Summary: Hear the servant-Messiah speak
Isaiah 61:1,2 (Cornhill Gobbet, 9/12/03)
"Isaiah is like a miniature Bible. The first 39 chapters are filled with judgement upon immoral and idolatrous men. Judah has sinned; the surrounding nations have sinned; the whole earth has sinned. Judgement must come, for God cannot allow such blatant sin to go unpunished forever. But the final 27 chapters (like the 27 books of the NT) declare a message of hope. The Messiah is coming as a Saviour and a Sovereign to bear a cross and wear a crown.
"Isaiah’s prophetic ministry, spanning the reigns of four kings of Judah, covers at least 40 years. [His name means] ’YHWH is Salvation’ [and is] an excellent summary of the contents of the book" (NKJV Wide-margin, centre-column reference edition!).
William Dumbrell identifies the chief theme of the book to be "YHWH’s interest in and devotion to the city of Jerusalem." He is adamant that chapter 1, which is a "very thorough indictment of the failure of Israel to be the people of God and a rejection of Jerusalem, the political and cult centre", is the key to the whole book. The year is 740 BC and King Uzziah has just died. His long reign of 42 years had "marked for the south a return to Davidic and Solomonic greatness" and in the north Jeroboam II had been a forceful king, restoring the boundaries of Israel. According to J.Ridderbos, "Both Judah and Israel enjoyed a position of power such as they had not known since the splitting up of the kingdom.." But 18 years later, as Isaiah predicts in chapters 8 and 9, in 722BC the Assyrians overrun the northern capital Samaria, though the LORD goes on to predict judgement on the Assyrians too in chapter 10. In 701, the Assyrian armies reach Jerusalem and besiege it, but are destroyed by the angel of the LORD. Though his life is extended, King Hezekiah’s folly leads to the prophecy that Babylon will come and capture Judah in chapter 39, the final note to a tragic opening half of this book. The exile takes place at the end of Jeremiah’s ministry in 586 BC.
The second half of the book comforts Israel that God will send help and redeem them from Babylon, using his instrument, the Persian king Cyrus, predicted by name in chapter 45, though he wasn’t to appear until 559 BC, some two centuries after Isaiah! But the real Redeemer Israel is to be looking out for is the suffering servant of Isaiah 50-53, and this is someone who will actually bring salvation to the Gentiles too in chapters 56 and 60, and will bring a time of unprecedented blessing with a universally righteous people, dwelling in a land of eternal light and joy (60:19-21)
"The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, because the LORD has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn" (Isaiah 61:1,2).
1. Hear the Servant-Messiah speak