Session 28: Isaiah
He said, "Go and tell this people: "'Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.'Make the heart of this people calloused;make their ears dulland close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes,hear with their ears,understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed." Isaiah 6:9-10
Isaiah, Key verses: 6:9-13; 9:6; 61:1-11
Key personalities: Isaiah, Uzziah, Ahaz, Hezekiah
Timeline: About 740-686 B.C. This is during the time of the Divided Kingdom, Israel the northern kingdom is conquered by the Assyrians, the areas were ruled by the Assyrians and the Babylonians who fought with each other. The Iron Age is the main reason for the vast armies; however, bronze is still in the majority of weapons and farming tools. The Greeks were at their pinnacle of power and influence, the Olmecs built Mexican pyramids, Nebuchadnezzar rebuilds a magnificent wonder of the world--Babylon and its hanging gardens-and the Greeks were at the apex of their philosophy, tragedy plays and poetry. Aesop writes his fables and the Upanishads are composed. Rome is being founded by Romulus and Remus.
We are not skipping the Books between 2 Kings and Isaiah. Because Isaiah takes place in 2 Kings as does Jeremiah, we need to cover this before the Exile for it all to make better sense.
The Book of Isaiah is one of the main "prophetical books," where its name comes from the prophet whose utters and records its words that are inspired by God. It is written in vivid emotional prose and colorful metaphors like tress clapping, mountains shouting for joy. The principle point is that the message of the Book has two main themes, Chapters 1-39 are judgment upon the kingdom Judah for their sins, and Chapters 40-66 are the promise of redemption and comfort and hope for the faithful, that they will be judged and God will be with them in the Exile. For us Christians, Isaiah is the quintessential prophet who foretells the coming King who is the ultimate message of encouragement and hope for the portrayal of the Messiah (Isa. 5:7; 17:10; 24:23; 35:1; 44:23; 55:12; 63:3).
· Isaiah 1-39: God's Message of Judgment, the Coming Immanuel
· Isaiah 40-66: God's Message of Hope and Redemption and the future glory of the people
Controversies. Isaiah has had a lot of controversy within the scholarly community over the last 150 years because there are some textual word uses and grammatical differences and that predictions came true over 100 years after his death, that suggest at least two, and perhaps several, authors wrote over a longer period of time. Some will contend that this was not the work of God solely through Isaiah and is subject of much debate. This is called the "unity problem" that correlated its authorship and contents. Because of the debates, the message and the simple explanation are often missed. You see, Isaiah was written over a period of over 50 years through great times and extremely tough times and chaos. The writing style is dynamic-changing-as it would be for anyone who writes in times greatness and chaos.
It is very important to remember God's supernatural wisdom in any debate, discussion, etc. This IS His Word, and there is nothing in the Bible that is erroneous or misleading. We must always be careful to rely foremost on the Holy Spirit in us to guide our reading and knowing the Bible while praying for discernment when man enters the picture. Our Father is clear in His Word because He wants us to know Him; therefore, what is contained in Isaiah and everywhere else in the Truth is in the Will of the Father and is from His omniscience-His all-knowing wisdom.
Controversies arise from the Isaiah passages due to the fact that many liberal scholars assume much was written by Isaiah's son or perhaps Hezekiah's son. However, none of Isaiah's sons had this name, and Hezekiah predates most this Book and its prophecies.
The Book of Isaiah is quoted more than any other prophet of the Old Testament--21 times by name and quoted more than 85 times.
Key Happenings: An Eternal King is Promised: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Isaiah 9:6-7; Zechariah 9:9-10
The Book of Isaiah is one book of the Major Prophets which also includes Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, and Daniel. The major part is not of their importance; although Isaiah is weighed more heavily in Jewish traditions but rather in their length.
The Minor Prophets include Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.
Isaiah, the prophet in Judah of the southern kingdom, was the quintessential servant of God against all odds. He was "the Messianic prophet" who warned the people and the leaders with stark language that judgment is coming. Yet, he gave them the comforting messages of encouragement to repent and trust in God, to have their hopes in Him, not in Egypt or pagan gods. Isaiah pointed to the coming Christ. He was a stark contrast to Elijah and Elisha, who were blue-collar farmers with little education. Isaiah was an aristocratic, highly educated advisor to kings; he was a very polished writer and an academic. He ministered for over 50 years in the great times under Uzziah and Jotham, and in the bad times under Ahaz, who was very bad. Isaiah ministered when Hezekiah took over and things got better. Isaiah was a contemporary of Micah, Amos, and Hosea who also served the north, not so much in his areas and further out to the west. This still was a time of great struggle, false prophets, wickedness in the north, and weak spirituality among the peoples. Thus, Isaiah warned the people, they must trust in God or suffer the consequences of their sins (Isa. 6:9-13; 8:17-18; 49:6).
Chapters 1-39: The Judgment of God. Isaiah spends the first part of his Book warning people. He is very aware of his own sin and is utterly terrified of God's Holiness and repents in extreme fashion. This is yet one more example of the veracity of sin and our desperate need for a Savior. God warns Isaiah that the people who are betraying Him are harlots in their refusal to worship Him correctly (Isa. 1:1-21).
Israel the northern kingdom is conquered by the Assyrians in 722 B.C. Isaiah knew by God's leading that the south was next unless they shaped up. As the Assyrians attacked, God protected the south. The Assyrians did not prevail; however, this was an unmistakeably huge red-flag warning that was not heeded, and as Isaiah warned them, Judah was plundered and conquered by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. (Isa. 36-37; 2 Kings 17-19).
Why the judgments? Sin! Rejecting God as LORD. Sin is people doing as they please, rationalizing the behavior, and condemning those who pressed for repentance and righteousness. Isaiah challenged the Jews. He gave warning of their coming captivity and that their pious fraud, affected religious vigor, and pretentious fasting were empty of purpose; these things are vain, counterfeit and not pleasing to God. (Remember Jesus' rebuke of the Pharisees? This is the same.) Isaiah further expounded that because of their pious, fraudulent behavior, they corrupted themselves; justice and virtue became absent in the land where God's love and rule was to be shown to the world. Such decadence led to their 70-year captivity under the Babylonians (Isa. 58).
The people's response? They closed their eyes and minds. They refused to have faith even with irrefutable and clear evidence at hand. They either did not think and thus misunderstood or else refused to think because of pride and used the information against Jesus to get rid of Him (John 14:26; 18:29-35; Col. 3:1-3).
Unclean lips. Isaiah's world comes to its end when king Uzziah dies and realizes his true position in God, thus he states, Woe is me! For I am undone… for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts! This is a startling statement, considering Isaiah's upbringing and position that usually lends to pride. This shows his humbleness and the realization that he is just like all of humanity-you, me, we--are sinners in the hands of a Glorious Pure God who hates sin and is angry about sin and wants us to remove it. The lips are the most sensitive and exposed part of the body, and must be clean to utter God's Words (Isaiah 6:1-7).
Here am I. To be a missionary or servant of the living Lord is not just a call to be available; it is to also know Who and What God is, His precepts, His Holiness and to surrender to His Lordship no matter what. This is a response of faith: I will put my trust in Him is a confession of faith, a response to the call of God with trust in Him through times of danger and fear. This is a depiction of a righteous person's proper dependence upon God as He exemplified (2 Sam. 2:3; Isa. 8:17; Psalm 118:22; Isa. 8:14-18; 28:16).
Lucifer means the morning star. It literally means a "light-bearer," the shining one, a picture of Satan's original position in heaven with the angels. In context, this term refers to the devil's crookedness, craftiness, and deceitfulness. He is able still to masquerade as a beautiful being to snare God's faithful who lose their focus on Him (Isaiah 14:12; 27:1)!
Holier than thou comes from Isaiah 65:2-5, and it means that God is too sacred for those who provoke Him, that God is angry with sin and does not want the wicked peoples near Him. God is chastising man's rebellion and sin.
The promise of Immanuel: Meaning a Deliver and Redeemer, "God with us." Isaiah, gives King Ahaz the chance to repent and gives him a sign; but the king refuses. At the time, the people have hope; it meant God will have his remnant, they can have trust and can be faithful to His ways. God still reigns with justice, righteousness, and in love. He will redeem Israel, but it is global, cosmic--for all peoples for all times--and the redemption will be given by the righteous One, to those He calls and Redeems (Isa. 7:10-14; 9:2-6; 10:21; 11:1-9; 61:1-4; Matt. 1:23).
The key words of Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, and Father of Eternity are names for Christ that fully pointed to Jesus' vocation. Light to the Nations name is pointing out the responsibility God entrusts to His People (Jews then, Christians now). God has chosen one group to model His character and glorify Him as a testimony to all people, to be His lamp to the rest of the world. His Name is also His nature; God is with us, for He is God indeed (Isaiah 9:6; 42:6; John 1:1-3,14; 4:9-10; 8:56-59; 17:5; Rom. 1:3-4; Phil. 2:5-11;Col. 1:17; 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 2:17-18).
Controversies over Immanuel. Other good scholarship points out that this would be for an unborn king or a theme that will liberate Israel after the captivity. These may be true, but often Hebrew prophecy has double meanings--one for the time in which it was written and one that points to a future fulfillment as the books of Daniel and Revelation attest. The bottom line is that God used this prediction of Isaiah, so it means what it means; the people were delivered and Jesus was predestined. He is here, and He is with us.
God's children. Isaiah 8:18: God declares us His Children! Children were a sign in Isaiah and in Jewish culture of God's faithfulness. The children of Israel pointed to the Messiah in their lineage, and He pointed them to God by prophecy. In addition, Jesus becomes a part of humanity as an identification, representing us and paying for our sins as He took our place for sin's punishment (Deut. 32. 19; Isa. 8:18; Hos. 11:1; John 17:6; Heb 2:11).
Isaiah challenges the people's sin, challenges how we rebelled and turned away from God. Our disobedience has separated us from God (Isa. 53:6, 59:2; Rom. 3:23; 6:23)
Isaiah 53 foretells the details of Christ's death and crucifixion and His Redemption for us in astonishing detail thus proving-again--the veracity of Scripture and its effectiveness for a living faith.
Many promises as well as prophesies have been fulfilled while others wait for their fulfillment, just as when we receive what we need but not always what we want. It may not be good for us or not in His faultless holiness. God can be trusted! He does provide, in His timing, that which is perfect. The point is to show a hope that is contagious and practical.
Key Takeaway: God will judge sin. But when we are in Him, God is our Sanctuary; He is the Eternal God whom we can rely on and not only give our lives to, but to live our lives for. God works through time, history, and people to bring about His plan of redemption. In the context of the New Testament, this also refers to Christ as the forerunner who works hard for us but not for angels. Hebrews clarifies that He is God who took on a human nature as an offspring of Abraham, the main Jewish Patriarch (Isa. 8:17-18; 41:8-13; Rom. 4:11-18; 9:7; Gal. 3:29; Heb. 6:15-17; 11:9).
The foreshadow of Jesus Christ? Isaiah foretells the Lamb of God will come to Redeem. The Prince of Peace and the image of Immanuel is the incarnate Son who condescends to humanity as He calls us to live by faith. Isaiah portrays Christ as being the ultimate Righteousness, yet those who do not know Him or who refuse Him will not understand Him. He is with us, the founder and protector of the Faith, who will restore the theme of David and show that God will keep His Word. Jesus states that this prophecy is fulfilled and the people knew that Jesus was claiming He is God, the LORD Messiah. (Isa. 7:10-16; 8:1-4; 9:2-6; 12:2; 10:21; 11:1-9; 61:1-4; Matt. 1:23; Luke 4:21; Heb. 2:12-18).
Questions to Ponder
1. How would you contrast Elijah and Elisha to Isaiah? What does it mean that God can use anyone, regardless of education and upbringing?
2. From this Book of Isaiah, what is the key for God to use you?
3. How would you like to have the ministry to proclaim Christ will all of your might, time, assets, for fifty years and have no fruit from it, no converts, and no response?
4. Why did God call Isaiah to a ministry where he will have no results? How would this be taken today? How would you respond?
5. How do you feel that Isaiah 53 foretells the details of Christ's death, crucifixion and His Redemption? How can this be a faith builder?
6. What does it mean to you to be a committed follower? How does Isaiah show us how?
7. How does it encourage you that we have a God who is the Prince of Peace, Lord of Lords, Who has been there and is still here with us?
8. Why does being a servant of our Lord not just a call to be available; but to also know Him and His precepts?
9. What do you think of how Isaiah depicts Christ? What do you need to do to make more applications of Immanuel in to your life?
10. How do you go from one who makes a profession of faith to one who goes beyond belief into practice of the faith in following Christ? How will you become committed?
11. Is there sin in my life for which confession and repentance is needed?
12. Jesus can set you free from your bondage of sin, false ideas, bad thinking, bad choices, past hurts, or anything that has imprisoned you. From what do you need to be set free? What will you do now?
© 2013 R. J. Krejcir, Ph.D. Into Thy Word Ministries www.intothyword.org