Isaiah — God’s Judgment and Redemption of the Nations
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Isaiah the son of Amoz is the author of this collection of prophecies. His style and vocabulary indicate the man was well-educated, and probably hailed from a prominent family. His ministry spanned the reigns of four of Judah’s kings, for approximately 60 years. With 66 chapters, Isaiah is the second longest book of the Bible, after Psalms.
Although he dealt with the entire nation of Israel, Isaiah’s primary focus was the Southern Kingdom of Judah. He also prophesied concerning other nations—including Babylon, Assyria, Philistia, Moab, Ethiopia, Egypt, Edom, Tyre and Arabia. Liberal scholars frequently deny Isaiah’s authorship of the book in its entirety, since they cannot conceive that the prophet could’ve so accurately predicted events so far in advance—especially the actions of Cyrus the Great of Persia.
Of all the prophetic books in the Old Testament, none contains as many references to salvation, and only the Psalms contain more prophecies about the Messiah. Although his declarations of God’s judgment can at times seem harsh, Isaiah also contains some beautiful passages depicting YHWH’s tenderness. It is, above all an expression of God’s great love for His people and the nations.
Isaiah Chapter 1
In the first verse of the book that bears his name, Isaiah summed up the focus and span of His ministry: “Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah” (Isa. 1:1). The second and last of these four rulers were god-fearing kings. Uzziah started out well, then got too full of himself; while Ahaz was flat out evil.
This first chapter poetically voices God’s complaint against the Hebrew people: YHWH brought them up like His own children, yet they rebelled against Him (v. 2). Dumb animals know their way back to their feeding trough, yet Israel didn’t even recognize how far they had wandered from the One who fed them (3)! He referred to the apostate Jews as a “sinful nation, a people loaded with guilt, a brood of evildoers, children given to corruption” (Isa. 1:4, NIV).
The Lord had already disciplined them for their sin, so the nation of Israel was compared to someone with a horribly beaten and infected body, with “no soundness in it,” too sick and faint to resist (vv. 5-6). Yet the Lord said they kept on revolting against Him, just asking to be struck with further misfortune!
Thanks to on-going wars between the northern and southern kingdom and constant raids by the Syrians (c.f.—2 Chronicles 24:23-24 & 25:17-24), Judah was desolate. Its cities were burned and its lands plundered—almost as ruined and uninhabited as Sodom and Gomorrah (Isa. 1:7-9). Using the ultimate insult, YHWH compared Jerusalem to these wicked ancient settlements He had destroyed by fire and brimstone (v. 10).
Beginning in verse eleven, the Lord addressed the hypocrisy of these people who continued to observe their religious rituals, but were living a lie. He asked,
“What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?”
says the Lord.
“I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams
and the fat of fattened cattle.
I get no pleasure from the blood
of bulls and lambs and goats.” (Isa. 1:11, NLT)
The purpose of Israel’s sacrificial system was not to appease their God, as the nations did. It was not some fine or payment made to allow them to sin with impunity. It was to remind God’s people that violating the Lord’s commandments is costly: Its penalty is death. It was to call the fallen back to YHWH and to compel them not to break the Law again.
By losing sight of this, the Hebrews had made their frequent trips to the temple nothing more than a trampling of God’s courts, as far as He was concerned (v. 12). He was sick and tired of their empty ceremonies (13-14). Until they stopped their wanton killing and started executing true justice in behalf of the weak, He had no intention of listening to their pious prayers (15-17).
Nevertheless, longing for a relationship with these problem children, the Lord pleaded with Israel. In the oft-quoted verse 18, YHWH uses vivid imagery to describe their sin and the salvation He extended to them:
“Come now, and let us reason together…
Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool.”
All the Lord asked of His people was to desire and do the will of God, and He would let them “eat the good of the land” (19). But to persist in their rebellion meant Judah would be “devoured by the sword,” instead (20).
Further describing how far the nation had degraded, Isaiah compared the once-faithful city of Jerusalem to a prostitute (21). Where previously justice had been carried out and good prevailed, now there was murder. All that God considered valuable was as corrupt as tarnished silver or diluted wine (22). The leaders neglected to protect the weak, in order to enrich themselves with bribes and dishonest gain (23).
With no one else willing or able to rectify this situation, YHWH vowed to take care of it. Referring to Himself as YHWH Sabaoth, the Mighty One of Israel, the Lord said He would get rid of His enemies, consuming the dross among Judah’s leaders (24-25). Once He put god-fearing judges and counselors in place, like the ones empowered by His Spirit in the old days, then Jerusalem would regain its reputation for righteousness (26).
Looking many years into the future, YHWH foretold the work of Christ: “Zion will be restored by justice; those who repent will be revived by righteousness” (Isa. 1:27, NLT). The perfect life of Christ alone was able to satisfy the just penalty for our sin (c.f.—Romans 3:25-26 & 2 Corinthians 5:21). Only as we repent and receive the righteousness of our Lord and Savior can those dead in sin be made alive in Him (Ephesians 2:4-7).
Verse 28 tells us, “The destruction of transgressors and of sinners shall be together, and those who forsake the Lord shall be consumed.” When I tried to find out what the difference was between a transgressor and a sinner, I learned that the first word in Hebrew [pasha] meant “to break away”; while that second word [chatta] means “to miss.” In other words, both those who went beyond God’s boundaries and those who fell short of His expectations would be destroyed—along with anyone who deliberately turned away from Him.
Referring to the sacred trees the apostate Hebrews worshipped, God compared the Israelites to oaks and gardens which had gone without water (29-30). Both the strong and their achievements would burn like dry tinder under His judgment (31).
Isaiah Chapter 2
The second chapter of Isaiah’s prophecy is headed simply: “The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.” (Isa. 2:1). In fact, this statement is his thesis statement laying forth the subject matter of chapters 2-4.
His prophecy begins well. Isaiah told the Jews that their holy mountain would become the topmost, head, principle or chief of all the mountains—depending on what English translation you use (v. 2). The Hebrew word, rosh, can mean either of these. It gives the sense that the temple mount would become one of the most important mountains in all the world.
If you’ve ever been to Jerusalem, you know it’s a stretch to imagine Zion being the highest of all the mountains of the earth. At just over 2,500 feet above sea level, it can’t begin to compare with the giants Everest (29,029 feet), K2 (28,251), McKinley (20,322) or Kilimanjaro (19,341). But it is not difficult to imagine it becoming most important in a religious or civil sense.
In fact, that’s what verses 3-4 indicate. Here, we find people from all over the world streaming to Jerusalem to learn God’s ways and “walk in His paths.” YHWH will not only send out His Law from the temple mount, but He will “judge between the nations, and rebuke many people.” So perfect will be His leadership that weapons are no longer needed. People will “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.” As the old Gospel song says, they “ain’t gonna study war no more” [See the lyrics and hear the inimitable Louis Armstrong singing “Down by the Riverside” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ih3kVkk5_Q].
Isaiah urged his countrymen to “walk in the light of the Lord” instead of the pagan practices of the Philistines and other eastern nations (5-6). The Jews were attracted to these foreigners, because they saw their prosperity (7). They didn’t realize how foolish they were to bow down to man-made idols and “worship the work of their own hands” (8-9).
The prophet imagined no forgiveness for these treacherous Israelites, whose pride alienated them from God and made them targets of His anger (9-11). They would surely hide in the dust from terror of YHWH and be humbled, as He alone was exalted and brought low whatever raised itself up before Him (10-12). Even the tallest trees, mountains, buildings and ships would be cut down to size compared to God (13-17).
Verse 18 states simply, “But the idols He shall utterly abolish.” People will get rid of their idols and hide in caves and holes in the rock from the Lord, “When He arises to shake the earth mightily” verses 18-21 tell us. This coincides with what John the Beloved saw in Revelation 6:12-17, when the heavens and earth are violently shaken with the opening of the seventh seal. People of every rank will go into hiding and cry out to the rocks to fall on them to hide them “from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!”
This chapter ends rather awkwardly with a change in subject from idolatry to the tendency to trust in the strength or wisdom of human beings. Isaiah wrote, “Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he?” (Isa. 2:22, NIV). We are mere mortals, so how can we hope to measure up to God in wisdom, might, etc.?
Isaiah Chapter 3
Isaiah continued his dissertation on the folly of trusting in humans in this chapter. He warned that YHWH Tsaba [translated “the LORD of hosts/armies” in most English Bibles] was about to rip everything the Jews relied upon and counted on from beneath them. They would lose their food and water supplies, their military men, leaders, elders and religious advisers (Isa. 3:1-2). Even their craftsmen would be taken away, till the nation was left with mere boys in charge (vv. 3-4)! According to King Solomon, this was one of the worst things that could happen to a nation (Ecclesiastes 10:16). Everyone would be against one another and there would be no respect for one another (Isa. 3:5).
Not long after Isaiah’s prophecy, these things began to happen. Manasseh, son of Hezekiah was twelve years old when he succeeded his father (2 Kings 21:1 & 2 Chronicles 33:1). He reinstated all the evil practices his dad had tried to do away with. He was so bad, the Lord determined to destroy the kingdom of Judah because of him (2 Kng. 21:2-15). Soon after, eight-year-old Josiah assumed the throne (2 Kng. 22:1 & 2 Chr. 34:1). He was the last good king of Judah, but not good enough to turn his people around permanently. Moreover, he sired the last four of Judah’s rulers—all of whom were lacking in moral character. His grandson, Jehoiachin, was made king at the age of 18 and reigned only three months before being removed from the throne (2 Kng. 24:6-8).
Judah’s noblemen, best warriors and most skilled craftsmen were deported to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar when Jehoiachin surrendered to him around 597 B.C. (vv. 9-16). Those left in the land under Zedekiah’s leadership were some of the poorest, and likely least educated, of the Jews. In such dire circumstances, it’s easy to see how men and women with few skills and resources would take advantage of whomever they could to get ahead, as Isaiah foresaw in chapter 3, verse 5.
In this vacuum of leadership, Isaiah said, “A person will grab one of his relatives from his father’s family and say, ‘You have a coat. You’ll be our leader. This pile of ruins will be under your control.’” (Isa. 3:6, GW). But the poor fellow won’t want the job and will protest that he can’t provide for his own household—much less guide a nation (v. 7)!
All of this trouble would be the result of Judah’s own treacherous words and deeds against the Lord (8). They were so brazen in their sin, they didn’t even try to hide it, but would “parade their sin like Sodom” (Isa. 3:9, NIV). God-fearing men and women would be alright, but disaster would be the payment for the wicked (vv. 10-11).
Again, Isaiah remarked about young people oppressing the Jews (12). He added that women ruled over them. This was a big, bad deal in a culture that valued its elders and considered men the rightful leaders in society. The people they were relying on to steer them through dark days were leading them astray, contrary to the laws of the Lord that would bring them blessings.
The Apostle Paul foresaw something similar in the future of Israel in his day. In 2 Timothy 3:1-5, we read:
This is exactly what we see today. Young people are taught in school, in popular fiction, music and movies to mistrust those in authority—including parents, governing officials and practically anyone over 30! Fraud, theft, assault and rioting are becoming commonplace. All traditional norms of behavior and decency are flouted.
In the rest of this chapter, we see the God of Israel taking action. Isaiah 3:13 says, “The Lord takes his place in court; he rises to judge the people” (NIV). He accused the elders and nobility of Judah of exploiting those less fortunate and taking what was not theirs (v. 14). He very vividly spells out their sin: “What do you mean by crushing my people and grinding the faces of the poor?” (15).
YHWH calls the women haughty/proud/arrogant, walking with their heads held high, flirting and prancing around with jingling ankle bracelets to call attention to themselves (16). Since they were so concerned about their appearance and not the condition of their hearts, the Lord planned to cause their hair to fall out and awful sores to show up on their heads (17). Stripped of their fine clothing and jewelry, perfumes and other adornment, they’d be left naked, stinking, poorly dressed, bald and branded as slaves (18-24)! They’d be bereaved of their men and left destitute, mourning in the dust at the city gates (25-26).
Isaiah Chapter 4
Picking up where he left off at the end of chapter 3, Isaiah elaborated further on the plight of the Jewish women. They’d be so desperate, seven women would grab one of the few remaining men in Judea and promised to provide for themselves, so long as they simply got to wear his name and avoid the embarrassment of single-hood (Isa. 4:1)!
Better days were coming, however. In verse 2, Isaiah offered this Messianic prophecy:
In that day the Branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious;
And the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing
For those of Israel who have escaped.
Anyone left among the survivors in Jerusalem would be considered holy—set apart to God—when He “has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst…” (vv. 3-4). He promised to make His presence and protection seen and felt, with “a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night” to overshadow them, as in Israel’s days in the wilderness (Isa. 4:5-6; Exodus 13:21-22 & Numbers 9:15-16). No heat, storm or danger would touch them.
Isaiah Chapter 5
In this chapter, Isaiah told a brief parable about Israel, and then continued his diatribe against the Jews. In the flavor of the Song of Solomon, he called YHWH his Beloved and described His careful construction of a vineyard:
First, the Lord chose a fertile hill, which He dug up and cleared of all its stones (Isa. 5:1-2). Next, He “planted it with the choicest vine,” built a watchtower in the middle to keep it safe and made a winepress in anticipation of a delicious harvest. Unfortunately, instead of the cultivated grapes He planted, the vine produced only a useless wild variety—probably too sour to eat or drink!
In verses 3-4 God asked the people to consider His predicament. He did everything that could be expected to raise a crop of good grapes, but His efforts were not rewarded. His only recourse was to take down the hedge and walls of protection so the vine can be overrun and burned (v. 5). He’d let it lay fallow and be overgrown with thorns and briers—and those won’t even do well, because He’ll cause a drought (6)!
In the final verse of this parable, YHWH revealed that the vineyard represented Israel and Judah. He did everything to make them a just and righteous people, but they became a nation of oppressors (7). Isaiah followed up this illustration with six “woes,” or examples, of the kind of wild and oppressive behavior that had frustrated the Lord so.
First, he decried greedy land-grabbers, who “join house to house” and “field to field,” until they were the only ones living there as far as the eye could see (8). In ancient Israel, property was divided equally between the various tribal groups and families. Houses and land were supposed to be handed down from father to son. If a family became too poor to retain their ancestral property, their closest relatives were obligated to recover it for them. Even if no one was able to buy it back, it was supposed to revert to the original owner within a cycle of fifty years (See Leviticus 25:23-28). That way everyone had a chance at owning his/her own home and making an honest living. But this wasn’t happening, so YHWH intended to devastate the land barons, making their fields and vineyards unproductive and their fine houses deserted (Isa. 5:9-10).
The second woe was directed toward the party crowd. “Woe to those who rise early in the morning, that they may follow intoxicating drink; who continue until night, till wine inflames them!” Isaiah records in verse 11. While they enjoyed their entertainment, alcohol and sumptuous food, others were going hungry and thirsty (vv. 12-13). The grave awaited these pompous, self-serving men (14). They would be brought low, but YHWH would be exalted (15-16). The god-fearing would be allowed, like little lambs, to “feed in their pastures” and enjoy the places abandoned by those decadent feasters (17).
Verses 18-19 condemn those who dragged along their sins with cords of self-deceit. Not only did they think they were getting away with it, but they practically dared God to do something about it, so they’d know He was real! Sounds like a large portion of our culture today. We are so attached to our sin, we try to justify it with all sorts of mental gymnastics. Not only that, but because we don’t seem to suffer any consequences, we think it must be okay or God’s word isn’t true, since He isn’t doing anything to stop or punish us.
The next two verses are also extremely relevant to contemporary society:
Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness;
Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
And prudent in their own sight! (20-21)
Particularly under the influence of the media and entertainment, Americans have redefined what is good and bad, acceptable and unacceptable. What God called “an abomination” worthy of a death sentence (Leviticus 18 and 20), popular culture refers to as “an alternative lifestyle” that is becoming legal, celebrated and even consecrated in some churches! For decades, murder of a pre-born child has been touted as “a woman’s choice.” Voyeurism is a multi-million dollar industry, along with gambling, prostitution, drugs and alcohol. About the only thing not tolerated by our society is the “sin” of “intolerance”—not going along with these twisted ideas of socially-accepted degradation and self-destruction.
We have so elevated the ideas of men, that we indoctrinate our children to believe that they are mere biological accidents in a long series of such. And then we pump them full of drugs to get them out of the depression that kind of reasoning causes. People invent religions and ordain themselves to propagate them. Then they get bent out of shape when the discerning see behind their flimsy facades.
It’s crazy! It’s sad. It’s tragic to the nth degree.
God’s sixth “woe” targets those who are too intoxicated to make good decisions. He condemns them for accepting bribes to acquit the guilty and defraud the innocent (Isa. 5:22-23). YHWH promises to burn them like chaff or stubble, reducing these unjust officials to dust, “because they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and despised the word of the Holy One of Israel” (v. 24). God blames these corrupt leaders for the predicament that His people currently face and for the bodies strewn like garbage in the streets (25). It’s because of them His anger is being poured out on Judah and there is no end in sight to His wrath.
How is YHWH going to carry out His judgment? He intended to hold up a banner that could be seen by the pagan rulers far away from Israel—a sign saying, “Come and get ‘em; these people are all yours” (26). He’d whistle to the nations, like we call our attack dogs, and they would come quickly to do His bidding.
These foreign armies would be fresh, well-equipped and well-armed (27-28). Their horses and chariots would be fast, “like a whirlwind.” Isaiah compared them to young lions, roaring and dragging away their prey in the midst of the darkness with no one to stop them (29-30).
Isaiah Chapter 6
In the year that King Uzziah died, the prophet received his formal calling into the ministry. In a vision, he saw YHWH seated on a throne, “high and lifted up,” with the train of His kingly robe completely filling the temple (Isa. 6:1).
Six-winged seraphim, flaming angelic beings, flew around the Lord—each using two wings to cover his face, two to cover his feet and two to get around (v. 2). In ancient Eastern culture, this covering of oneself was a sign of respect in the presence of royalty. In antiphonal style, the angels cried to one another, “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” (3). The noise was enough to shake the temple’s doorposts, and the whole place was filled with smoke (4).
Isaiah was so affected by the sight of God’s glory and holiness, all he could think about was his own unholiness in comparison. Completely traumatized, the young man cried out:
“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 my eyes have seen the King,
The LORD of hosts.” (5)
Immediately one of the seraphim grabbed a hot coal from the altar with tongs and touched it to Isaiah’s lips to purify them (6). The angel explained that this action had taken away Isaiah’s guilt and sin (7).
YHWH asked whom He should send, “And who will go for Us?” (8a). Having had his conscience cleared, Isaiah was able to respond to God’s call, “Here I am. Send me!” (Isa. 6:8, NCV).
Then God said,
“Go, and tell this people:
‘Keep on hearing, but do not understand;
Keep on seeing, but do not perceive.’
Make the heart of this people dull,
And their ears heavy,
And shut their eyes;
Lest they see with their eyes,
And hear with their ears,
And understand with their heart,
And return and be healed.” (vv. 9-10)
These verses are quoted in each of the Gospels and the book of Acts. In each context, the Lord indicated that He deliberately kept the stubborn, rebellious Israelites from fully comprehending what His prophets, Messiah and the apostles were saying to them, in order to keep His message hidden from the proud, while revealing it to the humble (See Matt. 13:10-17, Mark 4:10-12, Luke 8:10, John 12:37-41 & Acts 28:24-28).
Shocked, the prophet asked, “Lord, how long?” (Isa. 6:11). God answered that this would be the case, until the cities were laid waste and uninhabited and He had removed the people from their land (vv. 11-12). He would, however, leave a tenth of them, who would continue to undergo suffering—including a stump of what was once the mighty oak of Judah’s royal family from which would spring “the holy seed” [Messiah’s family line] (13).
Isaiah Chapter 7
In the midst of the political upheaval described in 2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28, YHWH told Isaiah to take his son, Shear-Jashub (which means “a Remnant Shall Return”), and meet the wicked Judean king, Ahaz. The Lord assured Ahaz that He would take care of the invading kings, Rezin of Syria and Pekah of Israel, who were invading Judah. Not only that, but He set a date for the annihilation of Israel—just 65 years from that time (Isa. 7:1-9).
Knowing how miniscule the apostate king’s faith was, God told Ahaz to pick something that would serve as a sign that this promise would come true (vv. 10-11). In false piety, the monarch replied, “I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!” (12)—as if he had not already tested YHWH by worshiping idols and even sacrificing his own children to pagan gods!
Isaiah grew impatient. “…Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also?” (13). Since Ahaz wouldn’t cooperate, the Lord gave His own sign: “…A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and she will name him Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14, GW).
The word for virgin in that passage can also be translated, “young woman.” It may very well refer to some girl the king knew, who fulfilled this prophecy, which continued in verses 15-16, promising that before the child was eating solid foods and knew right from wrong the territory of the kings Ahaz so feared would be deserted. Yet later the virgin birth was fulfilled by Jesus, when Mary conceived and bore a Son by the Holy Spirit, as explained in Matthew 1:18-23.
Furthermore, YHWH said the armies of Assyria and Egypt would invade the Northern Kingdom, covering the land like swarms of flies and bees (Isa. 7:17-19). God would sustain the people left in the land with wild honey and milk. Nevertheless, the country would be overrun by thorns and briars—a pastureland, rather than cultivated fields (vv. 21-25).
What did Ahaz do with this revelation? Absolutely nothing. 2 Kings 16:7-8 and 2 Chronicles 28:16 & 21 tell us he gathered all the treasures from the temple and royal palace and sent them to the king of Assyria, begging him to get the invaders out of his country. So much for trusting God to save him and his people!
Isaiah Chapter 8
On the heels of this prophecy to Ahaz about Immanuel, YHWH continued to speak through Isiah concerning the superpowers of the day. He told the prophet to name his next son, “Speed the Spoil, Hasten the Booty,” and said that, before the lad could say, ‘Mama’ or ‘Dada,’ “the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be taken away before the king of Assyria” (Isaiah 8:4). He warned that the Assyrians would invade Judah and fill their land, but not completely destroy the nation (vv. 7-8). This was fulfilled during the administration of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18-19).
God commanded Isaiah not to get worked up about things that frightened his neighbors, worrying about conspiracies or threats (Is. 8:11-12). A lot of people nowadays would do well to heed this advice, too. Instead, the prophet was to fear YHWH Sabaoth—the Lord of heaven’s armies—and revere and dread Him only (v. 13). To the one who trusts God, “He will be a sanctuary” (14a). “But,” to those who rebel and reject YHWH as God, He is “a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel” (14b). Indeed, many of the inhabitants of Judea and its capital city stumbled, fell, were broken and taken before everything was said and done (15). Not only that, but when Messiah came, the Jews rejected and were offended by Jesus, as well (1 Peter 2:4-8).
Isaiah 8:16 would seem to indicate that YHWH had given up on educating His people any longer, but decided to reserve the truth of Scripture for His faithful disciples alone for the time being. Verses 17-18 say He hid his face from the House of Jacob, leaving Isaiah and his children with all their strange names as “signs and wonders in Israel.”
The remaining verses of this chapter are frequently overlooked, but are so important even today—applying not only to those who turn to mediums and clairvoyants, but also to Roman Catholics and others who worship the dead. God declares, “when they say to you, ‘Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people seek their God?” (19). The New American Standard Bible adds this rhetorical question, “Why seek the dead on behalf of the living?” It’s foolish to seek wisdom, counsel, protection or anything else from someone who is deceased or who claims to have access to the dead. It’s not necessary to pray to Mary or some other dead saint, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5).
Isaiah and his audience were referred to the Law, which forbids such practices (Leviticus 20:27). Anyone who offers advice contrary to God’s Word has “no light in them” and is likely to wander about destitute and hungry, blaming YHWH for their troubles (Isa. 8:20-21). They’ll eventually “be driven into darkness,” because all they can see is doom and gloom on the earth (v. 22).
Isaiah Chapter 9
The beginning of this chapter is likely part of the prophecy recorded in chapter 8. It says, concerning the people YHWH handed over to Tiglath Pileser, king of Assyria, during the days of King Pekah of Israel:
Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed,
As when at first He lightly esteemed
The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali,
And afterward more heavily oppressed her…
(Isa. 9:1a-b; see also 2 Kings 15:29)
Then it gives the prophecy later applied to Jesus when He lived in the territory that once belonged to the northern tribes of Israel:
By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan,
In Galilee of the Gentiles.
The people who walked in darkness
Have seen a great light;
Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death,
Upon them a light has shined. (Isa. 9:1c-2; c.f.—Matt. 4:12-16)
God promised to multiply the nation of Israel and increase their joy (Isa. 9:3). He’d break the yoke upon them and remove the rod of the oppressor (v. 4). The clothing bloodied in battle would become fuel for the fire (5).
How can this be? Because Messiah was coming. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder…” (6). This One called “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” would rule from David’s throne, establishing peace, justice and equity forever (6b-7). The first part was fulfilled at Jesus’ birth, when the Son of God was born to a virgin in the line of David’s son, Nathan, and then adopted [“given”] by Joseph from the royal line of Solomon (Luke 1:35 & John 3:16). The second part will occur at Christ’s return and rule over the millennial kingdom (Revelation 20:8).
Back to the more immediate future, YHWH warned that He was going to punish the Northern Kingdom for their arrogance and self-reliance. They were only fooling themselves, thinking they would be able to rebuild Samaria once God sent the Syrians and Philistines against them (Isa. 9:8-12). Because they rejected YHWH and would not respond to His discipline, He vowed to cut off the elders and false prophets of Israel, who were leading the people astray in their defiance (vv. 13-16). He’d even turn His back on the youth of Israel, showing no mercy to the orphans and widows, “For everyone is a hypocrite and an evildoer, and every mouth speaks folly…” (17).
An intriguing work of fiction based on fact, called The Harbinger, by Messianic Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, draws a parallel between the Hebrews of Israel at that time and Americans since 9/11. The controversial best-selling book asserts that the U.S. is headed for the same kind of devastation for its vows to bounce back better and stronger than before in defiance of the attacks by Al Qaeda terrorists on American soil. You can learn more from the author’s website, http://www.theharbinger-jonathancahn.com, or watch a 40-minute interview of Rabbi Jonathan by Pastor Jimmy Evans of Trinity Fellowship Church on YouTube.
Like thorns, briers and thickets in the forest, all the people of Israel and their land would burn up (Isa. 9:18-19). No matter how much they tried to eat, they’d still be hungry (v. 20). The tribes of the Northern Kingdom would devour each other and turn against Judah (21).
Isaiah Chapter 10
Continuing the pronouncements begun in chapter 9, the Lord says those who judged unjustly and exploited those less fortunate would be helpless when the enemy invaded. They would “bow down among the prisoners, and…fall among the slain” (Isa. 10:1-4). To each of these four predictions against Israel is added an ominous refrain: “For all this His anger is not turned away, but His hand is stretched out still” (v. 4; see also Isa. 9:12, 17 & 21).
Not only Israel would be judged for arrogance, but also Assyria, the agent YHWH used to punish them. That foreign country is referred to by God as “the rod of My anger and the staff in whose hand is My indignation” (Isa. 10:5). The Lord sent pagan Assyria against ungodly Israel and authorized that nation to trample the people and take their spoil (v. 6). However, because the Assyrians thought it was their own idea and by their own power and wisdom that they defeated Samaria, Judah and other nations, YHWH intended to punish them, as well (7-14).
In verse 15, He asked whether a mere implement is able to exalt itself over the One who wields it. He promised to “send leanness among [Assyrian] fat ones” and burn out that kingdom in a single day (16-17). In anticipation of the boasts of Sennacharib against Judah during the reign of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:17-35), YHWH says He “will consume the glory of his forest and of his fruitful field,” with some wasting disease, “Then the rest of the trees of his forest will be so few in number that a child may write them” (Isaiah 10:18-19). This was fulfilled the night the Angel of YHWH struck down 185,000 of Sennacharib’s soldiers, as recorded in 2 Kings 19:35.
When the Lord finished this discipline of His people, then the remnant of them who survived would return to God and depend on Him alone (Isa. 10:20-21). Once He used Assyria as His rod of correction and then made an end of that foreign nation, YHWH planned to remove the burden and yoke of Assyria from Israel’s shoulders and stop striking His people in anger (vv. 22ff).
Isaiah Chapter 11
Again, we look ahead to a future, better time when Messiah appears in Israel. Isaiah 11:1 calls Him “a rod from the stem of Jesse,” a Branch which sprouts from the roots of the house of David. “And the spirit of Yahweh shall rest on him,” endowing this ruler with wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and fear of YHWH (Isa. 11:2, Lexham English Bible).
What? Messiah, Jesus—who is God’s equal—will fear YHWH? Verse 3 confirms it: “His delight is in the fear of the Lord.”
He will judge not by what He can see or hear with His own senses, “But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth…” (vv. 3b-4b). He will strike the earth and slay the wicked; His belt shall be righteousness and faithfulness (4c-5).
So complete will be the restoration of the earth under this righteous Ruler that meat-eating animals and herbivores will dwell in harmony with one another; “the lion shall eat straw like the ox,” and children will play with poisonous snakes and not be harmed (6-8). “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (9).
Wow! Can you imagine such a world where everyone knows and serves the one true God to the extent that nothing and no one will hurt anyone else? Quite likely this is referring to the time of the Millennium—the 1,000 years of Christ’s reign on the earth described in Revelation 20:4-6.
The Lord promises that this “Root of Jesse…shall stand as a banner to the people,” drawing both the Hebrews who have been scattered throughout the nations and Gentiles to seek and serve Him (Isa. 11:10-12). God will cut off the enemies of His people and end the rivalry between Judah and the other tribes (v. 13). Instead, the unified forces of Israel will fight together against the Philistines, Edom, Ammon and Moab (14). The Euphrates will be dried up to allow the rest of His people to cross over (15-16).
- YHWH’s people will again praise Him (Isa. 12:1).
- They’ll trust YHWH alone as their strength, their song and their salvation (vv. 2-3).
- They will worship and call on YHWH and “Celebrate His works among the peoples” (Isa. 12:4, HCSB).
- They will sing and shout, confident that “the Holy One of Israel” is once again in their midst (vv. 5-6).
Isaiah Chapter 13
Long before Babylon became a world power or invaded the land of Judah, the Lord foretold its demise for persecuting His people. In Isaiah 13:1-5, we see YHWH Sabaoth mustering a mighty army for battle against Babylon—a multitude of invaders from several united kingdoms—armed with “weapons of indignation to destroy the whole land.” In face of that horde of “sanctified ones” prepared to carry out God’s anger (v. 3), “all hands will be limp, every man’s heart will melt, and they will be afraid” (7-8). So great would be the amazement, pain and sorrow of the Babylonians that they would feel like women in labor.
On this day of YHWH, the Babylonians—a very religious people with stargazers and interpreters of constellations—would see terrifying signs in the heavens, including lunar and solar eclipses (9-10).
For the stars of heaven and their constellations
Will not give their light;
The sun will be darkened in its going forth,
And the moon will not cause its light to shine.
God promised to punish the wicked, debase the proud, and make mortal men as rare as the finest gold (11-12). So fierce would be His anger that the Lord would “shake the heavens, and the earth will move out of her place” (13). Picture earthquakes, blackened skies and other fearful ‘acts of God’ against the oppressors of His people.
Through its conquest of many nations, Babylon became a ‘melting pot’ of people from all over the world. When they saw the army of God approaching, many of the emigrants would return to their native countries—all fleeing like hunted animals to their own lands (14).
YHWH intended to do to Babylon as they did to many others. The army of the Medes killed every Babylonian they could lay their hands on. As verses 15-18 so vividly foretold, they smashed children, raped and murdered women, and plundered every home. No amount of gold or silver could deter them from their destructive mission. They left Babylon as desolate and uninhabited as Sodom and Gomorrah (19-22).
Isaiah Chapter 14
Looking ahead to Israel’s future, Isaiah assured his people that YHWH would again have mercy on them and return them to their homeland (Isa. 14:1-2). They would be given rest and relief from the sorrow and fear they experienced during their years of bondage (v. 3).
The next portion of this chapter is a dream-like vision in which Isaiah described both the king of Babylon and his controlling spirit, Lucifer. He said the people of God would take up a taunt against their oppressor, in which they celebrate how “The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked…who struck the people in wrath with a continual stroke” (4-6). The king of Babylon, “who ruled the nations in anger,” would himself be persecuted with no one to intervene. Then the earth and its inhabitants—including the trees the Babylonian king used to cut down for his war machines—would rejoice with singing over its liberation and the ensuing peace (7-8).
Even the grave celebrated the demise of the king of Babylon. Kings that he had conquered and killed were amazed to see him destroyed. How inglorious was his death with maggots and worms consuming his body, just like anyone else (9-11)!
Next comes a vision of the fallen angel, Lucifer, the power behind Babylon’s greatness. It describes how this one, whose name means “Day Star,” was expelled from heaven, because he arrogantly thought he could elevate himself “above the stars of God” and “be like the Most High” (12-14). Instead of being promoted to a position higher than any angel or YHWH Himself, Isaiah 14:15 tells us Lucifer would “be brought down to Sheol”—the abode of the dead.
The Apostle John collaborated Isaiah’s accounts in Revelation 12:7-9, where he wrote, “war broke out in heaven” between Michael and the angels of God, versus the devil and his angels. The devil lost and was cast down from heaven to earth. Revelation 20:1-3 says the devil will be chained in the bottomless pit for 1,000 years, and then released. Ultimately, his destination will be “the lake of fire and brimstone,” where Lucifer and company “will be tormented day and night forever and ever” (v. 10).
Back in Isaiah’s prophecy, we fade from the demonic power behind the king of Babylon to the despot himself. People would be amazed that this man who seemed invincible—“who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, who made the world as a wilderness and destroyed its cities”—should be defeated at last (Isa. 14:16-17). Unlike most kings, who are laid to rest in magnificent tombs, the king of Babylon would be denied a proper grave, “thrust through with a sword,” his despised “corpse trodden underfoot” (vv. 18-19).
Why? “Because you have destroyed your land and slain your people,” explained Isaiah (20). The king’s children would be slaughtered, “because of the iniquity of their fathers,” and to prevent them from rising up as ruthless rulers, as well (21). Swept clean of its corrupt inhabitants, Babylon would become the marshy home of porcupines (22-23).
In verse 25, YHWH Sabaoth promised the destruction of the Assyrians in the land of Israel. He asserted that, as with anything else He puts His mind to, this would certainly come about (24 & 26-27). As we read in 2 Kings 19:35 and 2 Chronicles 32:21, this prophecy was fulfilled when Sennacharib threatened Jerusalem and mocked YHWH. The Assyrian army was decimated by plague while it camped in the land of Judah, and the king returned in defeat to be assassinated by his own sons.
The chapter concludes with a message delivered to Isaiah the year that King Ahaz died (Isa. 14:28). YHWH warned Philistia not to get too excited about the death of this Judean king who had put them in their place, since his offspring [King Hezekiah] would be an even fiercer threat (v. 29). God was going to feed the poorest of His people, while killing the Philistines with famine (30). While the gates of Philistia were dissolved in flames, YHWH would protect His people in Zion (31-32).
Isaiah Chapter 15
This short chapter consists of nine verses foretelling the destruction of Moab. Isaiah named several principle cities of the nation, which would soon be destroyed. Jeremiah 48 makes similar proclamations against this pagan nation, as do Ezekiel 25, Amos 2 and Zephaniah 2.
Isaiah described the Moabites weeping, wailing, cutting off their hair, and wearing rough clothing to show their grief over cities “laid waste” overnight (Isa. 15:1-3). The soldiers would cry out and people would flee for their lives (vv. 4-5). The once verdant land would be desolate and dry; the wealth of that nation would be carried away (6-7). The streams would be fouled with blood, and those who escaped the invaders would be slaughtered by hungry lions (9).
Isaiah Chapter 16
This chapter picks up where Isaiah left off in his prophecy against Moab. The first verse seems to indicate that Moab should seek the favor of Judah by sending sheep in tribute, as they previously did, according to 2 Kings 3:4 (Isa. 16:1). Verses 2-4 tell of Moabite refugees seeking shelter wherever they can find it.
Again, we find Messiah on a throne of mercy, “in the tabernacle of David, judging and seeking justice and hastening righteousness” (v. 5). Unfortunately, the pride of Moab and their enmity with the descendants of Abraham will not allow them to curry the favor of God’s righteous ruler (6). Instead, they were doomed to mourn and bewail the loss of their fertile fields and vineyards demolished by invading armies (7-9).
In anticipation of the end of Moab’s joyful harvest celebrations, the prophet mourned, as well (10-11). He warned that, although the Moabites would appeal to their gods in weariness, they would get no satisfaction (12). Moreover, according to YHWH’s timetable, they had only three years until this sad proclamation was fulfilled, and “Moab’s splendor and all her many people will be despised, and her survivors will be very few and feeble” (Isa. 16:14, NIV).
Isaiah declared that Syria’s capital, Damascus, “will cease from being a city,” but will be made a “ruinous heap” (Isa. 17:1). Upon the fall of the Syrian kingdom, only a remnant from that nation would survive (v. 3b).
In verse 2, Isaiah foretold the desertion of Aroer and its surrounding cities—that they would become peaceful pasture lands for flocks of sheep. Many people are confused by this reference, identifying Aroer as a Moabite city. However, according to Numbers 32:34, Deuteronomy 3:12 and Joshua 13:25, Aroer was a city built by the tribe of Gad within the territory given to them by Moses, following Israel’s conquest of the Amorite kingdoms east of the Jordan River. In Isaiah’s day, this was part of the Northern Kingdom, which consisted of all the tribal lands of Israel, except the property of Judah and Benjamin in the South. The first part of Isaiah 17:3 agrees with this interpretation. It tells us that there would be no more fortresses in Ephraim [another name for the Northern Kingdom].
Isaiah went on to say that “the glory of Jacob will wane, and the fatness of his flesh grow lean” (v. 4). The population of the Northern Kingdom is compared to the gleanings of grain and grapes left in the fields and on the vines for the poor, or the handful of olives left at the top of a tree above anyone’s reach (5-6 & 9). Because they had “forgotten the God of [their] salvation,” and paid no attention to their Rock of refuge, YHWH was going to destroy Israel’s crops (10-11). This sad state of affairs would cause the remaining Hebrews to turn back to God from idols (7-8)—something He had tried long and hard to convince them to do for generations.
Nevertheless, God promised to protect His people from the nations that would invade with a noise “like the rushing of mighty waters” (12). The Lord’s rebuke would drive the foreign armies out, like chaff or tumble weeds blown by the wind (13). Trouble and annihilation would be “the portion of those who plunder” and rob the people of God (14).
Isaiah Chapter 18
This short chapter concerns Ethiopia [which Old Testament writers called Cush], one of the countries allied with Egypt—upon whom the Israelites depended to reinforce them against their enemies from the north. Twice, Isaiah called the Ethiopians “a nation tall and smooth of skin…terrible from their beginning…powerful and treading down” (Isa. 18:2 & 7b). He compared the nation to a grapevine and said they would be cut off and left for the birds and beasts to devour (vv. 5-6). Then the Ethiopian people will bring a present to YHWH and His temple in Jerusalem (7).
Isaiah Chapter 19
Regarding Egypt, the Lord said He would destroy its idols and cause its leaders to “melt in its midst” (Isaiah 19:1 & 16). Verse 2 says, “I will set Egyptians against Egyptians,” and describes a terrible civil war. The following verse adds, “The spirit of Egypt will fail in its midst” (3). The people would consult their idols, charmers, mediums and sorcerers, but they would not be able to offer counsel. God will give them a cruel master, “and a fierce king will rule over them” (v. 4).
YHWH promised a terrible drought in Egypt. It would not only affect farmers, but also fishermen and weavers [who gathered flax from the river] (5-9). The entire economy would be affected, and “All who make wages will be troubled” (10).
Egyptian wise men are called fools (11). The leaders deluded Egypt; therefore, YHWH “has mixed within her a spirit of distortion; they have led Egypt astray in all that it does, as a drunken man staggers in his vomit” (Isa. 19:13-14, NASB). This prophecy is reminiscent of the time the Lord put a “lying spirit in the mouth of all [Ahab’s] prophets” to lure the wicked king to his death (1 Kings 22:19-23).
God said He would make Judah a terror to Egypt (Isa. 19:17). Five Egyptian cities would adopt the language of the Promised Land (v. 18). There would be an altar and a pillar in Egypt dedicated to YHWH, and in a time of danger, the people of that nation would cry out to Israel’s God (19-20a). “He will send them a Savior and a Mighty One, and He will deliver them. Then the Lord will be known to Egypt…in that day” (20b-21). Thereafter, Egyptians would worship YHWH with sacrifices and offerings and make vows to Him.
As God had done to Israel in Hosea 6:1, He said He would “strike Egypt…and heal it,” so that they would return to Him (Isa. 19:22). When had Egypt ever worshiped YHWH? Perhaps in the days of Joseph, they learned the fear of the Lord. At any rate, not only Egypt—but also Assyria—would join with Israel in serving the one true God, and He would bless these three allies (vv. 23-25).
Never in my life have I heard that this prophecy was fulfilled or even remotely possible! Israel has always been at odds with these two territories.
Isaiah Chapter 20
“In the year that the supreme commander, sent by Sargon king of Assyria, came to Ashdod and attacked and captured it,” God told Isaiah to remove his garments and his sandals, going about barefoot and naked (Isa. 20:1-2, NIV). For three years after the invasion of this Philistine city, the prophet did so, to dramatize to his people what the king of Assyria was going to do to the nations Judah relied on: He would lead them away as prisoners and captives from Egypt and Ethiopia to Assyria, naked and barefoot (vv. 3-5). Then Judah would know there was no one they could turn to for deliverance but YHWH (6).
Would you be willing to suffer the kind of embarrassment Isaiah must have lived through in order to serve God? Talk about commitment! On the one hand, I would like to think I would obey the Lord, even in something as drastic as this. But I also hope He will never ask me to do such a thing!
Isaiah Chapter 21
The first part of Isaiah 21 confirmed that the Medes would be the agents of God’s judgment against Babylon (Isa. 21:2). The prophet described more pangs of fear like a woman in childbirth (vv. 3-4). Meanwhile, he envisioned the leaders of the nation feasting in complete lack of concern for what was coming (5). This was certainly fulfilled many decades later, as described in the fifth chapter of Daniel, where we find King Belshazzar toasting his idols, while the enemy surrounded and broke into his fortress.
A watchman announced the approach of a chariot with two horsemen—perhaps symbolizing the Medo-Persian alliance against Babylon (Isa. 21:6-9; c.f.—Daniel 8:20). The riders announced the news, “Babylon is fallen, is fallen! And all the carved images of her gods He has broken to the ground.” (v. 9b).
Next comes a very brief prophecy concerning Edom, referred to as Seir, another name frequently applied to Esau’s territory (See Genesis 32:3). Isaiah directed this prophecy against Dumah, a city in the east named after one of Ishmael’s sons (Gen. 25:12-16). He heard someone from Seir asking a watchman for a report about the night, to which he gave the cryptic response: “The morning comes, and also the night. If you will inquire, inquire; return! Come back!” (Isa. 21:11-12). Who knows what this means? Maybe in a play on the name, Dumah, which means silence, Isaiah was suggesting that the Edomites would hear nothing from God regarding their fate during the Babylonian invasion.
Arabia’s destiny is stated in verses 13-15. It mentions, first, bands of Dedanites—descendants of Cush who lived in southern Arabia (Gen. 10:7)—taking shelter in forests (Isa. 21:13). Next, inhabitants of Tema, another town named after a descendant of Ishmael, would provide food and water to war refugees (vv. 14-15). Finally, the city of Kedar—yet another Ishmaelite settlement—would fall “Within a year,” and their army would be notably reduced (16-17). Psalm 120:5-7 describes the inhabitants of Kedar as a warlike people. Song of Solomon 1:5 and Ezekiel 27:21 indicate the area was famous for its sheep and goats and tents made of black wool. According to the Bible Knowledge Commentary for Isaiah 21:13-17, these were reason enough for King Sargon II of Assyria to defeat and deport the Arabs to Samaria in 715 B.C.
Isaiah Chapter 22
More judgments against the Jews are declared in this chapter—beginning with the destruction of Jerusalem. Isaiah 22:1-14 describes, in amazingly accurate detail, what was going to happen.
First, we find those events that can be corroborated by biblical history: Many inhabitants of the city were not killed in battle, but died of starvation during the siege (Isa. 22:2; c.f.—2 Kng. 25:3). The rulers “fled together,” but “were captured by the archers” (Isa. 22:3 & 2 Kng. 25:4-5). Both the prophet Isaiah [who foresaw it in a vision], and Jeremiah [his successor, who was there in person], wept over the destruction of Jerusalem (Isa. 22:4 & Lam. 3:49-51). Then the walls of Judah’s capital city were broken down (Isa. 22:5 & 2 Kng. 25:4).
Next, we read of events not recorded in the historical books of the Old Testament, but which surely happened during the siege of Jerusalem: The valleys were full of enemy chariots (Isa. 22:6-7). The apostate leaders of Jerusalem didn’t look to YHWH for protection, but relied on their own warriors and weapons for defense (vv. 8-11). They diverted the water supply to keep it from the enemy (9 & 11). Houses were torn down “to fortify the wall” (10). When they should have been fasting and seeking YHWH’s mercy, the people feasted with a fatalistic attitude instead (12-13). Nothing could stop God’s judgment against Judah’s flagrant and habitual sins (14).
The last part of the chapter focuses on a particular employee of the royal family—a steward by the name of Shebna. He had apparently become a little too self-impressed, cutting out a tomb for himself among the kings (15-16). YHWH vowed to remove the proud man from his office and violently seize and “toss” him into a foreign country (17-18).
In place of Shebna, the Lord promised to promote a man with a proper servant heart—Eliakim the son of Hilkiah (20). The new man would be clothed in his predecessor’s robe and belt and have Shebna’s responsibilities turned over to him (21). This humble servant would become a “father” to Jerusalem and Judah. With the “key of the house of David,” Eliakim would “open, and no one shall shut; …shut, and no one shall open”—thus exercising great authority (22).
This same prophecy was applied to Jesus in a vision to John the Beloved. In Revelation 3:7, to the leader of the church in Philadelphia, Christ identified Himself as “He who has the key of David, He who opens and no one shuts, and shuts and no one opens.” As a reward for the people’s perseverance, Jesus said He had set before them an open door of opportunity (v. 8).
In figurative language God compared Eliakim to a peg in the wall on which a homeowner would hang all his valuables (Isa. 22:23-24). The hope of Hilkiah’s house would hang on this son, but YHWH would allow Eliakim to be cut down, as well—along with all the authority and treasure under his care (v. 25). And, of course, we know that all of the riches of Judea’s kings was hauled away, along with Zedekiah’s administrative staff, to King Nebuchadnezzar.
Isaiah Chapter 23
This chapter describes the destruction of Tyre—one of the great trade centers of the ancient Middle East. The merchant city would be “laid waste, so that there is no house, no harbor,” and all the sea-faring tradesmen would mourn the loss of this marketplace for the nations (Isa. 23:1-3). Tarshish [perhaps modern-day Spain?], Sidon and Egypt, especially, would be distressed (vv. 1-5). Merchants of this island fortress lived like royalty and were respected the world over (8).
YHWH brought calamity upon Tyre as part of His campaign “to bring to dishonor the pride of all glory, to bring into contempt all the honorable of the earth” (9). He also “shook the kingdoms” and commanded the destruction of every stronghold in Canaan (11). Isaiah named the Chaldeans as agents of Tyre’s destruction and the exile of her people (12-13). For 70 years Tyre would be desolate and forgotten, and then she’d be rebuilt to resume her trade and “fornication with all the kingdoms of the world…” (15-17). However, the profits Tyre earned from what Isaiah called her “harlotry” would not remain her own; but would feed and clothe the faithful servants of YHWH (18).
Isaiah Chapter 24
Worldwide disaster was prophesied in this chapter. It starts out saying, “The Lord is going to turn the earth into a desolate wasteland. He will mar the face of the earth and scatter the people living on it” (Isa. 24:1, GW). There was to be no distinction among persons—everyone would suffer the same fate (v. 2). Earth would mourn; the arrogant would languish—all because the world’s inhabitants defiled the land when they broke God’s laws and brought a curse upon it (4-6). In Isaiah’s vision, everyone was made desolate, men were burned, and few survivors remained.
Everything that makes mankind happy was to be taken away—including wine, music and song (7-9). “The city of confusion” [most likely Jerusalem] would be destroyed and people would be locked out of their homes (10-12). The once abundant population would be reduced to a number resembling the gleanings of produce left after the harvest of olives or grapes (13). Then people would cry out to God and even sing His praises (14-16).
Yet, Isaiah says, “I am ruined, ruined! Woe to me!” because treacherous individuals had defrauded and betrayed him (16). The prophet says things would go from bad to worse for the inhabitants of the earth, as YHWH violently shook it to its very foundations (17-20). He would especially punish those in authority, shutting the exalted in prison (20-22). Then the glory of the sun and moon will seem like nothing in comparison to YHWH Sabaoth, who will reign gloriously in Jerusalem (23).
Isaiah Chapter 25
In this chapter, Isaiah broke out in a psalm of praise. He started, “O Lord, You are my God. I will exalt You, I will praise Your name, for You have done wonderful things; Your counsels of old are faithfulness and truth” (Isa. 25:1). Considering how YHWH had overthrown foreign capitals and permanently devastated them, the prophet couldn’t help but think even folks from strong and terrible nations would be impressed and glorify the Lord (vv. 2-3).
Isaiah praised God for looking out for the poor and needy and sheltering people through the storms of life (4). He silences the threats of hostile invaders and prepares a banquet for everyone who fears Him (5-6).
In verse 7 Isaiah promised God would “destroy on this mountain” the veil/blanket covering the faces of all the people. 2 Corinthians 3:12-18 talks about a veil that blinded the eyes and kept the hearts of unbelieving Jews from understanding the Word of God. Non-Jews, as well, “walk, in the futility of their mind…alienated from the life of God” through ignorance caused by spiritual blindness (Eph, 4:17-18). A day was coming when all of that would be ripped away at Golgotha, where Jesus was crucified.
Isaiah 25:8 contains even more good news that began at Calvary and will culminate in heaven: “He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth…” (See also 1 Cor. 15:54 & Rev. 21:4). Everyone will celebrate how the long-awaited salvation of God has come at last (Isa. 25:9)!
The prophet then foretold how YHWH would defeat Moab and demolish their pride (vv. 10-11). Their cunning schemes and their fortified walls would offer no help to this nation that defied YHWH and His people (12).
Isaiah Chapter 26
This chapter continues with its anticipation of good things for the land of Judah. God would strengthen His holy city with “salvation for walls and bulwarks” (Isa. 26:1). Only the righteous who live by His truth would be allowed to enter its gates (v. 2). Revelation 22:14 says this will certainly be the case with the New Jerusalem that comes down from heaven.
I love Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep the man in perfect peace whose mind is kept on You, because he trusts in You” (New Life Version). Knowing God looked after those who trust in Him, the prophet urged his readers to “Trust in the Lord forever,” since “everlasting strength” is available in YHWH (v. 4). He takes what is high and lofty and lays it low to be trampled under the feet of the poor and needy (5-6). The most righteous Person in the universe weighs the course of the righteous (7). Those who wait for God to judge—who desire, remember and seek Him day and night—will learn what is right (8-9). YHWH will establish peace for them and do what they cannot do for themselves (12).
In contrast, those who are bent toward evil will not learn or do what is right, even if they are given grace (10). They can’t see our majestic God at work or appreciate what He does, because they are consumed with envy (11).
Isaiah was reminded of the nations that God allowed to have dominion over them in times past (13). He also noted that they were dead and gone, hardly remembered by those they once dominated (14). Through cycles of expansion and humiliation, YHWH taught the children of Israel to rely on Him (15-16). When they labored in their own strength, the Jews “brought forth wind” and could not deliver themselves or anyone who relied on them (17-18).
Here in the Old Testament is hope for resurrection. “Your dead shall live; together with my dead body they shall arise. Awake and sing, you who dwell in dust…the earth shall cast out the dead” (19). The chapter concludes by advising people to hide for a while from the trouble that was coming (20). Nevertheless, it promised YHWH would eventually emerge and “punish the people of the earth for their sins,” not allowing the blood of the slain to remain concealed any longer (Isa. 26:21, NIV). The God of justice always sets things right.
Isaiah Chapter 27
Continuing this imagery of an avenging God, chapter 27 starts with YHWH wielding “His severe sword, great and strong” against a creature referred to as Leviathan, a fleeing and twisted serpent (Isa. 27:1). Five times in the Old Testament, this sea monster is mentioned.
In Job 41, YHWH Himself describes Leviathan as a mighty beast, that no one could capture or tame (vv. 1-5). You wouldn’t find it on the menu at a banquet, since its hide was impenetrable to spears, harpoons, swords, arrows or stones (6-7, 26-29). The beast was too fierce for any man to handle and struck fear into those who saw it or heard its crashing (8-10, 25). Its legs were strong, its skin thick and heavily armored, and its teeth sharp (11-17, 30). This was none other than the legendary dragon, breathing fire and smoke, causing the deep waters it inhabited to “boil like a pot” (18-21, 31-32). Leviathan was characterized as hard-hearted, fearless and proud (24, 33-34). Its Creator alone was strong enough to defeat this fearsome creature (10-11), as Psalm 74:13-14 and 104:24-32 also tell us.
Who or what this creature represented we are not told, for the prophet went on to speak of a vineyard of red grapes that YHWH tends, watering and protecting it (Isa. 27:2-3). He said thorns and briars were no match for God, who was able to march through them and burn them up (v. 4). It was better to make peace with God and rely on His strength than to resist Him (5). He anticipated a day when the nation of Israel would take root, blossom, bud and produce enough fruit to fill the world (6).
However punishment was coming against God’s vineyard, like a violent windstorm (7-8). Israel’s sin would be taken care of; its pagan idols and altars reduced to dust and ashes (9). Once fortified cities would be deserted; untended animals would feed on its vines (10). Its withered boughs would be burned as fuel for the fire (11). The God who made these ignorant and uncooperative people would have no mercy on them. They’d be beaten down from one end of Israel to the other (12).
The chapter ends with a positive note, however. Eventually God would blow His trumpet and gather his people scattered from Assyria to Egypt to “worship the Lord in the holy mount at Jerusalem” (13).
Isaiah Chapter 28
This chapter addresses the sins of Ephraim, the Northern Kingdom of Israel. The break-away nation was compared to a “fading flower” and her drunken rulers were threatened with sudden, overwhelming destruction (Isa. 28:1-4). God planned to replace its “crown of pride” (vv. 1 & 3)—the corrupt and rebellious kings of Israel—with a perfect Ruler, Himself—referred to as “a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty to the remnant of His people” (5). He wanted to give “a spirit of justice” to the magistrates and strength to the soldiers who defended their cities (6).
YHWH said the nation’s judges, priests and prophets “have erred through intoxicating drink” and were incapable of handing down wise rulings or counsel (7). According to Old Testament Law, priests were not allowed to drink while on duty, so they would not only conduct themselves in the way that was holy, but they would also be able to teach others to do the same (Lev. 10:8-11). Kings and others in authority were advised not to touch alcoholic beverages, “Lest they drink and forget the law, and pervert the justice of all the afflicted” (Prov. 31:4-5). God was disgusted with the banqueting tables of these leaders, which were covered with vomit and filth (Isa. 28:8).
The leaders had become so childish and simple-minded, YHWH had to spell things out in the most elementary way and only a little at a time (vv. 9-10). Some modern Christian educators and spiritual leaders consider this a model of discipleship, quoting verse 10: “precept upon precept,…line upon line, here a little, there a little.” Yet God was making the point that this was not His preferred method of training people in righteousness! It would take the halting speech of foreigners to get God’s truth into their thick heads (11). The Apostle Paul quoted Isaiah 28:11 in 1 Corinthians 14:20-22, explaining that tongues was a sign for the immature and unbelievers—not for the faithful. This fits both the context of that passage and here in Isaiah’s rebuke of the stubborn and unbelieving Jews.
The Lord tried to instruct His people in how to gain spiritual rest and refreshing, “yet they would not hear” (Isa. 28:12). Some people will not learn through anything but hard experience, so He left them in their ignorance, “That they might go and fall backward, and be broken and snared and caught” (v. 13).
The men of Judah and Jerusalem, God said, had made a bargain with death and the grave and thought they could thereby escape judgment (14-15). YHWH said, “Your covenant with death will be annulled, and your agreement with Sheol will not stand” (18). Instead, they’d be trampled by the “overflowing scourge” He was sending their way. Daily news of the impending attacks alone would be terrifying (19). The lies with which they insulated themselves from guilt would be swept away (15 & 17).
In verses 16-17, the Lord used the symbolism of masonry to describe the coming Messiah: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation… I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line” (NIV). In Romans 9:33, the Apostle Paul quoted this passage and Isaiah 8:14, referring to Jesus as the stone that men stumbled over. He is our measuring stick, the standard to which men are compared and found lacking, unless they align themselves with Christ.
YHWH said He would rise up and take action, as He did with David and Joshua in defeating Israel’s enemies at Mt. Perazim and the Valley of Gibeon (c.f.—Isa. 28:21, 2 Sam. 5:17-25 & Josh. 10:1-15). He warned the men of Judah not to be mockers, “lest your bonds be made strong,” for their awesome God had determined to bring destruction to the whole earth (Isa. 28:22). Isaiah told the Jews to pay attention and hear what he had to say (v. 23). Just as YHWH had taught them all good farming practices, so His counsel was wonderful and His guidance excellent (24-29).
Isaiah Chapter 29
While the previous chapter focused on the Northern Kingdom of Israel, this chapter turns our attention to the South. Referring to Jerusalem and Judah as Ariel [which means “lion of God”], the Lord warned of coming distress, heaviness and sorrow, due to a siege He would send against them (Isa. 29:1-3). They would be “brought down,” until they were whispering “out of the dust” (v. 4). Not only would YHWH bring an innumerable multitude “like fine dust” against the capital of Judah, but He would also punish them with thunder, earthquake, a violent storm and fire (5-6). In an instant the enemies of Judah would appear and attempt to devour them, but they would not be satisfied (5b & 7-8).
The prophet said God’s people were blind, drunken and staggering—but not under the influence of alcohol (9). “For the Lord has poured out on you the spirit of deep sleep…” (10). He had cut off vision and reason by neutralizing their prophets and diviners. The word of YHWH was as inaccessible to them as a scroll that was sealed, so it couldn’t be read, or like a letter taken to a man who was illiterate (11-12). The best the Jews could muster was lip-service to God, devotion passed on second-hand through a list of do’s and don’ts (13). It would take a fresh manifestation of the Lord’s presence to this new generation to convince them of His glory (14).
YHWH confronted those who thought they could hide their thoughts and actions from Him (15). Using the example of a pot and its potter, He added that the thing that is created has no business rejecting its Creator (16).
Ever merciful, God did promise a day when life and productivity would be restored (17). Revelation and healing would come, as well: “In that day the deaf shall hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity and out of darkness” (18). The humble and poor would rejoice in YHWH after He cut off the trouble-makers from the land (19-21). The shame of their forefathers would be erased, as the Lord taught the children of Israel to fear Him and corrected those in error (22-24).
Isaiah Chapter 30
Ten chapters after His last mention of Egypt, the Lord confronted the Jews for relying on these fallible allies. “Woe to the rebellious children,” says the Lord, “Who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, that they may add sin to sin” (Isa. 30:1). He faulted them for trusting in Pharaoh and his armies to protect Judah, rather than relying on their God (v. 2). Therefore, He promised to make His people ashamed for trusting in mere men, who couldn’t help them (3 & 5-6). God gave Egypt a prophetic name, which means “Rahab sits idle” to show just how useless Judah’s trust in that nation would be (7). Rahab, of course, would call to mind the concubine from Egypt who bore Ishmael to Abraham and caused the family so much trouble (See Genesis 16 & 21:1-21).
YHWH instructed Isaiah to write down a message as a permanent record for future reference for His people (Isa. 30:8). He called Judah “a rebellious people, lying children…who will not hear the law of the Lord” and forbade His prophets from confronting them with their sin (vv. 9-11). Because they refused to listen to God and trusted perversion instead, YHWH promised sudden and devastating destruction against His people (12-14).
God wanted Israel to rely on Him, so they could be blessed. He said, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (15). They didn’t even have to do anything—just repent and trust God, and then He’d do the work! That sounds a lot like the Gospel.
But, no, they were ‘men of action.’ Scared as they were of the enemies around them, Judah was more inclined to jump on their horses and gallop away as fast as they could. So God told them they would flee alright, but their pursuers would come after them. They’d be so fearful that a thousand would retreat in front of one attacker, and even a force of just five men would make them run in terror (16-17)!
Meanwhile, YHWH would patiently wait for Judah to come back, so He could be gracious and have mercy on them. “For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him” (18). He told them they He would again let them dwell in Jerusalem and they would weep no more. He would hear their cries, answer, and be kind to His people (19). After they suffered a little, He would give them faithful teachers to keep them on track (20-21). Then they would throw away their idols and trust in YHWH alone (22).
With His people relying on Him instead of false gods, the Lord would bless them with rain and make their land and livestock productive again. There would be streams in abundance and plenty of light. YHWH would bind their bruises and heal their wounds (23-26). He would get rid of Judah’s enemy, Assyria, with fire from His mouth to consume their army (27-28 & 30-33). Then Israel would celebrate with music and gladness (29). This sounds like what happened in 2 Kings 19:35, when the Lord wiped out 185,000 of Sennecherib’s forces in one night.
Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help,
And rely on horses,
Who trust in chariots because they are many,
And in horsemen because they are very strong,
But who do not look to the Holy One of Israel,
Nor seek the Lord! (Isa. 31:1).
The Jews were acting like almost any other person: They were trusting in things they could see and touch, rather than putting their faith in the God they couldn’t see. In order to redirect their faith, the Lord planned to defeat the Egyptian army (vv. 2-3). He was going to come, like a lion roaring over its prey or birds flying over their nest, and defend Jerusalem Himself (4-5). Assyria’s defeat would so obviously be of God and not men that, not only would the surviving soldiers flee from Him, but Israel would throw away their man-made idols (6-9).
Isaiah Chapter 32
This chapter starts out with a word of Messianic hope and encouragement: “Behold, a king will reign in righteousness, and princes will rule with justice” (Isaiah 32:1). All the people of Israel and Judah had experienced for some time was a lot of self-serving rulers, with the occasional man on the throne and administrators beneath him who had a conscience. This fellow would be different. In fact, verse 2 says, this man would be like a shelter from severe weather.
During His reign, “The eyes of those who see will not be dim, and the ears of those who hear will listen,” those who tend to act rashly will “understand knowledge,” and people with speech impediments will be able to speak clearly (vv. 3-4). Moreover, the wicked will be exposed for who they really are (5-7), while generous men and women will stand (8). Most likely this prophecy will not be fulfilled in its entirety until the Millennial Reign of Christ, when the saints rule under Jesus, and Satan will not be able to interfere with humanity for a thousand years (See Revelation 20:1-4).
In Isaiah 32:9, the prophet shifted gears a bit. Addressing the “women at ease” and “complacent daughters” of Judah, he warned that, in a little over a year, these wealthy women would mourn for failed crops and desolate cities (vv. 9-14). Only when “the Spirit is poured upon us from on high” would the land become incredibly productive once again (15). The prophet made a connection between right living and the ability to enjoy peace and quiet in the land, even in the midst of disaster (16-19). He proclaimed blessing over those who planted crops near water sources and let their animals range freely (20).
Isaiah Chapter 33
In this country, we have a saying: “What goes around comes around.” Isaiah said something similar in the first verse of this chapter—that plunderers would be plundered and those who dealt treacherously would have the same things done to them (Isa. 33:1). Isaiah anticipated a day when Israel’s wait for God’s grace and salvation would be over (v. 2). When He lifts Himself up, hostile nations will scatter and everything they stole from God’s people will be recovered (3-4).
The prophet broke out in a little chorus of praise in verses 5-6:
The Lord is exalted, for He dwells on high;
He has filled Zion with justice and righteousness.
Wisdom and knowledge will be the stability of your times,
And the strength of salvation;
The fear of the Lord is His treasure.
He talked again of mourning, desolate highways, abandoned cities and languishing land (7-9). But he said YHWH will arise and devour the wicked with fire, making sinners and hypocrites afraid (10-14). In contrast, those who walk righteously, refuse to oppress or distort justice and have nothing to do with evil “will dwell on high,” with God’s protection and provision (15-16). Their “eyes will see the King in His beauty,” as well as the land which was [at that time] “very far off” (17). [Could this refer to the New Jerusalem, currently in heaven (Rev. 21:2)?] Then there would be no reason to fear invasion or domination by foreigners (Isa. 33:18-19).
Next, the holy city of the Jews is described as “a quiet home,” an everlasting tabernacle that can’t be dismantled (v. 20). There YHWH will live as Judge, Lawgiver and King in the midst of a land with abundant rivers and streams (21-22). He will give victory to the handicapped, remove sickness and forgive sin (23-24).
Isaiah Chapter 34
Isaiah told the nations to pay attention, as he described a scene of their bloody, decaying bodies on the mountains, when YHWH acts in fury against invading armies (Isa. 34:1-3). Even the hosts/armies of heaven will melt, the skies will be rolled up like a scroll, and the stars will fall like autumn leaves with the heat of God’s anger (v. 4).
Something very similar is described by John in Revelation 6:12-14, when Christ breaks the sixth seal on the scroll of God’s judgment. Every human being on this planet will react in terror, as God shakes the heavens and the earth in anger for all the rebellion of the nations against Him (vv. 15-17).
The prophet saw YHWH emerge triumphant from battle, with a sword covered in blood and fatty tissue from “a great slaughter in the land of Edom” (Isa. 34:5-7). He said the land and rivers of Israel’s rival would become burning pitch in the day of the Lord’s vengeance (vv. 8-9). The land of Edom will be a smoking ruin, uninhabited by humans, but covered with noxious weeds and possessed by wild animals and birds forever (10-17).
Why would God do such a thing to a nation of people descended from Abraham and Isaac? Because they opposed the Lord’s chosen people, would not forgive, and constantly supported the enemies of Israel (c.f.—Psa. 137:7, Eze. 25:12-14, Am. 1:11).
This prophecy has yet to be fulfilled, since the contemporary nation of Jordan exists where the descendants of Esau once lived. It is horrible to think of an entire country full of men, women, children and animals being slaughtered and their land being so badly ruined by bombs or volcanic activity that no humans will be able to live there forever afterward.
Isaiah Chapter 35
Again, Isaiah looked forward to a brighter future. “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom” (Isaiah 35:1, NIV). Everything would rejoice with joy and singing, upon seeing the glory and excellence of God (v. 2). He said to strengthen the weak and encourage the fearful with the knowledge that “God will come with vengeance…and save you” (3-4). At this time, God will heal the blind, deaf, lame and mute (5-6a). He will abundantly hydrate the thirsty land with fresh water and cause plenty of vegetation to grow (6b-7).
There will be a special highway, protected from wild animals and unclean people. It will be a road just for the righteous, leading straight to Zion, where “they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away” (Isaiah 35:8-10, ESV).
There was an upbeat worship song based on this passage written by Ruth Lake in 1972. To see the lyrics and hear the melody of “Therefore the Redeemed,” go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8PGbIsMJj44. This You Tube clip features a cute animated video and a recording by the Maranatha! Vocal Band.
Isaiah Chapter 36
Isaiah 36 and 37 closely parallel the events of 2 Kings 18-19 and 2 Chronicles 32. Following his invasion of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, King Sennacherib of Assyria set his sights on Judea, as well (c.f.—2 Kng. 18:9-13). Even after Hezekiah, king of Judah, raided his treasuries to pay the sum Sennacherib demanded, the Assyrian monarch continued his attack on Judah’s fortified cities and appeared to be heading toward Jerusalem to add Hezekiah’s kingdom to his long list of conquests (2 Kng. 18:14-16 & 2 Chr. 32:1).
Isaiah informs us that all of this took place in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah’s reign (Isa. 36:1). While Sennacherib was busy besieging the walled city of Lachish southwest of Jerusalem, he sent some of his chief of staff to Judah’s capital city to launch an intimidation campaign and persuade the Jews to surrender. The highest ranking official among the Assyrian envoys was especially vocal. He called out to Hezekiah’s men, and the Jewish king sent his top-ranking officers: Eliakim, the household manager; Shebna, the scribe; and Joah, the recorder (vv. 1-3).
The Rabshakeh, or governor, referred to his master, Sennacherib, as “the great king”—a title biblically reserved for the Messiah (Isa. 36:4, 2 Kng. 18:19 & Psa. 48:1-2). He asked what the people were relying on to save them. Assuming Hezekiah, like Hoshea of Israel, had sent envoys to Egypt, the Rabshakeh called Pharaoh a “broken reed” and an unreliable staff for anyone to lean on (c.f.—2 Kng. 17:4 & 18:19-21; Isa. 36:4-6). Years later, through the prophet Ezekiel, YHWH said something very similar to the nation of Egypt for causing injury to Israel when they relied on this fickle ally (Eze. 29:6-7).
Then the trash-talking Assyrian said, “But if you say to me, ‘We trust in the Lord our God,’ is it not He whose high places and whose altars Hezekiah has taken away…?” (Isa. 36:7). In his mind, this polytheist could not conceive of one God who desired to be worshiped in one place. Hezekiah’s reforms seemed to him an affront to any self-respecting deity who delighted in his people’s widespread adulation.
The spokesman offered to give the Jewish army 2,000 horses—“if you are able on your part to put riders on them!” (v. 8). Continuing his taunts, the man said that, even with reinforcements from Egypt, Judah could not “repel one captain of the least of [his] master’s servants” (9). Then he laid the nonsense down even thicker, claiming YHWH Himself had told the Assyrians to conquer and destroy the Southern Kingdom (10)!
At this point, Hezekiah’s three representatives requested that the blasphemous boaster speak in the trade language, Aramaic, rather than their native Hebrew, so the men on the wall wouldn’t have to listen (11). To this, the vain Rabshakeh replied that the soldiers of Hezekiah had a right to hear, since they would soon be reduced to consuming their own dung and urine (12). He shouted in the Judean tongue, so all could understand, urging the soldiers not to be deceived by their king into trusting Hezekiah or YHWH (13-15). Instead, he advised them to make peace with the king of Assyria through a present, so that they would be able to enjoy their own land for a season, before Sennacherib deported them “to a land like your own” (16-17).
Some consolation! They could live a life of slavery in a foreign land, or die in their own. To the Rabshakeh, it made perfect sense, since none of the gods of the other nations Assyria had defeated had delivered them (18-20). Why should he expect the God of the Jews to be any different?
The Hebrews had to be both scared and insulted. Nevertheless, in keeping with Hezekiah’s orders, the men answered the Assyrian not a word (21). With their clothes torn in grief and humiliation, Eliakim, Shebna and Joah reported the Rabshakeh’s words to their king (22).
Isaiah Chapter 37
Hearing the awful news, King Hezekiah likewise “tore his clothes, covered himself with sackcloth, and went into the house of the Lord” (Isa. 37:1). He sent two of these men, plus the senior priests, in similar attire to Isaiah the prophet (v. 2). In the king’s behalf they appealed to the man of God to petition YHWH not to let this blasphemy slide, but to take action for the remnant of His people (3-5).
Isaiah assured the king and his messengers that there was no reason to fear. God would send a spirit upon the Assyrian king, and let him “hear a rumor and return to his own land;” where YHWH would “cause him to fall by the sword” (6-7).
Meanwhile, the Rabshakeh went back to find his king had moved the Assyrian troops to Libnah, just north of Lachish. Sennacherib had heard the Ethiopians were coming to fight him [There’s that rumor YHWH had foretold]. Therefore, he dispatched another messenger to Jerusalem, further comparing Judah to other defeated kingdoms and warning that Hezekiah and his God would wind up no better than them (8-13).
This time, Hezekiah took the hateful letter into the house of the Lord and spread it out for God to see (14). He acknowledged YHWH Sabaoth’s greatness and that He had made heaven and earth (15-16). He asked the Lord to take notice of what Sennacherib had said about YHWH (17). Although he agreed that the Assyrians had “laid waste all the nations and their lands,” and burned their gods, he recognized that they were man-made idols nothing like the living God he served (18-19). Then the king appealed to YHWH to save his people from Sennacherib, “so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God” (Isa. 37:20, NIV).
In response, the Lord sent another message through Isaiah to assure King Hezekiah that He was aware of Sennacherib’s boasting, his pride and his self-reliance. Even though YHWH had created and commissioned the Assyrian king to demolish pagan cities, making other kingdoms defenseless before him, the Lord was going to send this rebellious king back where he belonged (vv. 21-29). He said Jerusalem would laugh at Sennacherib (22). The “remnant who have escaped of the house of Judah” would eat the volunteer produce of their land for two years and then enjoy what they planted and cultivated in the third, until YHWH reestablished them in their country (30-32). For the sake of His reputation and His promise to King David, the Lord was not only not going to let the Assyrian army invade or enter Jerusalem, but YHWH Himself would defend it and turn the Assyrians back (33-35).
Sure enough, the Lord sent His destroying angel and killed 185,000 of Sennacherib’s troops in one night (Isa. 37:36, 2 Chr. 32:21 & 2 Kng. 19:35)! This fulfilled both Isaiah’s prophecy to Hezekiah and several earlier declarations concerning Assyria given before the fall of Samaria (Isa. 10:5-19, 14:24-25 & 30:27-33). Having returned in utter disgrace to his own country, the Assyrian monarch was assassinated by two of his sons—ironically, while Sennacherib “was worshiping in the temple of his god Nisroch”—after which another son took his throne (Isa. 37:38, NIV). Not only did the Lord protect His people, but He punished the arrogant Assyrians for assuming they and their gods were greater than the Jews and YHWH.
Isaiah Chapter 38
Soon after this remarkable victory, King Hezekiah became deathly ill. God sent Isaiah to tell him, “Set your house in order,” since this illness was fatal (Isaiah 38:1). Hezekiah was so disappointed and distressed, that as soon as the prophet left, he “turned his face toward the wall, and prayed to the Lord,” reminding God with bitter tears of his loyalty and faithful service and how he had done what was good (vv. 2-3).
Immediately, YHWH responded and told Isaiah to go back and tell the king that he was giving him fifteen more years to live (4-5). Furthermore, He added, “I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria, and I will defend this city” (6). And to prove His word, the Lord made the shadow of the royal sundial go ten degrees backward—a feat that must’ve required a reversal of the earth’s rotation or some other miraculous intervention to perform (7-8)! What love this must have expressed to the Judean king! (You may read the parallel account of this incident in 2 Kings 20:1-11.)
Following his recovery, King Hezekiah wrote a poem or song to commemorate the occasion (Isa. 38:9). He complained that he was being “deprived of the remainder of my years” in the prime of his life, and that he would not experience Yah (a shortened form of YHWH) any longer “in the land of the living” (vv. 10-11). He compared his life to a shepherd’s tent or a rug prematurely cut from its loom (12). God seemed to him “like a lion” that broke all his bones and left him mourning like a dove (13-14a). Referring to his prayer, Hezekiah said, “My eyes fail from looking upward. O Lord, I am oppressed; undertake for me!” (14b).
Then the king fast-forwarded to God’s response: “He has both spoken to me, and He Himself has done it” (15). He promised himself and God, “I will walk humbly all my years because of this anguish of my soul” (Isa. 38:15, NIV). He rejoiced that God had restored him and let him live (v. 16). He saw this time of suffering as a good thing that resulted not only in his physical well-being, but also his peace, “For You have cast all my sins behind Your back” (17). Hezekiah did not believe the dead were capable of praising the Lord as he now did, and as he intended to do for the rest of his life (18-20).
I am not sure what disease had struck King Hezekiah. Perhaps it was a cancer of some sort, because it involved a festering boil. Isaiah 38:21 tells us that the prophet prescribed a poultice of figs to apply to the affected area. Something about this simple medicine must have dried up the boil, removed the infection, or something that made the king better. Verse 22 adds that the king had asked for a sign from God that he would recover.
Isaiah Chapter 39
This is one of the saddest chapters in the Bible, because it shows how even a man who tries to follow God can miss the point of what the Lord is doing and fall into the sin of pride.
I think the ancient Middle East must have been a lot like a small town—it didn’t take long for everyone to know everybody else’s business. Consequently, word of the miraculous healing of Hezekiah soon reached as far as Babylon—no doubt, because this star-gazing society made inquiries about the miraculous sign in the heavens, just as they later did in Jesus’ day.
Isaiah 39:1 says, “At that time Merodach-Baladan the son of Baladan, king of Babylon, sent letters and a present to Hezekiah, for he heard that he had been sick and had recovered.” Merodach-Baladan was the self-proclaimed ruler of Babylonia from about 722-710 B.C. Sargon II re-established Assyrian sovereignty over the province and drove out the would-be king. Not long after the death of Sargon, Merodach-Baladan reinstated his rule over Babylon. Many historians believe this show of magnanimity on Merodach-Baladan’s part was an effort to form an alliance with King Hezekiah against the Assyrians, who dominated the then-known world.
Isaiah tells us King Hezekiah was pleased with Merodach-Baladan’s envoys, and showed them all of his treasures and his armory. The second verse of this chapter tells us, “There was nothing in his house or in all his dominion that Hezekiah did not show them.”
On the surface, there would seem to be nothing wrong with this. When you have company, you open your home to your guests and give them a tour of the best sites in the area. We display our national treasures in public museums. So why wouldn’t Hezekiah do something similar? Apparently it wasn’t so much what the king did, as how he did it. He wasn’t glorifying God; he was showing off.
How do we know this? Isaiah 39:3-4 tells us that God sent His prophet to check up on the king. He asked where the visitors had come from and what had been discussed between them and the king. Hezekiah told Isaiah truthfully what had transpired between them, identifying the envoys as visitors “from a far country.”
Imagine the king’s surprise when Isaiah rebuked him and warned, “the days are coming when all that is in your house, and what your fathers have accumulated until this day, shall be carried to Babylon; nothing shall be left” (vv. 5-7). He added that some of Hezekiah’s own descendants would “be eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”
This prophecy was fulfilled just four generations later, when Nebuchadnezzar carried away the treasures of Jerusalem and took members of the royal family as captives to Babylon. Daniel 1:1-7 tells us specifically that four young men—Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah—were added to the king’s eunuchs after the Babylonians defeated Hezekiah’s great-great-grandson, Jehoiakim, king of Judah.
Hezekiah’s response, however, leaves much to be desired. Instead of being sorry for his sin and asking God to change this verdict, verse 8 tells us, “Hezekiah said to Isaiah, ‘The word of the Lord which you have spoken is good!’” What? How could he think that losing everything to the Babylonians was okay? Especially the part about his descendants being enslaved and emasculated? The last verse of this chapter gives us the answer. Hezekiah thought to himself, “At least there will be peace and truth in my days” (See also 2 Kings 20:19).
What a disappointment! Here was this king who had done so much good and enjoyed so much blessing, but when God left him to himself to see what he would do with his extraordinary fame and fortune, King Hezekiah failed the test (See 2 Chronicles 32:31). He thought only of himself and failed to make use of the opportunity to glorify God, instead.
I think there are a lot of people in this world who wind up like Hezekiah. God bestows upon some individuals great wealth, talents, influence and other blessings. We may become so focused on what the Lord has given, that we miss the point of why we have been blessed. If we are not careful to guard our hearts, we may become so full of ourselves that we mishandle opportunities to put the focus on the Lord, where it belongs. We get to thinking, “God has blessed me, therefore I must be someone great,” instead of realizing God blesses us to make us a blessing and a light to others.
I recently read an article by author, scientist, teacher and Christian apologist, Ken Ham, that put this all in beautiful perspective. In “Needed Today: Hezekiah Reformers” from the April 1, 2015, edition of Answers magazine [See https://answersingenesis.org/bible-characters/needed-today-hezekiah-reformers/], Ham said, “We need Hezekiah-type reformers today. But we need to understand the sober lessons from Hezekiah’s life, which God put in His word for our learning.” As we remember it is God who works in and through and around us to accomplish great things—not we ourselves—then He will be glorified and our world will be transformed. Moreover, we will care enough about those who must follow after us to pass that knowledge on to them, so they can enjoy His blessings, as well.
Isaiah Chapter 40
If you have ever heard a performance of Handel’s Messiah, you will surely recognize part of this next chapter. While Handel wrote the music for this famous oratorio, Charles Jennens wrote the libretto—the lyrics—frequently quoting verbatim from the King James Version of the Bible. The song, “Comfort Ye,” is a musical rendition of Isaiah 40:1-5. For a wonderful rendition of the song on You Tube, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8dDjva1ecYo. You may see the words at http://opera.stanford.edu/iu/libretti/messiah.htm.
After all the bad news that God’s people were hearing about invaders, their own sins and their consequences, etc., the Lord apparently felt like they needed some encouragement. He told Isaiah to comfort His people, to cry out to Jerusalem that her warfare was ended and her iniquity was pardoned (vv. 1-2a). When we read the second part of verse 2, it seems rather harsh to hear that Judah’s capital had “received from the Lord’s hand…double for all her sins.” However, God was not saying He made the Jews suffer twice as much as they deserved. Quite the opposite.
I once heard a preacher explain that this was a figure of speech taken from an Old Testament custom. As Ray Stedman explains in his daily devotional for February 15, entitled, “True Comfort” [c.f.—http://www.raystedman.org/daily-devotions/isaiah/true-comfort]:
Most definitely, the Lord signified that this Debt-payer was coming in the following verses. He foretold of “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord…’” (3). All four of the Gospels tell us that this is a reference to John the Baptist, who prepared the nation of Israel to receive her Messiah, Jesus (Matthew 3:1-3, Mark 1:2-5, Luke 3:2-6 & John 1:19-23). At that time, the valleys were not raised up, nor were the mountains and hills flattened; neither were any roads rerouted or resurfaced for the Lord to walk upon (Isa. 40:4-5). However, I believe the Bible talks about just such a thing happening before the second coming of Christ (See Revelation 16:18-20). Thereafter is when Isaiah 40:5 will be fulfilled: “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together…”
Verse six was meant to put the arrogant in his place. In verses 6-7 a heavenly voice told Isaiah,
“All flesh is grass,
And all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
The grass withers, the flower fades,
Because the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.”
In contrast, verse 8 tells us, “the word of our God stands forever.”
Returning to the good news, YHWH told His messenger to “Get up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, you who bring good tidings, lift up your voice with strength…” (v. 9). In other words, the Lord said to boldly shout from the highest vantage point that God was coming with strength to rule and reward those who trust in Him (10). Again, this prophecy has not yet been fulfilled, but will be when Christ comes to reign on the earth (Rev. 20:4-6).
I love the imagery in the next verse: “He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those who are with young.” (Isa. 40:11). In addition to Handel’s rendition of this scripture, “He Shall Feed His Flock” [which you can listen to at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-bAXm-A3Ls], there is a beautiful scripture song based on this passage that we used to sing in church years ago. Entitled simply, “Shepherd’s Song,” this lovely chorus was released in 1978 by the Maranatha! Singers in their Praise III album. You may listen to or purchase an mp3 of the song at http://worshipsong.com/songs/songdetails/shepherd-s-song.
Jesus referred to Himself as a Good Shepherd who would care for His sheep. In John 10:1-16, He said that not only would He lead His sheep, but He would lay down His life for them; they would recognize His voice, and gladly follow Him.
Again, God put His people in their place by reminding them of His great power in Isaiah 40:12-17. He asked, “Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, measured heaven with a span [i.e.—the width of his hand], and calculated the dust of the earth in a measure?” God talked about weighing mountains and hills on a simple balance scale, as well (v. 12). If you have read 1 Corinthians 2:16, you may recognize Isaiah 40:13—“Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or as His counselor has taught Him?” The Lord indicates He needed no one to teach him the knowledge or wisdom of the universe, nor how to administer justice (v. 14). To the Creator of the worlds, “the nations are as a drop in a bucket,” not even as weighty as the dust on a scale (15). All the livestock in the nation of Lebanon would not make a decent burnt offering to Him (16). And all the nations combined “are as nothing”!
In the next several verses, YHWH challenged His people to compare Him to other so-called deities. “To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him?” (18). He described how idols were made from precious metals or wood (19-20). And then He went back to reminding the people of how much greater He was than these lifeless images.
In verse 21, He asked “Have you not known? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning?” From its beginning as a nation, Israel knew that YHWH was the Creator and Sustainer of the earth. Verse 22 tells us from God’s vantage point high “above the circle of the earth,…its inhabitants are like grasshoppers.” Stretching out the heavens required no more effort to Him than hanging a curtain or setting up a tent!
God’s authority is emphasized in verses 23-24, which claim, “He brings the princes to nothing; He makes the judges of the earth useless.” The Lord plants them, lets them grow for a while, and then obliterates them.
Again, YHWH asked, “To whom then will you liken Me, or to whom shall I be equal?” (25). Then He directed them to consider the stars and how He leads them like a flock, tells them where to go, and makes sure “not one is missing” out of all the millions in the heavens (26).
The application for all of this comes in the final verses of the chapter. “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel: ‘My way is hidden from the Lord, and my just claim is passed over by my God’?” (27) God just demonstrated that He keeps track of the stars in the heavens, that He watches over the earth. How would He not be aware of what was going on with His people? Again, we see the rhetorical questions: “Don’t you know? Haven’t you heard? El Olam, Yahweh, the Creator of the ends of the earth, doesn’t grow tired or become weary…” (Isaiah 40:28a, Names of God Bible). The Everlasting God is not going to nod off and lose track of us. He is not going to get tired of looking after His people and let them get into trouble. We may not always know what He is up to (v. 28b), but we definitely ought to be able to figure out He’s smarter than we are!
Here is the comforting part: “He gives power to the weak, and to those who have no might He increases strength” (29). Even though young men in their prime get tired and weary and stumble (30), God is going to look after those who expectantly look to Him for help. No doubt, you have seen the last verse of this chapter on inspirational posters, plaques and paintings:
But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.
According to Isaiah 40:31, God is not going to let you down. He will give you the strength and endurance to stick it out for the long haul. Those who rely on YHWH don’t just survive; they overcome and thrive!
Isaiah Chapter 41
YHWH continued His message of comfort in chapter 41. He called the Gentile nations to be still and listen up, and then gave them the opportunity to speak (Isaiah 41:1). Still establishing His authority over the inhabitants of the earth, the Lord asked, “Who raised up one from the east? …Who gave the nations before him, and made him rule over kings?” (v. 2). The insinuation is that God determined who was the victor and who experienced defeat in every battle (2-3).
In verse 4, God revealed His eternal nature, saying, “Who has done such mighty deeds, summoning each new generation from the beginning of time? It is I, the Lord, the First and the Last. I alone am He” (Isaiah 41:4, NLT). From the beginning of time, YHWH has interacted with each generation of men, calling them to Himself for fellowship.
Cultists who deny the deity of Christ would do well to note the Lord’s title in the second half of that verse. Like Jesus later did in Revelation 1:11 and 22:13, YHWH identified Himself here as “the First and the Last.”
In the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, the word for first in Isaiah 41:4 is protos, which means “first,” or “beginning.” The word for last is eperchomena, which means, “overtaking/arriving/impending/upcoming.” John the Beloved heard Jesus use the words protos and eschatos to refer to Himself in Revelation 1:11 and 22:13. That second Greek word means “ending,” or “last.” Although the second word is different in each passage, its meaning is similar.
Together these words tell us God has always been and will be. The idea is that every other being has been created and every other deity has been dreamed up sometime within those two end caps of the beginning and end of all things.
Isaiah 41:5 talks of distant nations being afraid, and yet they chose to rely on each other, instead of God. They commissioned the construction of newer and better gods to worship—idols that had to be formed with hammers and fastened with pegs, so they wouldn’t fall down (vv. 6-7)!
In contrast, YHWH talks about the nation of Israel. The Israelites were descendants of God’s servant, Jacob, and His friend, Abraham (8). He had taken his chosen people “from the ends of the earth,” and had steadfastly cared for them (9). The Lord promised both His presence and his help to Israel, twice providing the word-picture of His strong hand holding them up, as a man would support a struggling companion (10 & 13).
Anyone who was enraged at Israel would be put to shame, and anyone who dared to strike them would be put to death—wiped out of existence by God Himself (11-12). Now, it is not very complimentary that God referred to Jacob as a worm, but it is comforting to know that He promised the Israelites His help (14a-b). YHWH referred to Himself as Qadosh Yisrael—the Holy One of Israel. He identified Himself as their Kinsman Redeemer—a close relative who would pay another’s debt, ransom them out of slavery, and restore them to their ancestral property.
Moreover, God promised strength and productivity in the land, saying,
“Behold, I will make you into a new threshing sledge with sharp teeth;
You shall thresh the mountains and beat them small,
And make the hills like chaff.
You shall winnow them, the wind shall carry them away,
And the whirlwind shall scatter them;
You shall rejoice in the Lord,
And glory in the Holy One of Israel.” (15-16)
This passage has also been interpreted to figuratively refer to gaining victory over the nations that defeated them, or the obstacles that stood in their way. Either way, they would know that God had helped them and would give Him the glory and honor He deserved.
YHWH promised to quench the thirst of the poor and needy, by creating springs, rivers and pools in unlikely places (17-18). When they found various types of trees growing in the desert, the people would know God alone could have planted them there (19-20).
To the idols Israel and surrounding nations worshiped, YHWH issued a challenge to prove they were worthy of comparison. He dared them to foretell the future—to do anything good or ill—to show their power (21-23). Knowing such a simple test was impossible, He scoffed, “Indeed you are nothing, and your work is nothing; he who chooses you is an abomination” (24). Sadly, there was no one among these man-made gods able to declare or do anything worth listening to (26). There was no messenger of good news for the idolaters (27). The final verses of this chapter inform us,
…I looked among them, but there was no counselor,
Who, when I asked of them, could answer a word.
Indeed they are all worthless;
Their works are nothing;
Their molded images are wind and confusion. (28-29)
Isaiah Chapter 42
The first few verses of this chapter continue YHWH’s encouragement with a description of Messiah. Isaiah 42:1 says, “Here is my servant, whom I support. Here is my chosen one, with whom I am pleased. I have put my Spirit on him. He will bring justice to the nations.” (GW) Looking at that verse alone, you could imagine God was talking about any righteous government official. But Matthew 12:15-21 holds the key. Quoting Isaiah 42:1-4, the Gospel writer informs us that the prophet was referring to Jesus, who did not want people to make a fuss over Him while he was performing miracles of healing and deliverance. Unlike many televangelists today, Jesus did “not cry out, nor raise His voice, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street” (v. 2). He went about, despite opposition, turning people back to God’s truth and justice.
YHWH, who identified Himself as the One who created the heavens and the earth and gave life and spirits to its inhabitants, said He had called His Servant in righteousness, would hold His hand, and give Him “as a covenant to the people, as a light to the Gentiles” (5-6). This man would “open blind eyes,” and release those in darkness and prison (7). Jesus not only fulfilled this promise by making the blind to see, but He cast out demonic spirits wherever He went. He ministered not only to the Jews, but men and women from other nations, as well.
Then the Lord returned to His theme of comparing Himself to idols. Powerful people would do well to remember verse 8: “I am the Lord, that is My name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to carved images.” God isn’t just talking about the evil of idolatry—people worshiping man-made gods. He is also warning that no one should be overly impressed by human beings. I don’t think He likes it when we idolize musicians, actors or political leaders, saying how wonderful they are. Never give a prominent religious leader undue praise, either, because God alone deserves our awe and reverence. Anyone who truly represents the Lord will be sure all our attention is directed to Him and not themselves.
The Lord reminded the Jews of how He frequently informed them in advance of what He was going to do (9). Isaiah urged sailors and desert-dwellers, mountain men and others to “Sing to the Lord a new song, and His praise from the ends of the earth,” giving glory to YHWH (10-12). God is described first as a “mighty man” or warrior, shouting as He defeats His enemies, and then as a woman in labor, crying, panting and gasping with the effort of giving birth (13-14).
He promised to “lay waste the mountains and hills, and dry up all their vegetation;” and dry up all the pools of fresh water (15). Those who were genuinely blind God said He would lead on unfamiliar paths and “make darkness light before them” (16). But those who trusted in idols, calling them gods, He considered spiritually deaf and blind (17-18). He talked about His servant/messenger being blind and deaf, as well, helping others see and hear, but not being able to help Himself (19-20).
This reminds me of statues of “Lady Justice,” often mounted outside of courthouses. Borrowed from the Roman goddess of justice, Justitia, she is frequently portrayed as a woman with flowing robes, holding a sword and scale and wearing a blindfold. This represents “Blind Justice,” the judicial theory that law should be viewed objectively with the determination of innocence or guilt made without bias or prejudice. Like YHWH, Jesus never regarded a person by their outward appearance or station in life, but looked at his/her heart.
Why would the Lord need to establish His own agent of justice in Israel? As occurs in every society over time, the perfect Law of God had been perverted. People no longer honored it, but robbed, plundered, imprisoned and preyed upon one another (21-22). There were no longer any magistrates to deliver the weak from the strong, nor require them to restore what they had taken. God wondered who would be willing to pay attention to this injustice (23).
Isaiah realized God Himself had allowed all of this because of Israel’s sins against Him (24). Their disrespect and disobedience of His righteous Law had brought down on them “the fury of His anger” in the form of constant conflict. Like a drugged or drunken man caught in a house on fire, the nation was burning down around them, and they were completely unaware and unconcerned (25).
Isaiah Chapter 43
Whenever I read these next several verses, I am always reminded of a scripture song we used to sing years ago. “Fear Not For I Have Redeemed Thee” was written in 1968 by Alex Burns. I wish I could find an mp3 for you to listen to; but the words, taken almost directly from Isaiah 43:1-3a in the King James Version, go something like this:
Fear not: for I have redeemed thee,
I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine.
When thou passest through the waters,
I will be with thee.
When thou passest through the rivers,
they shall not overflow thee:
when thou walkest through the fire,
thou shalt not be burned;
neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.
For I am the Lord thy God.
A more recent rendition, “Fear Not, For I Have Redeemed You,” by Esther Mui, is quite lovely, as well. You can listen to this song at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MN7CiQm7I5A.
The sense of these verses in scripture and song is that God goes with His chosen people and will not allow any harm to come to those who fear and serve Him. Moreover, the Lord assured Israel that He, their Savior, had given Egypt and other North African nations as ransom for His chosen people, because they were precious in His sight and He loved them (vv. 3b-4).
Again, He urged His people not to fear, for He was with them. God promised to bring Israel’s descendants back from every cardinal direction—all the way to the “ends of the earth—everyone who is called by My name, whom I have created for My glory” (5-7).
The Hebrew word, rachoq—translated variously as “ends,” “distant corners” and “far away”—can refer not only to space, but to time. This means God planned to bring the children of Israel back from great distances on the earth, but also into the future, including the last days of the planet’s existence. We saw this prophecy fulfilled after the decree of Cyrus invited exiled Jews to return and rebuild their temple (See 2 Chronicles 36:22-23 & Ezra 1:1-4). More recently, in the 20th century, Jews from all over the world gathered in the Holy Land after World War II. So, we see both aspects of the meaning of that Hebrew word have come to pass.
In Isaiah 43:8, the prophet returned to the subject of spiritual blindness and deafness, commanding that those who were blind, though they had eyes, and “the deaf who have ears” should be brought before the Lord. In a sort of international tribunal, He proposed that “all the nations be gathered together, and let the people be assembled” to testify concerning their perspective on the truth (v. 9).
Devout Jews and God’s Servant would be His witnesses, affirming YHWH is God. “Before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me” (10). There is no Savior but Him alone (11). YHWH only saves and proclaims the destiny of nations (12). He existed before time, and no one can intervene when He acts (13).
YHWH, their Redeemer, “The Holy One of Israel,” promised the day was coming when Babylon would become fugitives (14). Israel’s Creator and King, “who makes a way in the sea, and a path through the mighty waters,” decreed that the chariots, horses and armies of Chaldea would “lie down together,” and not rise—“extinguished,…quenched like a wick” (16-17).
Contrary to His usual counsel, YHWH said, “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing…” (18-19a). He promised to make roads in the wilderness and springs in the desert to water man and beast, so that both would honor and praise Him (19b-21).
The Lord faulted His people for failing to call upon Him, weary of their Maker (22). They had discontinued their burnt offerings and sacrifices, and He had not demanded grain offerings or incense (23). God complained to His people that, instead of pleasing sacrifices, “you have burdened Me with your sins, you have wearied Me with your iniquities” (24). Nevertheless, YHWH had blotted them out for His own sake, refusing to remember His people’s sins (25).
God challenged the Hebrews, “State your case, that you may be acquitted,” but then reminded them of the history of their ancestors’ sins and the sins of their priests (26-27). This was His justification for profaning “the princes of the sanctuary” and giving His people over to curses and reproaches (28).
Isaiah Chapter 44
God’s comforting words continue in the first part of this chapter. The Lord assured His chosen people, “Thus says the LORD who made you, and formed you from the womb, who will help you: ‘Fear not…’” (Isaiah 44:1-2). He promised to pour water on the thirsty and fill coming generations with His Spirit (v. 4). They would be as prolific as grass and willows by freshwater streams and identify themselves by the names of their ancestor Jacob/Israel and their God, YHWH (4-5). This would seem to indicate that the descendants of those reading Isaiah’s message would “own” their faith and have a personal relationship with the Lord. Oh, that we might claim the same for our children!
Again, YHWH identified Himself as “the LORD, the King of Israel, and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts…the First and the Last;” and then He added, “Besides Me there is no God” (6). He dared other deities to proclaim the future as He does, knowing there was no one capable (7). Then YHWH called His people as witnesses that there was no God, “no other Rock,” that they knew of (8).
Isaiah revisited the subject of idolatry, yet again, saying, “Those who make an image, all of them are useless, and their precious things shall not profit” (9). Their carved or molded images were incapable of seeing or knowing anything. “Who,” he marveled, “would form a god or mold an image that profits him nothing?” (10). Isaiah thought they all should be ashamed of themselves for doing such a silly thing (11).
The prophet carefully described the process by which an idol of metal or wood was made: The blacksmith heated metal over coals, and then grasped it with tongs to hammer it out. He got hungry, tired and thirsty as he performed his work (12). A craftsman measured, marked, planed and carved out something resembling a man (13). His medium was cedar, cypress or oak, which he planted, watered and cut down from the forest (14). Isaiah found humor in the fact that the same tree which someone might use to fuel a fire for warmth or cooking would be used to make a god to worship (15-17). How foolish to pray to something you have made and expect it to save you!
“They do not know nor understand;” Isaiah observed, “For He has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand” (18). It simply did not occur to idolaters to consider the fact that they had burned half of the tree to cook, and the rest to form “an abomination”—that they were, indeed, falling down to worship a mere “block of wood” (19)! “He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has turned him aside; and he cannot deliver his soul,” (20). So deluded are those who worship man-made gods, that they do not even realize they are serving a lie.
In contrast, YHWH formed the children of Israel and would not forget them, though they forgot their God (21) He covered their sins like a cloud and urged them to return to the One who had redeemed them (22). Everything from the heavens to the mountains, the trees and the lowest parts of the earth, were invited to praise the Lord with shouts and singing for redeeming Israel and glorifying Himself through them (23).
YHWH next disclosed—over 100 years before it happened—how He was going to use a pagan prince to rebuild the city of Jerusalem and its temple and repatriate Judah. In the last few verses of this chapter, Isaiah reminded the Jews that YHWH made them and everything that exists, that He confounds the predictions of false prophets, and “confirms the word of His servant” (24-26). So when He said Jerusalem would be rebuilt and inhabited, the cities of Judah rebuilt and repopulated, and the foundation of the temple laid, they could certainly count on His ability to bring those promises to pass (26 & 28). Cyrus of Persia—a man not even born, in a country that would not be a world-class player for decades—was the agent God named who would “perform all my pleasure.”
Isaiah Chapter 45
Why the individual responsible for inserting chapters and verses chose to divide the next several verses from the few before, I do not know. For here, the prophet continued his description of the man God intended to empower to dominate the ancient Middle-east. YHWH said He would take Cyrus by the hand and help him to subdue nations and kings, tearing down their fortresses (Isaiah 45:1-2). He promised the future monarch, “I will give you the treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places, that you may know that I, the LORD, Who call you by your name, am the God of Israel” (v. 3). Even though Cyrus did not even know YHWH, He planned to use and bless this foreign king (4-5)! He wanted Cyrus and everyone else to recognize that He alone was God, creating light and darkness, good circumstances and bad (6-7). He intended to rain down salvation and righteousness on all the inhabitants of the earth (8).
In case anyone should object to this choice, YHWH compared Himself, again, to a potter, and humanity to clay pots. He said “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’” (Isaiah 45:9, NIV). In other words, how can something that is made question the skill or the intellect of the One who fashioned it? He also compared the situation to a child asking his/her parents what they thought they were doing conceiving and bringing him/her forth (v. 10). Reminding the Jews that He was “the Holy One of Israel,” Maker and Ruler of the heavens, the earth, and everyone and everything within them, YHWH said, “Concerning things to come, do you question me about my children, or give me orders about the work of my hands?” (11-12).
The point is, God had every right to do what He pleased for the sake of His name and His people. He would raise up and direct King Cyrus, so that he would order the rebuilding of the holy city and set God’s exiled people free. Interestingly enough, all this would not be for any personal gain on Cyrus’ part (13). Moreover, God promised resources and slave laborers to accomplish His ends—Egyptians, Cushites and Sabeans, who would come to Israel in chains and bow down to them, acknowledging YHWH as the only God (14).
The prophet broke out in spontaneous praise, saying, “Truly you are a God who hides himself, O God and Savior of Israel” (15). He said those who made idols would be “put to shame and disgraced…” (16). In contrast, “Israel will be saved by the LORD with an everlasting salvation; you will never be put to shame or disgraced, to ages everlasting” (17).
YHWH is a purposeful God. He made the heavens and the earth—not to be empty, but inhabited (18). He didn’t speak in secret or ask Jacob’s descendants to seek Him in vain; He spoke what was true and right (19). He extended an invitation to idolaters who prayed “to gods that cannot save” to assemble together, to realize He alone was God, and turn to Him for salvation (20-22). Next comes the promise made regarding Jesus, according to the Apostle Paul in Romans 14:11 and Philippians 2:10—“To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance” (Isaiah 45:23, ESV). He added that people would affirm that in YHWH alone are righteousness and strength (24a). Those who contended with the Lord would be ashamed, while the Israelites would be justified and glorify their God (24b-25).
Isaiah Chapter 46
In this chapter, YHWH contrasted the gods of Babylon to Himself. He pointed out how the worshipers of Bel and Nebo had to carry their idols and set them in place, while He had carried the children of Israel since their birth (Isaiah 46:1, 3 & 7). The gods of Babylon would be powerless to deliver themselves or their devotees from captivity, but the Lord delivers and saves those who trust in Him (vv. 2 & 4). Chaldean gods were made of gold and silver by men, while YHWH created mankind (4 & 6). How can there be any comparison between the omnipotent Creator and Sustainer of the universe and the impotent idols of men (5 & 7)?
YHWH is unequaled; “declaring the end from the beginning,” He does whatever pleases Him (9-10). Whatever He speaks, He brings to pass; whatever He determines, He does (11). He called those who executed His judgment; He would also establish His righteousness and bring salvation to Zion (11 & 13).
Isaiah Chapter 47
In this chapter, Babylon is personified as a young woman. Bereft of her royal position, she would be made to grind meal (Isaiah 47:1-2). She would be stripped of her finery and displayed for the nations, naked and ashamed, just as God had previously exposed His people (vv. 2-3). In this way, YHWH would take vengeance on Babylon for what she had done to Israel when, in anger, He turned His people over to her (3-6).
Babylon’s pride and self-assurance was her downfall. She convinced herself she would be a queen forever and would never suffer loss (7-8). But the Lord determined to inflict that very thing Babylon thought would not ever happen—all in one sweeping, unexpected instant (8-9 & 11).
How could this happen to the kingdom of Babylon, which had become so mighty and dwelt securely? And why would God afflict the agent which simply carried out His will? Because Babylon devoted herself to pleasure and relied on witchcraft and sorcery to achieve greatness. “For you have trusted in your wickedness;” God declared, “You have said, ‘No one sees me’; your wisdom and your knowledge have warped you…” (10). So deluded was this nation and her rulers, that they even went so far as to believe they were divine: “you have said in your heart, ‘I am, and there is no one else besides me.’”
By relying on the counsel of astrologers and fortune-tellers, Babylon had been corrupted by demonic wisdom, such as that described in James 3:14-16. But sorcery and demonic wisdom would not be able to save Babylon or her ‘wise men’ from what would come upon them (Isa. 47:12-13). God warned that the capital city and her advisors would “be as stubble, the fire shall burn them; they shall not deliver themselves from the power of the flame” of YHWH’s destruction (v. 14). Just as Babylon leveled Jerusalem, so the Lord would utterly destroy it, as well.
Isaiah Chapter 48
Next, the Lord directed His attention to His people. He confronted those who invoked the name of YHWH and identified themselves with His holy city, “but not in truth or righteousness” (Isaiah 48:1-2). He described them as obstinate, with necks as hard as iron and brows as brazen as bronze (v. 4). He had warned them in advance what He was doing, so they could not give credit to themselves or idols for knowing what was going to happen (3 & 5). God threw in some unexpected twists, as well, “For I knew that you were very treacherous, and were known as a rebel from birth” (Isa. 48:8, HCSB).
It was strictly for the sake of His own reputation that YHWH restrained His anger and didn’t completely wipe out His people (v. 9). He used affliction to refine and test them (10). He could not allow His holy name to be constantly ridiculed because of rebellious children, and He said, “I will not give my glory to another” (11).
YHWH referred to Himself as the First and the Last (12). Jesus identified Himself in the same way in Revelation 1:17 and 22:13. Contrary to what the cults believe, this reference clearly indicates that Christ was divine.
God reminded His people that He made the earth and heavens and commands them at will (Isaiah 48:13). By that same authority, He instructed His people and would execute His plan against Babylon (vv. 14-17). YHWH longed for His people to obey His commands, so that they could enjoy His blessings (17-19). He intended to restore joy and faith to His servants (20-21). But there will be no peace for the wicked (22).
Isaiah Chapter 49
The next several chapters contain multiple references to Israel’s coming Messiah. Contrary to what the Jews expected, God described their longed-for leader as a Servant sent to save His people. In the opening verse of this chapter, we read, “The Lord called me before I was born. He named me while I was in my mother’s womb” (Isaiah 49:1, HCSB). This was, indeed, fulfilled in Jesus Christ. In Luke1:26-33, the angel Gabriel told Mary she would conceive God’s Son and name Him Jesus. According to Matthew 1:18-21 the Lord’s messenger told Joseph to call Mary’s Son by that very same name.
Isaiah 49:2 says God made His Servant’s “mouth like a sharp sword.” Revelation 1:10-16 and 19:11-16 tells us the glorified Christ will appear with a sharp two-edged sword in His mouth. Isaiah 49:4-5 said God would be His strength and would reward His Servant. Verse six tells us He will be not only a Savior to Israel, but also a Light to the Gentiles, or non-Jewish nations. The next verse foretold that He would be despised and abhorred by the nations, but worshiped by kings and princes. He will “restore the earth” and bring release to prisoners (vv. 8-9). He will gather His people from every direction and satisfy them with good food and drink, offering shelter from the heat (9-12). Heaven, earth, and all God’s creation will sing for joy, when YHWH “has comforted His people, and will have mercy on His afflicted” (13).
In the rest of this chapter, God addressed and reassured Israel. In verse 14, Zion felt forsaken and forgotten by YHWH. But God replied that, although a nursing mother might possibly neglect her child, He will not (15).
I love the imagery of verse 16: “See, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands; your walls are continually before Me.” Not so very long ago (before the age of cell phones), if you wanted to remember something important, you wrote it on the palm of your hand. YHWH was telling Israel her capital city was so important, He carved it into His hand [the actual meaning of the Hebrew word, chaqaq]! For more on this see my blog from August 3, “Never Forgotten.”
The Lord told Jerusalem He was going to get rid of her oppressors and bring back the offspring of Israel from captivity—even more than she could contain (vv. 17-21). Royalty would care for the Hebrew children and carry them back to Zion, bowing before His representative (22-23). God would deliver His people even from the mighty and “contend with him who contends with you”—bringing upon the enemies of Israel what they had inflicted upon the Jews (24-26). His final statement in chapter 49 says, “All flesh shall know that I, the LORD, am your Savior, and your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob.”
Isaiah Chapter 50
Speaking to Israel as an abandoned woman, YHWH begins this chapter by asking, “Where is the certificate of your mother’s divorce, whom I have put away? Or which of My creditors is it to whom I have sold you?” (Isaiah 50:1). In ancient times, it was not uncommon to sell one’s family members to pay off a large debt. Of course, God didn’t owe anyone a thing that He would need to sell off His children as slaves. Instead, He answered Himself in the second half of verse 1, “For your iniquities you have sold yourselves, and for your transgressions your mother has been put away.” In other words, it wasn’t the Lord’s fault that Israel was taken captive; it was theirs.
In the books of Exodus through Deuteronomy, Israel was revealed as the bride of YHWH. In the prophetic books, God described the nation’s constant unfaithfulness to her Husband in pursuing other gods. So YHWH ‘divorced’ Israel and sent her away to another land. She sold herself into slavery by prostituting herself to pagan nations. Yet, the Lord God, whose power could dry up great bodies of water and blacken the heavens, was able to save and deliver His rejected bride (vv. 2-3).
Again we hear from YHWH’s Servant: “The Sovereign Lord has given me his words of wisdom, so that I know how to comfort the weary…” (Isaiah 50:4, NLT). Jesus definitely demonstrated wisdom beyond His years, when He discussed Scripture with the religious leaders at the tender age of twelve (Luke 2:46-47)! And He always had just the right comeback to the Jewish experts or a word of encouragement for the downtrodden, when He was an adult.
In Isaiah 50:5, we read that this wise, attentive Servant “was not rebellious.” He says, “I gave My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting” (v. 6). Jesus endured just such rejection and abuse at the hands of His own people before the crucifixion. In Matthew 26:67 and 27:26 & 30, as well as Mark 14:65 and 15:15 & 19, we read how officers under the Sanhedrin and Pilate’s guard beat, scourged, mocked and spit upon the Lord without Him raising one objection or resisting in any way. Instead, Jesus entrusted Himself to His Father, whom He knew was able to help and would justify His Servant in the end (c.f.—Isaiah 50:7-9 & Hebrews 5:5-8).
Finally, to those who fear God in the midst of their suffering, YHWH urges, “let him trust in the name of the LORD and rely upon his God” (Isa. 50:10). As for those who walk in the light of their own fire and depend on the revelation of self-made gods, He says, “This you shall have from My hand: You shall lie down in torment” (v. 11). It is better to follow the Lord and listen to His Son, Jesus, than to turn to any other source of inspiration or power!
Isaiah Chapter 51
In this chapter, Isaiah urged the faithful among his people to listen, as he recalled the origins of Israel and revealed how God intended to restore them (Isaiah 51:1-2). He said, “YHWH will comfort Zion” and restore the desert land surrounding it to a lush and vibrant condition (v. 3). As a result, “Joy and gladness will be found in it, thanksgiving and the voice of melody.”
In righteousness, the Lord will again judge the people of the earth. Other nations will trust in Him (4-5). God intends to wipe out the existing earth and heavens and all their inhabitants, “But My salvation will be forever, and My righteousness will not be abolished” (6). Interestingly, the word, yeshuah is used for salvation in that verse. It is where we get the name, Joshua. It can mean salvation, prosperity, help, health, welfare or deliverance.
The idea that God is going to destroy the world as we know it, and then start over again is found throughout the Scriptures. See, for example, the New Testament passages of Matthew 24:35, Hebrews 1:10-12, and Revelation 20:11 & 21:1. In many of these instances, the Lord contrasted the temporary nature of His creation, versus the eternal quality of His nature or of His word. This gives us an idea of His permanence, His stability and His trustworthiness for those who rely on Him.
With that in mind, He urged those who know God’s word and His character not to fear men or their insults (Isa. 51:7). “For the moth will eat them up like a garment, and the worm will eat them like wool” (v. 8). But, again, He assures that His righteous character will outlast them all, and His salvation will endure to all generations.
Isaiah appealed to YHWH to rouse and arm Himself with strength, as in the days when He bested Egypt and led His people through the Red Sea (9-10). He looked ahead to the time when God’s people would return from captivity in Babylon “And come to Zion with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads. They shall obtain joy and gladness; sorrow and sighing shall flee away.” (11). This same statement appeared at the end of Isaiah 35, where the prophet was thinking along similar lines.
Back in the 70’s, when a lot of groups were putting Scripture to music, this passage was immortalized by the Maranatha! Singers. Click on the link for Isaiah 35:10 to see a You Tube video with the words and music.
YHWH was the only source of true comfort for His people, even though they had forgotten the One who made them, the sky and the earth (Isa. 51:12-13). They daily lived in fear of mortal men “because of the fury of the oppressor,” who was bent on their destruction. They worried about how they would get free and escape death, where they would get their next meal, etc. (vv. 13-14). Sound familiar? Yet the same God who divided the Red Sea for Israel before put His words in their mouths and covered them with His hand. The Founder of the Universe has claimed them as His people (15-16).
On a more somber note, Isaiah tried to awaken the nation that had “drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of His fury” (17). As a result of having drained that cup to the dregs, the prophet noted, “These two things have come to you…desolation and destruction, famine and sword” (19). But YHWH promised to remove the cup from their hands and force it on those who had afflicted and trampled His people (21-23). This same cup was mentioned by the prophet Jeremiah, who was later told to take it to those nations, bringing their destruction, death, conquest and madness (Jer. 25:15-29).
Isaiah Chapter 52
Like a woman released from slavery, God intended to awaken, strengthen and clothe His holy city with beautiful garments. No longer would “the uncircumcised and unclean” come to trample her streets (Isaiah 52:1). She would throw off the bonds of captivity from her neck (v. 2).
Again recounting Israel’s history, YHWH recalled her oppression by Egypt and Assyria (4). But now, He said, “You have sold yourselves for nothing, and you shall be redeemed without money” (3). Like so many of us today, Israel bartered her freedom for security, comfort and prosperity. She sold herself first into prostitution with idols, and then allied herself with nations that eventually failed to defend Israel. With no compensation for their services, God’s people were given over to Babylon, where they wailed under the oppression of their rulers, and the name of YHWH was constantly disrespected (5).
Therefore, the Lord was determined to reveal Himself as He truly is, so His people would know and revere Him again (6). YHWH would roll up His sleeves to “bare His holy arm in the sight of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth” would witness the salvation of Israel by their God (Isaiah 52:10, NIV). Then His people and their land would have reason to sing again, when He safely brought them back together (vv. 7-9). They would leave the land of their captivity—not in fear or haste—but with reverence and the security of God’s presence behind and before them (11-12).
A good example of the fulfillment of this passage is described in Ezra 8:21-23 & 31-32. Hebrew priests returning with treasures for the temple fasted and prayed before leaving Babylon for Jerusalem, and were not once harassed by robbers or enemies along the way!
Beginning with Isaiah 52:13, God described the One who would come to right every wrong in Israel: their Servant-Leader, Messiah Jesus. He would “deal prudently” and “be exalted and extolled,” highly regarded at first. Then, just as many people were astonished at how God dealt with His chosen nation, folks would be horrified at how horribly Christ’s appearance would be marred by His punishment (v. 14). Yet this suffering played a vital role in the sanctification of not only Israel, but many other nations, as well (15). Kings would one day consider the importance of this Man that they had not ever personally met.
Isaiah Chapter 53
Perhaps one of the great jewels of Gospel truth in the Old Testament, this chapter continues the description of Messiah by foretelling the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Isaiah rightly anticipated that no one would believe God’s Chosen One was who He said He was, because the Messiah would grow up among His countrymen like everyone else—and there would not be anything particularly attractive about Him (Isa. 53:1-2). In fact, Jesus was “despised and rejected by men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief”—someone more likely avoided and ignored than admired and followed (v. 3).
Because of what He went through, people considered Him “stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted” for something He had done—even though it was our grief and sickness He carried, our sins and transgressions for which Christ was wounded and beaten (4-5). The price for our peace and the scourging that secured our healing were paid by Him. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way;” so then God loaded all that guilt on Jesus’ back to take it away (6).
Our Lord was unjustly oppressed and afflicted, yet He didn’t utter a word of protest or defense (7). He was taken from prison to judgment; counted among the wicked at His execution and buried in a rich man’s tomb (8-9). All of this happened, even though “he had done nothing violent and had never spoken a lie” (Isaiah 53:9, GW)!
Why would a good and just God allow such a thing—condemning a righteous man to suffer? The next verse gives the answer: “the Lord makes his [the suffering Servant’s] life a guilt offering.” (Isaiah 53:10, NIV). Just as the Jews offered an innocent lamb or bull to temporarily cover their sin, God provided the only proper human sacrifice to permanently deal with sin—the sinless Man, in place of a spotless lamb.
When Jesus accomplished this mission, God raised Him from the dead. He let Him see the result of His suffering—the salvation of many souls—a holy seed sanctified by His blood (vv. 10-11). God promised to “divide Him a portion with the great” and grant Him success and satisfaction with the result of this labor of love, “because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12, NIV). What a mighty, magnificent Savior!
For a fantastic study on this important chapter of the Bible, I recommend Derek Prince’s little book, The Divine Exchange. Originally presented as a sermon, and then transcribed into written form, this message (based on Isaiah 53) goes verse-by-verse to explain what Jesus gave up to give us life, health and a total of ten other wonderful gifts at His expense. You may download a free PDF version by going to http://www.derekprince.org/Articles/1000132017/DPM_US/Contact/Divine_Exchange_form/The_Divine_Exchange.aspx. However, this is one of those resources you will want to refer to often and share with others, so I recommend you get it in hard copy at http://www.amazon.com/The-Divine-Exchange-Derek-Prince/dp/1901144011 or some other source.
Isaiah Chapter 54
What sweet words of encouragement Isaiah offered His people, once He envisioned the completed work of Christ! In this chapter, YHWH spoke to the Jewish nation as a jilted bride, a childless woman living in isolation and shame. His prophet wrote, “Sing, O barren, you who have not borne! Break forth into singing, and cry aloud,…For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman” (Isaiah 54:1). He told Zion to enlarge her home to accommodate new family members, “For you shall expand to the right and to the left, and your descendants will inherit the nations” (vv. 2-3).
Twice God said His people should not fear, because they would not again be put to shame. In fact, He said,
“you will forget the shame of your youth,
And will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore.
For your Maker is your husband….
For the Lord has called you
Like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit,
Like a youthful wife when you were refused” (4-6).
YHWH’s angry rejection of His unfaithful bride was just for a moment. But, now, “with great mercies,” and “everlasting kindness,” He means to gather her into His arms forever (7-8).
Just as the Lord made an everlasting covenant with Noah and his descendants never again to flood the entire earth, so He swore He would never again angrily rebuke His chosen people (9). He will remove the hills and mountains someday, but not His promise of kindness and peace (Isa. 54:10; see also Revelation 6:14 & 16:20).
Isaiah 54:11-12 says YHWH will adorn Jerusalem with colorful jewels—sapphires, rubies, crystal and precious stones. The Apostle John saw a vision of that very thing, when the Lord revealed the New Jerusalem coming down from heaven in Revelation 21:10-21.
God promised the children of Israel would be taught by YHWH and enjoy peace (Isa. 54:13). They would live in peace, no longer fearing oppression (vv. 13-14). Even though nations would assemble against His holy city, they would not do so under God’s direction, and would therefore fail (15). God created those who forged weapons, as well as those who wielded them, so He has authority over them all (16). In the final verse of this chapter, YHWH assured His people,
“No weapon formed against you shall prosper,
And every tongue which rises against you in judgment
You shall condemn.
This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord,
And their righteousness is from Me,” says the LORD.
Whether you are a Jew or a Gentile Christian, you can be sure that God will protect you against both physical and verbal volleys from your enemy. He will defend you in battle or in court, as you trust in Him to uphold your cause.
Isaiah Chapter 55
In the first verse of this chapter, God extended an invitation to His people to satisfy their hunger and thirst for free in Him (Isaiah 55:1). He asked, “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy?” (v. 2a).
That same question could be asked today. So much of what Americans eat and drink nowadays has no nutritional value whatsoever. And the gadgets and things we buy for ourselves do nothing to satisfy the hunger of our souls any more than synthetic food feeds our bodies!
In the second half of verse 2, YHWH urges, “Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and let your soul delight itself in abundance.” In the Hebrew, the word for abundance literally means fatness. God doesn’t want to just stop the rumble of our stomachs or the cravings of our hearts, He wants to give us more than enough!
The Lord promised Israel that, if they would come close and pay careful attention, He would give them life and make an everlasting covenant with them, like that which He made with King David (3). This would seem to be the covenant the Lord made with David in 2 Samuel 7:8-17 to establish Israel in their homeland and build David a house with one of his descendants to occupy the throne forever (See also Psalm 89:20-37 & Jeremiah 33:19-26). Acts 13:34 applies this Scripture to the risen Christ as the fulfillment of that covenant. When that happens, then He will serve as both a witness and a leader to the people, and other nations will be gathered to Israel because of the glory of the Holy One in their midst (Isa. 55:4-5).
The prophet encouraged everyone, “Seek the Lord while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near” (v. 6). The wicked are urged to turn away from evil thoughts and actions and return to God, who will be merciful and “abundantly pardon” (7).
I love these next few verses and will frequently remind myself of them when life serves up difficult circumstances:
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
So are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts.” (8-9).
As Larry Allen, one of our instructors at a Garden Valley, Texas, Youth With A Mission (YWAM) School Of Evangelism (SOE), said, “Our problem is that our brains fit inside our skulls, while God’s mind encompasses the entire universe.” We can only grasp what we can see, study and know through our finite minds and senses. God is aware of so much more and understands it all completely. When YHWH’s thoughts and actions don’t make sense, it’s because they are so far superior to ours—and, consequently, beyond our comprehension.
Verses 10-11 tell us that nothing God says is wasted. Just as the various forms of precipitation accomplish their mission to water the earth and bring food for us, so YHWH’s word will always accomplish the purpose for which it was uttered and bring about what He desires.
Just as YHWH promised, His people could count on the blessing He declared. “You shall go out with joy and be led out with peace” (v. 12a). Even mountains, hills, and trees will join in the celebration, as the curse of thorns and briers from Genesis 3:18 is reversed upon the return of God’s people (Isa. 55:12b-13).
There’s a lovely song, written in 1975 by Stuart Dauermann, featuring those last two verses. You can hear a cute kid’s choir singing “Trees of the Field” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pmmiFJtyuiU.
Isaiah Chapter 56
This is the first of a series of three chapters in Isaiah that compare the fate of the wicked with the well-being of those who fear God. The Lord told His people, “Keep justice, and do righteousness, for My salvation is about to come…” (Isa. 56:1).
It is interesting in verse 2 that there is a blessing for the person who “keeps from defiling the Sabbath.” A lot of Christians nowadays insist that, since the concept of Sabbath is part of the ‘old’ covenant, we are no longer obligated to keep it. Yet they have no qualms about the rest of the Ten Commandments. They point out that the New Testament doesn’t mention Sabbath-keeping, and that Jesus, in fact, seemed to be against it.
However, I suggest that the reason the Sabbath wasn’t mentioned much in the New Testament epistles is that Jewish believers had this concept down—it seems to be one of the few things they got right! And Gentile Christians observed The Lord’s Day (Revelation 1:10)—that is, Sunday—as their weekly day of rest and worship, in honor of Christ’s resurrection. Jesus would not contradict God’s word by teaching us not to keep the Sabbath. Instead, He objected to the hyper-legalistic rules the religious leaders of His day had attached to the Jews’ understanding of the weekly day of rest God made FOR man (Mark 2:27). If God Himself rested after seven days of work (Genesis 2:1-3), then who are we to think we should not do the same? I don’t think you need to be legalistic about what your seventh day should be, but you do need to designate one day a week for rest and worship.
I love how God opened wide the doors for all people to gain access to Him! In Isaiah 56:3, He assured the foreigner who had identified himself with YHWH not to feel like he could not be one of God’s people. Neither should an emasculated person think he is not valuable, because he can’t have children. Anyone who loves YHWH, obeys Him and does what pleases Him—keeping His Sabbaths holy and doing what is right—will be an honored member of God’s family (vv. 4-7).
The offerings of devout non-Jews will be accepted, God assured, “For My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations.” Jesus reinforced this idea during His ministry by reaching out to outcast Jews and non-Jews alike. Furthermore, He quoted this very verse, as He drove the money-changers and merchants out of the part of the temple that was designated for Gentile worshipers (Mark 11:15-17).
In contrast, to those of the house of Israel who had become greedy, lazy and debauched, God prophesied an ignoble death (Isaiah 56:9-12). He compared their leaders to inattentive shepherds or voiceless dogs who would not alert their flocks, but would allow wild beasts to devour them. Like so many people today, they were more concerned about their own personal profit and comfort than looking out for those under their care.
Isaiah Chapter 57
No doubt continuing His thoughts from the previous four verses, the Lord rebuked the people of Israel for their lack of concern that god-fearing individuals were disappearing (Isa. 57:1). He indicated that those who died in right-standing with Him were actually better off than the wicked, entering into peace and rest (v. 2).
Whether He meant it literally or figuratively, YHWH called idolaters in Israel “sons of the sorceress,” and “offspring of the adulterer and the harlot” (3). He confronted them for their disrespect, sin and falsehood (4). The prophet Isaiah graphically described how they worshiped false gods by “inflaming yourselves…under every green tree,” offering child sacrifices, and pouring out drink and grain offerings “among the smooth stones of the stream” (5-6). Their worship of false gods and alliances with pagan countries was portrayed as spiritual infidelity—an affair of the heart with foreign deities and dignitaries that offered them no real hope (7-10). Because Israel pretended devotion to God while fearing other gods, YHWH said He would leave them for their idols to deliver when they got into trouble (11-13a).
In contrast, the Lord assured, “But he who puts his trust in Me shall possess the land, and shall inherit My holy mountain” (13b). The High and Lofty, eternal and holy God promised to permanently reside with the person “who has a contrite and humble spirit” (15). He’s going to revive the hearts and spirits of those who are humble and beaten down. The Lord doesn’t remain angry or combative forever, because He knows we would never survive (16). He may strike us in anger for wanting what is not ours, but in mercy He will heal the backslider and restore “peace to him who is far off and to him who is near” (17-19).
While both Jew and Gentile, saint and sinner, who turn back to God can expect peace, “there is no peace…for the wicked” (21). He compared them to the troubled and restless sea—constantly dredging up trouble and leaving a residue of sin, like the mire cast up along the shoreline (20).
Isaiah Chapter 58
In this chapter, YHWH told His prophets to “cry aloud,” without holding back, “to tell My people their transgression” (Isa. 58:1). Sometimes we tell ourselves it’s better to keep quiet about people’s bad behavior—after all, we don’t want them to feel badly or be offended. God doesn’t worry about that. He is more concerned about exposing our wrong-doing, so it can be dealt with. Usually, we are to point out an issue privately, but other times—especially when sin is widespread, it has to be confronted publicly.
The Lord was disgusted with the way His people pretended to worship and ask for God’s direction—as if they really did and wanted what was right—when they had actually forsaken Him and His ways (v. 2). They didn’t understand why their fasts and prayers were not honored by God (3a). He pointed out that it was because they sought their own pleasure, exploited their workers, and pursued their own selfish ends the very same day they performed their religious exercises (3b-4). What good are pretentious rituals—all our bowing and scraping—when we have this sort of thing going on in our hearts (5)?
God then defined the fast He honored: “Loosen the chains of wickedness, untie the straps of the yoke, let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke” (Isaiah 58:6, GW). God is not nearly so impressed with our acts of piety as He is our genuine efforts to help ourselves and others get free from sin and oppression. He wants us to provide food and shelter for the poor among us (v. 7).
Then your light will break through like the dawn,
and you will heal quickly.
Your righteousness will go ahead of you,
and the glory of the Lord will guard you from behind.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer. (Isa. 58:8-9a, GW)
In other words, if you want God to hear you when you cry for help, then you should help others in need!
God wants us to stop making it hard for each other, pointing fingers in accusation and condemnation (v. 9b). Instead, we are admonished to pour out/extend/spend ourselves for the hungry and satisfy/fill up those who are bowed down/weak/afflicted/troubled (10). If we do that, then we will receive the guidance, satisfaction, strength and productivity we lack (11).
God said to the faithful Jews that He would raise up from among them those who would “build up the old waste places” and repair the foundations, walls and streets that had been broken down (12). He referred to a time when some Hebrews would literally return to rebuild Jerusalem; however, His words also speak to us today who are seeing our society in ruins, because of our hypocrisy and neglect of God’s standards. By abstaining from personal pursuits and putting our focus back on God for the Sabbath, we can again find YHWH delightful and enjoy the covenant blessings of our forefathers in the faith (13-14).
Isaiah Chapter 59
Human beings have a tendency to blame God when things go wrong. We are quick to stop believing in Him or thinking He has our well-being at heart when things don’t go our way. Things were no different in ancient Israel than they are now.
In the opening lines of this chapter, the Lord made it clear that Israel’s current afflictions were not the result of any inadequacy on His part. Isaiah 59:1-2 says,
The Lord is not too weak to save
or his ear too deaf to hear.
But your wrongs have separated you from your God,
and your sins have made him hide his face
so that he doesn’t hear you. (GW)
This verse in the Holman Christian Standard Bible says our iniquities “have built barriers” between us and God. In His book, The Walls of My Heart (http://www.ywampublishing.com/p-1245-walls-of-my-heart.aspx), Dr. Bruce Thompson compares our offenses to stones that build up over time, keeping us ‘safe’ from pain that can be caused by others, but separated from God. We get offended or feel unworthy, and we pull away from people and God. We do things our way, and try to protect ourselves from feeling hurt or rejected. Before long, we find ourselves isolated from both God and men.
That is the sort of thing we see going on here. The things Israel has said and done against God and each other had created barriers between themselves and YHWH (v. 3). There was no justice, just wicked schemes designed to get their own way (4). Their webs of intrigue couldn’t help them; they were like poisonous snakes in their dealings with one another (5-6). The Lord complained that the feet of His people “run to evil, and they make haste to shed innocent blood;” with wicked thoughts and unjust actions, there was no way they could find peace, but only ruin and destruction (7-8). They looked for illumination, but found only darkness, confusion death and misery (9-11).
Identifying with his countrymen, Isaiah confessed, “For our transgressions are multiplied before You, and our sins testify against us” (12). They had missed the mark, lied against YHWH, departed from God, planned rebellion and anarchy, and spoken falsehood (13). Therefore, Isaiah complained, “Justice is turned back, and righteousness stands far away; for truth has stumbled in the public squares, and uprightness cannot enter” (Isa. 59:14, ESV). To make matters worse, anyone who tried to do what was right made himself vulnerable to attack (v. 15a). Does this sound familiar?
God was fully aware of this state of affairs, “and it displeased Him” (15b). Shocked to find no man available to intervene for His people, YHWH took it upon Himself to do something to help out (16). “He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head;” vengeance was His robe, and zeal was His cloak (17). Thus clad, the Lord went to war against His enemies, striking fear in their hearts with His glorious presence (18-19). No wonder the Apostle Paul later described some of these same defensive weapons for spiritual warfare for believers who face demonic enemies (Ephesians 6:13-17)!
But a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those who turn away from sin (20). For those who turn to Him, YHWH promised His Spirit and His word would not depart from them or their descendants (21).
Isaiah Chapter 60
At last, the prophet got to switch from mostly bad news to good news for God’s people. In Isaiah 60:1, he began by saying, “Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.” He said darkness would cover the earth and all the other nations, but YHWH would shine His light and manifest His glory in Jerusalem (v. 2). People from all the nations will be attracted to the light of God’s glory (3). They will bring back the exiles to Jerusalem, along with gold, silver and incense for the temple, livestock for sacrifices and valuable lumber to panel the house of worship (4-13). Foreigners will rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, and those who oppressed the Jews will serve them (vv. 10, 12 & 14). The gates of the city will be constantly open to allow “the wealth of the Gentiles” to be brought in (Isa. 60:11; c.f.—Revelation 21:25-26).
YHWH indicated a complete turn-around was in store for the Hebrews. “Although you have been forsaken and hated, with no one traveling through, I will make you the everlasting pride and the joy of all generations” (Isaiah 60:15, NIV). He promised not only to enrich His people financially, but to give them godly government: “I will also make your officers peace, and your magistrates righteousness” (v. 17). There will no longer be violence or destruction within the borders of Israel (18). Looking to the Jerusalem to come, Isaiah declared [and John the Apostle confirmed] that there will be no more sun or moon to illuminate the city; “But the Lord will be to you an everlasting light, and your God your glory” (Isa. 60:19-20 & Rev. 21:23). God’s people will have no more cause for mourning, but will “inherit the land forever” (Isa. 60:20-21). The least among the descendants of Jacob will become a great company of people (v. 22).
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives…
To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn…
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness…
In Luke’s Gospel, we see that Jesus claimed this same mission as His own (Luke 4:16-21). But those among whom He grew up could not accept Him as any more than the carpenter’s son.
Echoing the assurances of Isaiah 58:12, the prophet said his people would rebuild the old ruins—not only of Jerusalem, but other cities left desolate in Israel (Isa. 61:4). Foreigners would tend their flocks and fields, allowing God’s people to serve as His priests (vv. 5-6). According to the Apostle Peter, we who have been added to the house of God through faith in Jesus Christ will share in this “holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God” and “proclaim the praises of Him who called [us] out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:5 & 9).
As He once did with Job, God intends to restore double to the people of Israel (Isa. 61:7). “Instead of your shame you shall have double honor, and instead of confusion they shall rejoice in their portion. Therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be theirs.” God promised to make an everlasting covenant with His people (v. 8). Their reputation as those blessed by YHWH will be acknowledged by people and nations far and wide (9).
Isaiah broke out in praise to the Lord, “For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation, He has covered me with the robe of righteousness” more glorious than a bride or groom in all their finery (10). He said YHWH Elohim “will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations” from His fruitful garden in Israel (11).
Isaiah Chapter 62
A faithful intercessor at heart, Isaiah committed himself not to hold his peace or rest, until God’s purposes for Jerusalem were accomplished (Isa. 62:1). He said the Gentiles would see her righteousness, burning brightly like a lamp (vv. 1-2). The city would be given a new name, a new identity, by YHWH Himself. The Lord Jesus promised something similar to those of us who overcome in Him: “And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written…” (Rev. 2:17). Jerusalem “shall also be a crown of glory in the hand of the Lord, and a royal diadem” (Isa. 62:3). She would no longer be called “Forsaken” or “Desolate,” but Hepzibah [meaning “My Delight Is in Her”] and Beulah [“Married”] (v. 4). God will rejoice over His holy city, as a bridegroom celebrates his love for his bride (5).
Revelation 21:2 describes the New Jerusalem in those very terms—saying the holy city would come “down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.” And to whom is this bride “arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright,” which is the “righteous acts of the saints” betrothed (Rev. 19:7-8)? She is the wife of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, adorned with the glory of God and shining with the brightness of pure, transparent gold and sparkling jewels in the very stones of her foundations (Rev. 21:9-21). This is the city in which God will dwell, and His light will illuminate it with irresistible glory (vv. 22-24).
In addition to Isaiah, the Lord said He’d set watchmen on the walls of Jerusalem, who will not keep silent until all God’s word comes to pass (Isa. 62:6a). Furthermore, He commands all “who make mention of the Lord” to “give Him no rest till He establishes and…makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth” (vv. 6b-7). If you love God, then you will love the holy city He loves, and pray for its restoration.
YHWH swore to no longer allow foreigners to consume the produce of His people (8). “But those who have gathered it shall eat it, and praise the LORD” (9). He commanded that the way be prepared for the return of His people (10). “Indeed the Lord has proclaimed to the end of the world: ‘Say to the daughter of Zion, “Surely your salvation is coming; behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him”’” (11). According to the final verse in this chapter, Jerusalem and its inhabitants will be identified as “the Holy People,” “Redeemed of YHWH,” “Sought Out,” and “a City Not Forsaken” (12).
Isaiah Chapter 63
As he came to a close in his book of prophecy, Isaiah flitted from one vision of the end of time to another. In Isaiah 63:1-6, he saw the Messiah coming from Edom, dressed in scarlet, with clothing dyed red from the blood of His enemies. The Lord said He had trampled the nations in His fury, as one tramples grapes in a wine press. With no one to help, Messiah said “My own arm brought salvation for Me.”
In verses 7-14, Isaiah praised YHWH for all the good He has done for the house of Israel—His kindness and mercy, His salvation, the way He lovingly redeemed and carried His people. However, “they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit,” inciting the Lord against them (v. 10), until finally they recalled what He had done in the past and longed for His intervention again. In verse 11, for example, he refers to the passage in Numbers 11:24-29, when YHWH put His Spirit on the elders in the camp.
In verses 15-19, the prophet urged God to “look down from heaven” and stir up that old compassion and zeal for His people. He called YHWH their Father and said, in comparison to God, their forefathers cared nothing for them (16). He asked why God had made them stray from His ways (17). They had been oppressed so long, it almost seemed as if Israel was never ruled by YHWH or called by His name.
Isaiah Chapter 64
Isaiah urged the Lord to “rend the heavens” and “come down” in a demonstration of power, “that the nations may tremble in Your presence” (Isa. 64:1-2). He longed for the days of old, when YHWH manifested His presence with earthquakes and fire, when God acted on behalf of those who feared Him (vv. 1-5).
In verses 5-7, the prophet admitted Israel’s sin and their need for salvation. “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags” (v. 6). What could be a more vivid picture of the shortcomings of a nation than to compare their best efforts at being good to a soiled menstrual pad! Like dry leaves on the wind, Israel had been carried away with sin. The prophet cried, “And there is no one who calls on Your name, who stirs himself up to take hold of You; for You have hidden Your face from us, and have consumed us because of our iniquities” (7).
The prophet again appealed to God’s fatherly affections (8a). He prayed, “We are the clay, and You our potter,” and urged Him to take pity on the works of His hands (8b-9). Foreseeing the desolation of Israel and the destruction of the temple, Isaiah pleaded with God to break off this punishment of His people for their sins (9-12).
Isaiah Chapter 65
In answer to Isaiah’s prayer in the previous chapter, the Lord replied that He was found by people who didn’t even know or seek Him and revealed Himself to those not called by His name (Isa. 65:1). Yet He actively pursued Israel, which rejected Him, walking in their own ways, worshiping idols, and doing other despicable things (vv. 2-5). The Apostle Paul referred to these verses in Romans 10:20-21, contrasting the open hearts of the Gentiles to the Gospel versus the rejection of the Jews. How could God keep quiet about such gross sin from those who knew better? God said He was determined to repay both Israel’s iniquities and those of their ancestors (Isa. 65:6-7). Yet our compassionate God could not destroy all of Israel; He preserved a few to inherit the land and repopulate it (vv. 8-10).
In the next several verses, Isaiah contrasted the fate of the wicked and the god-fearing. Those who worshiped Fortune and Destiny, ignoring God’s call and choosing evil, He vowed to destroy (11-12). His people He would satisfy; while the wicked were deprived (13). His servants would rejoice, but idolaters would suffer shame and grief (13-14). God will kill the wicked and leave their names as a curse, while those who serve YHWH will have a new name (15-16). Those who love the Lord will take oaths “by the God of truth; because the former troubles are forgotten and because they are hidden from [His] eyes.”
Then Isaiah fast-forwarded to the future. God said, “For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind” (17). Can you imagine a world so fantastic, you can’t even recall what existed before it? The New Jerusalem will be better than before, as well—filled with joy and devoid of any cause for weeping (18-19). People will live to be well over 100 and will enjoy their own homes and produce (20-22). They will no longer fear for their children’s future, since all will be blessed (23). God will be quick to hear His people’s call and respond—even before they finish speaking (24)! Predators and prey will feed in peace together, and “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain” (25).
Isaiah Chapter 66
In this final chapter of Isaiah, the Lord spoke tremendous comfort to His people. He said, “Heaven is My throne, and earth is My footstool,” so what house that man could build can possibly contain Him (Isa. 65:1)? Although He has made everything that is, God pays particular attention to the one “who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at [His] word” (v. 2).
The Lord took one final jab at insincere worshipers. Anyone who brings a sacrifice, while harboring self-will or idolatry in his heart may as well be bringing some unclean thing into God’s presence (3). “So will I choose their delusions, and bring their fears on them; because, when I called, no one answered, when I spoke they did not hear…” (4). Paranoia and mental illness appear to be a consequence for those who blatantly choose to do evil in God’s sight.
To those “who tremble at His word,” Isaiah again offers reassurance: Those who hated, excluded and taunted them shall be ashamed (5). They will hear the uproar when YHWH “fully repays His enemies” (6).
YHWH compared the holy city to a woman in labor, giving birth to children of God (7-9). He told those who loved and mourned for Jerusalem to rejoice with her, for they will feed at her bosom and be satisfied (10-11). God promised His peace and friendship with the nations (12). Then He uttered one of my favorite verses: “As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; and you shall be comforted in Jerusalem” (13). Not only is God a tender-hearted Father, but He is like a nurturing Mother, who embraces her children and holds us close when we are distressed! He promised rejoicing when we see this, along with good health. Moreover, “the hand of the LORD shall be known to His servants” (14a).
The enemies of God will see His indignation (14b). YHWH will come with fire, chariots like a whirlwind, fury and a sword (15-16a). “The LORD will judge all flesh; and the slain of the Lord shall be many”—namely, those who engage in idolatry and perversion (16b-17). “For I know their works and their thoughts,” says YHWH (18a).
God said He will “gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see My glory” (18b). Those who escape God’s punishment will “declare My glory among the Gentiles”—to the ends of the earth (19). Then foreigners “will bring all your brothers, from all the nations, to my holy mountain in Jerusalem as an offering to the LORD”—using every available method of transportation (Isa. 66:20, NIV). God says He will “take some of them [either the Gentiles or returning Jews or both] for priests and Levites” (v. 21).
Just as the new heavens and the new earth will last forever, “so shall your descendants and your name remain” (22). Everyone will worship God, while those who perished in their wickedness remain as a grisly spectacle (23-24). In Mark 9:43-49, Jesus quoted the last part of Isaiah 66:24 three times, indicating that the phrase, where “their worm does not die, and their fire is not quenched” is a picture of the torment that unrepentant sinners experience in hell.
This book of the Bible shows us God’s unfailing love for His bride, Israel. Even when she repeatedly rejected Him and chose other gods, the Lord kept reaching out to her, trying to get her back on track. Although He was forced to make the hard choice and let His people suffer the consequences of their sin and idolatry, He only abandoned them for a short time, and then restored them to their homeland and prosperity. Not only that, but the Lord made the most of the opportunity to bring non-Jews into His household, as well.
The book of Isaiah also shows us that human beings are bound to fail. No matter how hard we try to do right, we mess up. Sin creates a wall of separation between us and the Lord. Even our best efforts are like dirty diapers that repel our holy God. Fortunately, He doesn’t leave us in our state of bondage and misery. The Lord took it upon Himself to save us, by offering a perfect Substitute in Messiah, Jesus, to bear the penalty for our sin and acquire our healing and deliverance from death.
Because Christ made a way for us to be saved, we can look forward to a new heaven and earth, where God is in charge, the wicked are removed from power and those who fear the Lord are richly rewarded. While it is no fun to be corrected when we are wrong, it is worth it to be reconciled to God and given access to a better life in Christ.
Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version of the Bible—
© 1982, by Thomas Nelson, Inc.