The Prophet Series: Isaiah, Introduction
The frequencies of my blogs have slowed. There are reasons for this. One is that I have started the Book of Ephesians and the workload for getting us off the ground in this grand epistle has been time consuming. Two, I knew that I was going to write about Isaiah next in our series and the thought of taking on this “MAJOR” prophet led me to consistently say, “Maybe next week.”
As I prepare for this great prophet, I thought that a short introduction might be a good warm-up.
The Book of Isaiah can be thought of as a mini-Bible. The Bible consists of 66 books: Isaiah has 66 chapters. The Bible is divided into two testaments: Isaiah is also divided into two parts, the first having to do largely with Israel’s past condition and the promise of Messiah’s coming, and the second dealing particularly with their future deliverance. The OT has 39 books and the first part of Isaiah is 39 chapters. The NT has 27 books and the second part of Isaiah has 27 chapters. While it is true that God did not inspire the chapter breaks in the Bible, these breaks were not chosen at random, for Isaiah’s writing leads towards their placement. Added to this, the theme of the Book of Isaiah is the same theme of the entire Bible - God’s salvation as revealed in His blessed Son. Isaiah shows us, in the greatest detail yet written to His day, the suffering Messiah and the returning Messiah/King triumphantly establishing His kingdom, just as He promised Abraham so long ago.
Like so many of the prophets, little is known about the circumstances of Isaiah’s life. It is conjectured that he was the man sawn in two from HEB 11:37, but that is only tradition. We do not know if he was martyred, but if he was, it was after a long and impactful career as a prophet of God. We will steer away from Jewish tradition as usual.
Isaiah’s father was named Amoz (not to be confused with the prophet Amos). He was married and calls his wife a prophetess, which we’re quite sure he didn’t do out of any desire for marital bliss, but because she was in fact a prophetess. He had two children which were named in accordance with his ministry. The second son was named Maher-shalal-hash-baz by order of God. (I’m sure he was tortured in school.) It means "hasten booty, speed spoil", and it symbolized Assyria's mad desire for conquest. God would use that desire to discipline the nation of Israel severely. Assyria would outright conquer and deport the Northern Kingdom, and do great damage to the Southern Kingdom Judah as well, only to be turned by from the walls of Jerusalem by a plague from God. This is what chapters 1-39 are largely about - God’s judgment against the rebellion of the nation.
Then the Lord said to me, "Name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz; 4 for before the boy knows how to cry out' My father' or' My mother,' the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria."
The first son was named Shear-jashub, which means "a remnant shall return", and this was largely the message of chapters 40-66. God would save the remnant through the suffering Messiah who would one day return as the conquering Messiah, and God would fulfill His promise to Abraham literally, through the establishment of the Millennial Kingdom.
Isaiah normally would have been clothed in sackcloth and wore sandals, yet for three years of the forty or so that he served God, God demanded that he go around naked, meaning only in his loincloth. The winter there lasts about three months and is cold and wet. He would have suffered greatly, but a naked prophet was necessary to a people who had become deaf to words.
As Assyria’s threat became more imminent, the leadership (the last king of Israel, Hoshea) applied to Egypt for help. In other words, Hoshea sought to clothe Israel with Egypt instead of Yavah. Isaiah’s nakedness reinforced his statements about the pointlessness of Israel’s reliance on Egypt against Assyria. No doubt his behavior must have appeared somewhat bizarre in the eyes of his fellow Judeans, whose eyes were shielded by their pride and lust and lack of fear of God.
at that time the Lord spoke through Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, "Go and loosen the sackcloth from your hips, and take your shoes off your feet." And he did so, going naked and barefoot. 3 And the Lord said, "Even as My servant Isaiah has gone naked and barefoot three years as a sign and token against Egypt and Cush, 4 so the king of Assyria will lead away the captives of Egypt and the exiles of Cush, young and old, naked and barefoot with buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt. 5 "Then they shall be dismayed and ashamed because of Cush their hope and Egypt their boast. 6 "So the inhabitants of this coastland will say in that day, 'Behold, such is our hope, where we fled for help to be delivered from the king of Assyria; and we, how shall we escape?'"
In three years Assyrian had conquered Israel and exiled the survivors of the ten tribes to other lands.
In the parable of the Wedding Feast there is a man found by the master not wearing wedding clothes. The man would have been offered these clothes by the host, but he was the only one in attendance to refuse them. He thought to himself that his own clothes were good enough. The king of Israel thought that the promise of Egypt was good enough against Assyria. Like Israel, the man at the wedding feast was taken out, bound hand and foot. The naked prophet told all of Israel that they were exposed without faith and worship of God.
Isaiah’s ministry was exercised in and around Jerusalem. Assyria was soon coming upon them like a swarm of locusts. Heeding Isaiah’s expansive prophecy and repenting was the only hope of survival. The Northern Kingdom would not survive; Judah would, but barely. One would think that such a scare (185,000 Assyrian troops surrounding Jerusalem bent on destruction) would be enough to turn the hearts of all Judeans for ages to come, but it would not, and Babylon, crouched and becoming ever more powerful, was coming in the future to finish the job. Isaiah warned the Southern Kingdom that the prophetic clock was ticking in the direction of their own destruction if they failed to repent. They would not.
I have decided that I want to outline the Book of Isaiah as it is so pertinent to us. It is the second most quoted Old Testament book in the New Testament (after Psalms). It is longer than any other prophetic book. It contains the fullest Messianic predictions to be found in the Old Testament, including both the sufferings of Christ and His glories to come. In a world quickly filling with hatred, it is of highest import that its message, revealing the sole important truth in this world, be made full in us so that it might shine upon the darkness that surrounds our neighbors.
Yet the Lord warned Israel and Judah, through all His prophets and every seer, saying, "Turn from your evil ways and keep My commandments, My statutes according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you through My servants the prophets." 14 However, they did not listen, but stiffened their neck like their fathers, who did not believe in the Lord their God.
To Him be all glory and honor,
Pastor Joe Sugrue