Isaiah prophesies condemnation for the wicked (Isa. 1:4) and comfort for God’s people (Isa. 40:1), rebuking those who have rejected Him (Isa. 5) and announcing the coming of the Messiah (Isa. 7:14; 9:6-7) and promising future judgment and redemption (Isa. 63-66).
Explanation of Main Idea
God is not happy with His people. Their religious actions are meaningless and detestable (Isa. 1:11-15) because their “hands are full of blood” (Isa. 1:15), their “rulers are rebels” (Isa. 1:23), and they “do not defend the cause of the fatherless” or show concern for injustice (Isa. 1:23). Impending judgment is around the corner (Isa. 3:1-2, 14; 5:1-30).
There is hope, however! God promises that He will send a Saviour, a “holy seed” (Isa. 6:13), “Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14), a Messiah who will “reign on David’s throne” (Isa. 9:7), full of the Spirit of the Lord (Isa. 11:1-2). He will be perfectly righteous and faithful (Isa. 11:5). He will come to “preach good news to the poor, bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives” (Isa. 61:1-2). At some point, this Servant will die for the sins of humanity (Isa. 52:13-53:12)
The nations who come against God’s people, Babylon, Assyria, Moab, Syria, Cush, and Egypt will be judged (Isa. 13-23). In fact, a day is coming when “the earth will be completely laid waste and totally plundered” (Isa.24:3).
As King Hezekiah is faced with assault from Assyria, he calls out to the Lord and is delivered (Isa. 36-37). Becoming sick and close to death, Hezekiah asks for healing and receives it (Isa. 38). But he makes a mistake in showing all his treasure to the enemy (Isa. 39).
Looking forward to the Babylonian captivity, Isaiah offers many words of comfort for the captives (Isa. 40-43), and looks forward to the time when Cyrus will let them go back to their own land (Isa. 45:1-13). Ultimately, Isaiah tells about a “new heaven and a new earth” (Isa. 65:17) where there will be no more sadness and a perfectly harmonious eternal existence (Isa. 65:18-25
The purpose of the book of Isaiah is to condemn the wicked acts of God’s people and other errant nations (Isa. 14:24-23:18) and to provide comfort for those facing captivity, particularly by prophesying the coming of a Savior. Isaiah is called to go to a people who have rebelled against the Lord (Isa. 1:2, Isa. 6:8-10). They are a sinful people, “weighed down with iniquity” (Isa. 1:4). Because of this, they will be judged, facing famine, poverty, and devastation (Isa. 3). But the Lord is quick to tell of a definite glorious future (Isa. 1:26-2:4) where the Messiah will rule and there will be peace forever (Isa. 60-61).
- The Coming of the Messiah
A major theme of Isaiah is the prophesying of the coming of the Davidic King and Messiah. He will be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14). He will be fully divine and fully human, bringing peace and ruling justly (Isa. 9:6). He will be from the line of Jesse and be full of God’s Spirit bringing perfect justice (Isa. 11:1-4). He will endure God’s wrath, humbly dying for the sins of the people (Isa. 52:13-53:12)
God is a god of comfort (Isa. 57:18, 61:2, 66:13). He wants people to look to Him and find forgiveness and hope (Isa. 40:1-2). He invites people to turn to Him. If they do, they will be blessed, if they don’t the will be “devoured by the sword” (Isa. 1:18-20). Even though God’s people will be in captivity in Babylon, the Lord will bring eventual comfort by making the “wilderness like Eden” and the “desert like the garden of the Lord” (Isa. 51:3).
The other side of comfort is judgement. For those who do not turn to the Lord, a bleak future awaits. God loves them (Isa. 5:1), but will judge them for their actions (Isa. 5:5-30, 9:8-21). Much of the responsibility for the condition of the people is placed on the shoulders of the leaders (Isa. 9:13-17). Beyond Israel, the Lord will also judge all who have sinned (Isa. 14:3-25:12). Isaiah also looks forward to the final eternal judgement due to all who have rebelled against the Lord (Isa. 66:14-24).
- Israel Returning to the Land
Scattered throughout Isaiah’s prophecy are hints of Israels returning to their land. Some of these words refer to their exit from Babylon (Isa. 44:28), but others are of an eternal nature pointing toward the Millennial Kingdom (Isa. 55), where Jerusalem will be the place where the “Lord’s house will be established” (Isa. 2:1-3). Motivated by His compassion, God will “settle them on their own land” (Isa. 14:1).
- The New Kingdom
God promises that He will create a “new heaven and a new earth” (Isa. 65:17). This will be a place filled with joy and gladness (Isa. 65:18-19), long life (Isa, 65:20), economic satisfaction (Isa. 55:1-3) and peace even in the animal kingdom (Isa. 65:25). It will be eternal and will be a place of worship (Isa. 66:22-23).
How Does This Relate To Us?
The book of Isaiah is extremely significant for those of us who live in modern times. First, it tells of the coming of the Messiah. Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is a remarkable prophetic section in the book that looks at the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross. Additionally, Isaiah 7:14 and Isaiah 9:6 confirm the identity of Jesus as God’s Messiah by predicting His virgin birth, deity, and eternal kingdom. This demands a response. Will you believe in Him?
Second, we learn, as we do in other prophetic books, that God punishes sin—all sin. He is deeply concerned with justice. God’s people, Isaiah reveals, are guilty of “religiosity”—carrying on with devout celebrations, festivals, and practices without engaging their hearts with the Lord. This screams at us to be close to the Lord and not succumb to “going through the motions”. For those who are committing injustice and sin, and yet have an outward appearance of religion, they can be sure that God hates it, cannot stand it, is tired of it, will refuse to acknowledge it, will not listen, and commands it to be stopped (Isa. 1:13-15). Instead, he wants—even invites—repentance and the doing of justice (Isa. 1:16-20).
Lastly, Isaiah gives us reason to hope! There is a new existence coming. Eventually, those who trust in the Lord will be in a place of perfection where there will be no more sadness, crying, or pain. It will be a place of perfect joy, peace, and justice. The Lord will rule, the guilty will be punished, and God’s pepole will worship Him forever.
- Isaiah 1:10-11 Isaiah is calling out to the leaders of Sodom and Gomorrah, yet these two cities were destroyed in Genesis 19. What’s happening here? (Hint: look at Isaiah 1:9).
- Compare Isaiah 6:13 with Isaiah 11:1 and 53:2. What is the significance of this?
- Read Isaiah 53. In the margin of your Bible or on a separate sheet of paper, write down passages from the New Testament that correlate with these verses.
- What is the purpose of fasting based on Isaiah 58?
- What separates mankind from God based on Isaiah 59?
- Compare Isaiah 61:1-2 with Luke 4:18-19. Why does Jesus stop quoting the Isaiah passage in the middle of a sentence?
Life Application Questions
- Rewrite Isaiah 1:11-15 using modern day language about your cultures religious actions and ceremonies.
- Isaiah’s call is found in chapter 6. What is his response when the Lord says, “Who will go for us?” What do you think the Lord is calling you to do?
- Isaiah has several oracles against different cities or countries, such as Babylon (Isa. 13), Moab (Isa. 15), Damascus (Isa. 17:1-3), and others. If Isaiah were alive and prophesying today, would he write an oracle addressed to your country? Why or why not? If he did, what would it say?
- What do you think it will be like to live in the new heavens and new earth? For ideas, look at Isaiah 65:17-66:24.