MARIA GRACE, Ph.D.OLD TESTAMENT JOURNAL--II
Week 1--Monday, February 9, 2007Second and third book of Isaiah—40-55 and 56-66
Second Isaiah is—in my opinion—even more powerful than the first. Even though theprophet is not “seen”, the prophet’s voice speaks through God’s (and the divine courtmembers’) words, full of power and majestic imagery.What strikes me in second Isaiah is God’s word that becomes action and accomplishes whatGod wills. In First Isaiah one reads that the prophet’s word would not be heard forgenerations, but it would remain God’s word for a later generation. In chapter 49 one readsin God’s words God’s commitment to fulfill God’s promises. These are verses of love, of consolation, of the steadfastness of God’s love for God’s people.Second Isaiah has a monotheistic theology that transcends the boundaries of Israel. God isnot only Israel’s God, but of the entire universe. God’s people are introduced as God’sservants. Chapter 49 presents “servanthood” as God’s relevation to those who don’t believe. “Kings shall see and stand up, princes, and they shall prostrate themselves” (49:7). Thequality of God’s servant is not militaristic, dominant, and forceful. Rather, the servant is “despised, abhorred by the nations”. The servant’s victory over the nations will not be amilitaristic one, but one accomplished through suffering and death. The servant’s finaldestiny is given in chapters 52:13-53:12, where the victory of the servant is prophesied. Itwill be a victory through death. “By his knowledge, he will justify many and he wil bear theiriniquities” (52:11).Second Isaiah resembles the gospel of Mark. Both passages speak of a sender and a sentone. Both texts describe an intense, close relationship between God the Sender and theServant (or the Son) as the Sent one. The relationship between the two and also themission of the Servant as one who will illuminate and redeem the nations not through warand victorious conquests, but through suffering, woundedness, death and resurrection. (“of his anguish he shall see light” Isa. 53:11). The Servant will fulfill God’s promise toAbraham. In Second Isaiah God’s promise extends to the entire world, not just Jerusalem.The Servant who fulfills the promise in Second Isaiah becomes Jesus in Mark.Second Isaiah, though an Old Testament book, clearly presents a “theology of the Cross”.The songs of the suffering servant speak of a God whose saving power is manifested not inbig, bold actions of redemption, but hidden in suffering and death. There is clearly amention of resurrection that brings knowledge to the sufferer/servant. It is through thisknowledge that the servant redeems the nations who recognize in him the saving power of God.Also, Second Isaiah’s interpretation of history recognizes that the course of events issomething more than a chaotic sequence without meaning or order. God incarnates inhistory, using human action, achieving God’s purposes.Toward the end, the book takes us back to the beginning, where it indicts false religion. InGod’s words, God gives God’s final vision, which is God’s accomplished purpose for allmankind. The question becomes how do we deal with this, if we cannot identify the figure of the servant. For Christians, it would seem impossible to read this passage withoutcorrelating it to Jesus and to crucifixion. I am tempted to do it, too. But Isaiah was written500 years before Jesus. Can it speak of a historical fact that happened 500 years later?