Learning to Relish Isaiah
Isaiah challenges us, but we can learn to relish this prophecy. Here’s why and how to glean much from the prophet Jesus quoted frequently.
This blog is based on our scheduled reading through July 31: The book of Isaiah (suggested “chunks” Isaiah 1-27; 28-39; 40-66)
“Summertime and the livin’ is easy” goes the old song. I have found it easy to get out of my regular reading and writing routine. If you are following my “through the Bible Book by Book in 2018” schedule you will have noticed that our reading in July allows three weeks for the book of Isaiah. I hope you find this helpful as Isaiah is both an important and a challenging book.
Why Isaiah is challenging and important
Isaiah’s importance shines through the New Testament writers who frequently quoted him. Along with the Psalms, Isaiah’s words often flow from the lips of our Lord Jesus Christ and the pen of the Apostle Paul. Isaiah gives us new information about the then-coming Messiah introducing us to the “suffering servant.” He goes like a lamb to the slaughter, bears the sins of many and “make[s] many to be accounted righteous” (53:6,11-12). In Isaiah, we get an unparalleled glimpse of the holiness of God through the prophet’s eyes and vision. Truly, Isaiah takes us to the heights and depths of the knowledge of God showing us the urgency and costliness of our salvation through Him.
But Isaiah is a challenging book for modern readers. It is lengthy and it does not have a chronological narrative thread we can easily follow. Some may have difficulty wading through the many indictments and judgments which God pronounces on the nations and on His own people.
Reading in smaller chunks
You’ll find help in reading this and other challenging books of the Bible in Ryken’s Bible Handbook where the authors encourage us to read Isaiah in small sections so we are “free to relish the individual units” in the text. These individual units include such passages as chapters 6 (Isaiah’s vision of God), and the servant songs in Chapters 42,49, 50, 53. We find many individual verses to memorize and quote.
Here are some of the verses in Isaiah that I have relished for many years.
Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. Isaiah 1:18 (ESV)
And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” Isaiah 6:5 (ESV)
He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:29-31(ESV)
God is with us
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 (ESV)
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. Isaiah 43:2 (ESV)
The Suffering Servant’s Sacrifice
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. Isaiah 53:5-7 (ESV)
Thus says the Lord: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool; what is the house that you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest? 2 All these things my hand has made, and so all these things came to be, declares the Lord. But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word. Isaiah 66:1-2 (ESV)
Isaiah abounds in God’s promises to His people: to cleanse us from sin, to make us to be accounted righteous, to give us power in our weakness, and to accompany us in the fires and floods of life. This prophet gives us some of the most soaring descriptions of the majesty of God (chapter 40). Isaiah calls us to seek Him while reminding us that as the heavens are higher than the earth so are His thoughts and ways higher than ours (55:6-9).
Should we not humble ourselves before this great God who is holy but who also sends His suffering Servant to bear our sins, to bring us peace, and to heal our souls? Indeed we should do that and worship Him in truth. Learning to relish Isaiah will help us.
Readings for the week of August 5: 1 & 2 Timothy; Psalms 46-66