Sunday School Lesson 5 - Isa. 25:1-10a - GOD SAVES
INTRODUCTION: Last week, in Isa. 23:8-18, we covered the topic of God's sovereignty, specifically, how as the "LORD of armies," God controls all of human history-that nations rise and fall according to His sovereign will. The lesson focused on the fall of the large city of Tyre on the Phoenician coast, which at the time was a great seafaring power that dominated trade and commerce across the entire breath of the Mediterranean Sea. We saw how God engineered not only the fall of Tyre but the rise and fall of other nations in the ancient Near East over a periods of centuries. The inescapable truth we learned from Isaiah's prophecy is that God controls the entire world's political and economic forces for His own sovereign purposes. And the bottom line application for you and me is that we must put all of our faith and our trust and our hope for the future in God above all other things; in short, we must walk with and depend upon God to protect and guide us today, for we don't know about tomorrow. Secondly, as to the future, we must accept the truth that life as we know it could end in the blink of an eye. Yet, as Christians, as people of faith, even if this world self-destructs and crumbles around us tomorrow, we're totally secure in the hope of our eternal salvation (Heb. 1:11).
This week, in Isa 25:1-10a, we'll cover part of one chapter in the section of Isaiah (Chaps. 24-27) know as the "Isaian Apocalypse," because it deals with the themes of judgment, devastation, the eschatological banquet, and victory over death. As apocalyptic literature, this section fits in perfectly after the oracles against the nations we studied last week. In today's lesson, we'll learn about God's ultimate victory over evil and the blessings that will go to Israel and "all peoples."
Read Isa. 25:1-5 - LORD, YOU ARE MY GOD
1 LORD, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness. 2 For You have turned a city into a heap, A fortified city into a ruin; A palace of strangers is no longer a city, It will never be rebuilt. 3 Therefore a strong people will glorify You; Cities of ruthless nations will revere You. 4 For You have been a stronghold for the helpless, A stronghold for the poor in his distress, A refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat; For the breath of the ruthless Is like a rain storm against a wall. 5 Like heat in a dry land, You subdue the uproar of foreigners; Like heat by the shadow of a cloud, the song of the ruthless is silenced.
v. 1a: "LORD, You are my God' - Isaiah begins the chapter with the very personal affirmation that the "LORD" (Yahweh) not only is God but "my God." Other nations might worship or fear their gods, but Israel is alone in the sense of having a personal relationship with God, and this same truth applies to Christian believers. We live with the truth that our God loves us and cares for us personally.
v. 1b: "I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name" - A God who invites this kind of personal relationship is deserving of praise-and praise comes naturally to a person who feels this kinship, this bond, with God. It's both powerful and deeply felt on an emotional level.
v. 1c: "For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness" - We see two reasons here for praising God: (1) Because he has done wonderful things, e.g., he created this entire world with abundant provision which enable us to thrive and prosper; (2) God has had a plan for the world "formed long ago" (i.e., since the beginning), which includes redeeming humanity for sin, and this plan was made with "perfect faithfulness" (i.e., is absolutely certain to happen).
v. 2: "For You have turned a city into a heap, A fortified city into a ruin; A palace of strangers is no longer a city, It will never be rebuilt." - Some scholars believe this is Jerusalem but most disagree because it's called a "palace of strangers" and it was destroyed permanently. Or "city" could be a metaphor for any metropolitan area where the poor are oppressed and where evil prospers. In any case, the Lord is to be praised because He destroyed the city and the evil it represents-permanently.
v. 3: "Therefore a strong people will glorify You; Cities of ruthless nations will revere You" - The identity of the "strong people" isn't clear, but it seems to say that because the LORD God has demonstrated His power to destroy evil, people who consider themselves strong will glorify Him and the "ruthless nations" will fear him. It's not surprising that a ruthless nation (e.g., North Korea) would fear God's power, but it's more surprising to see a strong people glorify (i.e., praise and venerate) Him. The Hellenistic Greeks of Paul's time come to mind; people who were proud with their traditional wisdom and pagan views, yet repented of their sin and believed in Christ as Lord.
v. 4a: "For You have been a stronghold for the helpless" - The image of God as a stronghold or refuge is a common theme of the OT (Ps. 14:6; Prov. 14:26; Jer. 17:17). God knows that there's a tendency for the strong to exploit the weak, therefore, He demands that His people live in a way that protects the vulnerable.
v. 4b: "A stronghold for the poor in his distress" - God cares very much about the downcast and neglected people of society. Throughout Scripture, God encourages His people to be generous and fair to the poor, but He reminds them that justice is coming one way or another-and it's much better to choose to act justly than to experience God's justice (Lev. 25:35-36; Deut. 15:7-8).
v. 4c: "A refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat" - The people of that day and time were very vulnerable to extremes of nature and weather that we are not. It was especially hard on people who were had minimal shelter or were old or in poor health. For us today, except in rare situations like hurricanes, tornadoes, and of course, freak ice storms, we are able to maintain a comfortable environment all year around.
v. 4d-5: "For the breath of the ruthless Is like a rain storm against a wall. 5 Like heat in a dry land, You subdue the uproar of foreigners; Like heat by the shadow of a cloud, the song of the ruthless is silenced." - This phrase and verse go together but are a bit confusing. Some scholars say there was a Bible editing error between vv. 4 and 5. Anyway, verses 4d and 5 shift from refuge from bad weather to God's protection from bad people, like the "ruthless"-I.e., heartless people who's "breath" (their spirit) is cruel and without mercy, or "foreigners" who "uproar"-i.e., people who cause upheavals, confusion, and chaos. But the prophet is saying that the LORD will be "the shadow of a cloud," like a protective shield that will "silence" all of these evil people and their schemes. Again, this is all part of the ever present image of God as a refuge. "God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea" (Ps. 46:1-2).
Read Isa. 25:6-8 - A LAVISH BANQUET FOR ALL PEOPLES
6 Now the LORD of armies will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, And refined, aged wine. 7 And on this mountain He will destroy the covering which is over all peoples, The veil which is stretched over all nations. 8 He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the disgrace of His people from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken.
v. 6a: "Now the LORD of armies will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain" - This verse introduces an entirely new vision: A great banquet hosted by God, "the LORD of armies" (i.e., the title of the sovereign God who controls all of human history in Chap. 23, and in the context of this verse, it refers to the God who controls all the hosts of heaven). First, God will expunge all the evil from the World (i.e., judge all of creation), second, He will then host a great banquet-the eschatological banquet-where He will invite not only Israel but "all peoples" (i.e., all people who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord [Lk. 14:15]). While the name of the "mountain" is not specified, it's likely (though not certain) that this is Mount Zion in Jerusalem.
v. 6b: "A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, And refined, aged wine." - Isaiah uses some poetic wordplay in this phrase. Unlike today, a rich variety of food types was not commonly seen on that tables of Isaiah's time. Bread was the daily staple food and people ate meat only rarely. Most often, ordinary people only enjoyed these kinds of food and drink on special occasions, like weddings (or funerals). But the host of this banquet, the sovereign God and Creator, has unlimited resources to supply the finest foods and best wines imaginable. And this host is so great that He can provide it for "all peoples," a number so large-all OT saints and all believers through the ages. All of this is an expression of the fullness and completeness of God's salvation.
v. 7: "And on this mountain He will destroy the covering which is over all peoples, The veil which is stretched over all nations" - Understood in context of v. 8, the "covering which is over all peoples" refers to the burial shroud for a corpse, and the "veil which is stretched over all nations" refers to the sorrow of all the people who mourn all of their dead friends and loved ones.
v. 8a: "He will swallow up death for all time" - Now, the prophet describes what redemption looks like: A promise in a future time that God's people will no longer be subject to death and live forever-the "swallowing" power of death will be entirely and utterly defeated. The apostle Paul explained it this way: "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this perishable puts on the imperishable, and this mortal puts on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written: "DEATH HAS BEEN SWALLOWED UP in victory." 1 Cor. 15:52-54.
v. 8b: "And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the disgrace of His people from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken." - When people live forever, there's no longer a need for burial shrouds or veils for mourning. The "tears" that "GOD will wipe...away" certainly include those for mourning but will also include a host of other hardships that people often suffer-health, financial, family strife, etc. God will also "remove the disgrace of His people," which in Isaiah's context refers to the conquest of Israel-both Judah and the Northern Kingdom. In the case of Jerusalem, the Temple was demolished, most of its inhabitants were killed, and those left alive were taken as slaves, which made the disgrace of Israel complete. When the prophet says, "For the LORD has spoken," it has the force of an established fact in the future, a future certainty.
Read Isa. 25:9-10a - BEHOLD, THIS IS OUR GOD
9 And it will be said on that day, "Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; Let's rejoice and be glad in His salvation." 10 For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain,
v. 9: "And it will be said on that day, "Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; Let's rejoice and be glad in His salvation." - "on that day" refers to the time that the great eschatological banquet will be hosted by "the LORD of armies " (v. 6b) at the end of time. The declaration, "Behold this our God," refers to Israel in the historical context, but in the NT eschatological context, it is expanded to include salvation of "all peoples" (v. 7), as Paul later explained: "for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." (Rom. 1:16b). The profound truth of this is that we don't have to wait "on that day" to "rejoice and be glad in His salvation" but can celebrate it today-right now-because we live with the knowledge that we are eternally secure. Amen?
v. 10: "For the hand of the LORD will rest on this mountain" - The "hand of the LORD," a symbol of God's mighty power, appears in Scripture 122 times, and also, when God puts His hand on something, it's sign of His favor (1 Pet. 5:6). Here, because the "hand of the LORD will rest on His mountain," it tells us that God has established His great power and authority on this mountain for all of time and will never remove it. Thus, after the Great Tribulation, when Jesus Christ reigns from Jerusalem, the entire creation will know that God's hand does rest on this mountain, and God's mighty hand will continuously keep it safe throughout eternity.
APPLICATION-This is my God:
1. We can call God "my God" because as NT Christians, each of us enjoys a personal relationship with Him. A God who invites this kind of personal relationship deserves our worship and our praise-and praise comes naturally to any person who feels this kinship and bond with God.
2. Because of our personal relationship with God, we don't have to "imagine" a plan for the future. A personal relationship with God changes our lives now and for the rest of eternity. God has had a plan since time began to redeem humanity from its sins. God revealed this plan to the world when He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die on a cross in order to pay the penalty for humanity's sin for once and for all. We enter into a personal relationship with God by receiving His Son Jesus, believing that He is God and that He paid the penalty for our sins to restore us to relationship with Him (John 1:12; Rom. 10:9).
3. Our God's salvation has been made available to all people. There are no social barriers to those who will accept Jesus Christ-by faith alone-as their Savior and their Lord. As explained by the apostle Paul, "for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." (Rom. 1:16b).
4. Our God's invitation to His banquet is also an invitation to live with Him forever. This is the single, most important event in the history of the world. After God judges the world and expunges all evil, He will host a banquet on "His mountain" (Mt. Zion) to which all of the redeemed in Christ are invited. As NT Christians, our personal relationship with God in Christ is an engraved invitation.
5. We are assured of being safe throughout eternity because our God will rest His mighty hand on this mountain. At the end of the Great Tribulation, when Jesus Christ reigns form Jerusalem, God will establish His power and authority by resting His hand on this mountain. As NT Christians, this is the reality that we live in today and because of it, we can face tomorrow. That's real hope. Amen?