Isaiah faced a difficult assignment—prophesying to a people whom God said would not listen to him. Isaiah reminds us that success in serving the Lord is not measured by how people respond to our ministry but by how faithfully we follow the Lord’s will for us.
The Confession and Call of Isaiah
Our Wisdom Journey now brings us to the book of Isaiah. And I must tell you, just saying that makes me feel like some mountain climber standing at the base of Mount Everest. I know the journey is going to be challenging and exhilarating at the same time.
Isaiah is the first of seventeen books of prophecy. The prophet Isaiah is the leading spokesman here in the Old Testament; he is going to lead us to the mountain peak of prophecy, and we are going to see the grandeur of God’s glory.
J. Sidlow Baxter wrote:
What Beethoven is in the realm of music, what Shakespeare is in the realm of literature, what Spurgeon was among the Victorian preachers, that is Isaiah among the prophets.
Isaiah will minister 700 years before Jesus is born. He will serve four kings in Judah as the official court prophet. He will serve over a period of 50 years.
Now as we begin our Wisdom Journey through Isaiah, it is important to get the context here. The preaching of every prophet flows out of God’s commitment to the covenant He made with Israel. These prophets are God’s voice, calling Israel back to obedience.
And that is what Isaiah is doing—he is warning God’s people that judgment will come if they do not repent of their rebellion. He is also reminding them of what God has in store for those who follow Him—and by the way, that includes you and me today.
With that, let’s open this great book of prophecy and notice the first two verses:
The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the Lord has spoken: “Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me.”
Rebellion will bring judgment. Isaiah will go on to prophesy that God is going to use the wicked nations surrounding Judah to bring judgment on them and take them away into exile.
Now, true to the pattern of Isaiah’s ministry, he follows up this warning of judgment with a gracious invitation in verse 18:
“Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.”
Sin has stained their lives—and yours and mine too. And this is not just any stain, but deep red stains—the kind you can’t get out of your carpet or clothing. But God can! He can cleanse His rebellious people from all their guilt and make their lives, as it were, as white as freshly fallen snow. That is beautifully clean!
Those who are forgiven have permission to enter the glorious kingdom Isaiah begins to describe here in chapter 2:
It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established . . . and many peoples shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord . . . that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” (verses 2-3)
This will be fulfilled, as recorded in Revelation 20, when this thousand-year, or millennial, kingdom is established following the tribulation. Jerusalem will become the capital city of the Lord’s kingdom. Isaiah will have much more to say about the kingdom later.
Another aspect of Isaiah’s preaching is that he warns the nation about events that are in their near future, as well as events that will take place in the distant future—what we call today “the end times.”
And here in chapter 2, Isaiah begins to introduce that distant day of the Lord—that coming tribulation period when God pours out His wrath on the earth. Isaiah writes this in verse 19:
And people shall enter the caves of the rocks and the holes of the ground, from before the terror of the Lord, and from the splendor of his majesty, when he rises to terrify the earth.
Then, in chapter 3, Isaiah warns his people of something just around the corner. Verse 1 says, “Behold, the Lord God of hosts is taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah . . . all support of bread, and all support of water.”
There’s a famine just ahead as Jerusalem falls to these enemy nations. And we read this in Isaiah 4:1:
Seven women shall take hold of one man in that day, saying, “We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes, only let us be called by your name.”
In other words, so many of Judah’s men will be killed by the Babylonian invaders that there will be only one man left for every seven women.
Will the nation be permanently destroyed by these foreigners? Absolutely not. Isaiah begins here in chapter 4 to talk about the revival and restoration of united Israel in the distant future—something that has not happened yet, beloved.
Isaiah describes it here in verse 2: “In that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious.” This is a reference to the Messiah sitting on His glorious throne in the coming kingdom. And who gets to be there with Him? A restored nation of Israel.
But then Isaiah broadens the invitation list in verse 3 to include “everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem.” Revelation chapter 21 tells us that those who enter the new Jerusalem are those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. Have you claimed Jesus Christ as your Messiah and coming King? Well, if you have, your name has been recorded in that book of everlasting life.
In chapter 5, Isaiah describes the wickedness of Judah, and frankly it reminds me of the wickedness of so many nations today. Verse 20 says, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,” and verse 21 adds, “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes.” Beloved, any nation that calls evil things good and good things evil is heading for the judgment of God.
Then chapter 6 records Isaiah’s calling into the ministry. The date is 739 BC, and Isaiah is a young man. He records the event beginning in verse 1:
In the year King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. . . . And one called to another and said, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is filled with his glory.” (verses 1-3)
What is Isaiah going to do as he stands before a holy God? The same thing you and I would do—he says in verse 5, “Woe is me! . . . I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips!”
God responds to his confession by sending one of the angels with a burning coal from the altar to touch Isaiah’s mouth, saying, “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for” (verse 7). This is the picture of forgiveness; it is a gift of God’s grace as we confess our sin.
In verse 8, God asks Isaiah, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And Isaiah answers, “Here am I! Send me.”
Now I don’t know how many men would volunteer for this ministry after hearing what God predicts for Isaiah. He says in verse 9 that the people are not going to listen or repent. Isaiah will not see many positive results. But Isaiah is willing to stay the course; he meant it when he said, “Here am I! Send me.”
Let’s be more like Isaiah today. No matter what the people around us are saying, no matter what our culture is doing, and no matter what the results seem to be communicating, let’s keep saying to our great God, “Here am I! Send me.”