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Relevant Bible Verses: Isaiah 59-61

Leading Question: Is Isaiah clear about salvation, or do we need the New Testament?

Isaiah 59 opens with a question about Yahweh’s ability to save. The response? “The Lord’s hand is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. Rather, your iniquities have been barriers between you and your God. . . .” The chapter continues with a strong rebuke. A succinct summary of the contents of Isaiah 59 is as follows:

Isaiah 59:1-8                Rebuke
                  9-15              Confession in the first person plural
		  15b -19         The Lord springs into action against the disobedient
		  20-21           The Lord’s enduring commitment to the faithful

Question: How close to the doctrine of “original sin” does the indictment in 1-8 come? The official study guide takes us to the New Testament. But can we find what we need to know about salvation in the Old Testament? In Isaiah? How were people saved before the death and resurrection of Christ? Is God’s commitment to his people (vs. 20-21) conditioned on obedience?

When we outline chapter 60, we find that except for one verse (60:12), it is is free from rebuke, and the one verse of rebuke is against other nations, not against Israel: “For the nation and kingdom that will not serve you shall perish; those nations shall be utterly laid waste.”

Isaiah 60:1-11              International acclaim for the restored Israel
		  12                 Obliteration of those nations who do not recognize Israel
		  13-18           Rich and enduring renewal for Israel
		  19-22           Enduring blessings for Israel

The early verses of Isaiah 61 are famous because they are quoted in Luke 4:16-19. The parallels and the omissions are significant:

Isaiah 61:1 The spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
    because the Lord has anointed me;
he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,
    to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
    and release to the prisoners;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor,
    and the day of vengeance of our God;
    to comfort all who mourn.

Luke 4:16 When he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, 17 and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
        to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives
    and recovery of sight to the blind,
        to let the oppressed go free,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

Question: What is the significance of the omission of “the day of vengeance of our God” from the New Testament passage? Since there is much less vengeance in the NT than in the OT, does that mean that God is gradually weaning the world from a commitment to violence?

The remainder of chapter 61 is a glowing account of Israel’s restored future (61:2b-11), which gives a very positive view of this these three chapters: Isaiah 59-61.

Question: Given the way that the book of Isaiah is constructed, do we see a deliberate attempt on the part of the inspired authors/editors to balance rebuke and comfort? In contrast with Isaiah 40-66 which is largely comfort, Isaiah 1-35 is largely rebuke. Given our human condition, will the need for rebuke ever completely disappear before Christ returns?

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