The Prophetic Consolation

Discovery for Teachers

The Prophetic Consolation

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK

SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Isaiah 40:1 through 48:22

KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isaiah 41:10)

BACKGROUND

Moving from chapter 39 to chapter 40 of this book, the theme changes from that of judgment to one of salvation. The prophet Isaiah saw beyond Israel’s current distress and Judah’s prospect of captivity to a future day of salvation.

God was to spare Judah from Assyria’s threat of destruction and later deliver His people from the Babylonian captivity. Along with warning the people of impending judgment, Isaiah offered them hope and comfort. He foretold the time when Babylon — a future evil world system — would be destroyed.

This section of Isaiah’s prophecy (Isaiah 40:1 — 48:22) is often called the Book of Consolation. The first words of the 40th chapter, comfort ye meant both “repent” and “console,” which indicated that comfort comes after true repentance. The words my people referred to the people of God who had a covenant relationship with Him. These chapters also introduce God’s chosen Servant, who would be Israel’s means of redemption.

Some refer to this section of Isaiah as the New Testament in miniature, since it opens with the words used by John the Baptist (Isaiah 40:3), and contains many references to the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior and King.

Within these chapters, Isaiah also emphasized the greatness of God in contrast to the vanity of heathen idols. Note how often God said to His people, Israel, “Fear not” and how often He assured them of His pardon and His presence.

God’s message of comfort in this section was not merely a strengthening of the people of Israel in their outward deliverance. It was a deep and inner work of God in their hearts.

It is no surprise that for centuries God’s people have turned to these chapters to find encouragement and assurance when encountering difficult days in their lives. God says to all of His people, “Fear thou not, for I am with thee.” He encourages us to take comfort in Him.

SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS

  1. What is your concept of God as you take into consideration Isaiah 40:12, 15, and 22?

    These verses proclaim that God is almighty and all-powerful. Bring out to your class that even so, He cares for each of us personally (see verses 29-31). The songwriter wrote, “He’s big enough to rule the mighty universe, yet small enough to live within my heart.”(1)

    No person or thing can be compared to God. We can only do our best to describe God with our limited knowledge and language. Ask your class: How might we limit God’s work in our lives by underestimating Him? One example could be, we might avoid taking “inconsequential” details to Him because we underestimate the depth of His concern for the details of our lives. Have your class offer other examples.

  2. Judah was facing the threat of destruction by Assyria, which was one of many reasons to fear. What was one reason not to be afraid? (Isaiah 41:10-14) How does this promise apply to us?

    The Lord told the people of Judah that He would be with them and would strengthen them to face whatever came. He assured them that He would go before them and work on their behalf.

    When God makes a promise, He keeps it. We need not fear the world as we represent Him, because God’s presence is with us. He has established a relationship with us and we have God’s assurance of strength, help, and victory over sin and the devil. What are some promises that God has proven true to you personally?

  3. Isaiah 42:1-4 makes reference to Christ, and is quoted and confirmed in Matthew 12:18-21. Part of Christ’s mission on earth was to demonstrate God’s righteousness and to be a Light to all nations (Isaiah 42:6). What is righteousness, and who is supposed to be righteous?

    Righteousness is right actions, right attitudes, and right relationships, all based on a right standing with God. When we repent of our sins, He forgives us and takes away our sins; He restores us as His children. He not only gives us His righteousness, but He also empowers us to demonstrate it to others.

    All those who have been called of God to be servants of His need to be demonstrating God’s righteousness and bringing His Light to the world. Using the above definition of righteousness, ask your class: What are some specific ways we can demonstrate this righteousness?

  4. In spite of Israel’s deliberate sin against God and their rejection of Him as their rightful King, what did He say He was to them? (Isaiah 43:3, 14) What did Israel fail to do? Isaiah 43:22

    God said that He was their Savior and Redeemer. Israel failed to call upon God.

    Ask your students to give examples of how that failure is repeated today. Bring out that when the message of salvation has been proclaimed, people often seem to ignore and refuse to accept Christ as their Redeemer and Friend.

  5. The people of Israel were witnesses to the fact that there was no God beside the God of Heaven (Isaiah 44:6). How did the prophet reveal the utter foolishness of pagan idolatry, of which Israel was a part? Isaiah 44:9-20

    In a powerful exposé of idolatry, the graven image (carved idol) is called “vanity” (nothing). The “delectable things” refers to the adornment of idols with gold, silver, and precious stones. The prophet announced that the idols themselves were their own witnesses. They testified against themselves that they could not see or know. Therefore, these inanimate objects were profitable for nothing. Isaiah berated the workmen for designing and constructing these idols. He exposed the failure of idolatry and criticized those who worshiped idols.
  6. What did the prophet emphasize in verses 20-22 of chapter 45?

    His emphasis was on salvation. The idols could not save them, plus they needed more than victory over the enemy countries. God is the Savior (verse 21) and He offers salvation to the whole world (verse 22).

    Many have been brought to the Light of salvation from these verses, including the great preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon, when he was a youth seeking the Lord.

  7. Isaiah predicted that Babylon would show no mercy to the Jews, and would be judged accordingly. She would boast of the fact that she was the queen and would continue forever. But in a moment, the judgment for her sins would catch up with her. To whom would the people of Babylon look for advice to prepare for her destruction? Isaiah 47:12-15

    The people of Babylon would seek advice and help from astrologers, stargazers, and fortunetellers. However, like idols of wood and gold, they could not deliver. Why rely on the powerless and helpless? Bring out to your class that because of the pagan origin of astrology, it should be obvious that its concepts and practices have no place in the lives of Christians. It is imperative to come to personal faith in the God of Heaven, who has proven His power in creation and in history.

    Where do people go for counsel today? Where should Christians go? The point should be made that we need to be diligent in seeking God’s direction and counsel. Perhaps you could ask your class members to share accounts of how they have obtained God’s direction in the past.

  8. The people of Judah and Israel had become comfortable and complacent in their state of obstinacy. Chapter 48 is a plea for them to consider their destiny in view of God’s past dealings on their behalf. God had put them into the furnace to refine them and prepare them for their future work (Isaiah 48:10). What are the symptoms today of complacency in a person’s spiritual walk?

    It might be interesting to make a list of “symptoms” on a board. Your students’ suggestions may include: sporadic attendance at church, little if any time in prayer, discontentment, increase of non-church or non-spiritual activities, a critical spirit. After you have made the list, ask your students what we can do to combat or correct complacency in our spiritual lives.

    Some people today feel secure because they go to church, live in a Christian home, or reside in a Christian country. These things cannot give us a relationship with God. We have to trust Him personally with all of our hearts.

CONCLUSION

These chapters detail the futility of wickedness and idol worship, and also explain the peace God gives to those who follow Him. Today, like the people of Isaiah’s day, we must make the choice whether or not to follow God and have His peace.

1. “How Big Is God” by Stuart Hamblen. Copyright 1959 by Hamblen Music Company.