CSBC Sunday School: Isaiah
Lesson #6: Isaiah 31:1-9
October 11, 2020
Resources: Phillips; Hearson; MacArthur; McCrary, B. Jennings, Explore the Bible
HOOK: (Why should we listen to this lesson?)
Central Theme: GOD PROTECTS!
Objective Statement: EVERY CHRISTIAN SHOULD REALIZE THAT GOD IS ABLE TO PROTECT HIS PEOPLE FROM ENEMIES BECAUSE OF 3 LESSONS FROM THE SCRIPTURES!
Points: LESSON #1 – FALSE HOPE! LESSON #2 – TRUE FAITHFULNESS! LESSON #3 – REPENTANCE DEMONSTRATED!
- FOCUS ATTENTION: HOW WOULD YOU EXPLAIN THE PROCESS OF REFINING AND PURIFYING GOLD? Fire or High Heat is required to melt the ore which provides a means for separating the gold from other elements included in the raw material. It removes all of the impurities and “dross” from the pure gold. The process also serves as a means for testing the gold and its purity. We too must face some type of fire for our faith to be tested, refined, and purified. This fire can come in all kinds of shapes and forms. For the Israelites, the threat of war served as a test of their faith, revealing their true character.
- CONTEXT: Leading up to our text in Isaiah 31, starting in Chapter 28, Isaiah begins with the term “woe,” signaling that we are entering into a series of pronouncements of judgment. These judgments are usually focused on a nation or people group, but occasionally they also single out a specific group, such as the priests or leaders. The major issue in this section is this: the Jewish people had not sought out God to meet their needs. In fact, they had turned to just about every other option, even to the point of seeking alliances with foreign nations rather than trusting in God. Seeking foreign alliances was worse than just ignoring God; it was equivalent to turning their backs on Him. When they allied themselves with another nation, they were insulting God by declaring their belief that He was not able to take care of them. As we studied earlier ( 7), King Ahaz of Judah had rejected God’s offer of protection and instead turned to the Assyrians for help against his rivals. Ultimately, the Assyrians will turn against Judah and threaten the southern kingdom’s existence. In response, the king of Judah will not seek God’s assistance but instead turns to Egypt for help. Over and over again, the actions of the Jewish people made the condition of their hearts clear: while they continued to give lip service to God, their trust was clearly placed elsewhere. In this section (Isa. 28-33), God proclaimed judgment on His own people because of their unfaithfulness, and on the other nations because of the evil they had done toward Israel and Judah. Foreign alliances would do them no good. This section of Isaiah is also sprinkled with the idea of redemption and restoration. Restoration was the primary goal of judgment on the people of God. Even though Judgment was a tool God used, His plan was always the goal of restoration and redemption. The destruction of Jerusalem would lead to the restoration of Jerusalem. Those Jews who remained loyal to God and trusted Him had the assurance that He would be their protection.
- Let’s Explore the Bible in Isaiah 31:1-9.
BOOK: (What does the Bible say?)
LESSON #1 – FALSE HOPE! (Isaiah 31:1-3)
- The beginning of this passage declares judgment or “woe” to the ones who “go down to Egypt for help” ( 1a). The fundamental problem was relying on foreign powers instead of God. Isaiah declared it was foolish for King Hezekiah to turn to the Egyptians to deliver them from their Assyrian foes. Hezekiah wasn’t supposed to place his faith in, “Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong” (vs. 1b). Isaiah condemned an alliance with Egypt as even worse in the eyes of God because of the events of the Exodus and Egypt’s 400-year bondage of God’s people. So no matter how powerful they might appear, an alliance with Egypt was a violation of a direct command recorded in Scripture in Deuteronomy 17:14-20. Returning to Egypt was expressly forbidden because God had delivered the people from captivity there. The King was supposed to trust in God, not human strength. Even the people were to “look” (to seek) “the Holy One of Israel” but they did not (vs. 1c). Thus, Isaiah declares there would be judgment by saying “woe” right at the beginning.
- The phrase that “he (God) also is wise” ( 2) – specifically the also – is probably a bit of prophetic sarcasm. The people were taking what they thought was the wise action of calling on Egypt for help, while real wisdom would have been relying on God. It’s as if Isaiah was saying, “You know, even though you might not think it, God is wise, too!” In Isa. 19:11-15, Isaiah established that it was actually foolishness, not wisdom, to trust the Egyptians. Because of God’s wisdom, He would be the one who “will bring evil” (vs. 2a). WHAT DOES THAT STATEMENT MEAN? Well, God would judge the Jews because of their ungodly and disobedient choices. He would bring some kind of calamity upon them intended for judgment. God would do nothing that is morally wrong, but He can use what we call natural calamities and even evil nations to accomplish His purposes. No evil will ultimately escape justice, and God will hold all things to account. As a result, God “will not call back His words” (vs. 2b). He is consistent in His character and operates with justice. But He is also willing to forgive and give mercy to those who repent! In response to His people who trusted in Egypt, God would “arise against the house of the evildoers” (vs. 2c). There can be little doubt that in this context the “house” is Judah. Their betrayal (trusting the Egyptians rather than the Lord) put them squarely in opposition to God. There is no middle ground; in God’s estimation, people are either faithful to Him or they are not. The “help of them that work iniquity” refers to the Egyptians, who had given Judah false hope. CAN SOMEONE PARAPHRASE Vs. 3 FOR THE CLASS? Allow for someone to summarize that the Egyptians were mere men and their horses and weapons were doomed to fail. God was the One with true Power! Judah had made a fatal choice to align with Egypt rather than God! Both the helpers (Egypt) and those that need help (“holpen”) (Judah) will “fail together” (vs. 3). What about you? When you face a problem do you turn to God first, or trust in weak men?
LESSON #2 – TRUE FAITHFULNESS! (vs. 4-5)
- The faithless behavior of Judah described in the previous three verses is now contrasted with the Lord’s faithfulness through the use of two illustrations. First, when God judges, He does not abandon. In fact, God’s judgment is always meant to bring repentance and restoration among His people. God’s deliverance can also accomplish this same goal. To this end, God is depicted “as the lion and the young lion roaring on his prey” ( 4). A lion would not be intimidated by “shepherds” who shout and make loud noises to frighten it away. The key idea here is that this lion is the “Lord of hosts” (vs. 4c), and no man or army can overcome Him. Indeed, this very title for God points out that all human forces are under His control whether they realize it or not. The Lord would take His stand on the hill of “mount Zion” and fight all challengers. In addition to bringing judgment, God would protect the remnant of His people from those seeking to destroy them. Jerusalem, which occupied Mount Zion is held up as the primary point of God’s protection because it was the place in which God communed with His people in a special way. By promising to protect Jerusalem, God was assuring His people that they would not be cut off from Him forever. The second depiction of God is that of a mother bird (vs. 5). In a startling and yet deeply moving switch, the “Lord of hosts” is presented as a bird that sought to “defend Jerusalem” by hovering or flitting back and forth to distract the predator seeking to destroy the bird’s nest. A mother bird will seek first to attack the intruder and drive it away. If that doesn’t work, the bird will feign injury and attempt to lure the predator away from the nest. Either way, the bird will repeatedly put itself between the dangerous enemy and its beloved offspring. The image is a beautiful one and reveals that this all-powerful God is deeply attached to His people and will protect them. Jesus Himself expressed similar sentiments when He stated that He longed to care for Jerusalem like a mother hen (Matt. 23:37).
LESSON #3 – REPENTANCE DEMONSTRATED! (vs. 6-9)
- Based upon God’s desire to redeem and protect His people, Isaiah calls the people to “Turn” (Repent) from the evil they had done. The people had “deeply revolted” against God – words that describe intentional action. The people made a conscious choice to revolt against God. HOW HAD THE PEOPLE TURNED THEIR BACKS ON GOD IN A PREMEDITATED WAY? Well, they had sought out the help of the Egyptians instead of relying upon God. They rejected God by their faith in the power of men. They also abandoned God by turning to idolatry ( 7). At its core, idolatry is any effort to control the uncontrollable. These Jews had tried to reduce God to idols made with human hands. Ultimately, the only sign of their genuine repentance would be to “cast away” their idols and turn wholly to God.
- As a result of the people’s turning away from the idols, and turning to the Lord in repentance, the Assyrian Empire would fall ( 8a). But it would not be by human hands that this victory would come; “not of a mighty man; and the sword, not of a mean man, shall devour him” (vs. 8). No, Assyria “shall flee” from the divine sword. It is likely that the fulfillment of this prophecy took place in the account of 2 Kings 19:35 when the angel of God killed 185,000 Assyrian soldiers in one night. The Assyrians would be sent to flight by the “ensign” of the Lord. WHAT DOES ENSIGN MEAN? It is the flag or banner which represented the forces of the God of Israel. Because of their encounter with the divine sword, their courage would fail. “Princes” and “young men shall be discomfited” (vs. 9), which means God’s divine victory would be so overwhelming, Assyria’s princes and young soldiers would never get over the fear of Israel’s God. God’s holy and almighty power would be like a “fire is in Zion, and His furnace in Jerusalem” (vs. 9). The association of fire with God is one that runs throughout Scripture. Fire was an image of God’s special presence. God’s fire will purge His people and devour His enemies.
LOOK: (Why is what it says important?)
Objective Statement (Repeated): EVERY CHRISTIAN SHOULD REALIZE THAT GOD IS ABLE TO PROTECT HIS PEOPLE FROM ENEMIES BECAUSE OF 3 LESSONS WE STUDIED TODAY!
- Do you ever experience fear and uncertainty because of the events of this world? Always remember that God is able to protect and keep His people from everything this ungodly world throws at us. It is our responsibility to turn from our wicked ways and have faith that God is able to keep us safe and secure.
TOOK: (Why is it important to me? What should I do with it?)
Evaluation: This week remember that just like Judah of our text, we are foolish to place our faith in the feeble hands of sinful men. We should always make sure we are close to God, remove anything that would interfere with our relationship, and trust that He is able to take care of us no matter what the challenge. If God can take down empires by His power, He can protect us from our enemies. Have FAITH in Him this week.
In preparation for our next Bible Study please read Isaiah 37:14-20, 30-35.