“Lesson 129: Isaiah 54–57,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2014)
“Lesson 129,” Old Testament Seminary Teacher Manual
The Lord spoke of the latter-day gathering of Israel and of His mercy toward those who repent. The Lord also taught that His ways are higher than man’s ways and condemned the wickedness of the Israelites.
Read the following scenario, and ask students to think about how they would respond:
Your friend has committed some serious sins over the past several months and has stopped attending church. After several weeks, you tell him he is missed and needed at church. He says, “There is no way the Lord would want me back after what I have done.”
Invite students to write in their class notebooks or scripture study journals how they would respond to this friend. After sufficient time, inform them that they will have an opportunity to share what they wrote later in the lesson. Invite students to look for truths as they study Isaiah 54–55 that can help individuals who question whether they can return to the Lord after they have sinned.
To provide context for Isaiah’s teachings in Isaiah 54–57, you may want to invite students to refer to the handout “The Kingdoms of Israel and Judah at a Glance” (see lesson 102). Explain that during Isaiah’s life, he witnessed the scattering of the Northern Kingdom of Israel because of the wickedness of its people. He also prophesied that because of the wickedness of the kingdom of Judah, it too would be conquered. Summarize Isaiah 54:1–3 by explaining that the Lord spoke of the growth of the house of Israel that would occur in the last days after being gathered from its scattered condition.
Invite a student to read Isaiah 54:4–5 aloud. Invite the class to follow along and look for what the Lord said gathered Israel would forget.
What would gathered Israel forget? (Its shame and reproach, or disgrace, caused by unfaithfulness to the Lord.)
Explain that “the shame of thy youth” and “the reproach of thy widowhood” describe Israel’s condition of separation from her close covenant relationship with the Lord.
How did the Lord describe His relationship with Israel? (As a marriage in which He is the husband and Israel is the wife.)
Why would it be comforting for Israel to know that her “husband” is the Redeemer and God of the whole earth?
Invite several students to take turns reading aloud from Isaiah 54:7–10. Ask the class to follow along, looking for a truth that would give the Israelites hope while they experienced the consequences of their sins.
What would the Lord do for the Israelites? What words reflect His goodness?
What truth can we learn from these verses about what the Lord seeks to do for those who sin? (The Lord is merciful and seeks to gather back to Him those who have sinned. Write this truth on the board.)
To help students understand why the Lord is merciful and seeks to gather back to Him those who have sinned, display a piece of paper money that is wrinkled and dirty.
What was this money like when it was first printed?
Would you still be interested in having this money even though it is wrinkled and dirty? Why?
How can this money be likened to us? Why would the Lord still be merciful and seek to gather us back to Him when we sin? (Because we are valuable to Him.)
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen for additional insight about God’s merciful nature.
“Surely the thing God enjoys most about being God is the thrill of being merciful, especially to those who don’t expect it and often feel they don’t deserve it” (“The Laborers in the Vineyard,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2012, 33).
Ask students to refer to the responses they wrote to the scenario earlier in the lesson.
How does what you wrote compare to the truth written on the board? (Invite several students to share what they wrote.)
How would understanding this truth help the young man in the scenario?
Summarize Isaiah 54:11–55:7 by explaining that the Lord spoke of additional blessings the Israelites would receive when they are gathered back to Him. Invite students to read Isaiah 54:17 silently, looking for one of the blessings the Lord promised. Ask students to report what they find.
Invite a student to read Isaiah 55:1–3 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the invitations the Lord extended. Explain that wine and milk were symbols of abundance.
What did the Lord invite His people to do? (He invited them to come unto Him to enjoy the eternal blessings He freely offers rather than waste their effort in worldly pursuits that do not provide true satisfaction.)
Summarize Isaiah 55:4–5 by explaining that after being gathered, the Lord’s covenant people will lead others, and nations will come to them because the Lord has glorified them.
Invite a student to read Isaiah 55:6–7 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for what we must do to receive the Lord’s mercy.
What principle can we learn from these verses about what we must do to receive the Lord’s mercy? (Make sure students identify the following principle: If we return to the Lord, then He will have mercy on us. You may want to suggest that students mark phrases in verses 6–7 that teach this truth.)
What do you think it means that the Lord “will abundantly pardon”? (Isaiah 55:7). (He will fully forgive.)
What do you think it means to return to the Lord when we have sinned?
Invite a student to read aloud the following statement by Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Ask the class to listen for what Elder Andersen taught about returning to the Lord.
“When we sin, we turn away from God. When we repent, we turn back toward God.
“The invitation to repent is rarely a voice of chastisement but rather a loving appeal to turn around and to ‘re-turn’ toward God” (“Repent … That I May Heal You,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2009, 40).
According to Elder Andersen, what does it mean to return to the Lord when we have sinned?
How is the invitation to repent a manifestation of the Lord’s everlasting kindness?
Ask students to reflect silently on times when they have repented and experienced the Lord’s mercy. Testify that if we repent, the Lord will have mercy on us.
Invite students to respond to the following question in their class notebooks or scripture study journals:
What is one thing you will do to return to or come closer to the Lord?
Encourage students to commit to do what they wrote.
To prepare students to identify an additional doctrine taught in Isaiah 55, write the following events on the board. (As an alternative, you could write these events on pieces of paper before class. Divide the class into three groups. Give each group one of the papers, and ask them to briefly act out their assigned event. Invite the other students to guess which Old Testament event is being depicted.)
In what unique ways did the Lord accomplish His purposes in these events?
What are some ways the people involved in these events could have tried to bring about these same outcomes on their own?
Invite students to ponder whether they have ever thought about doing something differently than the way the Lord directed or if they have wondered why the Lord directs His children to do things in a certain way.
Invite a student to read Isaiah 55:8–9 aloud. Ask the class to follow along and look for what the Lord taught about His ways compared to man’s ways.
What did the Lord teach about His ways compared to man’s ways?
What do you think it means that the Lord’s thoughts and ways are higher than man’s thoughts and ways?
Why are the Lord’s thoughts and ways higher than man’s thoughts and ways? (Write the following truth on the board: The Lord is all-knowing and His ways are perfect.)
Remind students of the events listed on the board, and ask:
How do these events show that the Lord is all-knowing and that His ways are perfect?
To help students understand how this doctrine and Isaiah’s teachings relate to their lives, divide students into groups of two or three. Provide each group with a copy of the following chart. Instruct them to work in their groups to list the Lord’s ways and man’s ways for each of the topics listed. (You could select different topics that are more relevant to your students.)
After sufficient time, invite several students to report what their group discussed.
How can we use the knowledge that the Lord is all-knowing and that His ways are perfect to help us when we must decide between the Lord’s ways and man’s ways in these and other situations?
What blessings come from trusting and following the Lord’s ways in these situations?
What experiences have helped you learn that the Lord is all-knowing and that His ways are perfect?
Summarize Isaiah 55:10–56:8 by explaining that the Lord assured His people that His words would be fulfilled. He promised that He would also gather and bless individuals who were not members of the house of Israel but who would love and serve the Lord and take “hold of [His] covenant” (Isaiah 56:4, 6).
Explain that in Isaiah 56:9–57:21, the Lord spoke against the wickedness of the people. He also taught about blessings the righteous would receive.
Invite a student to read Isaiah 57:13–15 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for the blessings that those who trust the Lord will enjoy. You may need to explain that the word contrite in verse 15 means sorrowful.
What blessings will those who trust the Lord receive?
What do you think it means that the Lord will “revive the spirit of the humble, and … the heart of the contrite”? (Isaiah 57:15).
Review and testify of the truths discussed in today’s lesson. Invite students to share any additional insights they might have.