Book of Isaiah : Introduction to Isaiah 40-66

Dealing with God's People


Introduction to Isaiah 40-66

Chapters 40-66 form the crown to the first section of Isaiah (chapters 1-39) by properly preparing the reader. The three subsections of chapters 40-66 are obvious. The 24 chapters are evenly split into three sections of 8 chapters. They are marked by the way they conclude rather than the way they begin.    

    ch.40-48 "There is no peace for the wicked, " says the LORD." 48:22
    ch.49-57 "There is no peace, says my God, "for the wicked." 57:21
    ch.58-66 "Who have transgressed against Me. For their worm shall not die." 66:24

This approach leaves an indelible impression on our minds. The sudden reminders of the wicked’s destruction abruptly intensifies our fascination with the grand themes of salvation, hope and utopia which beautifully colors each of these sections.

The unexpected closing message confirms God is not so preoccupied with saving the righteous that He has forgotten the judgment of the wicked. Isaiah dashes the modernists’ approach of letting bygones be bygones. Isaiah wants the contrite to fully enjoy their salvation, but the wicked need to be warned!

The last three sections of Isaiah from chapter 40 to chapter 66, each in their own distinctive way, direct their message to God’s people in exile.

Chapter 40-48 God’s gracious dealings with man

Section one (chapters 40-48) enables the exiles to see their whole life, including their captivity, in light of their relationship with their God. Isaiah identifies the places they do not trust and obey their covenant God Yahweh and tries to convey what sin really is.

The direct effort from stressing God’s greatness and faithfulness is a guilty conscience.

VIII. God And Man (Isaiah 40-48)
40:1-31     A. God Comforts His People
41:1-29     B. God Befriends His People
42:1-25     C. God Is Faithful To his People
43:1-44:5 D. Taking His Peoples’ Fear Away
44:6-28     E. Understanding The Presence Of Idols
45:1-25     F. God’s Unchangeable Plan Of Salvation
46:1-13     G. Deliverance From False Notions
47:1-15     H. Taking A Look Into The Future
48:1-22     I. Professors Of The Faith

Chapter 49-57 God’s gracious provision of redemption

This second section (chapters 49-57) points to an effective cure for their real problems. Outwardly, the exile would seem to be the culprit ruining their lives. If from section one they can understand their judgment is because of their sin, then they will look for relief not only in a return to their homeland but in the healing of their sins. God provides this healing. Although they are comforted about their return to Palestine, it is but a small fragment of the whole worldwide plan of healing Yahweh will be providing through the gracious Servant.

The Servant serves as the focus of hope in these chapters. Because of this Servant, Israel can be assured God has not forsaken them. In fact, the Servant will lead all the nations to serve God. Slowly the Servant is introduced. His work is not easy, but He finds strength in the Lord God.

Through the multitude of verses describing the Suffering Servant, the Israelites should begin to realize the cost of salvation. It is easy enough to arrange for their passage back to Judah as the first section emphasized using Cyrus the Persian emperor as His servant. The Servant, however, brings God’s people back through sufferings which are climaxed in his death. In another way He has become their Savior. He died for their sins. What was to be our sufferings became His sufferings. And because He faithfully does His work, He prospers and leads all those who are made righteous (i.e. justified).

God patiently taught the Jews His plan was to incorporate people all around the world. “The many” was to include people from all around the world. The “everyone” of chapter 55:1 is inclusive. Chapter 56 purposely assures these “foreigners” not to feel inferior or unimportant.

Man was looking for political freedom in their own homeland.
God provided spiritual freedom in the kingdom of God.

Man was thinking only his own race.
God was intent on helping people from every tongue and race.

How great and immeasurable is God’s grace! Chapter 57, though, brings us right back to the operating table. God spreads our evil right before our eyes ever intent on bringing us to the first stage where from we will seek His healing. This too is the work of His marvelous grace.

IX. Redemption Through The Servant (Isaiah 49-57)
49:1-5:3	  A.	Confirming His Concern Through His Servant   	• Bringing  Hope
50:4-11	   B.	Affirming His Concern Through His Servant  	• Bringing Comfort
51:1-23	   C.	Arousing Our Sense Of Need  	• Instilling Awareness Of God
52:1-12	   D.	Declaring Our Freedom From Sin  	• Instilling Anticipation Of Release
52:13-53   E. 	Providing Redemption For The Lost  	• Securing Salvation For The Many
54:1-17	   F.	Expanding God’s Magnificent Kingdom	• Describing Salvation 
55:1-13	   G.	Calling Us To Himself 	• Responding To Our Lord
56:1-8	    H.	Opening Wide The Kingdom's Doors  	• Overcoming Exclusiveness
56:9-57:21	I.	Encouraging The Contrite; Condemning Wicked 	• His Selectivity

Chapter 58-66 God’s gracious promises of hope

Isaiah’s strong message of hope shines out from these reminders to the wicked. God demands contrite hearts, reformed lives, and personal faith in Him from those desiring salvation. If one gets easily turned off by God's reminders to put away sin, then that one will probably never be able to read on to the hope that is so beautifully spread out in the later passages. Within the last section (chapters 58-66), reform and repentance is mentioned much less, while the theme of hope in God's salvation pulsates much stronger.

This section has another ‘interruption’ which serves as a distinction. Right in the middle of chapters 58-66 lies two chapters describing an Israelite’s personal confession and pleading (63:7-64:12). Before and after this, God speaks through the prophet Isaiah in different prophecies. However, this sincere echo of a godly Israelite’s pleading is placed in the middle like incense drifts up in the middle of a sacrifice.

It can be viewed as the balance between God’s sovereignty and man’s will. Even as God predicts the future, man is pleading for God to do these mighty acts of redemption. This song of praise, humble confession and call of hope stands as a monument night and day pleading to God for help. The Israelites deserve to be abandoned. Their sin totally fits them for judgment. They are worst than their enemies because they are betraying their God. These two chapters become a firm monument calling the godly ones to hope in this faithful God and to remind God there are a few who really care.

A Seed Becomes a Tree: The Hope of the Contrite

58 Exposing religious sins and extolling righteousness
59 Convincing us of His desire to help us (even when it cost Him) (S)
60 God gives the people a vibrant vision of the future (V)
61 God calls the Servant to insure the peoples’ righteousness (S) (V)
62 God clarifies the participation of the people in realizing the vision(V)
63:1-6 God uses the Servant to bring salvation to His people (S)
63:7-64 Understanding our sin and His grace (watchman)
65 Discovering the riches of His grace (V)
66 Finalizing and expanding their hope (V)

X. Seeds of Hope For The Righteous (Isaiah 58-66)
58:1-14 A. Bringing Life Back Into Our Religious Experience
     1) The Grand Opportunity (58:1)
     2) The Believers’ Confusion (58:2-3a)
     3) The Lord's Evaluation (58:3b-7)
     4) The Lord’s Renewal Work (58:8-12)
     5) The Example of the Sabbath (58:13-14)
59:1-21 B. God's Extraordinary Mercy
     1) Clarifying Our Misunderstandings (59:1-2)
     2) Identifying Our Desperate Problems (59:3-15a)
     3) Redeeming Our Lost Lives (59:15b-21)
60:1-22 C. The Glorious New Community Of God's People
     1) Promise Of Zion’s Light & Salvation (60:1-3)
     2) Creation Of Zion’s Reunion & Wealth (60:4-9)
     3) Exemplification Of Zion’s Service & Splendor (60:10-14)
     4) Continuation Of Zion’s Growth & Stability (60:15-22)
61:1-11 D. The Foundation Of Hope
     1) The Servant’s Ministry [Healing & Comfort]   (61:1-3)
     2) The Church’s Participation [Faithfulness & Evangelism]   (61:4-9)
     3) The Lord’s Purpose [Splendor of Righteousness]   (61:10-11)
62:1-12 E. The Persistence 0f God's Plan
     1) Enthusing us with vision (62:1-5)
     2) Charging us to pray (62:6-9)
     3) Clarifying our call (62:10-12)
63:1-6 F. The High Cost Of Redemption
     1) His Majestic Crimson Garments ... A Threat Or Help? (63:1)
     2) His Red-Stained Garments ... A Lover Or Hater Of People? (63:2-6)
63:7-64 G. The Confession God Likes To Hear
     1) I Remember God’s Kindness (63:7-9)
     2) I Cannot Forget God’s Grace (63:10-14)
     3) I Long For A Renewed Expression of His Kindness (63:15-64:12)
65:1-25 H. Discovering God's Amazing Grace
     1) God cares for those who don't care about Him   (65:1)
     2) God chooses sinful people (65:2-12)
     3) God blesses His servants (65:13-16)
     4) God gives eternal life to those not deserving it   (65:17-25)
66:1-24 I. A Final Explanation and Promise
     1) What is man’s Status With God? (66:1-6)
     2) Joy Will Replace Zion’s Pain (66:7-14)
     3) The Signs of the End (66:15-24)

Summary and Application

Being dispersed in some foreign and heathen land, the Israelites needed a vivid vision of what God would do for them.

Then all your people will be righteous;
They will possess the land forever,...
And the least one a mighty nation. (60:21-22)

Isaiah not only assures great blessings on them as they obey their God, but affirms they will become the source of blessing to all the peoples of the earth.

God does not let their vision close at their own borders. God is opening new possibilities to the Israelites. Those coming to worship Israel's God and offering their services will come from their enemies' forces (foreign lands). The age-old yet ever-inspiring utopia is clearly set in their minds.

What great things might happen on earth and what beautiful things they might look for in the new heavens are left unclear. However, God leaves within their hearts enough excitement to move their families back across the desert to the old homeland to live new lives dedicated to the living God.

Do you pray and regularly support overseas missions? How important is it to you that the gospel message is spread abroad?

Book of Isaiah: Plan and Outline

Overview of the Book of Isaiah
Discussion on Ten Sections of Isaiah
Outline of Isaiah

Graphical Redemptive Chart of Isaiah
Light & Dark Illustrative Diagram

Background of the Book of Isaiah

A Historical Timeline of Isaiah

Isaiah and Judah's Chronology
Assyria's Relationship with Israel/Judah

Section Introduction & Background

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Paul J. Bucknell
Biblical Foundations for Freedom