Paul House on preaching Isaiah: Part two

Some random points here from the second lecture. I’m fading fast.

There’s nothing worse than a combination of pride and ignorance. “I’m stupid, and proud of it” is dangerous. Isaiah addresses that.

Isaiah is great at digging the needle in. He uses satire and irony and has an unfailing ability to hit the target.

Materialism leads us to think we don’t need God, which leads to bad stuff.

Some of the greatest issues we have with God are to do with timing – we either want him to move slower or faster than he currently is.

It’s easy to see the problems in society. To isolate and identify them. But it’s very hard to remember to pray for those problems.

Many missionary messages stop at about verse eight of chapter six. Here am I. Send me… but when you keep reading – “you will preach, and their hearts will be hardened. Jeremiah seems to have preached for forty years. And only produced two converts. We can’t buy into the theory that numerical success is linked to ministry. Growth is not a sign of your faithfulness or God blessing you. But nor is the antithesis true – it’s not a case of the smaller you are the more holy you are. We need to be Great Commission churches. Church growth fans sound a lot like prosperity preachers – suggesting that the size of your church is somehow linked to your approach. How do we explain Jonah? He didn’t want any converts and converted a city.

Know your congregation. Know their concerns. That will drive how you apply their lives to the text (not the text to their lives).

How do we do ministry without quitting. We’re required to love people even if we don’t see fruit tangibly. We’re to love our enemies, that’s the mark of a Christian, and it’s hard.

Israel are being called (by Isaiah, in chapter 7) to have faith (in God – where all faith in the OT is directed) in the face of tough times. When the superpower nations around them are agitating for conflict. Israel are scared. For good reason. Evil is real, and it may be out to get you. It was for Israel. Paul used chapters 5-12 to address his small group in the midst of the GFC and a bunch of individual examples of turmoil. Isaiah is a reminder that God is faithfully redeeming his people and bringing them into the new creation.

“If you are not firm in faith you will not stand at all…” (Isaiah 7:9a) is like a theme statement of this section of the book.

Isaiah doesn’t let disappointment with earlier results keep him from ministry. Firm faith requires steadfastness and Isaiah has that quality.

On the renewal of Creation (Isaiah 11:6-9)

Sin mars creation – but nothing will mar the new creation. The future is secure, the future is bright. We should always be a forward looking people. Believers appropriate this theology in the New Testament and we must reclaim it today. We have a home, a king, and a society that is flawless. All the temporal things are going to change so our focus needs to be on serving the servant and going to Zion (this future creation). We’ll have a resurrected body. We need to be focused on that future – not our present brokenness.

If we ask “what is your hope as a Christian” and it’s not marching into Zion and bringing people to the service of the faithful servant then you’ve missed the thrust of Isaiah.

Where is your confidence? it needs to be in the suffering servant whom God has sent. In this season we have every reason to say things and sing songs that we will say and sing forever in the new creation.

Paul House on preaching Isaiah

1. Know the context/background. Biblically, historically, literarily.
2. Look for important doctrines.
3. Look for how the New Testament makes use of the book. They are identifying patterns linking books in the Old Testament to Jesus.

These three steps require that we know the whole Bible, and have a framework of Biblical theology.

It’s very difficult to preach Isaiah verse by verse. It’s massive.

Big Picture: Four kings mentioned in Isaiah 1 as being part of the landscape of the book.

Assyria was a pretty nasty empire who used to extort countries through the threat of invasion. Their artwork and historiography shows that they ruled by terror. Impaling heads. Burning people. All that sort of stuff. They ruled Judah, one way or another, for over 100 years.

Then there’s Babylon. Babylon eventually conquered Assyria, but before that happened Babylon was a thorn in Assyria’s side. And Assyria conquered them a bunch of times. So when we see that Assyria conquered Babylon in the text – we have to ask “which time”… the Ancient Near East was a volatile political mix constantly one step away from (or in the midst of) conflict. The kings of these nations jostle for status and make bold proclamations about their greatness.

And Isaiah is focused on promoting Yahweh as the real king of kings and lord of lords. He preaches and predicts Assyria’s arrival for thirty years, and then becomes the comforter and conscience of Israel and Judah.

The message of Isaiah starts with sin and degradation and ends at Zion. It’s creation and new creation – God acting through a redeemer to bring his people to the new creation and he punishes the wicked.

Isaiah 2:1-22 describes the nations are coming to the Lord and invites Israel to do the same. Isaiah, like Jesus and Paul, was to go first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles.

The gospel has always been “accept my king, and you will be at home in Zion (the new creation).” It comes with a downside. The gospel is very good news to those who put their trust in it, and very bad news for those who don’t. That’s one of the most pressing challenges of our time – preaching judgment. But everybody, deep down, wants justice. So we need to figure out how to preach that truth with love.

Chapter 25 describes the gift from the true king (as opposed to the gifts from kings of surrounding nations) as life. Delivery from death. Chapters 21-33 are the hardest to preach in the book of Isaiah. There are some beautiful passages in chapter 19 that promise the Egyptians, the Assyrians and the nations will be part of God’s people.

The prophets never give up on getting Israel back into the fold.

The book speaks to the late eighth century and early seventh, primarily, but it also says something about the future. And about a future that still has not happened today.

Structure – Seven Cycles.

1. The Bloody City and Glorious Zion. 1:1-4-6.
2. The Spoiled Vineyard and the Rejoicing Citizens of Zion. 5:1-12:6.
3. The Wicked Nations and Yahweh’s Resurrected People . 13:1-27:13.
4. Proud Ephraim and the Rejoicing Remnant. 28:1-35:10.
5. Blaspheming Gentiles, the Covenant with David, and Righteous Gentiles. 36:1-56:8.
6. Blind Watchmen and Citizens with a New Name. 56:9-62:12.
7. A Blessed People, New Heavens and Earth, and Burning Sinners. 63:1-66:24

The book ends with the call for missionaries from many nations (Isaiah 66:18-21).

The big issue is “are you a servant of the servant?”

Jesus quotes Isaiah when he starts his ministry. John the Baptist cites Isaiah. Several times in the New Testament the writers use Isaiah to show that they are preaching “THE GOSPEL” the same one that Isaiah had been preaching. Isaiah is a great model for ministering to all sorts of people in all sorts of settings.

Paul House on Lamentations

Old Testament scholar Paul House is at QTC today. He’s speaking tonight on Isaiah.

He’s wearing a jacket and tie to be a non-conformist.

Lamentations is a post-exilic (587 BC) book reflecting post-exilic theology as Israel try to come to terms with the pain of exile. Exile is comparable to Gallipoli for Australians and Pearl Harbour/September 11 for Americans. It is a point by which to mark time culturally, it causes reflection, and for believers it causes reflection about God.

Israel have experienced “the day of the Lord” as a day of judgment. And they are realigning their thinking.

We don’t apply the Bible to our lives, we apply our lives to the Bible.

People who have experienced extreme trauma are presenting their thoughts about God in this book. Even people who are heinous, who have brought the trouble on themselves, this book has something to say.

The theme of this book is “prayers for outrageous grace.”

If you could deny God’s mercy and grace to anybody who would it be? There is grace for those people with God.

Structure: Chapter 1:1-9a are the words of a sympathetic narrator. The direct quotes are Jerusalem speaking. It happens again in verse 11. This is the heart rending poetry of the person receiving the punishment of the exile (documented elsewhere in 2 Kings in plain “history”).

In verses 18-22, Jerusalem, the city, speaks and confesses that God was in the right when it came to judgment. This is not Jerusalem at her best, but at her worst, and yet there is an element of hope that the judgment will be finite and there will be another side.

This idea of hope comes from Exodus 34:6-7, Leviticus 26:14-45, Deuteronomy 27-28; 30, 2 Kings 17.

God is slow to anger. There are more than 400 years between Solomon and exile. God is slow to anger, but he has a quick trigger finger when it comes to idolatry because idolatry is the most dangerous sin there is, because (by example) you’re taking people away from the only God who can save them.

Exodus 34 becomes the proof text for seeking intercession. It’s cited in Numbers 14, and in Joel 2, and in Jonah 3-4 it’s used for calling for God not to intercede in line with his merciful nature. Nahum 1:2-8 is a judgment statement on Assyria, the nation Jonah went out to, which says that God won’t clear the guilty.

There are good and bad promises from God (promises of blessing for obedience v promises of punishment for disobedience (consequences)).

Deuteronomy 30 is important because it shows the Lord will take both group, and individual, back on the point of faithful repentance. Which is how God has always dealt with people. It has never been works.

More than half the Psalms are lament. How do we use lament and prayer in song in our churches? How often do we do it?

Lamentations is a carefully and creatively written piece in acrostic form, and alliterative form later on. It’s art.

The book answers a “why” question, and a “how to respond” question, and a growing number of scholars in university schools of theology that argue that “this book is how to survive the abusive God in an unjust situation…” That’s certainly not the right view point, but it’s a viewpoint that people who are seeking pastoral assistance, will often adopt.

A better view is that the book is about outrageous grace. A character who has no right to go to God for forgiveness (given their history), knowing that God will supply it. Lamentations helps us to see how to pray, how to preach, how to wait, and how to hope.