The book of Judges documents a dismal pattern of apostasy, oppression, repentance, and restoration in ancient Israel. But these times of crisis were not unique to the period of the judges (about 1373 to 1043 BC). The two greatest crises Israel faced happened centuries later. These were the exile to Assyria in 722 BC and the destruction of Jerusalem and exile at the hands of the Babylonians in 586 BC.
Back to the Future
The prophet Isaiah lived through the Assyrian crisis, having begun his prophetic ministry in about 740 BC in Jerusalem. He foresaw the coming oppression by Babylon as a time when the land of Israel would be largely emptied of its people (lesson 1). Even so, he offered hope for a future time when “the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones” (Isaiah 49:13, lesson 2). This was a promise to the faithful of Israel, for “those who hope in me will not be disappointed” (49:23, lesson 3).
Isaiah also saw a future that would involve more than a restoration of peace. He spoke of the final restoration of humanity, when “[the Lord] will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the Lord” (Isaiah 51:3, lesson 4). As the passing of some seven centuries would reveal, that restoration would come through Jesus the Christ, the Son of the living God.
Grace and Truth
The Gospel of John pictures the ministry of Jesus as more than his journey to the cross. Jesus came as a light to the world, one that shines brightly for “grace and truth” (John 1:14, lesson 5). John sees this as one key to humanity’s return to the state God intended at the beginning.
Grace and truth are evident in Jesus’ miracles. One example is the healing of the official’s son (lesson 6) when Jesus’ statement of truth (John 4:48) was immediately followed by his gracious act of healing. Jesus came not to judge the world, but he told the truth of judgment to come nevertheless (12:44–50, lesson 7). Another powerful example of the grace and truth combination is the resurrection of Lazarus (11:17–27, 38–44, lesson 8). The Holy Spirit Jesus promised to send is “the Spirit of truth” (14:17, lesson 9).
The Future That Awaits
This quarter’s lessons climax with John’s vision of the New Jerusalem in the book of Revelation. This vision presents the Holy City restored, but much more than that. It is enhanced to a glorious degree (lesson 10). The New Jerusalem has features historical Jerusalem never imagined! Gold, precious gems, and pearls are used as building materials. A life-giving river flows within, and the tree of life reappears, the tree lost in Eden (lesson 11). This fulfills Isaiah’s vision, that the desert would become like the garden of the Lord.
There is more to this than restoration though. Now the tree has leaves that cause “the healing of the nations” (Revelation 22:2, lesson 12). The new city restores the gardenlike paradise of Genesis. It also signifies the end of international conflict, for believers from all nations will be reconciled.
This will not be a restoration project that returns to some cherished “normal” of the past. The cycle of apostasy/crisis/repentance/restoration will never return. This is the truth of a new creation, and John desires that “the grace of the Lord Jesus” be with us as we await the promise to become reality (Revelation 22:21, lesson 13). It is our hope for the future as we wait expectantly for the return of the Lord.
Mark S. Krause, “Quarter at a Glance,” in The NIV Standard Lesson Commentary, 2021–2022, ed. Jane Ann Kenney et al., vol. 28, The NIV Standard Lesson Commentary (Colorado Springs, CO: Standard Publishing, 2022), 339.