In today’s blog we begin covering the great Book of Isaiah. No Old Testament book is quoted more in the New Testament than Isaiah. It is written over an approximately 40-year period (740 – 700 BC). Isaiah lived and prophesied in the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Many commentators believe he had a close connection to the royal court. During his ministry, the Northern Kingdom of Israel was invaded and exiled by the powerful empire of Assyria.
The Book of Isaiah focuses on the great theme of God’s redemption/salvation of the world. Yahweh had chosen the nation of Israel to be His holy people (Ex. 19:4-6) who would in their daily life show forth His ways and reflect His righteousness and justice. They were God’s vineyard, a planting of the LORD, who were given everything they needed to be fruitful for God (Is. 5:1-7). But when the LORD came to gather His fruit, he only found the bad grapes of injustice and unrighteousness (Is. 5:7).
The Israelites rebelled against their heavenly Father (Is. 1:1); they did not really know nor understand their covenant LORD (Is. 1:2). They were “lost” themselves who needed to be redeemed as much as the nations around them. The LORD even called them Sodom and Gomorrah whose religious sacrifices and prayers had become an abomination to the LORD (Is. 1:10-16). Their false worship resulted them in not caring for the oppressed or defending the cause of the fatherless and widow (Is. 1:17).
As a result of this spiritual state of God’s people, the LORD raised up prophets like Isaiah to call them back to covenant faithfulness (Is. 1:16-18). The sense we get from Isaiah’s message is that even though he is calling Israel to repentance, he envisions them as continuing in their rebelliousness. The prophet, therefore, foresees the Jewish people experiencing God’s chastisement and judgment, and through their subsequent suffering, fulfilling God’s purposes for them in the world.
There will come a day when Israel will be a light unto the nations and God’s salvation made known to the world (Is. 2:1-6). But before that happens, God’s people will experience devastating judgment (Is. 2:6-3:26). In the Book of Isaiah, there is a recurring mention of a representative Israelite or messianic figure who will be the main agent of God’s salvation for the world (Is. 9:1-7; 11:1-12). The Christian church believes that this ideal Israelite is Jesus Christ. No wonder the Book of Isaiah is the most quoted Old Testament book in the New Testament. “Come Lord Jesus, Come! You are our salvation and strength. In you is our trust! You are our Praise! In Christ’s love and service, Pastor John