Book of Isaiah
|The Book of Isaiah|
|SERMONS, ESSAYS AND OPINIONS||
The Book of Isaiah is a book of the Old Testament containing the words of the prophet Isaiah. Although it talks about judgement, it ultimately declares a message of hope describing the coming Messiah and saviour.
Most scholars consider that Isaiah was written in two parts. The first half is generally believed to have been written by Isaiah (chapters 1-39) and the second half by another author (chapters 40 to 66). The reason for this is that the chapters 1 to 39 are set before the exile, whereas from chapter 40 onwards, the book looks at a time two hundred years later, after the return of exile.
God's character as a holy, sovereign, just, yet compassionate and merciful God is revealed throughout Isaiah.
The first 39 chapters of Isaiah were written in eighth century BC, in the era before the Kingdom of Judah was exiled, during the reigns of the king Hezekiah. These chapters tell the story of the prophet Isaiah and his ministry to the Israelites calling the people realize their sin and trust in God's forgiveness.
A sinful people
In Isaiah 1 the people are accused of only lacking knowledge of God.
- Hear, heavens, and listen, earth; for Yahweh has spoken: "I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. The ox knows his owner, and the donkey his master's crib; but Israel doesn't know, my people don't consider." (Isaiah 1:2-3)
In Isaiah 2 the people are accused of idolatory
- For you have forsaken your people, the house of Jacob, because they are filled from the east, with those who practice divination like the Philistines, and they clasp hands with the children of foreigners. Their land is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures. Their land also is full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots. Their land also is full of idols. They worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made. (Isaiah 2:6-8)
Judgement and Exile
- "Come now, and let us reason together," says Yahweh: "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.
Hope of justice and restoration to the land
Most scholars agree that chapters 40 to 66 of Isaiah were written a number of centuries later than the first 39 chapters of Isaiah, in the post-exilic era of the 6th century BC. Isaiah 40 to 66 are certainly written with this historical context in mind, with these chapters discussing the return of the exiled Israelites to Israel under the command of the Persian king Cyrus. Additionally these chapters are written in a different language style than the first half of Isaiah, and Isaiah's name is not mentioned.
The messages of Isaiah 40 to 66 are written in a poetic style and appear to be compiled in a disordered manner. The message is that God is the sovereign creator who loves his people and will redeem them.
God is the creator, and created Israel
Incomparable - God is God, all the other pagan deities are nothing
Passages such as Isaiah 44 show God's contempt towards the worship of created inanimate objects.
- Everyone who makes an engraved image is vain. The things that they delight in will not profit. Their own witnesses don't see, nor know, that they may be disappointed.
- Who has fashioned a god, or molds an image that is profitable for nothing?
- Behold, all his fellows will be disappointed; and the workmen are mere men. Let them all be gathered together. Let them stand up. They will fear. They will be put to shame together.
- The blacksmith takes an axe, works in the coals, fashions it with hammers, and works it with his strong arm. He is hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water, and is faint.
- The carpenter stretches out a line. He marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes. He marks it out with compasses, and shapes it like the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to reside in a house.
- He cuts down cedars for himself, and takes the cypress and the oak, and strengthens for himself one among the trees of the forest. He plants a fir tree, and the rain nourishes it.
- Then it will be for a man to burn; and he takes some of it, and warms himself. Yes, he burns it, and bakes bread. Yes, he makes a god, and worships it; he makes it an engraved image, and falls down to it.
- He burns part of it in the fire. With part of it, he eats meat. He roasts a roast, and is satisfied. Yes, he warms himself, and says, "Aha! I am warm. I have seen the fire."
- The rest of it he makes into a god, even his engraved image. He bows down to it and worships, and prays to it, and says, "Deliver me; for you are my god!"
- They don't know, neither do they consider: for he has shut their eyes, that they can't see; and their hearts, that they can't understand.
- No one thinks, neither is there knowledge nor understanding to say, "I have burned part of it in the fire. Yes, I have also baked bread on its coals. I have roasted meat and eaten it. Shall I make the rest of it into an abomination? Shall I bow down to a tree trunk?"
- He feeds on ashes. A deceived heart has turned him aside; and he can't deliver his soul, nor say, "Isn't there a lie in my right hand?"
- Remember these things, Jacob and Israel; for you are my servant. I have formed you. You are my servant. Israel, you will not be forgotten by me.
- I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, your transgressions, and, as a cloud, your sins. Return to me, for I have redeemed you.
- Sing, you heavens, for Yahweh has done it! Shout, you lower parts of the earth! Break out into singing, you mountains, O forest, all of your trees, for Yahweh has redeemed Jacob, and will glorify himself in Israel.
- Thus says Yahweh, your Redeemer, and he who formed you from the womb: "I am Yahweh, who makes all things; who alone stretches out the heavens; who spreads out the earth by myself;
God is the redeemer who will restore the people from exile
Passages such as Isaiah 43:1 bring a message of hope in God's redemption
- But now thus says Yahweh who created you, Jacob, and he who formed you, Israel: "Don't be afraid, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by your name. You are mine.
The Suffering Servant
Isaiah in the light of the New Testament
The birth of Jesus is alluded to in Isaiah 7:14.
- Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin will conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Jesus is seen as the suffering servant who bears the sins of the people in Isaiah 53.