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SabbathSchool Lesson Begins

Bible Study Guide - 1st Quarter 2021

Lesson 2January 2-8

Crisis of Leadership (Vision of Christ’s Kingship Conferred)


Sabbath Afternoon

Read for This Week’s Study: Isa. 6:1-4, Isa. 6:5-7, Isa. 6:8, Isa. 6:9-13.

Memory Text:“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple”(Isaiah 6:1, NKJV).

When asked by one of his disciples about the ingredients of good government, Confucius answered: “ ‘Sufficient food, sufficient weapons, and the confidence of the common people.’

‘But,’ asked the disciple, ‘suppose you had no choice but to dispense with one of those three, which would you forego?’

‘Weapons,’ said Confucius.

His disciple persisted: ‘Suppose you were then forced to dispense with one of the two that are left, which would you forego?’

Replied Confucius, ‘Food. For from of old, hunger has been the lot of all men, but a people that no longer trusts its rulers is lost indeed.’ ” — Edited by Michael P. Green, 1500 Illustrations for Biblical Preaching (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 1989), p. 215.

People do, indeed, want strong, trustworthy leadership. When a soldier was signing up for a second term of duty, the army recruiter asked why he wanted to re-enlist. “I tried civilian life,” he said, “but nobody is in charge out there.”

This week, we will look at Judah’s crisis of leadership and the sad results that followed.

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, January 9.

Sunday         January 3

The King Is Dead. Long Live the King!

Isaiah 6:1 talks about the death of King Uzziah. Read 2 Chronicles 26 and then answer this question: What is the significance of King Uzziah’s death?

Isaiah says that in the year king Uzziah died, in his 52nd year of reign in 743 BCE, he had a vision. It was during the three year resistance of Arpad running from 744 to 740 BCE as William Shea has shown in an article he published on these events.

The kings’ death is a side comment and has nothing pivotal to do with the rest of the chapter. It is a marginal note. The title above for Sunday is relevant and that is the only relevancy. But, Isaiah may not have had that in mind at all. We will see later why in the chapter. The death of Uzziah is no different than most of the kings of Israel or Judah which created leadership crisis whenever on died. It was the same in the Ancient Near Eastern surrounding nations around Israel in those days and earlier. Even today leadership problems are there when one leader steps out and another is to take his place. .

Gane feels in his description of these events that “In this time of crisis, God encouraged Isaiah by showing the prophet that He was still in control.” Nothing can be further from the truth than this. The vision does not take place of things on earth but events in heaven. They do not take place in the time of Isaiah but invite Isaiah to a period near the Second Coming of Christ.

Read carefully 2 Chronicles 26:16. In what ways does each one of us face that potential for the same thing? How can dwelling on the Cross protect us from that pitfall?

Monday   January 4

“Holy, Holy, Holy” (Isa. 6:1-4)

Isaiah wrote in panels and in vv. 1-4 he describes this vision: “I saw the Lord [Christ or Lord Almighty v. 3] sitting on a throne lifted up” (v. 1b). Christ will receive the throne from the Father (Luke 1:32-33) and the timing of that event is after the seventh angel sounded (Revelation 11:15). The moment of this vision cannot be 1844 which is the beginning of the heavenly Yom Kippur or Day of Atonement and cannot be 2013 since Christ is not King but High-Priest. When the Door of Mercy closes and His High-priestly role is done, then He will receive the Kingship and be King of Kings and Lord of Lords. But not until then. Thus, the scene of Isaiah is just after Christ received the Kingship, just after the completion of the heavenly Investigative Judgment. Angels were covering His Glory and said that the whole earth is full of His glory. During the Investigative Judgment the earth is not yet full of the glory of the Lord. It is a heavenly Sanctuary scene. It is not in history since there never was a time, except in unfallen Eden, when the glory of the Lord filled the earth. The foundations shook and the heavenly Sanctuary was filled with what appeared to Isaiah as smoke (v. 4).

Where is the Lord in this vision? (See Isa. 6:1.) Why would the Lord make an appearance to Isaiah here, as opposed to anywhere else? See Exod. 25:8; Exod. 40:34-38.

Ezekiel, Daniel, and John were in exile when they received their visions in Ezekiel 1; Daniel 7:9, 10; and Revelation 4, 5. Like Isaiah, these prophets received information and perspective related to the prophetic actions and events to come in God’s corridor of events in future unto the Hell event. God may choose any part of it to present to the prophet and it may have no relation to his own history at all. It has to do with the salvation history of the remnant and faithful and served as a navigation what is to come. We do not get anywhere in Isaiah 6 the idea that he was sad that there are no leader in Israel or Judah.

“As Isaiah beheld this revelation of the glory and majesty of his Lord, he was overwhelmed with a sense of the purity and holiness of God. How sharp the contrast between the matchless perfection of his Creator, and the sinful course of those who, with himself, had long been numbered among the chosen people of Israel and Judah!” — Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 307.

The transcendent holiness of God, emphasized in Isaiah’s vision, is a basic aspect of his message. God is a holy God, and He demands holiness from His people, a holiness He will give to them if only they will repent, turn from their evil ways, and submit to Him in faith and obedience.

All of us have been in discouraging situations, where from outward appearances all seemed lost. And even if you didn’t get a vision of the “glory of the Lord,” as did Isaiah here, recount the ways in which the Lord was able to sustain you and your faith during this crisis. What have you learned from these experiences that you could share with others?

Tuesday      January 5

New Personality (Isa. 6:5-7)

At the sanctuary/temple, only the high priest could approach the presence of God in the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement and with a protective smokescreen of incense, or he would die (Lev. 16:2, 12, 13). Isaiah saw the Lord, even though he was not the high priest, and he was not burning incense! The temple filled with smoke (Isa. 6:4), reminding us of the cloud in which God’s glory appeared on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:2). Awestruck and thinking he was finished (compare Exod. 33:20; Judg. 6:22, 23), Isaiah cried out with an acknowledgment of his sin and the sin of his people (Isa. 6:5), reminiscent of the high priest’s confession on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:21).

Isaiah saw an event that is going to start in 1844 but which is going to end shortly before the Second Coming.

When Christ receives His Kingship, He is eager to come and get the saints, eager to Resurrect. It is at this point, as Isaiah’s eyes sees the King, the Lord of Hosts (v. 5d) that he felt his utter inabilities. “Woe is me, for I am cut off [Egyptian loanword dm(t) meaning cut with a knive], for I am a man of unclean lips” (v. 5a). Isaiah is a saved sinner. He is not living in sin for he is saved from sin. But, no-one can come in the presence of the Almighty and feel the same. Even the saints, perfect in character will during the Time of Jacob’s Trouble feel unworthy since the Holy Spirit will separate from them. They will also experience the “cut-off” anxiety that Christ experienced in Gethsemane. The Lord sitting on the throne (v. 1) is the King, the Lord of Hosts(v. 5d). He has not yet left the temple for the Second Coming. At this point, feeling his utter unworthiness and be in the presence of the All-Worthy Christ, a seraphim flew to him and touched his mouth “your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven” (v. 7). This has nothing to do with the Daily Salvation process in the Priestly System of the Temple and Tabernacle described by Moses, it has nothing to do with the work of Christ in the Priestly area of the Holies before 1844 or even the work of Christ in the Holy of Holies during the Day of Atonement period between 1844 until the Door of Mercy closes. This is the typical action that all the saints will receive during the Time of Trouble. It is their perfection. Atonement is completed, Christ is no longer High-Priest but has become the King and thus this action will take place then at the beginning of the Time of Trouble short period.

“Standing, as it were, in the full light of the divine presence within the inner sanctuary, he realized that if left to his own imperfection and inefficiency, he would be utterly unable to accomplish the mission to which he had been called.” — Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, p. 308.

Why did the seraph use a live, or burning, coal from the altar to cleanse Isaiah’s lips? Isa 6:6, 7.

Gane said that “the seraph explained that through touching the prophet’s lips his guilt and sin were removed (Isa. 6:7). The sin is not specified, but it need not be limited to wrong speech, because lips signify not only speech but also the entire person who utters it. Having received moral purification, Isaiah was now able to offer pure praise to God.”

Gane then explains that incense is used for purification but in the case of Isaiah 6 it is different. “But in Isaiah 6, the seraph applies the coal to Isaiah rather than to incense.” It is different because it has nothing to do with the earthly sanctuary. It is the heavenly sanctuary scene here.

Read prayerfully Isaiah’s response (Isa. 6:5) to his vision of God. How do we see in it an expression of the basic problem, that of a sinful people existing in a universe created by a “Holy, holy, holy” God? (Isa. 6:3, NRSV). Why was Christ on the cross the only possible answer to this problem? What happened at the Cross that solved this problem?

Wednesday         January 6

Royal Commission (Isa. 6:8)

“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me” (Isa. 6:8).

Having been purified, Isaiah immediately responded to God’s call for a representative whom He could send out on His behalf. In New Testament terms, Isaiah would have been called an apostle; that is, “one who is sent.”

Interestingly enough, the book of Isaiah does not begin, as do some other prophetic books, with the prophet describing his prophetic call (compare Jer. 1:4-10, Ezekiel 1-3). In other words, he must have already been called to be a prophet, even before the events of chapter 6. The Bible does show that a divine encounter can encourage a prophet even after the ministry began (Moses: Exodus 34; Elijah: 1 Kings 19). In contrast to other examples, too, where God tells people they are to be prophets, in Isaiah 6 the prophet volunteers for a special mission. It appears that chapters 1-5 of Isaiah represent conditions at the time when Isaiah was first called, after which God jump-started his ministry by encouraging him at the temple and reconfirming his commission as God’s prophetic spokesman.

When the angel spoke in verse 8 it introduce a new project intended for the historical period that Isaiah and all the saints until the time of the end will endure: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” It was a call to cooperation with heavenly beings in evangelism. Isaiah signed up and expressed his willingness (v. 8).

God encouraged Isaiah at His temple. Is there evidence elsewhere in the Bible that God’s sanctuary is a place of encouragement? Psalm 73 (see Ps. 73:17), Heb. 4:14-16, Heb. 10:19-23, Revelation 5. What do these texts tell us?

Not only does God’s sanctuary throb with awesome power; it’s a place where weak and faulty people such as we can find refuge. We can be reassured by knowing that God is working to rescue us through Christ, our High Priest.

John also saw Christ represented as a sacrificial lamb that had just been slaughtered, its throat slit (Rev. 5:6). This was not a pretty sight. The description makes the point that although Christ was raised from the dead and has ascended to heaven, He continually carries the Cross event with Him. He is still lifted up in order to draw all people to Himself at His altar.

How have you found encouragement by entering God’s heavenly temple, by faith, in prayer? Hebrews 4:16 invites you to approach God’s throne boldly to “receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (NRSV). If someone were to ask you how you have found grace and mercy in your time of need, how would you respond?

Thursday         January 7

Appalling Appeal (Isa. 6:9-13)

When God recommissioned Isaiah, why did He give the prophet such a strange message to take to His people (Isa. 6:9, 10)?

Lest we should think that Isaiah heard wrong or that this message is unimportant, Jesus cited this passage to explain why He taught in parables (Matt. 13:13-15).

The angel speaking knew that as long as the Great Controversy is lurking on earth, which is the period from Isaiah’s day until the Second Coming, “keep listening but you do not perceive, keep seeing but you do not understand” (v. 9). Satan “will cause to make the heart of these people insensitive” and “their ears are caused to make dull” and “their eyes is caused to make dim” (v. 10). It will be continuously from Isaiah’s day to the time of Jesus (John 12:39-41). It will be all the way to the church of Laodicea’s condition as the seventh and last church before the Eschaton as Revelation 3:15-18 indicates. Do what you want to do, evil included lest (pen) you see with your eyes and hear with your ears, understand with their hearts and return and be healed, says Isaiah (v. 10d-g). If they are so obstinate to do evil they will be kept in evil although conversion can bring healing. Isaiah desires the touching of his lips event for everyone. He wishes to see the Almighty more. He wishes that time to fast-forward soon and so he asked the question Daniel also asked after the long Daniel 11 vision and the Resurrection in Daniel 12:1: How long? (v. 11). The angel answered that the Time of Trouble near the Eschaton shortly before the Second Coming will be “cities devastated without inhabitants. Houses are without people” due to excessive migrationism (v. 11b-c). “The Lord has removed men far away” (v. 12) which is indicative of the call in Revelation that the saints must leave the cities and move to the countryside and elsewhere for safety. There are many forsaken places (v. 12b). There will be about 10% staying in the cities but it will also burn with persecution “will again be burning” (v. 13b). When a terebinth or an oak is felled a stump remains “which in the remaining of the felling in them”. It is a symbol of the saints during the Time of Trouble or Great Persecution that is the “holy seed fallen from it” meaning, the rest of the evil people suffers but the holy seed, 10% remains unharmed.

With these ideas in mind, how do we understand God’s role in hardening Pharaoh’s heart?

In Exodus 4:21, God says, “but I will harden his heart” (NRSV). This is the first of nine times when God said He would harden Pharaoh's heart. But there were also nine times when Pharaoh hardened his own heart (for example, see Exod. 8:15, 32; Exod. 9:34).

Clearly Pharaoh possessed some kind of free will, or he would not have been able to harden his own heart. But the fact that God also hardened Pharaoh’s heart indicates that God initiated the circumstances to which Pharaoh reacted when he made his choices, choices to reject the signs God had given him. Had Pharaoh been open to those signs, his heart would have been softened, not hardened, by them.

In your own experience with the Lord, have you ever felt a hardening of your heart to the Holy Spirit? Think through what caused it. If you didn’t find that concept frightening then (after all, that’s part of what having a hard heart is all about), how do you view it now? What is the way of escape? See 1 Cor. 10:13.

Friday         January 8

Further Study: “Iniquitous practices had become so prevalent among all classes that the few who remained true to God were often tempted to lose heart and to give way to discouragement and despair. It seemed as if God’s purpose for Israel were about to fail and that the rebellious nation was to suffer a fate similar to that of Sodom and Gomorrah.

In the face of such conditions it is not surprising that when, during the last year of Uzziah’s reign, Isaiah was called to bear to Judah God’s messages of warning and reproof, he shrank from the responsibility. He well knew that he would encounter obstinate resistance. As he realized his own inability to meet the situation and thought of the stubbornness and unbelief of the people for whom he was to labor, his task seemed hopeless. Should he in despair relinquish his mission and leave Judah undisturbed to their idolatry? Were the gods of Nineveh to rule the earth in defiance of the God of heaven?” — Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings, pp. 306, 307.

Discussion Questions:

1.    If a skeptic or an atheist were to challenge you with the question, “How can you show that your God is in charge?” what would you answer?

2.   If God is in charge, why do innocent people suffer? Does Isaiah 1:19, 20 mean that in the present life only good things are supposed to happen to God’s faithful people and only bad things happen to those who rebel? Compare with Job 1, 2; Psalm 37; Psalm 73. Can we reconcile our understanding of God’s character with the bad that happens to people? Do we need to?

3.   In Isaiah 6, why are there so many connections to the Day of Atonement? Consider the fact that on this yearly judgment day God purified His people by cleansing sin from loyal ones (Lev. 16:30) and purging out the disloyal (Lev. 23:29, 30).

Summary: At a time that the king died it happen that Isaiah got a vision of Christ receiving Kingship after the seventh trumpet in Revelation just before His Second Coming. He received glory. This is the time that people must live perfect without a Mediator in heaven. Isaiah felt his utter inadequacy. Who will not? But there is hope and now it is necessary for Isaiah to return from vision to the stark reality of history through corridors until this time but with evangelism explaining this to all.

(The graphics here displayed is totally from The Transformation is by dr. Koot van Wyk from Kyungpook National University Sangju Campus, South Korea). 

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