Week 1 - Why Isaiah
In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, we began our book study of Isaiah, particularly Isaiah 40 - 66. The timing couldn’t have been better if we had planned it, which we didn’t. The themes of restorative judgement and healing mercy have been our North Star during this deeply unsettling time. But we were led to begin this study because of how formative this book was on Jesus. He began his ministry quoting Isaiah and the tenor of his teachings have deep roots in this book. His messianic self-understanding and teachings rely on Isaiah more than any other Torah text, besides the Psalms. The fact of Jesus’ Jewish upbringing also speaks to the fact that we need to read the Hebrew Bible alongside the New Testament to understand the whole, unified biblical drama. Jesus and his disciples were drawing deeply on their formation in Torah, which in turn influenced how the New Testament came to be written. And in some ways Isaiah is the hinge between the two. In the history of Christian interpretation, Isaiah’s suffering servant foreshadows Jesus, as the messianic saviour. Some even call Isaiah the Fifth Gospel. These are good reasons at any time to delve more deeply into this book
We were entering a time in our community life, after 20+ years together, where we were re-thinking what binds us and where our vocation is leading us. With Paul retiring, what did a change in leadership mean for this small community, this band of brothers? How were we to relate to our neighbourhood? What kind of bonds did we need to be free of? How could we remember the past of our calling and also look towards the new thing that the God was doing in our midst. Again, this lined up perfectly with the themes in Isaiah 40 - 66 of covenant renewal after the experience of exile. Isaiah’s vivid depiction of God’s creational sovereignty challenged the irrelevance of our traditional and mythic God images. And most importantly, Isaiah emphasis that God initiates the return to Jerusalem suggests that God, not our efforts, will restore and reorient our Watershed Community.
Questions for Reflection
- What attracts you to the book of Isaiah?
- If you have read in Isaiah before what were your first impressions? Has it touched your life at any particular juncture?
- What is your favourite verse or chapter in Isaiah?
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