Isaiah 1-2 and the Gospel

As I read Isaiah 1-2 I cannot help but think of Jesus — not because I see Isaiah 1:18 as a direct prediction of the work of Jesus (see my previous post), but because I see the hope that is expressed by Isaiah as fulfilled by Christ. I hear Yahweh’s lament in Isaiah 1:2-4 (ESV):

Children have I reared and brought up,
but they have rebelled against me. . . .
Ah, sinful nation,
a people laden with iniquity,
offspring of evildoers,
children who deal corruptly!
They have forsaken the LORD,
they have despised the Holy One of Israel,
they are utterly estranged.

and I think of John Chapter 8, where Jesus has a debate with the leaders of Israel over who their father is.

We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, “You will become free”? (John 8:33, ESV)

Oh, the irony! Israel has been enslaved for centuries, and Jesus offers freedom, and the Jewish leaders deny they are enslaved! So Jesus basically tells it like it is – they think they are sons of Abraham, but they are really sons of the devil (John 8:34-47). Likewise Isaiah sees Israel as “offspring of evildoers” (Isaiah 1:4, ESV).

But Isaiah has a hope for Jerusalem, and so does Jesus. Isaiah speaks at the end of Chapter 1 of God’s vengeance upon his foes (1:24). At first one may think the Assyrians are in view here, but they are not. It is “you” — the leaders in Jerusalem who are oppressing the fatherless and the widow — that God is turning against (1:25). And God plans on replacing them with judges like at the beginning (1:26).

Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city.

God has a plan for Jerusalem:

It shall come to pass in the latter days
that the mountain of the house of the LORD
shall be established as the highest of the mountains,
and shall be lifted up above the hills;
and all the nations shall flow to it,
and many peoples shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go the law,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall decide disputes for many peoples;
and they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war anymore. (Isaiah 2:1-4, ESV)

Remove the sin from Israel and you remove its oppression. “And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32, ESV). The Book of Acts will pick up on this idea in Isaiah 2:3 of “the word of the Lord” going out “from Jerusalem”:

And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:7, ESV)

Samaria received the word of God (Acts 8:14)

The Gentiles also received the word of God (Acts 11:1)

But the word of God increased and multiplied. (Acts 12:24, ESV)

So the word of the Lord continued to increase and prevail mightily. (Acts 19:20, ESV)

These statements and others show that Luke (the author of Acts) views the history of the church as the partial fulfillment of Isaiah 2:3 — partial because swords are not yet being beaten into plowshares, but the fulfillment in part confirms that the fullness is indeed coming. Luke structures the Book of Acts according to the statement of Jesus that “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). According to Isaiah 2:3, Jerusalem is where the word must begin. According to Isaiah 49:6 it must go to all of the promise land (all Judea and Samaria) and also “to the end of the earth”:

It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to bring back the preserved of Israel;
I will make you as a light for the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth. (Isaiah 49:6, ESV)

Now nations flow to Zion — not Zion as defined by the religious elite in Jerusalem, but Zion as defined by Jesus.  The first thing that happens in Acts before the word of the Lord goes out is that a replacement for Judas is chosen — a twelfth leader is selected. This is in fulfillment of Jesus’ words in Luke 22:28-30 (ESV):

You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Isaiah’s hope that Zion would be renewed is fulfilled in the gospel. The corrupt leadership in Jerusalem is replaced by Jesus and the Apostles, and the word of the Lord begins to go out from Zion. There is still more coming of Isaiah’s promises, but you cannot help but think that Isaiah longed to see the days of Jesus’ ministry. Those days are here for us to experience, whether we are naturally part of Israel or are “the nations” — Gentiles given Israel’s blessings by God’s grace. For those of us who are “the nations,” the natural response according to Isaiah is this:

Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.

One thought on “Isaiah 1-2 and the Gospel”

  1. Blessings Amydeanne Perfect photo/picture for this verse! This scene is so beautiful and pceeaful! I am so thankful that in Isaiah the Lord promised to pour out water so that when I thirst, I know His Spirit will quench that insatiable desire. The beauty of knowing that the dry land will have streams of His living water speaks to me and I’m blessed to know that is passes on from generation to the next but so does a curse (which means it must be broken and cut off at the root)! Many blessings upon you and your descendants in 2011; rivers overflowing in abundance to produce good fruit Love, peace and JOYPeggy

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