Isaiah, whose name means “Yahweh is salvation,” is best known for writing the book that bears his name in the Old Testament. His writings are especially significant for the prophecies he made about the coming Messiah, hundreds of years before Jesus was born (Isaiah 7:14; 9:1-7, 11:2-4; 53:4-7, 9, 12). Matthew quotes Isaiah when describing John the Baptist’s ministry (Matthew 3:3; Isaiah 40:3), and when Jesus moved to Galilee to start His ministry, Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled (Matthew 4:13-16; Isaiah 9:1-2). Jesus quotes Isaiah’s prophecy when speaking in parables (Isaiah 6:9; Matthew 13:14-15), and the apostle Paul also makes reference to the same prophecy when he is in Rome (Acts 28:26-27). When Jesus reads from Isaiah (Isaiah 61:1-2) in the synagogue at Nazareth, He amazes many of the Jews by claiming the prophecy is fulfilled in Him (Luke 4:16-21). It is also interesting to note that the Gospels quote more from Isaiah’s writings than from any other of the Old Testament prophets.
Little is written about Isaiah the man. We know that he was the son of Amoz and that he married and had sons of his own (Isaiah 1:1; 7:3; 8:3). Though Isaiah’s recognition as a great prophet is indicated in the books of the Kings and Chronicles, it is also probable that he was a priest, as his calling from God took place in the temple (Isaiah 6:4), an area reserved only for priests. The anointing he receives at his calling is similar to that of the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 1:9; Isaiah 6:7).
Along with his contemporary, the prophet Micah, Isaiah served the southern kingdom of Judah under the reigns of four kings. At the time of Isaiah’s ministry, Judah was a sinful and unjust nation. Nevertheless, Isaiah believed that Judah was God’s chosen nation and they would be vindicated by God. With support from Micah and the godly King Hezekiah, their enemies were held at bay and a revival swept through the nation of Judah (2 Kings 19:32-36; 2 Chronicles 32:20-23). Many commentators describe Isaiah as Judah’s evangelist because he worked tirelessly to turn the people back to God.
There were many highs and lows in Isaiah’s life. His faithfulness to God was rewarded with some amazing miracles. In answer to Isaiah’s prayer, God moved the sun back ten steps as a sign to King Hezekiah that God would add a further 15 years to Hezekiah’s life (2 Kings 20:8-11; 2 Chronicles 32:24). Yet Isaiah spent three years stripped naked and barefoot, in obedience to God, as a “sign and wonder” against the Egyptians (Isaiah 20:2-4). His contemporary, Micah, did likewise (Micah 1:8), though we are not told for how long.
It is in examining a man’s heart that we can learn what kind of a man he is, and Jesus said it is from the overflow of a man’s heart that he speaks (Matthew 12:34). It is from Isaiah’s writings that we learn of his unswerving faithfulness and his complete humility before God. He also had great respect from King Hezekiah’s court and his peers, which was evident in times of crisis. Some of the world’s greatest art works, music and poetry have come from men who walked closely with God, and we can count Isaiah among them. His grasp of the Hebrew language has been likened to that of Shakespeare’s English, as we read in Isaiah some of the most beautiful writings in the Bible. Though the book of Isaiah was written over 2,500 years ago, it is well worth reading through the entire book, because in it we see much wisdom that still applies to our Christian lives today.
It appears that Isaiah was a very private man. When we meet some of today’s renowned speakers face to face, we may be disappointed to find they appear somewhat aloof. However, as with Isaiah, we can learn that their ministry is all about pointing people to God, not to themselves. And despite his reticence, Isaiah’s prominence is in the effect his ministry had on the people. In these last days, we need to make every word we speak count for the kingdom. And from Isaiah’s lifestyle we learn that, when God accomplishes a part of His plan through us, we must ensure that all the glory goes to Him.
In addition, it appears Isaiah’s ministry was characterized by closeness with other godly men, like Micah and King Hezekiah. Going it alone can often leave us vulnerable, but when we are united by God’s Holy Spirit to other members of the body of Christ through fellowship and prayer, our ministry is more effective by virtue of the protection others provide.
Summary of the Book of Isaiah
Author: Isaiah 1:1 identifies the author of the book of Isaiah as the Prophet Isaiah.
Date of Writing: The book of Isaiah was written between 739 and 681 B.C.
Purpose of Writing: The Prophet Isaiah was primarily called to prophesy to the Kingdom of Judah. Judah was going through times of revival and times of rebellion. Judah was threatened with destruction by Assyria and Egypt, but was spared because of God’s mercy. Isaiah proclaimed a message of repentance from sin and hopeful expectation of God’s deliverance in the future.
Isaiah 6:8, “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’”
Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
Isaiah 9:6, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Isaiah 14:12-13, “How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain.”
Isaiah 53:5-6, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Isaiah 65:25, “The wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, but dust will be the serpent’s food. They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, says the LORD.”
Brief Summary: The book of Isaiah reveals God’s judgment and salvation. God is “holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3), and therefore He cannot allow sin to go unpunished (Isaiah 1:2; 2:11-20; 5:30; 34:1-2; 42:25). Isaiah portrays God’s oncoming judgment as a “consuming fire” (Isaiah 1:31; 30:33).
At the same time, Isaiah understands that God is a God of mercy, grace, and compassion (Isaiah 5:25; 11:16; 14:1-2; 32:2; 40:3; 41:14-16). The nation of Israel (both Judah and Israel) is blind and deaf to God’s commands (Isaiah 6:9-10; 42:7). Judah is compared to a vineyard that should be, and will be, trampled on (Isaiah 5:1-7). Only because of His mercy and His promises to Israel, will God not allow Israel or Judah to be completely destroyed. He will bring restoration, forgiveness, and healing (43:2; 43:16-19; 52:10-12).
More than any other book in the Old Testament, Isaiah focuses on the salvation that will come through the Messiah. The Messiah will one day rule in justice and righteousness (Isaiah 9:7; 32:1). The reign of the Messiah will bring peace and safety to Israel (Isaiah 11:6-9). Through the Messiah, Israel will be a light to all the nations (Isaiah 42:6; 55:4-5). The Messiah’s kingdom on earth (Isaiah chapters 65-66) is the goal toward which all of the book of Isaiah points. It is during the reign of the Messiah that God’s righteousness will be fully revealed to the world.
In a seeming paradox, the book of Isaiah also presents the Messiah as one who will suffer. Isaiah chapter 53 vividly describes the Messiah suffering for sin. It is through His wounds that healing is achieved. It is through His suffering that our iniquities are taken away. This apparent contradiction is solved in the Person of Jesus Christ. In His first advent, Jesus was the suffering servant of Isaiah chapter 53. In His second advent, Jesus will be the conquering and ruling King, the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
Foreshadowings: As stated above, chapter 53 of Isaiah describes the coming Messiah and the suffering He would endure in order to pay for our sins. In His sovereignty, God orchestrated every detail of the crucifixion to fulfill every prophecy of this chapter, as well as all other messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. The imagery of chapter 53 is poignant and prophetic and contains a complete picture of the Gospel. Jesus was despised and rejected (v. 3; Luke 13:34; John 1:10-11), stricken by God (v.4; Matthew 27:46), and pierced for our transgressions (v. 5; John 19:34; 1 Peter 2:24). By His suffering, He paid the punishment we deserved and became for us the ultimate and perfect sacrifice (v. 5; Hebrews 10:10). Although He was sinless, God laid on Him our sin, and we became God’s righteousness in Him (2 Corinthians 5:21).
Practical Application: The book of Isaiah presents our Savior to us in undeniable detail. He is the only way to heaven, the only means of obtaining the grace of God, the only Way, the only Truth, and the only Life (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). Knowing the price Christ paid for us, how can we neglect or reject “so great a salvation”? (Hebrews 2:3). We have only a few, short years on earth to come to Christ and embrace the salvation only He offers. There is no second chance after death, and eternity in hell is a very long time.
Do you know people who claim to be believers in Christ who are two-faced, who are hypocrites? That is perhaps the best summary of how Isaiah viewed the nation of Israel. Israel had an appearance of righteousness, but it was a facade. In the Book of Isaiah, the Prophet Isaiah challenges Israel to obey God with all of their heart, not just on the outside. Isaiah’s desire was that those who heard and read his words would be convicted to turn from wickedness and turn to God for forgiveness and healing.