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

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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.


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). 


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.


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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


Book Review: Representing Christ

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Thank goodness that Luther guy came along and re-gave us the priesthood of believers (though not in those exact words). In his writings, Luther referred to believers as priests hundreds of times (18). “The doctrine, according to Luther, denotes the believer’s sharing in Christ’s royal priesthood through faith and baptism. It’s primary implications are every believer’s access to the Father through Christ and responsibility to minister to other believers, especially through the proclamation of the Word” (18).

Uche Anizor (PhD, Wheaton College) is associate professor of biblical and theological studies at Talbot School of Theology at Biola University and an instructor at Los Angeles Bible Training School. He is the author of Kings and Priests. Hank Voss (PhD, Wheaton College) is national director of church planting at World Impact and senior national staff with The Urban Ministry Institute (TUMI). He is the author of The Priesthood of All Believers and the Missio Dei. Anizor and Voss locate God’s calling of his people as a kingdom of priests (Exod 19.6; 1 Pet 2.5, 9) within the context of Scripture and show how those who are part of God’s royal priesthood are to respond to God as his witnesses in the world.



In Chapter 1 Anizor look at how the Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, and Protestants define the idea of the priesthood of believers. In this book they’ll seek to define what a priest is, and show that it is all who are in Christ. Speaking in terms of the Trinity, in Christ the baptized believer has access to the Father, we have the privilege of serving one another in Christ, and we have all received the Holy Spirit’s anointing for this service to one another and to the world (19).

The argument is developed in four stages:

  1. Biblical
  2. Historical
  3. Theological
  4. Practical

In Chapter 2, the biblical argument, Anizor outlines the story of the priesthood of believers as seen in the Scriptures. Beginning in Eden, our story ends at the New Jerusalem, the new creation. He gives a brief, pointed look at a few texts in the Pentateuch, in Psalm 110, Isaiah 52–66, the life if Jesus, 1 Peter 2, pieces of Pau’s letters, and Revelation.

In Chapter 3, the historical argument, Anizor “details Martin Luther’s theology … and presents it  as a fruitful  and concrete attempt to integrate and develop Scripture’s teaching on priesthood—both ordained and universal” (22). After looking at Cyprian and the Gregorian reforms, Anizor looks at the seven “priestly practices” Luther believed Christians had.

  1. Preaching and teaching the Word
  2. Baptizing
  3. Administering the Lord’s Supper
  4. Binding and loosing sins
  5. Prayer
  6. Sacrifice
  7. Judging doctrine

“Christians have access to God and his Word in order that they might minister the latter in its many forms to one another” (82).

We become like what we worship, and Christians worship the triune God. In Chapter 4, the theological argument, Voss shows “what it means for the royal priesthood to worship, work and witness with a Christocentric-Trinitarian vision” (86). This is important, for, as Fred Sanders’s Trinitarian axiom goes, “The more Trinity-centered we become, the more Christ-centered we become, and vice versa” (88). Voss examines what a Christocentric-Trinitarian royal priesthood is, what it looks like in real life, and a few inadequate versions of a Protestant priesthood of all believers. This chapter asks, “Who is the God the priesthood of all believers serves?”

In Chapter 5, the theological argument, Voss asks, “How do we as members of the royal priesthood faithfully and fruitfully respond to the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit?” Voss lays out seven central practices (which are basically the same as the list in ch 3 but in a different order):

  1. Baptism
  2. Prayer
  3. Lectio divina (divine reading)
  4. Ministry
  5. Church discipline
  6. Proclamation
  7. The Lord’s Supper

To give one example, lectio divina means to listen for God’s voice as it speaks through Scripture. Looking at Psalm 119, four markers of covenant loyalty are:

  1. Fear of the Lord – the living God, the maker of heaven and earth, speaks through Scripture. Not us.
  2. Humility – We are not Christ. We are polluted by sin.
  3. Delight – God’s priests delight in God’s word more than a pile of gold. It is wisdom, it is joy, ir brings us closer to the living God who has made us his “sons and daughters” (2 Cor 6:18).
  4. Holy obedience – lectio divina is dangerous (134). We will suffer and we will grow if we listen to God’s voice. We will continually learn how to be unselfish and to care for and love others as Christ has loved us.

In Chapter 6, Voss wraps up, summarizes the book, and asks, “So what?” If believers (myself included) took our ministries before God seriously, what difference would this doctrine make? How could Christians transform society? There will always be unbelievers, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work to make the world better, to use wisdom to implement new ideas, technologies, and care and concern for our next-door neighbor and our third world neighbor. We do it all to the glory of the beautiful Lord who adorns his bride with jewels (Is 61:10).


Anizor and Voss have done excellent work in writing Representing Christ. It’s clear and easy to read. I hope to see more books out on this particular topic, along with more by these two authors. Some parts will be more difficult to read, not because of the style of language used, but because of subject matter. My favorite chapter was chapter 2 as it dealt with the biblical argument for the priesthood of all believers and took me through pivotal texts in the Bible. The historical argument (ch 3), though good and important, was more difficult for me to read. Regardless, the authors write in such a way that they don’t load you down with details, but they only give you what you need to know. It’s easier to read through some parts because you know it’s going to be important to the argument. This is a book that all believers should read, with the hopes that we will be humbled and will see our responsibility before the triune God who rules from heaven and has bestowed his people with great honor.


  • Authors: Uche Anizor and Hank Voss
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (June 6, 2016)

Buy it on Amazon or from IVP Academic!

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