Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 1: Friday
Friday’s Bible reading is Isaiah 1–6. The book of Isaiah is categorized as one of the Major Prophets because of its length. In his devotional on Isaiah, Alec Motyer has this warm welcome to reading the book.
Welcome to Isaiah! I send you this invitation as one who loves everything about him—the way he writes, his mastery of words, the rhythmic beauty of his Hebrew and, above all, the magnificant sweep of his messianic vision, takin in the glory of Jesus Christ as God and King, the wonder and fullness of the salvation he accomplished, and the shining hope of his coming again…His book is as much the crown of the Old Testament as the Epistle fo the Hebrews is of the New Testament—and for the same reason. Isaiah saw the coming King, Saviour and Conqueror; Hebrews knew him as Jesus. May the Lord God bless you richly as you read this tremendous portion of his Word.1
Motyer calls Isaiah 1–5, Isaiah’s ‘preface’:
Like books today, Isaiah starts his book with (a) its title (1:1) and (b) an ‘Author’s Preface’ (1:2–5:30), in this case outlining the situation in which he ministered.1
As I was reading the first five chapters I noticed the theme of pride that’s recurred this week in Romans 1–2, Genesis 1–3, and Psalm 1–2. Pride is our default setting. The inevitable consequences of pride, death and destruction, have also been repeated this week.
And the loftiness of man will be humbled,
And the LORD alone will be exalted in that day….”
“The pride of man will be humbled
And the loftiness of men will be abased;
And the LORD alone will be exalted in that day,
But the idols will completely vanish.”
When you read through the prophets, look first for what you can learn from the text itself, and don’t become overwhelmed by what you don’t understand. This is true for any book of the Bible, but we especially need the reminder about the prophets because while there is much we can readily understand from narrative history and reading the letters, we feel our gaps in knowledge more keenly when we turn to the prophets. Look first for what you can learn, and you will profit. Ask God to teach you, and ask Him how this part of His Word is a light to your feet and a lamp to your path.
The first time I read through the minor prophets, I don’t remember spending a lot of time with commentaries; I just read through the writings of the prophets. I acquired a greater understanding of who God is even when I did not understand all of the circumstances of events.
When you watch someone’s actions, you learn about who that person is. You also gain knowledge of who a person is when you understand someone’s thoughts—whether through conversation or through writing. In the prophets you will read what God revealed to His prophets regarding His actions and His thoughts. You will also learn about people, and as you learn about people, obviously, you will learn about yourself.
Look for circumstances, character, conduct and consequences. Circumstances or times are usually fairly obvious to spot. Isaiah 1–6 has two references in it to the times: in Isaiah 1:1 the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah are mentioned; this is the time span of his vision. These were all kings of Judah, the Southern Kingdom that formed when the nation of Israel split into two kingdoms upon the death of King Solomon (read 1 Kings 11–12 for background on the division). The Southern Kingdom, Judah, was ruled by rightful heirs of King David, and the Northern Kingdom, Israel, was ruled by rebels. The Southern Kingdom had a mix of good kings and bad kings, while all of the rulers of Israel were bad (bad is putting it mildly!). Isaiah 6:1 refers to a specific circumstance, the year of King Uzziah’s death, at which time he saw the Lord upon a throne.
Character and conduct (deeds) are also easy to spot. Isaiah 1–5 reviews the rebellion of Judah against God and their wicked character and evil deeds. We don’t talk much about wickedness or evil today—they have become almost archaic words in a politically correct world in which the only thing intolerable is to declare that good and evil exist; the woes of Isaiah 5:18-23 give descriptions that certainly apply to our day:
And sin as if with cart ropes,
Who say, “Let Him hurry, let Him hasten His work, that we may see it;
And let the counsel of the Holy One of Israel draw near
And come to pass, that we may know it!”
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,
Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness,
Who substitute bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes
And understanding in their own sight!
Woe to those who are mighty men in drinking wine
And valiant men in mixing strong drink,
Who declare the wicked righteous for a bribe,
And remove the righteous standing of the ones who are righteous!
In Isaiah 1–6, you also learn about who God is: His righteousness and holiness, His hatred of hypocrisy and the oppression of the defenseless; and His judgment of sin. And in His judgment of sin, the consequences of evil deeds are clearly seen.
Motyer calls Isaiah 6 a ‘Prologue’ to chapters 6–12, and describes it as, A sinful individual cleansed and commissioned.3
The whole earth is full of His glory.”
For I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, Yahweh of hosts.”
Keep on seeing, but do not know.’
Render the hearts of this people insensitive,
Their ears dull,
And their eyes dim,
Lest they see with their eyes,
And hear with their ears,
And understand with their hearts,
And return and be healed.”
Houses are without people,
And the land is devastated to desolation,
And Yahweh has removed men far away,
And the forsaken places are many in the midst of the land.
Yet there will be a tenth portion in it,
And it will again be subject to burning,
Like a terebinth or like an oak
Whose stump remains when it is felled.
The holy seed is its stump.”
Derek Kidner explains,
In this vision, the major concerns of the book are discernible: God’s inescapable holiness and sole majesty; the glory He has decreed and the clearance it demands; the cleansing of the penitent and the resurgent life that will yet break forth from the stock of Israel.
It is integral to Isaiah’s message that his words will be those of a forgiven man, himself as guilty as those to whom he will offer life or death…The burning coal symbolizes the total significance of the altar from which it came; that the penalty of sin was paid by a substitute offered in the sinner’s place. The symbol, applied to Isaiah’s lips, the point at which his need was most pressing, assures him of personal forgiveness.
…the vision ends with hope: instead of the ‘seed of evildoers’ (1:4, AV, RV) there will survive the holy seed—an expression of infinite promise in the light both of v. 3, concerning holiness, and of the recurrent pledges of the victorious ‘seed’ in Gn. 3:15; 22:18, etc.; Gal. 3:16.4
Reading the prophets will impart to you an awe and fear of God as they speak of His righteousness and power and judgment of sin—and they will certainly describe your sin and mine in detail as they describe the sins of their times. The prophets will also speak of God’s defense of those without a defender; His longsuffering, mercy, and lovingkindness; and His forgiveness and redemption of those who turn to Him in repentance and belief.
As you read Isaiah and the other prophets may you grow in your understanding of who God is. The scope of the prophets teach us that in Him “…there is no variation or shifting shadow.” So as you comprehend more fully who God is, may you more and more rest your trust in Him.
For in Yah—Yahweh Himself—we have an everlasting Rock.”
Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Jerusalem YMCA Bas Relief of Seraph after Isaiah 6:1-5: Sandra Cohen-Rose and Colin Rose. (CC BY-SA 2.0). There is a stone in the right hand of the seraph.
1,2,3Alec Motyer, Isaiah By The Day: A New Devotional Translation (Christian Focus Publications Ltd, Scotland, U.K.: 2011) 4; 10; 5, 40.
4Derek Kidner, “Isaiah,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 595.
Original content: Copyright ©2011–2023 Iwana Carpenter