I’ve been reading through the book of Isaiah lately in my personal devotional time. I consider Isaiah one of the most difficult books of the Bible to read in part because it is a compilation of Isaiah’s prophecies over time directed to different peoples at different times. Scholars believe Isaiah was written by at least two different prophets and maybe three over a long period. There does not appear to be an order to these prophecies excepting that they sort of fall groupings. To me, the book often looks like someone took a box of Isaiah’s prophecies written on scrapes of paper, dumped them on a table and starting copying them into one complete scroll. There is, of course, more order to the prophecies than that, but it sometimes feels pretty haphazard and makes writing these prophecies a challenge.
So why spend time on Isaiah? I am reading and studying Isaiah because Isaiah was exceedingly important to the early Christians who did not have the New Testament to read. They only had the Hebrew scriptures which we call the Old Testament. The early Christians loved Isaiah and quoted from him frequently – so frequently, in fact, that Isaiah is sometimes referred to as the fifth gospel. So I’ve been spending time with Isaiah off and on over the last few years trying to see what those early Christians saw in these writings. I came across one of my favorite passage this morning”
On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,
of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.
And he will destroy on this mountain
the shroud that is cast over all peoples,
the sheet that is spread over all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
Then the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces,
and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,
for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us.
This is the Lord for whom we have waited;
let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.
10 For the hand of the Lord will rest on this mountain. (Isaiah 25: 6-10)
For anyone who wonders why many Jews in Jesus’ day believed in resurrection, this is an important bit of scripture. Isaiah is clear that God will destroy death and wipe away the sadness of his people and gather them in a great banquet to live with him in joy. The life in abundance that Jesus spoke of is envisioned in these first few verses which describe the Great Banquet of rich foods and well aged wines. I hope you notice that all peoples are gathered for this feast. There is no distinction suggesting that some might be invited and others not. All will say, “This is our God; we have waited for him, so that he might save us! Let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
Imagine those early Christians pouring over their Hebrew scrolls trying to understand what God was doing when he raised Jesus up at Easter. Surely they read this passage with great joy!
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