Since the earliest days of the Church, Isaiah has been treasured by Christians as a sacred book that clearly articulates a full-bodied biblical theology. It has been called the Fifth Gospel because of the clarity with which it points forward to the life, death, resurrection, and return of Jesus. And yet, in spite of its privileged position within the Christian canon, it has always been a difficult book to read and understand.
When trying to understand Isaiah, I am consistently encouraged by the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40. While reading Isaiah 52:13-53:12 the eunuch struggled to interpret its meaning. Therefore God commissioned Philip to find him in the desert in order that he might teach him about the Gospel . When Philip explained to him that the Suffering Servant was Jesus Christ, the eunuch believed and was saved. It is interesting to note that the eunuch was a high ranking official in the Ethiopian court (Acts 8:27). Therefore, it is very likely that this man was the beginning of the Christian church in Ethiopia, as he used his influence to preach the Gospel upon returning home.
This epidode in Acts 8 reminds us of three important facts. First, God preached the Gospel through Isaiah and the prophets. Second, the prophets can be difficult to understand without instruction. Third, with instruction, the Old Testament prophets are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 3:15-17). Therefore, we must do the work required to read and understand this often neglected section of our Bibles.
From now until Christmas we will endeavour to read, explain, and understand Isaiah 1-39 as we preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ at the Rock.