Relevant Bible Verses: Isaiah 7:14-8:22
Leading Question: Is it true for everyone that God first offers us the easy way, but if we refuse, we must learn the hard way?
This week’s lesson is haunted by the dark image of Ahaz. God has offered him signs and hope, but he refused and kept on his evil ways toward destruction.
Question: When a leader goes astray, is it inevitable that those whom he leads also go astray? Are there examples in Scripture of both situations?
Comment: On the side of those who resisted the evil of their leaders, we could put the 7000 in Israel who had not bowed the knee to Baal in the time of Elijah (1 Kings 19). Elijah had stood alone on the top of Carmel. And after his victory of Baal, he led Ahab’s chariot down the mountain in the drenching rain.
Typically, however, as the king goes, so goes the people. And in the era of the judges, as long as the judge was alive, the people were faithful. But after the judge died, they fell away.
Question: Is there a tension between the call to live in the fear of the Lord and the NT statement that perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18)? Or was fear a more prominent feature of the OT?
Question: Is there a time and place when God can use teeth-chattering fear to motivate his people? Consider this passage from Deuteronomy 5:22-35:
22 These words the Lord spoke with a loud voice to your whole assembly at the mountain, out of the fire, the cloud, and the thick darkness, and he added no more. He wrote them on two stone tablets, and gave them to me. 23 When you heard the voice out of the darkness, while the mountain was burning with fire, you approached me, all the heads of your tribes and your elders; 24 and you said, “Look, the Lord our God has shown us his glory and greatness, and we have heard his voice out of the fire. Today we have seen that God may speak to someone and the person may still live. 25 So now why should we die? For this great fire will consume us; if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer, we shall die. 26 For who is there of all flesh that has heard the voice of the living God speaking out of fire, as we have, and remained alive? 27 Go near, you yourself, and hear all that the Lord our God will say. Then tell us everything that the Lord our God tells you, and we will listen and do it.”
28 The Lord heard your words when you spoke to me, and the Lord said to me: “I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you; they are right in all that they have spoken. 29 If only they had such a mind as this, to fear me and to keep all my commandments always, so that it might go well with them and with their children forever! 30 Go say to them, ‘Return to your tents.’ 31 But you, stand here by me, and I will tell you all the commandments, the statutes and the ordinances, that you shall teach them, so that they may do them in the land that I am giving them to possess.” 32 You must therefore be careful to do as the Lord your God has commanded you; you shall not turn to the right or to the left. 33 You must follow exactly the path that the Lord your God has commanded you, so that you may live, and that it may go well with you, and that you may live long in the land that you are to possess.
Question: What does the Old Testament teach about communication with the dead and how does that enter into our understanding of Isaiah 8:19-20? Note how the KJV and the NRSV differ in their translation:
Isa. 8:19 And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? 20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. (KJV)
Isa. 8:19 Now if people say to you, “Consult the ghosts and the familiar spirits that chirp and mutter; should not a people consult their gods, the dead on behalf of the living, 20 for teaching and for instruction?” surely, those who speak like this will have no dawn! (NRSV)
Comment: The traditional SDA use of Isaiah 8:20 takes the passage thoroughly out of context, using it as a proof text for keeping the commandments. The concept is a true one, but simply not supported by this particular text.
Question: How serious was the Old Testament objection to magic and divination?
Comment: The use of magic to manipulate God was anathema to Old Testament believers. It may have been a major reason why Satan so rarely appears in the Old Testament. It was too tempting for the people to see Satan as a rival supernatural power, one that could be manipulated by magic. Deut. 18:10-12 lists a significant list of prohibited activities, among them, the magical arts:
Deut. 18:10: “No one shall be found among you who makes a son or daughter pass through fire, or who practices divination, or is a soothsayer, or an augur, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who casts spells, or who consults ghosts or spirits, or who seeks oracles from the dead. 12 For whoever does these things is abhorrent to the Lord; it is because of such abhorrent practices that the Lord your God is driving them out before you” (NRSV).