An #IsaiahChristmas Catechism

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For the second year in a row now, I have spent the Advent season reading through the book of Isaiah. Blogger, author, and Twitter aficionado Tony Reinke helped to start this project and did a wonderful job setting the trajectory for our study of it, and hundreds have joined along online. This year, I wanted to take a slightly different approach to my study. I wanted to catechize these chapters. This afforded me a couple of benefits. One, it kept me accountable to stay on top of the plan, especially since I was supposed to be posting them online each day! It also, though, allowed me to distill the main themes I was tracing out of each chapter into one thought, one poignant reality that jumped out to me during my reading. This collection of questions and answers differs from a typical catechism, as I only asked three questions in the hopes of getting a variety of angles for each question:

  • For what purpose was Jesus the King coming? (Chapters 1-39)
  • For what purpose was Jesus the Servant coming? (Chapters 40-54)
  • For what purpose was Jesus the Messenger coming? (Chapters 55-66)

I’ve copied my “catechism” below. Take some time, whether you have read along or not, to consider these short, but weighty realities of the text. Consider the simple but profound truths littered throughout Isaiah’s ministry that invite the joys of Christmas. Rejoice that the coming King, the coming Servant, and the coming Messenger echoed in Isaiah are all found in the One called “Christ.” The beginnings of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke will be seminal texts referred to this weekend, but the book of Isaiah should be included as well.

I. THE ECHOES OF JESUS, THE COMING KING

-Isaiah 1-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?

A: To chasten God’s “utterly estranged” people. “She who was full of justice” are now full of “rebels and companions of thieves.” An alien judicial system must redeem and restore them to righteousness.

-Isaiah 2-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To save man from destructive idolatry. Only a King matchless in “the splendor of his majesty” deserves man’s worship. No created idols can reckon with the uncreated God; they all “utterly pass away.”

-Isaiah 3-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To dismantle man’s bankrupt definition of leadership. No longer will true leadership be associated with oppression, corruption, fear-mongering, disrespect. Pride will die. Humility will rule the day.

-Isaiah 4-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To bring refuge to the distressed. He will wash his people of their stains. He will soften their wounds with oil. A new Zion will emerge, one with shade, shelter, and the presence of the King himself.

-Isaiah 5-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To empty the land of a rotted harvest. For what kind of King allows his people to live off of fruit that will kill? He will clean things up, and sow seeds of fruit that nourishes and satisfies.

-Isaiah 6-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To set himself and his people apart.
Even angelic serpahim see a great chasm between them and the King. He is more than “holy;” he is “holy, holy, holy!” His kingdom must image the set-apart King.

-Isaiah 7-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To revive a spirit of faith. Ahaz only trusted in what he could see; God invited him, his people, and us to faith, the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not yet seen.

-Isaiah 8-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To testify as the Word of God. The coming King would “bind up the testimony” and “seal the teaching among [God’s] disciples” in a way not yet done. He will speak God’s Word, for he is Word incarnate.

-Isaiah 9-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To be a guiding light. The King’s subjects, blinded by the darkness of the day, will soon see Light. They will see again, and be led by a faithful, everlasting Governor.

-Isaiah 10-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To right the wrongs of injustice. Predators, oppressors, and robbers from generation to generation will be punished, brought to ruin, plundered, held accountable.

-Isaiah 11-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To reconcile. The King will rule in such a way that wolves lie with lambs, and little children will lead the calves and lions together. “The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD.”

-Isaiah 12-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To let his people sing again. Predators, oppressors, and robbers from generation to generation will be punished, brought to ruin, plundered, held accountable. No King rules this way.

-Isaiah 13-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To utterly conquer evil. He takes it upon his own shoulders to be at the frontline. Even more, he not only fights evil with the people, but he fights for the people, even if it costs him his life.

-Isaiah 14-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To remind his people that he has chosen them. Trying and failing to earn the King’s favor on our own is our everyday impulse. And yet despite ourselves, he chooses us, by grace alone.

-Isaiah 15-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To help us mourn our sin. God’s greatest punishment of humanity is leaving it be. But he won’t let us rot in our sin. We will grieve it, and repent.

-Isaiah 16-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To weep with the weeping. The King won’t let us weep alone. He is sad enough over the state of humanity to get his hands dirty. He does not watch from a distance.

-Isaiah 17-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To right our gaze upon Him. Disenchantment and distraction daily tempt the souls of the Israelites and Americans alike. But the King has come to command our attention, focus, and glory.

-Isaiah 18-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To bring rest to a restless world. The “land of whirring wings” will find security and respite, for the King is watching, and he intends to dwell with his people in safety.

-Isaiah 19-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To confound the world’s counsel. He will “inquire of the idols and the sorcerers” that Egypt looked to, finding them lacking. This King is alive, and has wisdom that far surpasses any created thing.

-Isaiah 20-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To get rid of false, failing hopes. When we set our hopes on a nation and a people, we are sure to be disappointed. Not so with the sufficient, everlasting King.

-Isaiah 21-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To help his people cherish the right things. The idols of the world will “shatter to the ground” when the King comes. God will become precious to God’s people again, whatever it takes.

-Isaiah 22-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To remind us of a better, future Kingdom. Many turned from God in pursuit of present pleasures and treasures; the King was coming to point his people to a Kingdom far superior in worth.

-Isaiah 23-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To wed justice with compassion. Says Calvin, “Here we have an astonishing proof of the goodness of God, which penetrated not only into this abominable brothel, but almost into hell itself.”

-Isaiah 24-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To spread the word of his glory. The majesty of the King will be sung from east to west, to the coastlands of the sea.

-Isaiah 25-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To invite us to the unending feast. Rich food, well-aged wine, the absence of death. Who wouldn’t want to be there? “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.”

-Isaiah 26-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To bring peace to his people. He keeps them “in perfect peace,” ordaining peace for them, enlarging their borders and increasing their nation.

-Isaiah 27-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To reap the fields white for harvest. That slithering dragon will no longer terrorize the farmlands; he will be slayed, and the crops of righteousness will bear much fruit.

-Isaiah 28-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To remove a spirit of self-indulgence from the land. Does the King care enough for his people to snap them out of navelgazing? Indeed, for he will be “a crown of glory, and a diadem of beauty.”

-Isaiah 29-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To preserve his people. The King tells Jerusalem, “the multitude of your foreign foes shall be like small dust, and the multitude of the ruthless like passing chaff” (29:5)

-Isaiah 30-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To call his people to Advent. For he “waits to be gracious to you…he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.” (30:18)

-Isaiah 31-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To help man fear the supernatural power of God again. A disenchanted people will concern themselves only with what they see. But the work of the King is truly not of this world; in a word, awesome.

-Isaiah 32-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To reign in righteousness. The playing field with be leveled before the King, “and the effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness, quietness and trust forever” (32:17).

-Isaiah 33-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To become their affection. The King will rule to bring stability, safety, and wisdom to his own, and the eyes of his people will behold the King in his beauty (33:17). His people will love him again.

-Isaiah 34-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To recompense his people. There will be a final judgment of the world, at the hands of the just King, that will not let any injustice go unnoticed or ignored.

-Isaiah 35-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To save. This King is a Rescuer who comes with a vengeance to save those he loves. The hands that once stretched out in despair will be held; the knees that once buckled will find their step again.

-Isaiah 36-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To help his people trust him. “On what do you rest this trust of yours?” the world asks of Hezekiah, and of us. The King will prove himself worthy of our trust. We will have no regret following him.

-Isaiah 37-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To reassure his people that their prayers are heard. Hezekiah goes before the Lord in the temple, and cries out to God in his distress. The King hears when his people need him to.

-Isaiah 38-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To prove himself a keeper of promises. Hezekiah, desperate before the Lord, was comforted by the sign promised to him. And the King, in turn, will make good on every promise. He keeps every iota.

-Isaiah 39-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the King coming?
A: To redeem even the Hezekiahs of the world. Hezekiah sadly defected into distrust and self-centeredness. And yet, the coming King comes in grace, never giving up on those who gave up on him.

II. THE ECHOES OF JESUS, THE COMING SERVANT

-Isaiah 40-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Servant coming?
A: To tend the flock. Sheep get scared. They wander. The shepherd’s service is unglamorous to society, but this Servant relishes in the opportunity.

-Isaiah 41-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Servant coming?
A: To model servanthood for his people. While he calls his chosen people “my servants” (v. 9), he in turn models what it means to serve by serving them (v. 10, 13, 17-20).

-Isaiah 42-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Servant coming?
A: To work justice within the earth. “He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his law” (v. 4).

-Isaiah 43-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Servant coming?
A: To be with us. The Servant came to us to guide us. He knows we do not do well when alone.

-Isaiah 44-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Servant coming?
A: To prove that he is faithful in promises. God confirms and fulfills (v. 26) prophecies so that his people will trust him to be faithful when the Servant comes.

-Isaiah 45-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Servant coming?
A: To turn our eyes to the creative genius of the Creator. No longer will the “earthen pots” (v. 9) presume on the universe they find themselves in. It is all a gift, all design, all meant for glory.

-Isaiah 46-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Servant coming?
A: To carry the lame. The Servant who never tires promises, “even to your old age I am he, and to gray hairs I will carry you. I have made, and I will bear; I will carry and will save” (v. 4).

-Isaiah 47-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Servant coming?
A: To let no stone go unturned. The Servant will sift through every last act of evil. Nothing will escape his eye.

-Isaiah 48-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Servant coming?
A: To teach us the way we should go. Have you ever tried to teach a people that refused to listen? The job was not easy. But the Servant desired they walk in newness of life.

-Isaiah 49-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Servant coming?
A: To restore what once was lost, but now is found. This Servant of the Lord is called beyond Israel and to the world, their only true hope of salvation resting in him.

-Isaiah 50-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Servant coming?
A: To sustain us by suffering for us. He has come to help us, giving his back to those who strike, that we might be spared.

-Isaiah 51-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Servant coming?
A: To eternally vindicate himself and his people. The Servant’s righteousness will last forever, his saving power outlasting the generations.

-Isaiah 52-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Servant coming?
A: To go before and behind his people into battle. Willing to lay his life on the front lines, and eager to back up those he fights for. This Servant is a true Brother in war.

-Isaiah 53-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Servant coming?
A: To die. The death we deserved, the cosmic injustice we committed, was taken for us. His wounds, our healing. His groaning, our joy. His death, our gain.

-Isaiah 54-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Servant coming?
A: To pursue the runaway bride. The time has come for the Servant Husband to pour out His forgiveness, compassion, and grace on the one whom he loves.

III. THE ECHOES OF JESUS, THE COMING MESSENGER

-Isaiah 55-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Messenger coming?
A: To accomplish the purposes of God. All announcement is confirming, validating what was announced long ago in the age of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. The Word going out of His mouth will not return void.

-Isaiah 56-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Messenger coming?
A: To declare the outcasts fit to belong. Foreigners, once pushed to the edges of society, now welcomed to the holy mountain, the house of prayer for all peoples. Outcasts are gathered in his name.

-Isaiah 57-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Messenger coming?
A: To pronounce peace on earth. This peace is offered to those whom he is pleased with. They will find rest, comfort, relief in his coming.

-Isaiah 58-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Messenger coming?
A: To call the earth to repentance. “Repent and be baptized!” will be the crux of his preaching, exhorting his people to turn to him.

-Isaiah 59-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Messenger coming?
A: To put the words of God into the mouths of his people. It will become their message, too. They will one day proclaim these excellencies the way the Messenger does.

-Isaiah 60-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Messenger coming?
A: To help his people behold God. Their eyes will not stare blankly. They will do something that transcends looking; they will see, and be thrilled at the sight.

-Isaiah 61-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Messenger coming?
A: To proclaim true liberty and favor. True freedom and riches is not found in this world, in the pursuit of the self, but in knowing the Savior.

-Isaiah 62-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Messenger coming?
A: To resurrect Delight. To think how far things have come since the Lord was sorry that he made man. A spirit of rejoicing and gratitude is in the air.

-Isaiah 63-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Messenger coming?
A: To let out his battle cry in saving his people. What match is Edom for the One who is mighty to save? He intoxicated his enemies in his wrath.

-Isaiah 64-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Messenger coming?
A: To break the silence. The chapter ends with a haunting question. “Will you keep silent, and afflict us so terribly?” (v 12). Centuries pass without answer. And then, Emmanuel comes.

-Isaiah 65-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Messenger coming?
A: To announce that he will make all things new. The restored world to come will be something magnificent. Nothing will match it in beauty, or durability, or wellness.

-Isaiah 66-
Q: For what purpose was Jesus the Messenger coming?
A: To help us shout, “Glory!” “The time is coming to gather all nations…they shall come and shall see my glory. I will set a sign among them…and they shall declare my glory among all” (v 18-20).

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