Isaiah is the first of the prophetic books of the Old Testament (which are simply arranged according to size). It contains many of the best-known verses, and includes some of the greatest, most poetic visions of God in the whole Bible.
However, in some ways it is not straightforward. For example, scholars have spent years debating over whether the book is the work of one man (Isaiah of Jerusalem, who wrote in the late 8th century BC) or whether it began as this man’s work but was added to by his disciples after his death. This is partly because of the sheer scope of the material which includes prophecies about things over several centuries. There are other issues too, which are not relevant for our prayer times (although if you want to read more there are plenty of commentaries to choose from!).
We shall be concentrating upon some of the best-known prophecies of Isaiah, found in chapter 40 onwards. Chapters 40-55 concern the return of the exiles from Babylon. Using various styles (or speech-forms) Isaiah assures his hearers that Yahweh can be trusted to save his people from exile. One speech-style is that of the so-called ‘Servant Songs’ (identified in our listed readings). These introduce the idea of salvation through suffering. As Christians, we have long identified this person with Jesus Christ, the Messiah, and the New Testament itself makes this connection in a few places (eg Matthew 8:17; John 12:37-40; Acts 8:26-40; 1 Peter 2:18-25).
Chapters 56-66 continue the salvation theme of 40-55 but expand this into the future, when there will be a new heaven and a new earth beyond the imagination of all Yahweh’s followers. Some of his covenant people will not be accepted into Yahweh’s community as their lives do not match up with their worship. At the same time there will also be room for foreigners!
Pray Together, April – July 2, 2020 Readings from Isaiah 40-66
|12||Tuesday||42:1-9 (vv 1-4 = the first ‘Servant Song’)|
|June 2||Tuesday||49:1-6 (the second ‘Servant Song’)|
|4||Thursday||50:4-9 (the third ‘Servant Song’)|
|11||Thursday||52:13-53:12 (the final ‘Servant Song’)|