Sabbatical 2017

Sabbatical 2017
Thames River, London

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Canonical Reading Plan for Jul 28, Isa 1-4


Today’s readings are Isa 1-4.
Isaiah is a large book with a number of themes. However, the overarching theme is about God and the redemption of His people through purifying judgment. If this is not kept in mind, the book will seem to ramble off in different directions.

Here’s one way to approach the narrative flow of the book.
Chs 1-39 concern the king
Chs 40-55 concern the Servant
Chs 56-66 concern the conqueror

This structure, while pertinent to Judah’s immediate situation is also prophetic. It tells of a king who will become a servant, then a conqueror. Some of the elements of the storyline apply to Israel as a nation. But limiting the narrative to Israel misses the point. Isaiah’s place in the biblical story arc is to lay the groundwork for the coming Messiah who will arrive as a king, humble Himself on the cross as a servant, then rise again as a conqueror over sin and death.

Isaiah was sent to prophesy to Judah between about 740 BC and 700 BC, during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah.

His message to God’s people is that they have broken His covenant with them. The consequences would be severe. They will be taken captive by hostile nations. But, in the end, God will judge the nations that oppress His people and deliver Judah back to the land He promised them. 
Here's the world situation during Isaiah's time. Assyria, after a short time of weakness and contractions, is once again expanding rapidly. They have taken Northern Israel captive, and Samaria will soon fall.


Isa 1 brings a God-authored ultimatum and warning. Assyrian has attacked but not conquered Judah. Jerusalem has been miraculously delivered. Still, they refused to turn back to God. God delivers His ultimatum, either they turn back and obey Him, or they will be destroyed. 
God is not interested in their rituals and practices however holy they may seem unless the heart of the people is for God, Judah’s heart is not for God. Therefore, their worship and the practice of the religion is empty and meaningless. 

Isa 2 first depicts Jerusalem as it will one day be, the focal point of God's kingdom of peace (Isa 2:1-5). Before that day, the Lord will rain judgment down on them if they continue to ally themselves with ungodly nations, accumulate wealth and weapons and worship idols. Judah's people, instead of trusting in God, are trusting in other men, their possessions, their own power and other gods.

Isa 3 holds the leaders responsible for the spiritual welfare and state of the people. The leaders are arrogant and oppressive. The wealthy are prospering at the expense of the poor. The well-to-do women are prime examples of the problem.

Isa 4 reveals that the judgment coming to Judah will be fierce and terrifying.  Despite this, this harsh judgment is intended to purify, not destroy. There would be a remnant that will arise from the debris and become a holy nation. There are echoes of the Messiah in here, but they're not clear enough and strong enough that the Jews of Isaiah's time would have embraced these early chapters as a Messianic prophecy.

The warnings are dire. But in them and in the promises that are embedded in these chapters, we see that God will do whatever is necessary to purge His people of sin and ungodly behavior.

Reading the first few chapters with God as the focus, it soon becomes clear that Isaiah is all about a holy God conforming His people to His standards of holiness. 

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