Friday, January 6, 2017

How to Read Isaiah Plus the Prophets... and Stay Sane! 7 Must-Know Principles.

Among the prophets of the Old Testament, Isaiah may be in a league of his own. But what you’re about to see in Isaiah as a man and his book (today's reading in the Better Part Challenge; Isaiah 1 - 5), is actually a common thread within all the prophets and the books of the Bible named after them. Here are 7 very important points to consider:

1) They were under law.

They lived in a world where to receive anything you did not deserve broke the laws of nature! Hence the judgment.

2) They were the first to move away from the wastelands of law and into the promised land of grace.

They could see that a relationship with God wasn’t at all about sacrifices and rituals, incense and ceremony. Yahowa, who created the colorful plumes of the birds and the majestic cedars and the strongest mountains and powerful waves – how could such a creative artist of a God be so… rigid and narrow?

They knew because of divine help that these were but a shadow of the eternal. Imagine how blasphemous to say the Lord “does not delight in the blood of bulls”! Or that “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool”! And according to the law, that stuff was out right wrong.

You see, this was a mercy and grace so extreme that even Christians of today struggle to grasp them. But then again God wasn’t too much into the law as a rule book. It was His tool for something far deeper and the prophets were leading the people by saying such things.

3) They were therefore rather conflicted as men.

Neither able to grasp the law in it’s fullness nor able to advance in the grace that they could see only from a distance. That is why it can be very unnerving to read these Scriptures. And also dangerous for us today. Many people misuse these words and because they are some of the Bible’s least read passages, all the more dangerous in those devoid of Christ’s Spirit and their blind followers.

4) They were mostly concerned about national sins against God.

We’re not talking about a sinful thought here and a little bit of a harsh word there, getting upset at so and so and telling a lie about how you really feel or even skipping church for, God forbid, seven Sundays in a row.

We’re talking social justice! In this sense, these prophets were also way ahead of their time. Today’s version of these prophets at a national but not spiritual level would be those who fight for the rights of the oppressed, who work to help the refugees and homeless and seek to alleviate poverty. We’re talking about those who work to safeguard the environment and nature because it is entrusted to us to care for it, about those who work to strengthen the economy and help lower income families and the disabled and about those who defend the vulnerable and hurt, the invisible victims of abuse of all kinds that are all around us. (see Isaiah 1:16,17)

5) They were close to kings.

Not that they flattered them as friends but they spoke the truth bluntly about their heart and state of affairs (ancient Israel saw no distinction between the two). In other words, they served as advisors, the voice of conscience and God alike to their kings, often scoffing at their pomp and misplaced pride.

6) They made very accurate prophecies about nations – but not always in chronological order.

Archaeology has confirmed numerous times that the musings of these prophets wasn’t mere anger-driven poetry nor was it off the cuff generalizations (there are plenty of books on those issues). The thing to remember too is that they often jump into various points of the future and not necessarily in chronological order. A glimpse of heaven might be followed by a tale of an incoming invasion, followed by hope in restoration, and then a word about the Messiah! Business as usual for these guys.

7) They reveal Jesus very powerfully and originally.

Some of the most pivotal revelations about Jesus and His purpose and ministry come from Isaiah and other prophets. They weren’t just echoing the New Testament, they also enriched it greatly. That’s why it’s so important to read these books – they’re so full of personal blessings as well as earth-shaking truths! Now you’re ready to dig in and I truly hope you enjoy it!

David Roiel

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