Wow, have we covered a lot of sometimes confusing things! More names and places we struggle to pronounce and sometimes it has been hard to discern exactly who is speaking and to whom. I have often wished for a red letter version of Isaiah so I know who is speaking. As I have said before,Isaiah is considered by many to be the fifth gospel because he has so many references to Jesus. We have seen prophecies that are long and familiar and then there are times when there is simply a verse or two that may have caught you off guard regarding Jesus . Much of what we will read in the prophets we have seen from a different perspective in the books of Kings, Samuel, and Chronicles. Now we are seeing them from the prophets perspective and not so much the historians who recorded the actual events. The Book of Isaiah has also been referred to as a Bible in miniature. Allow me to explain. There are 66 chapters in Isaiah and 66 books in the Bible. Isaiah is divided into two sections, the first containing 39 chapters and the second 27. There are 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 in the New. The stress in the first 39 chapters of Isaiah focus on God’s righteousness, holiness, and justice, just like the 39 books of the Old Testament. The last 27 books of Isaiah focus on God’s glory, compassion and grace, just like the focus in the New Testament. The Old Testament depicts humanity’s need for salvation as do the first 39 chapters of Isaiah. The New Testament describes God’s plan of salvation in the Messiah and the last 27 chapters of Isaiah predict God’s future provision of salvation in the suffering servant…the Messiah. The primary message of the Book of Isaiah is that a holy God will gain glory by judging sin and restoring His people. The overarching message of the Bible is that a holy God will gain glory by judging sin and saving those who call on the name of His Son Jesus. It is always amazing to me how God works.
As I have done before on free days, here are some additional things to think about. Fear is part of the lives of God’s people and we see that clearly in Isaiah. King Ahaz trembled with great fear when he heard that Syria and the northern kingdom of Israel had allied against him…the southern kingdom of Judah. The Lord encouraged him to be a man of faith, because without faith he could not expect the Lord’s protection. But Ahaz refused to trust the Lord. Instead, he turned to the Assyrians for help. As a result, the Lord became a trap for him, as well as for Israel and Judah, instead of a source of safety and protection. God can be a stumbling stone or block for those who look elsewhere for peace and security. One of the purposes of Isaiah’s prophecy was to highlight the contrast between faith and fear. We see Ahaz as an example of fear. But then Hezekiah comes to power and in him we see faith, even though it is imperfect faith. But there comes a point (42:1-7, 50:4-7) when God’s servant stands as the ideal example of faith. When we combine the fear or worship of the Lord with the worship of human beings, institutions, or idols, it is called syncretism. Syncretism is a deceptive trap. Isaiah presents the Lord as the incomparable one who does not tolerate syncretism. Those who do not commit themselves wholly to God will live in fear of others. Ultimately they will live lives filled with dread.
The prophet Isaiah saw that mere humans prove untrustworthy and that the Lord alone is holy and to be feared. The prophet led his family and disciples to wait for and hope in the Lord alone.(8:16-17). Isaiah’s trust in the Lord represents the spirit of the new community. God’s children come out of Israel, Judah, and the Gentile nations. They live in awe of the Lord and are not afraid, knowing that the Lord will be with them. They respond in praise because they trust in Him. The faithful might feel the effects of God’s judgement on His enemies as they await the Lord’s salvation. But they find new strength day by day. (40:31). They see themselves as citizens of God’s city, Zion, even while living with with contemporaries who do not believe as they do. In all of this, Isaiah anticipates the coming servant, the Messiah. Isaiah knows that the lifestyle of trusting the Lord brings true and lasting inner peace.
One of the themes of Isaiah’s ministry is the vision of the remnant. The remnant will be part of the new order. The desolation of all things would bring an end to one era, while the salvation of the remnant opens up the new world. The remnant theme was already realized during the prophet Isaiah’s lifetime. By the time Jerusalem was spared from the Assyrians in 701 B.C. There was a small remnant from both Israel and Judah. This confirmed the symbolic meaning of Isaiah’s son’s name; Shear-jashub. His name means, a remnant will return. A century later, when the Lord judged His Old Testament people with destruction at the hands of the Babylonians, He saved a small community, the remnant, to be the core of a new beginning. Because the population of Israel and Judah had been decimated, it was a very small beginning. This new beginning is described as a branch (4:2), a stump (6:13), a community of the poor and needy (25:4), and handpicked grain (27:12-13). This remnant put their trust in the Lord while waiting for Him to establish His rule and come to reward them. The Lord promised that this small community would swell into a huge multitude that comes out of both Israel and the Gentile nations. (27:6, 60:3).
The Holy One of Israel is one of the key phrases in the Book of Isaiah. The Holy One is king (6:5), the righteous and just one (26:7), the incomparable God (40:25), and the redeemer of His people (41:14). Anyone coming to Him must worship Him in reverence and awe. The Holy One identifies Himself with Mount Zion, called holy because it is symbolic of His dwelling place. The Holy One stands apart from all of His creation because He is morally perfect. Sinful people cannot dwell with Him. God’s holiness requires purity and moral perfection. God is a consuming fire who purges away anything that does not conform to His holy will. The Holy One sets aside a remnant for Himself. He washes away their filth and commits to be present with them, His own redeemed people. The good news is that the Holy One is also the redeemer. He demonstrates His Holy power as He comes to the aid of sinful and weak humans, rescues them from the exile that sin creates, and opens up the new creation for them.
Isaiah writes and prophecies about how God saves sinners. This is not only in Isaiah’s day, but ours. But God asks that we trust Him, have faith in Him, and make Him the center of our lives. He is mighty to save. He is slow to anger and abounding with steadfast love. He also demands that we worship Him and Him alone. No other God has the power, might, or sovereignty that our God does. We have witnessed His power countless times already in our reading but as we read the prophets, it is as though God is saying…you ain’t seen nothing yet! All of this points directly to the coming of Jesus Christ; His ministry, teaching, healing , preaching, and ultimately dying on a cross and rising victorious over the powers of sin, death, and evil. And even though we read the New Testament accounts of Jesus and what He did, God can still say…you ain’t seen nothing yet!
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W