The Book of Isaiah
Arguably the greatest prophet of the bible, the Book of Isaiah is considered a predictive prophetic text in that many of the prophet’s predictions have actually been fulfilled. Isaiah’s description of Christ’s birth, suffering, death and resurrection read like an eyewitness account, but they were written nearly eight centuries before those events occurred. The book is also extremely cryptic and scholars have debated over the centuries what the words actually mean and who they refer to. You’d think God would make all of this easier for us, an easy-to-understand “Spirituality For Dummies.” That’s not the bible. And when the bible fails the “dummy” test, many of us simply give up on God. The way I see it, the bible should come with a disclaimer: Be Prepared To Work At It. The Holy Bible is not a book. It is a collection of many books. And the mysteries unfolding within its covers are what makes its truth both eternal and infallible.
is the writers likely did not conceive of such a thing as “the
bible” at the time they were writing it. What I mean is most of
us look at the bible as an organized text, published by Tyndale
or Zondervan or whomever, and bring with us an expectation that
the thing will be accessible and make sense. Well, yes, the
bible certainly makes sense, but it is hardly what I would call
an accessible text. It is unique in the sense that this book’s
many editors have not worked particularly toward a goal of
improving the narrative flow of the book so that it’s easier to
read and understand. These men (and now women) have worked
instead to improve the accuracy of the book’s passages, to make
it clearer and more truthful. But the seeker (that’s you and me)
has to be motivated to want to understand the book in its
entirety, to study and to pray for divine revelation.
The bible is a living document that speaks to different people in different ways. No matter how simple or how contemporary the language we put it into, the bible still requires a certain level of investigative study on our part to truly understand how all the parts fit. The main reason for this is, as I just said, the people who wrote this book did not know they were, in fact, writing a book. They were creating a record of events and truths. The Apostle Paul, for example, was writing letters to specific people dealing with specific issues under specific conditions in specific places. I believe Paul would be upset and likely furious that some dweeb put his first-century emails into the same cannon as the Holy scriptures Paul so cherished. Paul was not writing scripture, did not intend to write scripture. Other people came along and gathered these things into a single volume and called that volume “The Bible,” or, literally, “Many Books.” We, in our contemporary thinking, hold that volume and have expectations that it will read like a textbook or a novel. The bible is neither. The bible is not a book but a collection of “many books,” written over many centuries by many different authors, none of whom had any clue the thing would be sitting on your coffee table gathering dust. And this is why there are many interpretations of scripture, many in conflict with one another as we differ over what the authors actually intended to say.
No other place in the bible is this concept more true than in the book of Isaiah. Considered the greatest prophet of the bible, the Book of Isaiah is considered a predictive prophetic text in that many of the prophet’s predictions have actually been fulfilled. Isaiah’s description of Christ’s birth, suffering, death and resurrection read like an eyewitness account, but they were written nearly eight centuries before those events occurred.
Chapters 49-55 speak of “The Suffering Servant,”
whom the larger school of scholarly thought consider to be
obviously Jesus. A minority view, however, regards The Suffering
Servant as Israel itself, and the narrative seems to switch back
and forth between referring to this Servant as an individual or
as a body of people. Later, in Luke Chapter 4, Jesus
definitively claims to be the Servant of whom Isaiah was
16 When he came to the village of Nazareth, his boyhood home, he went as usual to the synagogue on the Sabbath and stood up to read the Scriptures. 17 The scroll containing the messages of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him, and he unrolled the scroll to the place where it says: 18 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, 19 and that the time of the Lord's favor has come. " 20 He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. Everyone in the synagogue stared at him intently. 21 Then he said, "This Scripture has come true today before your very eyes!" 22 All who were there spoke well of him and were amazed by the gracious words that fell from his lips. "How can this be?" they asked. "Isn't this Joseph's son?" 23 Then he said, "Probably you will quote me that proverb, 'Physician, heal yourself' — meaning, 'Why don't you do miracles here in your hometown like those you did in Capernaum?' 24 But the truth is, no prophet is accepted in his own hometown.”
“Who has believed our report?’ Isaiah asks at the top of Chapter 53. His prophecy of the Suffering Servant seemed outrageous, just as Jesus’ claims to actually be that servant may have seemed preposterous, especially in his home town. Familiarity, the saying goes, breeds contempt. This is never truer than among Church Folk, most whom show enormous respect to visiting pastors or evangelists—complete strangers—while routinely overlooking and dismissing God’s man, God’s servant, standing right in their midst. If Church Folk actually know you, they usually have no respect for you. Church Folk spend tens of thousands of dollars flying complete strangers in to audition for the pastorate, while overlooking the faithful, the anointed, right in their midst.
We typically consider the story of Calvary from the Gospels. But we can learn a great deal more from the disorganized jumble of rambling texts from the bible’s greatest prophetic voice.
This week, read Isaiah Chapters 6, 25, 40 and 49-53, and acquaint yourself with one of the most powerful voices in the bible and the Suffering Servant Whom God ordained to redeem us all back to Himself.