Today we begin the book Isaiah. Let’s start by looking at a few interesting pieces of information about Isaiah, by way of introduction.
- It is the first of a group of Old Testament books known as the major prophets, which include Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel — called major prophets because of their length not because of any superior importance.
- Isaiah lived and prophesied in the days of kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and possibly Manasseh — maybe as long as 64 years in the last half of the 8th century BC and the early part of the seventh century BC.
- Isaiah is known as the Messianic Prophet, since there are more prophecies about the Messiah (Jesus Christ) than any other prophet.
- Isaiah is not only full of Messianic prophecies, but also prophecies about “the remnant”. The remnant referred to the group of Israelites that would return from exile, a punishment brought on by Israel’s and Judah’s many sins. But secondarily, the remnant also referred to the Messiah’s people, the church. Through the remnant prophecies we get an opportunity to see what God’s ideal for His people was.
- Isaiah is traditionally believed to have been martyred by king Manasseh, who, it is said, put Isaiah in a hollow tree trunk and sawed him in half. It is thought that the reference in Hebrews 11: 37 specifically is speaking of Isaiah.
- The prophecies are dated, but they are not in chronological order. Instead, they are organized by oriental orthodoxy, theme.
- Rebuke and promise (ch. 1-6)
- About Immanuel (ch. 7-12)
- Judgment on specific nations (ch. 13-23)
- First general judgment and promise for the world (ch. 24-27)
- Woes on the unbelievers in Israel (ch. 28-33)
- Second general judgement and promise for the world (ch. 34-35)
- Historical section regarding Hezekiah (ch. 36-39)
- Comfort for Israel (ch. 40-66)
With this behind us, then, let’s look at a few interesting texts…
“An ox knows its owner, And a donkey its master’s manger, But Israel does not know, My people do not understand.” Isaiah 1:3 — Those who are cared for usually know their benefactor, but not Israel; she gave credit to non-gods. How deeply deprived of understanding we all are when we presume to be our own benefactors!
“When you come to appear before Me, Who requires of you this trampling of My courts? Bring your worthless offerings no longer, Incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, the calling of assemblies — I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, They have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them. So when you spread out your hands in prayer, I will hide My eyes from you; Yes, even though you multiply prayers, I will not listen. Your hands are covered with blood.” Isaiah 1:12-15 — Does what we do outside worship make any difference to God. Apparently so! It’s not that these acts of worship were unacceptable in and of themselves — God had commanded them. They were unacceptable because the people who offered them were unrepentantly guilty of sin outside the Temple court.
“’Come now, and let us reason together,’ Says the LORD, ‘Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool.’” Isaiah 1:18 — Have you ever wondered whether your sin might be too bad to forgive? Here’s God’s answer: no. God can forgive anything, if we are willing to repent. And His forgiveness isn’t like the kind we see among men; the stain of sin is completely and utterly gone! Wow!
“Now it will come about that In the last days The mountain of the house of the LORD Will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways And that we may walk in His paths.’ For the law will go forth from Zion And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war.” Isaiah 2:2-4 — This is the first of the “Remnant” passages that we’ll find in Isaiah. It refers, by way of reminder, to the returning exiles from the coming Assyrian and Babylonian exile. But it also refers specifically to “the last days”, when the Gentiles would be eagerly searching for the LORD. This isn’t talking about the “end of time”, but rather about the Christian era, the era of the church. This would have been a jarring prophecy to the people of Isaiah’s day, but we know that it happened just this way.
“The LORD enters into judgment with the elders and princes of His people, ‘It is you who have devoured the vineyard; The plunder of the poor is in your houses. What do you mean by crushing My people And grinding the face of the poor?’” Declares the Lord GOD of hosts.” Isaiah 3:14, 15 — God cares about oppression, about the poor; and He intends to avenge wrong-doers.
See you tomorrow, Lord willing.