Good evening! It's late here in Charleston, South Carolina. The weather yesterday was so nice that I sat on a blanket outside for hours! However, now I sit writing in my room, moved by the frightful thunder while listening to loud knocking on my walls from the surge of water and crash of wind.
Today, I got a new computer, and was transferring data from my old one all evening, hence the late post.
For Day 17, we read Song of Solomon and the first half of Isaiah. My main focus of the post will be on the riveting book of Isaiah, but first a few things to take away from Song of Songs/Solomon.
The whole book is a love poem. The main characters are Solomon and the Shulammite woman. Solomon was said to have had 700 wives and 300 concubines (1 Kings 11:3). Likely, Solomon was especially in love with one who was a Shulammite, which is how we got this book, though it never expressly states who the Shulammite woman is. The flow of the book leads us through their relationship; from loving eachother, to their courtship/engagement, and into their life together as married lovers. While there is explicit sexual content throughout (and while it may be a book not recommended to spend a month-long study series on if you are a single person), there are two distinctly valuable insights given.
1. A man and his wife should love each other deeply, wholly, entirely, holding back none of their heart. It is also good should they express their love to one another emphatically.
2. God loves us deeply, and intends for marriage to be holy, set apart, sanctified, and amazing. This book is a good contrast with what the world has created marriage to be. It is usually no longer a covenant or a commitment between two people, but is rather a fling, a chapter in life that can end when either party decides to start a different chapter.
A phenomenal book written about the book of Isaiah is The Book of Isaiah, written by Jim McGuiggan (that was a fun sentence). McGuiggan provides a detailed exegesis on each chapter of Isaiah; he writes clearly, referring the scriptures in Isaiah to other books of the Bible when necessary for the fullest understanding of the book as a whole, as well as the ways it fits into the rest of the Bible. Many of the ideas in this study were drawn from McGuiggan's book.
I am going to give a few key ideas that help to develop a working understanding of the book as a whole, Isaiah is a dense book, like many others, but the scriptures written inside it, as well as the prophecies (those of Christ and of other foretold events), can all be better understood with time, patience, and digging.
Isaiah is a book of many different literature types. There are histories, prophecies, oracles, visions, and more! It was written around 700 B.C. and refers to the reigns of kings and the condition of Israel all through the 8th and 7th century B.C. Isaiah calls Israel and Judah from their life of sin to repentance, and presents the holiness of God eloquently. He reveres God as Almighty, and calls the Israelites back to reverent worship.
It's commonly accepted that Isaiah, son of Amoz, wrote the entire book of Isaiah. Some scholars think that two, or even three authors wrote the book of Isaiah because of the time-span in which the book covers. I believe there to be only one author, Isaiah son of Amoz, and think this is the most likely.
Chronology is tricky in the book of Isaiah, as it seems to stray from sequence throughout the chapters. Some chapters are written to the generation of Israel that was right there with Isaiah at the time at which he wrote, other chapters were written to future generations, a people yet to be born. Some chapters are words from God to the current generation, admonishments about lifestyle and sin, other chapters are writtten to a future generation about destruction that, at the time of the writing, was yet to occur. Further, he writes to that future generation of the anguish they are already facing, and includes words of encouragement for them to remain in faith. Amazing! The prophecies and perspectives in Isaiah are astounding.
The book of Isaiah is more of a collection of oracles than it is a single stream of subsequential consciousness. For example, chapters 40-66 (the last ~1/3 of the book) mainly deals with a future generation (future at the time of the writing, now of course history), and the first 43 chapters deal with the concurrent generation that Isaiah lived with. These are not strictly the case, but is the easiest way to divide the two blocks.
Kings of Israel during the time of Isaiah were:
King Jeroboam II
Kings of Judah during the time of Isaiah were:
Some minor prophets that wrote and lived during the time of Isaiah were Amos, Hosea, Zephaniah, and Micah. How interesting is reading Kings and Chronicles now that we see these same kings appear throughout Isaiah? Understanding just enough history to insert the books of the Bible onto a timeline can be extraordinarily helpful when reading the Old Testament prophets.
Some Main Themes of Isaiah
1. God and History
God is very involved in history. Often times we see nations being punished for their disobedience; however, it is only when all options have been exhausted that God inflicts destruction on a nation. God is holy and he desperately wants his people to be set apart as he is, but he will also do what needs to be done if his people are unwilling to seek holiness. "Holiness is love refusing to live at peace with sin!" (McGuiggan 8). God is never malicious in his destruction. Again, McGuiggan says, "God controls the world, but that control allows people to make choices which frustrate God's redemptive intentions toward them" (McGuiggan 35). God doesn't impinge on our free-will; but God also has free-will, and it is God's will that we should be sanctified. In our free-will, we can frustrate the will of God, and it's in those circumstances that he will act accordingly.
2. The Holiness of God
Isaiah refers to God as holy over and over again throughout the book. God is love, and God is holy. "Love can never be indifferent to sin any more than it can be indifferent to seeking the welfare of the beloved" ( McGuiggan 37). We can love people that aren't perfect, but we don't need to love the sin in their character. "We may insist on loving someone like this [who is evil tempered, grubby] in spite of these things, but because we love them we cannot keep from wanting these things removed" (Ibid.). God loves his people, and he wants them to be holy, as he is holy.
Because Israel was chosen and elect, they began to think they were elite and superior. This was not the case. Within the elect Israel, there were those that sinned, and the sin of those people caused the rest of the nation Israel to suffer. So there is a division between people here. There is the elect sinner in Israel and there is the elect person in Israel, suffering by association (one way to look at it). Out of the elect, Isaiah prophecies of One who is the elite elect, Jesus. Throughout the book, Isaiah refers to someone so peaceful, so perfect, so Godly that all balance would be restored to the kingdom of Israel. Further, that anointed One would be the center point by which all the Jews and Gentiles would later converge in God's presence.
Summarizing Isaiah properly requires going through each chapter and teaching the history, geography, chronology, and more. McGuiggan does this, and I recommend reading his book if you are interested. Here I've provided a short synopsis to help make sense of the theme(s) in Isaiah today and tomorrow.