The prophecy of Isaiah was the early churchs New Testament. It was from Isaiah that the first Christians gained vital insight on who Jesus was and on the significance of His ministry, death and resurrection (Goldingay, Isaiah, Hendrickson, 2001, pp 30-31). The writers of the New Testament quoted from Isaiah more than all the other prophets combined (Motyer, Isaiah, IVP, 1999, p 34). Other than portions of the Torah (Genesis through Deuteronomy) the scroll of Isaiah was the most commonly available scriptures in the synagogues of Jesus day, and it seems evident that a young Jesus under the guidance of the Holy Spirit discovered there His own calling. Whenever he announced the coming of the kingdom of God, which was central to his teaching, he was referring to Isaiah. Whenever he talked about peacemaking, justice, joy, Gods presence, or healing, he was often referring to Isaiah (Stassen, Living the Sermon on the Mount, Jossey-Bass, 2006, p. XIV). Judging from the ease with which He quoted from the entire book, He had memorized it, and he quoted from Isaiah far more frequently than any other part of the Bible (Stassen, p. XV).
So, as we enter the weeks of Advent preparing our hearts to truly worship at Christmas, this year well let Isaiah be our teacher. Well turn to his prophecies to discover the real meaning of hope, peace, joy and love. And above all well let him show us who Jesus is and what He did for us. Who, better than Isaiah, to prepare our hearts to welcome Immanuel?
Isaiahs call (6:1-13)
God called a young man named Isaiah to be a prophet in the year king Uzziah of Judah died, which was 739 B.C. The Lord showed him a vision of Himself seated on a throne directly above the temple in Jerusalem with the light of His glory extending down into its courts. As he watched, Isaiah became deeply aware of his own sin and burst out in confession after which God dramatically cleansed him. Then he heard God ask, Whom shall I send and who will go for us? and Isaiah volunteered himself saying, Here am I. Send me! Immediately God commissioned him and revealed seven truths to him. From the very beginning of his ministry Isaiah knew:
1) The people would not listen to him (v 9)
2) His prophecies would actually have the effect of making peoples hearts harder toward God (v 10)
3) Because the nation would not repent it would fall to invaders (v 11)
4) These invaders would not only conquer both the northern and southern kingdoms but would deport them out of the land (vs 11, 12)
Note: In 18 years the northern kingdom and all the cities of the southern kingdom except Jerusalem would fall to Assyria (721 B.C.). And in 153 years Jerusalem would fall to Babylon and the people would be taken there as exiles (586 B.C).
5) In time Judah would return to the land but God would have to discipline them again (v 13).
6) God would always preserve a remnant so that the family line of the coming Messiah would not be cut off (v 13)
7) God us in charge of history and has sovereignty ordained that the Messiah will come (v 13).
Imagine starting your ministry knowing these facts. These arent truths you learn over time; theyre revelations sown into your soul at the very moment of your call. This is why Isaiah put absolutely no hope in humans, neither the people of the nation nor its leaders. He knew that their only hope was the coming Messiah. As one reads the entire book its clear that he puts no hope in:
The kings of Judah or Samaria
Their armies to defend them
Mutual defense agreements with other nations
Godly wisdom coming from established elders or prophets
The religious rituals of the temple
The nations willingness to repent
All human righteousness, including his own
No, his only hope was the Messiah (Isa 59:1-20). He was certain that all human attempts to get it right, to bring peace, to please God, to be just toward the poor and vulnerable, to love one another, to even have the good sense to see our own failure and repent are doomed. Unless God Himself showed up among us (Immanuel) the human race will continue on this downward course until it destroys itself. But as certain as he was of human failure, he was just as certain of Gods mercy and determination to send a Savior to rescue us. So, interspersed through all his prophesies are beautiful glimpses of the kingdom God will send to the earth when He sends the Messiah. The Messiah will:
Be gentle with the weak (42:3)
Gather His people together from the far corners of the earth (49:8-23; 66:20)
Break the power of their enemies (42:13; 66:24)
Heal the sick (61:1-3)
Pour out the Holy Spirit bringing Gods unending presence (60:19-21).
Be a light to the Gentiles (49:6; 56:3-8; 60:3; 65:1)
Draw to Himself the people of Israel (49:15)
Cause violence in all its forms to cease (11:1-9; 65:17-23).
Atone our sins (53; 61:10)
Welcome all who thirst and hunger for a relationship with God (55:1, 2, 6-13)
Change our names, replacing them with names that describe our transformed hearts, rather than the damage sin has done to us (62:2-12)
Even though He told Isaiah that most people would not listen to him, God still appealed to anyone who would listen to do three things:
1) Repent (1:16-20; 66:2)
2) Pray (62:6, 7)
3) Wait in hope for God to act (40:31)
Weve seen Isaiahs hope, but what is our hope 2,748 years later? Its still the Messiah! That He has come to die for our sins and rise from the dead, and that He will come again to bring to earth the kingdom of God that Isaiah describes so beautifully. But we have a present hope as well: that we can experience the glories of that kingdom now.
In Luke 4:14-21 Jesus introduced Himself by saying He is the One of whom Isaiah was speaking in Isaiah 61:1, 2. And then He said something that was explosive. He said, Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing. In other words, the glories of the Messianic kingdom described by Isaiah had already arrived in a limited but real way though Him. And later, He said this kingdom would continue to arrive through His church (us!). So our hope is a Messiah whose kingdom is at work among us now (Eph 1:17-19; Col 1:25-29).
Today our Messiah is alive and continues to... (see Isaiahs hope list above)
1) Whats your favorite verse in Isaiah? Read it to us and tell us what it means to you. 2) Describe a situation in which you saw the powers of that future kingdom at work in your life (wisdom, healing, protection, provision, peace, restored relationships).