The Unity of Isaiah Many attempts have been made to discredit the book of Isaiah. The most tenacious is the deutero-Isaiah position which purports that the first thirty-nine chapters were probably written by the historical Isaiah, but chapters 40-66 were written by a pious forger at a later date. This is an attempt to discredit the prophecies contained in the latter section of the book. Every literary expert will agree that the first thirty-nine chapters have a different tone than the latter section, but Isaiah presented this material in two different eras of his life. Extensive arguments can be presented from the unity of the Dead Sea Scrolls, other extant evidences, as well as arguments based on logic. However, I will summarize my position for the unity of Isaiah by citing John 12:37-40. But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? And to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?
(This is a quotation from Isaiah 53:1.)
Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again.
He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart, that they
should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart,
and be converted, and I should heal them.
(This quotation is from Isaiah 6:9-10.)
Therefore, in the inspired Word of God, the gospel of John, we
have the assurance for our hearts that Isaiah wrote both the first half
and the second half of the book which bears his name. Let God be true
and every man a liar (Romans 3:4).
Indictment of the Nation Beginning in 1:2: “Hear, 0 heavens, and give ear, 0 earth.” The Lord personifies the heavens and earth, calling on them to witness His complaint against the nation. He compares His people to rebellious children who have turned their backs on His goodness. Even dumb oxen and asses, He said, know where their meals come from, “but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider.”
Verse 4 begins a seven-fold indictment of their sin. This may be a
negative use of the number seven, suggesting that they are complete in their sinfulness. “Ah sinful nation.“ This is the first; compare it with Exodus 19:6. “A people laden with iniquity.” This is the second.
“A seed of evildoers. “ This is number three; compare it with
Genesis 21:12, which said these people were to be the offspring of godly people. “Children that are corrupters.“ This is number four. Read
Deuteronomy 14. “They have forsaken the Lord.“ This is number five. Read Deuteronomy 32:11-12. “They have provoked the Holy One of Israel.“ Number six. “They are gone away backward.“ Number seven.
Here is the seven-fold indictment of sin. We get the feeling from
what follows, that there is no hope left for them. They had reached the point of no return.
Verse 5 discusses their chastisement. Have you not had enough? God asked. Already “the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint.“ In verse 6 He compares them to lepers, completely covered with sores, with oozing wounds that they have done nothing about cleaning up or bandaging. As an illustration, God compares their spiritual infirmity to this most revolting physical infirmity. I am reminded of the classic novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, who from all outward appearances, went through life as beautiful and unmarred as he was while in his youth. But, he was living such a sinful life, that the portrait in his attic, took on the characteristics of his inner self, until it was too hideous to look at. Such was the situation with Israel.
In verses 7-9, Isaiah, with his prophetic eye, saw the destruction
of Judah and described it as if it were a present reality. His audience
must have looked around and wondered what he was talking about.
They could see only their outward prosperity; but Isaiah saw their inner rottenness and the destruction to which it would lead.
God then compared His own people to Sodom and Gomorrah
who, because of their wickedness, were wiped off the face of the earth. Because they had fallen so low, He rejected their sacrifices and their feasts. He wanted nothing to do with their outward hypocritical worship.
He could no longer endure them, and “It is iniquity,“ He said,
“your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me,- I am weary to bear them.“ Notice His use of the word “your.“ These were not God’s festivals, He had rejected them because they were not from the heart and were a man-made religious observance.
Neither would He hear their prayers because their hands were
stained with the blood of injustice. Like Lady Macbeth, who cried, “Out, damned spot,“ after she encouraged Macbeth to kill Duncan, so the hands of Judah could not be cleansed of their iniquities.
A Settlement Offered Beginning in verse 18 we have a courtroom scene. God says, “Come now, and let us reason together.“ This is a way of saying, “come let’s reach a reasonable legal settlement.” These descendents of Jacob were His covenant people. The covenant, as presented in the book of Deuteronomy, was an agreement that He would be their God and they were to be His people. It was a legal document. Now, speaking in legal language, God says, “Can we arrive at a solution to this?” “Though your sins be as scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land.“ Here is a reiteration of the earlier “if-but” principle which was presented in Leviticus 26. “But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.”
Then, He makes an indictment of Jerusalem: “How is the faithful
city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers.... Thy princes are rebellious.“ When God looked, He saw there was corruption in government; everyone loved a bribe; everyone chased after rewards; no one defended the orphan or listened to the widow’s plea.
In verse 29, there is a shift to the personal approach. “They shall
be ashamed of the oaks (terebinth) that ye have desired. “ The site of
the terebinth was the location where temple prostitutes worked. “Ye
shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen; “ that is, the temple gardens where the harlots provided their services for the “worshipers.”
Chapter 3:24 contains a heart-rending prophecy about the
It shall come to pass, that instead of sweet smell there shall be
stink; and instead o a girdle a rent, and instead of well set hair
baldness; If and instead of a stomacher a girding of sackcloth; and
burning instead of beauty.
God’s Vineyard Beginning in chapter 5, we have one of the most beautiful allegories in the book of Isaiah. In verse 1, God is speaking to the Son. There are two divine Persons mentioned in this allegory.
Now will I sing to my well beloved a song of my beloved touching
his vineyard. My well beloved hath a vineyard in a very fruitful
hill. And he fenced it, and gathered out the stones thereof, and
planted it with the choicest vine, and built a tower in the midst of
it, and also made a winepress therein: and he looked that it should
bring forth grapes, and it brought forth wild grapes.
In so many words, God said, “I did everything I could.” This
allegory presents both Israel and Judah and, as we can see in the parallel passage in Matthew 21:33ff, the program of God for them in His plan for the ages. He had planted Israel and Judah like a vineyard in the earth so that they might bring glory to Him. Then, when He sought their worship, including the love which He expected to come back to Him, shown symbolically by going to get grapes from His vineyard that He might enjoy the fruit, He found instead bitter wild grapes.
Throughout the Old Testament, God consistently asked, “What
more could I have done?” In this allegory, He provided a protected territory ; removed the stones (the Canaanites); planted it with the choicest vine (His chosen people); and in the midst He built a tower, symbolic of the law. It was a tower of protection providing shelter from invaders. Historically the law, when obeyed, protected the inhabitants from the very sins He was forced by His Holiness to condemn them for. He “also made a winepress therein,“ symbolic perhaps of the temple where He could enjoy the worship of His people. Yet, after all of this special care, they perverted everything and brought forth only wild grapes. Let us look at the New Testament parallel (Matt. 21:33ft) to see exactly what happened.
Hear another parable: There was a certain householder, which
planted a vineyard, and hedged it round about, and digged a
winepress in it, and built a tower, and let it out to husbandmen,
and went into a far country: And when the time of the fruit drew
near, he sent his servants to the husbandmen, that they might
receive the fruits of it. And the husbandmen took his servants, and
beat one, and killed another, and stoned another.
That should remind us of Hosea II, where God said that the more God sent them prophets, the more they went from them. Matthew 21:36 continues:
Again, he sent other servants more than the first. and they did
unto them likewise. But last of all he sent unto them his son, saying,
They will reverence my son. But when the husbandmen saw
the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir; come, let us
kill him, and let us seize on his inheritance. And they caught him,
and cast him out of the vineyard, and slew him. When the lord
therefore of the vineyard cometh, what will he do unto those husbandmen? They say unto him, He will miserably destroy those
wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen,
which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.
Our Lord responds with a stinging indictment:
Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The
stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of
the corner. this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?
Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from
you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
Finally, verse 45 says, “And when the chief priests and Pharisees
had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them. “ Of
course they did, because they were familiar with Isaiah 5.
Go back now to Isaiah 5:5-7:
I will tell you what I will do to my vineyard: I will take away the
hedge thereof, and it shall be eaten up, and break down the wall
thereof, and it shall be trodden down: And I will lay it waste; it
shall not be pruned, nor digged, but there shall come up briers and
thorns: I will also command the clouds that they rain no rain upon
it. For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and
the men of Judah his pleasant plant. and he looked for judgment,
but behold oppression: for righteousness, but behold a cry.
God had once said to Moses, “I have heard the cry of My people
at the hands of the Egyptians,” but now He says, “I am hearing the cry of the oppressed at the hands of their own people.” In Isaiah 5 and Matthew 21, we can see, in an allegorical format, God’s total Old Testament program as it related to Israel and Judah.
Isaiah’s Official Call In chapter 6, Isaiah records his official call to prophetic service. It occurred in the year that king Uzziah died. “I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.“ We have seen pictures of monarchs ascending the steps to their thrones and pulling behind them a majestic red velvet train. The Lord God Jehovah had such a train in Isaiah’s vision, that is so magnificent that it fills all of the temple. The seraphim stood above the throne crying one to another, “Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.“ So awesome was the presence of the Lord that the very foundations of the temple shook and trembled.
This was a climactic event in Isaiah’s fife. Until this time, Isaiah
thought of himself as a righteous man. He also had a close relationship with the monarchy and was a welcome figure in the palace. Suddenly, he was allowed to see a symbol of the holiness of God. Like everyone else in the Old Testament, who had a personal encounter with the Lord God Jehovah, he fell on his face and for the first time, saw himself as he really was. He cried out, “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips.“ That was the leper’s cry, “Unclean, unclean!” “For mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.“ When Isaiah saw himself as he really was, and also saw his civilization as decadent as it was, permeated with sin, hypocrisy, and injustice, he saw that everything must be destroyed.
God sent an angel from the heavenly altar to purge Isaiah’s lips
with a flaming red hot coal. It was a symbolic cleansing of Isaiah’s life. Now, being cleansed and prepared for service, as a vessel fit for
the Master’s use, God’s call for service came to Isaiah. He asks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Immediately Isaiah volunteers, “Here am I, send me.“ After being touched by the coal, there could be no other response.
The job will not be easy, the Lord warned. The people will hear
without understanding, and see without perceiving. Their hearts will
remain fat, while their ears are deaf and their eyes will be closed to the truth. God was going to bring judgment on them, but, He told Isaiah, to compound their judgment, “I am going to send you to preach to them. They will not see or hear, and their hearts will be hardened so they cannot repent and be healed.”
In the New Testament, the Lord Jesus confirms this concept to the
disciples when He explained why it was that He spoke in parables. He presented the truth, but His enemies would not understand it because their hearts were evil and unbelieving. They were ready for the judgment which would soon come upon them from the Roman legions under Titus in 70 A.D.
Prophecies of Christ In chapter 9:2, we read prophecies about the first half of the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, which came 750 years later. “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light. they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.“ When this prophecy is quoted in Matthew 4:16, it ends with verse 2. The Jews waited for verses 3 through 7 at the first advent, but these refer to the second advent with the Church Age dispensation existing between verses two and three.
In 9:6-7 we read:
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government
shall be upon his shoulder.- and his name shall be called
Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father,
The prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace
there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his
kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with
justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts
will perform this.
As an Old Testament prophet, Isaiah was not made aware of the
Church Age, so his message comprises, in one passage, both the first and second advents of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Outline Since space prevents coverage of the entire message of Isaiah, I want to give you an outline which should help in your personal study of this wonderful book.
I. Prophecies concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Ch. 1-12
II. Prophecies of judgment against the nations. Ch. 13-23
Against Babylon, Assyria, Philistia, Moab, Damascus, Ethiopia,
Egypt, Edom and Arabia, Jerusalem, Tyre
III. God’s judgment upon the earth and the establishment of the
future kingdom. Ch. 24-27
IV. Prophecies against Samaria and Judah. Ch. 28-33
V. Prophecies of the Day of the Lord. Ch. 34-35
VI. The historical transition. Ch. 36-39
I. The comforting promises concerning restoration. Ch. 40-48
II. Salvation through God’s Servant, the Messiah. Ch. 49-55
III. Promises and prophecies concerning the future glory of Israel.
Ch. 56-66 This delineation will enable you to see the entire scope of Isaiah and will make your study more practical as you place the sections together in their historical and eschatological context.
A Profile of Satan
Chapter 14 is unique because it provides a panorama of Satan’s
activity in eternity past, and a prophetic view of his casting out during
the tribulation period.
Verse 12, “How art thou fallen from heaven, 0 Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!”
This verse, while having several applications, probably is a prophetic
illustration of what John saw happening, in the middle of the Tribulation, which he recorded in Revelation 12. However, verse 13, which lists the five “I wills” of Satan, certainly looks backward to his rebellion and sin of pride which resulted in his rejection and banishment from his dwelling in the Divine presence.
Thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt
my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of
the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the
heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. (Isaiah 14:13,14)
But God responded with: “Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the
sides of the pit,“ referring to another yet future time, prophesied by John, in Revelation 20:10.
The Servant of Jehovah
In the latter chapters of Isaiah, we are introduced to Jehovah’s
three servants: viz., Cyrus, Israel, and Messiah.
Beginning in 52:13, where Isaiah says, “Behold, my servant shall deal
prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high,“ we have a
tremendous prophecy of the future suffering, death, and resurrection
of Messiah. I am sure that as Isaiah wrote these things, he must have
wondered, as the other prophets did, about how one could reconcile
the sufferings of Christ, as he talked about them in this chapter, and the glory which he had described in chapter 9.
As we look back in retrospect over this tremendous book, and just
begin to grasp the span of prophecy given to Isaiah, we must stand in
awe at this great man of God and the vision which was given him to
record for us. The span and scope of his prophecies cannot be overestimated.
The original sin of Lucifer, the invasion of the Assyrians, the
invasion of the Babylonians and the exile, the return of the remnant
under Cyrus, the virgin birth of the Messiah, Messiah’s suffering, His
return in glory, the re-establishment of the Davidic kingdom, the return of Israel to the land, and finally the new heavens and new earth and the establishment of Israel forever as a nation under God in the new earth(Isa. 66:22).
How can we comprehend such things? A lifetime of study in these
sixty-six chapters would not be enough!
LXXVII THE PROPHETIC MINISTRY OF MICAH
Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah and the last of the eighth century
writing prophets. His book consists of three prophetic addresses, each distinguished from the other by the introductory word, “Hear” (1:2; 3:1; 6:1). These three prophetic messages can be differentiated by the content and point of view. Each of the divisions contains a description of the spiritual corruption, an announcement of imminent judgment, and (the light at the end of the tunnel) - the promised glorious future of Israel.
His Prophecy Summarized
The first address, contained in chapters 1 and 2, announces a general judgment on Israel because of their sin. The second address, after Micah pronounced divine judgment on the nation’s leaders - the wicked princes and false prophets (ch. 3)- predicts the future hope of the messianic kingdom (ch. 4 and 5). The third address consists of an admonition to repentance and the promised hope of future deliverance and salvation (ch. 6 and 7).
Micah listed the essential requirements of true religion and acceptable worship; viz., to do justly, to love kindness (mercy) and to walk humbly with God (6:8). In both the Old and New Testament economies, this was a summing up of the cardinal principles of genuine religion.
From the days of slavery in Egypt, until the exile in Babylon more
than eight centuries later, God attempted to teach His people the nature of acceptable religion and worship. Over and over, the prophets pointed out that the people had misunderstood the entire concept, because they only involved themselves in the outward religious practices but did not do justly, did not love kindness, and did not walk humbly with their God. They were consistently unjust to their fellow Israelites until their cries went up to God in heaven. They did not demonstrate mercy. They turned aside the widows and orphans, and finally their pious and stiff-necked attitude caused such self-pride that they never walked humbly with God. When they occasionally did, it was only a temporary aberration in attitude. As God said to Hosea: “What shall I do with you, because your goodness is like the morning cloud and the morning dew? It disappears early.”
Micah’s Times and Prophecies
Since Micah prophesied in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah
(1:1), we know that he lived during the time of the destruction of Israel
in 722 B.C. Realizing that the sins being committed were going to bring destruction on both the north and the south, he compelled them to begin practicing the religion which God expected of them. Micah ranks with Isaiah in regard to the quantity of predictions he made concerning Israel’s future and the advent of the Messiah and Messiah’s kingdom.
Among the predictions made by Micah were: the destruction of
Samaria in 722; the invasion of Judah by Sennacherib; the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 586; the years of exile in Babylon; the return of the exiles from captivity; the future peace and supremacy of Israel; and, most amazing of all, the birth of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem.
To Isaiah and Micah belong the credit (under God) for the two
most unmistakable prophecies about Jesus Christ. The prophet Isaiah foretold His birth to a virgin (7:14) and Micah described the geographic location of His birthplace (5:2). When the Magi came from the east inquiring where the king of the Jews was to be born, they received an immediate answer from the Jewish scribes and priests (Matt. 2:5). Micah uses the same words as Isaiah used to predict that the time of Messiah’s reign would be one of total worldwide peace for man and beast.