Home > Bible Study, Isaiah, Israel, S. Lewis Johnson > Isaiah’s Gospel: An Overview of Isaiah 40 – 66

Isaiah’s Gospel: An Overview of Isaiah 40 – 66

November 1, 2010

The book of Isaiah has often been likened to the full Bible itself, in that it has 66 books, of which the first 39 chapters form one unit (like the 39 books of the Old Testament) and the last 27 chapters (Isaiah 40 – 66) the second unit (like the 27 books of the New Testament).  In my study through Isaiah with S. Lewis Johnson, I’ve now reached the beginning of that second half.  S. Lewis Johnson offers some interesting observations concerning this section of Isaiah.

The first eleven verses of Isaiah 40 serve as a prologue, an outline, to these last 27 chapters of Isaiah.  Within that, the first two verses are “the prologue of the prologue.”  The 27 chapters can be divided into three sections of 9 chapters each, with the following major themes:

  • Chapters 40 – 48:  The end of the Babylonian captivity, yet future to Isaiah’s day
  • Chapters 49 – 57:  The expiation of the guilt of Israel, by the servant of Jehovah
  • Chapters 58 – 66:  The exaltation of Israel and the inauguration of the Kingdom of God

Isaiah 40 introduces the 27 chapters, and verse 2, in its three clauses, provides a summary outline of these three sets:
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended (Isaiah 40-48), that her iniquity is pardoned (Isaiah 49-57), that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. (Isaiah 58-66).

Each of these sections ends with a similar thought, that there is no peace for the wicked.  Note the following verses, the last verse in each section:
Isaiah 48:22 — “There is no peace,” says the Lord, “for the wicked.”
Isaiah 57:21 —  “There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”
Isaiah 66:24 — (the same sentiment, though said differently) “And they shall go out and look on the dead bodies of the men who have rebelled against me.     For their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.”

The prologue in Isaiah 40 also features four “voices” from God:

  • The Voice of Redemption:  Isaiah 40:1-2
  • The Voice of Preparation:  Isaiah 40:3 — a verse fulfilled in the ministry of John the Baptist
  • The Voice of Perpetuation / or The Voice of the Permanence of the Word of God:  Isaiah 40:6
  • The Voice of Good News: Behold, your God!  — Isaiah 40:9-11

The last verses contain great words that remind me of that part of Handel’s Messiah, “O Thou That Tellest Good Tidings to Zion,”  (click here for a Youtube sample), which includes the wonderful words of Isaiah’s gospel from Isaiah 40:9 —
Get you up to a high mountain …   lift up your voice with strength … lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!”

This is a great overview and guide to the rest of the book of Isaiah.  Watch for future updates as I continue the S. Lewis Johnson series through these chapters in Isaiah.

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