Friday, December 11, 2009

Isaiah: "There's Jesus!"

The Word for today:
Isaiah 1

"The Prophet Isaiah"
by Raphael,

mark this:  Isaiah 1:18 --
Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

I love driving home after work during the month of December.  It's dark at that time and the kitchens are glowing from the inside out.

And with each passing day, more and more of the houses are lit up for Christmas.  So I take a long time getting home.

I've come to appreciate every attempt made to highlight Christmas.  Some of the houses have just a single string of lights along the porch rail or around the door frame.  I think they're beautiful.  Some must have bought every light at Home Depot and must be consuming every kilowatt the power company can produce. Beautiful.  Some have Santa Claus, the angels, the shepherds, the Magi, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the twelve days of Christmas, Snoopy, the three billy goats gruff, and the seven dwarfs!  Beautiful.

I used to be pretty snooty about such things.  I used to think that those decorations were kind of sparse; while those over there were gaudy; and these over here were cheesy.  But I grew up and got over myself.  They're all beautiful to me now.  Jesus made the billy goats; and who's to say that the seven dwarfs aren't believers?  I leave that to the person I used to be.

But amidst all of this beauty, my big moment every night as I wend my way home is the display of a manger scene projected on the side of a big old white house--an "Aah!" moment, when I crest a little hill and the scene presents itself like a big drive-in movie screen on the 4th of July featuring the Greatest Story Ever Told.

The display actually emanates from a powerful bulb behind what looks like a big Christmas cookie-cutter.  The "cookie-cutter" is round, maybe four feet in diameter, set about 20 meters from the side of the house.  But the image expands until its silhouette covers the whole side of that big house!

The book of Isaiah is just like that.  A Bible within the Bible, it projects the Bible as a whole.

The Bible has 66 books;  Isaiah has 66 chapters.

The first 39 books of the Bible are called the Old Testament.  They show us our need for a savior.
The last 27 books of the Bible are called the New Testament.  They show us the Savior Himself.

Isaiah is set up just that way:
Chapters 1 through 39 talk about the shortcomings and sins of the people of Judah and Israel as they deal with the law and government—just as the first thirty-nine books in the Bible deal with the law, government, and the shortcomings of God’s people.

But in chapter 40, suddenly a new direction is taken: “Comfort My people,” commands the LORD in 40:1.  Then we hear "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness, saying, "Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highwqy for our God" (40:3.)   That's the voice of John the Baptist, who opens the New Testament!

Chapters 40 through 66 speak of Jesus constantly.   At the very center of these chapters--just as the cross is at the very heart of the New Testament-- is chapter 53, a stunning prophecy of the cross and God's Servant who suffered there:

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;
and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.

Nearing the end of Isaiah, we read of new heavens and a new earth (65:17).  Finally, in chapter 66, we read of the millennial kingdom--just as we do in the Bible's 66th and final book, Revelation.

Isaiah can be challenging to read.  Written in the most sublime Hebrew and bursting with shifting kaleidoscopic images, there can be nearly too much for the reader to take it all in.

So slow down along the way, because you are about to crest a hill, and--"Aah! There's Jesus!"

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