Lesson 133:

Isaiah 34:4 All the stars in the sky will be dissolved and the heavens rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree.

Isaiah foresaw the destruction of the universe as a result of our sin. Sin brought a curse on the earth (Genesis 3:17-20) that spread like a virus, and God’s judgment will be so severe that it will reach the furthest star. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare (2 Peter 3:10), wrote Peter.

The philosopher Aristotle (384-322 BC) taught that the universe is eternal in both directions, and that was the accepted theory for many years. But now it is understood that the universe had a beginning (the big bang) and that it will have an end (the big crunch). This is more consistent with the Biblical view. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). And in the end, all the starry host will fall.

But that is not the end of the story. [W]e are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13), wrote Peter. [T]he new heavens and the new earth that I make will endure before me (Isaiah 66:22), said God. God will create a whole new world, perhaps with the same materials. Then the curse will be reversed, and the new creation will last forever. This is the biblical view of the future. 

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Isaiah 35:10 Everlasting joy will crown their heads.

God’s people go through difficult times, but can look ahead to everlasting joy. Joy surpasses happiness as far as happiness surpasses sorrow. But even a million years of joy would not be as joyful, if we thought it would ever end. Thankfully, it will not.

My Grandpa was riding in my uncle’s speed boat when he smiled so widely that his false teeth flew into the lake. His joy went away with his teeth, but in the age to come our joy will never end. Think of the happiest moment of your life and double it twice. If that is what you have to look forward to, you can enjoy it now. Everlasting joy will crown [our] heads

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Isaiah 41:13 For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.

On your first day of school your mother probably held your hand as she brought you into class. She helped you meet the teacher and find your desk, but then she had to leave. Not so with God. From cradle to grave he holds your hand, and helps you along the way. God is honored by your faith, so Do not fear; [he] will help you.

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Isaiah 42:3 A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.

This describes the gentleness that Jesus would show to those who were bruised by sin, and whose smoldering wick of faith was about to go out. He would not rebuke them, or reject them, but nurture and assure them. 

A sinful woman came to Jesus and washed his feet with her tears, dried them with her hair, kissed them, and poured perfume on them. Some were repulsed by her behavior, but Jesus said, Your sins are forgiven. . . . Your faith has saved you; go in peace (Luke 7:48-50). 

And that is what Jesus says to every broken person who looks to him in faith—no matter how badly they have failed in the past, are failing in the present, or will fail in the future. Instead of breaking those who are bruised by sin, Jesus heals them. Instead of snuffing out the smoldering wick of faith, he fans it into flame. This is the kind of ministry Jesus had in the past, and continues to have today. 

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Isaiah 44:28 [The Lord] says of Cyrus, He is my shepherd and will accomplish all that I please; he will say of Jerusalem, Let it be rebuilt, and of the temple, Let its foundations be laid.

About a hundred fifty years before Cyrus became the king of Persia, the prophet Isaiah identified him by name, making this one of the most remarkable prophecies in the Bible. God can foretell the future because he planned it long ago. [We have] been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will (Ephesians 1:11), wrote Paul. Nothing happens by chance, including the rule of kings. 

Josephus, the early Jewish historian, claimed that Cyrus was informed about the prophecies concerning him (Antiquities of the Jews, XI.1.2). The prophet Daniel was a high ranking official living in Babylon at this time. He may have had a scroll of the prophet Isaiah which he showed to Cyrus. Whether or not this happened, Cyrus took action.

This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel (Ezra 1:2-3). 

Cyrus’ decree is corroborated by an artifact known as the Cyrus Cylinder, which was found in AD 1879, and is housed in The British Museum. It does not mention the Jews by name, but it states Cyrus’ policy of allowing displaced peoples to return home and to restore their temples. God’s people were allowed to return to their homeland, just as Isaiah foretold.

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Isaiah 48:17 I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.

One of the things that persuaded me to follow Jesus Christ was the idea that he was more qualified to run my life than I was. Since he created the universe, and kept it running for years, perhaps he could also direct my life. This seems obvious to some, but not to everyone. 

When a young man asked Jesus, what must I do to inherit eternal life? Jesus said, Sell everything you have . . . . Then come, follow me. The young man should have been delighted, but he went away sad, because he was very wealthy (Luke 18:18-23). But now he has been sad for thousands of years, because Jesus was actually right. Faith is believing that Jesus knows best, and will lead us in the way that is best for us.

Reflection and Review
What is the future of the universe?
How should the church treat sinners?
Why was Cyrus important?