1. TRYING TIMES FOR THE RIGHTEOUS
a. In Isaiah’s time, what developments occurred in Judah during the reign of King Manasseh? 2 Kings 21:16; 2 Chronicles 33:9–11.
“The kingdom of Judah . . . was once more brought low during the long years of Manasseh’s wicked reign, when paganism was revived, and many of the people were led into idolatry. . . . The glorious light of former generations was followed by the darkness of superstition and error. Gross evils sprang up and flourished—tyranny, oppression, hatred of all that is good. Justice was perverted; violence prevailed.
“Yet those evil times were not without witnesses for God and the right. The trying experiences through which Judah had safely passed during Hezekiah’s reign had developed, in the hearts of many, a sturdiness of character that now served as a bulwark against the prevailing iniquity. Their testimony in behalf of truth and righteousness aroused the anger of Manasseh and his associates in authority, who endeavored to establish themselves in evil-doing by silencing every voice of disapproval. [2 Kings 21:16 quoted.]
“One of the first to fall was Isaiah, who for over half a century had stood before Judah as the appointed messenger of Jehovah.”—Prophets and Kings, pp. 381, 382.
2. THE LORD MIGHTY TO SAVE
a. What should we all learn from Manasseh’s repentance? 2 Chronicles 33:12, 13; 2 Peter 3:9.
“In the case of Manasseh the Lord gives us an instance of the way in which He works. [2 Chronicles 33:9–13 quoted.]
“The Lord has often spoken to His people in warning and reproof. He has revealed Himself in mercy, love, and kindness. He has not left His backsliding people to the will of the enemy, but has borne long with them, even during obdurate apostasy. But after appeals have been made in vain, He prepares the rod for punishment. What compassionate love has been exercised toward the people of God! The Lord might have cut down in their sins those who were working at cross purposes with Him, but He has not done this. His hand is stretched out still. We have reason to offer thanksgiving to God that He has not taken His Spirit from those who have refused to walk in His way.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 3, p. 1132.
b. After God used Babylon to punish apostate Israel and then used Medo-Persia to destroy Babylon, how did He promise to deliver His nation after their period of chastisement? Isaiah 44:24, 28; 45:1–6, 13.
“More than a century before the birth of Cyrus, Inspiration had mentioned him by name, and had caused a record to be made of the actual work he should do in taking the city of Babylon unawares, and in preparing the way for the release of the children of the captivity. Through Isaiah the word had been spoken: [Isaiah 45:1–3 quoted].”—Prophets and Kings, p. 551.
c. How was this prophecy fulfilled? Ezra 1:1–4; 6:3–5. What principle should this fact cause us to remember? Numbers 11:23.
“The Lord has resources. His hand is on the machinery. When the time came for His temple to be rebuilt, He moved upon Cyrus as His agent to discern the prophecies concerning Himself, and to grant the Jewish people their liberty.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 4, p. 1175.
3. REAL REFORMATION THAT LASTS
a. What spiritual restoration prophesied to take place in our day was symbolized by the restoration in Nehemiah’s day? Isaiah 61:4; 58:12, 13.
“The spiritual restoration of which the work carried forward in Nehemiah’s day was a symbol, is outlined in the words of Isaiah: [Isaiah 61:4; 58:12 quoted].
“The prophet here describes a people who, in a time of general departure from truth and righteousness, are seeking to restore the principles that are the foundation of the kingdom of God. They are repairers of a breach that has been made in God’s law—the wall that He has placed around His chosen ones for their protection, and obedience to whose precepts of justice, truth, and purity is to be their perpetual safeguard.
“In words of unmistakable meaning the prophet points out the specific work of this remnant people who build the wall. ‘If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it’ (Verses 13, 14).
“In the time of the end every divine institution is to be restored. The breach made in the law at the time the Sabbath was changed by man is to be repaired.”—Prophets and Kings, pp. 677, 678.
b. Why is it so important to have a good foundation in the work of reformation? Psalm 11:3. How does this apply to our work today in preparation for the Lord’s return? Matthew 3:9, 10; 17:11.
“God’s remnant people, standing before the world as reformers, are to show that the law of God is the foundation of all enduring reform and that the Sabbath of the fourth commandment is to stand as a memorial of creation, a constant reminder of the power of God. In clear, distinct lines they are to present the necessity of obedience to all the precepts of the Decalogue. Constrained by the love of Christ, they are to cooperate with Him in building up the waste places. They are to be repairers of the breach, restorers of paths to dwell in.”—Ibid., p.678.
4. PRESSING FORWARD
a. How humble are we to be in our work for others? Luke 17:10; Galatians 6:1; Isaiah 51:1.
“We must lead the people along patiently and gradually, remembering the hole of the pit whence we were digged.”—Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 21.
b. What promises to the spiritual children of Abraham are for us today? Isaiah 51:2, 3; Galatians 3:28, 29.
“God’s people have a mighty work before them, a work that must continually rise to greater prominence. Our efforts in missionary lines must become far more extensive. . . .
“The vineyard includes the whole world, and every part of it is to be worked. There are places which are now a moral wilderness, and these are to become as the garden of the Lord. The waste places of the earth are to be cultivated, that they may bud and blossom as the rose. New territories are to be worked by men inspired by the Holy Spirit. New churches must be established, new congregations organized. At this time there should be representatives of present truth in every city and in the remote parts of the earth. The whole earth is to be illuminated with the glory of God’s truth. The light is to shine to all lands and all peoples. And it is from those who have received the light that it is to shine forth. The daystar has risen upon us, and we are to flash its light upon the pathway of those in darkness.
“A crisis is right upon us. We must now by the Holy Spirit’s power proclaim the great truths for these last days. It will not be long before everyone will have heard the warning and made his decision. Then shall the end come.
“It is the very essence of all right faith to do the right thing at the right time. God is the great Master Worker, and by His providence He prepares the way for His work to be accomplished. He provides opportunities, opens up lines of influence and channels of working. If His people are watching the indications of His providence and stand ready to cooperate with Him, they will see a great work accomplished. . . . Our work is reformative, and it is God’s purpose that the excellence of the work in all lines shall be an object lesson to the people.”—Ibid., vol.6, pp. 23–25.
5. NOT TO BE LED ASTRAY
a. What happens when people reject God’s Word in order to promote their own agenda? Isaiah 50:11; John 12:48; 2 Thessalonians 2:11.
“The Lord has presented before me that those who have been in any measure blinded by the enemy, and who have not fully recovered themselves from the snare of Satan, will be in peril because they cannot discern light from heaven, and will be inclined to accept a falsehood. This will affect the whole tenor of their thoughts, their decisions, their propositions, their counsels. The evidences that God has given are no evidence to them, because they have blinded their own eyes by choosing darkness rather than light. Then they will originate something they call light, which the Lord calls sparks of their own kindling, by which they will direct their steps. . . .
“By many, the words which the Lord sent will be rejected, and the words that man may speak will be received as light and truth. Human wisdom will lead away from self-denial, from consecration, and will devise many things that tend to make of no effect God’s messages. We cannot with any safety rely upon men who are not in close connection with God.”—The SDA Bible Commentary [E. G. White Comments], vol. 4, pp. 1146, 1147.
b. What key point must we keep in mind in this work? 1 Corinthians 14:8.
“Let the church arise and repent of her backslidings before God. Let the watchmen awake and give the trumpet a certain sound.”—Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 126.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. How far did King Manasseh plunge into the depths of wickedness?
2. Cite examples revealing the tremendous long-suffering of our Redeemer.
3. Many profess to be reformers—but what is God’s basis for true reform?
4. What is the most important task we should be actively pursuing today?
5. Name the kinds of problems that lead people astray from the truth.