Isaiah: The Prophet of Grace
Key Text: Chapter 40:1
“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.”
Isaiah commences a section known in our Bible as the Major Prophets. The Jews, however, called this section the Latter Prophets or the Writing Prophets. The latter title emphasised that their words were verbally inspired and perpetuated.
Who Was Isaiah?
He was a prophet raised up by God to teach the people of Judah divine truth. His ministry began sometime during the reign of King Uzziah continued during the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. There is a Jewish tradition that he continued to serve God in the reign of Manasseh during which time he was executed but of this we cannot be certain. At any rate his ministry was exceedingly long; the shortest estimate being 49 years with the longest being 64 years. This extensive period of service produced the longest volume penned by any of the prophets. Over a period which occupied between 49 to 64 years, 66 chapters are in reality quite a brief summary of this man’s faithfulness to his God. He was a most influential figure of his day having both the ear and the respect of Kings.
What Was The Background To His Prophesy?
The world was a rapidly changing place. A new superpower was emerging in the east, which posed a considerable threat to the Jewish people. In Isaiah’s day this power was taking shape in the form of the Assyrian Empire while a hundred years later the Babylonian Empire would arise as a much stronger and more potent force. These were days of domestic unrest fuelled by international upheaval. The Assyrians were flexing their military muscle in a way that no other nation had ever done in the history of the world up until that point. Nations were occupied by the Assyrian armies and annexed into the greater empire. During the reign of Ahaz King of Judah the northern kingdom of the Jews was eventually brought to an end, 2 Kings 17. This undoubtedly caused tremendous consternation in Judah and part of Isaiah’s task was to teach the people of God how to react to this changing and worrying situation.
This new situation in the world was in reality the revival of the spirit of Babel, which was the spirit of Antichrist. Babel represented an effort to bring the peoples of the world into an ungodly alliance but God confounded their efforts. For thousands of years this spirit lay dormant with no effort being made to unify the nations. In this period the Jewish nation emerged from small beginnings, the family of Abraham Isaac and Jacob, survived much hostility, the sojourn in Egypt and the wilderness wanderings, to become the envy of the world, under Solomon. In Isaiah’s day, however, the glory of Israel had long since faded and the old spirit of Antichrist was bringing the nations together and the Jewish people were very much in his sights.
While Satan was utilising this situation to destroy the Jewish people, and in particular the seed from which the Messiah would spring, God was in control preparing the world and Israel for the coming of the Saviour. Christ would come not to preside over a Jewish State but to establish a spiritual Kingdom of which Israel was only a faint shadow. Therefore with the decline of Israel, God in reality was paving the way for a greater kingdom, which would occupy the entire world.
What Was The Purpose Of His Prophesy?
Edward J. Young in his “Introduction To The Old Testament” wrote on this point:
“Isaiah’s ministry occurred at a crucial time in Judah’s history. The Assyrian power was rising, and in the light of this fact two groups appeared within the nation. One would seek alliance with Egypt and the other with Assyria. Isaiah, however, forbade human alliances and urged the nation to trust in God. As a sign of deliverance he proclaimed the birth of the Messiah and prophesied concerning the nature of his Kingdom.”
The later chapters are full of remarkable teachings, which are applicable to the Church of Christ. Therefore Isaiah’s book points the way to the emergence of the new Israel, the spiritual nation. Therefore the Gospel of Grace dominates, the later chapters particularly, and there are numerous references to the coming of Christ, His person and work. This is very much in keeping with the meaning of Isaiah’s name, “the LORD is salvation”. Therefore this book has on occasions been called “the 5th Gospel”.
Did Isaiah Write All Of This Prophesy?
Liberal scholars have been contesting for many years that Isaiah only wrote fragments of the book, which bears his name. Such remarks, however, are based on the premise that the Bible is the product of man and is not the word of God. We must approach the Bible exercising faith and in so doing we presume that the scriptures are inspired because the Bible itself bears witness to this fact. We do not need scholarly arguments to prove that Isaiah was indeed the penman (although these are useful in their place), we only require the authority of the Scriptures.
What is truly fascinating about Isaiah is that there are more quotations from his book in the New Testament than from the rest of the prophets put together. This in itself proves that Isaiah is the author. For example if we deny this then the entire New Testament is a fabrication and the gospel is a myth. Such is the uniformity of the scriptures that we must believe everything or accept nothing.
Below is a list of New Testament passages which specifically quote from Isaiah, naming him as the author in so doing:
New Testament Passage Passage Quoted
Matthew 3:3 40:3
Matthew 8:17 53:4
Matthew 12:17 42:1
Matthew 13:14 6:9-10
Matthew 15:7 29:13
Mark 1:2 40:3
Mark 7:6 29:13
Luke 3:4 40:3-5
Luke 4:17 61:1-2
John 1:23 40:3
John 12:38 53:1
John 12:39-41 6:9-10
Acts 8:28 53:7-8
Acts 8:30 53:7-8
Acts 8:32 53:7-8
Acts 28:25 6:9-10
Romans 9:27 10:22-23
Romans 9:29 1:9
Romans 10:16 53:1
Romans 10:20 65:1
Outline Of The Book Of Isaiah
The Assyrian Threat – Chapters 1 to 12
God Reigning Over The Nations – Chapters 13 to 35
King Hezekiah – Chapters 36 to 39
Future Blessings For The Church; The True Israel – Chapters 40 to 66
The Messiah – 7:14, 9:6, 11:1-2, 42:1-4, 53, 61:1-3,
The Gospel – 55, 61:10, 62:1-4, 11-12, 63:7-9, 65:1-2,
Comforting Promises – 40, 41:10, 43:1-2, 44:1-3, 45:1-4, 49:12-16
The Bible in Miniature – Begins with sin (1:6), Continues with history, Points to Christ (Chapter 53) and Concludes with the eternal state (65:17-25).