Immanuel: A 5 Lesson Advent Study Lesson #1

Good Morning!
I’m so glad you’ve joined me today as we begin preparing our hearts for Christmas.  You don’t need anything fancy to participate.  All that is truly necessary is a willing open heart to God and a humble spirit.

Immanuel: A 5 lesson Advent Study
Before we begin, please pause to pray.
Father, thank you for this time spent with You and the privilege and opportunity to study Your word.  Holy Spirit, I ask that You guide, direct and help me understand the scriptures and grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus Christ.  I pray Lord that you will help my heart be open and receptive to all that you have to teach me.  I praise you and give you glory in Jesus name, Amen.

Lesson #1
First, a little background and context:
Under King David, Israel was a united nation of 12 tribes.  However, toward the end of his son, Solomon’s reign, problems began arising in the kingdom.  A man by the name of Jeroboam rebelled against the king. {see 1 Kings 11:27-40 for more details}

When Solomon died, his son, Rehoboam became king.  Jeroboam and Rehoboam clashed and the kingdom divided in 930 B.C.E. into a northern kingdom referred to as Israel and made up of 10 of the original 12 tribes and a southern kingdom comprised of the remaining 2 tribes called Judah.   { see 1 Kings 12 for more details}

In the years that followed the division of the kingdom, God-fearing and non-God-fearing kings reigned.  Righteousness and justice was not the rule of the land.  Israel (the north) became more and more apostate adopting many of the spiritual customs of the other nations around them.  Judah ( the south) also began a hardening of the heart towards God and His ways yet, in comparison to Israel, remained more devoted.   The people floundered and suffered under the reigns of oppressive and unpredictable rulership.  Political chaos was growing as other nations were vying for control of the area.  Violence and war became the backdrop of the people’s existence.

Read Isaiah 6:1-8
In 739 B.C.E., King Uzziah of Judah died. This moment represented a turning point for the nation of Judah.  King Uzziah had been a godly king for most of his life but he became swayed by pride and he turned away from God.  {for more details, see 2 Chronicles 26: 3-8,16-23}
With the king’s death, the people wondered what the future held for them.  What type of king would his successor be? Would he follow God?  Would he save them from possible invasion?  Would they struggle to survive?

This moment also was a turning point for Isaiah.  Isaiah was ushered into the very throne room of God and saw the Lord.  Like Isaiah, don’t we encounter a turning point in our lives when we encounter the Living God?  All that Isaiah believed himself to be was exposed and highlighted by the presence of the holiness of the LORD Almighty.  In that turning point moment, Isaiah slammed into the reality of his true condition when he saw himself bathed in the light of God’s glory.  The only words to escape and utter from his lips were

Woe to me!” … “I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the LORD Almighty.”

Isaiah would’ve known that no one can look upon the Lord and live {see Exodus 33:20} yet he “saw the Lord.”

The LORD Almighty had purposed to reveal Himself to Isaiah and therefore, did not intend for Isaiah’s condition to remain.  He saw the humility of Isaiah’s repentance and did not leave Isaiah suffering in his woeful state.  He ordained Isaiah to be cleansed before Him.  Have you like Isaiah recognized your own spiritual depravity when confronted with God’s holiness?

Now cleansed and atoned of his sin, Isaiah hears the voice of the Lord saying,

Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?

Having a new and improved perspective, Isaiah saw the LORD with renewed sight.  He heard and felt the holiness of God and out of the overflow of this incredible spiritual experience, Isaiah responds,

Here am I. Send me!

He wanted an opportunity to share his renewed vision of God with his people.  Isaiah wanted the chance to lead others back to the worship and acknowledgement of the holiness of God in their ever deepening spiritual decline.  God called Isaiah to Himself and to a lifelong service to the people of Judah on His behalf.  Has God called you to Himself?  Are you prepared like Isaiah to say, “Here am I. Send me!”?

The Lord tells Isaiah his mission of service will be difficult because the people will not listen or embrace the message that he will be sharing with them.  He is sent in the midst of his generation that refused to be moved by the message of God.  Though Isaiah could have despaired with the enormity of his task and the burden he carried for his people, God gave him a kernel of understanding about His plan.  He gave hope to Isaiah. Even though judgment must come for a time, a holy seed will be left as a stump in the land. {see Isaiah 6:13}

Read Isaiah 7:1-17
Around 734 B.C.E., political turmoil is swirling and King Ahaz of Judah, Uzziah’s grandson, is fearful of invasion and destruction.  The nation of Judah is at the brink of war with King Rezin of Syria and King Pekah of Israel (north kingdom) who have formed an alliance and are aggressively seeking territory and power.  They desire greatly to replace Ahaz with another king of their choosing.
Isaiah is sent to deliver a message to Ahaz to trust and to hold steadfast in his faith in God because the LORD will handle it.  Isaiah is instructed to bring his son as a sign of this promise.

Names were of particular importance to the Hebrew people.  Children were named many things for a variety of reasons.  Sometimes, those reasons were parental hopes and dreams for the child’s character.  Other times, they represented an emotion or a memorial to an event.  Isaiah’s son, Shear-Jashub had a special name that carried a symbolic sign for the time.  The english translation is “a remnant will return”.   The LORD Almighty was leaving clues for those who had eyes to see and ears to hear and perceive that His will would prevail.

King Ahaz needed only to trust in the Lord and not fear what his eyes could see: his circumstances, his burdens, the looming invasion, his potential loss of rulership.  Isaiah told him to ask the LORD for a sign to be comforted that the message of deliverance from these nations was true.  God was offering him the opportunity to know with certainty that all would turn out right and Ahaz  refused in addition to having the audacity to quote scripture for his decision. { see Deuteronomy 6:16}   How many times have you asked God for a sign or a confirmation for something?  If the Lord asked you to make the request, would you hesitate? Would you reason yourself out of asking because you didn’t trust the sender?

Righteous indignation overcomes Isaiah.  He tells Ahaz that the Lord Himself will provide the sign:

The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel.”

Much debate surrounds the translation of the word virgin but in the original Hebrew, the word for virgin “almah” implies a young woman.  Her son will be called Immanuel — “With us {is} God. *

By not trusting God and believing His word, Ahaz opened the door for more suffering for his people.

Read Isaiah 8:1-4
Isaiah has another son with an unusual name to signify a sign to the nation.  A sign of His swift judgment soon to commence upon the nations of Israel and Syria.    Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, the name for this child, means “quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil.”  This message was given for all written upon a large scroll and witnessed as truth.

In 722 B.C.E., the northern kingdom Israel was taken into captivity by the Assyrians.  God’s words from Isaiah to Ahaz stood true and trustworthy.  Despite the evidence and the warnings by the prophets of coming judgments, the nation of Judah did not heed or repent.

Read Isaiah 8:11-9:1
Lest we think Isaiah found his calling easy, this passage reminds us the great obstacles and difficulties as well as temptations Isaiah must have faced.  He was not immune to the same fears of being invaded like his fellow generation.  The Lord had proven himself faithful to Isaiah in the past and he continued to trust God.  He was instructed to regard the LORD Almighty as holy and to fear Him not man.  Isaiah was to wait on God to expect Him.  He had children whose very names were object lessons in God’s activity.

The people of Isaiah’s day plunged into distress and a fearful gloom caused by the depth of their physical distress and spiritual darkness resulting from sin. In the midst of their shadow of death and utter hopelessness, Isaiah is given a message of hope to nourish their very weary souls.

Read Isaiah 9:2-7
This passage will be the focus of the rest of our lessons.  The culture, the depravity, the darkness, the oppression, the suffering of the people, all serve as a backdrop to understand the enormity of this passage and the dawn of light that it brings.

This poem has been structured in a style that is reflective of royal dynastic language.  Perhaps this poem was composed for a historical period at the time or for a future coronation in Jerusalem to come.**
In the ancient world, “a new golden age could be brought about only by a new golden ruler.”  Life worked from the top down.  Righteousness, justice and peace came about because of his rule. ***

The people who are walking in darkness perhaps are victims of the invasion by the Assyrians, King Ahaz’s subjects or “anyone who can visualize the coming of a Saviour”. **
The darkness appeared overwhelming but then, a light has dawned.  Their joy increases, they rejoice and they will recall the glory day of Gideon’s victory.  The oppression of the yoke, the bar and the rod will finally be over. { see Judges 6-8 for more details.}  Like in the days of Gideon when all seemed lost, our irrepressible God took the impossible and made a definite victory.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.  He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever.  The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” Isaiah 9:6,7

Have you felt overwhelmed?  Have your burdens seemed too great to bear?  Have you suffered oppression either caused by your own sin or something else? Do you feel there is no justice in the land? Are you hindered by the past? Fearful of the future?

Hang on.  Hold fast.  God’s purpose stands fixed.

Isaiah and his children served as signs for their generation.  We, too , are to be distinct and set apart.  We are to shine like a light in the darkness for we are the light to the world.  Rise up, children of the Light!  You are a sign to your sphere of influence.  The glory of the LORD will be revealed in our lives when we’re illuminated by His light blazing through us.
At the darkest moment, wait expectantly and watch for the first rays piercing the darkness.  Immanuel comes.

For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”  Psalm 30:5

We are “to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and …run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”  We are to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” We are to “consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that{we} will not grow weary and lose heart.”  Hebrews 12:1-3

Our generation, like Isaiah’s, has need of the light to draw them out of darkness to help them see.   Isaiah answered his call and held fast in faith when all around him darkness prevailed.  Will you?

Blessings,
Mimi

*The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
** The Daily Study Bible Series Isaiah Volume 1  by John F.A. Sawyer
*** How to Read the Bible  by James L. Kugel

5 Comments

Filed under Immanuel: A 5 Lesson Advent Study

5 responses to “Immanuel: A 5 Lesson Advent Study Lesson #1

  1. Earline

    Enjoyed this so much..thanks, Mimi!

  2. Mot Lyons

    Darkness does seem to prevail! When it looks like the world is falling apart, the world is only falling into place. I’ve been working today on BGEA prayer team for the central MS Will Graham Celebration which will be in Clinton March 28-30 and out ONE, BIG Regional Prayer Gathering which will be 1/14/14 at FBC Clinton. Ya’ll e-mail me at Motlyons@bellsouth.net if you would like to become a part of the prayer team!!! (no other meetings; you just pray!!! my kind of team!!!) Advent Bible study is great! Makes me know how much I don’t know about God’s word. Thanks, Mimi, for this great opportunity. FUMC music Sunday was wonderful!!!!

  3. Wow, wonderful blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
    you made blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is excellent,
    let alone the content!

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