Isaiah is a really big book. It’s the 6th-largest book in Scripture, amassing over 25,000 words in 66 chapters. Not to mention, this is a prophetic book, one of the Major Prophets of the Old Testament. Factoring in its size and subject, anything that aids us in its study will be welcomed. Fortunately, we have such a companion, and it’s a fairly new volume in the New Studies in Biblical Theology series. Authored by Andrew Abernathy of Wheaton College, this thematic approach to reading Isaiah is a careful and thorough study that students and preachers will greatly benefit from.
Abernathy seeks to lay out the message of Isaiah through three main themes, all centering on the kingship of Christ. He divides the book in an exposition on the Davidic ruler (Isa 1-39), the servant of the Lord (40-55) and the messenger of God (56-66). In other words, Abernathy is presenting a king, priest, and prophet division of the book, and asserting that Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of all of these offices as presented in the book.
Compellingly, Abernathy’s study has given me a profoundly new approach to interpreting Isaiah. There’s an important hermeneutical excerpt on page 120:
“While Christians profess that Jesus ultimately embodies what the book of Isaiah envisions for these lead agents, I am not certain that these agents are necessarily understood to be the same individual throughout Isaiah. The book of Isaiah contains a range of expectations pertaining to the various roles God would need his lead agents to fulfill in the course of time. Instead of forcing all of these lead agents into one mold, it is better to allow the uniqueness of each figure to emerge. The common denominator, however, between these lead agents is that they are the divine king’s agents and feature into his plans within his kingdom” (emphasis mine).
In other words, there very well could have been an understanding that these three offices would be held by three other people, but Christ came to fulfill them all. This makes His life and death and resurrection all the more profound, after reading Isaiah through this lens.
The main benefit of Abernathy’s study is that it is full of solid exegetical observations, aiding the preacher greatly in his own studies. Further, Abernathy includes multiple sermon series outlines in the back of the book to help the preacher try to organize and sort the text for his congregation – a major plus to this already great book.
The Book of Isaiah in God’s Kingdom continues the tradition of fresh biblical theological study set forth by other authors in the NSBT series. I am grateful to Dr. Abernathy and to IVP Academic for their contribution on one of the most captivating and intriguing books in the entire Old Testament.