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The Kingdom of our God: a theological commentary on Isaiah

Jenni Williams

SCM Press, 2019, £19.99. ISBN 978-0334056980

Review by Liz Shercliff, Director of Studies for Readers in the Diocese of Chester, Reviews Editor

<strong>The Kingdom of our God: a theological commentary on Isaiah</strong>

‘The commentary begins with the idea that watching how a prophet’s message engages with the society of its time can help us as Christians engage better with our own’ (2) says Williams in the introduction to this book. She goes on to demonstrate that this is indeed the case.

The book begins with a helpful introduction, beginning with a brief summary of first, second and third Isaiah. Clear arguments for the multiple authorship of Isaiah are then presented. The first argument is particularly helpful to those who might prefer a single prophet approach to the book: ‘this is not a question about whether or not predictive prophecy exists. It is rather an understanding that Old Testament prophecy is not a collection of predictions’ (6). Williams then goes on to argue that the style and content of the three sections of Isaiah differ significantly, and that the unity of the book is more important than the singleness of the writer. The commentary that follows is divided into three sections, and proceeds as a standard commentary.

What makes this volume distinctive is Williams’ commitment to thinking through what Isaiah might have to say to Christians today, and about what God might be calling us to. The book is firmly rooted in sound scholarship yet remains readable and accessible. It is pitched at those beginning formal theological study but has much to offer preachers who rarely preach on the book of Isaiah, or those reading it for their own study.

In her conclusion Williams recalls that she wrote this book at a time of great political upheaval in Britain, in which Facebook was full of memes such as ‘Relax! God’s in charge.’ Since the book was published, we have entered a period of even greater upheaval, affecting the whole of the planet. The themes Williams pulls out from Isaiah may be even more helpful for preachers if and when we leave this time of crisis. The purpose of prophecy after all, she says, is not that we might be complacent or fatalistic, but that we might be called to action.

The book of Isaiah invites Christians to reflect on how we engage with politics. ‘Politics cannot occupy a sphere outside Christian endeavour: we are not encouraged to sit back and let it happen, on the assumption that God will simply intervene and solve the problem for us. Nor are we to assume nothing can be done’ (205). There, perhaps, is a very apposite challenge to all preachers as we enter a new age. As with Williams previous book God Remembered Rachel, her commentary on Isaiah is a worthy addition to any preacher’s bookshelf.

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