If you’ve been following along with lesson one of our study this week, you’ll have noticed that Kathleen Nielson takes us to 9 different books of the Bible… in day 1 of lesson 1. Don’t be daunted by this, rather, be encouraged! Isaiah, like most of the rest of scripture points to one thing (or person, rather)… Jesus. Jesus as fulfillment of promise. Jesus as rescuer and redeemer. Jesus as King. God’s people knew kings. But they didn’t have the greatest history with kings…
The first few verses of Isaiah give us a snapshot of the internal state of Israel…
- They are in rebellion.
- They have forsaken the Lord and despised the Holy One of Israel.
- They are utterly estranged.
Sound bad? After the litany of spiritual offenses, he dives into their physical reality, what has happened to them…
- The country lies desolate.
- Cities are burned with fire.
- Foreigners devour the land.
So, despite the efforts of all of their earthly kings in all of their splendor and might, the nation of Israel is spiraling into complete spiritual and physical desolation. So, what now? It seems like too much. It seems too dark, too far gone to reverse. Isaiah knows his audience feels this, the burden of a series of bad kings and a nation in complete rebellion against their God. And so he gives resting points – glimpses of light along the pathway as reminders that God is faithful, God is powerful, God is good.
Isaiah includes these just where his audience needs them. There is verse after verse of judgement, desolation, cities burned with fire and then… “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”
In his commentary on Isaiah, theologian Alec Motyer summarizes this back and forth between judgement and promise: “”Rebellion brings disaster as its reward but yet it does not exhaust the Lord’s capacity to redeem and restore.”
As you read through Isaiah and follow along with the study, keep your eyes open for these glimpses of light and promises of restoration – making all things new. Isaiah is speaking God’s own words to his people, his children whom he has called by name – words of love, of grace, and assurance that his capacity to redeem and restore cannot ever be exhausted.