Isaiah Podcast

Interpreting Isaiah

In this poetic Old Testament “gospel”, Isaiah wrestles with the foundational themes of righteousness, sin, grace, holiness and redemption. Though grounded in the present reality of Judah, Isaiah proclaims future good news of a divine man who will reign as king, suffer as a servant, and do battle as an anointed conqueror. In this series, Bible teacher Michael Brent introduces listeners to the structure and thought of Isaiah. The section divisions used here come from Alec Motyer, “The Prophecy of Isaiah” (InterVarsity Press, 1998).

The Book of the King (Isaiah 1-39)
1. Historical Context

Isaiah 1:1 makes a claim to authorship and historical context for the book of Isaiah. In this episode we argue the validity of that claim as an introduction to the series.

2. Interpreting Biblical Poetry

In Isaiah 1:2-9, Isaiah diagnoses Judah’s spiritual condition. We will take time during this first passage to consider three approaches to observing biblical poetry.

3. Covenant Lawsuit Prophecy

In Isaiah 1:10-31, Isaiah performs the role of a covenant lawsuit prophet as he continues to diagnosis the spiritual condition of Judah from both a religious and social perspective.

4. Sin and Election

In Isaiah 2-4, Isaiah continues his diagnosis of Judah developing the idea of sin and election by moving from ideal Jerusalem to actual Jerusalem to present Jerusalem.

5. Sin and Grace

In Isaiah 5, Isaiah concludes the initial diagnosis and prognosis of Judah raising the question, “What is the right response to a people who have taken for granted and abused the gracious gifts of God?”

6. Vision, Call and Mission

In Isaiah 6, Isaiah experiences the vision of God that becomes the foundation for his lifelong ministry. His call and mission both follow after that vision.

7. The Word to Judah I

In Isaiah 7:1-8:8, we consider a moment of decision set before Ahaz King of Judah and a sign from God that affirms the truthfulness of His words. The sign in this case is a baby born to a virgin.

8. The Word to Judah II

In Isaiah 8:9-9:7, Isaiah moves from his prophecy of judgment on Judah to identification of a remnant and a glorious hope.  The great light of glorious hope will arise in Galilee. He will be born a human child whose name is somehow also Mighty God!

9. The Word to Israel

In Isaiah 9:8-12:6, Isaiah proclaims a word to Israel that further develops the four themes in his word to Judah, moment of decision, judgment, remnant and glorious hope. We end with an epilogue of praise in 12:1-6.

10. The First Cycle of Oracles

In Isaiah 13-20, Isaiah begins a new section addressing God’s rule over a universal kingdom. This first cycle of five oracles to the nations shows God to be sovereign over all nations both in his just punishment of self-sufficient pride and in his faithful provision for a believing remnant.

11. The Second Cycle of Oracles

In Isaiah 21-23, Isaiah continues addressing God’s rule over a universal kingdom in a second cycle of oracles to the nations in which he describes the failure of self-sufficiency to meet human need through the depiction of a toppled empire and the rippling effects on smaller nations.

12. The Third Cycle - Two Cities

In Isaiah 24-27, Isaiah presents a third cycle of passages that look far into the future to a final day where the city of man stands in stark contrast against the city of God and the faithful are exhorted to endure through to glory.

13. A Simple Message for Halls of Power

The move from Isaiah 27 to Isaiah 28 is a transition between major sections. In this lesson we briefly summarize 5 principles of faith from the Universal Kingdom section, chapters 13-27, and then move into the first woe of the Lord of History section, chapters 28-37. In chapter 28, employing powerful imagery (fading garlands, ripe …

14. Historical Deliverance and Spiritual Transformation

In Isaiah 29, we address the 2nd and 3rd woes of the Lord of History section, chapters 28-37. In this larger section, Isaiah reminds the people of God’s deliverance during a national crisis, so that they might believe God is at work in the present and trust that God will fulfill his promises for the …

15. Security Not Found in Human Alliances

In Isaiah 30, Isaiah begins and ends with the human perspective of Judah’s alliance with Egypt and the looming invasion by Assyria. In the middle of the chapter, he gives us two divine perspectives, calling Judah’s leaders to turn back to God and trust him to be their security.

16. The Stability of Your Times

In Isaiah 31-35, we complete the six woes that rebuke Judah for turning away from God in troubled times to find help in Egypt. Isaiah continues to call his listeners back to God our King who is the source of stability in present times and our sure hope for the future.

17. Historical Background

In this lesson we consider historical sources of Sennacherib’s invasion of Judah to help us better interpret the narrative in Isaiah 36-39.

18. Lord of History

In Isaiah 36-37 Isaiah reminds Judah that God truly is the Lord of History through the example of Sennacherib’s inability to capture Jerusalem.

19. Hezekiah’s Fateful Choice

In Isaiah 38-39 Isaiah creates a bridge between the Book of the King and the Book of the Servant with a reminder that even good human kings do not persevere in faithfulness.

The Book of the Servant (Isaiah 40-55)
20. The Consolation of Zion

In Isaiah 40:1-11 God calls for heralds to proclaim his word of comfort for Israel. That word is provided by three voices, each adding to the message of consolation. Before getting into the text, we first introduce the Book of the Servant, chapters 40-55, by addressing Isaiah’s development of the Messiah and righteousness themes.

21. The Creator God – The Ground of Comfort

In Isaiah 40:12-31 Isaiah extols the character of the Creator God as the ground of the hope proclaimed in 40:1-11. We can find comfort in the hope of God’s glory, word and arm when we see God as he truly is.

22. Three Pictures of Consolation

In Isaiah 41:1-20, Isaiah concludes the initial consolation of Israel, with a powerful, compact description of God as sovereign over world events and with three descriptive pictures of the transformation he will bring about when Israel’s exile is complete.

23. Consolation of the Gentiles

In Isaiah 41:21-42:17, Isaiah offers consolation for the Gentiles by exposing the idol-gods of the nations, prophesying God’s remedy in a future servant, and responding with a new song. Isaiah’s description of an ideal servant in 42:1-4 constitutes our first of four servant songs in the Book of the Servant.

24. Release from Bondage

In Isaiah 42:18-43:21, we address the first half of our second major section in the Book of the Servant – the Redemption of Israel. Israel is going to need national redemption from exile in Babylon. God is going to do this. God’s people are to give witness.

25. Forgiveness of Sins

In Isaiah 43:22-44:23, we address the second half of our second major section in the Book of the Servant – the Redemption of Israel. The people of God need spiritual redemption from their own sin nature. Only God can meet our deepest needs. Pagan idol-gods, both ancient and modern, are empty fictions of our own …

26. The Cyrus Prophecy and Historical Background

In Isaiah 44:24-45:8, we consider the historical background and meaning of one of the most specific and unlikely prophecies of Scripture that a king named Cyrus would deliver the Jewish exiles from Babylon.

27. God’s Plan for Obstinate Israel 1

In Isaiah 45:9-25, Israel pushes back against God’s plan to raise up Cyrus, a Gentile Messiah. God responds with a rebuke and an affirmation that Israel will still play a central role in the formation of a world wide people. We will see significant connection between Isaiah 45 and Paul’s letter to the Romans.

28. God’s Plan for Obstinate Israel 2

In Isaiah 46:1-13, Isaiah concludes his description of Israel’s obstinacy in regard to God’s plan to use Cyrus. But first we continue our consideration of how Isaiah 45 influenced Paul’s letter to the Romans in regard to the three themes of questioning God’s plan, the righteousness of God, and the salvation of all Israel.

29. Babylon Conquered

In Isaiah 47:1-15, Isaiah looks ahead to the fulfillment of the Cyrus prophecy with the fall of Babylon. Isaiah’s vision looks beyond the specific, historic fall of Babylon to a spiritual reality that runs through human history from the tower of Babel in Genesis 11 to John’s depiction in Revelation 18.

30. Israel Delivered

In Isaiah 48:1-22, Isaiah completes his description of Babylon’s fall and Israel’s deliverance. God perseveres in faithfulness to his chosen people, but a dark chord is struck in the joyful song of rescue. A great deliverance from the external oppressor Babylon does not solve the internal problem of the human heart.

31. The Second Servant Song

In Isaiah 49:1-50:30, Isaiah begins the final section in the Book of the Servant with the second of four servant songs. God’s servant is a select arrow, hidden in the Lord’s quiver, to be aimed, drawn and released at the appropriate time, not only to restore Israel, but as a light for the nations that …

32. The Third Servant Song

In Isaiah 50:4-52:12, the third servant song provides a model of faithful resilience. Isaiah exhorts Israel to listen, wake up and walk with God according to that model.

33. The Fourth Servant Song

In Isaiah 52:13-53:12, we arrive at the heart of the Book of the Servant. The fourth servant song proclaims the long awaited “how” of spiritual deliverance. How does our holy God justly forgive sinful people?

34. Interpretations of the Fourth Servant Song

The fourth servant song in Isaiah 52:13-53:12 provides an incredible example of Old Testament prophecy about Jesus Christ. In this episode, we consider how critical historians have interpreted this text, how Jewish scholars have interpreted this text, and how New Testament writers have interpreted this text.

35. Respond to the Servant’s Triumph

In Isaiah 54 and 55, we are exhorted by the prophet to respond to the astounding work of the servant described in Isaiah 53. Shout! Cry aloud! Come! Seek! The table of grace has been set. You have been invited. Enter into the everlasting covenant of peace.

The Book of the Conqueror (Isaiah 56-66)
36. World People, Sabbath People, Praying People

In Isaiah 56:1-8, we introduce the Book of the Conqueror, chapters 56-66, asking a critical interpretive question, overviewing this book’s structure, and considering in its first 8 verses the inclusion of eunuchs and foreigners into covenant community with God.

37. Two Parties in Judah

In Isaiah 56:9-57:21, we shift from the ideal of God’s people depicted in 56:1-8 to the actual reality of God’s people. This gives us an opportunity to ask the critical interpretive question, “Who is Isaiah’s primary audience?” Who were the people of God he was talking to and what were they like?

38. A True Fast – Desiring God and Loving People

In Isaiah 58, the prophet calls out religious hypocrisy. As the paganism of chapter 57 represents the progressive idolatry of the left, the human-centered religiosity of chapter 58 represents the conservative idolatry of the right. In this lesson we raise our third big picture interpretation question, “How does the gospel of Jesus Christ help me …

39. The Conqueror Comes

In Isaiah 59, the prophet first condemns the wickedness of his society and then includes himself in with all the rest as he confesses, “our sins testify against us…we know our iniquities.” Seeing no man to intercede, the Lord arms himself to bring justice and salvation. But who is this divine conqueror who comes to …

40. The Coming Glory

In Isaiah 60, the glory of God shines out from Zion as a glorious city on a hill. Many peoples respond to that light bringing gifts of tribute to the Holy One of Israel, tribute including frankincense and gold. How does this vision of Zion relate to the church? Is this our mission to build …

41. The Favorable Year of the Lord

In Isaiah 61:1-9 God pours out his Spirit, anointing a chosen servant to proclaim good news to the afflicted. That good news transforms God’s people. 700 years later Jesus stood up in a synagogue, read the first two verses of this passage, sat down and declared, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

42. Four Songs of the Conqueror

In Isaiah 61:10-63:6, we encounter two further songs of a mysterious figure committed to the establishment of an ideal society for God’s people. In the first song he comes dressed as a groom for a wedding. In the second song he comes dressed as a champion for battle.

43. Lament and Response

In Isaiah 63:7-65:16, we move from the triumphant vision of glorious Zion to the struggle of holding onto the promise of that glorious future in the painful present. A human watcher cries out to God in a theological rich lament. God challenges the watcher to accept a more accurate perspective of what he is doing.

44. New Heavens and New Earth

In Isaiah 65:17-66:17, God’s response to the watcher’s lament reaches a climax with the promise of a recreation. God will create the heavens and earth anew as an eternal dwelling place for his chosen ones. Who are the chosen ones? Who are these servants of God that dwell with him forever?

45. A Sign Among the Nations

In Isaiah 66:18-24, the end of Isaiah speaks of the end of this age. God sets a sign among his people. And he sends survivors out to the ends of the earth. They raise the sign as a standard. It is time to gather in the nations, time for every knee to bow and every …