Guests: Alden Thompson and Zdravko Stefanovic
Read: Isaiah 59-62
Background Considerations Salvation and deliverance in the Old Testament typically carry the more everyday ideas of rescue or deliverance from pests, storms, enemies, drought, etc., as well as the more theologically significant notion of forgiveness for iniquity and escape from the punishment for sin. This gave a much more earthly feel and therefore direct daily contact with God and his role in their lives.
In the theological context, the vocabulary for sin is extensive and intense, outstripped only by the vocabulary for forgiveness and restoration. “Sin” refers to actions which fall short. “Iniquity” connotes both the commission of acts which are wrong and the omission of acts which are right and just. It also includes the idea of guilt and punishment. “Transgression” suggests rebellion and revolt. But the extremely wide ranging use of terms and metaphors for God’s forgiveness overshadows everything else with God’s grace: erasing, covering over, washing, beating (a rug) clean, lifting and carrying away, transporting from east to west, dumping into the ocean, etc.
A final note of background. We have in these chapters a sense of mission to the world. This idea grows slowly in the Old Testament, even if through Abraham all nations would be blessed. Most relationships with others in the Old Testament were confrontational. But by the time after the exile a missionary impulse grew in surprising ways, expressed with clarity in this section of Isaiah.
Relevant Biblical Passages
- Reread quickly Isaiah 56-66 this week.
- Isaiah 59 – Two major points here: what causes separation from God and how we are to relate with those around us. God’s will to show gracious actions is blocked only by human sin. And that sin the prophet draws into sharp focus throughout the chapter with references to truth and justice. Why such intense focus on justice and fairness in this chapter? In other parts of Isaiah? In the prophets in general? In the laws of the Old Testament? In the life and practice of Jesus? In the epistles of the New Testament?
- Isaiah 60 – Chapters 60-62 contain some of the most enthusiastic support for sharing the glory of God with others. And, as with most of the Old Testament, we see an evangelism implosion. Rather than exploding out with witness, the Old Testament envisions the people and nations around us coming to us for what they see of God in us. Zechariah 8:20-23 is the best expression for this model of evangelism. What might this mean in the modern world for our witness? And what are we to make of reversed expectations within the book of Isaiah – chapters 13-23, the speeches against foreign nations blasted the nations, but here the nations become part of the saved community of believers. What has happened in the interim (of a short time or of two centuries, depending on one’s view of the authorship of this section of the book)? Isaiah 56 is instructive as well in terms of the new role of foreigners, even as ministers in the temple.
- Isaiah 61 – Again the place of justice and fair treatment of the oppressed comes to the front, this time in the context of an anointed mission to serve others. What is the role of foreigners here? What metaphors for salvation does the prophet employ? How did Jesus utilize the words of the first part of this chapter?
- Isaiah 62 – This chapter is concerned with vindication in the eyes of surrounding peoples and takes special pains to give new names to Judah and Jerusalem. What did these names suggest? What metaphors come into the service of the prophet’s message?
Contributions to the study of Isaiah We certainly have to consider the shift in focus on the nations from confrontation to cooperation, from antagonism to appeal and attraction, from an exclusive perspective to an inclusive one. How did this come about in Isaiah? What can we learn from the change?
Lessons for Life Are there principles and methods of reaching out to others that we can appropriate from Isaiah 60-62? Helping the marginalized? Accepting those not like us?