828 King's Highway, Suffolk VA 23432

757 255-4168 stjohns1755@verizon.net Worship Service: Sundays at 10:30am
Welcome to St. John's community. We are honored to serve Christ, and to open our doors to all. Please feel free to join us for worship. St. John's can trace its history to the founding of Jamestown. The parish is over 350 years old, and the church building itself has stood for 2 and a half centuries. St. John's saw the American Revolution and served as a camp ground for troops during the Civil War. Through it all, St. John's has been a place of worship and a home for those seeking communion with Christ. St. John's has a rich and abiding history. Today, it is as it was... a place to find and be found by Christ.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Christian education for Sunday December 4, 2011; 2nd Sunday of Advent; Isaiah 40:1-11, God's People are Comforted

Background: The prophetic voice in Isaiah moves from oracles of judgment to salvation. The book was most likely written by a series of prophetic voices over an extended period of time. Today’s passage can be placed at the beginning of the “Second Isaiah” section. Second Isaiah presupposes Israel still in Babylon towards the end of the exile. Second Isaiah is said to be more concerned with the promise of deliverance not the threat of judgment.
Theme: Second Isaiah begins with oracles of consolation to Israel in exile. This section focuses on the joyous return of Israel to its homeland. Today’s passage is one of the better known passages from Isaiah as it serves as the foundation of a portion of Handel’s Messiah. Today’s selection attempts to illuminate the heavenly conversation between God and his angels.

Questions to Ponder
* How does the setting of today’s lesson, as described in the theme, color your understanding of this passage?
* In verse 40:1, can you identify the principals? Who is God speaking (1) to and (2) about? Does it matter who they are?
* What other passages in the Bible is the phrase “…my people, says your God.” reminiscent of? Why might this passage be like those passages?
* What sins are the Israelites paying for in verse 40:2?
* What “term” is the heavenly being speaking about in verse 40:2? How might this punishment be considered a “double” penalty for Israel’s sins?
* Verse 40:3 gets alternate phrasing in the four gospels. Some versions place the colon after “out” and others after “wilderness.” Would the alternate placements effect our interpretation of the passage? Why or why not?
* In verse 40:3, what “way in the wilderness” might the prophet be recounting?
* In verses 40:3-5, how might these verses be a reinterpretation of an older text? Where might the “highway for our God” be leading from and to? What might the “glory of the Lord” be referring to and why would that be important to Israel and the other nations in the Ancient Near East?
* In verse 40:6, whose voice says “Cry out!”? Likewise, who might be the being who responds, “What shall I cry?”? Is it important who provides each portion of the call and response?
* What assurance might be found by the Israelites in verses 40:6-8?
* Why might the sheep/shepherd image reappear in the message of assurance to the Israelites in exile?
* What is the message of hope and preparation for Israel as presented by Isaiah?
* What is the application of this passage for us in advent and in our life and ministry in the world today?

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