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This article is part of the Christ in All of Scripture series.

When God’s People Wander

Reading the book of Isaiah takes us into the precarious space between warning and wonder, faithlessness and fidelity, compromise and conviction: this is the world where a fallen people hear the holy God. Divine words come full of truth and grace; they expose sin while offering, beneath all failure, hope and redemption. In Isaiah, God’s word calls for a humble response of awe, humble trust, and reverent submission to the Lord and his kingdom.

While the immediate context of Isaiah relates to the dangers posed by Assyria and Babylon as well as the dramatic shifts between exile and return, this prophetic book was always understood to have ongoing relevance. One of the most referenced Old Testament books in the New Testament, later writers look back to Isaiah and unflinchingly identify Jesus as the foretold Messiah who fulfills all the promises in this prophetic book. Isaiah’s messianic profile informs Christian worship of Jesus as the suffering servant who brings a new creation through his life-giving resurrection.

God had entered into a covenant with Israel, and with that covenant came the promise of divine blessings for faithfulness and a warning about curses for lack of faithfulness (e.g., Leviticus 26). Sadly, Israel flirted with idols, and when difficulties arose they tended to trust in unrighteous foreign powers rather than their sovereign Lord. Through their hardness of heart they forsook wholehearted trust in the Lord, while showing apathy toward injustice and a lack of concern for the needy. Throughout Isaiah we read sober warnings not only against the idolatrous nations but also against God’s own covenant-breaking people. Israel has proven not to be the “light to the nations” they were called to be.

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Promises Secured in Christ

Where then can a foundation for hope and redemption be found? It is grounded on the promises brought home time and again throughout Isaiah—promises ultimately secured only in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 1:19–20). A sampling of key ideas emerging from Isaiah demonstrates how much our understanding of Christ and his kingdom is informed by this glorious book.

First, a preserved “remnant” becomes the focal point of God’s promises in Isaiah, and eventually the remnant is identified through and in its one messianic representative, the Anointed One: Jesus himself.

Second, this Anointed One will suffer on behalf of others: in the New Testament we discover that Jesus the Messiah is the one who absorbs the covenant curses—so that those who are united to him by faith might live in his covenant blessings. But we must turn to Christ, trusting in him as Savior and Lord.

Third, Isaiah reminds us that God’s people are meant to reflect God’s heart. We repeatedly read about Israel’s struggle with disobedience and with not consistently showing a concern for the things that reflect God’s heart (e.g., the poor and vulnerable, and matters of justice). In their rebellion they undermine the ancient ceremonies and practices that God instituted to prompt his forgiven people to practice righteousness and mercy. When they do not practice these things, the concern is that they may not have truly feasted on God’s grace in the first place.

Fourth, God’s call extends beyond Israel to the world. Isaiah keeps a global perspective even as it often focuses on Judah. God is described not merely as the Creator of Israel in particular, but also as the Creator of the world in general (e.g., Isa. 17:7; 29:16; 40:28; 43:15; 51:13; 54:5). God wants his people to be a blessing to the world (e.g., Gen. 12:1–3; 18:17–18; 28:14; Jer. 4:2; cf. Acts 3:25; Gal. 3:14). Part of the reason God’s judgments so often appear in Isaiah is that his people have been rebellious, creating darkness rather than bringing light. Nevertheless, the Creator, who singularly serves as the Redeemer of Israel, also extends hope to the nations who must repent and look in faith to the only true God (e.g., Isa. 19:16–25; 44:6, 24).

Engrafted into the Messiah and the deliverance he brings, God’s people are liberated to love God and neighbor. As this occurs, God’s people become a light to the nations, holding out the hope not merely of forgiveness but also of new creation. The message of Isaiah is that God is very great—and yet, astonishingly, his mercy is just as great.

This article is adapted from the ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible. Browse other articles in this series via the links below.

Old Testament

New Testament

Kelly M. Kapic

Kelly M. Kapic (PhD, King's College, University of London) is professor of theological studies at Covenant College, where he has taught for over fifteen years. Kapic has written and edited over ten books, focusing on the areas of systematic, historical, and practical theology. Kapic has also published articles in various journals and books. Kapic and his wife, Tabitha, live on Lookout Mountain with their two children.

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This article is part of the Christ in All of Scripture series.

Holiness and Heresy

In his first letter, the apostle Peter writes largely about the relationship between holiness and hardship. In this letter, a follow-up to the previous one (3:1), he writes about the relationship between holiness and heresy—a “hardship” in its own right in the early church as well as in the church today. Similar to Paul in his letter to the Galatians, or Jude (who likely used 2 Peter as a reference point), Peter provides an abundant and unequivocal warning to believers about those who will infiltrate the church and teach seductive blasphemy. He cautions that some will even use the words of Scripture to support their perverted doctrines and lives (3:16).

ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible

The ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible features 375,000+ words of gospel-centered study notes, book introductions, and articles that explain passage-by-passage how God’s redemptive purposes culminate in the gospel and apply to the lives of believers today.

Peter urges resistance to such distortions of grace. He reminds us about the importance of accurate knowledge of the truth (1:2, 3, 5–6, 8, 12; 2:2, 20; 3:18). And he shows us once more, as throughout the New Testament, that the faithfulness needed to combat such wickedness requires: an experience of God’s powerful grace in the gospel (1:1–20); a diligence in repentant living (1:5–8; 3:14); a sober-minded awareness of and resistance to heresy (2:1–22; 3:1–4, 15–17); and a hopeful expectation of God’s patience and faithfulness (3:8–18).

This article is adapted from the ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible. Browse other articles in this series via the links below.

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Jared C. Wilson

Jared C. Wilson is the director of content strategy at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Missouri, and managing editor of the seminary's website for gospel-centered resources, For the Church. He is a popular author and conference speaker, and also blogs regularly at Gospel Driven Church, hosted by the Gospel Coalition. His books include Your Jesus Is Too Safe, Gospel Wakefulness, Gospel Deeps, The Pastor’s Justification, The Storytelling God, and The Wonder-Working God.

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This article is part of the Christ in All of Scripture series.

A Call to Endure

Paul’s second letter to Timothy is a call to endurance amid opposition and suffering for the sake of the gospel. The theme of endurance is present throughout the letter through the use of Greek words that variously express the idea (2:10, 12, 24; 3:11; 4:5). Suffering for the gospel is explicitly stated in 1:8, 12 (cf. 2:3; 3:10–11).

Paul’s exhortation to endure has shaped the very structure of the letter. After expressing his affectionate greetings to Timothy, his “beloved child,” and recounting his fond remembrance of the young man’s spiritual beginnings (1:1–5), Paul issues an extended exhortation to endurance (1:6–2:13). This exhortation begins with a powerful call to gospelcentered endur ance (1:6–14), followed by contrasting reallife examples of two who failed to endure and one who did (1:15–18). Paul then resumes his call to gospel endurance (2:1–13), with directives to be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus (2:1–2), to share in suffering as a good soldier (2:3–7), to remember Jesus Christ as preached in Paul’s gospel (2:8–9), and to endure through the work of Christ (2:10–13).

ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible

The ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible features 375,000+ words of gospel-centered study notes, book introductions, and articles that explain passage-by-passage how God’s redemptive purposes culminate in the gospel and apply to the lives of believers today.

In the next section (2:14–3:9) Paul provides wisdom for enduring false teachers. Timothy is charged to rightly handle the word (2:14–19), remain an honorable vessel, be ready for every good work (2:20–21), avoid ignorant controversies (2:23), and correct opponents with gentleness (2:24–26). As Paul moves to the end of his letter (3:10–4:8), he issues a mounting, ascending call to endure for the gospel. Paul encourages Timothy to follow his own astonishing example of endurance (3:10–13), continuing in the Godbreathed Scriptures that make souls wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (3:14–17) and taking up the stunning call to preach the word (4:1–8).

The apostle closes with a moving example of enduring to the end in gospel ministry (4:9–22). Second Timothy is, so to speak, Paul’s last will and testament and, as such, it bears power and soulmoving piquancy—all rooted in the beauty of the gospel of grace (1:8–11).

This article is adapted from the ESV Gospel Transformation Study Bible. Browse other articles in this series via the links below.

Old Testament

New Testament

R. Kent Hughes

R. Kent Hughes (DMin, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School) is senior pastor emeritus of College Church in Wheaton, Illinois, and professor of practical theology at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Hughes is also a founder of the Charles Simeon Trust, which conducts expository preaching conferences throughout North America and worldwide. He serves as the series editor for the Preaching the Word commentary series and is the author or coauthor of many books. He and his wife, Barbara, live in Wyncote, Pennsylvania, and have four children and an ever-increasing number of grandchildren.

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