Hans’ note: I had the privilege of learning from Barry when I was at Moore College. I can still remember some of the things he said in those lectures because they were profound, biblical and helped me see the beauty of the gospel more clearly. Barry is a warm, generous and beautiful man of God. If you have never read any of his work I would suggest going over to Amazon and buying anything that he has written. You will not be disappointed. These are the handout that Barry gave out when he helped my wife and the other girls who would be preaching at Moore college’s womens chapel. They were preaching on Isaiah and who better to get to talk about preaching on Isaiah than Barry Webb! If you want to read the first post click here.
4. General Implication for preaching from Isaiah
The text should not be handled in a way that denies its humanity or disconnects it from history. I assume therefore, that some attention will have to be given to the man Isaiah, his personal circumstances, and the circumstances of those to whom his words were originally directed. This means that sermons will need to have a strong exegetical base. Statements should not be taken as expressing timeless truths unrelated to the particular circumstances in which they were given. To preach with integrity the preacher will need to have settled convictions about the origins of the text and apply these consistently in his preaching.
The text should not be handled in a way that denies its unity. That is, particular passages should be related to their literary context, and some attention should be given to the way they contribute to the message of the book as a whole. This means that the preacher will need to have settled convictions about the basic shape of the book, its major themes, and its theological centre, if it has one. Before beginning to preach it is desirable that the preacher be able to summarise the message of the whole book in a sentence or brief paragraph.
Given the particular responsibility of the Christian preacher, it will be important, especially in the second half of the sermon, to trace at least some of the connections between the passage in hand and the gospel proclaimed by Jesus Christ and his apostles in the New Testament. This is where a genuinely Christian sermon on Isaiah will differ essentially from a Jewish one, or from a one which speaks merely of God and morality. Attention will need to be given here to NT quotations from Isaiah, but also to the way the broad themes of biblical theology develop as one moves from the OT to the NT.
Given a commitment to the inspiration and inerrancy of the Bible, the NT use of Isaiah will not be regarded as arbitrary, or as an unwarranted imposition on the original text. In tracing out the NT developments of his text the preacher will understand himself to be trying to ‘think God’s thoughts’ after him, and will try to help his hearers to do the same.
Given, again, the nature of the preacher’s essential task, the sermon should move from exegesis, to gospel-focused theological reflection, to application. At this point the preacher must grapple with the question of how the particular aspect of the gospel which is illuminated by the passage intersects with the present life situation of his hearers
5. Particular issues regarding preaching from Isaiah
The size probably precludes consecutive exposition of the whole book, even if this were desirable in principle. Some kind of selection of passages or themes is necessary.
The unity of the book makes it undesirable to divide it, for preaching purposes, into the three sections normally taken as the starting point for historical-critical study (e.g. 1-39, 40-55, 56-66). This makes diversity (and a particular view of the diversity of this book) the controlling datum of interpretation, rather than the gospel. It is probably best, from a preaching point of view, to give people some way of seeing the book as a whole first (e.g. in the first sermon) and then taking up particular passages or themes in more detail in subsequent sermons.
Selection of passages and/or themes for inclusion in a preaching series will depend to a large extent on the convictions of the preacher about the structure of the book and its major, most distinctive themes. A series on Isaiah should, among other things, give the hearers a eel for what is Isaiah’s special contribution to the message of the Bible. Passages or themes should be chosen with this in mind, and not selected arbitrarily
3. Planning a sermon series on Isaiah: An example
3.1 Introductory talk or sermon:
Isaiah’s Vision: God is King.
- Why study Isaiah? Because of Jesus (Luke 4:14-21)
- The world of Isaiah
- The man Isaiah
- The book of Isaiah
- Why study Isaiah? To see Jesus’ glory (John 12:41)
3.2 Sermons on selected passages
|1.||The King’s Holiness||Isaiah 6:1-13|
|2.||The King’s Wrath||Isaiah 24:1-16a|
|3.||The King’s Trustworthiness||Isaiah 37:1-20|
|4.||The King’s Gospel||Isaiah 40:1-11|
|5.||The King’s Servant||Isaiah 42:1-9|
|6.||The King’s Banquet||Isaiah 55:1-8|
|7.||The King’s Justice||Isaiah 56:1-8|
|8.||The King’s City||Isaiah 65:17-25|
|9.||The King’s Mission||Isaiah 66:12-24|
This sermon series has passages from all seven parts of the book, and touches on most of its distinctive themes: the holiness of God, the Servant as the key to God’s purposes, the new Jerusalem as the centre of God’s coming kingdom, justice as the essence of true religion, trust as the proper response to God, mission to the nations as the plan of God.
Reid, A., and K. Morris, Two Cities: Isaiah (Sydney: Matthias Media, 1993)
Roth, Wolfgang, Isaiah (Knox Preaching Guides; Atlanta: John Knox Press, 1988).
Williamson, H. G. M. “Preaching Isaiah.” Chapter 8 in “He began with Moses”: Preaching the Old Testament Today. Edited by Grenville Kent, Paul J. Kissling, and Laurence A. Turner. Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Aca