Introduction to the book of Isaiah

Isaiah was one of the great prophets of the Old Testament. He prophesied to Israel about the consequences of their behavior and also delivered, at wondrous length, information about the coming Messiah (Jesus Christ). In fact, Isaiah provides us with the most comprehensive listing of prophecies about Jesus. From the virgin birth, Jesus’s coming into the world, the spreading of the good news, the sacrifice of His death, and how He will one day return and draw the faithful unto Himself, it’s all here in Isaiah.

Isaiah’s prophecies span three different time periods in Jewish history. Because of the time between these three periods and some variation in style, some have wrongly assumed that Isaiah was written by three different men. However, the evidence within the book itself supports and affirms the fact that a single man, Isaiah, wrote this grand book of prophecy. There are numerous linguistic similarities in the book and there are no notices within of a change in authorship, as there is in other books with more than one author (Psalms, Proverbs). There is also the persistent use of unique phrases to identify God: The Lord of Hosts, The Holy One of Israel.

The first time period this book addresses takes place in chapters 1-39. In these chapters are words of condemnation towards the Jews for their lack of respect and obedience towards God. The divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah were still in effect at this time. Assyria conquered Israel and Judah fell later. The fall of Judah is prophesied by Isaiah. This is the time period that Judah lived in while he spoke for God.

The second time period takes place in chapters 40-55 and is addressed to the future generation of Jewish exiles. After having been conquered, the exiled Jews believe that their defeat was due to the idols of their enemies being stronger than God, but Isaiah tells them that their plight of captivity is due to their disobedience. He encourages them to renew their faith in God and follow Him, trusting God to prepare their future.

The third time period takes place in chapters 56-66 and is addressed to the remaining faithful Jews. Isaiah encourages them to be diligent and to monitor their behavior against selfishness, greed and indulgence. 

All of the words from Isaiah serve to bring the lost people of Israel back into God’s embrace, and ultimately to accept the coming Messiah.

As we begin this rich and lengthy book, I encourage you to join me each Monday night to study the book of Isaiah chapter by chapter. We will examine the prophecies, the lessons for the Jewish people, and the references to Jesus. Each chapter will have an application for us. Next week we will start with chapter one.

For tonight, I ask you to consider the pattern of this book as laid out above: God’s work through one prophet spanned hundreds of years and provides us today with invaluably precious verses about our Lord and Savior. What a God we are blessed to worship, what a glorious and awesome creation.

Let us know our God. Let us recognize and serve Him always, keeping Him at the front of our minds. He is great, wise and most powerful above all. 

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