This past Sunday I had the opportunity to preach on Isaiah 59, and I used sentence diagramming to help me understand the text. Diagramming a passage is when you lay out the text in the form of a diagram, separating out clauses and modifiers, and adding notes about significant ideas and reoccurring motifs which you find in the argument. This exercise forces you to deal with the text and is very helpful for getting the flow of an author’s argument.
Isaiah 59 begins with an indictment against Israel: they are faithless and their sins have separated them from the LORD (v. 1-15). It is interesting to note how Isaiah begins with a 2nd person plural (“You all” or y’all if your from the South), then moves to a 3rd person plural (“They all”), and ends with with a 1st person plural (“we all”). The closing portion this section reads like a confession, “We all have sinned and rebelled against our LORD.” When we personally consider sin, it is important not only to recognize it in others around us (those present and distant), but also in ourselves. As my pastor said the other day, the evil that lies in the heart of Ariel Castro, lies also in us. We are all depraved, and all of us are in need of a Savior.
I learned how to diagram texts from an Daniel Block, an Old Testament professor I had at Wheaton. He is a world-class scholar (writing commentaries on Ezekiel, Deuteronomy, Judges, Ruth) and has the warmest pastoral heart. Thanks Dr. Block for teaching me this valuable skill.