I almost quit Bible Study Fellowship. We're studying Isaiah this year. I thought Isaiah was my favorite book of the Bible. After about 30 chapters, I didn't want to read any book of the Bible. Are you familiar with Isaiah 24? Here's the first verse: "See, the Lord is going to lay waste the earth and devastate it; he will ruin its face and scatter its inhabitants." That's quite a contrast to "He tends his flock like a shepherd; he gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart," (40:11, my favorite verse ever.) The first half of Isaiah is not a comfortable read. I almost quit. But I realized if I did, it might be a long time before I wanted to pick up my Bible again.
So I went back to the offending chapter, and read it to hear His voice. Verse 6 stuck out: "the people must bear their guilt." I asked God, "How does this touch my life today?" (This is the lectio divina way of reading that our church has been practicing lately.) After a moment of silence, I felt a loosening deep in my heart, God saying to me, "You do not have to bear your guilt."
When I went back to Bible study, we were just beginning Isaiah 40. That's when all the good verses start. I'm beginning to see why Isaiah is and always has been such an important book in the canon of Scripture. It shows the glory of the gospel: 40 chapters (just like there are 40 books in the Old Testament) on the wages of sin, and 26 (like the 26 books in the New Testament) on how God's grace provides a way for us not to pay them. "Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows...He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities." Chapter 53, verses 4 and 5. I appreciate Jesus more than ever.