Sunday School 06 23 2013

 

 

 

2013 - 2014 Lessons

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GOD CHASER WILLIAM MURPHY

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Worship in the New Creation”

 

Lesson Text: Isaiah 65:17-25
Background Scripture: Isaiah 65
Devotional Reading: Isaiah 42:1-9

 

Isaiah 65:17-25 (KJV)

17 For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.

18 But be ye glad and rejoice for ever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy.

19 And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying.

20 There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed.

21 And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them.

22 They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.

23 They shall not labour in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them.

24 And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.

25 The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain, saith the Lord.

 

OBJECTIVES

To explore characteristics of the new heavens and the new earth.

To understand what made the qualities of the new heavens and new earth.

To affirm that God always reaches out with love to His people!

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Time: about 700-695 B.C.
Place: Jerusalem

 

A “Mini-Bible”

Many have called attention to how the book of Isaiah resembles a Bible in miniature. Part of this observation is due to the number of chapters in Isaiah and their division. The first 39 chapters make up the first major division of the book, and the final 27 chapters constitute the second. This corresponds nicely to the arrangement of our Bibles into the 39 books of the Old Testament and the 27 books of the New.

 

The topics covered in these two divisions are noteworthy as well. Isaiah’s message begins with an appeal to the heavens and the earth (Isaiah 1:2), just as Genesis begins with the creation of the heaven and the earth (Genesis 1:1). Isaiah 40, which begins the second portion of Isaiah, includes within the opening verses a reference to “the voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord” (Isaiah 40:3). This prophecy is fulfilled in the proclamation of John the Baptist, whose ministry preceded that of Jesus (Mark 1:1-3).

 

Within the chapters following Isaiah 40 come some of the most powerful and vivid prophecies about Jesus found in the entire Old Testament. They are often labeled “servant passages” or “servant songs” because they refer to a special servant of the Lord and His ministry on the Lord’s behalf. Although there is some variation, these are generally recognized to be the texts of Isaiah 42:1-9; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12; 61:1-4.

 

he conclusion of the book of Isaiah brings us to today’s lesson text, Isaiah 65:17-25. This text, with its prediction of “new heavens and a new earth” (a promise restated near the end of the book in 66:22) brings to mind the conclusion of the New Testament, where the apostle John records his vision of “a new heaven and a new earth” (Revelation 21:1).

 

While it may be considered a happy coincidence that the numbering, etc., of Isaiah works out in such a fascinating manner, there is nothing coincidental about the links between Isaiah’s words and John’s in Revelation. Isaiah was one of the “holy men of God” who were “moved by the Holy Ghost” (2 Peter 1:21) to write those prophecies whose fulfillment support the uniqueness of the Scriptures as “given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16).

 

LESSON BACKGROUND

 

As noted above, Isaiah 40–66 includes some of the most significant prophecies of Jesus and the impact of His life and ministry. The section begins with a word of “comfort” to God’s people and assures Jerusalem “that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned” (Isaiah 40:1, 2). This appears to describe how the captivity of the people in Babylon, predicted in Isaiah 39, is coming to an end.

 

However, there was another captivity affecting God’s people that was far more serious and oppressive: the captivity of sin. The bondage to sin—the failure of God’s chosen people to serve and obey Him alone faithfully as their God—was the primary cause for the heartbreak of the exile experienced by both the northern kingdom of Israel (to Assyria in 722 B.C.) and the southern kingdom of Judah (to Babylon in 586 B.C). God had repeatedly reached out with love to His stubborn and sinful people. Yet they rebelled against Him by offering sacrifices and burning incense to idols (Isaiah 65:3). They sat in burial graves to consult the spirits of the dead, and they devoured ceremonially unclean meat (v. 4). Despite the people’s claims of being pious, they were an irritation to the Lord (v. 5). Yet, in answer to Isaiah’s rhetorical question (64:12), God promised to not remain silent. He would punish His people for their rebellion and idolatry, but He would not destroy the entire nation. Just as there might be a few good grapes in a cluster, so there would be a faithful remnant in Israel (65:6-8). Today’s text pictures the glorious future blessings of those delivered from the chains of spiritual bondage.

 

The Glorious New Creation (Isaiah 65:17-19)

 

1. Who did Isaiah’s final prophecies about the “new heavens and a new earth” refer to? How did it differ from that in Revelation (Isaiah 65:17)?

 

Isaiah’s final prophecies most likely applied in part to the exiles returned from Babylon. But his language clearly goes beyond any fulfillment in ancient history. For instance, notice that earlier, while prophesying about end-time judgments, Isaiah had said, “the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment” (51:6). Now the prophet recorded God’s declaration that in place of the old heavens and earth He would create “new heavens and a new earth” (65: 17). So glorious would the new creation be that God said “the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.” Those former things, such as weeping and crying, would give way to new things, including gladness, rejoicing, and delight.

 

Isaiah 65:17 reminds us of Revelation 21:1, where the apostle John declared that he saw “a new heaven and a new earth.” These are total replacements for their old counterparts, which God had destroyed. He evidently did this to eliminate any corrupting presence or influence of sin (see 2 Pet. 3:7, 10-13). But John was not thinking merely of a world free of sin and hardness of heart. More importantly, the apostle’s vision was of a creation new in all its qualities.

 

2. For what reason did God say the people should “rejoice” (vs. 18-19)?

 

In the remaining verses in our printed text, Isaiah concentrates specifically on Jerusalem. This is the city that suffers such misery as a result of being punished “double for all her sins” (Isaiah 40:2). In bringing judgment upon the people for their sins, the Lord will preserve a believing remnant to inherit the land and prosper in it (Isaiah 65: 8-10). The Jerusalem that is part of the new heavens and new earth will be a place of immeasurable delight and joy. What a contrast with the sadness and despair of living in captivity in Babylon! Those sad days (or for that matter, any sad days) will become a distant memory (Isaiah 25:7, 8). The sense of joy that this New Jerusalem creates is not only for its inhabitants, but also for God himself.

 

The Transformation of Life (Isaiah 65:20-25)

 

3. What will happen to the “life expectancy” in this new Jerusalem (v. 20)?

 

In Isaiah 65:20-25, the prophet proceeds to offer further descriptions of life in the new Jerusalem. Expositors differ over whether these verses refer to the heavenly state (the metaphorical view) or to a future period in which Christ will rule on earth (the literal view). Regardless of whether one takes the passage metaphorically or literally, it contains four promises of blessing.

 

Those who would live in the newly created Jerusalem (1) would have long lives (v. 20), (2) would not labor in vain (vs. 21-23), (3) would be speedily answered by God when they pray (v. 24), and (4) would live in an environment without hostility (v. 25). Seen together, these blessings apparently indicate that the effects of the Fall would be reversed in the new Jerusalem. The first blessing is longevity (v. 20). The limitations of age that are part of earthly life will no longer exist. A lengthy life will be the norm. No premature deaths will occur. Even someone who lives to be a hundred years old will be considered a mere child. Here we have the blessedness of the millennial kingdom of Christ in view. It is a time when men shall have the potential of living for a thousand years; hence, anyone who shall die at a hundred shall be looked upon as a mere child.

 

But why will such premature death occur at all? We must remember that the millennia’ kingdom is not heaven. This era is not the restoration of Paradise, but the restoration of the pre-Flood patriarchal era. It is a time when Christ shall rule the earth. Death will not be eradicated entirely in the millennium. Though His rule is perfect, His subjects are not. Christ shall rule the earth with a rod of iron and the gentile nations shall accept His authority or be cut off. It is a time when children shall yet be born, when there are still sinners, and when life on this earth shall proceed as before.

 

4. What promises are made concerning the fruits of labor (vs. 21-23)?

 

The second blessing in the new creation is profitable toil (Isa. 65:21-23). The people of Isaiah’s time lived and died with the vagaries of agricultural life. Droughts and pestilence caused great damage. The pagans prayed to fertility and weather gods and goddesses. But the Lord’s chosen people were supposed to trust Him to supply all their needs. After the Fall, God’s curse on humanity included the declaration that labor to earn food would be difficult (see Gen. 3:17-19). In the new Jerusalem, people would continue to work, but they would have no worries about not receiving the fruits of their labor. Others (perhaps unscrupulous rich people or invaders) would never take what they have earned with their own hands. Generation after generation, the people of God would be blessed.

 

Isaiah related these truths in terms that people living in his day could understand. For instance, God’s people would live in the houses they built and eat the fruit of their vineyards (lsa. 65:21). The Lord would prevent invaders from taking these from them. In fact, God would enable His people to live a long life and enjoy the “work of their hands” (v. 22). The labor of the redeemed community would not be in vain, and their children would not be “trouble” (v. 23). After all, the Lord would bless them and their children with safety, health, and prosperity. Such blessings would be both physical and spiritual in nature.

 

5. What remarkable benefit will there be in the presence of the Lord (v. 23)?

 

The third blessing in the new creation is answered prayer (Isa. 65:24). In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve enjoyed the immediate presence and conversation of the Lord. Similarly, while people in the new creation are praying, even before they make the request, God would answer them. This describes a close fellowship between God and people. Such is echoed in Revelation 22:3-4. The apostle John noted that in the new creation the Father and the Son will be seated on their thrones, and the redeemed will worship and serve them continually. God will establish unbroken communion with His people, and He will claim them as His own.

 

6. What examples of harmony did God promised in the new creation (v. 25)?

 

Of noteworthy mention is the fourth blessing in the new creation, namely, peace (Isa. 65:25). The Fall introduced hostility into the world, and murder was committed by the next generation. But in the new creation even the animals would stop preying on one another. Perfect harmony would reign. We see this expectation for wellness and wholeness repeated in the New Testament. God promised to give water from the life-giving fountain to everyone who was thirsty (Rev. 21:6). This pledge is a vivid reminder of the refreshment and satisfaction believers would enjoy in heaven. In the eternal state, God would satisfy the yearnings of the soul. This assurance was grounded in the Lord’s own nature. Those who overcame in this life would receive an eternal inheritance and an eternal relationship. They would be the eternal children of the eternal God (v. 7).

 

In the new Jerusalem, God would be worshiped face-to-face. The city would be a cosmopolitan place, where redeemed humanity in all its cultural diversity would live together in peace. God would vindicate the faith of the redeemed by not permitting anything immoral or wicked to enter the holy city (vs. 22-27).

 

POINTS TO PONDER

 

1. Whatever we mess up on earth, God can clean up! So rejoice! (Isaiah 65:17-18)

2. God will take joy in eliminating our sorrows (Isaiah 65:19-20).

3. Life is not about the abundance of blessings, it’s about the abundance Blesser! (Isaiah 65:21-23).

4. God knows what we need before we can call or speak. It is His will for His peace in your life! (Isaiah 65:24-25).

 

CONCLUSION

 

Reverse the Curse

 

When the Boston Red Sox won the World Series over the St. Louis Cardinals in 2004, their triumph signaled the end of one of the longest dry spells in the history of sports. The Red Sox had not won a World Series since 1918, when a young pitcher by the name of Babe Ruth was one of their star players.

 

Following that season, the Red Sox traded Ruth to the New York Yankees, which (in the opinion of many) began the legendary “curse” that doomed the Red Sox to constant frustration. On several occasions after 1918, the Red Sox came close to winning a championship; but all their loyal fans could do was “wait till next year.” Finally in 2004, the so called “curse” was lifted, and Red Sox fans everywhere rejoiced.

 

Reverse the Curse! may be considered the theme of the Bible following the sin of Adam and Eve in Genesis 3. At that point, the curse of sin shattered the harmony of God’s “very good” creation (Genesis 1:31). The world became a place of pain and sorrow, not at all what God created it to be. From Genesis 3 on, we see God working to get back what is rightfully His. He was (and is) out to “reverse the curse.” This is exactly what He accomplishes through Jesus. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). That destruction began at the cross and empty tomb. It awaits the consummation—the “grand finale”—when Jesus returns. The curse will be lifted fully on that great day, completely reversed for eternity.

 

As one reads Revelation and sees Isaiah’s precious promises coming to pass, the only appropriate response is humble and grateful worship. John’s closing words in Revelation will do nicely: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).

 

PRAYER

 

Father, Creator of Heaven and earth, thank You for the promise of a new heavens and a new earth, “wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Peter 3:13). May our lives on this present, unrighteous earth reflect true worship so that we may worship You in Your perfect home for eternity. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

 

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER

 

God’s plan is to reclaim what is rightfully His.

 

 


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