What I like about Isaiah: It's all about God

What I like about Isaiah: It's all about God

Alan takes a look at his favorite part of Isaiah, revealing what life is all about.

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Alan Strange

Alan Strange

The Reverend Canon Alan Strange was until recently the leader of Holy Trinity, Norwich, he's now moved across the channel to minister in France. He has an intellect that is worth tapping into, and he can teach difficult theology to little guys like us at The Bridge in a great, relevant way. That's why we love him, that's why we have him here. Alan is a short little English Vicar, who managed to marry a tall beautiful blonde American. There is hope for us yet...

Streams

The Big Story #6: God's Church

The Big Story #6: God's Church

Rounding off our big Bible overview we look to the conclusion of the story and what we need to do to get there. God has chosen us to play a part in it, but how? What does it mean to be God's church?

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The Big Story #5: God's Son

The Big Story #5: God's Son

It all points to Him, everything that had come before, the promises, the prophecies, the people. Here we reach the climax of God's story in a person, God's son, Jesus Christ. We don't understand him until we see how he fits into what's come before.

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The Big Story #3: God's Kingdom

The Big Story #3: God's Kingdom

Look around the world and we see kings, presidents, leaders who are very much flawed. Israel had a king - God, but they wanted a human king. We look at how that worked out for God's people.

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The Big Story #2: God's People

The Big Story #2: God's People

God's story is both cosmic in scope and intimate in care, we see that as he chose to fulfil his purposes in a family. But why did God choose Abraham and the people of Israel to be the ones who would be a blessing to the whole world?

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What I like about Isaiah: It's all about God

that vision, set out for us in Isaiah 6, isn’t of any polluted, compromised God, but of God in all his true holiness

It’s about 2,800 years ago. King Uzziah has polluted the Temple of God. He has grown proud, and has himself tried to make sacrifice to God, instead of leaving that to those called to do it, the priests.

One day, in the Temple, with the unfaithful king now dead, Isaiah sees a vision of God himself. And that vision, set out for us in Isaiah 6, isn’t of any polluted, compromised God, but of God in all his true holiness. Uzziah’s kingship had led to prosperity for the land, but it was founded on injustice, and Isaiah’s vision in the Temple is the beginning of a blazing campaign to abolish the unholy practices of the people who may live far from the Temple. 

The vision is astonishing and terrifying; the building shakes.

I came to Christ because I was convinced from the gospels that Jesus rose from the dead. Notions of sin and the cross came later. That’s why I like the way the story unfolds in Isaiah 6. It is as Isaiah encounters God in his holiness that he knows his own sin, and not before. That rings true. It’s just like the encounter of Peter with Jesus in Luke 5. It is as Peter meets Jesus that he knows his own sinfulness. Knowing sin as sin normally comes late, and our evangelism might usefully focus more on God’s holiness and beauty than on our own sinfulness.

our evangelism might usefully focus more on God’s holiness and beauty than on our own sinfulness

With his sin atoned-for by a touch from the altar, Isaiah is readied for service – “Who shall go for us?” / “Here am I, send me”. It’s a beautiful pattern of encounter, confession, cleansing and commissioning.

What a shame, it then seems, that everything immediately goes wrong! The reality that continues from v.8 is fiercer than the pattern so far. ‘Go, and tell this people,’ says God, ‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding’. Isaiah is promised that his mission will be a complete waste of time, that he will be a prophet of God’s judgment, not a bringer of God’s mercy. Well, that’s not very ‘nice’, and we like a “nice” God. Moreover, we like a story of ‘Prophet called / prophet preaches / people respond’, and this isn’t even remotely in that pattern – for that, go to Jonah.

 

I can devote my whole life to ministry and it still depends entirely and utterly on God what fruit results

This passage has in it the mystery that I can have powerful personal experience of God, I can devote my whole life afterwards to ministry for God, and it still depends entirely and utterly on God (not me) what fruit results. This passage stands as a rebuke to our times, when we like to think that, so long as we murmur ‘your strength, not mine’, it’ll all come out right in the end. Not so, says this passage.

You are to do simply what you are given to do – results are for God to determine. Sometimes that will mean joy; sometimes, it will mean judgment. But most often, it means, as for Isaiah, a near-complete rejection, with only a few, a remnant bearing the hope of God for his people. It’s not ‘nice’, but it rings true to how it was for Jesus, and to how things actually are in the church of God. I love its rigour, its wonderful avoidance of sentimentality. Isaiah’s remnant, though, endured, and it gave rise to Jesus of Nazareth, long after Isaiah was dead. Work for the glory of the kingdom, but you may never see in your lifetime the results that matter.

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