August 14, 2004 – August 20, 2004
“The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.” Isaiah 40:8.
Suggested Reading: Prophets and Kings, 547–553.
“Daniel was cast into the lion’s den because of his firm adherence to principle and his loyalty to God, but he triumphed in the end, and God was glorified through His servant whom He permitted to be humbled. . . . In God’s time He showed He had not forsaken His servant. . . .” In Heavenly Places, 271. [Emphasis added.]
“It sometimes seems hard to wait patiently till God’s time comes to vindicate the right. But I [Ellen White] have been shown that if we become impatient, we lose a rich reward. As faithful husbandmen in God’s great field, we must sow with tears, and be patient and hopeful. We must meet troubles and sorrows. Temptations and wearisome toil will afflict the soul, but we must patiently wait in faith to reap with joy. . . . Those who stand like faithful soldiers to battle against wrong, and to vindicate the right, warring against principalities and powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places, will each receive the commendation from the Master, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant, . . . enter thou into the joy of thy Lord.’ [Matthew 25:23.]” Gospel Workers (1892), 206, 207. [Emphasis added.]
1 What led to the Babylonian captivity? 1 Chronicles 9:1.
note: “Because men have received great light, because they have, like the princes of Israel, ascended to the mount, and been privileged to have communion with God, and to dwell in the light of His glory, let them not flatter themselves that they can afterward sin with impunity, that because they have been thus honored, God will not be strict to punish their iniquity. This is a fatal deception. The great light and privileges bestowed require returns of virtue and holiness corresponding to the light given. Anything short of this, God cannot accept. Great blessings or privileges should never lull to security or carelessness. They should never give license to sin or cause the recipients to feel that God will not be exact with them. All the advantages which God has given are His means to throw ardor into the spirit, zeal into effort, and vigor into the carrying out of His holy will.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 359.
2 To what source did the prophet say he would look for an explanation of the strange providence that placed God’s people under the power of Babylon? Habakkuk 2:1. Compare Psalm 85:8.
note: “We are living in an important period of this world’s history, and we need now to have a constant connection with God. The watchmen upon the walls of Zion need to be vigilant and faithful. Those who claim to be giving the words of the Lord to the people, should reach the highest standard of spiritual elevation; then they will not give to the people their own words. Christ says to us, ‘Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart.’ [Matthew 11:29.] Learners in the school of Christ will watch and pray. They will have faith that God will imbue them with his Holy Spirit, that they shall not speak their own words to the people, but the words the Lord shall give them. The men who are laboring to win souls to Christ will have an intense interest to be successful in this work.” Review and Herald, February 22, 1887.
3 How certain was the vision of God’s judgment upon proud Babylon, and deliverance of His people? What would produce lives fit for deliverance? Habakkuk 2:2–4.
note: “Living the natural life that proceeded from the carnal heart had led to sinful, self-centered lives, which were so useless for God’s purpose of winning the world to Himself through Israel, that He had to give the experience of the captivity to correct Israel. (Hosea 10:12, 13.) In the prophecy of deliverance, the call to live lives of trust and surrender, ‘live by faith,’ which makes man a sharer of the unselfish, loving nature of God, was emphasized. Note the application of this same passage to the remnant church. (Hebrews 10:37–39.)” Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly, Pacific Press Publishing Association, Mountain View, California, 1918, 21.
4 How definite was the time for deliverance? Jeremiah 25:12.
note: “The reign of Darius was honored of God. . . . Upon his death, within about two years of the fall of Babylon, Cyrus succeeded to the throne, and the beginning of his reign marked the completion of the seventy years since the first company of Hebrews had been taken by Nebuchadnezzar from their Judean home to Babylon.” Prophets and Kings, 556, 557.
5 What encouragement to the captives was contained in this prophecy? Jeremiah 29:10, 11. What condition for being heard of God is pointed out? Verses 12–14.
note: “Often had Daniel and his companions gone over these and similar prophecies outlining God’s purpose for His people. And now, as the rapid course of events betokened the mighty hand of God at work among the nations, Daniel gave special thought to the promises made to Israel.” Prophets and Kings, 553.
6 What is the burden of the message sent through Isaiah? Isaiah 40:1, 2.
note: “Many were the messages of comfort given the church by the prophets of old. ‘Comfort ye, comfort ye My people’ (Isaiah 40:1.), was Isaiah’s commission from God; and with the commission were given wonderful visions that have been the believers’ hope and joy through all the centuries that have followed. Despised of men, persecuted, forsaken, God’s children in every age have nevertheless been sustained by His sure promises. By faith they have looked forward to the time when He will fulfill to His church the assurance, ‘I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations.’ Isaiah 60:15.” Prophets and Kings, 722, 723.
7 What assurance of God’s delivering power did the prophecy give? Isaiah 40:3–5.
note: “John [the Baptist] was called to do a special work; he was to prepare the way of the Lord, to make straight His paths. The Lord did not send him to the school of the prophets and rabbis. He took him away from the assemblies of men to the desert, that he might learn of nature and nature’s God. God did not desire him to have the mold of the priests and rulers. He was called to do a special work. The Lord gave him his message. Did he go to the priests and rulers and ask if he might proclaim this message?—No, God put him away from them that he might not be influenced by their spirit and teaching. He was the voice of one crying in the wilderness, [Isaiah 40:3–5 quoted]. This is the very message that must be given to our people; we are near the end of time, and the message is, Clear the King’s highway; gather out the stones; raise up a standard for the people. The people must be awakened. It is no time now to cry peace and safety. We are exhorted to ‘cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins’ (Isaiah 58:1).” Selected Messages, Book 1, 410.
8 By what figure is human weakness pointed out? Isaiah 40:6, 7.
note: “From the rise and fall of nations as made plain in the pages of Holy Writ, they need to learn how worthless is mere outward and worldly glory. Babylon, with all its power and its magnificence, the like of which our world has never since beheld,—power and magnificence which to the people of that day seemed so stable and enduring, —how completely has it passed away! As ‘the flower of the grass’ it has perished. [James 1:10.] So perishes all that has not God for its foundation. Only that which is bound up with His purpose and expresses His character can endure. His principles are the only steadfast things our world knows.” Education, 183.
9 In contrast with the weakness and frailty of man, what source of abiding strength is set forth? Isaiah 40:7, 8.
note: “High upon the hills were houses built upon the rock. In some parts of the land were dwellings built wholly of rock, and many of them had withstood the tempests of a thousand years. These houses were reared with toil and difficulty. They were not easy of access, and their location appeared less inviting than the grassy plain. But they were founded upon the rock, and wind and flood and tempest beat upon them in vain.
“Like the builders of these houses on the rock, said Jesus, is he who shall receive the words that I have spoken to you, and make them the foundation of his character and life. Centuries before, the prophet Isaiah had written, ‘The word of our God shall stand forever’ (Isaiah 40:8); and Peter, long after the Sermon on the Mount was given, quoting these words of Isaiah added, ‘This is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you’ (1 Peter 1:25). The word of God is the only steadfast thing our world knows. It is the sure foundation. ‘Heaven and earth shall pass away,’ said Jesus, ‘but My words shall not pass away.’ Matthew 24:35.
“The great principles of the law, of the very nature of God, are embodied in the words of Christ on the mount. Whoever builds upon them is building upon Christ, the Rock of Ages. In receiving the word, we receive Christ. And only those who thus receive His words are building upon Him. ‘Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.’ 1 Corinthians 3:11. ‘There is none other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved.’ Acts 4:12. Christ, the Word, the revelation of God,—the manifestation of His character, His law, His love, His life,—is the only foundation upon which we can build a character that will endure.” Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, 148, 149.
10 What message was sent to the desolate cities of Judah? Isaiah 40:9–11.
note: “The gospel is to be presented, not as a lifeless theory, but as a living force to change the life. God desires that the receivers of His grace shall be witnesses to its power. Those whose course has been most offensive to Him He freely accepts; when they repent, He imparts to them His divine Spirit, places them in the highest positions of trust, and sends them forth into the camp of the disloyal to proclaim His boundless mercy. He would have His servants bear testimony to the fact that through His grace men may possess Christlikeness of character, and may rejoice in the assurance of His great love. He would have us bear testimony to the fact that He cannot be satisfied until the human race are reclaimed and reinstated in their holy privileges as His sons and daughters.
“In Christ is the tenderness of the shepherd, the affection of the parent, and the matchless grace of the compassionate Saviour. His blessings He presents in the most alluring terms. He is not content merely to announce these blessings; He presents them in the most attractive way, to excite a desire to possess them. So His servants are to present the riches of the glory of the unspeakable Gift. The wonderful love of Christ will melt and subdue hearts, when the mere reiteration of doctrines would accomplish nothing. [Isaiah 40:1, 9-11 quoted.]” The Desire of Ages, 826.
11 What attribute of God is made prominent in Isaiah 40:12, 22, 25–27? Why?
note: “Neither by searching the recesses of the earth nor in vain endeavors to penetrate the mysteries of God’s being, is wisdom found. It is found, rather, in humbly receiving the revelation that He has been pleased to give, and in conforming the life to His will. . . .
“Skeptics refuse to believe in God because they cannot comprehend the infinite power by which He reveals Himself. But God is to be acknowledged as much from what He does not reveal of Himself, as from that which is open to our limited comprehension. Both in divine revelation and in nature, God has given mysteries to command our faith. This must be so. We may be ever searching, ever inquiring, ever learning, and yet there is an infinity beyond. [Isaiah 40:12–28, A.R.V. quoted.]
“From the representations given by the Holy Spirit to His prophets, let us learn the greatness of our God.” The Ministry of Healing, 431, 432.
12 Who is proclaimed as the deliverer? Isaiah 44:24, 28. What dominion did the Lord promise Cyrus because of his kindness to Israel? Isaiah 45:1, 2, 13, 14.
note: “The advent of the army of Cyrus before the walls of Babylon was to the Jews a sign that their deliverance from captivity was drawing nigh. More than a century before the birth of Cyrus, Inspiration had mentioned him by name, and had caused a record to be made of the actual work he should do in taking the city of Babylon unawares, and in preparing the way for the release of the children of the captivity. Through Isaiah the word had been spoken: [Isaiah 45:1–3 quoted].” Prophets and Kings, 551.
These lessons are adapted from Sabbath School Lesson Quarterly, Pacific Press Publishing Association, Mountain View, California, 1918.