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Words from GOD – Words to GOD

Be comforted, part 1-2, Archbishop Dr. Uwe AE.Rosenkranz

Be ComfortedLogos gif

WARREN W.WIERSBE

While this book is intended for the reader’s personal enjoyment and profit, it is also intended for group study. A leader’s guide with Reproducible Response Sheets is available from your local bookstore or from the publisher.

CONTENTS
Preface
1. The Lord Is Salvation! (Introduction to Isaiah)
2. Wanted: A Prophet (Isa. 1–6)
3. God Is with Us! (Isa. 7–12)
4. The Burdened Prophet (Isa. 13–23)
5. A Refuge from the Storm (Isa. 24–27)
6. Storm Clouds over Jerusalem (Isa. 28–31)
7. Future Shock and Future Glory (Isa. 32–35)
Interlude: King Hezekiah (Isa. 36–39)
8. God Save the King! (Isa. 36–39)
Interlude: “The Book of Consolation” (Isa. 40–66)
9. How Great Thou Art! (Isa. 40–48)
10. This Is God’s Servant (Isa. 49:1–52:12)
11. Climbing Mount Everest (Isa. 52:13–53:12)
12. Promises and Punishments (Isa. 54–59)
13. The Kingdom and the Glory (Isa. 60–66)

PREFACE
“Isaiah is great for two reasons,” wrote William Sanford LaSor in his fascinating book Great Personalities of the Old Testament (Revell, p. 136): “He lived in momentous days, in critical days of international upheaval, and he wrote what many consider to be the greatest book in the Old Testament.”
“We see Isaiah move with fearless dignity through the chaos of his day,” wrote E.M. Blaiklock, “firm in his quiet faith, sure in his God” (Handbook of Bible People, Scripture Union, p. 329).
At a time when empires were rising and falling and his nation was in peril, it was Isaiah who wrote, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (30:15, NKJV). And when a new generation faced the arduous task of rebuilding a ruined nation, it was the words of Isaiah the prophet that gave them courage: “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” (40:31, NKJV).
Isaiah is the prophet we need to hear today as he cries out God’s message above the din of world upheaval, “Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” (40:1, NKJV) The English word “comfort” comes from two Latin words that together mean “with strength.” When Isaiah says to us, “Be comforted!” it is not a word of pity but of power. God’s comfort does not weaken us; it strengthens us. God is not indulging us but empowering us. “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength.”
As we study Isaiah’s book, we shall meet not only this outstanding prophet, but also some mighty kings and rulers; and we shall witness the rise and fall of magnificent kingdoms. We shall see God’s people chastened and then restored. But above all else, we shall see the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s “Suffering Servant,” as He does the will of God and suffers and dies for the sins of the world.
My own faith in God has been strengthened as I have walked with Isaiah during the months I was writing Be Comforted. I trust that your faith will also be strengthened as together we listen to the Word of God through Isaiah the prophet.

Warren W. Wiersbe

ONE

INTRODUCTION TO ISAIAH

The Lord Is Salvation!
Sir Winston Churchill was once asked to give the qualifications a person needed in order to succeed in politics, and he replied: “It is the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen.”
Because God’s prophets were correct all of the time, they didn’t have to explain away their mistakes. “If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true,” wrote Moses, “that is a message the Lord has not spoken” (Deut. 18:22, NIV). “To the law and to the testimony,” wrote Isaiah; “if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (8:20). Isaiah was a man who had God’s light, and he was not afraid to let it shine.
Before we examine the text of Isaiah’s prophecy, let’s get acquainted with the background of the book so that we can better understand the man and his times.
1. The man

The name “Isaiah” means “salvation of the Lord,” and salvation (deliverance) is the key theme of his book. He wrote concerning five different acts of deliverance that God would perform: (1) the deliverance of Judah from Assyrian invasion (chaps. chaps. 36–37). (2) the deliverance of the nation from Babylonian Captivity (chap. 40); (3) the future deliverance of the Jews from worldwide dispersion among the Gentiles (chaps. 11–12); (4) the deliverance of lost sinners from judgment (chap. 53); and (5) the final deliverance of creation from the bondage of sin when the kingdom is established (chaps. 60, 66:17ff).
There were other Jewish men named Isaiah, so the prophet identified himself seven times as “the son of Amoz,” not to be confused with “Amos” (see 1:1; 2:1; 13:1; 20:2; 37:2, 21; 38:1). Isaiah was married, and his wife was called “the prophetess” (8:3), either because she was married to a prophet or because she shared the prophetic gift. He fathered two sons whose names have prophetic significance: Shear-jashub (“a remnant shall return”; 7:3) and Maher-shalal-hash-baz (“quick to plunder, swift to the spoil”; 8:1–4, 18). The two names speak of the nation’s judgment and restoration, two important themes in Isaiah’s prophecy.
Isaiah was called to his ministry “in the year that King Uzziah died” (6:1), which was 739 B.C. Isaiah ministered through the reigns of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, who died in 686. Tradition says that Manasseh, King Hezekiah’s successor, killed Isaiah by having him sawn in half (Heb. 11:37); but there is no record of this in Scripture.
What kind of a man was Isaiah the prophet? As you read his prophecy, you will discover that he was a man in touch with God. He saw God’s Son and God’s glory (chap. 6; John 12:41), he heard God’s message, and he sought to bring the nation back to God before it was too late.
Isaiah was a man who loved his nation. The phrase “my people” is used at least twenty-six times in his book. He was a patriot with a true love for his country, pleading with Judah to return to God and warning kings when their foreign policy was contrary to God’s will. The American political leader Adlai Stevenson called patriotism “not a short and frenzied outburst of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.” He was not thinking of Isaiah when he said that, but Stevenson’s words perfectly describe the prophet and his work.
He was also a man who hated sin and sham religion. His favorite name for God is “the Holy One of Israel,” and he uses it twenty-five times in his book. (It is used only five times in the rest of the Old Testament.) He looked at the crowded courts of the temple and cried out, “They have forsaken the Lord, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward” (1:4). He examined the political policies of the leaders and said, “Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help … but they look not to the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the Lord” (31:1). Jehovah was holy, but the nation was sinful; and Isaiah called the people to repent.
Isaiah was certainly a courageous man. Unafraid to denounce kings and priests, and unwavering when public opinion went against him, he boldly declared the Word of God. For three years Isaiah wore only a loin cloth to dramatize the victory of Assyria over Egypt (chap. 20). In so doing, he hoped to get the attention of a people who were blind to their country’s danger.
He was a man skilled in communicating God’s truth. Not content with merely declaring facts, Isaiah clothed those facts in striking language that would catch the attention of a people blind and deaf to spiritual truth (6:9–10). He compared the nation to a diseased body (1:5–6), a harlot (v. 21), a useless vineyard (chap. 5), a bulging wall about to fall down (30:13), and a woman in travail (66:8). Assyria, the enemy, would come like a swollen stream (8:7–8), a swarm of bees (7:18), a lion (5:29), and an axe (10:15). Like our Lord Jesus Christ, Isaiah knew how to stir the imagination of his listeners so that he might arouse their interest and teach them God’s truth (Matt. 13:10–17).
2. The monarchs

Isaiah prophesied during the days of “Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah” (1:1). The nation had divided after the death of Solomon (1 Kings 12), but the priesthood and the Davidic throne belonged to Judah. The ten northern tribes formed the kingdom of Israel (Ephraim), with Samaria as its capital city; and Benjamin and Judah united to form the kingdom of Judah, with Jerusalem as its capital city. Though Isaiah predicted the fall of Israel to Assyria (chap. 28), which occurred in 722 B.C., his major focus was on Judah and Jerusalem (1:1).
Uzziah is also called Azariah. At the age of sixteen, he became co-regent with his father Amaziah and was on the throne for fifty-two years (792–740). When his father was assassinated in 767, Uzziah became the sole ruler and brought the nation to its greatest days since David and Solomon (2 Kings 14:17–22; 15:1–7; 2 Chron. 26:1–15). “But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction” (v. 16). He tried to intrude into the priest’s ministry in the temple, and God judged him by smiting him with leprosy. It was in the year that King Uzziah died that Isaiah was called to minister (Isa. 6:1).
Jotham was co-regent after his father became a leper, and his record as king was a good one (2 Kings 15:32–38; (2 Chron. 27). He reigned for twenty years, and it was during his time that the Assyrian Empire began to emerge as a new and threatening power. During the last twelve years of Jotham’s reign, his son Ahaz served as co-regent; but Ahaz was not one of Judah’s good kings. Ahaz forged political alliances that eventually brought Judah into bondage to Assyria (2 Kings 16; 2 Chron. 28). Judah was repeatedly threatened by Egypt from the south and Syria and Israel from the north, and Ahaz depended on an alliance with Assyria to protect himself. Isaiah warned Ahaz that his alliances with godless Gentiles would not work, and he encouraged the king to put his trust in the Lord (Isa. 7).
Hezekiah reigned forty-two years and was one of Judah’s greatest kings (2 Kings 18–20; 2 Chron. 29–32). He not only strengthened the city of Jerusalem and the nation of Judah, but led the people back to the Lord. He built the famous water system that still stands in Jerusalem.
The ministry of Isaiah spans a period of over fifty years, from 739 B.C. (the death of Uzziah) to 686 B.C. (the death of Hezekiah); and it probably extended into the early years of King Manasseh. It was a difficult time of international upheaval, when first one power and then another threatened Judah. But the greatest dangers were not outside the nation; they were within. In spite of the godly leadership of King Hezekiah, Judah had no more godly kings. One by one, Hezekiah’s successors led the nation into political and spiritual decay, ending in captivity in Babylon.
The British expositor G. Campbell Morgan said: “The whole story of the prophet Isaiah, as it is revealed to us in this one book, is that of a man who spoke to an inattentive age or to an age which, if attentive, mocked him and refused to obey his message, until, as the prophetic period drew to a close, he inquired in anguish, ‘Who hath believed our report? And to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?’ ” (Westminster Pulpit, vol. 10, p. 10)
3. The message

The following suggested outline will help you get an overview of this magnificent book.

Theme: the salvation (deliverance) of the Lord

I. Condemnation—(1–39)
1. Sermons against Judah and Israel—(1–12)
2. Burdens of Judgment against the Gentiles—(13–23)
3. Songs about Future Glory—(24–27)
4. Woes of Coming Judgment from Assyria—(28–35)
5. Historical Interlude—(36–39)
a. Hezekiah delivered from Assyria—(36–37)
b. Hezekiah deceived by Babylon—(37–38)

II. Consolation—(40–66)
1. God’s Greatness—(40–48) (The Father vs. idols)
2. God’s Grace—(49–57) (The Son, God’s Servant)
3. God’s Glory—(58–66) (The Spirit and the kingdom)

Isaiah opens his book with a series of sermons denouncing sin: the personal sins of the people (chaps. 1–6) and the national sins of the leaders (chaps. 7–12). In these messages, he warns of judgment and pleads for repentance. The Prophets Amos and Hosea were preaching similar messages to the people of the Northern Kingdom, warning them that time was running out.
But the Gentile nations around Judah and Israel were not innocent! In chapters (13–23), Isaiah denounced them for their sins and warned of God’s judgment. Israel and Judah had sinned against the Law of God and were even more guilty than their neighbors, but the Gentile nations would not escape God’s wrath. In the way they had behaved, these nations had sinned against conscience (Rom. 2:1–16) and against human decency. The Prophet Amos was preaching the same message in the Northern Kingdom, but he denounced the Gentiles first and then warned the Jews (Amos 1–2).
As you study the Book of Isaiah, you will discover that the prophet intersperses messages of hope with his words of judgment. God remembers His mercy even when declaring His wrath (Hab. 3:2), and He assures His people that they have a “hope and a future” (Jer. 29:11, NIV). Isaiah 24–27 is devoted to “songs of hope” that describe the glory of the future kingdom. Isaiah sees a day when the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah will return to the land, be reunited and redeemed, and enter into the blessings of the promised kingdom.
Chapters 28–35 focus on the impending Assyrian invasion of Israel and Judah. Israel will be destroyed and the ten tribes assimilated into the Assyrian Empire. (This is the origin of the Samaritans, who were part Jewish and part Gentile.) Judah would be invaded and devastated, but Jerusalem would be delivered by the Lord.
At this point in his book, Isaiah moved from prophecy to history and focused on two key events that occurred during the reign of King Hezekiah: God’s miraculous deliverance of Jerusalem from the Assyrians (chaps. 36–37), and Hezekiah’s foolish cooperation with the Babylonians (chaps. 38–39). This section forms a transition from an emphasis on Assyria to an emphasis on Babylon, for the last twenty-seven chapters look ahead to the return of the Jewish remnant from Babylonian Captivity.
The Jewish rabbis call Isaiah 40–66 “The Book of Consolation,” and their description is accurate. Addressed originally to the discouraged Jewish exiles returning to an impoverished land and a ruined temple, these chapters have brought comfort and hope to God’s people in every age and in every kind of difficult situation. The Hebrew word translated “comfort” also means “to repent.” God brings comfort, not to rebellious people but to repentant people.
The arrangement of chapters 40–66 is not accidental. “The Book of Consolation” is divided into three sections; each focuses on a different Person of the Godhead and a different attribute of God. Chapters 40–48 exalt the greatness of God the Father; chapters 49–57, the grace of God the Son, God’s Suffering Servant; and chapters 58–66, the glory of the future kingdom when the Spirit is poured out on God’s people. Note the references to the Spirit in 59:19 and 21; 61:1; and 63:10–11 and 14.
Servant is one of the key words in this second section of the Book of Isaiah. The word is used seventeen times and has three different referents: the nation of Israel (41:8–9; 43:10); Cyrus, king of Persia, whom God raised up to help Israel restore their nation and rebuild their temple (44:28; 45:1; see Ezra 1:1); and Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Isa. 42:1, 19; 52:13; 53:11), the Suffering Servant who died for the sins of the world. While Assyria and Egypt vie for center stage in chapters 1–39, it is Babylon and Persia that get the attention in chapters 40–66.
In summary, Isaiah had an immediate word of warning to both Israel and Judah that Assyria was on the march and would be used by God to punish them for their sins. Occasionally, Isaiah uses this invasion to picture “the day of the Lord,” that future time when the whole world will taste of the wrath of God. The prophets often used immediate circumstances to illustrate future events.
Isaiah had a word of promise to Judah that God would deliver Jerusalem from the enemy for the sake of David’s throne. There was also a word of hope for the future Jewish exiles in Babylon, that God would rescue them and help them restore their nation and their temple. But Isaiah’s greatest message is his word of salvation, announcing the coming of the Messiah, the Servant of the Lord, who would die for sinners and one day return to earth to establish His glorious kingdom.
4. The Messiah

Isaiah is much more than a prophet: He is an evangelist who presents Jesus Christ and the Good News of the Gospel. Isaiah’s “Servant Song” about Jesus (Isa. 52:13–53:12) is quoted or alluded to nearly forty times in the New Testament.
The prophet wrote about the birth of Christ (7:14; 9:6; Matt. 1:18–25); the ministry of John the Baptist (Isa. 40:1–6; Matt. 3:1ff); Christ’s anointing by the Spirit (Isa. 61:1–2; Luke 4:17–19); the nation’s rejection of their Messiah (Isa. 6:9–11; John 12:38ff); Christ, the “stone of stumbling” (Isa. 8:14; 28:16; Rom. 9:32–33; 10:11; 1 Peter 2:6); Christ’s ministry to the Gentiles (Isa. 49:6; Luke 2:32; Acts 13:47); the Savior’s suffering and death (Isa. 52:13–53:12; Acts 3:13; 8:32–33; 1 Peter 2:21–25); His resurrection (Isa. 55:3; Acts 13:34); and His return to reign as King (Isa. 9:6–7; 11:1ff; 59:20–21; 63:1–3; Rom. 11:26–27; Rev. 19:13–15). There are many other references in Isaiah to the Messiah, and we will notice them as we study this book.
It is this emphasis on redemption that gives Isaiah a message for the whole world. While it is true he ministered to the little nation of Judah, and wrote about nations and empires that for the most part are no longer on the world scene, his focus was on God’s plan of salvation for the whole world. Isaiah saw the greatness of God and the vastness of His plan of salvation for Jews and Gentiles alike. Isaiah was a patriot but not a bigot; he saw beyond his own nation to the gracious work God would do among the Gentile nations of the world.
I have a feeling that the Book of Isaiah was a favorite book of the Apostle Paul. He quotes from it or alludes to it at least eighty times in his epistles and in at least three of his recorded messages (Acts 13:22–23, 34, 47; 17:24–29; 28:26–28). This interest in Isaiah may stem from the fact that Jesus quoted Isaiah 42:7 and 16 when He spoke to Paul on the Damascus Road (Acts 26:16–18). When Jesus encouraged Paul during his ministry in Corinth (Acts 18:9–10), He referred to Isaiah 41:10 and 43:5. Paul’s call to evangelize the Gentiles was confirmed by Isaiah 49:6. Like the Prophet Isaiah, Paul saw the vastness of God’s plan for both Jews and Gentiles; and like Isaiah, Paul magnified Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world. Five times in his letters Paul refers to Isaiah 53
As you study Isaiah and discover God’s prophetic plan for the nations of the world, don’t miss his emphasis on the personal message of God’s forgiveness. “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (1:18). “I have blotted out, like a thick cloud, your transgressions, and, like a cloud, your sins” (44:22, NKJV). “I, even I, am He, who blots out your transgressions for My own sake; and I will not remember your sins” (43:25, NKJV).
How can “the Holy One of Israel,” a just and righteous God, forgive our sins and remember them no more?
“But [Jesus] was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed” (53:5, NKJV).
It was on the basis of this truth that Peter declared, “To [Jesus] all the prophets witness, that through His name, whoever believes in Him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43).
“Who hath believed our report?” Isaiah asks us (Isa. 53:1).
“If you will not believe, surely you shall not be established,” he warns us (7:9, NKJV).
If you have never believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and received Him into your life, then do so now. “Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other” (45:22, NKJV).
“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NKJV).

TWO

ISAIAH 1–6

Wanted: A Prophet
The first thing you must know about prophets is that their ministry focuses on the present as well as on the future. They “tell forth” the Word of God as well as “foretell” the works of God. True prophets are like good doctors: They diagnose the case, prescribe a remedy, and warn the patient what will happen if the prescription is ignored. (See Jer. 6:14 and 8:11.) When prophets declare a vision of the future, they do it to encourage people to obey God today. Peter stated this principle when he wrote, “Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?” (2 Peter 3:11, NKJV)
Unlike Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Isaiah did not begin his book with an account of his call to ministry. This he gives in chapter 6. Instead, he started with a probing examination of Judah’s present situation and gave a passionate plea for God’s people to return to the Lord. As you read his analysis, note how closely it parallels our situation in the Western world.
1. What Isaiah saw (Isa. 1:1–31)

This chapter describes a courtroom scene. God convenes the court and states the charges (vv. 2–4). He presents His case and pronounces the nation guilty (vv. 5–15), but He gives the accused opportunity to repent and be forgiven (vv. 16–31). How did God describe His sinful people?
They were rebellious children (vv. 2–4), who did not have as much devotion to God as animals do for their masters! The word “rebel” carries with it the idea of breaking a contract. At Sinai, Israel had entered into a solemn covenant with Jehovah (Ex. 19–20); but they had broken the contract by their unbelief and idolatry. They did not appreciate what God had done for them and were taking their blessings for granted. They had forsaken the Lord, gone backward, and grown corrupt; and therefore, they were guilty and deserved judgment.
From the human point of view, the nation was prospering; but from God’s point of view, the nation was like a wretched victim that had been beaten from head to foot and left to die (Isa. 1:5–6). The wounds had become infected, the whole body was diseased, and nobody was doing anything to help. The false prophets and hypocritical priests of that day would have challenged Isaiah’s autopsy of “the body politic,” but the prophet knew that his diagnosis was true. In spite of the optimism of Judah’s leaders, the nation was morally and spiritually sick; and judgment was inevitable.
In verses 7–9, God pictures Judah as a ravaged battlefield, a desert that had once been a garden. In using this image, Isaiah may have been looking ahead to the invasion of Sennacherib, when Judah was devastated by the Assyrian army and only Jerusalem was spared (chaps. 36–37). The people would not let God manage the land according to His law, so God turned Judah over to foreigners and permitted His people to suffer (Deut. 28:15ff).
What a humiliating shock the people must have had when they heard Isaiah compare the holy city of Jerusalem to the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah! (Isa. 3:9; Gen. 18–19) And what did the leaders think when Isaiah said only “a very small remnant” would survive? After all, God had promised Abraham that the nation would multiply like the dust of the earth and the stars of the heavens (13:16; 15:5). The doctrine of “the remnant” is important in the message of the prophets (Isa. 6:13; 10:20–22; 11:11–13, 16; Jer. 6:9; 23:3; 31:7; Micah 2:12; Zech. 8:12). Paul also referred to it (Rom. 9:27; 11:5). In spite of the apostasy of the nation, a remnant of true believers would be spared so that God’s work could be accomplished through the Jewish nation.
The disgusting thing about this rebellious people is that they were also a religious people (Isa. 1:10–15). They attended the temple services and brought a multitude of sacrifices to the Lord; but their hearts were far from God, and their worship was hypocritical. Sacrifices alone can never please God; for along with the outward observance, God wants inward obedience (1 Sam. 15:22), a broken heart (Ps. 51:17), and a godly walk (Micah 6:6–8). Judah’s worship of Jehovah was iniquity, not piety; and God was sick of it! Instead of lifting up “holy hands” in prayer (1 Tim. 2:8), their hands were stained with blood because of their many sins (Isa. 59:3; Ezek. 7:23; and see Acts 20:26).
But before passing judgment on worshipers in a bygone era, perhaps we should confess the sins of the “worshiping church” today. According to researcher George Barna, 93 percent of the households in the United States contain a Bible and more than 60 percent of the people surveyed claim to be religious; but we would never know this from the way people act. One Protestant church exists for every 550 adults in America, but does all this “religion” make much of a difference in our sinful society? Organized religion hasn’t affected the nation’s crime rate, the divorce rate, or the kind of “entertainment” seen in movies and on TV.
The average church allocates about 5 percent of its budget for reaching others with the Gospel, but 30 percent for buildings and maintenance. At a time when the poor and the aged are pleading for help, churches in America are spending approximately 3 billion dollars a year on new construction. Where churches have life and growth, such construction may be needed; but too often the building becomes “a millstone instead of a milestone,” to quote Vance Havner. At least 62 percent of the people Barna surveyed said that the church was not relevant to today’s world and is losing its influence on society. It may be that, like the worshipers in the ancient Jewish temple, we are only going through the motions. (See The Frog in the Kettle by George Barna, published by Regal Books.)
Isaiah didn’t stop with the diagnosis but also gave the prescription, because he wanted Judah to be a righteous people (Isa. 1:16–31). The word translated “reason” in verse 18 means “to decide a case in court”; but instead of pronouncing judgment, the Judge offered pardon! If they would cleanse themselves by repenting and turning from sin (vv. 16–17; see 2 Cor. 7:1), then God would wipe the record clean in response to their faith (Isa. 1:18). God had every reason to punish His people for their sins; but in His grace and mercy, He offered them His pardon.
What were some of the sins that the nation needed to confess and put away? Isaiah named murder (v. 21), robbery, bribery, and exploiting the helpless (v. 23), as well as the worship of heathen idols (v. 29). Because of their idolatry, the once-faithful wife was now a harlot; and because of their unjust practices, the pure silver had become dross. The tragedy is that many of the worshipers in the temple participated in these evil practices and thereby encouraged the decay of the nation. The rulers maintained a religious facade to cover up their crimes, and the people let them do it.
What would God do if the people did not repent? He would send a fiery judgment that would purge the dross and burn up those whose rebellion had made them His enemies (vv. 24–31). Isaiah closed this first message with a promise of hope that one day Jerusalem would be a “city of righteousness.”
2. What Isaiah promised (Isa. 2:1–4:6)

Three important phrases sum up Isaiah’s second message and its proclamation of God’s future work.
The temple of the Lord (Isa. 2:1–5). The prophet looked ahead to the time when God’s righteous kingdom would be established and the temple would become the center for the worldwide worship of the Lord. In Isaiah’s day, the Jews were adopting the false gods of the Gentiles; but the day would come when the Gentiles would abandon their idols and worship the true God of Israel. The nations would also lay down their weapons and stop warring. These promises must not be “spiritualized” and applied to the church, for they describe a literal kingdom of righteousness and peace. The Jewish temple will be rebuilt, and the Word of God will go forth from Jerusalem to govern the nations of the world.
In the light of the future glory of God’s temple, Isaiah appealed to the people to “walk in the light of the Lord” (v. 5). Christians today have a similar motivation as we await the return of Christ for His church (1 John 2:28–3:3).
The Day of the Lord (Isa. 2:6–3:26). This is that period of time when God will send judgment to the nations and purify Israel in preparation for the coming of His King to reign in Jerusalem. The Day of the Lord is described by John (Rev. 6–19), by the prophets (Isa. 13:6ff; Ezek. 30; Joel 1:15; 2:1ff; Zeph. 1:7ff; Zech. 14:1ff), and by the Lord Jesus (Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21). It will be a time of terrible suffering; the environment will be devastated, and millions of people will die. (Note the repetition of the phrase “in that day”: Isa. 2:17, 20; 3:7, 18; 4:1–2.) To the prophets, “the Day of the Lord” was foreshadowed by events in their own day. In the Book of Isaiah, Assyria’s conquest of the Northern Kingdom and invasion of Judah, and the Babylonian Captivity of Judah both picture the coming “Day of the Lord.”
(1) Why will God judge His people? Because of their idolatry, covetousness, pride, and exploiting of the poor (2:6–22). Instead of holding to the truth of God’s Word, they were adopting “superstitions from the East” (v. 6, NIV), not unlike many “religious seekers” today. The growth of Eastern religions in the modern Western world is a phenomenon that is both frightening and challenging. Even nonreligious people are practicing Eastern forms of meditation and relaxation, following techniques that are being taught in university classes and business seminars.
The prosperity of the nation made the leaders proud and covetous. Instead of trusting the Lord, they trusted their wealth and war equipment, not realizing that neither would deliver them in the coming day of judgment. The leaders were exploiting the poor, crushing them like grain in a mill (3:13–15). God will not allow His people to be proud and self-confident but will humble them and cut them down like trees in the forest. “The Lord alone shall be exalted in that day” (2:11, 17) when men flee from His wrath and discover the worthlessness of their idols and the consequences of their sins (vv. 19–22).
(2) How will God judge His people? By taking away from them everything they were trusting, including food and water, leaders and soldiers, and judges and prophets (3:1–15) The entire support system of the nation would disintegrate, and there would be no remedy. Nobody would want to hold office except women and children. (In Judah’s male-dominated society, this would be a humiliating calamity.) The national leaders in Isaiah’s day were charting a course that was out of the will of God and would ultimately bring disaster, but the righteous remnant would be protected by God (vv. 10–12).
After denouncing the men in leadership, the prophet zeroed in on the proud women who profited from their husbands’ crimes (3:16–4:1). The Prophet Amos had a similar message for the women in the Northern Kingdom (Amos 4:1–3). Everything would be different for these women when the judgment of God came to the land! In that day, nobody would notice their expensive clothes, their jewelry and perfumes, and their elaborate coiffures. They would be prisoners of war, led by a rope, like cattle going to the slaughter. So many men will be killed there won’t be enough husbands to go around! (4:1)
God is long-suffering as He watches people viciously exploit one another and selfishly ravage His creation. But there is coming a day when unbelieving sinners will be punished and God’s people will share in the glories of His kingdom. Are you ready?
The Branch of the Lord (Isa. 4:2–6). The prophet looks beyond the “Day of the Lord” to that time when the kingdom will be established on earth. “Branch of the Lord” is a messianic title for Jesus Christ who came as a “shoot” from the seeming dead stump of David’s dynasty (11:1; 53:2; see Jer. 23:5; 33:15; Zech. 3:8; 6:12). God will cleanse His people (Isa. 4:4; see Zech. 12:10–13:1), restore the fruitfulness of the land, and dwell with them as He did when He led them through the wilderness (Isa. 4:5–6; Ex. 13:21–22). Not just the temple, but every dwelling will be blessed by the presence of the Lord! Unlike Isaiah’s day, “in that day” the people will be holy (set apart), and the land will be beautiful and glorious.
3. What Isaiah sang (Isa. 5:1–30)

The preacher became a troubadour and sang a folk song to the Lord (“my beloved”). Perhaps the people who had ignored his sermons would listen to his song. He sang about his own people (v. 7) and pointed out how good God had been to them. God gave them a holy law and a wonderful land, but they broke the law and defiled the land with their sins and failed to produce fruit for God’s glory. God had done for them all that He could do. Now all that remained for Him to do was bring judgment on the fruitless vineyard and make it a waste. (Note that Jesus referred to this passage in Matt. 21:33–44.)
What were the “wild grapes” that the nation produced instead of the “good grapes” that God sought for? In the six “woes” that follow, Isaiah named the sins that brought judgment on the land.
Covetousness (Isa. 5:8–10). In disobedience to the Law (Lev. 25:23–28; 1 Kings 21:1–3), the rich defrauded the poor and seized their land. These wealthy exploiters built large mansions and developed extensive farms, but God warned them that their houses would be empty and their harvests meager. Imagine ten acres of grapevines yielding only six gallons of wine and six bushels of seed producing half a bushel of grain!
Drunkenness (Isa. 5:11–17). The Old Testament Law did not require total abstinence, but it did warn against drunkenness (Prov. 20:1; 23:29–31; Hab. 2:15). This warning is repeated in the New Testament for believers today (Rom. 13:13; 1 Cor. 6:9–10; Eph. 5:18). Isaiah describes people so addicted to alcohol that they begin their revelries as soon as they wake up in the morning, and they continue their drinking till late at night. They enjoy banquets and music and get involved in drunken brawls (Isa. 5:14, NIV). But when judgment comes, these people will hunger and thirst and become “food” for the grave (v. 14). The “eaters” will themselves be eaten, and the proud drinkers will be brought low.
Carelessness (Isa. 5:18–19). Isaiah describes people who are bound by sin and yet speak flippantly of the Lord and His warnings. “They even mock the Holy One of Israel and dare the Lord to punish them” (v. 19, TLB). The name “Holy One of Israel” is used twenty-five times in Isaiah, but these sinners had no respect for that name. We have skeptical scoffers today who speak lightly of the Lord and think they will get away with it.
Deception (Isa. 5:20). Moral standards were destroyed by new definitions of sin (see Amos 5:7), people using God’s vocabulary but not His dictionary. Like today’s “doublespeak,” this kind of language made it easy to deceive people and avoid a guilty conscience. In today’s world, increased taxes are “revenue enhancements,” and poor people are “fiscal underachievers.” Medical malpractice is not the cause of a patient’s death; it’s “diagnostic misadventure of a high magnitude.” (See DoubleSpeak by William Lutz.) The Jerusalem Bible translation of Psalm 12:2 says it perfectly: “All they do is lie to one another, flattering lips, talk from a double heart.”
Pride (Isa. 5:21). Instead of listening to God, the leaders consulted with one another and made decisions based on their own wisdom. “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:22; see 1 Cor. 1:18–25). “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil” (Prov. 3:7, NKJV).
Injustice (Isa. 5:22–25). The judges who were supposed to enforce the law used their authority to free the guilty and punish the innocent. They were more interested in cocktail parties than fair trials, and making money (bribes) than promoting justice. Isaiah warned these corrupt politicians that the fire of God’s wrath was coming and would burn them up. They were like cut flowers that had no roots, beautiful for a time, but destined to die and turn to dust.
The phrase in verse 25 about God’s anger is repeated in 9:12, 17, and 21; and in 10:4. His hand was raised in judgment and would not come down until He had completed His work. He would summon the Assyrian army from afar and use it to chasten His people (5:26–30). The Northern Kingdom of Israel would be destroyed, and Judah, the Southern Kingdom, would be devastated but eventually delivered, only to go into Captivity in Babylon a century later. God was serious about the nation’s sins. If they would not repent and accept His offer of pardon (1:18), then all He could do was send judgment.
4. What Isaiah experienced (Isa. 6:1–13)

Anyone reading Isaiah’s first two messages might be inclined to ask, “What right does this man have to pronounce judgment on the leaders of our land and the many worshipers in the temple?” The answer is in this chapter: Isaiah’s account of his call to ministry. Before he announced any “woes” on others, he first confessed his own sin and said, “Woe is me!” He saw the Holy One of Israel, and he could not keep silent. Note four stages in Isaiah’s experience with God.
Sight: He saw the Lord (Isa. 6:1–4). We assume that Isaiah was in the temple when this marvelous event occurred, but we cannot be sure. The temple referred to in verse 1 is the heavenly temple, rather than Solomon’s temple. King Uzziah died in 740 B.C. and was one of Judah’s greatest leaders, even though in his latter years he was disciplined for disobeying God (2 Chron. 26:16–21). A great king may have left his throne on earth, but the greatest King was still seated on the throne of heaven. According to John 12:41, this was the Lord Jesus Christ.
Only here are the seraphim mentioned in Scripture. The Hebrew word means “to burn” and relates these creatures to the holiness of God. This is why they repeat, “Holy, holy, holy” before the throne of God. Some students think that the seraphim are the “living creatures” described in Revelation 4:6–9.
When I was the radio speaker on “Songs in the Night” from the Moody Church in Chicago, I often received clippings from listeners, items they thought might be useful on the weekly broadcast. Most of them I have forgotten, but a few of them still stick in my mind. One of the best was, “When the outlook is bleak, try the uplook!”
For young Isaiah, the outlook was bleak. His beloved king had died, his nation was in peril, and he could do very little about it. The outlook may have been bleak, but the uplook was glorious! God was still on the throne and reigning as the Sovereign of the universe! From heaven’s point of view, “the whole earth” was “full of His glory” (Isa. 6:3; see Num. 14:21–22; Ps. 72:18–19). When your world tumbles in, it is good to look at things from heaven’s point of view.
Insight: He saw himself (Isa. 6:5–7). The sight of a holy God, and the sound of the holy hymn of worship, brought great conviction to Isaiah’s heart; and he confessed that he was a sinner. Unclean lips are caused by an unclean heart (Matt. 12:34–35). Isaiah cried out to be cleansed inwardly (Ps. 51:10), and God met his need. If this scene had been on earth, the coals would have come from the brazen altar where sacrificial blood had been shed, or perhaps from the censer of the high priest on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:12). Isaiah’s cleansing came by blood and fire, and it was verified by the word of the Lord (Isa. 6:7).
Before we can minister to others, we must permit God to minister to us. Before we pronounce “woe” upon others, we must sincerely say, “Woe is me!” Isaiah’s conviction led to confession, and confession led to cleansing (1 John 1:9). Like Isaiah, many of the great heroes of faith saw themselves as sinners and humbled themselves before God: Abraham (Gen. 18:27), Jacob (32:10), Job (Job 40:1–5), David (2 Sam. 7:18), Paul (1 Tim. 1:15), and Peter (Luke 5:8–11).
Vision: He saw the need (Isa. 6:8). The nation needed the Lord, and the Lord wanted a servant to minister to the people. Isaiah volunteered to be that servant. He did not discuss his call with the Lord, as did Moses (Ex. 3:11–4:15) and Jeremiah (Jer. 1:4ff), but accepted the appointment and made himself available to his Master.
Never underestimate what God can do with one willing worker. There is an even greater need for laborers today, and we have tremendous opportunities for sharing the Gospel with a lost world. Are you one of God’s willing volunteers?
Blindness: The nation could not see (Isa. 6:9–13). The Lord did not give His servant much encouragement! Isaiah’s ministry would actually make some people’s eyes more blind, their ears more deaf, and their hearts more calloused. Verses 9–10 are so important that they are quoted six times in the New Testament (Matt. 13:13–15; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; John 12:40; Acts 28:25–28; Rom. 11:8). God does not deliberately make sinners blind, deaf, and hard-hearted; but the more that people resist God’s truth, the less able they are to receive God’s truth. But the servant is to proclaim the Word no matter how people respond, for the test of ministry is not outward success but faithfulness to the Lord.
God told Isaiah that his ministry would end in seeming failure, with the land ruined and the people taken off to exile (Isa. 6:11–12). But a remnant would survive! It would be like the stump of a fallen tree from which the shoots (“the holy seed”) would come, and they would continue the true faith in the land. Isaiah needed a long-range perspective on his ministry or else he would feel like he was accomplishing nothing.
“Go and tell” is still God’s command to His people (v. 9; see Matt. 28:7; Mark 5:19). He is waiting for us to reply, “Here am I; send me.”
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). Be Comforted (S. 3–30). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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