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Isaiah in the Temple
Summer Quarter: God’s Urgent Call
Unit 2: Calling of the Prophets
Sunday school lesson for the week of July 9, 2017
By Rev. Earnestine W. Campbell
Lesson Scripture: Isaiah 6:1-8
Background Scripture: Isaiah 6
Key Verse: Then I heard the Lord’s voice saying, “Whom should I send, and who will go for us?” I said, “I’m here; send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)
Purpose: To realize that unexpected circumstances can lead us into new opportunities to serve God.
Last week’s lesson examined Exodus 3 of the Israelites bondage in Egypt and Moses’ experience of his call as a prophet. This week the Adult Bible Studies
’ unit “Calling of Prophets,” focuses on the second prophet, Isaiah. The lesson affirms that God uses imperfect people to do His will. In the Old Testament, prophets were called, displayed hesitancy, but acted on the call to prophesy. Notably, in the two lessons covered in this unit, it’s apparent that we must be able to see the vision and hear God’s plan.
The prophetic book of Isaiah spans a period of hundreds of years. Scholars believe that the book is written by several authors, covering three different crises, and outlined into three sections:
Isaiah’s Message: Consistent prophecy to the kings of Judah; encouraged them to trust in God rather than rely upon the protection of the Egyptians or the allegiance of the Assyrians; stressed the importance of righteousness and justice; like Moses and other prophets, Isaiah attacked social and other injustices and insisted that God is more interested in personal righteousness and the plight of the poor than in religious rituals; proclamation that righteousness not only involved worship of Yahweh but also included doing God’s will.
- First Isaiah (Chapters 1-39): attributed in general to the eighth-century BCE Judean prophet, Isaiah, son of Amoz prophesied in Jerusalem during the reign of four Judean kings (Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah); major crises faced by the original prophet Isaiah were the Syro-Ephraimite War; Hezekiah’s temptation to join in coalition with Egypt, and the Assyrian invasion around 701 BCE.
- Second Isaiah (Chapters 40-55): Israelite audience is living in Babylon toward the end of the Babylonian exile (597 – 539 BCE); the main focus of the prophet is the deliverance from the oppressor, Babylon, as opposed to a heavy focus of judgment.
- Third Isaiah (Chapters 56-66): Israelite audience is now living back in Judah; life is hard, and they are dealing with economic oppression and other hardships.
Similarly, in last week’s Exodus’ lesson, the Israelites in the book of Isaiah are burdened with bondage to include political, economic, social injustices, as well as religious and ethical situations.
The Call of Isaiah
We see in Isaiah 6:1-3 that the location of Isaiah’s call is different from Moses, but the call is similar as it begins with a vision of “seeing” God in the temple. Isaiah appears to have set his eyes on the Lord (whereas Moses hid his face) and describes His Holiness as “sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple.” (vs. 1) The greatness of Isaiah’s vision and call parallels the greatness of God in the burning bush vision of Moses’ call. God’s transcendent nature appearing before his called is astonishing. God also reveals himself to us in other ways, through Scripture, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.
Verses 4-5: Similarly, it appears that the prophets in the presence of God condemn themselves with feelings of inadequacies and imperfections. Isaiah immediately begins to declare his iniquities. He cries, “I’m ruined! I’m a man with unclean lips, and I live among a people with unclean lips.” When we are transparent about our imperfections and shortcomings, we begin the process of forgiveness and transformation and are able to help others. Isaiah recognized the sinful condition of his fellow Israelites but only after he acknowledged his sin. He understood the importance of the divine message that he would proclaim. Isaiah’s proclamation of his sin nature allows him to declare with sincerity and forthrightness the message of correction to God’s people. If the messenger appears to be hypocritical, then how can the people hear? The scripture in Matthew 7:5 states “You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.”
Isaiah’s preparation to serve:
- Have a personal relationship with God.
- Hear and see the vision.
- Confess sin nature: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9)
- Accept the call: I heard the Lord’s voice saying, “Whom should I send, and who will go for us?” I said, “I’m here; send me.” (Isaiah 6:8)
- Follow God’s directives.
Teachers: encourage class members to share their thoughts about Isaiah’s call, and what they understand about the opportunities to serve God.
Father, let our ears be ever hearing and eyes ever seeing to know when we are in your presence, to give reverence, and to serve you. Help us to be transparent before you and those that need us. Let us remove judgmental and lofty spirits that prohibit us from portraying your light within us. Amen.
Rev. Earnestine W. Campbell serves as the Associate Director for Connectional Ministries. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Footnote: Adult Bible Studies Series Fall 2017 and New Revised Standard Version, The Harper Collins Study Bible, Including Apocryphal Deuterocanonical Books Student Edition, 2006 used as content sources for this lesson.