OK! OK! Five key points of Isaiah’s message that are seen clearly in the first twelve chapters of the book of Isaiah! This is important because these five aspects of God’s communications with Isaiah are added to, expanded upon and made clearer as we plough through the entire 66 chapters of his burden. The important thing to observe, I believe, is that the skeletal statements of this first dozen chapters are the seedlings of what the rest of Isaiah’s pages explain.
I differentiate these first twelve chapters from the next fourteen or so because of the remarkable change of focus and style that starts with Chapter 13 verse 1. But if we grasp these opening salvo’s, the rest of Isaiah will be easier to grasp as we read through.
The first six chapters zoom in on Jerusalem and Judah alone. Chapters 7-12 zoom in on Judah being placed under the disciplining hand of God who utilizes Assyria as the instrument of His judgement. Fascinating! And while these two major strands of thought are being spoken about and made major, Isaiah touches on so much more which, although are not minor, are simply the larger umbrella that requires other realities to be placed on the table. Although the, “so much more,” must have seemed like sub plots and trivia to the unbelieving population of Jerusalem contemporary with Isaiah, from our perspective looking back on the history of the Hebrews as well as the life of Christ and the overall “Big Picture” of prophecy, we can plainly see that none of it is a “subplot” to any other part of Isaiah’s message. The entire network of Isaiah’s thoughts and the strength of what he delivers is plainly demonstrated to be a sack full of heavy duty life changing spiritual goodies that look to the future, the past and what was the present of Isaiah’s life. It looks to heaven and hell and all that is between the two. He sees the righteous and the unrighteous and the need for faith. His magnificence is his breadth of message and depth of insight.
Let us briefly observe five of the major truths that are seen already from chapters 1 through to 12, before we continue delving into the rest of his writings. I do not state these five statements in any particular order.
- ISAIAH SAW AS CLEAR AS DAY THAT “MESSIAH” WAS COMING THOUGH HE KNEW NOT WHEN
(Isaiah 6:1-6 (in the context of John 12:40-41). Isaiah 7:14. Isaiah 9:1-7. Isaiah 11:1-5. Isaiah 11:10.)
Without doubt, whether Isaiah or the readers of the Old Testament knew it or not (and they obviously did not) the prophet saw a personage coming in the future that was to be the ultimate as the definition of a man being anointed, empowered and motivated by God and His Spirit. This person’s anointing would change the world and one day rule the entire cosmos as we know it, and beyond what we know. The word for anointed in the Hebrew language is: Messiah. In Greek, the same meaning is embedded in the word: “Christ.” Messiah was coming and Isaiah had the most glorious flashes of what He would be doing, where He would be doing it and what His modus operandi would be.
From our privileged perspective of living subsequent to the resurrection of Christ as well as post the writing of the New Testament, we can see that the baby that was to be born of a virgin, and the light that was to shine in Galilee of the gentiles was the first advent when Messiah would walk as we now walk in what the letter to the Hebrews refers to as “the days of His flesh.” However in the most wonderful and glorious imagery, Isaiah also saw the Messiah in His all power and majestic reign in Jerusalem when the entire world would be all at peace, and the world’s population would be making pilgrimages to Jerusalem, hosted by the then much loved and appreciated Hebrew nation of Israel, in order to sit at the feet of Messiah and learn of His ways.
- ISAIAH SAW YAHWEH AS HOLY LOFTY AND TRANSCENDANT THOUGH IMMINENT AND INTIMATE
(Isaiah 6:1-7. Isaiah 8:13-17. Isaiah 11:1-5.)
Isaiah not only has a remarkable concept of God’s greatness, His holiness and all those characteristics that make God – God, but he has the language, the allegories and the descriptive adjectives to take us with him. Isaiah is absorbed with the uniqueness and the intrinsic purity of the Almighty, so much so that the reader needs help to misunderstand his exaltation of Yahweh and the Holy One of Israel. As well as declaring how the glory of God “fills the whole earth” of which we are participants. He also declares the transcendence of God, that is, that He is totally outside the world of Nature which He created and which He rules and sustains. Yet as well as being the invisible, unequalled immortal God, at the same time He is the God of History who is actively involved in the affairs of all mankind and of nations. He is personal to each human being, yet it is He that sustains the entire family of nations in the earth. How glorious is He!
It is because God is the God of the individual as well as the God of all the nations that it is clear that the ultimate value of true spirituality and relationship with God is in the quality of a man’s faith in Him. Total and unshaken faith will bring personal and national strength and security. Isaiah sees it, describes it graphically and takes us with him to commit our very being into His hands via Messiah.
- ISAIAH SAW THAT THE FUTURE OF JERUSALEM ISRAEL AND THE JEWS WAS GLORIOUS
(Isaiah 1:26-27. Isaiah 2:19-21.Isaiah 4:2-6. Isaiah 10:20-34. Isaiah 11:6-9. Isaiah 12:1-3.)
The uniqueness of Israel in the future millennial world of multiple races and sustained national identity is plainly declared. For those who believe the so called “Replacement Theology” that openly declares that God is “finished” with Israel and that all Christian reference to them is irrelevant, and has been so since Christ’s crucifixion, this point must be a painful “ear bending” that they would prefer to do without. The major point behind the philosophy that says “the Hebrews as a nation called Israel are irrelevant,” is the entire failure of the Law and Israel’s disobedience to the Sinai covenant. It sounds a good point, but it misses one of the simplest and most profound revelations of the apostle Paul. The promises to Abraham were unconditional and were also 430 years before the law was even given. On top of that the Mosaic law was a conditional covenant. This writer believes passionately that no matter how deep and perverted was the fall of Israel and the continuous sin of the Hebrews throughout the days of the Judges, the Kings and even to the rejection of Christ and their call that, “His blood be upon our heads,” as they screamed for His crucifixion, the relevance of the Hebrews and the nation of Israel in this day and age has little – if anything – to do with what was said and done at Sinai, but everything to do with the unconditional covenant that God made with Abraham, repeated to both Isaac and Jacob. The land belongs to Israel by the very mouth and oath of the Almighty. It is the end result of this promise that God gave to the three Patriarchs that leads Isaiah to describe what the Jews refer to as “the Messianic age,” and what Christians refer to as “the Millennial Reign if Christ.”
Isaiah paints the picture of a righteous Hebrew nation comprising of every Hebrew tribe (all twelve of them) dwelling in perfect peace in the full parameters of the Promised Land, playing the host to every nation of the world as they make pilgrimage to Jerusalem in order to sit at the feet of Christ. Having sketched what that day will be like, the prophet uses the dream of the future to encourage the sinful Hebrews of his day to trust God to bring the day nearer. Only righteousness will save the nation of Israel. Only righteousness will save any and every nation. We refer to the righteousness that comes to mankind through faith in Christ. Conversely, evil will bring on destruction, whether it be temporary for some nations, or total annihilation for others. The Jews, however, are different, inasmuch as they will never be totally destroyed simply because of God’s promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God has stated it to be so. God has ordained it that there will always be a faithful remnant who will return to God’s law and save the future for Israel. The Messianic Age is still future and still a prophetically described reality. Therefore it is impossible for the Messianic Age to be installed in the earth without a unified and faith filled Israel. Amongst the other writing prophets of scripture, Isaiah says this as plainly as language allows. “The divine plan for Israel is wonderful, so repent now and hasten that day to come,” is the point of his message.
ISAIAH SAW THAT THE CITY OF JERUSALEM WILL BE CENTRAL IN WORLD HISTORY DURING THE MESSIANIC AGE
(Isaiah 1:26-27. Isaiah 2:2-5. Isaiah 4:2-6. Isaiah 11:12-16. Isaiah 12:4-6)
Jerusalem has a very special place in the theology of Isaiah. It is indeed the city of the Great King, and that Great King is Christ. It is uniquely the City of God and the visible symbol of His living presence amid the Hebrew nation which is established for Israel and ultimately for all the nations to visit and be ministered to by the Great King, Messiah – Jesus Christ Himself. Jerusalem will become the meeting place for all peoples who will come there to recognise and experience the truth of the teaching of the only One God of all mankind. See Isaiah 4:2-6.
There is a wonderful mystery that is released even in these early twelve chapters of Isaiah that the Jewish insistence that “Messiah” has not yet been hides from their view. There are those lines in Isaiah chapters 7, 9 and 11, that tell us how Messiah will be born of a virgin, how His astounding grace will be seen in the areas of Naphtali and Zebulun, places situated in the district of Galilee of the Nations, and how He will be motivated by nothing but the fear of God the Father and the impulse of Yahweh’s Spirit. We can see and understand how the fulfilment of some of those prophecies and Christ’s incredible ministry to the people of Galilee have clearly been fulfilled. However, there are also those verses that we know, have not yet been fulfilled that must refer to yet another time when Christ will be here on planet earth in Jerusalem. Thus Isaiah clearly sees what we understand as both the first and Second Advent of the Christ. But by ignoring His first advent, to the Jew, the very idea of two advents seems farfetched. For this reason, from a Christian’s perspective, it seems unlikely that Isaiah could have seen the two visitations of Messiah.
Or could he?
In Isaiah 4 Isaiah tells us that the Branch of the Lord, a euphemism for Messiah, will cleanse the hearts of those in Jerusalem and will install a cloud over Jerusalem that will be smoke in the day and fire in the night, and this will be part of a canopy over Jerusalem that will protect the city from inclement weather systems.
In chapter 2 in the opening five verses we have the temple of the Lord which, at Christ’s return will be the highest of mountains in Zion and, “all nations will stream to it.” The picture of the primary capital of Jerusalem for the entire globe is clearly envisaged. That primary profile of Jerusalem is, of course, solely because Messiah will physically be there.
The prophet enlarges on these concepts as he progresses.
This writer considers it to be of outstanding significance that each and every prophetic word from the writing prophets of the Old Testament that were fulfilled in Messiah’s first advent was fulfilled literally and actually, no matter how poetic and abstract some of those words seemed to be prior to their fulfilment. My rhetorical and pointedly loaded question concerning that fact is, therefore, this: If all the prophecies concerning Messiah’s first advent were historically, literally and actually fulfilled in this time space world, on what grounds can any bible expositor use a different criteria or set of interpretive rules for understanding the prophecies of His second advent? “This same Jesus shall so come in like manner to the way you have seen Him go.” Can language be any plainer than some of these comments concerning Messiah’s return?
Isaiah lists a manifest- an itemized inventory- of the sins and the evils of the people of Judah, seen both as a multitude of individuals as well as a single culture. His message is interspersed with predictive prophecies of Messiah and the golden age to come, and he uses these revelations to exhort his contemporaries to seek the Lord “in the now.” As already noted, Jewish scholars refer to this future time of Messiah’s rule as “The Messianic Age.” Christians refer to it as “The Millennial Reign of Christ instituted at the Second Advent of Messiah” as opposed to His First Advent and “the days of His flesh.” Those two epithets concerning days that are yet future are so different, yet the meaning they carry is identical. This prophetic vision is seriously important for rightly dividing the scriptural teaching concerning the future of the planet and the “end of time” as we know it.
Again, to clarify the point; What Jewish people would refer to as “The future golden age of Judaism” is what Christians see as the state of the world after the second coming of Christ has taken place and He is enthroned in the City of the Great King, that is Jerusalem. The description of the glories of Israel and Jerusalem is clearly not found in the past that we know so much of, as in the future the Bible tells us to expect. Isaiah is given grace to see ahead in unknown and unmeasured future dates when Messiah will be born and then bring great light to Galilee, and then later on in a time and date utterly hidden from all of humanity still, a day when there will be no more war or any other evil, and when Israel will be redeemed as it becomes the veritable light to all the nations of the Earth. Isaiah’s vision is clear, and as we read it gets ever clearer. It will be introduced by this unique Messianic personality working by the Spirit of God. We read the New Testament and see the man Jesus of Nazareth, risen from the dead, ascended and glorified and declared at first by a completely Jewish church that Jesus is the Messiah. Christians declare that Messiah is truly Jesus Christ the Lord. Today of course, there are more gentile Christians than Jewish.
Judaism, however, not acknowledging, yet, that Jesus is the Messiah, sees Isaiah’s description clearly, and simply envisage one visitation which, to their Old Testament perspective is clearly still future.
- ISAIAH SAW THE DIVINE EVERLASTING IMPERATIVE FOR HIS PEOPLE TO LIVE HOLY LIVES
(Isaiah 1:6-20. )
While the religious ceremonial of the Temple ritual and its sacrifices are important, the ethical dimension of a person’s behaviour is infinitely more significant and takes extreme precedence over the ritualistic aspects of Judaism as introduced by Moses. “Ritual without character, ethics and integrity is an abominable hypocrisy,” is what the writing prophets thrust at their audience. Moses would clearly have agreed if he had lived in Isaiah’s day. Moses was a man of faith. The Law he instituted, however, is not of faith.
A call to the purity and holiness that was legislated for in the law was transcended by the prophets just calling for integrity in all aspects of life with a deep repentant heart towards God. Statements like those embedded in Isaiah 56:1. Micah 6:8, Jeremiah 22:3, Hosea 6:6, Amos 5:24, and Zechariah 7:9 amongst others shocked the hard line religionists because the prophets were calling for a purity of spirit and heart, not just an obedience to the Mosaic Law which could be submitted to whilst still living a godless life. The blind practice of the sacrificial system was never how Moses himself envisioned the Levitical sacrificial to be, but that was indeed what it became quite quickly after Moses’ death.
The word of God to every person and generation since the fall of man has always been, “Be holy because I am holy.” I say this with the full knowledge that Leviticus 16:16 was not written until many centuries and even the flood had passed, but the purpose of the word of God, and the fruit of faith in that word, has always been holiness.