Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Preaching from Isaiah

So, I took on the challenge of preaching through Isaiah as the result of a conversation with a small study group we have at church. It's a big book, but that doesn't mean we should shy away from it just because of its length. Neither should the complexity and span of history put us off either.

I decided to try to take a fairly broad approach and pick up about a dozen themes and ideas from across the whole book. One of the things I keep saying to both the study group and the church congregation is to look for echoes. Echoes of both the New Testament in the Old and of the Old in the New. For example, when Isaiah speaks prophetically about the gathering of the nations in worship and discipleship in chapter 2, where does that echo in the New? Possibly Paul's declaration that every knee shall bow and every tongue confess or when Jesus speak of making disciples of all nations.

As I work through I'm also reading an interesting book about Preaching Christ from the Old Testament by Sidney Greidanus. It has quite an interesting survey about how the early church did it, and it lays out a method with examples of a Christocentric model. I'm also using Motyer, Goldingay, Webb and Oswalt's commentaries and a very useful book by David Jackman called Teaching Isaiah. It's a guide to developing sermons and series.

What have I learnt so far? Well a few things come to mind. Firstly I guess it becomes very clear very quickly that the nation, indeed the nations, have a case to answer before God, but while God's judgement is inevitable so too is the hope that comes from God's eternal purpose of redemption. In fact you can quite easily see why some of the church fathers looked to Paul's faith, hope and love triplet as a basic hermeneutical method.

Secondly, there's the challenge to choose your story. Chapter 7-9 express it clearly as Isaiah paints the picture of the present reality, the near future and the distant future to come. You can choose to live by the story of gloom and distress or you can choose to live by the story of hope and redemption.

There is so much more that has direct relevance to our present-day situation that Isaiah cries out to be preached. I just hope we do him justice!

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