Struggling to Understand the Book of Isaiah?

By Adam Brown –

Reading and learning about the book of Isaiah has been one of the great joys of my life. And yet, if I am being honest, trying to derive any meaning from this book has also been one of the most frustrating experiences I have ever endured in any context at any time.

When I initially began to read Isaiah, I found the book to be extremely disorienting, fragmented, and beyond my reach. I was never quite sure of the flow or the historical backdrop in any given section. It was difficult to be certain how to bridge from this ancient Israelite prophecy to today’s Canadian context. It was also unclear to me how to close the gap from Old Testament prophecy to appropriate Christian application.

The result of all these struggles was epic boredom. For years, I avoided the book as if it were a fourteenth century plague. Every time I opened the book to try to read it, my brain glossed over, my mind shut down, and my Bible reading became an absolute drudgery.

I knew of many people who claimed that Isaiah was their favourite book in the Bible. Privately, I assumed that these people were total phonies. They must be lying, to me and maybe even to themselves. Why would they lie? Well, thought I, because it sounded good and smart and superior to love a book that most of the world could not understand or enjoy.

It was because of all of my personal difficulties with Isaiah that I decided that I wanted to focus my Ph.D. study in that very book. Now, let it be known, I did not pick Isaiah because I liked it. I picked it because I had to either learn to love it or walk away from it forever.

It was a high-risk/high-reward academic wager. It was entirely possible that I would flame out, and quickly. It was also possible, however (and this was the hope), that I might just come to grasp a little of the very thing that floated just beyond my reach. If I could just get my fingers to the edge of the hem of Isaiah’s robe, then maybe, just maybe, I might get a hold of him, pull him closer, and begin to see what all the fuss was about.

Five years after embarking on this gamble, I walked across the platform to receive my diploma as a Doctor of Philosophy in Christian Theology. I hadn’t dropped out. Yes, I had thought about quitting many times, but could never ultimately do it. Instead, I became a doctor in Isaianic studies.

Now, having said all of this, I still would not say thst I am an expert in this book. Many mysteries and riddles remain far beyond my reach. Nevertheless, I can say this: I have come to treasure Isaiah, both the prophet and the book.

At some point, I finally broke through the wall that had been keeping me on the outside, and the vista was breathtaking. Like a range of mountains all around me, I was dwarfed by the majesty of the revelation. Now, I fall prostrate before Isaiah’s God and marvel at the depth and height and length and breadth of His salvific work.

I want this for you too. If you, like me, have struggled to make sense of the book of Isaiah, then let me give you a key to unlock the door. In a word, this key is Structure. If you can come to an understanding of the structure of the book, then the rest will begin to make sense. Of course, you will still need to walk through the door and have a look around. Nevertheless, I have found that understanding Isaiah’s structure makes all the difference in the world:

Isaiah Mountain Range 586 x 352

Last Summer, I preached the whole book of Isaiah in 5 sermons at Muskoka Bible Centre. With permission, I have posted these sermons on the Southshore website.

While I am hesitant to promote my own preaching, I do think that these sermons are a helpful introduction to a book that, for most of us, is initially sealed shut. Thus, I encourage you to take a few hours to work through these five sermons by following this link:

The Gospel in Isaiah: Sermons

As a teaser – to whet your appetite – I will conclude this brief autobiographical article by attaching structural charts of the major sections of the book. There is much debate in the scholarly world about how to structure the book of Isaiah. These charts are my best effort to date.

If you want an interpretation of these charts, you will have to listen to the sermons!

I sincerely pray that God’s Spirit would help you to see His glory in and through the book of Isaiah.

Isaiah - Major Structural Divisions 586 x 352
Isaiah 1-6 - Structure 586 x 352
Isaiah 7-39 - Structure 586 x 352
Isaiah 40-55 - Structure 586 x 352

Isaiah 56-66 - Structure 586 x 352
Isaiah Mountain Range 586 x 352

Vintage Billy Graham: How To Live the Christian Life

By Adam Brown –

I have recently been reading a biography on Billy Graham called A Prophet with Honor (Updated Edition), by William C. Martin. I am currently walking with Graham through the presidency of Lyndon Baines Johnson, just shortly after the assassination of J.F.K.

A few chapters and a couple of weeks ago, however, I was entranced by Graham’s New York Crusade in Madison Square Gardens that lasted from May until August, 1957. Every night for the duration of these four months, Billy Graham preached the Gospel and called on people to make a decision for Christ. It struck me that, at 39 years of age, I am a little older than the 38-year old Graham had been during this miraculous ministry.

Curious to get beyond the statistics and the print on the page, I dug up this sermon from that crusade. I commend it to you and suggest that it is worth your time to watch it.

I pray that in Canada today, we might see a movement of the Holy Spirit that will awaken both the sleepy church and the unsaved people in our land, with excitement and zeal for the Gospel once again.

I suggest that many of us, who go by the Name of Christ, ought to be the first to receive the blessing, by repentance, of this 61 year old sermon.

The Restoration as a Picture of New Jerusalem

By Adam Brown

I preached this sermon at Muskoka Bible Centre on July 29, 2016. The premise of this sermon is that the restoration of Jerusalem by Ezra, Nehemiah, and Zerubbabel is a picture of the New Jerusalem in the New Heavens and New Earth. The restoration of Jerusalem in the Second Temple Period anticipates the Final Restoration at the end of God’s salvific plan.

The Davidic Kingdom as a Picture of the Kingdom of God

By Adam Brown

I preached this sermon at Muskoka Bible Centre on July 27, 2016. The premise of this sermon is that the Davidic kingdom is the kingdom of God both in that it prefigures it and is the beginning of it. Jesus is the rightful heir to the Davidic throne. Therefore, the kingdom over which Jesus reigns as King was established by God through David a millennium before Jesus was born. When Jesus returns, He will bring the Davidic kingdom with Him and the saints will live in this kingdom forever.

 

The Life of Abraham as a Picture of Salvation History

I preached this sermon at Muskoka Bible Centre on July 24, 2016. The premise of the sermon is that God ordered and recorded Abraham’s life (Genesis 12-25, one quarter of the book of Genesis!) as a typological picture of Salvation History, from Genesis to Revelation.

Weight of Glory

This sermon was preached at The Rock Community Church on June 12, 2016. It was a independent sermon in response to a suicide crisis among high school students in Woodstock, Ontario. Five students had committed suicide in five months. This sermon draws on the famous sermon by C.S. Lewis of the same title that he had preached 75 years ago this very week.

The preaching text is taken from various scriptures..

Signs of Death and Resurrection

I preached this sermon as a follow up to Easter on April 3, 2016 at the Rock Community Church.

The preaching text is from Mark 5:21-43:

And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him, and he was beside the sea. 22 Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at his feet 23 and implored him earnestly, saying, “My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well and live.” 24 And he went with him.

And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him. 25 And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years,26 and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment. 28 For she said, “If I touch even his garments, I will be made well.” 29 And immediately the flow of blood dried up, and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone out from him, immediately turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my garments?”31 And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?’32 And he looked around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.”

35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James.38 They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was.41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means,“Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43 And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.