Q&A: Isaiah's Definition of Good News

Isaiah's Definition of Good News

What did Isaiah mean by the term "good news"?

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Answer

Isaiah has some lovely and beautiful things to say about the good news which another word we as Christians use is the gospel. There are several really important passages that I could read to you, but I want to pick one in particular. It's from Isaiah chapter 40, and I just want to highlight a few things about it, because I think it's representative of the overall message of the prophet Isaiah. It is these words, beginning at verse 9:
"O Zion, you who bring good tidings, get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, you who bring good tidings, lift up your voice with strength, lift it up, be not afraid; say to the cities of Judah, 'Behold your God!' Behold, the Lord God shall come with a strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him; Behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him. He will feed His flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those who are with young." Isaiah 40:9-11
I think, for Isaiah, the picture of good news is the picture of their God Yahweh coming to bring salvation to his people. The picture that Isaiah paints here is of a God who rescues his people who are in captivity, who are suffering oppression, who are weighed down in their inner life and externally, and God's presence with them in order to save them is the good news that Isaiah brings to his people.

The image of the Lord coming as a shepherd, as he says in verse 11, and feeding his flock and gathering them and carry them, are very powerful images to me personally. And I really resonate with them because, first of all, it reminds us of who we are as God's people. It reminds us that we should think of us and ourselves and our lives as sheep who are being led, being watched over by a shepherd who cares for us, who's willing to come and lead us, guide us, carry us, as Isaiah says.

I also think that the good news of Isaiah is especially beautiful when we see it in the light of Christ's person and ministry and work. It's not by accident that our Lord calls himself the good shepherd who gives his life for the sheep. That metaphor of him plays a big part in his preaching ministry, in the ministry that he had with God's people. And the wonderful thing is that, for us, Jesus is God with us. He's present with us so that in Jesus' work and life and ministry the promise of Isaiah actually came true in the person of Jesus. And so, we look to Jesus as the fulfillment of that prophetic word that Isaiah proclaimed, and we see Jesus as the content of the gospel, the Word made flesh, and it is him, then, that we proclaim as good news. And so, in that way, the message of Isaiah is still very relevant for us as we read it, you know, centuries later. It resonates with us because, as soon as we read these words, we think of Jesus and his saving work.