The Gospel According to Isaiah

Photo of the Book of Isaiah page of the Bible
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From an essay I wrote for a class over at the Koinania Institute:

The true meaning of the Gospel is not found in 1Co. 15, or Galatians, or even in the Gospel accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). All of those came later to announce and explain how the Good News is being fulfilled before our eyes. However, the Good News was given centuries before Yeshua was born into the world by the prophets, and by Isaiah chapters 40-56 in particular.

First, a bit of background: The Hebrew word for “good news” is bosrah, the feminine of basar, “flesh.” The idea behind the word is that the proper response to good news was to have a feast, like the father of the prodigal son or the sh’lamim offering described in Leviticus 3.

Interestingly, the first mention of “good news” in the Bible isn’t such good news for Israel. In 1Sa. 4:17 we read, “He who brought the news (ha’mabasar) answered, ‘Israel has fled before the Philistines, and there has been also a great slaughter among the people. Your two sons also, Hophni and Phinehas, are dead, and the ark of God has been captured.’” This first mention is a foretaste: In the same way, the Good News of the Messiah resulted in the Romans defeating Israel in battle, the priesthood being destroyed, and the Covenant being taken by the Gentiles.

However, as we turn to Isaiah, we find that the Gospel is indeed meant to be and ultimately will be good news for Israel. Isaiah 40:9-10, after describing the “voice calling in the wilderness,” the forerunner of Messiah, John the Immerser, reads,

You who tell good news (m’baseret) to Zion, go up on a high mountain.
You who tell good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with strength.
Lift it up. Don’t be afraid.

Say to the cities of Judah, “Behold, your God!”Behold, the Lord GOD will come as a mighty one,
and his Arm will rule for him.
Behold, his reward is with him,
and his recompense before him.

“His Arm” is a title of the Messiah, as we see in Isa. 53:1-2 (cf. John 12:38, Rom. 10:16),

Who has believed our message?
To whom has the Arm of the LORD been revealed?

For he [the Arm of the LORD} grew up before him [the LORD] as a tender plant,
and as a root out of dry ground.
He has no good looks or majesty.
When we see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.

This same Arm is described in Isa. 41:27, 42:1-4,

I am the first to say to Zion, ‘Behold, look at them;’
and I will give one who brings good news to Jerusalem. . . .

“Behold, my servant, whom I uphold; my chosen, in whom my soul delights—
I have put my Spirit on him.He will bring justice to the nations.He will not shout,

nor raise his voice,
nor cause it to be heard in the street.

He won’t break a bruised reed.
He won’t quench a dimly burning wick.
He will faithfully bring justice.

He will not fail nor be discouraged,
until he has set justice in the earth,
and the islands will wait for his law.”

Now notice that this news is to be good for all Jerusalem. If Replacement Theology is correct, then Isaiah was a liar and a false prophet. Only if Yeshua will ultimately redeem all Israel and Jerusalem is Isaiah true. In particular, we should note Isa. 41:8-11:

“But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend,You whom I have taken hold of from the ends of the earth, and called from its corners,and said to you, ‘You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you away;’Don’t you be afraid, for I am with you.Don’t be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you.
Yes, I will help you.
Yes, I will uphold you with the right hand of my righteousness.Behold, all those who are incensed against you will be disappointed and confounded.
Those who strive with you will be like nothing, and shall perish.

However, while this Good News is first to the Jew, it is also for the Gentile:

Isa 49:5-6 – Now says the LORD who formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, and that Israel be gathered to him (for I am honorable in the eyes of the LORD, and my God has become my strength); yes, he says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give you for a light to the nations, that you may be my salvation to the end of the earth.”

Isa 56:3, 6-7 – Neither let the foreigner, who has joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, “The LORD will surely separate me from his people” . . . Also the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath from profaning it, and holds fast my covenant; even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.”

But what of Salvation by Faith rather than Works? Surely that was the special message of Paul. But here too Isaiah has scooped him:

Isa 55:1, 6-7 – “Come, everyone who thirsts, to the waters! Come, he who has no money, buy, and eat! Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. . . . Seek the LORD while he may be found; call you on him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; and let him return to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

Every particular of the Gospel as presented in the New Testament–including Yeshua’s substitutionary sacrifice (Isa. 53:4-6) and full Gentile participation in the Covenant–is presented by Isaiah. This realization led Jerome to write, “He is not so much a prophet as an evangelist.” When we realize that, and realize the theme of restoration and peace to Israel and Jerusalem which is woven throughout the Gospel According to Isaiah, we can see the utter foolishness of Replacement Theology or any “gospel” at all that calls for Jews to give up being Jews, or Gentiles being Gentiles.

Shalom

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