Isaiah’s contribution to the Old Testament was compiled over his whole life, though little is known about the author apart from his credentials as a prophet of God. It defies specific categorisation, because its remit is so broad, the style is varied, and the subject matter is so thoroughly profound.
Isaiah says little about himself (he is the son of Amoz), and he may have been a member of the royal family around 740 B.C. He appears to have lived in Jerusalem (7:3) and was a married man and a father (7:3; 8:3, 18). But Isaiah’s focus is on God himself, and everything else is defined by its relation to God. God is seen by Isaiah as the glorious centre of reality. How long will it take us to start seeing God in this way?
Isaiah is given the task of being God’s mouthpiece: revealing God’s character, his response to situations and attitudes, his judgements, and also his plans. This great prophet announces God’s surprising plan of grace and glory for his rebellious people, and, indeed, for the world.
In chapters 1-39, God speaks through Isaiah to His people who are quaking in fear before the threat of Assyria (the eighth century B.C.). They are in a state of rebellion towards God, and God is going to demonstrate to them that his judgement is required to purify the remnant: to teach them that they are rebels who were unwilling to return to God, despite his enjoinders.
In chapters 40-55, Isaiah speaks prophecies about the 6th century B.C. (long after his own death!) when God’s people will be exiled in Babylon. He speaks consolation to those discouraged exiles, and reminds them that “the glory of the LORD shall be revealed” (40:5)
Chapters 56-66 reveal some more general prophecies about all times and occasions until the end, and are for people who are trusting in God’s promises. They remind us of the promise of salvation, and teach us to “Keep justice, and do righteousness” (56:1) which is pleasing to God.
Crucially, despite the fact that Isaiah denounces hypocrisy, greed and idolatry amongst God’s chosen people, he also foresees the Saviour of offenders, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is God-with-us (7:14), the child destined to rule forever (9:6-7), the hope of the Davidic throne (11:1), the glory of the Lord (40:5), the suffering servant of the Lord (42:1-9; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12), the anointed preacher of the gospel (61:1-3), the bloodied victor over all evil (63:1-6) and more. Isaiah is mentioned by name in the New Testament over 20 times and is quoted there extensively, for the message he preached is the very gospel of Jesus and the apostles.
How will you respond to the message of Isaiah? Will it harden your pride against God, (what right does God have to insist on these things?), or will it make you contrite, and give you comfort and hope in the God who has not let his plan for salvation be stopped by our sinfulness, but gave his very son that we might be redeemed?
Isaiah is no easy book to summarize, or even to offer an introduction to…hence the delay in getting this out there. Sorry once again for the delays. I hope everyone’s readings are going from strength to strength. And I’m again grateful for my trusty ESV study bible for much of the content of this post, lest anyone thinks I am able to write this stuff unaided!