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Understanding Isaiah Today – Part 2

Last week I raised two ways in which we can apply the book of Isaiah in a very similar way to the original hearers. God in Isaiah’s time is exactly the same in his character and nature as he is today. Unfortunately the other thing that is still the same is us – our character and nature.

In these first two ways we are essentially in the same position as those to whom God’s word in Isaiah was initially written. However the third thing we must remember as we apply this part of God’s word to us today is that we live in a very different part of salvation history. The great divide of human history is the coming of Jesus the Messiah to bring about God’s great rescue plan for all humanity.

The book of Isaiah has many references to the coming of this Messiah, more than any other OT prophet, and so we must always view the message of Isaiah through the lens of the person and work of Jesus the Christ (Messiah). But Isaiah’s forward look also brings into focus the culmination and fulfilment of God’s plan at the end of time. Isaiah’s hearers saw both the coming of the Messiah and the fulfilment of God’s plans at the end of time as distant events. In fact they can be spoken about in the same verse as almost being the same (Isaiah 9:6-7)

This is where we must see things very differently. We look back at the coming of Jesus. We look back at his death as the Suffering Servant and the eternal king who has been raised in Isaiah 53. But we look forward to the end of time and the fulfilment of God’s eternal purposes.

So we are in a very different part of God’s salvation plan. We can see the outworking and fulfilment of some of the promises God made concerning the Messiah and yet we also must look forward to the final and complete fulfilment of God’s salvation plan.

On another point, Isaiah and the original hearers were under the Old Covenant, the sacrificial system and the priestly system. We look back at Jesus the one who died once for all the righteous for the unrighteous to bring us to God. Jesus is our great high priest who mediates between us and his father. God’s promises under this New Covenant are not tied to occupation of a land in the Middle East but they are tied to and eternal kingdom. (1 Peter 1:3-9) We are not the physical sons and daughters of Abraham but are members of God’s universal church who have been indwelt by his spirit.

There is a lot more I could say concerning the differences but one thing we must be careful of as we apply the word of God in Isaiah to us as God’s people today is that we do not take what God says in one particular place in salvation history and apply it to another place in salvation history without seeing the difference the coming of Jesus makes to it all.