“Comfort My People”
From the time they were first uttered, the words of the prophet Isaiah have been etched, even embedded, into our consciousness. There are unforgettable words, heavy laden not only with meaning but with hope and with promise, words like “ ‘God is with us’ ” (Isa. 7:14, NLT), “For unto us a child is born” (Isa. 9:6), “Every valley shall be exalted” (Isa. 40:4), and “He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:5).
Words create pictures, images, echoes; weak, paltry words create weak, paltry pictures; powerful, refined, well-crafted words create powerful, refined images and loud, crisp echoes. This, of course, explains why Isaiah’s words speak so loudly, so crisply to us—even after twenty-seven centuries.
In his suffering-servant poem, for instance (Isa. 52:13–53:12), Isaiah brings a picture of the Messiah into finer resolution than anywhere else in the Old Testament. This section alone is enough to justify the name “the gospel prophet.”
Plus, his prediction of Cyrus, by name, a century and a half before the Persian king conquered Babylon (Isa. 44:28–45:6), is so stunningly specific that some scholars have attributed much of Isaiah to a later “second Isaiah,” a hollow creation of those unable to see past the crusty intellectual confines of human imagination.
With a unique blend of vivid imagery, matchless poetic rhythm and balance, Beethoven-like dramatic contrasts, and a rich weave of profound themes that recur in a sophisticated symphonic process of ongoing elaboration and development, Isaiah’s inspired book is a worthy literary vehicle for divine thoughts that are higher than the mundane as the heavens are higher than the earth (see Isa. 55:9). Even in translation, which loses the evocative word plays and alliterations of the Hebrew, the book of Isaiah has few peers in the history of literature, whether secular or sacred.
We know his words, so eloquent, so poetic, so emotive and powerful, but do we know the man Isaiah and the world in which he wrote, prayed, and prophesied? As the cruel Assyrian Empire rose to its height of power, it was a time of crushing peril. Even worse, the people of Judah, the chosen people, were sinking ever deeper into moral weakness. Greed and misery fought in the streets.
In their struggle for wealth or survival, some puffed the narcotic vapors of vain euphoria while others withered in despair. Seeking to preserve his nation’s identity by taking a remnant from a state of denial and anchoring them in reality, Isaiah called upon his people to behold their God, the Holy One of Israel, the Creator of heaven and earth, the One who knew them by name and who promised to redeem them from fire, but only if they would listen—and obey.
Isaiah counseled kings. When the slender thread of God’s remnant line was confined to one city doomed by Assyrian legions, it was Isaiah’s prophetic words that strengthened King Hezekiah to look for the miracle that was Jerusalem’s only hope (Isaiah 36, 37). If Jerusalem had fallen then, rather than to the Babylonians a century later, the Assyrian policy of scattering conquered peoples could have vaporized the national identity of Judah. Thus, there would have been no Jewish people from whom the Messiah, the Savior of the world, would arise.
This quarter, we take a look at Isaiah, at his words, his times, his predicaments, but mostly at his God, the God who, back then as well as today, cries out to us, “Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine” (Isa. 43:1).
Roy Gane, PhD, a Hebrew scholar, is a teacher of Old Testament at the Seventhday Adventist Theological Seminary on the campus of Andrews University, in Berrien Springs, Michigan.
1 Crisis of Identity—December 26–January 1 5
2 Crisis of Leadership—January 2–8 18
3 When Your World Is Falling Apart—January 9–15 31
4 The Hard Way—January 16–22 44
5 Noble Prince of Peace—January 23–29 57
6 Playing God—January 30–February 5 72
7 Defeat of the Assyrians—February 6–12 85
8 “Comfort My People”—February 13–19 98
9 To Serve and to Save—February 20–26 111
10 Doing the Unthinkable—February 27–March 5 124
11 Waging Love—March 6–12 137
12 Desire of Nations—March 13–19 150
13 Rebirth of Planet Earth—March 20–26 163
Editorial Office 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, MD 20904 Come visit us at our website at http://www.absg.adventist.org.
Pacific Press® Coordinator Tricia Wegh
Art Director and Illustrator Lars Justinen
Associate Editor Soraya Homayouni
Publication Manager Lea Alexander Greve
Editorial Assistant Sharon Thomas-Crews
Principal Contributors Roy E. Gane
Editor Clifford R. Goldstein
The teachers edition components were written by the following:
The Overview, Commentary, and Life Application, Lessons 1—13: Teófilo Correa, PhD, Old Testament professor, Adventist International Institute of Advanced Studies, Philippines.
© 2021 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists®. All rights reserved. No part of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide (Teachers Edition) may be edited, altered, modified, adapted, translated, reproduced, or published by any person or entity without prior written authorization from the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists®. The division offices of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists® are authorized to arrange for translation of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide (Teachers Edition), under specific guidelines. Copyright of such translations and their publication shall remain with the General Conference. “Seventh-day Adventist,” “Adventist,” and the flame logo are registered trademarks of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists® and may not be used without prior authorization from the General Conference.
How to Use This Teachers Edition
“The true teacher is not content with dull thoughts, an indolent mind, or a loose memory. He constantly seeks higher attainments and better methods.
His life is one of continual growth. In the work of such a teacher there is a freshness, a quickening power, that awakens and inspires his [class].” —Ellen G. White, Counsels on Sabbath School Work, p. 103.
To be a Sabbath School teacher is both a privilege and a responsibility. A privilege because it offers the teacher the unique opportunity to lead and guide in the study and discussion of the week’s lesson so as to enable the class to have both a personal appreciation for God’s Word and a collective experience of spiritual fellowship with class members. When the class concludes, members should leave with a sense of having tasted the goodness of God’s Word and having been strengthened by its enduring power. The responsibility of teaching demands that the teacher is fully aware of the Scripture to be studied, the flow of the lesson through the week, the interlinking of the lessons to the theme of the quarter, and the lesson’s application to life and witness.
This guide is to help teachers to fulfill their responsibility adequately. It has three segments:
Final Thought: What is mentioned above is only suggestive of the many possibilities available for presenting the lesson and is not intended to be exhaustive or prescriptive in its scope. Teaching should not become monotonous, repetitious, or speculative. Good Sabbath School teaching should be Bible based, Christ centered, faith strengthening, and fellowship building.