In going through Rikk Watts’ Isaiah class, Watts lays out the class forecast in his handout (which is included with the MP3 download). When giving a projected forecast for a class, it’s important to stick to it, both for your sake and for the sanity of the students (especially when the book consists of 66 chapters). Watts follows through with his forecast, and this is seen in the following examples.
Primarily, to acquaint students with the leading themes of the multifaceted message of Isaiah, noting in particular both their continuity and development throughout, and thereby providing students with a sense of the unity and diversity of material within the overall purpose of the book;
Knowing that he cannot cover every chapter and verse of the book of Isaiah, Watts tries to stick to the themes of Isaiah. A book is much easier to understand when one understands the broad themes that run-throughout the book. No (normal) person understands an engine without seeing how the engine works as a whole. Only then do you take it apart and study each piece.
- Why does Jerusalem (and Eliakim) show up smack dab in the middle (chapter 22) of a section about specific nations being judged (13-23)?
- There seems to be an extreme change in tone between chapter 39 and 40 (and themes between 55 and 56). Why is this?
To assist students in understanding the relevance of the various Isaianic concerns to the life of the people of God in the contemporary world and in so doing to highlight ways in which the book can be preached both in the church and the world.
Watts isn’t satisfied with explaining the text to his students only to leave them to figure out what it means for today (or worse, they end up thinking they are more superior because they “understand” Isaiah now). Instead, he pinpoints the heart of Isaiah.
- Israel didn’t trust that God was in control of history. Yet why did they think the gods of Babylon had any power at all? Why do we think our banks have the power to control our history? Or our government?
Secondarily, when the occasion arises to articulate the theological contribution of Isaiah to the NT by examining the ways in which numerous Isaianic texts have profoundly shaped the message of NT authors (e.g. Isa 6 in the Gospels and Acts; the use of the so-called Messianic prophecies), and to discuss the problems related thereto.
Finally, Watts have a few classes on Biblical Theology and how the New Testament reads the Old (here and here). I would really enjoy listening to both of these, and tastes of them can be found in this Isaiah class. I can tell Watts has a solid grasp on these issues. The New Testament authors were immersed in the biblical world. They grew up reading the Bible and having it ingrained into their lives. Surely they would understand the Old Testament better than we. Throughout their writings there remains echoes and allusions to the Old Testament (think of Facebook throwbacks). Yet how does the NT interpret the OT?
- What is really going on in Isaiah 6, and why do all four of the gospels refer to this section?
- If Isaiah intends “blindness” and “deafness” to be meant metaphorically throughout his book, how was anybody supposed to see that Jesus was the Messiah when He healed literal “blindness” and “deafness”?
- Did Isaiah really prophesy a virgin birth?
- What is Paul doing when he quotes Psalm 68 in Ephesians 4? Why did he take special liberties to change the wording?
Here is the list of the lectures. I’ve tried to provide the chapters covered in each class.
- Intro and Overview
- Yahweh’s Lawsuit [1-3]
- Justice and the People of God [4-6]
- Isaiah’s Call: The Idolater’s Curse [6-9]
- Restoration and the Messianic Prophecies [9-12]
- Short-Sighted Security: Neither Egypt Nor Babylon [13-39]
- Yahweh Comes!… And Israel’s Complaint 
- Yahweh’s Offer of Salvation: Earlier Traditions
- New Exodus and New Creation / Jacob-Israel: Yahweh’s Blind and Deaf Servants [41-45; 50]
- The Solution: A New Servant Israel
- Call and Task [42; 49]
- Suffering Service [50; 52-53]
- Disillusionment and Injustice [56-58]
- Yahweh as Warrior [59-63]
- Jerusalem-Zion Restored [60-62]
- The Messenger to Zion 
- Salvation for Foreigners: My House is a House of Prayer for All Nations [56; 66]
- The Last Great Lament [63-64]
- New Heavens and New Earth [65-66]
This is the more boring part of the posts (I mean, it’s from the syllabus, which despite pronunciation is the most non-silly part of the class). Other topics I did cover are:
- The Major Prophet Isaiah
- Was Samson a Good Judge?
- The Virgin Birth in Isaiah
- The Virgin Birth in Matthew
- Isaiah’s Call: The Idolater’s Curse and Effect
- Isaiah’s Call: The Idolater’s Curse and Effect in the NT
- Does Paul Misquote Psalm 68?
- Warrior Armour in Ephesians 6
- I. Gold Nuggets in Isaiah
- II. Gold Nuggets in Isaiah
- III. Gold Nuggets in Isaiah
- IV. Gold Nuggets in Isaiah
These aren’t set in stone. I haven’t written them yet. They’re only thoughts right now. I may post more once I look back through my notes and see points of interest. All in all I will say that the special place Isaiah holds in the NT is more appreciated than it had been before. From topics of hardened hearts, to new creation, to idolatry, and salvation of Gentiles, Isaiah has more to say about life today than many Christians give it credit for.
Though I can’t simply give you all of the class information, I hope what I do put on here gives you a greater appreciation for Isaiah, the Bible, and ultimately Jesus Christ, the high King of Heaven.