A Few Excerpts Concerning Isaiah

RIDDERBOS: Among the Jews living at the time of Jesus,the picture of the messenger of peace in Isaiah remained alive. The mebasser will come, the messianic time will start. It is not always said who this messenger is. But with his coming the malkuth shalmaim (the kingdom of heaven) will begin.
Thus the roots of Jesus' use of the word "gospel" are discovered. Even if the Rabbinical places were to be eliminated, it would still be evident that Jesus identifies himself with the messenger of joy of Isaiah. For the above mentioned words: "the poor have the good news preached to them" are not only a quotation from Isaiah 61:1, but also in his initial proclomation of the gospel, according to Luke, Jesus explicitly states that the prophecy of the messenger of joy of Isaiah 61 is fulfilled now while he is addressing his hearers. This messenger has been annointed with the Holy Spirit, and has been sent to preach the gospel to the poor (Luke 4:21). Against this Old Testament back ground we should interpret the original meaning of the expression "the gospel of the kingdom of heaven." And it follows that in this preaching of the gospel as it echoes in the ears of Jesus' audience, the kingdom of heaven has become a present reality: the mebasser, the bringer of the good news to the poor, has appeared; the great moment of salvation has begun (p.72).
Ridderbos, Herman. "The Coming of the Kingdom" P&R publishing, 1962.


An Outline

Here is a link to an outline and which includes a few interesting notes. http://www.wrs.edu/Materials_for_Web_Site/Courses/OT_Prophetic_Literature/Ch_5b-Isaiah_2.pdf
We could print this outline and use it to stimulate our discussion of passages we are concentrating on.


"Righteous Nation"

Chapters 20-27 of Isaiah seem to speak of the failure of trusting in the powers of this age and the deliverance of the people who wait on the Lord.

"So it will happen in that day," is a phrase repeated here (Isaiah 24:21, 27:1) and refers to that which will be accomplished through the messiah. Jesus will be "a defense for the needy" and a "refuge from the storm" of maltreatment which "the ruthless" will pour on them (Isa. 25:3-5).

In Isaiah 25: 6-8 we hear of God's plan to prepare a rich banquet for those who wait on Him. finally in 26:2 we hear the instruction that the gates of the city of God should be opened that the "righteous nation" (or "legitimate," see "legitimacy" article linked below)may enter. I would think this is a reference to the righteous or legitimate nation that Jesus speaks of in the parable of the land owner and the vineyard workers (Matt. 21:33-45) in which Jesus told those who laid claim to the title "Israel" that the Kingdom of God would be taken away from them and be given to a nation producing the fruit of that Kingdom. So How can we, the readers of Isaiah be that "righteous nation?" By being of a kind with the true Jew, the true son of God, Jesus Christ.

looking forward to the "lavish banquet,"
Jeff Miller


Who is the ultimate "decider?"

Who is the ultimate "decider?"
I am borrowing a word from President George Bush to ask a real question. Who is the ultimate decision maker or judge? Isaiah gives the answer from God's perspective. Jesus is the decider.

Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. The Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, And He will not judge by what His eyes see, Nor make a decision by what His ears hear; But with righteousness He will judge the poor, And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked.
(Isaiah 11:1-4)

"A throne will even be established in lovingkindness, And a judge will sit on it in faithfulness in the tent of David; Moreover, he will seek justice And be prompt in righteousness(Isaiah 16:5)."

And notice that the word "judge" is used not merely in the sense of finding someone guilty but in the sense of "bringing a decision in favor of someone."
Hence the difference between the King James translation and the New American Standard Version in translating Isaiah 1:17 and 1:23. In one we are offered "judge the fatherless" and in the other we have "defend the orphan." The phrase may also be translated "decide for the orphan."

With this in mind I believe there will be some orphans, some widows, some poor, some needy, who will be glad Jesus is the "decider."

Like a Good Movie

There are five children in my household. Jodi and I like to watch movies together with the kids. They have been known to ask a few questions while the movie is playing. "Why did He say that?" "Who are the good guys?" "What is going to Happen?" "Why did she do that?" With movies some things are meant to unfold as you go. Some things are meant to develop and become more clear as the work proceeds. The viewers will miss out on the progression if they are stopped with every question that might be asked. Similarly, a shallow but complete reading of Isaiah may actually improve our depth perception of all it's parts. I just finished reading it and I am enjoying having the whole thing just sort of work on me. And I am actually feeling a bit motivated to run back through it hopefully with a better feel for what I may have missed.



Reading Isaiah: To interpret literally or figuratively, that may not be the Question

Actually, we can gain a great deal from Isaiah without determining whether each verse is to be interpreted "literally" or "figuratively." Those categories may not even be very well defined in our own minds. To hear of "non-literal fulfillment of Isaianic prophecy in the life of Jesus," might carry a negative connotation for some. Figurative, or non-literal, sounds too much like "non-real" or "not-actual" fulfillment.

One of my presuppositions is that the word "prophecy" as used in scripture means as much about "forth telling" as it does about "foretelling."
"Forth telling" would be more about God setting forth the truth for a more accurate view of reality to those who will listen. Whereas "foretelling" would be more about a sign that God is able to "predict" specific events.

The more we are fixed on the "foretelling" aspect of prophecy the less comfortable we may be with much of the figurative expression which the prophets use to richly "forth tell" a true view of past ,present, and future reality.

God is the one who truly and absolutely both foretells and forth tells. The predictive element of foretelling is meant to be a sign pointing us along to the truth about reality that God is "forth telling." So that the most important emphasis in reading a book like Isaiah should be upon it's effective portrayal of the truth as God has purposed to exhibit it.

Consider the sense in which this prophetic passage either was, or was not, fulfilled in the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ.

Then Jesus *said to them, "You will all fall away because of Me this night, for it is written, 'I WILL STRIKE DOWN THE SHEPHERD, AND THE SHEEP OF THE FLOCK SHALL BE SCATTERED(Matthew 26:31 from Zechariah 13:7).'

Notice that we do not generally think that Jesus must come back a second time as a literal shepherd, with literal sheep, in order for this passage to be truly fulfilled.

Was the passage fulfilled literally? No. Jesus was a traveling Rabbi, we have no reason to think that he was ever a literal Shepherd with literal sheep.

But was this passage fulfilled? Absolutely. And we find ourselves desiring to say, "it was literally fulfilled," because our habit of mind is such that we recognize its figurative fulfilment as its absolute fulfilment. And the truth of Zechariah is confirmed not only in a single, literally fulfilled, passage but also in the whole richly expressed message of what God will accomplish; especially that which God will accomplish through the Gospel.

Even when a specific fulfilment stands out to us because of a literally predictive element, shouldn't our greater appreciation be in the truth the sign points to? For example, in Matthew 21 we find this passage:

[Jesus]saying to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. "If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord has need of them,' and immediately he will send them." This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: "SAY TO THE DAUGHTER OF ZION, 'BEHOLD YOUR KING IS COMING TO YOU, GENTLE, AND MOUNTED ON A DONKEY, EVEN ON A COLT, THE FOAL OF A BEAST OF BURDEN.'" The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats(Matthew 21:2-7 from Zechariah 9:9).

Now this specific-predictive fulfillment is certainly an attention getting sign about Jesus the Messiah. But part of its purpose is to point us to the whole of what Jesus Christ's life and ministry fulfilled? The prophet has more broadly portrayed the truth and widespread effect of Christ's work.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; And the bow of war will be cut off. And He will speak peace to the nations; And His dominion will be from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth(Zechariah 9:9-10).

Why did Jesus come to Jerusalem in humility on a donkey? As a sign that his work of gentleness and submission conquers that which could not be conquered by proud and violent horsemen. And so He "cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem." He "cut off the bow of war" from His people and spoke peace to the Gentiles.

Well, anyway, I hope you will enjoy your reading of Isaiah with a growing appreciation for the glorious way in which God brings it to fulfillment.



Help while reading Isaiah.

Hey, while you are reading it, have you noticed Isaiah is kinda long? It is the third longest book in the Bible after Psalms and Jeremiah. Yet, there are few things as rewarding as drinking in this book. So, if you could benefit from some audio assistance to keep you moving along here is a website where you can download a free mp3 of Isaiah in either the King James Version or the World English Translation. www.audiotreasure.com


physical, spiritual, or faithful Israel?

As we read Isaiah some of us are wondering about the title "Israel" and the other names that would be given to the people of God. Who are they? To whom does the title "sons of god" belong?

I do not think an ecclesiastical organization from "Christendom" has replaced Israel as the recipient of the promises. Yet, Jesus is certainly the true vine. And if Iam reading Isaiah rightly, He is Israel, to whom we must be united if we are to bear fruit pleasing to God.

So does the title "the chosen people of God" refer to all who trace their lineage back to Jacob? Or are we to understand the faithful remnant as those Jews who embrace the annointed one, Jesus?
Are we to understand references to the future blessings for the people of God as referring to a strictly physical Israel, a strictly "spiritual" Israel, or something else?
Interestingly, the term "salvation" has meaning first to Israel and then extends to the Nations. But what is the salvation of Israel and how will this salvation extend to the Nations?
In reading Isaiah, the answer to these questions will not merely be set before our minds, rather our hearts will be saturated with God's answer.
Then we will read the New Testament more aware of how the N.T. witnesses understood the prophets like Isaiah?
We will stand back and consider how the whole thought set forth in the epistle to the Romans, for example, maybe an explanation of "the salvation of Israel" spoken of in Isaiah???

Paul said; "For I am not ashamed of the announcement, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Romans1:16)."

"There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Romans 2:9-10)."

"For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God (Romans 2:28-29)."

"For all who are being led by the spirit of God, these are the sons of God(Rom.8:14)."

"For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God (Rom.8:18,19)."

"But it is not as though the word of God has failed, for they are not all Israel that are descended of Israel;..(Rom.9:6)."

So is it "physical" verses "spiritual," or is it really about faith and the faithful God who has a faithful people...The jew first and also the gentile.

Perhaps the New Testament is more concerned with answering the interpretive question "Who are the people of Abraham's God?" than what we have recognized. So that even in Romans, Paul communicates something of how we, disciples of Jesus the Messiah, might rightly read the prophet Isaiah.

If this is the right understanding then maybe the modern question of whether "gentile Christianity" is counting the Jews out, should be re-cast. A question that asks whether the God of the faithful Jew is counting us (gentiles) in, may be more appropriate.


Isaiah, A reader's note-

Have you heard the question, "Why do bad things happen to good people?" If we were to answer it from Isaiah we would have to say the "bad events" coming upon both jew and gentile are a part of God's purpose to set his Name apart as very special, rather than very common. In not loving God with all heart, soul, mind, and strength, men profane the name of God. They make it as common as dirt, as inconsequential as the names of Idols. But the God of Abraham is no impotent figurehead. He is no sleeping idol, nor a man that his purpose should be overthrown by another. Thus, the anouncement, "Behold My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and highly exalted," is about the vindication of God, then the salvation of Israel, and then the joining of the nations to his servant Israel in true worship.