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20th April

Isaiah 5-8; Psalm 110

Bible in a Year
6 minutes
In this article
20th April

Isaiah 5-8; Psalm 110

Bible in a Year
6 minutes


So far in Isaiah we’ve read the opening chapters. We identified the book of Isaiah as a collection of preaches and visions from the prophet Isaiah that had been collected together, edited, and repurposed by his later disciples. Isaiah was a prophet to the southern kingdom of Judah under kings Ahaz and Hezekiah, warning them of the oncoming judgement and exile. His disciples were writing after the exile, gathering Isaiah’s teachings and building a picture of a new hope for those returning to the land.

In the opening chapters, we saw the theme of God purging Israel (the nation) with judgement to make way for a new people embodied in a new Jerusalem that would be loyal to him. Currently, the leaders of Israel have become fat and greedy, holding on to power and oppressing the poor and needy. God will take a step back and let them experience the consequences of their action.

But after the judgement and destruction there will be a remnant. A branch that will grow again and bear fruit. God will cleanse this remnant of his people to make them a holy city and nation before him. We’ll keep an eye out for this imagery of a branch and a new and holy city going forward.

Isaiah 5-8

Isaiah continues his vision with a parable about a vineyard. Isaiah has a lover, most likely God, who owns a vineyard. God does everything he can for this vineyard to flourish. He builds a wall and a watchtower to protect it. He clears the earth of rocks so that the vines can put down deep roots. This is a well cared for vineyard.

But after all this effort, when God comes to collect the grapes, the vines have instead produced wild grapes, sour to the taste and no good for wine. So God decides to get rid of the vineyard because it isn't producing anything of use. He tears down the walls, lets the vines be trampled, and leaves it so that brambles and weeds grow there instead.

Then God points out that the people of Israel are that vineyard. He set them up and gave them everything they needed to flourish. But they turned away from him and started worshipping other gods. He lists some of the ways the people have produced sour grapes.

There were people that focused on building wealth for themselves, planting more and more fields and building bigger and bigger houses for themselves. There were others that would regularly get drunk, and others still that did evil and spread chaos, ignoring good. So God will send an army against them to destroy them and remove them from the land.

Isaiah's next vision finds him in God's heavenly court, surrounded by seraphim (a type of spiritual being) singing 'holy, holy, holy'. Isaiah is terrified, because he realises how unclean and unfaithful he and the people of Israel are, and how unworthy he is to be in God's presence. But one of the seraphim produces a coal that burns away Isaiah's uncleanliness so he can stand in God's presence.

God asks if there is anyone willing to preach his message, and Isaiah puts himself forward. God then warns Isaiah that no one will listen to his preaching, and that eventually he will take the people into captivity and leaves the cities destroyed and desolate.

Now this may seem weird. Why would God ask Isaiah to preach a message that no one is going to listen to?Firstly, it is so God can say that he has warned the people. They knew what they were doing was wrong and knew if they continued, it would lead to their destruction. But secondly, it also means that after the people have been taken into exile, God can come to them and say, "I told you this would happen. But there's still time. You can still turn to me and I will protect you and restore you".

We see a glimmer of hope for this at the end of the vision and a new image that Isaiah will weave into his teaching. God describes Israel as a tree that he is going to cut down, leaving just a stump. But then he says, "the holy seed is its stump" (Isaiah 6:13). From the stump that remains, that holy seed will grow into the branch of the Lord. Though the tree has been cut down, though Israel has been destroyed, there is a little seed that will grow into a sapling and then a branch. There is still hope for the people.

Next we jump to king Ahaz. You might remember him from 2 Kings. He was a king in the southern kingdom of Judah that was really, really bad. Ahaz hears that the kings of Ephraim and Syria are joining up to attack him. Whenever Isaiah mentions Ephraim, he is talking about the northern kingdom. To recap, for Isaiah, Israel is the whole nation, both northern and southern kingdoms, and Ephraim is just the northern kingdom.

Anyway, Isaiah comes to Ahaz and tells him that it won't happen and God will protect them. He then asks Ahaz what sign he wants from God as proof. But Ahaz refuses, saying he doesn't want to test God. This might seem good, but the reality is Ahaz is saying he doesn't want to put this trust in God.

Isaiah says that God will send a sign, anyway. The sign will be "Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." (Isaiah 7:14). Those of you who have been a Christian for a while might immediately jump to Jesus, but hold your horses. This is meant to be a sign that the kings of Ephraim and Syria won't attack Judah. So this can't be Jesus.

Prophecies tend to have two meanings. They have an immediate meaning, and then they have a much later meaning that most people can't see until it has happened. So Isaiah is saying that there will be a woman who is currently a virgin who will soon get married and have a child. Before that child is old enough to realise the difference between right and wrong, Ephraim and Syria will be destroyed and taken into captivity. God will summon the people of Assyria to come and defeat them.

Then, in the next chapter, a prophetess gives birth to a little boy. This is the little boy that Isaiah prophesied about. Then Isaiah gives a preach about the importance of not putting your trust into military power and now giving into the fears and worries of other people. Instead, put your trust in God. We also see in Isaiah 8:16 evidence that Isaiah sealed his writings and teachings so they could be passed down the generations via his disciples.

As you can see, Isaiah is a deep book with a lot to unpack. It would require its own study in order to understand properly. As we get through this book, we will get more familiar with the themes and things will become much clearer. For now, read and understand what you can, and try to get the themes and images in your head, so that when they pop up throughout the book, you can see them and recognise them for yourself. 

Psalm 110

This psalm is attributed to king David and falls into the category of royal psalm. It is focused on a future priest-king appointed by God.

Psalm 110:1 - God speaks

Psalm 110:2-3 - The outworking of what God has said

Psalm 110:4 - God speak

Psalm 110:5-7 - The outworking of what God has said

The psalmist opens with the words of the Lord, inviting what we can assume is the king to sit at his right hand. Then the psalmist paints a picture of what that would look like. In that time, God will go out and defeat the enemies of his people, establishing the king’s reign. His people will be obedient and faithful, offering themselves to God and to the king.

Then the psalmist brings more of the Lord’s words. This king is to be a priest in the order of Melchizedek. We read about Genesis 14:18-24. Normally, the priests were from the tribe of Leviticus, while the king was from the tribe of Judah. Therefore, the king could never be a priest as the people normally understood them.

But in Genesis 14:18-24 we read of Melchizedek, who was a king and a priest, and it’s this example that the chosen king is to emulate. As a priest king, the Lord will be defeat all other kings and any claims they may have. He will defeat the wickedness across the world, bringing all nations under this king’s authority.

Psalm 110:1 holds the record for being the most referenced Old Testament verse in the New Testament. In its original context, it would have been seen as an exultation of the king as one chosen by God. But there would have been an appreciation that no king lives up to this. The psalm is attributed to king David, and so the king being spoken about is a king that David calls my lord. Considering David was considered one of the greatest kings of Israel’s history, there is no other king that could fulfil that role.

Because of this, an expectation is set up for a king who will fulfil this role. A future king who will sit at the right hand of God, defeat wickedness and chaos and bring all the earth under his reign. 

Anything you think I've missed? Maybe you've got a question that still needs answering. Send me a message over on my Instagram (@brynjoslin). I'd love to talk it through with you some more.

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