We have been studying Isaiah in our Tuesday Night Bible Study. As a quick reminder, Isaiah is one of the Four Major Prophets with Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. Most likely Isaiah was written in 2 or 3 sections, with Isaiah ben Amoz himself writing the first 39 chapters before his death during Hezekiah’s reign and his disciples adding to it 200 years later at the end of the Exile. This was a normal practice, but that isn’t the point I’m driving at. Rather, I want you to consider the world that the last writers were in when they wrote the last 12 chapters (55-66).
They are ecstatic! For nearly a century, Judah had been under the rule of Babylon which had regularly deported Judahites into exile. The last and largest happening about 70 years before, when Jerusalem was left in ruins and Solomon’s Temple razed. The religion of the Judahites was not exactly suppressed in captivity, but without the Temple and priestly system, it had to undergo a great deal of transformation.
A new faith-tradition emerged, one that relied less upon a centralized authority and instead on local groups studying and debating the faith. It is around this time that the Jewish Scriptures began to be organized into the books we recognize today and these were copied and spread around. The works of the prophets and the Law began to plant new seeds in the people. Seeds of hope, for redemption and a Messiah. A hope for a return to the Garden. It also helped the people of Judah to put better understand their history as a whole and galvanized them to deeper faith and a new fortitude to avoid the mistakes of the past.
Isaiah 55-66 is written by disciples of the School of Isaiah as they return to a homeland that they didn’t know. They are not just driven to rebuild what was lost, but to build better. To create a city and nation in line with the Torah and the teachings of the prophets. This is what we hear in these chapters, their faith and enthusiasm overflowing. The center of which are chapters 60, 61, and 62, I’m going to focus on 61. Take a moment and read it, I’ll wait…No, seriously! Put the newsletter down and grab your Bible or look it up on your device and read Isaiah 61…Ok, I’m trusting that you have done that now!
What does 61 describe? (by verse)
However! It is no mistake that Jesus reads aloud from this chapter as he begins his ministry! For in Jesus we find the fulfillment of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah. The Servant who makes a forest of Servants. The Servant who plants the seeds that will grow into the Garden. By reading from this chapter, Jesus is telling us not to give up on God and to have the same enthusiasm as those disciples once did. We need to look at the future with optimism, not pessimism. You, Sibling in Christ, are an oak, planted by Jesus in the Garden of God. Reflect the Glory of God in your living!