Psalm for the Day

Thursday, January 3, 2013

What was the purpose of Isaiah’s Message?


Uzziah was a good king for the most part. He promoted worship at the temple and honored God. When his son Jotham took over the throne, it may have appeared as though there were a true and deep devotion in Judah. However it was not as deep as it seemed. There was a rapid growth of the spirit of luxury and indulgence. True piety was declining steadily. After Jotham, Ahaz brought on a true disaster for the nation when he began to worship idols, even sacrificing his own son to the fire. Temple worship was forbidden, Yahweh ignored and war threatened the tiny kingdom.

When Hezekiah came on the scene, he tried to reverse the spiritual damage of his father, but it was too late. Hezekiah stood alone against the overwhelming tide of Assyrian power.

Assyria never did conquer Judah as it did Israel. Yet because Judah failed to listen to the message of Isaiah and change their ways, Isaiah predicted that the empire of Babylon would destroy Judah too. “The time will surely come when everything in your palace, and all that your fathers have stored up until this day, will be carried off to Babylon. Nothing will be left, says the LORD” (Isa.39:6).


Such was the time of Isaiah. They lived in a façade, pretending to know peace and security, wealth and happiness. Yet they would pay for ignoring the God who had blessed them so richly.  

Do these times sound familiar?

What was the purpose of Isaiah’s Message?

When we think of prophetic oracles or messages we tend to think of judgment. That may be why we do not like reading the OT. Isaiah does speak judgment to Judah and Jerusalem in chapters 1-39 and mingles it with words of hope. Then he speaks of comfort for his people in chapters 40 to 66 mingling it at times with words of correction.

One of the great images of Isaiah is the picture he paints of two cities. He begins with the historical Jerusalem of his day, corrupt and under judgment (1:8), and draws us through the story of Jerusalem’s fate, until he finishes with the end-time city of God, the New Jerusalem. This is not just a historical reference, this is the imagery of heaven and it involves you and I.

 

The influence of Isaiah on the New Testament is huge. The book of Isaiah is quoted 66 times from Matthew to 1 Peter. There are allusions to Isaiah on top of this such as Revelation 21:1-4 “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth…I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem…there will be no more death or mourning  or crying or pain…” which is based on Isaiah 65. Only the Psalms are quoted more often than Isaiah in the NT.


The apostle John quotes Isaiah in his gospel and then makes this amazing commentary, “Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him” (John 12:41). What an amazing insight into what Isaiah saw; Isaiah saw Jesus.

In the early part of Isaiah the prophet foretells of the birth of the Messiah and gives precise details about how and where he would be born. Isaiah wrote, “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” (Isa. 7:14).


Chapter 9 foretells of the Messiah being born in Galilee of the Gentiles, a location unheard of in those times. It tells of the amazing and never-ending reign of this great deliverer. And chapter 11 assures us that this Messiah will be born of the house of David, a direct descendant.


Not only is the birth of Jesus specifically detailed, his ministry is highlighted in advance as well. When Jesus is handed the scroll to read in the synagogue of His hometown of Nazareth, He reads these words: “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor…” (Isa. 61:1). When this happened it was as though He had received it, not just from human hands, but from the hands of God. By reading it as He did He assumed the role of the Servant whom Isaiah had described and all that this meant. It was the beginning of His journey to the cross.

 

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