God’s kingdom in Isaiah

More and more, I’m noticing how contemporary scholars are discovering the kingdom of God at the centre of the Bible’s books. Even the big books:

  • Do the 150 Psalms have a central theme? Mark Futato says it’s “The Lord reigns
  • Do Isaiah’s 66 chapters have a central theme? Andrew Abernethy says it’s “God’s kingdom.”

With a PhD in Isaiah, Andrew taught Isaiah at Ridley College (Melbourne). Now he’s teaching at Wheaton (Chicago).

So what does he think Isaiah is about? The title of his book gives it away:

Andrew Abernethy, The Book of Isaiah and God’s Kingdom, (Downers Grove, IL; London: Apollos; IVP, 2016)

Now, getting your head around Isaiah’s 66 chapters as a whole is no mean feat. Digesting them to the place where you see the consistent thread is serious work.

Andrew summarizes why he believes the kingdom of God is the pervasive theme:

God’s rule is central to the three major sections of Isaiah.

Within Isaiah 1–39 a vision of the holy king who must judge Judah (ch. 6), an eschatological scene of God’s rule on Zion resulting in cosmic judgment (24:21–23) and an international feast (25:6–8), the hope of seeing the king in his beauty (33:17, 22), and a historical account of YHWH defeating Sennacherib (chs. 36–37) sit strategically within the subsections of Isaiah 1–39 (1–12; 13–27; 28–33; 34–39) to establish God’s kingship as an integral part of the first half of the book.

Within Isaiah 40–55 God’s kingship is also extremely important, as an arch from 40:9–11 and 52:7 presents the gospel of God’s coming reign as king as fundamental to this section of the book.

Within Isaiah 56–66 God’s kingship is at the centre of its chiastic arrangement, where there is the expectation that upon coming as a warrior king (59:15–20; 63:1–6) God will reside as an international King of glory in Zion where he will receive tribute from all nations (60–62). The book concludes on a similar note in Isaiah 66:1–2 and 18–24 by presenting God as the cosmic king who will reign in Zion, with all nations journeying to his glory. The strategic placement of passages pertaining to God’s kingship within the major sections of Isaiah places a spotlight on God as the king in Isaiah, both now and in the future. [10-11]

Why does this message of God’s kingship matter?

In the time of Isaiah, as well as in our own, orienting God’s people around God as king was vital. Without a king, there is no kingdom. If this king fails to capture the allegiance of the people, the kingdom disintegrates. The book of Isaiah endeavours to orient the allegiance of its readers around a king, namely YHWH. [13]

Allegiance to our king? There could scarcely be a more crucial message for our generation. Gospel is a word with its roots in Isaiah. The gospel calls us to give allegiance to Jesus, God’s appointed ruler.

This is the central message of the whole Bible. It’s all about God’s sovereign reign over the earth being re-established through his anointed king, Jesus our ruler (“Christ Jesus our Lord”). That’s good news.

Author: Allen Browne

Seeking to understand Jesus in the terms he chose to describe himself: son of man (his identity), and kingdom of God (his mission). Riverview Church, Perth, Western Australia

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