In Luke 4, Jesus paints his mission on earth with the brush first wielded by the writer(s) of Third Isaiah. There it is in 61:1–2: "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me; he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed, to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and release to the prisoners, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” — the latter is a reference to the Jubilee Year, when all debts are forgiven and other measures are taken to bring the poor and downtrodden up to speed.
At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus read from the Isaiah scroll in his hometown Nazareth synagogue. He sat down and, with all eyes on him, told the crowd that the prophecy was now fulfilled “in your hearing” — a powerful testimony to the authenticity of the prophet who wrote the third section of Isaiah. This was a clear indication of Jesus’ focus in ministry.
Third Isaiah, not always separated from Second Isaiah, is similar to its immediately preceding chapters, but there is a key passage in 56:8 that places it 30 years or so after the first return of Hebrews from Babylonian exile. “Thus says the Lord God, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, I will gather others to them besides those already gathered.”
The temple has been rebuilt (66:1–2, 6), and the concerns expressed are for worship practices and failure in religious duties. Again there is concern for justice: “Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house? (59:7)."
And in chapter 65, verses 17–18, there is a hope and promise that also finds its way into the New Testament: “For I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating.”
Writers this month are Kathleen A. Farmer, professor emerita of Old Testament at United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, and Jay Southwick, freelance writer and Bible teacher from Indianapolis.