The Book of the Prophet Isaiah, Part 1

Date 8th Century BC
Human Author Isaiah
Chapters in Book 66
Verses 1, 292
Words 37, 044
An Important word 26 times “salvation” is used
Date of Writing c. 700 BC
Length of Isaiah’s Ministry 740 BC – 680 BC
Place of Ministry Jerusalem
Death by Martyrdom Sawn in half (Hebrews 11:37)
Contemporaries Hosea, Micah 

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The Prophet’s Call to Ministry

Though Isaiah (Yahweh saves) lived in southern Judea during the declining years of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, his message was for Israel as a whole. A principle is established. Regardless of whether a nation worships the Lord correctly or not, God still has a message for all the people, a message to be heard.

The public ministry of Isaiah began in 740 BC when he received his call to preach, in the year that king Uzziah died. Uzziah had reigned from Jerusalem for fifty-two years. He was only sixteen years old when he became king (2 Chron. 26:3). His mother’s name was Jecoliah. For most of his reign, Uzziah was a good and wise king. He was able to protect Israel from the Philistines by maintaining a strong military presence of more than a quarter of a million troops. Even the Ammonites paid tribute to him. Uzziah constructed strong fortifications, and dug numerous wells. He enjoyed farming, and possessed many cattle.

Unfortunately, Uzziah was a very prideful man, which led to his destruction (2 Chron. 26:15, 16). One day, filled with self-importance, Uzziah went into the holy temple and offered incense in an unauthorized way. That was the prerogative of the descendants of Aaron (Num. 3:38). For his presumptuous sin, Uzziah was afflicted with leprosy which rose up in his forehead. He remained a leper until the day of his death. Never again was Uzziah allowed to enter the Temple of God.

There is a lesson to remember. It is impossible to worship the Lord when the heart is filled with the twin sins of self-exaltation, and self-will.

Isaiah would continue his prophetic ministry during the reigns of the Southern Judean kings, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and perhaps even the first years of Manasseh (687 – 642 BC). This meant that his life made him a contemporary of five kings of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, Menahem, Pekahiah, Pekah, and Hosea. History records the fall of Samaria and the Northern Kingdom to the Assyrian king, Sargon II in 722 BC.

Kings of Judah

Uzziah 790 – 739 BC
Jotham 739 – 731 BC
Ahaz  731 – 715 BC
Hezekiah 715 – 686 BC

Assyrian Rulers

Tiglath-pileser III 745 – 727 BC               
Shalmaneser V 726 – 722 BC               
Sargon II  721 – 705 BC               
Sennacherib 704 – 681 BC               
Esarhaddon 680 – 669 BC               
As-shurbanipal 668 – 627 BC             

Babylonians

Nabopolassar (626 – 605 BC) Nabopolassar revolted from the Assyrians and established the Neo-Babylonian Empire by making Babylon the capital.

(615 – 614 BC) Assyria was conquered by the Median king Cyaxares who captured Asshur, the capital city of the empire.                                                             

(586 BC) God would use the Babylonians to judge Judah, as Isaiah predicted 96 years prior to it happening. Then, God would judge the Babylonians.

Medo-Persia

 Cyrus the Great (539 BC) Medo-Persia conquered Babylon

The Message of the Man of God

The basic message Isaiah proclaimed to Israel was that their sins would bring the judgment of God. The Lord would use Assyria, and later Babylon, to discipline His people. Those who engaged in idolatry and suppression of the poor would find themselves judged harshly. But, as God did with all of His prophets, the message of judgment was mixed with a message of hope. The Lord reaffirmed His own commitment to keep His covenant promises (2 Sam. 7). Israel would have a land. Israel would bring forth the Messiah. Israel would be restored to favor with God, and man. The Law would be established (Ex. 19). The nations of the earth would be blessed because of Israel (Gen. 12:1; 18:19; 22:17, 18; 26:4).

With confidence of his call to the ministry, and confidence in the accuracy of his message, Isaiah was able to boldly proclaim the gospel God had entrusted to him. Therein is the key to effective ministry, be it preaching, teaching, or witnessing. The Christian must have confidence in God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Bible in order to be effective. Do not tell others about your uncertainties; they have enough of their own.

Two Major Divisions of the Book of Isaiah: First Division: Isaiah 1 – 39: God’s Judgment: A Purifying Process: Isaiah 1 – 12

The prophet Israel stands to speak against the traditional sins of Israel: immorality, injustice, and idolatry. The people have rebelled against the Lord to the point it can be said, “The ox knows his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel does not know, my people do not consider” (Isaiah 1:3). God will send an instrument of His choosing to conquer Israel. The result will be a measure of purification for the Old Jerusalem, much like a fire burns away dross. The result will be a New Jerusalem to which all the nations on the earth will come to worship the King. Society will enjoy justice and universal peace.

A Vision of the Glory of God: Isaiah 6:1-5

To emphasize how personally corrupt Isaiah is, and how nationally corrupt Israel is, the Lord brought His prophet into the Temple. God the Holy Spirit illuminated his mind so there was spiritual understanding. “Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Isaiah 6:5).

Until a person sees themselves as they are in the sight of God, there is no hope for personal conversation, because the heart of man is so deceitful, the Natural Man sincerely believes he is a “good” person, and worthy of eternal life in heaven. Dishonest ministers in the Church encourage self-deceit by preaching about the universal brotherhood of man, self esteem theology, and neglecting to tell people that God is holy, and just. God will, and does judge sin. Those who fail to embrace the atoning work of Christ, and bow their knees before Jesus as both LORD and Savior shall be judged according to their works. “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works” (Rev. 20:12).

The results are predictable. Those who are judged according to their own good works, which are as filthy rags in the sight of God (Isaiah 64:6), will be justly rewarded with eternal death. “For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23).

A Vision of the Mercy of God: Isaiah 6: 6, 7

When Isaiah realized how unholy he, and the people of Israel were in the sight of God, the prophet became alarmed. He thought God would immediately destroy him and the nation.

God certainly has the right to judge any person, and any nation, at any time, for the imaginations in the heart of man are continuously evil. Nevertheless, the God of holiness and justice is also the God of mercy and grace. The holiness of God is extended to Isaiah, not to destroy him, but to purify him. “Then flew one of the seraphims unto me, having a live coal in his hand, which he had taken with the tongs from off the altar: 7 And he laid it upon my mouth, and said, Lo, this hath touched thy lips; and thine iniquity is taken away, and thy sin purged” (Isaiah 6:6-7).

Would you know the purifying work of God’s amazing grace? Then sing a prayer song.

 “Search me, O God, and know my heart today,
Try me, O Savior, know my thoughts, I pray;
See if there be some wicked way in me;
Cleanse me from every sin, and set me free.

I praise Thee, Lord, for cleansing me from sin;
Fulfill Thy word and make me pure within;
Fill me with fire, where once I burned with shame;
Grant my desire to magnify Thy name.”

—James E. Orr

A Desire to be Useful: Isaiah 6:8

With his tongue cleansed, Isaiah hears the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” It is an important question, but it is not for the faint of heart. It is not easy to be a Christian. It is even harder to be an ordained minister of the gospel. Consider some interesting statistics about ministry in America according to Shiloh Place Ministries, which drew its information from Focus on the Family, Ministries Today, Charisma Magazine, TNT Ministries, and other respected groups (Dec. 2007).

In America…

  • 1, 500 pastors leave the ministry permanently each month
  • 4,000 new churches start each year
  • 7,000 churches close each year
  • 50 % of pastors’ marriage end in divorce
  • 70% of pastors battle depression
  • 80% of pastors and 85% of their spouses feel discouraged in their roles
  • 70% of pastors do not have a close friend, confidant, or mentor
  • 50% of pastors would leave the ministry if they could find an alternative income
  • 80% of pastors spend less than 15 minutes a day in prayer
  • 70% of pastors only study the Bible when preparing a sermon
  • 70% felt called of God into the ministry when they began
  • 50% who initially felt called, did not believe that after three years in the ministry

“In the early 1980’s a friend asked me what I wanted to do in ministry. My answer, ‘Survive. I just want to survive.’ For thirty-two years as a local pastor I did survive, but it was difficult for me, and for the family” (S. Murrell).

When Isaiah felt called to the ministry, little did he realize that ultimately, he would not survive. According to tradition, the prophet would be cut in half, literally (Heb. 11:37). Nevertheless, when the Lord asked, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?, Isaiah, wanting to be useful, spoke and said, “Here am I; send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

“I, the Lord of sea and sky,
I have heard My people cry.
All who dwell in dark and sin,
My hand will save.

I who made the stars of night,
I will make their darkness bright.
Who will bear My light to them?
Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.

I, the Lord of wind and flame,
I will tend the poor and lame.
I will set a feast for them,
My hand will save

Finest bread I will provide,
Till their hearts be satisfied.
I will give My life to them,
Whom shall I send?

Here I am Lord, Is it I Lord?
I have heard You calling in the night.
I will go Lord, if You lead me.
I will hold Your people in my heart.”

—John Michael Talbot, album, The Troubadour Years

Have you heard the Lord calling you to ministry? Will you go?  

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