On Sunday, Rev. Joshua Patty preached about Isaiah, the first (and longest) of the collection of Jewish prophets which make up the final books of the Hebrew Bible. Isaiah is a collection of prophecies spanning a long and eventful period of Jewish history, spanning from the decline of the kingdom of Judah through the exile in Babylon.
In particular, Isaiah considers the circumstances and causes of the decline of the kingdom and the loss of independence and foretells God's plans beyond the time of exile. There is a dual theme throughout, that God is punishing the people for their sinful ways -- especially idolatry -- and that God is using this punishment to prepare the people for a peaceful and prosperous future. And, consistently, Isaiah teaches that God is worried about two main aspects of the Jews' behavior: their righteousness (how they follow God's teaching) and their justice (how they treat others around them). They have face defeat and destruction because they have not been righteous or just; in exile, God hopes they will learn from this mistake and be ready to live freely in ways that follow God's teaching and treat others rightly and well.
Isaiah receives lots of attention for the promises for the future, especially by Christians who are interested in prophecies about a messiah -- God's anointed one who will lead the Jews in this new, peaceful kingdom. From this, Christians can learn a lot about the nature and purpose of Jesus, especially as we try to follow his example and live out his teachings. However, we should not overlook the rest of the prophecies. Like the ancient Jews, we are in a culture that is religiously adrift -- we need to learn to identify the real problems and seek God's solutions in facing them. The prophets are an excellent resource for this process in our time.
Click here to listen to the sermon.