Dale Ralph Davis begins his commentary on Judges by explaining why he’s not going to give his own introduction:
“…an excellent piece of work has already been done by the author of the book, and I am not capable of writing a better one. Indeed, I have a growing conviction that we would find far more fun and profit in Bible study if we gave more heed to the introductions the biblical writers themselves prefaced to their works than to the welter of opinions (helpful as they may be) about a biblical book, drearily culled from the last two hundred years of biblical scholarship. We do better, I think, to jump straight into the biblical text and get dirty with its ink.”
Alec Motyer, in his masterful commentary on Isaiah similarly describes the first five chapters of Isaiah as the “author’s preface.” In a 544 page commentary Motyer gives only 21 pages to his own scholarly and thematic introduction but 33 pages to Isaiah’s “author’s preface.”
So how does Isaiah introduce his own prophecy? In the first chapter alone we are introduced to:
- The title declaring that the whole book – all 66 chapters – is one coherent vision received in the time of these particular kings, long before some of the events that are spoken of (Cyrus etc.). This is dismissed by liberal scholars who cannot conceive of genuine predictive prophecy but it is a key theme throughout Isaiah – that the LORD God, in contrast to the idols, knows and determines the future.
- The bitterness and complexity of sin: covenant breaking, ingratitude, rebellion, stupidity, evil doing, abandonment, a battered body, beginning to taste judgment, disgusting religiosity, stained crimson, spiritual prostitution, worthlessness. This is the mess into which Isaiah speaks and into which the Messiah will come to deal with exactly this great problem.
- Themes of hope that will be developed through the rest of the book of Isaiah:
- Surviving remnant – a brand plucked by grace from the burning
- Law court cleansing – deliverance and purification with justice
- Heart change – from rebels who love sin to those who are ashamed and willing
- Restored city – the prostitute city will become the faithful city once more
Thank God for the gospel of Isaiah. And that he very kindly gave us an introduction.