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Isaiah

August-September, 2005

Theme

  • Messiah-Servant of the Lord: Judgment, then Glorious Future

Introductory Comments About the Prophets

  • The Old Testament, according the Hebrew canon has three sections: law, prophets, and writings. The writing prophets have two sections: former prophets and latter prophets. The designations come from where they are in the canon.
    • The former prophets are the historical books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. They give Israel’s history from Joshua’s time until the exile to Babylon. Here we find the prophets’ world—the events surrounding their ministries and the people to whom they speak.
    • The latter prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve.
  • Remember that there were many prophets who did not leave a written record for Israel: Elijah and Elisha are two of them.
  • The prophets’ ministry emphasized four messages. 1. They reminded Israel that they were God’s chosen people and His priest nation.  2. They condemned Israel’s sin and challenged her to return to God and God’s word. 3. They warned the nation that God will judge them because of their rejection of Him. 4. They predicted and described Messiah’s coming and future blessing under him and his rule, and this subject was central to their ministry—Acts 10:43 and 1 Peter 1:10-12 speak of this.
  • The prophets message, then, was both a warning and a promise—judgment and deliverance. Isaiah 1 shows this pattern.

Theme of Isaiah

  •  Messiah-Servant of the Lord: Judgment, then Glorious Future

Key Verses

  • Isaiah 9:6-7, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. 7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.” 
  • Isaiah 53:6 “All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him.”

History

  • When did Isaiah live and to whom did he minister? He served from about 740 BC (Death of Uzziah in 740 BC, Isaiah 6) to 680 BC. His ministry was to Judah. Assyria was the dominant power during his time. He predicted Assyria’s defeat of Israel (722 BC) in Isaiah 28 and Babylon’s defeat of Judah (destruction of Jerusalem and Temple in 586 BC) in Isaiah 39.
  • Isaiah served the Lord during the reigns of Uzziah (790-739 BC), Jotham (750-733 BC), Ahaz (735-715 BC), and Hezekiah (729-686 BC and Hezekiah (729-686 BC).
    • Uzziah (790-739 BC) was the tenth king of Judah, also called Azariah. Uzziah was  strong king, but God gave him leprosy because he attempted to burn incense in the temple (2 Chronicles 26:16-23).
    • Jotham (750-733 BC) was the eleventh king of Judah and son of Uzziah (2 Chronicles 27).
    • Ahaz (735-715 BC) was the twelfth king of Judah, and when besieged by Israel and Syria he asked and received help from Assyria, to whom he became a vassal, and he also brought idolatry into Jerusalem (2 Chronicles 28).
    • Hezekiah (729-686 BC) was son of Ahaz and a godly and reforming king who opposed Assyria, foolishly showed his wealth to Babylon’s king Merodach Baladan, and built the water tunnel and reservoir. God added 15 years to his life (2 Chronicles 29-32).
  • At the beginning of Isaiah’s ministry Assyria was a power under King Tiglath-Pileser III (r. 745-727 BC), also known as Pul. Isaiah’s ministry was then under the shadow of Assyrian domination.
    • About 740 BC Judah, Israel, and Aramaea formed a coalition to resist Assyria. This coalition failed.
    • In 734 BC Israel (Pekah) and Syria (Rezin) fought against Judah in order to force Judah, ruled by Ahaz, into another coalition against Assyria. Ahaz refused. Instead, Ahaz went to Assyria for help. This was the background for Isaiah 7-9. Assyria defeated both kingdoms.
  • Hoshea, the last king of Israel, paid a heavy tribute to Assyria and was spared. But in about 724 BC he revolted against Assyria. Assyria, under  Sargon II (r. 721-705 BC), then defeated and exiled Israel in 721 BC. The people were uprooted and moved to various parts of the Assyrian empire.
  • At this same time Judah submitted to Assyria and was spared destruction. Hezekiah became king of Judah in 715 BC. Though he was anti-Assyrian, he did not revolt. When Sennacherib (r. 705-681 BC) came to power in Assyria in 705 BC, Hezekiah revolted against him. Sennacherib invaded Judah in 701 BC (2 Kings 18-19; 2 Chronicles 32; Isaiah 36-37).
  • Though God spared Jerusalem in Isaiah’s time, the Babylonian empire was rising. This power begins to show itself in the prophecies of Isaiah 40. In Isaiah 36-39 we have the transition from Assyrian dominance to Babylonian dominance. In about 700 BC messengers from Merodach baladan arrive in Jerusalem with a challenge to Hezekiah. Hezekiah foolishly showed the wealth of the temple to the messengers. One hundred years later Babylon would destroy Judah and the temple and exile most of the citizens who survived the destruction.
  • Egypt, during Isaiah’s ministry, prodded Israel and Judah to rebel against Assyria, yet Egypt was also defeated by Sennacharib in about 701 BC.
  • What does this teach us? We should learn that rebellion against God and God’s plan has very destructive consequences. Instead of rebelling, listen to the word of God and live by it. Furthermore, we learn that God keeps his word—He is dependable.

Author is Isaiah (1:1; 2:1; 13:1; see Mark 1:2; Luke 4:17-19; Acts 8:28)

  • He served the Lord from about 740-680 BC. We could call Isaiah the evangelist of the Old Testament because of his clear presentations of the Messiah, Jesus the Christ (Isaiah 53). We could also call him the Paul of the Old Testament because of his apparent aristocracy, training, writing ability, and theological statements. He served in and around Jerusalem.
  • This great poet and prophet was married to a prophetess (8:3) and they had two sons, Shear-jashub “a remnant shall return” (7:3) and Maher-shalal-hash-baz “swift is the booty, speedy is the prey” of 8:1 (8:3).
  • His main ministry was with Judah, but he prophesied judgment upon both Israel and Judah because of their apostasy, and along with judgment he also prophesied their future restoration and blessing because of God’s covenants with His people—the united nation of Israel. Isaiah then is a book that contains much warning and judgment, but great messages of blessing are woven into Isaiah’s book. He repeated these two basic messages over and over again.
  • Jewish tradition says that he was killed during Manasseh’s reign (696-642 BC), and possibly Hebrews 11:37 had Isaiah in mind.
  • Isaiah’s name is found 54 times in the Bible—32 times in the Old Testament and 22 times in the New Testament. He is named 16 times in the book bearing his name. He is not named in any other Old Testament prophetic book, and the Old Testament books in which he is named are histories—2 Kings (13 times) and 2 Chronicles (3 times). The normal conclusion is that Isaiah the prophet is the author of Isaiah the prophetic book.
  • The New Testament names Isaiah 22 times (Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:2; Luke 3:4; 4:17;John 12:38, 39, 41; Acts 8:28, 30; 28:25; Romans 9:29; 10:16; Romans 10:20, 21; and others).
  • Critics often divide Isaiah into the so-called first Isaiah (1-39) and second Isaiah (40-66), and claim that Isaiah did not write both sections. Some divide Isaiah into three sections (1-39, 40-55, 56-66) because each section has a different emphasis. The critics do not think that a prophet accurately speak of events in the distant future. For example, Isaiah predicts Cyrus by name (44:28 and 45:1) almost 200 years before he came on the scene. He also predicted the return from Babylon that would happen many years in the future (48:20).
  • In truth, Isaiah wrote the entire book. In the first section, he addressed Israel as she faced Assyrian trouble (1-35). Isaiah’s second section contains messages to the Babylonian exiles of the sixth century BC (36-39). In the third section he challenges the post-exilic nation to repentance and predicts more fully their restoration through the Messiah (40-66).
  • Yet Jesus (e.g. Matthew 13:13-14, Luke (Acts 8:28-30), and Paul (Romans 10:20-21) quote Isaiah by name and say that he is the author of the quotations. This clearly contradicts the critics claim that there were two or three Isaiahs.
  • So-called first Isaiah: Matthew 3:3 with Isaiah 40:3; Mathew 4:14-16 with Isaiah 9:1-2; Matthew 13:14-15 with Isaiah 6:9-10; Matthew 15:7-9 with Isaiah 29:13; Mark 7:6-7 with Isaiah 29:13; John 12:39-41 with Isaiah 6:10; Acts 28:25-27 with Isaiah 6:9-10; Romans 9:27-28 with Isaiah 10:22-23; Romans 9:29 with Isaiah 1:9; Romans 15:12 with Isaiah 11:10.
  • So-called second Isaiah (40-66): Matthew 8:17 with Isaiah 53:4; Matthew 12:17-21 with Isaiah 42:1-4; Mark 1:2-3 with Isaiah 40:3;  Mark 3:4-6 with Isaiah 40:3-5; Luke 4:17-19 with Isaiah 61:1-2; John 1:23 with Isaiah 40:3; John 12:38 with Isaiah 53:1; Acts 8:28 -33 with Isaiah 53:7-8; Romans 10:16 with Isaiah 53:1; Romans 10:20-21 with Isaiah 65:1-2.

Trace the Theme

Messiah-Servant of the Lord: Judgment, then Glorious Future

  • We can trace the theme by following the chapter titles and noting the emphases of Isaiah’s messages. Isaiah 1 shows the pattern. Isaiah 8:19-9:7 contrast terrible gloom and darkness with future light and blessing through God’s Messiah King; 24 has judgment on the earth, while 25-27 predict blessing; 28 denounces the unbelief of Israel and God’s judgment and deliverance for those who trust Messiah; 35 predicts judgment and 35 predicts blessing; 44-45 clearly state Israel’s unique position as God’s people along with condemnation for Idolatry followed by the promise of deliverance—Cyrus is even named; 49 also reminds Israel of her special position as the Lord’s servant and blessing through her, but also condemns her apostasy; 52 speaks of slavery and national deliverance through Messiah, while 53 clearly predicts the Messiah as the substitute sin bearer and spiritual deliverance. Chapter 54 predicts Israel’s future sure victory and blessing against the background of her then suffering; and 59 describes Israel’s sin and God’s coming salvation through the Redeemer from Zion. Isaiah 60-66 clearly describes the future kingdom blessings that the Lord will secure for Israel—her promised kingdom is coming. Isaiah’s emphasis is obey God or judgment, but future national restoration and blessing is assured.

Overview Outline

  • Judgment on Judah, the nations, and the earth, 1-35.
    • Judah, 1-12
    • The nations, 13-23
    • The earth, 24-35
  • Historical transition from Assyria to Babylon, 36-39
    • Hezekiah and Assyria, 36-37
    • Hezekiah and Babylon, 38-39
  • Sure hope for the future, 40-66.
    • God rules, 40-48
    • God saves, 49-57
    • God secures, 58-66

Chapter Titles

Judgment on the nations, Isaiah 1-35

  • Chapter 1. Israel, dumber than a donkey
  • Chapter 2. The Lord and his Kingdom in the last days
  • Chapter 3. Rebellion against the Lord produces a culture crisis
  • Chapter 4. The Lord will cleanse and protect Israel in that day
  • Chapter 5. Spiritual culture crisis produces a savage society
  • Chapter 6. Isaiah responds to God's greatness
  • Chapter 7. Virgin birth of the deliverer
  • Chapter 8. Assyria invades and Judah chooses the wrong help
  • Chapter 9. The Son rules from David's throne. Arrogant Israel suffers
  • Chapter 10. Arrogant Assyria. A remnant of Israel
  • Chapter 11. The shoot and branch will rule the gathered people.
  • Chapter 12. Song of thanksgiving.
  • Chapter 13. Lord judges Babylon, Assyria, Philistia.
  • Chapter 14. Lord judges Babylon, Assyria, Philistia.
  • Chapter 15. Lord judges Moab
  • Chapter 16. Lord judges Moab
  • Chapter 17. Lord judges Damascus
  • Chapter 18. Lord judges Ethiopia
  • Chapter 19. Lord judges Egypt
  • Chapter 20. Lord judges Egypt
  • Chapter 21. Lord judges Arabia
  • Chapter 22. Lord judges Judah and Jerusalem
  • Chapter 23. Lord judges Tyre
  • Chapter 24. Day of the Lord Judgments
  • Chapter 25. Day of the Lord blessings
  • Chapter 26. Day of the Lord peace and prosperity
  • Chapter 27. Day of the Lord regathering
  • Chapter 28. Gentile languages announce judgment
  • Chapter 29. Jerusalem gets judgment and restoration
  • Chapter 30. Egypt and Assyria cannot help
  • Chapter 31. Egypt and Assyria cannot help
  • Chapter 32. The righteous King blesses
  • Chapter 33. Deliverance from Assyria. The King will reign
  • Chapter 34. The Lord’s judgment on all nations
  • Chapter 35. The Glory of the Lord—deliverance and blessing

Historical transition from Assyria to Babylon, 36-39

  • Chapter 36. Assyrian Rabshakeh challenges Hezekiah
  • Chapter 37. Hezekiah prays; Lord strikes Sennacherib’s 185,000
  • Chapter 38. The Lord gives Hezekiah 15 more years.
  • Chapter 39. Hezekiah wrongly shows the temple riches to Babylon

Sure hope for the future, 40-66

  • Chapter 40. The Lord—the sure future hope
  • Chapter 41. Israel’s God will deliver Israel
  • Chapter 42. Messiah-Servant will deliver
  • Chapter 43. Lord will return Israel
  • Chapter 44. No God besides Israel’s God
  • Chapter 45. Cyrus used by God. Israel’s creator is the Lord
  • Chapter 46. God’s purpose will be established
  • Chapter 47. Babylon will fall
  • Chapter 48. Stubborn Israel, If only you had listened to me
  • Chapter 49. Messiah-Servant will restore Israel
  • Chapter 50. Messiah-Servant is trustworthy
  • Chapter 51. Israel, listen to the Lord
  • Chapter 52. Israel, redeemed without money
  • Chapter 53. All our iniquity fell on Messiah-Servant
  • Chapter 54. Lord’s compassion and lovingkindness on Israel
  • Chapter 55. Come, listen, seek, and call on the Lord
  • Chapter 56. Lord’s salvation is coming
  • Chapter 57. Lord will judge idolaters
  • Chapter 58. Lord wants righteousness, not hypocrisy
  • Chapter 59. The redeemer from Zion for sinful Israel
  • Chapter 60. Israel—acknowledged, righteous, blessed
  • Chapter 61. The anointed Messiah and restored Israel
  • Chapter 62. Zion—your salvation comes
  • Chapter 63. Lord judges enemies. Israel prays
  • Chapter 64. Prayer for deliverance. Israel confesses sin
  • Chapter 65. Repentant servant Israel. New kingdom heavens and earth
  • Chapter 66. Peace, blessing, and glory in Jerusalem

Key People

  • Isaiah
  • Hezekiah
  • Servant of the Lord
  • Cyrus

Key Words and Phrases

  • Comfort, 17X (Isaiah 40:1; 51:3; 66:13)
  • Idol, 19X (Isaiah 2:18; 40:19-20; 57:13)
  • Image, 14X (Isaiah 10:10-11; 42:8; 44:9)
  • In that day, 40X (Isaiah 4:2; 7:18; 25:9; 28:5)
  • Judgment, 12X (Isaiah 3:14; 34:5; 66:16)
  • Salvation, 27X (Isaiah 12:2; 17:10; 52:7)
  • Servant, 42X (Isaiah 41:8; 42:1)

Key Doctrines

  • God is the creator and is sovereign
  • God uses nations
  • God will restore Israel and bless her
  • Idolatry is foolish
  • Israel has a bright future—peace, prosperity, blessing
  • Israel is God’s priest nation
  • Messiah-Servant is Jesus the Christ
  • Millennial Kingdom
  • National divine discipline.
  • Rebellion against God reaps terrible consequences
  • Theocratic program centered through Israel and Israel’s Messiah will defeat Satan and restore God’s rightful rule.

Lessons For Us From Isaiah

  • There is no God but Israel’s God; He is the creator and ruler.
  • Rebellion against God pays terrible consequences.
  • Though the world is in turmoil, God is in charge and his plan continues.
  • God’s plan for history centers around his Servant Messiah.
  • History is the story of God restoring his rightful rule in creation; Israel and we in the church are active combatants in this spiritual conflict.
  • World peace, prosperity, and blessing will not come through human government such as the United Nations. It will only come through Messiah’s reign on earth.
  • God keeps his word. He never lies and does not forget what he has promised.