless they repented of their sins, because sin weakens people and makes it easy for their enemies to overcome them. the people didn’t repent, their cities were destroyed and the people were taken captive.
Once when Assyria, after having taken Israel into bondage came down and camped around Jerusalem with the intention of taking the city – the rulers appealed to Isaiah to save them. He so loved them and the city that he prayed for their deliverance. After his prayer he told them they would be saved that time – and they were. For some reason, we are not told what, a sickness broke out in the army of the Assyrians and so many were afflicted that the army became fearful and left. But the people did not repent for very long and finally as foretold by Isaiah they were overcome and their city destroyed.
Besides being a great statesman and prophet, Isaiah was a wonderful poet and writer. Under the Lord’s influence he was the greatest man of his time.
1. Why doesn’t the Lord just make people live as He would like them to live, instead of just teaching them how they should live and leaving the rest to them?
2. Point out the main point in the lives of Amos, Hosea and Isaiah.
3. What kingdom did each of the prophets above named belong to, and what people did each teach?
4. What do we mean when we say Isaiah was called to be a prophet?
5. Are calls made in these days? In what way?
6. Discuss this statement: “God’s call is man’s opportunity, not his obligation.”
7. Is there an especial need for spiritual and religious leadership today? Why?
Land and Leaders of Israel
Isaiah, the Statesman
lesson Text: Isaiah 36:13-21; 37.
Responsive Reading: Isaiah 36:6-7.
Prayer by Student.
Memory Text; “For I will defend this city to save it for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.” – Isaiah 37:35.
The Message of the Lesson
Faith and Prayer
The chronology of Isaiah is very difficult to follow. Certainly Hezekiah’s sickness and the promise of fifteen years that should be added to his life came long before the events recorded in this lesson, but in the text that incident is mentioned in the next chapter. His call, an account of which is given in the sixth chapter, ought to have come in the first. And so it is all through the book. just why the editors, in making the arrangement of his prophecies and sermons, should have done it in this unsatisfactory manner, we are at a loss to understand.
Another difficulty that we shall encounter in our study, not only of Isaiah but of all the prophets, is our lack of knowledge concerning the political and historical movements of the time in which they lived. They were not colorless faces from the dead to their contemporaries, as they are to us. The truths they announced were not presented in abstract forms, but had some relation to the age in which they lived; and they were adapted to the special circumstances of the persons or nations to whom they were addressed. What they said and wrote grew out of problems that confronted them at the time. The message of Isaiah was for the men and women of the Judah and Jerusalem of his own day. Of course, the message is also to us, if we are guilty of the same sins which he denounced. In some matters he was a prophet to all the ages, but his chief purpose was to save the city of Jerusalem in 690 B.C. A great danger threatened his city and nation. Assyria had taken captive the people of Samaria, and were knocking at the gates of Jerusalem. His problem in this lesson was to save the city, and to that end he directed his efforts.
We are confronted with another difficulty: Was there one siege of Jerusalem by Sennacherib, or two? Dr. Kent maintains that the incidents connected with our lesson today did not occur until 690 B.C. and that a previous siege took place in 701; in which Hezekiah had disregarded the advice of Isaiah, and had been compelled to pay the Assyrian king an enormous indemnity to save the city. For our purpose, however, it is not a question of great importance. The facts recorded in our text are admitted in either case. What we desire to emphasize is the supreme faith manifested by Isaiah, and the power with God of Hezekiah’s earnest prayer for deliverance of the city.
Consider the situation. Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, by the mouth of his representative, Rabshakeh, demanded the unconditional surrender of Jerusalem. And he gave good reasons to show that it would be to the best interest of the people to comply with his request, by calling attention to the fact that not a single nation, not even Israel, had been able to hold out against Assyria. He pleaded with the people not to let Hezekiah deceive them into believing that the Lord would save them, for no power could deliver them out of the hands of the king of Assyria. Then he named the nations that had fallen, warned the elders of the city to beware of what would happen to them also, if they were foolish enough to trust in their king and their God. So deep was the impression that Rabshakeh made that Hezekiah’s messengers held their peace, and they answered him not a word.
We may be sure that there was consternation in Jerusalem that night. The king rent his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord. Then he sent representatives, also covered with sackcloth, to Isaiah with the word: “This day is a day of trouble, and of rebuke, and of blasphemy. * * * It may be the Lord thy God will hear the words of Rabshakeh, whom the king of Assyria his master hath sent to reproach the living God, and will reprove the words which the lord thy God hath heard: wherefore lift up thy prayer for the remnant that is left.”
Isaiah sent word to Hezekiah to have no fear of the words spoken by the insolent messenger of Sennacherib, that no harm would come to the city. Shortly after this, Rabshakeh again sent messengers to Hezekiah, warning him not to hold out against his king. Again he repaired to the temple, and offered one of the most fervent prayers recorded in the Old Testament. He reminded the Lord that Sennacherib had reproached the living God, and had boasted the laying waste of all nations and countries and of casting down their gods, and concluded by saying; “Now, therefore, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the Lord, even thou only.”
Isaiah immediately sent word to Hezekiah that the Lord would punish the Assyrians for their presumption in challenging the God of Israel, and he closed a long statement with this remarkable promise: “He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it. By the way that he came, by the same shall he return, and shall not come into this city, saith the Lord.” It took a degree of faith to issue such a statement in the face of a threat made by a man who had subdued all nations and kingdoms. What could little Jerusalem do against the hosts of an empire that covered the known world? Judging by all that had happened, Rabshakeh was justified in making the boast that he did. But as we have seen so many times in these lessons, when God was with his servants, they were invincible. This is what happened: “Then the angel of the Lord went forth, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians a hundred and four score and five thousand; and when men arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies.” Isaiah, speaking for God, had no misgivings.
It has been said of Isaiah that he died with the Gospel on his lips, and no greater tribute could be paid to a man who lived 700 years before Christ was born. His counsel was based on the principle of impartial justice. he was hampered by no racial prejudice, for his faith was in a God of righteousness, who ruled not only Judah but the world. Some of his contemporaries no doubt accused him of inconsistency when, having advised Ahaz to form no alliance with Assyria, he later counseled Hezekiah to remain loyal to Assyria. But Isaiah saw clearly that the little petty kingdoms that were trying to get Judah to join them in throwing off the yoke of Sennacherib were unable to free themselves. During most of his life Isaiah stood out against public opinion, in what he considered to be for the best interests of the nation. But time vindicated his position. He constantly courted opposition and hatred by condemning the mistakes of the ruling classes, and also the crimes which were destroying the nation. He challenged corruption and injustice in high places; not even the king himself was exempt from his attacks. One great thought dominated his life – Jerusalem must be saved. The busy life of the holy city was part of his life; its sacred shrines were dear to him; and he gave himself unreservedly to the task of cleansing it from iniquity. How bitterly he scourged the rulers who “grind the faces of the poor,” the religious leaders “who stagger with strong drink,” the pious frauds who pray while their “hands are full of blood,” and the landlords “that join house to house.” Neither did he spare the women who “with stretched forth necks, and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and make a tinkling with their feet.” How modern it all sounds!
“Cease to do evil and learn to do well; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow,” was the burden of his cry. he dreamed of a Messianic king who should make the name of Jerusalem glorious; “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.”
The Angel of Death
Like the leaves of the forest when summer is green,
That host with their banners at sunset were seen;
Like the leaves of the forest when autumn hath blown,
That host on the morrow lay withered and strown.
For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed on the face of the foe as he pass’d;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and forever grew still!
Questions and Problems
1. Why are the prophets difficult to understand?
2. What can you say about the arrangements of the chapters in Isaiah?
3. What relation did the prophets have to their own time? to a future time?
4. What challenge did Rabshakeh make to the people of Jerusalem?
5. What did Hezekiah do about it?
6. What counsel did Isaiah give the king?
7. Tell about Hezekiah’s prayer.
8. What final statement did Isaiah make concerning Sennacherib?
9. What happened to his army?
10. What danger is there in quoting the prophets to prove modern theories?
11. Why was Rabshakeh justified in boasting of what the king of Assyria could do?
12. Why did Isaiah advise Hezekiah to remain loyal to Assyria?
13. Discuss the quotations from Isaiah in the last part of the lesson.
Suggestive Closing Prayer
O Lord our God, when dark days come to us, and the enemy, encompassing our stronghold, summons us to surrender, and blasphemes thy holy name, saying that they who put their trust in thee shall perish, give unto us a faith that knows no wavering. Let no word of doubt or fear escape our lips, but like Isaiah, in besieged Jerusalem, help us to declare boldly: “He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shields, nor cast a bank against it.” So may we live from day to day with a faith that is immovable, and a trust in thee that is as unshaken as the everlasting hills.