Tag Archives: Isaiah

Review: The Book of Isaiah and God’s Kingdom (NSBT)

In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.

Isaiah 6.1-5

Unlike Jeremiah and Ezekiel, why does God not show up in a grand display until Isaiah 6? What does this say about Isaiah’s historical setting? Its literary placement? What does it tell us about God’s kingship, his kingdom, and his people?

As the fifth longest book in the OT, and having been written by an Israelite almost 3,000 years ago, it might be redundant to say that Isaiah is a difficult book to read. The way a book is organized is just as important as what a book says, but for most of us—Isaiah is just too long, and it’s difficult to get a grasp on the entire story and on each section.

Layout

Andrew Abernethy, Assistant Professor of Old Testament at Wheaton College, while not refraining from the historical details of Isaiah, focuses on the final literary form to show the reader what the book of Isaiah teaches us today. In doing so, he gives a thematic-theological approach to Isaiah’s varied portraits of God as King in each of the three sections of Isaiah (1–39, 40–55, 56–66), with each of those sections incorporating different aspects of God.

In Chapter 1, he is seen in poetry, narrative, and prose. He is the God who judges (Is 6; 24) and the one who saves (25; 33; 36–37). The book of Isaiah bears a message of judgment and hope from the beginning (1–6) to the end (66). Isaiah 1–12 focuses on how God will judge Israel and Judah through Assyria, while “Isaiah 24–27 looks to an eschatological time when the heavenly king establishes his rule in Zion” (31). In Isaiah 33, God’s reign has implications for his people: they can gaze on the beauty of their Lord and be protected from their enemies. Isaiah 36–37 present a snapshot of the unrivaled King who stands against the mighty Assyrian army. This is the unrivaled king of all ages who is more than able able to stand against all mighty armies.

Chapters 2–3 present God as a saving warring, international, and compassionate King. In Isaiah 40–55 Israel has been led out into the wilderness (40.1), which “symbolizes Zion’s desolation” (57). The “good news” is that God will be the great shepherd King who carries his people close to him in his bosom (40.11).

Chapter 3 covers Isaiah 56–66, represented in by a chiasm. Zion’s glory is the centerpiece of that chiasm (E), and it can only be understood in light of Yahweh’s coming as the warrior king (D/D’) who sees the injustice in Israel and will come to take action. Because of his just and righteous actions, the nations will flock to him and give gifts to him, and he will show compassion on all of his people.

In Chapter 4, Abernethy points us to the “lead agents” in each of the three sections, though he is not certain that these agents (of Yahweh) are understood to be the same individual. “Instead of forcing all of these lead agents into one mould, it is better to allow the uniqueness of each figure to emerge” (120). He examines the Davidic ruler (1–39), the Servant(s) of the Lord (40–55), and God’s messenger (56–66). This does not mean Abernethy doesn’t find these figures fulfilled in Jesus. He says, “The claim here does not undermine the New Testament’s application of all three of Isaiah’s figures to Jesus; instead, it displays the grandeur of Jesus and the surprise of recognizing how one person, Jesus Christ, can take on the role of all three figures, while also being the very God of these agent figures” (169). If Isaiah didn’t express these three figures as being one figure, this helps explain the Second Temple period’s emphasis on the coming Davidic Messiah, their lack of emphasis on a suffering servant, and the Pharisees confusion over Jesus.

Chapter 5 seeks to answer to questions, “Where is God’s kingdom? And, who are the people of God’s kingdom? . . . God’s kingdom is ‘placed,’ if you will, with people in the midst of it” (171). In this reality, God rules the entire cosmos, but he will also rule from Zion. God’s people are a purified, redeemed, obedient, just, national and international community which trusts God.

After each section in each chapter, Abernethy gives a summary and some canonical reflections of the content. The canonical reflections always look forward to Jesus, which is especially helpful when it comes to preaching and teaching through the book of Isaiah. Abernethy draws our eyes from the King who sits above the heavens in Isaiah to Yahweh in the flesh, who preached the kingdom of God, lived the kingdom of God, and was the Davidic king who suffered and died for the people of God. He created the world, commands destinies, and builds his temple brick by brick, person by person. He is the servant king whose glory Isaiah saw (Jn 12.41; Isa 6). 

Recommended?

There is so much more that could be said about these five chapters, and even more to be said about God’s kingship in Isaiah. He is the ruling, judging, warrior, loving, compassionate, caring, shepherd King who is watching out for his people, who will return and care for them, and will dine with them on his great mountain (Is 25.6–8; Rev 21.1–5). Abernethy’s book is recommended for all sorts, especially pastors and teachers. Be warned, this is not light reading. Abernethy’s work is mighty detailed and is best read with your Bible open and a pen in your hand (unless you don’t want to remember pivotal details). Abernethy has written an excellent resource on grasping on of the main themes of Isaiah (if not the main theme), and even provides two preaching outlines in an appendix at the end. You would be well-served in reading this book. Highly recommended.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Andrew T. Abernethy
  • Series: New Studies in Biblical Theology
  • Paperback: 250 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (November 19, 2016)

Buy it from IVP Academic or Amazon!

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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When Jerusalem Becomes Like the Nations, Part 2

1

“The Day of the Lord” by George Martin

I’ve been listening to more of Rikk Watts’ lectures, this time on the NT use of the OT. Here he argues that the main connection between the two testaments (or “covenants”) is God’s faithful character. Before I put out my review, I wanted to write up a summary of one of the texts he looks at in his lectures. This is on the use of Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4 in Matthew 24:29. I will be splitting this into two parts, with Isaiah 34.4 being examined next time.

The Use of Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4 in Matthew 24:29

Isaiah 13:10

For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light.

Isaiah 34:4

All the host of heaven shall rot away, and the skies roll up like a scroll. All their host shall fall, as leaves fall from the vine, like leaves falling from the fig tree.

Matthew 24:29

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Outline

Part 1

  • NT Context
  • Isaiah 13:10 in Context
  • Isaiah 13:10 in Judaism

Part 2

  • Isaiah 34:4 in Context
  • Isaiah 34:4 in Judaism
  • Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4 in Matthew 24:29
  • Theological Use

It should be noted that I have summarized Watts’ words and have at points touched up the grammar (since these are notes were for class use). Rather than giving endless quotation marks, just know that this is all from Watts, and if something doesn’t make sense, that blame rests on me.

Having looked at the use of Isaiah 13:10 in Matthew 24:29 in my last post, now we’ll look at what Dr. Watts has to say about Jesus’ use of Isaiah 34:4 in the same verse.

Isaiah 34:4 in Context

Isaiah 34:4 belongs to the larger section of Isaiah 28–35. In Isa 28–33, woes are brought against Assyria for their earlier attack on Jerusalem. Isa 34–35 forms a bridge between the divine judgment on the nations’ arrogance in Isa 13-23 and the new exodus return from exile which dominates the second half of the book.

Isaiah 34:1–4 summons the nations to God’s court to hear the sentence of their coming dreadful slaughter (epitomized in Edom’s fate). Verse 4 portrays the cosmic scale of that destruction through the description of heavenly disintegration as the stars rot away and the skies roll up like shrunken parchment.

The carnage moves to earth where the remainder of the oracle presents the disturbing image of Yahweh’s blood-soaked sword slaughtering Edom’s leaders and people in an unparalleled glut of sacrifice (vv. 5–7), rendering it like Sodom (vv. 9–10), an eternal pre-creation chaos (vv. 10–11, 17), depopulated and inherited only by wild animals.

As in Isaiah 13–14, this leads to a vision of Israel’s salvation where Yahweh leads his once blind, deaf, mute, and lame, but now healed people in glorious procession through a new creational blossoming desert to Zion (Isa 35).

Isaiah 34:4 in Judaism

Isa 34:4 is applied to several significant events: the replacement of the old creation with the new, the resurrection citing Hos 6:2, and the eschatological judgment of the wicked. Edom, blamed in 1 Esdras 4:45 for the burning of the Temple during the Babylonian invasion, later becomes a standard reference to Rome in some of the rabbinical literature.

Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4 in Matthew

The prophetic symbolism indicates the significance of the event. The cosmic language is consistent with the widely held Jewish belief that the Temple stood at the centre of creation. As early as Amos, cosmic chaos was seen to be the consequence of Israel’s not keeping Torah.

Jesus’ sharply criticized Israel’s leadership for failing to keep God’s instructions. Consistent with Jewish tradition of Isaiah 13, Jesus’ allusion would suggest that this event is of the same order as the Fall, the destruction of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea, the interference with the Temple’s rebuilding, and the end of days. The world as it was is coming to an end.

What’s more shocking is that these images were normally applied to two of Israel’s enemies, Edom and Babylon, nations which epitomized idolatrous and arrogant hostility toward God. But for Jesus, Israel’s “Antiochan” (Dan 12) leadership hijacked God’s vineyard and perverted Jerusalem’s role (e.g. Isa 2:2-5; Ezek 5:5). They transformed it into an Edom-like traitor and a Babylon-like world-city which sought to challenge God’s sovereignty. Both of these nations participated in the Temple’s previous destruction, and Israel had become just like them. And so, Jerusalem itself comes under a similar judgment.

However, in both instances God’s judgment was closely connected with Israel’s new exodus redemption. Isaiah 13–14 anticipates the inclusion of aliens (14:1; cf. Isa 56:7 in Matt 21:13). Isa 34–35’s combination of vineyard imagery and the return in Yahweh’s train of the newly healed blind one’s to Zion is echoed in Jesus’ vineyard parable (Matt 21:33-46) and the healing of the blind (20:29–34; 21:14).

Theological Use

By seeking to resist God’s work in Jesus and by betraying him to the Romans, the hostile Jerusalem has joined the arrogant and idolatrous cities of the world.

Since God’s character is unchanging, Jerusalem’s fate will be no different from all other idolatrous, tyrannical cities. Its demise marks God’s eschatological cosmic intervention against “the earth” and the beginning of the new creation with a newly restored temple-people with whom he will dwell constituting its new center.


Clearly there’s a lot going on here, but as we can see, Jesus knew his Bible, and while Israel had the Old Testament, many of them clearly did not know it well enough to be changed by it. Because of their desire for their own righteousness apart from Christ’s, and because of their desire to put to death God’s own Son, which they succeeded in, Jesus declares that they will be left desolate. And they were. Rome came in and sacked them. These were real people, with real families, real schools, and real economies. And they lost it all because they rejected the Christ, the Son of God.

Rikk Watts’ lectured at Regent College. You can check out his lectures here!

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When Jerusalem Becomes Like the Nations, Part 1

“The Day of the Lord” by George Martin

I’ve been listening to more of Rikk Watts’ lectures, this time on the NT use of the OT. Here he argues that the main connection between the two testaments (or “covenants”) is God’s faithful character. Before I put out my review, I wanted to write up a summary of one of the texts he looks at in his lectures. This is on the use of Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4 in Matthew 24:29. I will be splitting this into two parts, with Isaiah 34.4 being examined next time.

The Use of Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4 in Matthew 24:29

Isaiah 13:10

For the stars of the heavens and their constellations will not give their light; the sun will be dark at its rising, and the moon will not shed its light.

Isaiah 34:4

All the host of heaven shall rot away, and the skies roll up like a scroll. All their host shall fall, as leaves fall from the vine, like leaves falling from the fig tree.

Matthew 24:29

Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Outline

Part 1

  • NT Context
  • Isaiah 13:10 in Context
  • Isaiah 13:10 in Judaism

Part 2

  • Isaiah 34:4 in Context
  • Isaiah 34:4 in Judaism
  • Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4 in Matthew 24:29
  • Theological Use

It should be noted that I have summarized Watts’ words and have at points touched up the grammar (since these are notes were for class use). Rather than giving endless quotation marks, just know that this is all from Watts, and if something doesn’t make sense, that blame rests on me.

NT Context: Matthew’s Structure

According to Watts, Matthew is a combination of elements of Mark’s telling of Isaiah’s new exodus in Christ (mighty deeds, opposition, journey, Jerusalem) and additions which Matthew uses to tell his own (equally true) story.

  • Opening Genealogy and “Birth” Narrative (ch. 1–2)
  • Sermon of the Mount: Blessings (chs. 5–7)
    • Mission (ch. 10)
      • Parables and Division (ch. 13) 
    • The Congregation (ch. 18)
  • Teaching in the Temple and Beyond : Curses (chs. 23–25)
    ww[see my post on chiasms]

Matthew 24:29 lies within a final block of curses and warnings At the end of the curses in Matthew 23, Jesus declares:

  • Behold, your house is left to you desolate” (v. 38).
  • “You will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord’” (v. 39; cf. 21:9, 14–17).

In Matthew 24 Jesus gives the “Olivet discourse” and tells about Jerusalem’s destruction. After the disciples ask Jesus a question about the temple and about his return, Jesus responds by warning against deceivers and false signs (vv. 4–8) and exhorting them to stand firm in proclaiming the gospel (vv. 9–14) and to watch for the sign of the abomination of desolation (vv. 15–28). Jesus proclaims Jerusalem’s destruction and the coming of the Son of Man (vv. 29–31), gives a lesson for “this generation” from the fig tree (vv. 32–35), and exhorts the disciples to be watchful because the exact time of his return is unknown (vv. 36–44).

When Jesus comes to the destruction of the Temple, he weaves multiple allusions from Israel’s Scriptures (e.g. Ezek 32:7; Joel 2:10, 31; 3:15; Amos 8:9). The critical allusions are from Isaiah 13:10 and 34:4 (in the LXX).

Isaiah 13:10 in Context

Oracles Concerning the Nations

Isaiah 13:10 belongs to collection of “oracles concerning the nations.” These oracles “are meant to explain to Israel the meaning of various events as evidence of Yahweh’s sovereign control over world affairs and . . . human pretensions.” Isaiah 13:1–14:32 provides the lens for the remaining oracles and is made up of two large units:

  1. the destruction of Babylon presented as the pretentious world city (13:2–22)
  2. a dirge sung over Babylon’s king (14:4b–21).

Isaiah 13

In Isaiah 13:2–5, Yahweh, the Divine Warrior, summons his terrifying war host whom he “consecrated” to execute his anger and to devastate all the earth. “In a following lament, Isaiah describes the eschatological “day of the Lord” as God comes to desolate the earth and destroy sinners from it (v. 9b). The prideful will be laid low, and the judgment will be so severe that humanity will barely survive (v. 12).

The theological significance is expressed through the metaphors of cosmic disorder: Earthquakes, shaken heavens (v. 13), and, in a reversal of Genesis 1:14–18, the sun, moon, and stars, which normally mark the seasons, will be dimmed. This disorder testifies to the extent of Babylon’s wickedness and the depth of Yahweh’s indignation.

As a result of the destruction of Babylon and its king, Israel will be restored from exile and foreigners will be included among its people (14:1; cf. Isa 56–66).

Isaiah 13:10 in Judaism

Isaiah 13:10 is applied to several significant events. The exodus and the drowning of Pharaoh’s army, the Fall and Adam’s loss of status, the day the rebuilding of the temple was hindered, and end of the age.

The principle is that because God’s word underlies the good order of creation and its times and seasons (Gen 1; Jer 33:25–26) the withdrawal of that order, expressed in part through the cessation of the heavenly lights, is God’s judgment on idolatrous nations (Isa 24:23; Ezek 30:3–4, 18; Joel 3:15) and Israel (Isa 5:25, 30; Jer 4.23–28; Joel 2:10) . . . often in contexts where God uses one nation to carry out his judgment on another (Isa 13.10–13; 34:4; Hab 3:6–11).”

This means that, according to Judaism, the sun and moon fail as a result of God’s judgment of humanity. Torah was God’s agent at creation and sustains it, and creation was made for Israel. Israel’s failure to keep Torah results in the failure of the lights of heaven, and, to them, eclipses were bad omens which prefigured suffering. Israel holds a unique status, and her destruction by the nations would lead to the dissolution of the heavens and earth.

Conclusion

If Israel’s destruction “by the nations would lead to the dissolution of the heavens and earth” back then, then her destruction by Rome will “lead to the dissolution of the heavens and earth” in the future, only now, like Babylon, Jerusalem has become “the pretentious world city” (13:2–22).

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Why is the Ethiopian Eunuch so important?

Horse

I’ve been reading Alan J. Thompson’s latest volume in the NSBT series titled The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus (my review of it here). In chapter 3, Israel and the Gentiles: the kingdom and God’s promises of restoration, he points out that Acts 1.6-8 says a lot about how the book of Acts will play out. Throughout his book Thompson shows how the kingdom of God is seen throughout Acts, how Acts continues the themes from Luke’s Gospel, and how Acts tells us that God keeps his covenant promises.

In Acts 1.6 the disciples ask Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus answers them in verses 7-8, and many people find his answer to be an odd one. Though I can’t get into it now, Thompson believes and gives evidence for the position that the disciples did understand what Jesus meant by the Kingdom of God (Acts 1.3). The disciples ask about the kingdom of God and Israel in 1.6, and he answers them in 1.7-8.

In 1.8 Jesus gives three phrases which reflect the OT:

  • ‘when the Holy Spirit comes upon you’ (Isa 32.15)
    • This refers to the “end of the desolation of Judah and the coming of the new age with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit” (107)
  • ‘you will be my witnesses’ (Isa 43.12)
    • God’s people will be transformed, now that he is the only God and Savior, and will be his witnesses to an unbelieving world around them.
  • ‘to the ends of the earth’ (Isa 49.6)
    • A Servant representing Israel will restore Israel, and this restoration will include Gentiles (Isa 49.6 is also used in Acts 13.47, where Paul and Barnabas explain their reasoning for reaching out to Gentiles).

God will rebuild the Davidic Kingdom “through the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ to the throne of David (2:30-33), the pouring out of the promised Holy Spirit of the last days (2:16-17), the ingathering of the exiles of Israel (2:5, 9-11) and the repentance and turning to the Lord of Israel in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, which unite under one Davidic King (2:38-47; 4:4; 8:4-25)” (116).

Outcasts

In Acts 8.26-40, Philip comes across an “Ethiopian,” a “eunuch,” a “court official,” although after 8.27 the man is only referred to as a eunuch. Why a eunuch of all titles? Thompson shows that Luke says four things about this eunuch:

  • v34, ’the eunuch’ asks Philip about a passage of Scripture (Isa 53.7-8)
  • v36, ‘the eunuch’ asks about baptism
  • v38, ‘the eunuch’ is baptized by Philip
  • v39, ‘the eunuch’ did not see the vanished Philip again “but went on his way rejoicing” (116).

Fly Away

Luke emphasizes the fulfillment of Isaiah throughout Acts (Acts 1.8; 8.34 quoting Isa 53.7-8; Acts 13.47; and in many more places). While the eunuch is reading Isaiah 53, it is in Isaiah 56 where we see God’s promises for the eunuch. “Isaiah 56 looks forward to the time of God’s salvation when the exclusion of those with defects from the assembly of God’s people in [Deut] 32:1-7 will be overturned“ (117).


Isa 56.3 says, “Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, “The Lord will surely separate me from his people”; and let not the eunuch say, ‘Behold, I am a dry tree.’”

In 56.5 the Lord tells the eunuchs, “I will give in my house and within my walls a monument and a name better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.”


The Lord will give joy to those who love and worship him (56.7-8). 56.8 ties the gathering together of Israel with the gathering together of foreigners, including eunuchs. Here in Acts 8, the “despised and rejected” eunuch is reading about the “humiliation and ministry of this despised and rejected Servant” (117).

“All the promises of God are ‘Yes’ in Christ” (2 Cor 1.20). All of God’s promises are fulfilled in Christ. Israel looked forward to the physical resurrection, and it happened in Christ Through Christ’s resurrection Israel was and is being gathered together with Gentiles included, as the one people of God. Christ “has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility… that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two” (Eph 2.14-15). Christ, seated at the right hand of God, rules and reigns now, and we are to be his witnesses to the ends of the earth.

Baptize

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IV. Gold Nuggets in Isaiah

BambergApocalypseFolio047vJubilationOverFallOfBabylon

Grapes of Wrath

YHWH plants grapes. He dug up the ground himself. He cleared the stones. He planted his vineyard with choice vines. He built a watchtower in the midst of it. He made a wine vat for the fruits of his labor. Isa 5.2 says, “He looked for it to yield grapes.” So Yahweh waits, “and gets stinkers” (Watts, Lecture 3). In fact his vineyard “yielded wild grapes” (5.2). Watts says, “This woman is a gold-digger. She’s been taking extraordinary gifts, yet her response is appalling” (Lecture 3).

Yahweh owns this vineyard. Is he to blame? No, he’s done everything correctly. He’s no ordinary farmer. In 5.6, he controls the rain. And since this vineyard has failed to produce good fruit (Matt 12.33), he won’t let it rain. He “looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry!“ (5.7).

Six Woes (5.8-23)

There are Six Woes on Judah which I will very briefly describe.

First Woe: Judgment on Greed (vv8-10)

The people join houses and fields to kick others off the land. The year of Jubilee came around every 50 years to make sure the people had a stake in the land. If these idolatrous people have there way, everyone will be alone. They will lose their land, and it will remain unfruitful.

Second Woe: Judgment on Decadence (vv11-17)

For these people, their life is filled with pleasure. They have no understanding of God. They have no spiritual perception. They do not regard his deeds or his works (5.12). They will go into exile. They will hunger and thirst. They will be the first course on Sheol’s menu. In being like the nations, they get a similar judgment (this is why the judgment on Jerusalem in Is 22 falls in the midst of the judgments on other nations. If Jerusalem becomes like these nations, they will receive the same judgments).

Third Woe: Judgment on Cynicism (vv18-19)

“They mock God’s work, but they drag their cartload of sin” (Lecture 3).

Fourth Woe: Judgment on Moral Anarchy (v20)

They call evil good and good evil. They think siding with Assyria is a good thing!

Fifth Woe: Judgment on Self-Reliant Wisdom (v21)

Yahweh isn’t against learning nor a good education, but he had better be at the center. They have no fear of the Lord, so they have no wisdom

Sixth Woe: Judah’s Might and Strength (vv22-23)

These supposed heroes are “only great warriors at the bar” (Lecture 3). They don’t care for people. “It’s a great mark of a man who can get plastered at the bar” (Lecture 3).

“Therefore” (5.24-30)

As fire devours dry grass (v24), these people have rejected God’s Word and God is able to destroy mountains and people (v25). And He will do it by nations far away.

The Vineyard in the NT

In Mark 12 Jesus is telling the Parable of the Vineyard (or of the Wicked Tenants) to the Jewish leaders. After his condemnation of the tenants who killed the prophets, those tenants are so greedy that they kill the Son too so that they can receive the inheritance. They kill him and threw him out of the vineyard. Unburied. A shameful death. In v9 Jesus says, “What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others.

Matthew 21 is even more telling. Here in v41 it is the Jewish leaders themselves who answer Jesus. “They said to him, ‘He will put those wretches to a miserable death and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.’” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’? Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.”

The tenants will not receive their inheritance for they have rejected Jesus. They perceived that he was speaking about them. They wanted to kill him. Did they know Jesus was the Son in this parable? It’s highly likely. My points is that the tenants were not producing fruit, so the kingdom of God would be taken away and given to a people who would produce fruit. In Matthew 24 Jesus foretells of the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple. “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matt 3.10). These leaders have rejected God’s word and God will destroy them by a nation not too far away (Rome in 70 AD).

Who are these people who will produce good fruit?

In John 15 Jesus describes himself as the “True Vine” (just as he is the true firstborn). “Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit…. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me…for apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned” (15.2, 4b, 5b-6). The disciples are commanded to love one another. They are told that Jesus chose them (like Yahweh chose Israel to be a pleasing vineyard) so that they “should go and bear fruit” (15.16).

Those who bear fruit are the disciples of Jesus, you, me, and everyone who professes Jesus as their Saviour and King. We can trust him to care for us and to produce fruit in our lives. “Any God who will die on a cross for me while I am yet his enemy will not play fast and loose with my life now that I am his friend” (Rikk Watts, Isaiah).


Thanks for sticking around. Tomorrow is my final post on Watts Isaiah class. It will be the review of his class.

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II. Gold Nuggets in Isaiah

BambergApocalypseFolio047vJubilationOverFallOfBabylon

Following the Golden Nugget series on Watt’s Isaiah class, here are a few more “nuggets” of information.

John 9 and the Works of God

How are the works of God displayed in this blind man? Why didn’t Jesus say “So that my works might be displayed in this man”?

In Isa 42 the Servant of the Lord has been called in righteousness (v6). He will be given as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations (9.2; 2 Cor 4.6). He will open the eyes of the blind (Isa 42.6). In Isa 42.16 Yahweh says, “And I will lead the blind in a way that they do not know, in paths that they have not known I will guide them. I will turn the darkness before them into light, the rough places into level ground. These are the things I do, and I do not forsake them.“

So who heals the blind? Yahweh? Or the Servant? God the Father does it through God the Son, Jesus Christ, showing his deity as the servant who would bear our griefs and carry our sorrows. More so, Isa 42.9 says, “Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I now declare.” This paralleled with the new heavens and new earth (Isa 65.17), believers as new creations (2 Cor 5.17), and the consummation of the new heavens and new earth (Rev 21.4b-5).

Jesus is doing something new here in John 9. Not only is he healing the blind, this man sees the light! When every one fumbles their words before the Pharisees, this man stands boldly against them. This doesn’t know much about Christ, but he knows what Christ has done for him. He was blind, but now he can see. We might wonder why Jesus doesn’t come to this man’s rescue during the confrontation with the Pharisees, but once this man is cast out, Jesus appears to him. Perhaps those who deny Jesus’ works before man (i.g., the Pharisees) won’t be able to “see” or be with Jesus. John 9.39, “Jesus said, ‘For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.’

Swallow Your Pride

In Isa 3.16-4.1, the very things the people relied on, God takes it away. The people are so prideful in their luxuries that God lays bare their secret parts (3.16-17). “In that day” the Lord takes away their jewelries and earthly joys (vv18-23). Instead of perfume, a belt, well-set hair, a rich robe, and beauty, he gives them rottenness, a rope, baldness, a skirt of sackcloth, and branding (v24). The men shall die in battle, and the city will mourn and lament. Seven women will grab hold of a man and beg to have his name instead of theirs. Their names are full of reproach, and they need someone to take it away.

And while their guides mislead them and swallow them up, leading them to death (the blind leading the blind [Matt 15.14]), one day the Lord will “swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken. It will be said on that day, ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for him; let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.’”

When does this finally happen? When are the enemies finally erased? Revelation 21.4,8, He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away…. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death. Just as Egypt was “swallowed up” by the Red Sea in the great exodus event, so will death be “swallowed up” by the Lord at the end of our exodus event when we are finally in the fulfilled new heavens and new earth.


Come back tomorrow for a parable of hardness and a double portion of sin.

I guess that really doesn’t sound very inviting, does it?

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I. Gold Nuggets in Isaiah

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Since the book of Isaiah is so large, I simply can’t write down half of what I’ve learned in Watt’s Isaiah class. Simply, there would be too much to say. Instead, over the course of the next few days, I’ve decided to write out a few “nuggets” of information, some larger, some smaller. I hope this benefits you as it does me.


The One Who Shows Compassion

In Isaiah, it is the Lord Yahweh who shows compassion to people. This is seen in texts like Isa 9.17; 14.1; 27.11; 49.13, 15; 54.7, 8, 10; 55.7; 63.7, 15. In the Gospels, aside from two texts (Lk 10.33; 15.20), Jesus is the one who shows compassion on others (Matt 9.36; 14.14; 15.32; Mk 6.34; 8.2; 9.22; Lk 7.13).

In Luke 10.33 Jesus tells the parable of the ‘good’ Samaritan who has compassion on the injured man. The point here is that the man “desiring to justify himself” (10.29) is to be like Jesus and show compassion on all, even his enemies, for all are his neighbour. And in Luke 15.20 the father (representing God the Father) shows compassion on his prodigal son. After all of his partying (15.13), the son receives another (and better) party from his merciful father (15.22-23).


The One Who Forgives

In Isaiah 33 the “destroyer” and “traitor” has “not been destroyed.” But God’s people wait for the Lord. He is their arm and strength “every morning (vv1-2). When the Lord lifts himself up there is a “tumultuous noise” where people flee and nations scatter (vv2-3). The Lord’s spoil is leapt upon (v4).

In vv 10-12 the Lord announces that he will “now arise” and lift himself up. The best his enemies can do is give birth to fleeting chaff and stubble. Their own breath is a fire that will consume them. In vv14-16 the godless sinners in Zion tremble and ask, ““Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire?” The answer? “He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure” (vv15-16).

Jerusalem will be “an untroubled habitation, an immovable tent, whose stakes will never be plucked up, nor will any of its cords be broken” (v20). Yet “your (i.e., the enemies, rebels) cords hang loose” (v23). The Lord in his majesty will be for his people. He is our judge, our lawgiver, our king, and he will save (v21-22).

An abundance of prey and spoil will be divided, and “even the lame will take the prey” (even the lame will “leap” upon the spoil [v4]). And no inhabitant will say, “I am sick.” The people who dwell there will be forgiven their iniquity (v23-24).

So the lame will walk and sins will be forgiven. Zion will be made pure. This is the main theme of Isaiah. In Isaiah we see “God’s plan of how He’s going to get a Jerusalem full of bloodshed and murder, and transform them into a true city of the great King that reflects his character that becomes a light to the nations and carries out and effects Israel’s initial call as a blessing to the people” (Watts, Lecture 1).

What happens at the end of Isaiah? Yahweh promises to create a new “Jerusalem,” one that is “to be a joy” (65.18).

The New Testament

When we look at Mark 2, what does Jesus do?

Mark 2.5-7, “And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, ‘Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?’” Jesus then heals the lame man and at the same time forgives his sins. The scribes think Jesus is blaspheming for two reasons:

  1. In their minds, Jesus isn’t God.
  2. Forgiveness isn’t proclaimed in houses, but in the Temple (on that point, see Jn 2.18-22; Heb 7.22-8.3; 9.7, 25-28).

Here, Jesus does what Yahweh promised to do: he heals and forgives. The lame man and his friends had faith. The scribes did not. The ex-lame man and his friends will be in the future New Creation. The scribes, if left to their own devices, being blind of Jesus’ deity, will not.


God’s Concern in Isaiah

God’s concern in Isaiah isn’t about getting us out of here.
It’s about constructing communities that actually look like God’s people.

It isn’t about abandoning creation.
It’s about transforming it through alternative communities where peace and justice happens under a different kind of King.

It isn’t about how you get to heaven.
It’s about how heaven gets here (Rev 21-22).

If people put something in God’s place, He will give them what they want. God gives people over to their idolatries, and it will be a judgment to them. Just read Romans 1.18-32. People become like what they worship.


Come back tomorrow for John 9 and the works of God, along with Swallowing Up.

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