December 1, 20190 comments
Isaiah 40 opens a new section in the prophet’s ministry to the people of God. So far, the theme of Isaiah’s ministry has been the warning of judgment. This was especially the case in chapters 7-39, where Isaiah repeatedly envisioned the disaster of exile for God’s people. These were dark days, then, for the people of God.
And yet, in the midst of these dark days, Isaiah brings a word of light to God’s people. Specifically, chapters 40-55, which are sometimes called the Book of the Servant, declare that exile will not be the end for God’s people. There is a day coming when God will deliver his children and restore them as his people. This coming day, then, is nothing short of salvation!
But amazingly, this promised salvation will transform not only God’s people but also the entire globe. Creation itself will experience the redemptive and restorative power of God, and the end result will be the revelation of the glory of God.
Old Testament scholar John Oswalt summarizes these chapters in this way:
These chapters speak of a God who, knowing that his people would forsake him, nevertheless promises in advance to redeem them, and that without silver and without price. Surely this God can be trusted.
And that is the application of these chapters for God’s people today. As we witness God’s faithfulness to his promises in Isaiah, we are reminded of what the apostle Paul says in 2 Corinthians 1 – “For all the promises of God find their Yes in [Christ].” As Christians, we know that the salvation Isaiah foresaw has been accomplished once and for all in Christ Jesus our Lord. We know that the ultimate deliverance from God’s judgment happened at the cross, where the Son of God satisfied the Father’s wrath for all eternity. And we know that our future is secure, since the Risen Christ reigns now from heaven’s throne.
So, we can read Isaiah 40-55 with our eyes fixed on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Or, to say it another way, we can listen to Isaiah, seeking to understand how his words gave hope to God’s people in the Old Testament. And at the same time, we can listen to the New Testament, seeking to understand how Isaiah’s words find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
To this end, the following reading plan takes you through chapters 40-55, culminating on Christmas Eve with Isaiah’s promise that God’s Word does not return empty. That Word has been revealed to us in the gospel, and I pray this reading plan helps you cherish the gospel this Advent season.
December 1: Isaiah 40:1-11
Highlight: There is comfort promised for the people of God, and that comfort will arrive when God himself comes to deliver them.
December 2: Isaiah 40:12-31
Highlight: There is no one who compares to the Lord God. Even the unbelieving nations of the earth respond to his command. God’s people, then, can find renewed strength as they wait upon the Lord to deliver them.
December 3: Isaiah 41:1-13
Highlight: In the face of uncertainty and darkness, God’s people can live without fear. Why? “Because I am your God,” the Lord says. Fear fades in light of God’s character.
December 4: Isaiah 41:14-29
Highlight: Compared to God’s power, the gods of this world are nothing. They cannot deliver on their promises. When idols fall, they fall hard. Therefore, God’s people should put their hope only in the Lord God.
December 5: Isaiah 42:1-9
Highlight: The Servant of the Lord is introduced for the first time, and it is through him that God will bring deliverance to his people.
December 6: Isaiah 42:10-25
Highlight: In response to God’s promised deliverance, God’s people find strength to praise him with a new song that celebrates salvation. And yet, Israel’s heart remains hard, which reminds us that a much greater work of grace is needed.
December 7: Isaiah 43:1-13
Highlight: Again, God’s people are called to eschew fear, and again, the reason is found in God’s redeeming love. God’s glory is revealed in the creation and redemption of his people, which is a work no power on earth can stop.
December 8: Isaiah 43:14-28
Highlight: For the sake of his glorious name, God will blot out the sins of his people. The exile will end, and God’s people will once again dwell with the Lord God. The end result of this redemptive work will be the renewed worship of God.
December 9: Isaiah 44:1-20
Highlight: The Servant of the Lord appears again, and God declares his eternal purpose for the Servant. This reaffirms God’s sovereignty, which shines brightly when compared to the so-called gods of this world.
December 10: Isaiah 44:21-28
Highlight: The Lord God is the One who redeems his people, and therefore, his people ought to be faithful to him. Again, God’s sovereignty is celebrated, as God declares that even the kings of the nations serve his purpose.
December 11: Isaiah 45:1-25
Highlight: Isaiah foresees the coming of Cyrus, who will be the human instrument through which God brings his people back from Babylon. At the same time, God’s promised redemption will spread to all nations, so that the renewed creation will be free from the scourge of idolatry.
December 12: Isaiah 46:1-13
Highlight: The Lord God compares himself to the gods of Babylon, and there is no comparison. The so-called gods of Babylon cannot carry their people, whereas the Lord God will carry his people to the end.
December 13: Isaiah 47:1-15
Highlight: Babylon, which is the up and coming world power in Isaiah’s day, will be humbled before the mighty hand of God.
December 14: Isaiah 48:1-11
Highlight: Even when God disciplines his people, he does so for their good and his glory. This is part of God’s love for his people. He will not leave them in their rebellion but will refine them for himself.
December 15: Isaiah 48:12-22
Highlight: Once again, Isaiah declares that the Lord alone is God. His glory will not be diminished, and that glory will be revealed as he delivers his people from Babylon.
December 16: Isaiah 49:1-7
Highlight: The Servant of the Lord speaks, declaring God’s sovereignty. And the Lord God speaks, announcing that his salvation, through his Servant, will spread to the nations of the earth.
December 17: Isaiah 49:8-26
Highlight: God promises to restore his people, and this promised restoration is a powerful answer to the despair and darkness that afflicts God’s people.
December 18: Isaiah 50:1-11
Highlight: The Servant of the Lord obeys God to the point of suffering for God’s wayward people. There are only two responses – fear the Lord, which leads to faith, or trust in your wisdom, which leads to torment.
December 19: Isaiah 51:1-11
Highlight: With a series of encouragements, God’s people are called to continue trusting in the Lord God. The ultimate encouragement is the promise of redemption and restoration.
December 20: Isaiah 51:12-23
Highlight: God’s salvation is unstoppable, and this should be a great comfort to God’s afflicted and discouraged people.
December 21: Isaiah 52:1-12
Highlight: There is good news for God’s people, and this good news announces peace and happiness for the future. Once again, the coming salvation of God’s people will also be good news for the ends of the earth.
December 22: Isaiah 52:13-53:12
Highlight: The Servant of the Lord suffers in the place of his people, and his suffering makes atonement for the sinful people of God. This is the Old Testament passage that perhaps speaks most clearly of the work of Jesus Christ.
December 23: Isaiah 54:1-17
Highlight: In response to the Servant’s work, there is a covenant of peace between God and his people. The chapter overflows with rich language of God’s redeeming love for his people.
December 24: Isaiah 55:1-13
Highlight: The climactic chapter of the Book of the Servant (chs. 40-55)! The weary and poor are urged to find their satisfaction in God, since his Word cannot fail. The final word of the chapter anticipates a new creation where the thorns of this fallen world bear fruit to the glory of God.