This year at Saint Peter Lutheran Church during the season of Advent, a four-week time of preparing for Christmas by preparing ourselves for the coming of Christ into our lives, we spent time with the Prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah is one of the greatest of the prophets in the Hebrew Bible; he appears at a critical time in Israel’s history. Israel (the northern kingdom) was conquered by Assyria in 722 b.c., and in 587 b.c. Jerusalem (capital of Judah, the southern kingdom) fell to the Babylonians.
Isaiah’s ministry most likely took place in Jerusalem from 740 to 681 b.c. In 740, Isaiah was called by God to ministry. Jewish tradition held that Isaiah was sawed in half by Manasseh (Hezekiah’s son) in the year 681 (a story referenced by the Apostle Paul in Hebrews 11:37).
Isaiah is one book in our Bible, but it most likely began as three separate works. First Isaiah (chapters 1-39) includes prophecies from Isaiah while he is living in Judah, during the time when Israel is annexed by Assyria, and before Judah is destroyed by Babylon. Isaiah calls the people of Judah to stay true to God, or the same will happen to them. He is particularly concerned with social justice, and how Judah’s faithlessness in this area is an indication of its tenuous relationship with God.
Second Isaiah (chapters 40-55), written in Isaiah’s voice, but clearly not by Isaiah, is set during the exile in Babylon. Many historians date this from 587 to 538 b.c. Cyrus of Persia (who conquered Babylon) is seen as a Messianic hero, because his military victory over Babylon allows the people of Israel to return to their home — an event that is described with great joy. This section emphasizes God’s ability to use historical events to advance righteousness.
Third Isaiah (chapters 56-66), by an anonymous author, was probably written between 530 and 510 b.c., after the return to Judah. God’s people are putting their destroyed nation together, and it is a very harsh life. Isaiah offers them words of hope and encouragement.
During this season, Pastor Dave offered sermons during Wednesday evening prayer based on texts from Isaiah. These sermons intended to help us sit at the feet of Isaiah and explore how to understand better the relationship we are invited to have with God, as well as the historical context of the life and ministry of Jesus, the Christ. Texts from his sermon are linked below
November 29 — Wednesday before the First Sunday of Advent
“Oh That You Would Come!” (Isaiah 64:1-9)
December 6 — Wednesday before the Second Sunday of Advent
“Comfort, O Comfort My People” (Isaiah 40:1-11)
December 13 — Wednesday before the Third Sunday of Advent
“Righteousness and Praise” (Isaiah 61:1-4)
December 20 — Wednesday before the Fourth Sunday of Advent
“Unto Us” (Isaiah 9:2-7)