Author: Ron Graham
The Word Shall Go Forth
—Isaiah’s prophecies about the gospel
Isaiah declares, "Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us about his ways, and that we may walk in his paths. The law will go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2:3). Isaiah looks forward to the gospel. In Isaiah, you will find nine prophecies, quoted in the New Testament, concerning the preaching of the gospel to the whole world, both Jew and Gentile. Some of these prophecies focus on the ministry of Jesus. These prophecies show how the gospel of Jesus would bring understanding to an ignorant world.
1 Enlightened mankind
Matthew 4:12-16 Isaiah 9:1-2
Isaiah looks forward to a day when the Son of God will sojourn in Galilee and bring the light of his gospel to its people. But that was only the beginning. Jesus sent his apostles, "men of Galilee" to the remotest parts of the earth, so the gospel might spread its light in all the world (Acts 1:8-11, Acts 2:7-11, Mark 16:15).
Today the world lies in darkness. "The god of this world has blinded the eyes" of so many people, yet for those who wish to see, "the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ who is the image of God" shall illumine them. He has "shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (2Corinthians 4:4-6). [See Light in the Darkness]
2 Sight to the blind
Luke 4:16-21, Isaiah 61:1-3
In this passage Isaiah speaks of his own ministry to spread hope among a people confused and oppressed. However he is also forseeing, in the same statement, the coming of Christ the anointed One who will "preach the gospel" to the poor and the afflicted. In other words, Isaiah’s own ministry is a symbol or foreshadowing of the ministry of Christ.
In Luke's quotation the preacher of the gospel brings "sight to the blind" giving us a variant reading (approved by the Holy Spirit) that emphasises the gospel’s enlightening power.
Although Jesus, as part of his ministry, quite literally gave sight to the blind, this passage is also speaking figuratively of spiritual blindness, ignorance of the truth that enlightens the soul. Those who are spiritually blind can have their eyes opened that they may see the light which the powers of darkness have kept hidden from them.
3 Proclaimed justice
Matthew 12:17-21, Isaiah 42:1-4, Isaiah 51:4
The spiritual darkness that is in the world often takes the form of injustice. The government, the police, the courts, industry and commerce, the armed forces, all become corrupt and oppress the very people whom they ought to serve. Even in a good nation like Australia, such corruption is always trying to creep in, and it takes much vigilance to keep it out.
This passage pictures Jesus Christ preaching and practising justice. Justice is the exercise of righteous judgment. Jesus struggled against the corruption and opression of his time. He mostly did this quietly not by raising his voice in the streets, but by compassionate personal ministry among the weak and vulnerable.
Corruption and injustice most often target the poor and weak. They break the battered reeds, not the strong ones. They snuff out the smouldering wicks, not the strongly burning ones. They devour widows’ houses, not those of the rich and influential.
In preaching the gospel among the poor and weak, Jesus held out justice and helped the common man to take hold of it peacefully. True justice does not come down from high places in this world, rather it grows in the hearts of the common people when they are enlightened by the gospel of Jesus Christ the righteous Judge of all.
4 Light to the Gentiles
Luke 2:32, Isaiah 42:6, Isaiah 49:6
When the child Jesus was brought to the temple, Simeon, a righteous and devout man, recognized him as the Lord’s Christ. He took the baby in his arms and uttered that lovely prayer in which he praised God saying, "Mine eyes have seen Thy salvation". In that same prayer he called Jesus "a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people Israel". Simeon recognised Jesus as the light of the world, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles, just as Isaiah had written, "a light to the nations".
Jesus called himself "the light of the world" (John 8:12) and as his disciples we too are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).
Some people think that Christ should be proclaimed only in Christian nations, and that each nation should have its own religion. But Christ is the light for all nations and the only way by which any human being can come to God (John 14:6).
5 All taught of God
John 6:45-47, Isaiah 54:13
The darkness of ignorance spreads accross the whole world, yet there is also light for those who wish to see it. The prophet Isaiah said, "All your sons shall be taught of God". Jesus quotes this statement and says that God teaches people to come to him, Jesus Christ, and all who come to him shall have eternal life.
Jesus is qualified to teach and enlighten us better than any other, because he is the only man who has ever seen the Father in heaven, and he came from the Father. For this reason God teaches everyone to come to Jesus for eternal light and life.
Whilst in its context this was a promise to the Jews, we have already seen in our previous passage, and will again see in our next, that God teaches the Gentiles also to come to him through Christ. So we understand the "all" in this passage to extend beyond the Jews and to include all peoples of the world.
6 By the lips of strangers
1Corinthians 14:21, Isaiah 28:11
Indeed the gospel is to be preached "by the lips of strangers and in a foreign tongue" (1Corinthians 14:21, Isaiah 28:11). Not only would all nations hear the gospel, but it would be preached in the languages of all the nations. By providing the special miraculous gift of speaking in tongues, God showed that it was his intention that the wonderful works of God should be proclaimed to people in their own tongues (Acts 2:5-12). By the same principle, the scriptures have been translated into a great many languages so that people can be the more enlightened in understanding the truth themselves, and more empowered to go and preach it to others.
7 They shall understand
Romans 15:21, Isaiah 52:13-15
Paul shows that the good news of the coming of Christ God’s Servant was not only a gospel for the Jews but for all the nations in darkness. Those who had no gospel of Christ, would have the gospel preached to them. Those who were ignorant would then be able to understand the will and purpose of God for them, just as Isaiah foresaw. The work of spreading this light still goes on, and we are called to participate in it.
8 Seeing and hearing
Matthew 13:13-16, Isaiah 6:9-10
Sad to say, many people in darkness will not open their eyes to see the light, nor let their ears hear the good news. Isaiah offered himself as a preacher for God to send out among the people. Yet with bitter irony God tells Isaiah that his work will not be easy. Most people will not see with their eyes and understand with their hearts when the gospel is told them. Rather they will reject the gospel and it will have the opposite effect on them. Instead of enlightening them, it will render them all the more blind and deaf because they reject it.
Sad though this may be, it should not discourage us from telling the good message of Christ to everyone. Though many shut their eyes all the more against the light, some will open their eyes and see. That choice is theirs. Our duty is simply to bring the light to them.
9 Who has believed?
John 12:38, Romans 10:16, Isaiah 53:1
Along the same lines as the previous passage, Isaiah asks the sad question, "Who has believed our report?". Isaiah was used to preaching God’s word but not getting the response of faith. As John points out, even Jesus himself experienced this. Certainly we often experience it too. I once visited a village in Vanuatu where there were no Christians, yet that whole village, including the chief, assembled to hear us preach Christ. There was an eagerness for the light. This however was a rare experience for me. I am used to few people showing interest and few believing.
Nevertheless, we are reminded of Paul’s exhortation to Timothy... "I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead by his appearing and his kingdom, preach the word, be on the ready in season and out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and instruction. For the time will come when they will not endure sound teaching, but will gather for themselves teachers who will tickle their ears according to their own desires. They will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of a gospel preacher, fulfill your ministry" (2Timothy 4:1-5).