Isaiah’s name in Hebrew, Yesha‘yahu, means ‘the Lord Yahweh saves’. He was a prophet of God in Judah and prophesied from 739-681BC under the reign of four of its kings—Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (Isaiah 1:1). Isaiah’s prophecies go beyond the period of time during which he lived. In fact they go all the way to our present day and right on through to the very end of this world when Christ will return.
The calling of Isaiah
God called Isaiah into ministry the year that King Uzziah died (Isaiah 6:1-13). Judah became very prosperous under Uzziah’s reign. However, because of injustice and corruption this increase in wealth was not enjoyed by everyone with the contrast between the rich and the poor reaching an alarming state. The focus of the first thirty-nine chapters of Isaiah is the soon-to-come judgement of God upon Judah. You can’t just do as you please and get away with it. That’s the first lesson we learn from Isaiah. The people of Judah had turned their backs on God. As far as God was concerned they were ‘a brood of evildoers’ (Isaiah 1:4). What displeased Him most was their pretence of holiness when their temple sacrifices meant nothing (Isaiah 1:11-16). We can’t fool God. He knows everything that we do including our motives and the attitude of our heart.
The salvation that God offers
However, Isaiah also teaches us about the salvation that God offers: “I will praise you, O LORD, although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me. Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid” (Isaiah 12:1-2). When people are open to God they will be convicted of their sin and turn to God to save them. And He will save them. While those who persist in their rebellion will receive judgment, those who remain faithful to God will continue on into the renewed world He has prepared for His children in the end times (Isaiah 65:17–66:24).
Perhaps what Christians find most important in the book of Isaiah is the presence of Jesus Christ in the book. It provides us with the most comprehensive prophetic picture of the Messiah in the entire Old Testament. Isaiah announced:
- His coming: “A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God’… And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken” (Isaiah 40:3-5).
- His virgin birth: “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” (Isaiah 7:14).
- His proclamation of the good news: “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners” (Isaiah 61:1).
- His sacrificial death : “… But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all … For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:1-12).
- His return to claim His own: “See, darkness covers the earth and thick darkness is over the peoples, but the LORD rises upon you and his glory appears over you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn” (Isaiah 60:2-3).
Gospel in the Old Testament
Isaiah, thus, contains one of the clearest expressions of the gospel in all the Old Testament. We have sinned and deserve to be punished. Yet, God offers us salvation if only we turn to Him. Once we become children of God we are not to continue in sin like the people of Judah did. Let us then examine our lives, repent of our sins and seek to live as obedient children of God.