Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Who was Isaiah?

These are the visions that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. He saw these visions during the years when Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah were kings of Judah.

 Listen, O heavens! Pay attention, earth!
This is what the Lord says: “The children I raised and cared for have rebelled against me.

Even an ox knows its owner,
and a donkey recognizes its master’s care—
but Israel doesn’t know its master.
My people don’t recognize my care for them.”

 Oh, what a sinful nation they are—loaded down with a burden of guilt.
They are evil people, corrupt children who have rejected the Lord.
They have despised the Holy One of Israel
and turned their backs on him.

Why do you continue to invite punishment?
Must you rebel forever?
Your head is injured,
and your heart is sick.

 You are battered from head to foot—
covered with bruises, welts, and infected wounds—
without any soothing ointments or bandages.
Your country lies in ruins,
and your towns are burned.
Foreigners plunder your fields before your eyes
and destroy everything they see.

 Beautiful Jerusalem stands abandoned
like a watchman’s shelter in a vineyard,
like a lean-to in a cucumber field after the harvest,
like a helpless city under siege.

 If the Lord of Heaven’s Armies
had not spared a few of us,
we would have been wiped out like Sodom,
destroyed like Gomorrah.

Listen to the Lord, you leaders of “Sodom.”

Listen to the law of our God, people of “Gomorrah.”
“What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?” says the Lord.
“I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of fattened cattle.
I get no pleasure from the blood
of bulls and lambs and goats.

 When you come to worship me,
who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony?
Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts;
the incense of your offerings disgusts me!
As for your celebrations of the new moon and the Sabbath
and your special days for fasting—
they are all sinful and false.

I want no more of your pious meetings.
 I hate your new moon celebrations and your annual festivals.
They are a burden to me. I cannot stand them!
 When you lift up your hands in prayer, I will not look.

Though you offer many prayers, I will not listen,
for your hands are covered with the blood of innocent victims.
 Wash yourselves and be clean!
Get your sins out of my sight.
Give up your evil ways.

 Learn to do good.
Seek justice.
Help the oppressed.
Defend the cause of orphans.
Fight for the rights of widows.

 “Come now, let’s settle this,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
I will make them as white as snow.
Though they are red like crimson,
I will make them as white as wool.

 If you will only obey me,
you will have plenty to eat.
 But if you turn away and refuse to listen,
you will be devoured by the sword of your enemies.
I, the Lord, have spoken!”   Isa. 1: 1-20 NLT

If Isaiah said that the Lord spoke to him, we can assume that he had visions and experiences where he audibly heard the voice of the LORD. Here was a man whom God had anointed to present a very special message to a chosen audience.

He would speak what he heard from the Lord and was meant to overturn their perceptions of themselves and of their God. The message would change their lives if they listened to it, internalized it, and obeyed it.

Very little is actually known about Isaiah personally. The introduction to the book tells us he was the son of someone named Amoz. That means very little to us unless we consider the Jewish tradition that Amoz was a brother to King Amaziah. This would make Isaiah the cousin of Amaziah’s son, King Uzziah. It would also explain why Isaiah enjoyed a free pass into the royal courts to speak. Isaiah was royalty. He was the perfect person to speak to the kings on behalf of God.

His ministry extended across the reigns of four kings as it says in the first verse: “The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah” (1:1).
Jewish tradition again suggests that it was due to his ministry for the Lord and his relentless passion to speak for God that he was put to death by King Manasseh.

Isaiah was married and they had two sons, one named Shear-Jashub (7:3), which means “a remnant shall return,” and one named Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, which means “quick to plunder.” These names were given as prophecies of what was to come and a reinforcement of the prophet’s predictive message.

Isaiah himself was called a man of God, implying that he was more closely related to God than most people.

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