I've begun studying Isaiah over break. Its one of those books of the bible that we hear in passing all the time, as so many prophecies come from it, but most people have never really read it. Well, I have actually really read it before, but I've never really studied it. So I figured, what the heck, let's do it.
Anyways, my current thoughts on Isaiah, both from prior readings and my current study, are this:
Isaiah is a book that centers around two things: Comfort and Punishment. I feel like Isaiah himself would call it blessings and woes or forgiveness and justice.
It seems that the theme of the book is summed up in Chapter 1: 18-20. (The commentary I bought says just verse 18, but there's far too much woe to be only the good...)
"Come now, let us settle the matter," says the LORD.
"Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.
If you are willing and obedient,
you will eat the good things of the land;
but if you resist and rebel,
you will be devoured by the sword."
For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.
Just like all the other prophets, Isaiah says "obey the Lord's commands, like he told you too. Its best for you, really!" And follows it with, "and if you don't follow God's commands, you're going to get what you want, which isn't God and results in a lot of things you really don't want."
It's funny though, that all of this is manifested through Jesus, a constant figure in Isaiah (though shrouded in some mystery here...). He is the comforter, the forgiver, and the savior that the book continually addresses.
Yet he is also fully the lord who promises to take all of Judah and Jerusalem's food, water, leaders, and skills (chp 3:1-2) and the one who "lifts a banner for the distant nations" to come (to Israel/Judah) and "like young lions growl and seize their prey and carry it off with no one to rescue."
But the passage I like most so far is this:
In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel. Those whoa are left in Zion, who remain in Jerusalem, will be called holy, all who are recorded among the living in Jerusalem.
The Lord will wash away the filth of the Women of Zion; he will cleanse the bloodstains from Jerusalem by a spirit of judgement and a spirt of fire.
Then the Lord will create over all of Mount Zion and over those who assemble there a cloud of smoke by day and a glow of flaming fire by night; over all the glory will be a canopy.
It will be a shelter and shade form the head of the day, and a refuge and hiding place form the storm and rain."
After Israel goes through a whole bunch of rotten stuff, the dedicated few left in the kingdom will be cleansed and purified. And the glory of God will surround them, and there will be a canopy of protection around this select remnant. Pretty cool.
Its just a picture of the future kingdom that I haven't seen in a long time. A very physical one.
The question then becomes can this promise of a physical kingdom be generalized to the ingrafted branches of Israel? (Romans 11:11-24) (which includes this guy...)
I'm going to go with yes.
A final thought: It often seems that scripture and the christian life is so simple in principle, but so difficult in action.
Basically, I feel like the only thing I have been taught (by scripture, sermons, life, etc,) recently is obey God's commands and be blessed, abandon them and get what you want (which actually sucks.).
That doesn't make it easy.