Perhaps most Christians are thinking, or asking the question, why should I read the book of Isaiah? This book is just a prophecy about Israel and judgement for their disobedience, so it has nothing to do with me as a Christian. Dear reader, if you treat this book as part of the divine word of God, you can see the Lord Jesus Christ in the wonderful book of Isaiah. There are several prophecies about Him in the book that was written about 700 years before Christ became Man here on the earth.
The name Isaiah means ‘Jehovah saves’, or ‘Jehovah is salvation’. It is clear that the message of this book is about a Saviour, who is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, Jehovah. It is marvellous that the nation of Israel recognised God as Jehovah, but in the New Testament they cannot accept that He is the Lord Jesus Christ. The prophets in the days of the children of Israel had a twofold ministry from God. One is to speak to the people about God’s judgement and warn them that God will punish their disobedience. The nation of Israel had conditional blessings and they were all earthly, so if they disobeyed God’s commandments, they will be cursed. This was one of the responsibilities of the prophets of God, and it was not an easy task for them, just ask Elijah and Jeremiah how they felt about speaking to God’s earthly people. The second ministry of the prophets was to tell the future that God gave them. Basically, the future is a prophecy centred around Israel and what will happen to them before Jehovah (Jesus Christ) comes to reign on the earth.
Isaiah is a wonderful book, which is the first of the prophetical books in the Bible, and is the beginning of all the prophecies about Israel and its surrounding nations. Chapter 1:1 gives us a brief background to the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz, who according to Jewish tradition, was the brother of King Amaziah, so he had free access to the king’s court (chapter 7:3; 38:1; 39:3). It is clear that Isaiah was married. He had two sons. The name of the first one means ‘a remnant will return’ (chapter 7:3) and the name of the second son means ‘swift for spoil, hasty for prey’ (chapter 8:3). The name of the second son is in fact a long name, so you can look it up in chapter 8:3.
The book of Isaiah is mentioned/quoted about 60 times in the New Testament, so it has a strong presence in a section that many Christians give great reverence to. If you ignore the book of Isaiah, you will not know where about 60 references in the New Testament are coming from! This is an indication as to the importance of prophecy, even though if it has no direct dealing with us as Christians, at least we can know God’s thoughts and mind towards His earthly people. He is the same God that we have as our Father, but He deals with His earthly people in a different way than with us.
One peculiar phrase in Isaiah is ‘the Holy One of Israel’, which is one of the names of the Lord Jesus Christ, mentioned around 28 times. Salvation is a key theme in this long prophecy of Isaiah. Although the prophet saw the millennial blessings of the people, the New Testament quotations can be applied to the everlasting salvation in the time of grace (compare the quotes with Acts 13:47, Romans 10:15; 2 Corinthians 6:2).
Isaiah and his words is mentioned about 21 times in the New Testament. The phrases “Spoken by the prophet Esaias;” “Fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias;” “Well did Esaias prophesy;” “In the book of the words of Esaias;” “As said the prophet;” “These things said Esaias;” “Well spake the Holy Spirit by Esaias,” “Esaias also saith;” “Esaias saith”, prove that the Lord Jesus Himself, and the New Testament writers, attributed the book of Isaiah to the prophet Isaiah. In Acts 8 we read that the Ethiopian eunuch was reading from Isaiah 53, and he even acknowledged the prophet, but Philip the evangelist pointed to him a greater Prophet than Isaiah.
There are also several messianic prophecies, those that concern the Lord Jesus Christ. The promised redeemer is Jehovah Himself (chapter 47:4). The incarnation of the Son of God is another prophecy (chapter 7:14; 9:2,6; 11:1-2). Other prophecies about the Lord’s humiliation, rejection, sufferings and crucifixion can all be found in chapter 53. Other places are in chapters 42, 49 and 50. There are also prophecies about the Lord’s glory after His sufferings, which can be found in chapter 9:7; 11:3-10; 53:9-12; 58, just to name a few references. One other key feature in Isaiah is in chapter 6:3 where the Seraphims cried out holy, holy, holy is the Lord (Jehovah) of hosts. Compare this with Revelation 4:8. I think this is what the hymn writer had in mind when putting together the words of the very well-known hymn, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God almighty”.
It is striking that Isaiah is the only book in the Bible with 66 chapters, and this is the same number of books in the Bible that we have in our hands. The book can be divided into an ‘Old Testament’ section, chapters 1-39, and a ‘New Testament’ section, chapters 40-66. It can be divided in another way:
- Chapters 1-35 contains prophecies about the last times and God’s ways with Israel and Judah. This section is mainly about judgement for disobedience, but there are parts and passages with a message of hope and of a coming Redeemer and Saviour.
- Chapters 36-39 provides a parenthesis, a historical background about king Hezekiah and the words that Isaiah the prophet spoke to him.
- Chapters 40-66 contains the ‘New Testament’ section, commencing with the word ‘comfort’. This section deals with the relation of God’s people to the coming Messiah and ends with a description of Christ’s reign in the Millennium. In this section we also see the sufferings of Christ and His glory, as prophesied.
The third section can be divided into three lots of 9 chapters. The first lot from chapter 40-48 prophesies about Israel’s (or more accurately, Judah’s) deliverance from their captivity through Cyrus. The second lot of 9 chapters from 49-57 all speak of Christ’s sufferings and His glory – the Servant of Jehovah. The last lot of 9 chapters from 58-66 show us the Jewish history at the end of times, namely the glory of Israel and the Millennial reign of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This is just a summary, or an outline, of what is in this amazing book of Isaiah, and there is much blessing in reading this book that points us to Christ. If we are sincere in reading a difficult book, let us ask God for help and ask what He wants to tell us. Remember, the prophet has a responsibility to speak God’s mind and thoughts to the hearts of the people, and to encourage them to seek the Lord.