Patterns and Prophecies

John D. Barry

Isaiah 9:1–10:19; Luke 3:1–38; Job 3:1–16

Luke sees the events surrounding Jesus’ life through the lens of Isaiah. For Luke, Jesus’ life is Isaiah’s prophecy made tangible and complete. Jesus is the anticipated Messiah, prophet, and savior. Even John the Baptist’s role in Jesus’ life is based on Isaiah’s prophesy. Luke repeats the metaphor of “the wilderness” from Isaiah—used by the prophet to describe the time when the Israelites would come out from their captivity in Babylon—to cast John the Baptist as a central figure in God’s work.

The wilderness metaphor doesn’t originate with Isaiah. He uses it to represent the second time God’s people entered the land He promised them (the term originally comes from the time when the Israelites roamed the wilderness after the exodus). Luke quotes Isaiah in casting John the Baptist as “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight! Every valley will be filled, and every mountain and hill will be leveled, and the crooked will become straight, and the rough road will become smooth, and all flesh will see the salvation of God’ ” (Luke 3:4–6; quoting Isa 40:3–5). For Luke, the smoothing of the rough road represents a change in the spiritual landscape, and the flesh that sees the salvation of God means the message is not just for the Jewish people but for all people—including Luke himself.

Luke builds upon this connection by identifying Jesus as the child that is prophesied in Isaiah (Luke 1:26–28):
“For a child has been born for us; a son has been given to us. And the dominion will be on his shoulder, and his name is called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His dominion will grow continually, and to peace there will be no end on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and sustain it with justice and righteousness now and forever. The zeal of Yahweh of hosts will do this” (Isa 9:6–7).

Luke is adept at the art of connecting the Testaments. He tells us directly that he’s quoting Isaiah, and in doing so, he illustrates that God works by building current events on the foundation of past events. Those events form the basis of prophecy—God’s way of telling us both what He has done and what He will do in times to come.

Although the way God works is too great for us to comprehend, He allows us to see patterns in His work; we just need to look for them and believe they are there. If we focus on God’s works and the echoes and harmonies between them, our perspective on the events of our lives changes dramatically. We glimpse the reality that God is not only at work in today’s matters, but He is also using them to prepare and signify the events that are to come. The patterns are as important as the events, as God uses both to reveal Himself to us.

What patterns are you noticing in your life? How do you think God is working and will continue to work through you?

This article was originally posted in Connect the Testaments: A One-Year Daily Devotional with Bible Reading Plan.


John D. Barry is the CEO and founder of Jesus’ Economy, a nonprofit dedicated to creating jobs and churches in the developing world. To empower the extreme poor, Jesus’ Economy also has an online fair trade shop. John is also the general editor of Faithlife Study Bible and the former editor-in-chief of Bible Study Magazine. Learn more about John’s work with Jesus’ Economy at www.jesuseconomy.org.