The Start of an Isaiah Study

I had kind of an odd work schedule last week which left me with very little time for Bible study on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, but a Wednesday and Friday to arrange as I pleased. I spent most of Wednesday morning reading through Isaiah 40 to 66 (the end of the book) and taking note of themes that keep popping up. This last section of the book is an extended dialog where God reveals His plans for ancient Israel’s immediate future, for the Messiah’s coming, and for events that are still in our futures today.

I love passages from this section of Isaiah, but this is the first time I’ve sat down and read all the way through in one setting to get the full context. Usually, I spread reading this many chapters out over several days, or jump around within them when studying a topic. Though that’s my usual study plan, I feel like I’ve been building up to this more in-depth study for a while now. Back in January, I read Isaiah 40-45 when talking about how God uses the word “name” in Isaiah 43. Just last month, we were in Isaiah 63 to talk about the Lord as a warrior. I also quoted verses from the last half of Isaiah in “What Does ‘I Lift Up My Soul’ Mean?” and “Cultivating Lives of Peace and Joy.”

My most recent study of Isaiah began earlier this month when I started a daily scripture writing program about trust (similar to the ones I have posted at this link). One of the verses on that list was Isaiah 50:10, and for some reason it didn’t seem familiar even though I’m pretty sure I’d read this very passage recently. As I flipped back looking for a good starting point to read for context, I realized I had to go back all the way to Chapter 40 to find the beginning and I’d need to go all the way to 66 to find the end. Now seemed a good time to take a closer look at that whole section.

Image of a woman writing in a notebook, with text from Isaiah 50:10, WEB version: "Who among you fears Yahweh and obeys the voice of his servant? He who walks in darkness and has no light, let him trust in Yahweh’s name, and rely on his God."
Image by Corey David Robinson from Lightstock

Key Themes For Study

In addition to providing context for the verse in Isiah 50 that caught my eye last week, reading this whole section of Isaiah also gives us context for the famous Servant Song prophecies about the Messiah. These prophecies pointing to Jesus Christ are found in Isaiah 42:1–9; 49:1–13; 50:4-11; 52:13– 53:12. As I read the final 27 chapters of the book, though, I realized the Servant Songs aren’t the only Messianic prophecies here. Also, God’s words in this section of scripture aren’t just for people who were looking forward to Jesus’s first coming. They’re also for us awaiting His second coming.

Following a conversation Isaiah has with King Hezekiah in chapter 39, the Book of Isaiah shifts from a blend of history and prophecy to a poetic, passionate message from God. Chapter 40 begins with God’s call, “Comfort, comfort my people.” Here, we learn about the voice of one who will cry out, “Prepare the way of Yahweh in the wilderness! Make a level highway in the desert for our God” (Is. 40:1-3, WEB). If you’ve got a good memory, you might recognize this phrase from the New Testament as well; every gospel identifies John the Baptist as the voice making the way ready for Jesus’s coming as Messiah (Matt. 3:1-3; Mark 1:1-4; Luke 3:1-4; John 1:19-23). The Messianic themes in these chapters start well before the more famous Servant Songs.

There’s a lot going on in these chapters, as you might suppose when we’re looking at such a large chunk of scripture. Even just a short summary of key themes is quite a long list. This isn’t even every topic covered in this section of scripture; just the ones that stood out to me most:

  • God is motivated by justice
  • God as a husband
  • God as a warrior
  • God as a potter, with us as His clay
  • God’s defense of His reputation and His power to achieve all He’s promised
  • God is incomparable and sovereign; idol worship is foolish
  • Redemption, deliverance, salvation, restoration
  • Calling a Servant to redeem God’s servants
  • Covenant faithfulness; God never abandons His people
  • Sins push God away from us and we need to own-up to that
  • Prosperity for the righteous; no prosperity for the wicked
  • The importance of obedience and Sabbath keeping
  • Joy in relationship with God
  • Reminders to “fear not!”
  • God is doing/making something new

Reflections

Image of a woman studying the Bible, with the blog's title text and the words "Isaiah 40 to 66 is an extended dialog where God reveals plans and desires that are just as relevant for us today as they 
were for the original audience."
Image by MarrCreative from Lightstock

We don’t have time to cover all these themes in today’s post, and I haven’t had time to dig-deep into any of them yet. I plan to keep coming back to this list quite a bit over the next few weeks; I won’t need to worry about finding new blog post ideas for a while! For the rest of today’s post, I’m just going to share some of my reflections and take-aways from reading this whole section of scripture. In future posts, we’ll dive deeper into some of the specific topics.

As I read these chapters, I was struck by how much emotion God shows. He’s passionately engaged with His people. He talks about His anger with them when they turned away from Him; abandoning their relationship with the Sovereign Lord to bow down to a block of carved wood. He fights to rescue them as a fervent warrior and calls for them to return to Him as a husband who desires His wife. He even says at the end that He finds joy and happiness in His people.

God’s feelings about idolatry take up huge parts of this section of Isaiah. Reading it all together, I was surprised how often God came back to this topic. It seems to boggle His mind. Look at who He has shown Himself to be and all that He’s done for this nation in the past. Yet they turn from Him and bow down to images they made themselves? Even just with a little common sense they should be able to figure out that the wood they cook their food over doesn’t turn into a god just because they carved it into a shape. Over and over God and Isaiah come back to this point, challenging their readers to think about what they’re doing. If only they would realize who and what God is, they’d know they could never replace Him.

I’m looking forward to continuing this study over the next few weeks. If this post inspires you to take another look at this part of Isaiah, then you’re welcome to join me. If you do, I’d love to hear what you find in your study. You can leave comments on the posts or send me an email. I always think it’s fascinating how God can reveal different insights to people about the same passage of scripture since we each approach study with different perspectives and interests.

Posts in This Series:

Isaiah Study 1: God is Incomparable and Irreplaceable

Isaiah Study 2: Joy in the Sabbath Covenant With God

Isaiah Study 3: Looking Toward the Messiah

Isaiah Study 4: Doing A New Thing

Isaiah Study 5: The Contrast Between Righteousness and Wickedness

Isaiah Study 6: The Lord’s Desire for Justice

Isaiah Study 7: Are We Ever Abandoned By God?

Featured image by Inbetween from Lightstock

One thought on “The Start of an Isaiah Study

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.