A Brick in the Valley

For Unto Us a Child is Born
November 21, 2007, 7:38 pm
Filed under: Isaiah

Christmas is upon us.  How about for a change of pace this year in your Christmas Devotions you meditate on what Isaiah says about the Messiah – – See, for instance, Isaiah 9.

 If you feel a little lost getting started in Isaiah, the below material I wrote may help.The Christmas Season is here.  On 12/2/07 I will begin preaching several messages on Isaiah.

The book of Isaiah is massive (103 pages in my Bible).  In the Old Testament, it is second only to Jeremiah in words and Psalms in terms of chapters and verses.  According to my own crude calculation it is about 6.5% of the entire Bible.

We  know little about this book and are intimidated by its size.  I never feel especially capable of preaching on Isaiah.  I once read a quote from Alec Motyer.  Motyer has written two commentaries on Isaiah and lectured on the Hebrew text (meaning he is an expert in the original language) for many years.  Motyer said with Isaiah, he feels like a mouse nibbling at a very large cheese.1  Where does that leave me?

Yet, the more I study Isaiah, the more excited I become.  Isaiah is sometimes called the Romans of the Old Testament.  It is the most thorough teaching on salvation anywhere in the Old Testament.  Further, it is extremely Christ-centered.   You will be amazed how much Isaiah prophecies about the Lord Jesus Christ.  I need only remind you of a few Isaiah quotes:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (7:14).

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders.  And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty  God,  Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

Having said that, remember the purpose of prophecy wasn’t principally to predict future events.  Don’t study Isaiah expecting it to be a crystal ball which helps us understand how the terrorism of the World Trade Towers relates to the nation of Israel and the end times.  Prophets were the preachers of the Old Testament who challenged Israel to be faithful to God in their covenant relationship.  In that context, and through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, they do at times anticipate future events.  But, the purpose is always to challenge people to be faithful in following the God of Israel.

Isaiah prophesied at a time of transition for Israel and the Southern Kingdom. Prior to Isaiah, the Southern Kingdom enjoyed a period of prosperity under Uzziah.  But, now the mighty Assyrian Empire was on the rise and was a tremendous threat to Israel.  Ultimately, the Assyrians would destroy the Northern Kingdom and reduce the Southern Kingdom to servitude.  A significant part of the book of Isaiah is written in reference to two Assyrian crises: the first in circa 734 B.C. and the second 701.  The attached time-line will help you see where the book of Isaiah falls in the historical context of the Old Testament.

Personally, Isaiah lived in Jerusalem.2  He was married and his wife was a prophetess (Isa 8:3).  He had two sons whose names were Maher-shalal-hash-baz (“speedy is the prey,” 8:3) and Shear-jashub (“a remnant shall return,” 7:3).”3  He was well connected and had access to kings.  There is some speculation that he was related to the royal family but we don’t know that for certain.  Tradition holds that Isaiah’s life ended when he was sawed in half upon the order the wicked king Manasseh and that Hebrews 11:37 is a reference to him.  But, that is tradition, not Scripture.  At the end of the day, we know little of Isaiah’s life.

On the broadest terms, Isaiah can be divided into two major sections.  The first 35 chapters are written in the context of the Assyrian crisis.  Chapters 36-39 are narrative (true stories) about situations Hezekiah faced with the Assyrian crises of circa 701 B.C.  and serve as a transition to the second major section.  Chapters 40-66 anticipate the Babylonian captivity.  Here Isaiah prophesies that the Southern Kingdom will indeed be exiled.  However, he comforts God’s people that the God of Israel is still the God of history and salvation.

The following paragraph by Jensen might help you remember some of the outline of Isaiah:

An easy way to remember the broad organization of Isaiah by chapters is to note these coincidental likenesses to the entire Bible:

(a)        Isaiah has sixty-six chapters.  The Bible has sixty-six books.

(b)        Isaiah has two main divisions: the first, of thirty-nine chapters; and the second of twenty-seven chapters.  The Bible has two main parts: the Old Testament, of thirty-nine books; and the New Testament of twenty-seven books.

(c)        The prevailing note in the first division of Isaiah is judgment; in the second division, comfort.  The prevailing note of the Old Testament is Law; of the New Testament, grace.

(d)        In the first section of Isaiah, there are frequent allusions to and predictions of the Messiah; but He is described with great fullness in the second.  In the Old Testament there are frequent allusions to Christ in types and prophecies; but in the New Testament He is presented in all His fullness. (The likeness between Isaiah and the Bible which are cited here are the reasons for the book being called “The Miniature Bible.”)4

During the Christmas season I will preach five passages from Isaiah that focus directly on Christ.

Leading up to Easter, I will preach Isaiah’s four incredible Servant Songs (42:1-7, 49:1-6, 50:4-9, 53:1-12). 

Consider studying Isaiah more on your own.  It would be valuable to read the introduction and notes from a good study Bible.  Or, you might even consider ordering a book or two.  The Book of Isaiah, by Ronald F. Youngblood, published by Baker is one very readable overview.  The commentary, The Message of Isaiah by Barry G. Webb, published by IVP, is also helpful.

I trust that you will come to these sermons in prayerful anticipation of what God might do.  His truth is a sacred trust.  Pray that I would be used to proclaim His truth with the anointing of the Spirit.  Pray that your heart would be good soil for the Word.  May it be said of us that we are broken in spirit and tremble at His Word (66:2). 

                1Motyer, IVP Commentary on Isaiah, page 10.

                2Isaiah 7:3, 22:15, 28:14, 37:2.

                3Jensen’s survey of the OT, 329.

                4Quoted from, Jensen’s Survey of the Old Testament, page 331.

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Hey there…

Wasn’t what I was looking for, but good website. Thanks….

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