There are over 400 quotations or illusions to the book of Isaiah in the New Testament. For that reason alone, Isaiah is a good book to get to know. But there are a variety of reasons that Isaiah can be intimidating: it’s 66 chapters long, its organization can be difficult to grasp, and its ancient context can be a bit obscure to us.
There’s no substitute for simply reading and rereading Isaiah. The more you do the more its message will become clear, and the more you’ll hear its echoes as you read the New Testament. That said, there are a number of excellent resources published for a variety of purposes and in a variety of formats.
To help you walk through the text, two resources are worth mentioning. First, Drew Hunter’s, Isaiah: A 12 Week Study, will walk you through the book with questions and provide instruction along the way. Then, in Isaiah by the Day: A New Devotional Translation, Alec Motyer provides his own translation of Isaiah (he’s an Isaiah scholar, so he can do that) and concisely explains the heart of each section as it relates to the whole.
Motyer also has a full readers commentary, titled, Isaiah, in Tyndale’s Old Testament Commentary Series. If you had one commentary on Isaiah, this should be it. If you’re going to be teaching Isaiah or if you’re a university student dealing with challenges to Isaiah’s unity, Motyer’s more technical work is for you: The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary. Finally, for a compilation of sermons edited for publication by a faithful pastor, Ray Ortlund Jr.’s, Isaiah: God Saves Sinners is excellent.
Rosaria Butterfield has a neat story. Perhaps you’ve heard of her book, The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into the Christian Faith. Butterfield was a practicing lesbian engaged in the rigorous intellectual defense of that lifestyle and identity. The Lord saved her and this book is her story.
She has a new book that’s worth checking out, Openness Unhindered: Further Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert on Sexual Identity and Union with Christ. The Gospel Coalition has done us the favor of pulling together 20 quotes from this new title. Here they are:
“Why is sexual sin so hard to deal with? Because often sexual sin becomes a sin of identity.” (4)
“I honed the hospitality gifts that I use today as a pastor’s wife in my queer community.” (15)
“If God is the creator of all things, and if the Bible has his seal of truth and power, then the Bible has the right to interrogate my life and culture, and not the other way around.” (17)
“The internal mission of the Bible is to transform the nature of humanity. That is why unbelievers know it is a dangerous text.” (18)
“Adam’s fall rendered my deep and primal feelings untrustworthy and untrue.” (21)
“We never know the treacherous path that others take to arrive in the pew that we share Lord’s Day after Lord’s Day.” (22)
“The image of me and everyone I love suffering in hell crashed over me like shark-infested waves of a raging sea. Suffering in hell not because we were gay, but because we were proud. We wanted to be autonomous. . . . I counted the costs and I did not like the math.” (23)
“This was the first of my many betrayals against the LGBT community: whose dictionary did I trust? The one used by the community that I helped create or the one that reflected the God who created me?” (25)
“I still felt like a lesbian in my body and heart. That was, I felt, my real identity. But what is my true identity? The Bible makes clear that the real and the true have a troubled relationship on this side of eternity.” (25)
“Repentance is not just a conversion exercise. It is the posture of the Christian. . . . Repentance is the threshold to God.” (27)
“Jesus met sinners at the table, but he did not join them in their choice sins. He sat with them, but he did not sin with them. And we ought not expect Jesus to sin with us today.” (31)
“I want you to know from what country I emigrated, and in which country my citizenship permanently and eternally resides. I’m not a native speaker of this country. No real convert is. I will always speak in broken godliness, as new paradigms reread old feelings.” (37)
“There is another term, though, that competes for my allegiance. It is sola experiencia—my personal experience shaping and selecting those parts of the Bible I judge relevant for me.” (44)
“My new affection was not heterosexuality, but Jesus. . . . I was converted not out of homosexuality, but out of unbelief.” (50)
“You can’t bypass repentance to get to grace. Christ is manifest in our humility, not in our disobedience.” (61)
“Jesus sweated blood. He withstood the test. He ran the whole race. We cannot make such claims. We have not been tested that hard, or humiliated that comprehensively. We are in the ABCs of the kindergarten of the school of temptation. By not falling into temptation, Jesus ran the whole race, while I collapsed in the first mile.” (82)
“If you are in Christ, temptation is not about some essential truth or inherent wisdom about us—and therefore should not become a term of selfhood, self-representation, or identity. It is about warfare.” (82)
“How do we make an identity out of temptation? By collapsing what you desire with who you are. By collapsing what tempts you or what trips you up with who you will become. . . . God’s revealed purpose for my identity always nails me to his cross.” (83)
“God is calling us to so greatly love others that we do not desire for them anything that might separate them from God.” (87)
“Loyal fellowship of believers is not an ‘add on’ to good doctrine. Fellowship of believers is often the vein through which the Savior’s blood pumps us whole and well.” (90)
“Christians are called ‘saints’ in the Bible. We who bear Christ’s spilled blood are a royal priesthood. Any category of personhood that reduces a saint to the sum total of his or her fallen sexual behavior is not a friend of Christ. . . . Making an identity out of sin patterns is itself a sin.” (114, 123)
God hates pride. Pride in the heart of any person insists, however subtly, that God should scoot over so we can take a seat as king. Whether by ignoring him or outright rejecting his rule, we are all born our own bosses.
In Isaiah 13:11, God writes this about Babylon: “I will put an end to the pomp of the arrogant, and lay low the pompous pride of the ruthless.” In last Sunday’s sermon, “The God of the World and History,” we pondered the danger of pride together. Babylon, in Scripture, is famous for her pride and symbolic of the pride at the heart of every human.
To help you examine your own life for pride, Desiring God recently published a helpful piece, “Seven Subtle Symptoms of Pride.” Here’s how it starts:
Pride will kill you. Forever. Pride is the sin most likely to keep you from crying out for a Savior. Those who think they are well will not look for a doctor.
As seriously dangerous as pride is, it’s equally hard to spot. When it comes to diagnosing our hearts, those of us who have the disease of pride have a challenging time identifying our sickness. Pride infects our eyesight, causing us to view ourselves through a lens that colors and distorts reality. Pride will paint even our ugliness in sin as beautiful and commendable.
We can’t conclude that we don’t struggle with pride because we don’t see pride in our hearts. The comfortable moments when I pat myself on the back for how well I am doing are the moments that should alarm me the most. I need to reach for the glasses of Christ-like humility, remembering that nothing good dwells in my flesh, and search my heart for secret pride and its symptoms.
In his essay on undetected pride, Jonathan Edwards points out seven sneaky symptoms of the infection of pride.
Then, with Jonathan Edwards as a guide, the piece unpacks seven symptoms: fault-finding, a harsh spirit, superficiality, defensiveness, presumption before God, desperation for attention, and neglecting others.
We all need to hear this. Click here for the full article.
This Sunday we will begin a five-week sermon series through the Book of Isaiah, titled, A Vision of Two Cities. In Isaiah’s vision he sees Jerusalem as it is, in ruins. And he sees, come the end of the book, a new Jerusalem. The question is: how does Jerusalem get that way? Across 66 chapters a portrait of the Messiah emerges.
Come on Sundays with expectation for how God will use his Word among us this July. This book is quoted more than all of the other prophets combined. In getting to know Isaiah’s prophecy we will get to know our Bibles better, and in getting to know our Bibles better we’ll get to know Christ better.
Here’s the series outline so you can read ahead each week:
- July 5: “The God of Unapproachable Holiness” (1-12)
- July 12: “The God of The World and History” (13-27)
- July 19: “The God of Absolute Strength” (28-39)
- July 26: “The God of Redemption through Suffering” (40-55)
- August 2: “The God of A New World and a New Name” (56-66)
What happened to our series through Mark? Each Summer Ryan takes a sabbatical from preaching for a number of weeks, so we’re hitting pause on Mark for now. When Ryan returns on August 9 he pick up where we left off.
Then, once we wrap up Mark, in mid-September we will continue our series through 1 and 2 Samuel, In Search of a King.
On Thursday of this past week the Supreme Court of the United States handed down a ruling that requires the legal recognition of same-sex marriage in all fifty states.
As Christians, we are not of this world, but we are in it and we care about and are concerned for what happens here. And so on Sunday we prayed in reflection on the Supreme Court’s decision for our nation, for the church, and for everything in-between. Here’s how we prayed together:
Father, increasingly, our nation is calling evil good and good evil, and we have a mixture of emotions about this.
On the one hand, we know who rules the world, who set the stars in their place, and who orders history. You do. The nations are as a drop in the bucket to you, and our leaders, in all of their righteous and unrighteous decisions, are ultimately working out your plan for history. And so we are calm and we are confident because history is yours, and we belong to you.
And yet, though trusting you fully, we are troubled in so many ways. We look to you, yet we lament.
- We’re troubled for a nation that has set its way against the Creator. Marriage is something it can and should recognize and regulate, but marriage is not the state’s to change, for the state did not design human beings. It governs them. Lord, we trust you with calm, serious, and happy reverence for the institution you made, even if we look crazy for it.
- We’re troubled for those who experience same-sex attraction, that the affirmation of their desires as good might put them farther from the life-saving truth about sin and salvation in the gospel. Lord, we trust you to perform the miracle that is always your to perform in conversion—to open blind eyes and save sinners.
- We’re troubled for those in our lives whom we love, people made in your image, who believe and even celebrate a lie that leads to death. This is so very sad. Lord, may we trust you and your Word when it seems like so few do.
- We’re troubled for children yet unborn who will inherit a world with a more confused vision of marriage than we’ve known ourselves, children who will have a lesser chance of growing up with the mother and father who made them. Trends in other lands confirm what we would expect: that laws teach norms and norms matter. Lord, may we trust you to be the Father of the fatherless.
- We’re troubled for what it will mean to be wrongly identified by culture and law as bigoted—for what this will mean for our influence in the schools, as teachers, as parents on PTO boards; for what it will mean for our workplace relationships when we can’t congratulate a friend on their engagement or attend their wedding; when we are ruled out for a promotion or position of influence; when certain vocations, in time, are simply out of bounds for people who believe what we do. Lord, may we trust you more as exiles in this world, as strangers and as aliens.
- We’re troubled for how this will effect the freedom of people of all revealed faiths—Muslims, Jews, Christians, and others—who hold to a traditional understanding of marriage, and for the temptation they will face to deny what they know and so sin against their conscience. Lord, may we trust you with hard work for the just freedom of all persons to believe without coercion and exercise their religion in the normal course of their lives.
- We’re troubled for how this may over time effect our work together for the common good in Christian day-cares, schools for children, Christian colleges and universities, campus ministries, military chaplain programs, adoption agencies, and even perhaps Christians who desire to foster and adopt little ones. Lord, may we trust you with persevering and painstaking work for the good of our communities.
- We’re troubled for the pressure our elected officials will feel to be on the so-called “right side of history” on future erosions of marriage that seem inevitable when marriage is untethered from the twoness of the sexes. May we trust you with patient, persevering, and prudent self-government.
- We’re troubled for the temptation Christians and churches will face to abandon a faithful witness by either denying the sinfulness of sin and so losing the gospel, or by affirming the truth about marriage in a way that denies its beauty and repels sinners. Neither response will ensure that we are a refuge for sinners who need refuge when sin’s empty promises leave them hurt, guilty, and alone. Lord, may we trust you—we need you—to keep us from timidity and from pride. May we make sin known and be known for our Savior from sin.
- Lord, we are troubled about many things. We are even troubled by how much others are or aren’t troubled by these things we have lamented. Give us unity around the main things and wisdom together to know when those things are at stake. Give us patience in our listening and wisdom and winsomeness in our speech.
Thankfully, while there many reasons to lament, there are still many more to trust, and in trusting, to sing and to rejoice.
- And so we rejoice in Christ, risen from the dead and seated. Our world changes, but he isn’t going anywhere. We fear nothing for nothing can separate us from him.
- We rejoice in Christ, who was a stranger in this world. Every difficulty for his sake confirms that we are his.
- And we rejoice in Christ, who is building his church. Maybe now, Father, you will be pleased to receive more glory in us as we give you more glory in our marriages against the backdrop of a place that is trading it in.
Glorify your Son—the King of Glory, the Highest Judge, our Risen Lamb—in whose name we pray.
Helpful responses to the Supreme Court ruling:
- “Here We Stand: An Evangelical Declaration on Marriage,” Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission (click here for more articles from the ERLCon the SCOTUS decision)
- “CBMW’s Official Response to the SCOTUS Ruling,” Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
- “Why the Church Should Neither Cave nor Panic about the Decision on Gay Marriage,” Russell Moore
- “What Does the Bible Say?,” Kevin DeYoung
- “Top 10 Quotes from the Dissenting Justices on Same-Sex Marriage,” Trevin Wax
- “How Will the U.S. Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Decision Affect Religious Liberty?,” The Atlantic
- “The Supreme Court and religious liberty: Reason for concern,” Andrew Walker
- “Gay Conservatism and Straight Liberation,” Ross Douthat
- “Everything Has Changed and Nothing Has Changed — The Supreme Court Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage,” Albert Mohler (Click here for Mohler’s Daily Podcast here)
- “Sam Allberry on Ministering to Same-Sex Attracted Friends,” Joe Carter (click here for the ERLC’s site, Equip, equipping the church regarding same-sex marriage and homosexuality)
- “Talking to your children about sex, marriage and same-sex marriage,” with oundtable contributors: Jani Ortlund, Stephanie Goeke, Krissie Inserra, Trillia Newbell and Jena Starke
- “Lessons for the Marriage Debate from the Pro-Life Movement,” Russell Moore
- “Opening Our Eyes to Obergefell and Its Effects: A Pastoral, Cultural, and Legal Round-Up,” David Schrock
Books to equip you for crucial conversations:
- Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom, by Ryan Anderson.
- We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a Culture Redefining Sex, Marriage, and the Very Meaning of Right and Wrong, by Al Mohler.
- What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality?, by Kevin DeYoung.
- Compassion without Compromise: How the Gospel Frees Us to Love Our Gay Friends Without Losing the Truth, by Adam Barr
- Is God Anti-Gay?, Sam Allberry (click here for Sam’s ministry, Living Out)
For a helpful tone-setting response to the decision, here’s a video from Russell Moore, President of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission.
Finally, in case you missed it, click here to watch or listen to a three part seminar hosted last year at Desert Springs Church, titled, Homosexual Marriage: Seeking Clarity, Conviction, and Compassion.
Recently, Justin Taylor, published a blog, titled, “Jonathan Edwards Would Like to Ask You a Few Questions.” Edwards, a philosopher, theologian, and preacher, was first a pastor. And as a pastor he had spiritual perception into the souls of the people he led.
From a sermon titled, “The Excellency of Christ,” here are some of the questions he addressed to “the poor, burdened, distressed soul”:
- What are you afraid of, that you dare not venture your soul upon Christ?
- Are you afraid that he can’t save you, that he is not strong enough to conquer the enemies of your soul? But how can you desire one stronger than “the mighty God”? as Christ is called (Isaiah 9:6).
- Is there need of greater than infinite strength?
- Are you afraid that he won’t be willing to stoop so low, as to take any gracious notice of you? But then, look on him, as he stood in the ring of soldiers, exposing his blessed face to be buffeted and spit upon, by them!
- Behold him bound, with his back uncovered to those that smote him! And behold him hanging on the cross! Do you think that he that had condescension enough to stoop to these things, and that for his crucifiers, will be unwilling to accept of you if you come to him?
- Or, are you afraid that if he does accept of you, that God the Father won’t accept of him for you?
- But consider, will God reject his own Son, in whom his infinite delight is, and has been, from all eternity, and that is so united to him, that if he should reject him he would reject himself? . . .
- What is there that you can desire should be in a Savior, that is not in Christ?
- Or, where in should you desire a Savior should be otherwise than Christ is?
- What excellency is there wanting?
- What is there that is great or good?
- What is there that is venerable or winning?
- What is there that is adorable or endearing?
- Or, what can you think of that would be encouraging, that is not to be found in the person of Christ?
- Would you have your Savior to be great and honorable, because you are not willing to be beholden to a mean person?
- And, is not Christ a person honorable enough to be worthy that you should be dependent on him?
- Is he not a person high enough to be worthy to be appointed to so honorable a work as your salvation?
- Would you not only have a Savior of high degree, but would you have him notwithstanding his exaltation and dignity, to be made also of low degree, that he might have experience of afflictions and trials, that he might learn by the things that he has suffered, to pity them that suffer and are tempted?
- And has not Christ been made low enough for you?
- And has he not suffered enough?
- Would you not only have him have experience of the afflictions you now suffer, but also of that amazing wrath that you fear hereafter, that he may know how to pity those that are in danger of it, and afraid of it? This Christ has had experience of, which experience gave him a greater sense of it, a thousand times, than you have, or any man living has.
- Would you have your Savior to be one that is near to God, that so his mediation might be prevalent with him?
- And can you desire him to be nearer to God than Christ is, who is his only begotten Son, of the same essence with the Father?
- And would you not have him near to God, but also near to you, that you may have free access to him?
- And would you have him nearer to you than to be in the same nature, and not only so, but united to you by a spiritual union, so close as to be fitly represented by the union of the wife to the husband, of the branch to the vine, of the member to the head, yea, so as to be looked upon as one, and called one spirit? For so he will be united to you, if you accept of him.
- Would you have a Savior that has given some great and extraordinary testimony of mercy and love to sinners, by something that he has done, as well as by what he says?
- And can you think, or conceive of greater things than Christ has done?
- Was it not a great thing for him, who was God, to take upon him human nature, to be not only God, but man thenceforward to all eternity?
- But would you look upon suffering for sinners to be a yet greater testimony of love to sinners, than merely doing, though it be never so extraordinary a thing that he has done?
- And would you desire that a Savior should suffer more than Christ has suffered for sinners?
- What is there wanting, or what would you add if you could, to make him more fit to be your Savior?
For a good entry into the life and preaching of Jonathan Edwards, consider reading, Edwards on the Christian Life: Alive to the Beauty of God, by Dane Ortlund.
On Saturday, May 16, we hosted a Saturday Seminar for men, titled, Building Lives with Sexual Integrity.
Buildings need structural integrity to stand and to withstand the pressures that weigh on them. Cultures, communities, churches, and families need sexual integrity to thrive. When a building has structural integrity all kinds of wonderful things can happen inside that building down generations. When a building fails structurally devastation follows. The consequences are even greater when it comes to sexuality. Sex makes and also destroys lives. We need God’s Word to enjoy and yield it well.
Sexual integrity is not a topic relevant only for men, of course, but men bear a particular responsibility as men in this area and we wanted to place a target for this material squarely on them.
If you missed it or if you’d like to listen in as a lady, the audio and video for each talk is available below. Click here for the student notes.