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Staff Meeting Devotion Feb. 19, 2013

Categories: Devotional Thoughts

“Multiple Layers of Meaning”

Have you noted the depth of the layers of meaning in Isaiah? Sometimes we get too reductionistic in looking for “the” meaning in a passage. This simplifying approach works better in the NT, but is still not satisfactory. When we approach the text this way, we assume that God only intended to communicate, and could only communicate, one thing at a time. The best place to find examples that disprove this is the prophetic writings, like Isaiah.

Scholars have debated divisions in Isaiah, suggesting that the first division covers chapters 1-39, God’s punishment and destruction of Jerusalem and His promises of renewal, and the second division chapters 40-66, God’s renewal of his people. The latter division covers predictions of the future that Isaiah wasn’t around to see the fulfillment of. Jews find it difficult to read and believe this section, and they still wait for it to come to pass. Isaiah 60:10 says, “Foreigners will rebuild your walls, and their kings will serve you”–this prediction had an historical fulfillment during the reign of Cyrus, king of Persia (Ezra 1).  In Luke 4:16-21, Jesus stands in the synagogue to read, is handed a scroll of Isaiah, and proclaims from Isaiah 61:1-3:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus says “I am the fulfillment of this prediction.” So if Isaiah writes in multiple meanings, and there has already been historical and bodily fulfillment of his visions, shall we then ask, “where’s the rest of the story?” Not even all of Isaiah was fulfilled in Jesus’ time. Parts of it are not about Jesus or will be about him when he comes again.

Scripture is so beautifully complicated! We frequently think of faith as our activity, but not as it relates to Scripture—we must have faith that the story is true, we’ve only seen a part of it, and the rest is continuing to unfold.  We have to have faith that this is happening so that we can understand it.