11 Feb The Big Book–Cover to Cover: Isaiah
Michael introduces the Major Prophets and teaches an overview on the book of Isaiah.
Today in our The Big Book –Cover to Cover, we transition into the Prophetic books, with Isaiah the 1st of 5 major prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel followed by the 12 minor
Isaiah is perhaps one of the most loved and, in a way, important prophets of the Old Testament.
Prior to the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls there was great controversy around the book of Isaiah because it’s such a beautiful Biblical Hebrew piece. Some argued it must have had multiple authors or been written across multiple timestamps, but the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls demonstrated a unity in Isaiah as well as a dating much earlier than liberal scholarship had proposed.
It’s the oldest manuscript we have. The Dead Sea Scrolls copy of Isaiah is a thousand years older than the oldest manuscript we had, but proved to be word for word accurate with our standard Hebrew Bible upon their discovery in 1947 with very slight variation (around 5%, mostly attributed to misspellings and slips of the pen). (1.)
This discovery also ultimately offered strong evidence that the entire canonized Old Testament that we have today was completed by 450 B.C. The Greek Translation of the Old Testament – the Septuagint – is dated to about 250 years B.C.
Into the Books of the Major Prophets
Many things come to mind when we hear or say ‘prophet.’
In the OT they’re also called seers, watchmen, men of God, messengers, and servants of the Lord.
The term ‘prophet’ is found over 300 times and refers to one called or appointed by God to proclaim a specific message.
We should, therefore, think of a prophet as one who speaks for God rather than one who foretells some future event.
Prophets speak of things that are, at one level, in the time or context of the message – but that often also have a future fulfillment.
Distinguish: Foretelling (some specific future occurrence) v. forthtelling (proclaiming a message from God to His chosen people and even surrounding nations).
We can summarize the prophetic message of Isaiah in two points:
- condemnation because of the sin of man
- consolation because of God’s Grace (2.)
“Isaiah analyzes the sins of Judah and pronounces God’s judgment on the nation. He broadens his scope to include judgment on the surrounding nations and moves to universal judgment followed by blessing. After a historical parenthesis concerning King Hezekiah, Isaiah consoles the people with a message of future salvation and restoration. Yahweh is the sovereign Savior who will rescue His people.” (3.)
“Isaiah, the “Mount Everest of Hebrew prophecy,” resembles the Bible in miniature. Its 1st 39 chapters correspond to the 39 books of the Old Testament and stress the righteousness, holiness, and justice of God.
The prophet announces judgment upon immoral and idolatrous people beginning why Judah, then Judah’s neighboring nations, and finally the whole world. Surely there is cause to groan under God’s chastening hand.
But the last 27 chapters correspond to the 27 books of the New Testament and portray God’s glory, compassion, and undeserved favor. Messiah will come as a Savior to bear a cross and as a Sovereign to wear a crown. Therefore, “‘Comfort, yes comfort My people!’ says your God'” (Isaiah 40:1) (4.)
I’m not a guy that’s gonna fall on my sword for numbers, but a lot of scholars pick up on what Wilkinson and Boa observe in this text, and it’s certainly interesting.
Gleason Archer writes “What Beethoven is in the realm of music, what Shakespeare is in the realm of literature, what Spurgeon was among the Victorian preachers, that is Isaiah among the prophets. As a writer he transcends all his prophet compeers; and it is fitting that the matchless contribution from his pen should stand as leader to the seventeen prophetical books.” (5.)
The Message of Isaiah
It’s not good news when Isaiah comes on the scene. It’s a warning, a caution. This text outlines the judgment of a nation and things will never again be the same in their lifetime.
Allen Ross notes:
“There must be a supernatural basis for ministry, or we shall not endure the suffering, opposition discouragement, and hardship that follows. Paul kept focus on eternal things, heavenly and spiritual things, the eternal weight of glory. Most of us cling to the here-and-now much more than the there-and-then. “
This is not a comforting book in the way we would want comfort. It offers true comfort, but that comfort comes much later, indeed for some of us, we may only find it when we cross the threshold of this life to eternal life.
For now, the comfort must rest in the spiritual knowledge of Jesus, with Him, in Him, following Him at His word no matter what worldly circumstance comes our way.
This nation is going to be judged horrifically for her sin, but ultimately God provides a solution.
The complete message of the gospel reckons with our sin.
God’s comfort is otherworldly. It’s in the person Jesus Christ.
- Isaiah is quoted more times in the New Testament than all other prophets combined.
- Another way we could dissect the text is to look at phrases: “In that day…” over and over again
- We could focus on Messianic prophecies, the anticipation of the promised coming Savior. Isaiah 7:14, Isaiah 9:6-7
In some ways, this book is insurmountable.
Isaiah is a fitting study during the Advent season. 700+ years before Christ is born of Mary, this prophecy is made:
- He is born a child (Isaiah 7, 8, 9)
- He will rule over God’s people and the government will be under His power as King
- He alone is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, and Prince of Peace. A note: Wonderful Counselor: the word means God’s plans; the Lord’s counsel is forever vs. nations who devise evil counsel. Additionally, in Isaiah 11:2, the Spirit of the Lord rests on Him i.e., the Holy Spirt of God will rest on Christ, of wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength, knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
- He will be on the eternal Davidic throne, fulfilling 2 Samuel 7:13
- God’s zeal will accomplish this. It will not be man’s efforts, it will be His jealous character, His eternal love, His spiritual justice.
The suffering servant: Isaiah 53:1-12
“Stop and think about that. God is saying that He is testing you in the furnace of affliction for His own sake (and He says it twice, as if to reinforce the idea). So, what does He mean? In ways beyond our ability to understand, God has His own great name at stake in your suffering. ” – Joni Earekson Tada
The way you respond to suffering isn’t just for your benefit. Isaiah tells us there’s something bigger going on here – God’s great name is on the line.
When He tests us in the furnace of affliction, He has in mind to make Himself look good through the way you respond and continue to trust Him.
The way we respond to suffering reflects what we believe about God, and in our suffering God gives us an opportunity to speak well of His name.
Remember, you can honor, bless, and celebrate His name here on earth because He is with you in the furnace of your affliction.
Distraction from our pain can’t be sustained, the pain remains.
What can be sustained? Trusting, hoping, and believing in Him even when it’s hard.
- Gleason Archer,A Survey of Old Testament Introduction(Chicago, IL.: Moody Press, 1985), p. 25.
- Adapted from Bruce Wilkinson and Kenneth Boa, Talk Thru the Bible(Nashville: T. Nelson, 1983), 186.
- Wilkinson and Boa, 187.
- Wilkinson and Boa, 189.
- Walter C. KaiserJr., Toward an Old Testament Theology, pp. 204-5. 2019 Edition Dr. Constable’s Notes on Isaiah, p.11.