Summary: It is difficult for us to be helpless in the midst of personal turmoil. But Jesus brings hope into the midst of turmoil. He is with us and He is working things out for the best for us in the end. Therefore, we keep our eyes on Him and we wait in faith.
Big Idea: Jesus brings hope into the midst of our helplessness and turmoil
Background for Isaiah 40:27-31:
- Isaiah was a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah about 7 centuries before the time of Christ. This was a time of great turmoil for God’s people. The northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah were located on the crossroads of the ancient world in between the world’s superpowers of Egypt to the west and Assyria, and later Babylonia, to the east. Because of the strategic importance of their territory, these two kingdoms were often under threat from the surrounding nations.
- Around 735 BC, when Ahaz was king of Judah, Israel and Syria formed an alliance to defend themselves against Assyria, and they pressured Judah to join them. Isaiah’s message to Ahaz was to trust in the Lord to protect Judah. Ahaz did not listen and instead formed an alliance with Assyria. Israel and Syria were later defeated, as Isaiah had predicted, but Ahaz had allied Judah with a nation that soon would become a formidable enemy.
- Around 701 BC, when Hezekiah was king of Judah, Assyria threatened Judah directly. Again, the temptation was to trust in human power rather than God’s, this time by forming an alliance with Egypt, which Hezekiah did. The army of the Assyrian Empire set out to punish Judah and laid siege to Jerusalem. Given no other choice, Hezekiah finally trusted in the Lord to deliver Jerusalem, which God did by destroying the Assyrian army.
- A third major crisis happened after the time of Isaiah, when the Babylonian Army defeated Judah and took many of its citizens into exile in Babylon, and then finally destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 586 BC. Again, God’s people found themselves overwhelmed and helpless. However, God gave them a message of hope through the prophet Isaiah, that God still loved and cared for His people and would, one day, bring them back to their homeland. The Babylonian Empire was conquered by the Persians in 539 BC, and the next year, Cyrus, the king of Persia, gave permission to the Jews to return home.
Background for Luke 1:5-17:
- Zechariah are old and childless. Being childless in ancient times was considered to be a shameful thing because being barren was often thought to be a result of sin. While God did sometimes punish groups of people by making their women barren, that was not the case here because both Elizabeth and Zechariah were devout and faithful followers of the one true God.
- Both Zechariah and Elizabeth are from the Levite clan which served as priests at the Temple in Jerusalem. There were 24 divisions, or teams, of men from the Levite clan who would serve two one-week terms at the Temple gathering and organizing everything needed for worship and preparing sacrifices and offering prayers on behalf of the people.
- Each morning and evening, one of the priests would be chosen by lot to pray and burn incense on behalf of the people in the Holy Place in the Temple. It was a great honor for a priest to serve in this role and, if it happened at all, it only happened once during a priest’s lifetime. It was while, Zechariah was fulfilling this function that an angel appeared to him to deliver the Good News that Zechariah and Elizabeth would have a son.
Ice-breaker question: Have you ever had a time in your life where there was great turmoil happening and yet you were powerless to do anything about it?
Read: Isaiah 40:27-31
- What is the significance of God calling His people by name (O Jacob, O Israel)?
- How can the fact that “The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth” (v. 28) give hope to people who are helpless and in the midst of turmoil?
- What promise does God give here to those who are weak and powerless?
- How does God give us strength when we are weary and faint?
Read: Luke 1:5-17
- What emotions did Zechariah feel when he saw the angel?
- What Good News did the angel give to Zechariah?
- How was the child to be named?
- What did the angel tell Zechariah about the child and what he would do?
- Have you ever had to wait for the resolution to a very difficult problem? What helped you wait?
- Have you ever waited for a solution to a very difficult problem and then, when the solution came, it was a much better solution than what you had hoped for?
- How can we share the hope that we have with others who are in turmoil?
This Bible Study focuses on the same passage as the sermon on Dec 1/19 from Walnut Grove Lutheran Church, Langley BC.