Lesson for Dec. 5, 2010: God Gives Strength (Isaiah 40:1-8, 25, 26, 29-31)

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This week’s treatment of the International Sunday School Lesson (for December 5) is written by Teresa D. Welch, assistant professor of Christian education at Emmanuel School of Religion in Johnson City, Tennessee.


God Gives Strength (Isaiah 40:1-8, 25, 26, 29-31)

By Teresa D. Welch

Are you waiting, worried, or weary? What concerns do you carry? Wars and rumors of wars? Economic upheaval and increased poverty? Political decisions and governmental policies? Religious hostility or indifference? The words of God recorded in Isaiah 40 are delivered to the nation of Judah, which had these concerns and many more.

The people of God were displaced. Carried off into exile following an attack by the Babylonians, the people of Judah were forced to live in a foreign land, surrounded by foreign people worshipping foreign gods. Jerusalem, their home, lay in ruins, leaving those who remained to suffer economic hardship. And most devastating of all, destruction of the temple left the people of God without their center for worship.

Lamentations 1:1, 3 describe the scene.

How deserted lies the city, once so full of people! How like a widow is she, who once was great among the nations! She who was queen among the provinces has now become a slave. After affliction and harsh labor, Judah has gone into exile. She dwells among the nations; she finds no resting place.

This exile was punishment for the sin and rebellion of the nation of Judah (v. 2). The people of Judah would be waiting for release, wondering if their God had been defeated or had abandoned them, and weary from living in a strange land.

People Without Strength (Isaiah 40:1, 2)

It is to this scene of despair, displacement, and discouragement that Isaiah spoke God’s word, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God” (v. 1). For the people who would know no peace for decades, this word promised restoration. Everything that had been broken was going to be made whole again. The words my people and your God resounded in their ears like the words of the covenant spoken to their ancestors (Exodus 6:7), acknowledging that they would not be abandoned. Their time of punishment would conclude, and they would be restored again as the people of God (v. 2).

God’s Incomparable Power and Strength (Isaiah 40:3-5, 25, 26)

The people were reminded that the Lord could not be defeated. A “voice” described the preparations for the procession of God (v. 3). Through the desert and wilderness, referencing the trials and sufferings the people of God had and would endure, God would bring his triumphal procession. The Babylonians constructed roads for parading their gods. However, the one true God would change the landscape for his procession, removing all obstacles, so that the “glory of the Lord” could be revealed to all people (vv. 4, 5). This reminded the people that the Lord God was, is, and forever would be the true King of earth.

The people were reminded that nothing on earth or in Heaven compared to the power and strength of God (v. 25). Though surrounded by foreign gods, none could compare to the Holy One (v. 25). For the King of earth was also God of the universe, demonstrated through the numerous stars in the sky that had been placed, numbered, and named by the power of the Lord (v. 26).

Our Weakness Compared to God’s Strength (Isaiah 40:6-8)

A comparison is made between the strength and power of God and the weakness and frailty of all people (vv. 6, 7). Just as grass grows and flowers bloom for a season, and then wither and fade, it is only by the breath of the Lord that life begins and ends. God reminded his people that just as their acts were powerless, so too would the acts of their oppressors be powerless. It is only the Word of God that remains forever ( v. 8 ) and the nation of Judah would need to place its hope in the promises contained in the Word.

God’s Strength in Our Weakness (Isaiah 40:29-31)

It is from the power of God—the same power that restored the nation of Judah to Jerusalem, the power that breathes and all flesh fails, the power that created, named, and placed the stars—that the weak and weary receive strength (v. 29). Even the strength of youth would not endure the time of exile (v. 30), but God’s strength would renew those who grew tired. Those who waited for the Lord, placing their hope in the Word of God, would receive strength (v. 31).

Just as the nation of Judah would have to endure its time in exile, we too will endure times of wilderness and desert in our lives. But the same God who provided strength for the people of Judah through their waiting, wondering, and weariness, says to us today, “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” Strength from God comes when we place our hope in the enduring Word, in God’s covenantal love realized in Jesus Christ, and in the glory of the Lord revealed on earth and throughout creation. This is strength that will help us walk, run, or soar.

________

Scripture quotations are from the New International Version, unless otherwise indicated.


HOME DAILY BIBLE READINGS
Nov. 29: Deuteronomy 5:22-27
Nov. 30: 1 Chronicles 16:28-34
Dec. 1: 2 Chronicles 5:11-14
Dec. 2: Psalm 79:5-10
Dec. 3: Isaiah 40 12-17
Dec. 4: Isaiah 40:18-24
Dec. 5: Isaiah 40:1-8, 25, 26, 29-31

ABOUT THE LESSON WRITER: Teresa Welch serves as assistant professor of Christian education and director of institutional research at Emmanuel School of Religion in Johnson City, Tennessee. She volunteers as the elementary worship leader and a substitute adult Sunday school teacher at First Christian Church in Johnson City. She also serves as an adjunct professor in the areas of children’s ministry and Christian education at Ozark Christian College, Joplin, Missouri. Prior to joining the faculty of Emmanuel in 2008, she served as a children’s minister, worship minister, women’s minister, and church administrator in churches in Ohio and Illinois for 15 years. She has delivered workshops and led seminars in children’s ministry and recently wrote a two-part article for Christian Standard on the topic of children and baptism that has been a topic of interest and research. Teresa is a graduate of Ozark Christian College (BCE), Malone University in Canton, Ohio (MA), Lincoln (Illinois) Christian University (MDiv), and Emmanuel School of Religion (DMin).

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9 Comments

  1. Thank you for the Lessons each week. It really is a Blessing to me and it enhances my knowledge to gain a better understanding of the Bible.
    God Bless You All.

    Bettie Haynes

  2. I really enjoy reading the Bible commentary each week. It gives me another perspective on that particular passage of Scripture. Also reading the different bios on the writers of the lesson tells me that anyone can be a learner and teach their thoughts on the Scriptures they read.

    May God continue to richly bless you

  3. This was a great lesson, this lesson opens your eyes to the things we as Christian think, feel, see, act, etc. We forget we have a far better place to go when we leave this earth, We forget how good God is to us, how he provides for us each and everyday. We need to stop looking at people in the outside world and just look to God for his many blessings. And our strength comes from him, through his power in prayer, and believing in him and his son Jesus. And realizing we cannot do anything without God.

  4. THIS WEEK’S LESSON IS FOR US CHRISTIAN TO KNOW THAT IN OUR VALLEY TIME HE IS THERE TO PROVIDE PROTECTION, HEALING, DELIVERANCE, SHELTER, PEACE, JOY, AND SO MUCH MORE.
    WHEN WE FEEL LIKE WE ARE ALL ALONE HE IS THERE; HE SEES AND HEARS EVERYTHING. AND WHEN WE’RE FEELING WEAK AND CAN’T GO ON HE’S THERE GIVING US STRENGTH TO CONTINUE ON. ALL WE HAVE TO DO IS HAVE THE FAITH OF A MUSTARD SEED, AND CONTINUE PRAISING AND WORSHIPPING HIM FOR WHO HE IS, AND HE WILL GIVE US THE PEACE IN TIME OF STORM.

  5. Thank you for the lesson. I learn more & more each time I pick up my Bible. Some people don’t know how truly blessed we are. All my strength comes from the Lord. God bless.

  6. Glory to God. This lesson reminds us that in the midst of calamity, God is still taking care of us and that He will fulfill His promises. That if we seek and wait patiently on Him, our strength, no matter how fatigued or down-trodden we may be, shall be renewed. Hallelujah!

  7. Praise God for this lesson, because it is the perfect lesson for me as I go through my time of trials this very moment and I am so glad to be reminded that my strength is in the Lord and that it is only my response to how I endure it. but today I realize that my strength is no good without the strength of God. I am trusting and depending on Him to comfort me and carry me through. Thank you for reminding me that I only have to have the faith of a mustard seed. God is so good He knows when to direct you to a place of comfort and peace and the lesson was for me today. I give God ALL honor and glory for thinking of me today by way of the lesson. Thank you Sister T Welch.

  8. Thanks to good devoted Christian teachers like yourself who have knowledge of the Bible and take the time to write it so ordinary people can read it and gain more understanding of the Word of God. Thank you very much.

  9. This lesson shows us that God can reach us wherever we are and that we are never alone. He will send someone to speak to us (in this case the prophet Isaiah). Sometimes in the midst of our pain we feel that God has forgotten about us, but he has promised never to leave us alone. I am grateful for the promises of God, because He is faithful. Remember your present situation may seem unbearable, but we are not alone. God will go through with us and He will bring us out.

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