Reviewed by: C. Steven McDaniel Jr.
Isaiah: Good News for the Wayward and Wandering, by Jonathan Gibson. New Growth Press, 2022. Paperback, 136 pages, $15.99. Reviewed by OP pastor C. Steven McDaniel Jr.
Isaiah can be a daunting book for small group Bible studies to tackle, but Dr. Jonathan Gibson’s new work on Isaiah breaks it into manageable pieces and shows readers Isaiah’s promised Savior. Gibson identifies Isaiah’s main theme as “the gospel story of how God saves his people, through judgment, for the transformation of the world” (7). He shows how that theme is revealed in Israel’s destruction and restoration and how those trials show us the greater story of God saving us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Readers are challenged to see their sin, how they have been rescued from sin to live as Jesus’s beloved people, and to look for the day when Christ makes all things new.
The book’s ten chapters are designed for use as a small group Bible study. Each chapter includes a big idea or central thought, study questions for the text, an article reflecting on the main theme of the chapter, and an exercise to help apply the passage and encourage participants to share what they learned. At the end of the book are Leader’s Notes for further background information. Gibson encourages leaders not to look at them too quickly or to treat them as an answer guide. His goal is to get the group to read Isaiah carefully for themselves.
One of the strengths of the study is the way it divides Isaiah into accessible portions. The group reads and reflects on one or two chapters of biblical text per week, highlighting passages like chapters 6, 11, 40, and 53. The end of each chapter tells which passage the group will look at next and what they should read to go through the entirety of Isaiah. This keeps the study at a reasonable length while encouraging readers to take in the whole breadth of God’s Word.
Another strength is Gibson’s appeal to our hearts. He challenges us to feel the effect of Christ’s work on us. It is not just Isaiah’s original hearers who have their scarlet sins washed white, Christ has made us clean, too. Gibson asks perceptive questions designed to help us connect the truth of Christ’s work to our circumstances. We are the ones Jesus has rescued, he is with us in our trials, we will be with him forever. I found chapter 7 on Isaiah 49 particularly moving. Our God has not forgotten us, he has engraved us on the palms of his hands (Isa. 49:16).
Some small groups may find the study’s format challenging to use. It is designed for minimal preparation, and it depends on the group reading and responding together. People will have different levels of comfort reading out loud, so a good leader will need to adapt the instructions to best fit the context.
I think this study is an excellent resource for small groups looking to dive into the text of Isaiah. Gibson consistently points readers to the Suffering Servant who came to lay down his life for his people.
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