Today in Sunday School class the teacher referred back to challenge I had presented to the calls some time ago. I had suggested reading the prophecies of Isaiah, particularly 2nd Isaiah (40-55) without our “Jesus colored glasses.” I don’t suggest this not because I think Christian readings are inappropriate, but rather because it helps give you a sense of history. Place yourself as best as you can into the place and time from which the prophecies were spoken.
Our Sunday School teacher today, Melinda Henry, brought this challenge back to the class, after she had taken it herself. In her experience an teaching it led to placing ourselves into these prophecies, particularly the servant passages, and seeing there the call to be a servant in just that way.
When she did this I was reminded of when I was first challenged to read this passages in a different way. My undergraduate major in Biblical Languages was offered by the School of Theology at Walla Walla College (now a university). Thus most of my classes were taken with students who were preparing for pastoral ministry.
I took a class in Hebrew prophets from J. Paul Grove, and I confess that I didn’t really like it that much. He was the one to first challenge me to read Isaiah in that fashion. In addition, he had the requirement that we produce three sermon outlines per week derived from the texts we were studying. I hated that requirement and even tried to get out of it by pointing out that I wasn’t going to be a preacher. But the professor insisted.
It was a great experience and has stuck with me ever since. Paul Grove has gone on to his rest (as they would say in his SDA tradition), but I wanted to express my gratitude for pointing me toward some ideas I have used repeatedly in the years since, even though I thought it was wasted effort at the time.