Uniform Lesson for June 26, 2022
Scripture passage and lesson focus: Isaiah 51:1-8
God’s timing for deliverance and restoration may seem far off. The nation of Israel in exile must have felt this. When we feel as if trouble has outlasted God, that is the exact moment when we must listen to the promises of God and look to God’s past deliverance and God’s future restoration through Jesus Christ. It is not easy to see beyond life’s present moments of pain and suffering. Furthermore, as we listen and look to God, it is imperative that we understand that, for those who follow God, there will be opposition – revilers, persecutors and those who bring reproach – but God’s people must fear not nor be dismayed. Instead, we who follow God must be intentionally listening, intentionally looking, and intentionally lifting up our eyes to see the Servant’s salvation which “will be forever” and whose “deliverance will never be ended.”
Listen. Look. Listen.
In each section of these verses
(1-3, 4-6, and 7-8), God’s people are called to listen. In verse 1, the Hebrew word for listen holds within it not only a call to hear but a call to obey. All those who are pursuers of righteousness and seekers of the Lord are called to pay close attention and get ready to obey. What are the people of God called to do? First, the people are called to look. Those in exile and those returning from exile are told to look back to a time when God called forth their ancestors Abraham and Sarah and blessed them to be a nation.
Those who feel lost but still seek after the righteousness of God are commanded to listen to God and regard the time when God brought something from nothing, made a way when there was little or no way, when God was yet working and calling, leading and guiding to make life anew. This same God promises to bring comfort to the “waste places,” the places that feel dark and dangerous and rank with ruin. God promises to make Israel’s “wilderness like Eden” and “her desert like the garden of the Lord” (v. 3).
In the midst of the dark and dangerous places, in the midst of what has us afraid, wandering about as if we are without a land or a people, in the midst of chaos and confusion, God promises to bring joy and gladness resulting in thanksgiving and song (v. 3). God’s past actions are proof of God’s ability to bring about what’s been promised. As Tye Tribbett sings so succinctly, “If He did it before, He can do it again. Same God right now, same God back then” (“If He Did It Before … Same God”). Let us listen and look to God’s deliverance and restoration.
In verse 4, God’s people are commanded to listen once again. This time, the Hebrew word for listen means to actively give heed to what is being said because God will bring teaching, direction, and instruction. God will also bring justice, and this justice will be a light for all people. God is bringing deliverance and salvation to the whole world, which will include the present reality of the heavens and the earth vanishing like smoke and wearing out like a garment (v. 6).
That seems like a bleak future, but as John saw in his revelation, the old will pass away and God will bring a renewal of creation where righteousness and peace prevail, where God’s salvation is forever and where God’s deliverance will never be ended. Let us listen and look to God’s deliverance and restoration.
The final command to listen comes in verse 7 where God’s people are again listening and ready to obey. With this command to listen also comes a warning: if you are one who pursues the righteousness of God, you can expect to face opposition. When you reject the ways of the world, such as greed, unchecked power, violence, oppression and other manner of evil, you will be scorned. It is tough to receive scorn, especially when you are doing your best to live in a way that pleases God. We might be tempted to walk in fear – fear of what people are going to think of us, fear of what they are going to do to us – but God commands us to cast off fear because this, too, shall pass. Persecutors will come to an end, but God’s deliverance will be forever, and God’s salvation will be from generation to generation. Knowing this can shape the way we live presently. We can boldly live out God’s way of righteousness without fear. Let us listen and look to God’s deliverance and restoration.
How have you experienced God’s deliverance and restoration?