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Why study a book that is 2700 years old?
Isaiah’s message is filled with names and places that are difficult to pronounce. Some of his writing is as understandable as is in a foreign language.
So, why study such an old and difficult book?
Isaiah 51 explains why it is worth the time and effort to understand Isaiah’s message. Even though the words are quite old, they are very relevant to 2021.
Encouragement for Despair
Isaiah has a message for the suffering. There is a tendency for suffering people to wonder if God is active in the lives of his people.
Isaiah counseled his readers to remember Abraham and Sarah. God promised this couple that they would birth an influential nation. However, they were unable to conceive a child until a miracle from God made it happen.
Just as God’s promise to Abraham and Sarah was fulfilled, so would God’s promises to Israel take place.
Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness,
you that seek the Lord.
Look to the rock from which you were hewn,
and to the quarry from which you were dug.
Look to Abraham your father
and to Sarah who bore you;
for he was but one when I called him,
but I blessed him and made him many.
For the Lord will comfort Zion;
he will comfort all her waste places,
and will make her wilderness like Eden,
her desert like the garden of the Lord;
joy and gladness will be found in her,
thanksgiving and the voice of song. (Isaiah 51.1-3)
God’s people are described as those who “pursue righteousness” and “seek the Lord.” People who desire to do what is right and who seek a relationship with God create an atmosphere for God’s activity.
Suffering can drive us to God or push us away from him. Those who seek God and his purposes in hard times can count on his activity on their behalf.
God gave Abraham and Sarah a son. God promised the people of Isaiah’s day to comfort the people of Jerusalem.
What is God’s promise for you? If you are suffering today, are you pursuing what is right? Are you seeking a deeper relationship with God?
Prophecy and God’s Purposes
When we study the prophets, we learn about God’s purposes for his followers.
Listen to me, my people,
and give heed to me, my nation;
for a teaching will go out from me,
and my justice for a light to the peoples.
I will bring near my deliverance swiftly,
my salvation has gone out
and my arms will rule the peoples;
the coastlands wait for me,
and for my arm they hope. (Isaiah 51.4-5)
Speaking for God, the prophet declares that God’s purpose is justice, light, deliverance, and salvation.
As God rules the world, he is powerful and good enough to fairly govern all people.
When Jesus came into Galilee at the beginning of his ministry, he said: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mark 1.15).
The joyful message of our Savior was that the promised government of God was present. He challenged people to change how they thought about the world and to trust the good news of God’s kingdom.
Abraham was given a worldwide mission (Genesis 12.1-3). Isaiah pointed to God’s rule for all people (verse 5).
As we learn at the feet of Jesus and follow his direction, we will join in God’s worldwide deliverance. The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) contains the instructions for how people are to live in God’s kingdom.
Just as the Servant of the Lord had to go through suffering, so do the people who live according to the principles of God’s kingdom.
Listen to me, you who know righteousness,
you people who have my teaching in your hearts;
do not fear the reproach of others,
and do not be dismayed when they revile you.
For the moth will eat them up like a garment,
and the worm will eat them like wool;
but my deliverance will be forever,
and my salvation to all generations. (Isaiah 51.7-8)
People who learn at the feet of Jesus and who follow his direction do not always walk on “easy street.”
I told some friends the other day about two types of goals, “give up” and “move up” goals.
— A “give up” goal is something that a person plans to give up, such as alcohol or smoking.
— A “move up” goal is a higher level of life that a person aspired to attain. An example of a move-up goal is a higher level of education or a new job.
You would expect friends and family to support these kinds of goals, but often that is not the case. If you are giving up something that people want to continue to do, they may attempt to sabotage your efforts. The same is true of “move up” goals.
When people determine to live according to God’s kingdom principles, it will be resisted by some.
Prophecy is valuable because it tells us to not be dismayed when this takes place. People who refuse God won’t fare well, but those who walk with him will experience his activity on their behalf.
Thank you for joining this journey through Isaiah. Let’s thank God for giving us the ability to look into history and into the future. Let’s discover the life that Jesus died for us to have.
About This Blog
Rudy Ross and I produce a daily video of these blog articles on the Bob Spradling YouTube channel. Rudy is Jewish, a Christian, and an excellent Bible student. The videos present insights from a dialogue with the two of us.
I am indebted to Dr. John Oswalt, who has written an excellent two-volume commentary on Isaiah for insights into the Book of Isaiah.
Please email your prayer requests to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or private message me on Facebook. The Maywood Baptist Church prayer team will pray for you.