Isaiah 1: Let us Reason
Isaiah prophesied in the 8th century BC (roughly 740-700 BC). His work encompassed the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. This time-frame also encompassed the judgment on the northern kingdom of Israel, as the capital Samaria fell around 721 BC. This was a tumultuous time, and Isaiah begins by immediately calling out the sin in the nation. The people had forsaken the Lord (v. 4) and they would be judged as a result. The rulers and teachers especially would have to answer for the way hey had led the people astray. The prophets often pointed to the sins of idolatry, ritualism, and injustice. God would not tolerate the idea that they would bring sacrifices, then go out and live in iniquity. Though God would judge them, He still offered hope. “Come now, let us reason together,” said the Lord. He was still willing to forgive if they would repent (vv. 18-19). Today, we know that forgiveness is offered through Christ.
Isaiah 2: The Highest of the Mountains
Isaiah is know for his messianic prophecies, and he wastes little time in pointing to Jesus. He points to the “latter days” as a time when “the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established as the highest of the mountains” and “all the nations shall flow to it.” This describes the gospel of the kingdom of God. Many would come to the Lord, seek His teaching, and walk in His paths. The law would go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem (see Acts 1:8). The ultimate answer and hope through judgment would be the coming of the Messiah and the new covenant. In the meantime, they still needed to repent. The Day of the Lord (a day of judgment) would come, and they needed to trust in the Lord instead of man.
Isaiah 3: Rottenness
Though the northern kingdom of Israel would be destroyed, Judah and Jerusalem needed to learn the lessons well, for they too would fall in judgment if they did not repent. Sadly, it was the leaders and elders of the people who were crushing their own. “What do you mean by crushing my people, by grinding the face of the poor?” The injustices by those who were the wealthy, ruling classes against the poor were so bad that God promised retribution. “Instead of perfume there will be rottenness; and instead of a belt, a rope; and instead of well-set hair, baldness; and instead of a rich robe, a skirt of sackcloth; and branding instead of beauty. Your men shall fall by the sword and your mighty men in battle. And her gates shall lament and mourn; empty, she shall sit on the ground.” This is not a pretty picture, but it describes their spiritual desolation and serves as a continual warning for the need to do what is right.
Isaiah 4: The Branch
Isaiah returns to the messianic theme. In contrast to the ugliness of those who preferred physical beauty over spiritual life, the “branch” (a way of speaking of the Messiah, one who would come through David) would be beautiful and glorious. The Lord would wash away the filth of the city and those who remain, a remnant, shall be holy. Using the language of God’s presence, as when He was with Israel in the wilderness and in the tabernacle, the people would be accompanied by “the cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy.” This is the picture of what the Messiah would bring. Christians today need to be thankful that we live in the fulfillment of the Messianic era.
Isaiah 5: The Vineyard
God saw His people as His “beloved,” and like a beautiful vineyard. He did everything to make it produce, but instead of grapes, it produced something more like poisoned berries. What more could God have done for the people? Yet they rebelled and became rotten. God says that, therefore, He would remove the hedge and let the vineyard be trampled down and devoured. He reveals that this is really about His people. He then pronounces a series of woes upon them. The people would go into exile one day for their sins. One of the well-known passages in Isaiah is here, and it describes well the problem: “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 shrewd in their own sight!” (vv. 20-21). May God help us not to think this way!
Isaiah 6: A Vision of Glory
Isaiah sees a vision of God sitting high and lifted up on His throne. The train of His robe filled the temple while seraphim cried out, Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” The foundations shook at His voice and the house was filled with smoke. Isaiah was overwhelmed. “Woe is me! For I am lost; for 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!” A seraphim picked up a coal from the alter and touched the lips of Isaiah, declaring that his sins and guilt were taken away. Now as God called out, “Whom shall I send?” Isaiah responded, “Here am I.” He was then commissioned to go preach even to those who would not listen. This vision is what brought Isaiah to the realization that he needed to preach God’s message. God’s glory convicted him of his sin and he experienced forgiveness. This same realization can help us today see the need to teach God’s word to others, even when they will not listen.
Isaiah 7: A Sign
Isaiah was sent to King Ahaz of Judah (Hezekiah’s father). The kings of Israel (north) and Syria were pressuring Ahaz to join an alliance against Assyria. This caused great fear. Isaiah would tell Ahaz not to be afraid, for that alliance would not stand. Ahaz was even told to ask for a sign, and that a sign would be given. That sign involving the birth of a child had messianic implications: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Sadly, the sign would not be heeded. Because of the attitude of Ahaz, who was wicked, the Assyrians would also invade Judah. Ahaz serves as an example of what can happen when we refuse to listen to God and instead seek other counsel. This will be in contrast to Hezekiah.
Isaiah 8: To the Teaching!
The end of chapter 7 blends into chapter 8. Where would the people seek guidance? They want to avoid trouble, but by not listening to God they are creating the very trouble they wish to avoid. The son born to Isaiah (Maher-shalal-hash-baz) indicated that Assyria would invade and take away the spoils. Yet again, if the people would just learn to trust God, they would not need to fear either the northern alliance or the Assyrians. “God is with us” (Immanuel) are words of great comfort. Instead of looking to other forms of counsel, they needed to hear Isaiah, listen to God’s message, and trust Him. Mediums and other could not give what God gives. Therefore, “To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.” It is easy to trust the wrong sources, even today. We need to be committed to God’s will, God’s word, and trust Him when we feel pressed by the world.
Isaiah 9: A Divine, Royal Son
While God’s prophets tell it like it is in terms of sin and judgment, they also provide signs of hope. “But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish.” Isaiah goes back to a child who is born, a royal child who would be their hope in difficult times. Speaking as if it is a done deal in his time, Isaiah shows that the child would actually be a manifestation of the mighty God Himself. He would also be the One who would sit on the throne of David as King. There would be no end to His kingdom of justice and righteousness. This was a promise of restoration. In the meantime, the people would complain that God was not with them because of what they would suffer, but did not see the connection to their failure to repent. Thankfully, we are able to see how God did restore the people and bring about the Messiah so that we, too, can share in the blessings of our King of kings.
Isaiah 10: Be Not Afraid
Assyria, which served as the rod of God’s anger against Israel for her iniquities, would also be judged. Little did the Assyrians know that they were serving God’s purposes, yet they were arrogant and wicked in their intent. Consequently, God would “punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes.” While the king of Assyria boasted that he did it all by this own power and wisdom, the Assyrians would be brought low and consumed by God. God would have a remnant of His people who trust in Him. Once God’s people understand that God would fight for them, they had no need to fear the Assyrians. Indeed, trusting God brings great comfort to those of faith.
Isaiah 11: The Branch
The Messianic nature of this chapter is apparent from verse 1 as a promise is made of a shoot or branch that spring forth from Jesse (David’s father). The Spirit of the Lord would be upon Him and all of His judgments will be made in righteousness (see Matt 3:16; John 7:24). Then, the character of His people is indicated through the peaceful cohabitation of animals that would normally be enemies (compare with Isaiah 2:4). At that same time, the branch (i.e., Jesus) would stand as a banner for all the nations. He will signal the nations and also bring back His remnant from Israel. The Messiah will make all things right, judge the wicked, and restore His people.
Isaiah 12: God is my salvation!
In the day of the Messiah, God’s people will give thanks to the Lord and find comfort in Him. They will say, “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the Lord God is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.” They will draw from the springs of salvation, give thanks, call upon His name, and make His deeds known among the nations. Herein the greatness of God is extolled as salvation is made known. We who live in Christ are able to see how God brought all of this about. Praise God!
Isaiah 13: Against Babylon
Isaiah looks ahead and foresees the downfall and judgment of Babylon. During Isaiah’s time, the threat was Assyria; the Babylonians were not yet what they would become. Isaiah once again uses the language of judgment to speak about the destruction of a nation that would become so proud and evil and it would become the namesake of wicked governments. The day of the Lord would come against them, and the Lord will strike down their arrogance and punish their iniquities. The Medes (Medo-Persian Empire) would be stirred up against Babylon and they will be overthrown. This prophecy would be vindicated in the overthrow of Babylon and return from captivity. Even so, John uses Babylon as a reference to the wicked nation that opposed God and His people (book of Revelation). God will always win the day.
Isaiah 14: Babylon Fallen
Continuing from chapter 13, Isaiah points to the victory of God’s people. Babylon would fall, and the people would be able to rejoce again. Babylon will be swept with the broom of destruction for her pride and wickedness. Yet Isaiah also reminds the people that God would also judge Assyria and Philistia. One might wonder why God would point so far ahead to Babylon. This whole section should have served as a comfort and encouragement to the people who were fearful of what Assyria might do. Yet with Babylon soon on the heels of Assyria, they could also take comfort that Babylon also would not ultimately stand. While God used these nations to bring judgment, God also judged them for their evil. This should always remind us now that God rules in the nations of mankind.
Isaiah 15: Moab!
Isaiah turns his attention to Moab in this chapter. Moab was situated just east of the Dead Sea and they were perpetual enemies of Israel. They were even involved in trying to curse Israel and then causing Israel to commit terrible sin with the help of Balaam (Num 22-24; Num 25:1-3; cf. Rev 2:14). Now, Isaiah says, Moab is undone. The people of Moab would be judged for their sins, “For a cry has gone around the land of Moab.” All nations answer to God.
Isaiah 16: Where Can Moab Turn?
Isaiah continues speaking of judgment against Moab. The “daughters of Moab” would be scattered and they would have to deal with the fallout from this judgment. They would be looking for shelter, for a refuge, and they could find it the same way God’s people would find refuge: in the Davidic King. People in despair, including those outside of Israel, could turn to the true and living God for help and comfort. In Christ, this is especially true. All nations may turn to Him to find the peace that passes understanding. Nations like Moab, persisting in their sins, will not prevail.
Isaiah 17: Damascus is Like Israel
Now Isaiah turns toward Damascus and issues judgment against the city. “Damascus will cease to be a city and will become a heap of ruins.” Damascus was the capital of Syria, just northeast of Israel. Like Israel, Syria would only have a remnant left. Syria had been guilty of teaming up with Ephraim against Judah. Both nations would be judged and scattered with only a remnant left. When judgment comes, instead of looking to the idols, “man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will look on the Holy One of Israel.” People have turned away from God who alone can save them. This is the fate of all who do not remember the Lord.
Isaiah 18: Cush
Cush is probably the southern most part of Egypt and is closely associated with Egypt (see Psalm 68:31), so the judgment against Cush is tied to judgment against Egypt (ch. 19). Since Egypt was one of the nations of kings of Judah might turn to for help, Isaiah reminded them that Cush and Egypt would also fall. No nation was able to keep God from them. It made no sense, then, for anyone to turn to these nations for help rather than trusting in God. Instead of tribute being brought to these nations, tribute will be brought to the Lord of hosts. The importance of trusting God instead of nations of the world should always be in the forefront of the minds of God’s people.
Isaiah 19: Egypt Turns to the Lord?
Now Isaiah speaks even more directly against Egypt. “And I will stir up Egyptians against Egyptians, and they will fight, each against another and each against his neighbor, city against city, kingdom against kingdom.” Egypt had long been a thorn in Israel’s side, but now the tables would be turned “And the land of Judah will become a terror to the Egyptians.” Yet in bringing judgment, Isaiah indicates that Egypt would turn to the Lord. “And the Lord will make himself known to the Egyptians, and the Egyptians will know the Lord in that day and worship with sacrifice and offering, and they will make vows to the Lord and perform them. And the Lord will strike Egypt, striking and healing, and they will return to the Lord, and he will listen to their pleas for mercy and heal them.” He also speaks of Assyria being united with Egypt and Israel and being “a blessing in the midst of the earth.” How could this ever be? This appears to be closely tied to the Abrahamic promise to bless all nations, which means fulfillment is found in Jesus (see, also, Isa 2:2-4).
Isaiah 20: Do What?
Isaiah was told by the Lord, “‘Go, and loose the sackcloth from your waist and take off your sandals from your feet,’ and he did so, walking naked and barefoot.” The Assyrians captured Ashdod (a Philistine city) and were on their way further south. Isaiah was told to walk “naked and barefoot” for three years, which would become a sign against Egypt and Cush. How so? They would be led away by the Assyrians “naked and barefoot,” and those on the coastlands, like Ashdod, who had put their trust in Egypt, would be “dismayed and ashamed.” Judah also needed to learn this lesson: trust God and not the nations. Trusting God is, of course, the key.
Isaiah 21: Fallen is Babylon
Isaiah refers to various places in the wilderness. Some of them are far removed from Judah. Dumah, for example, is a desert oasis between Israel and Babylon. One of the points in passages like this serves to remind the people of God that God is actually the God over all the earth. There is not a single city, oasis, or part of the wilderness over which God does not rule. Yet, with all of the somewhat obscure references, the real message is, again, that Babylon will fall. As in chapters 13 and 14, Isaiah looks ahead to the time of the Babylonian captivity and reminds the people of God that He will deal out justice to all of her enemies. For us, we sometimes need reminding that God rules over all, including those areas that seem so remote and distant from us.
Isaiah 22: Vision Valley
Now Isaiah gets closer to home by speaking about judgment upon Jerusalem, here called the “valley of vision” (perhaps referencing a sloping hill just outside the city, but also the idea that many revelations and visions have been given here). It appears that they are at a party of some kind, but do not realize the danger they are in. God’s people would also face a day of the Lord. Shebna was an important figure in Hezekiah’s court, but he was taking glory for himself and will be replaced by Eliakim. One might recognize that Jesus used this passage in His address to the church at Philadelphia (Rev 3:7). Ultimately, it is Jesus who opens and shuts and judges.
Isaiah 23: Against Tyre
The Phoenicians come under God’s judgment here. As a city filled with pompous pride (v. 9), and whose trading by sea was renowned, Tyre would also be brought down. Tyre is likened to a forgotten prostitute who goes about the city trying to gain attention. Tyre would prostitute itself out to the world, but in the end her riches and wealth will be relinquished to the Lord’s purposes. Later, in chapters 60-61, Isaiah will speak about the wealth of the nations serving God’s purposes. There is a messianic message in this, as ultimately all is brought into subjection to the rule of Christ.
Isaiah 24: The Earth is Judged
The earth comes under the curse because of sin. This is seen even in Genesis 3. Here, “The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt” (vv. 5-6). However, even though sin has left the earth a desolation, there is hope and praise to be found: “From the ends of the earth we hear songs of praise, of glory to the Righteous One” (v. 16). Through his scathing judgment on the earth, there is a glimmer of hope pointing to salvation (chapter 25 speaks to this).
Isaiah 25: God Swallows up Death
God’s people knew what it meant to be defeated by their enemies. This was not because God was deficient, but because they had failed to keep the covenant. Even so, God was still faithful to them and promised that the nations around them would be judged. There was always a sense of hope in the promises of judgment. This chapter expresses that hope well, longing for that time that God would defeat the foes, swallow up death, and wipe away all tears. They just needed to be patient and wait on the Lord. He would take care of it all in His time. Ultimately, God’s people can see how that in Christ, death is swallowed up in victory and that day is coming when there will be no tears. Look to Jesus for fulfillment.
Isaiah 26: Songs are Sung
Continuing the thought of salvation from the previous chapter, Isaiah speaks about the song that would be sung upon the victory of God’s people. “Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock” (v. 4). When the people trusted God, they would have reason to rejoice because God is their rock. He humbles the proud nations and sees to the path of the righteous. Isaiah yearns for the Lord and for people see God’s zeal. While God would judge the inhabitants of earth, Isaiah calls on the people to hide for a little time until the fury is past. Herein is a glimmer of hope expressed in resurrection terms: “Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise. You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy! For your dew is a dew of light, and the earth will give birth to the dead” (v. 19). God would bring His people back to life (cf. Ezek 37). Looking to Christ, we also see resurrection as a bedrock doctrine to which we cling.
Isaiah 27: Return to Jerusalem
Isaiah continues pointing to life after exile when Israel would be restored to God, and this ultimately points to Christ. God would punish “Leviathan,” a reference to the great sea monster here representing the powers that stood opposed to God and His people (imagery used in Revelation for the dragon and beast). In that day, God once again keeps and protects His vineyard (contrast with Isaiah 5). Jacob would take root and Israel would blossom, and God’s people would be atoned for. In that day, a great trumpet would be blown to call His people back so that they would “come and worship the Lord on the holy mountain at Jerusalem.” God did indeed bring His people back. Now, we all may share in these blessings under Christ as we have come to the New Jerusalem!
Isaiah 28: Judgment and a Sure Foundation
While Isaiah points to a more glorious time, the leaders who helped put Israel in these difficult circumstances because of unfaithfulness are still called to account and judged. Their pride and flaunting of God’s will leads to their overthrow. “The proud crown of the drunkards of Ephraim will be trodden underfoot.” In contrast, the Lord would be “a crown of glory and a diadem of beauty to the remnant of his people” as He administers justice. God’s remnant know that glory cannot come from those who reject God for their own pride. God’s law would be taught, but the leaders would scarcely hear. Because of their mockery, God’s word seems like gibberish to them. They thought they were beyond falling to the Assyrians (a covenant with death as if it didn’t apply to them), but that covenant would fail because they were taking refuge in lies. Yet in Zion, God has laid a precious cornerstone (a passage applied to Christ in Romans 9:33 and 1 Peter 2:6). God’s wisdom and counsel are indeed wonderful (v. 29). As they were told to do then, so must we today listen to Him (v. 23).
Isaiah 29: Lips Near but Hearts Far
God addresses Jerusalem as “Ariel” (lion of God or perhaps altar hearth). He would bring distress upon the city for their unfaithfulness. Nations would fight against her. Their vision has been blinded and they cannot understand. Here we find one of the most familiar quotes from Isaiah referenced by Jesus (vv. 13-14; Matt 15:8-9). The people drew near with their lips but their hearts were far from God. They went through the motions, but they did not really care. Things were turned upside down in Israel (v. 16). Yet again there was coming a time when the blind would see and God’s name would once again be sanctified. This passage reminds us of how important it is to sanctify Christ in our hearts and serve Him not only in action but also in heart and mind.
Isaiah 30: Trusting in What?
Isaiah chastises those who carry out plans that did not come from God as they “add sin to sin.” They went to Egypt to seek protection from Pharaoh, but this would turn to shame. Egypt’s help would be worthless and empty. Their attitude was against hearing God’s prophets: “Do not prophesy to us what is right.” Yet this would bring further judgment against them because they refused to hear. If they wanted hope, they needed to return, for “in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But they were not willing. Even so, God longed to be gracious toward them, and He continued to point ahead to a future restoration when the Lord “binds up the brokenness of his people, and heals the wounds inflicted by his blow.” Then they would “have a song” and “gladness of heart,” and the Lord would cause His majestic voice to be heard and the enemies would be terror-stricken. God would yet fight for His people. He always does.
Isaiah 31: Turn to Him
God’s people, particularly the leaders, were warned about turning to other nations for help instead of trusting in God. Isaiah once again tells them, “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 do not look to the Holy One of Israel or consult the Lord!” God is the One who is wise and brings about justice and judgment. The Egyptians were but men (flesh), and they fall, who then will help? The Lord is not a man, and when He fights for Zion, He will protect and deliver it. Therefore, they are told, “Turn to him from whom people have deeply revolted, O children of Israel.” The idols of silver and gold will be cast away, and the Assyrians would indeed fall. We are all reminded here of how important to put our trust in God, not in man.
Isaiah 32: A Righteous King
God is Israel’s Protector, and the people have been foolish for not trusting in Him to deliver them from trouble. God brings about justice through a king who will “will reign in righteousness.” People will understand and know. The fool will not be called noble and the scoundrel will not be considered honorable, for God brings these to justice. By contrast, “he who is noble plans noble things, and on noble things he stands.” While the men who lead are normally addressed, here Isaiah also addresses the women. These perhaps would have influence with their husbands and management of the homes. The picture is like that of a harvest, and Isaiah is telling them that they needed to pay attention because “In little more than a year you will shudder.” That is, there won’t be a harvest next year. Even so, while the picture seems bleak, hope is once again provided. The lack of harvest would last “until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high.” Then there will again be justice, righteousness, and peace. This will come when people trust the Lord.
Isaiah 33: He Will Save Us!
Isaiah addresses not only God’s people who were to be judged, but also the nations that took part in destroying God’s people. God would allow these nations to bring judgment, but because o how treacherous they were, they, too, would face judgment. “Woe to you, O destroyer, while you were not destroyed; and he who is treacherous, while others did not deal treacherously with him. As soon as you finish destroying, you will be destroyed; as soon as you cease to deal treacherously, others will deal treacherously with you.” Even so, God’s people could call upon Him for salvation in the time of distress, for “The Lord is exalted, for He dwells on high; He has filled Zion with justice and righteousness. He will be the stability of your times…” Once again the contrast is made: God will be exalted while those who continued in sin would be brought to justice. We are again reminded of how important it is to trust in God for help and salvation instead of looking to the world.
Isaiah 34: Against the Nations
The Lord stands against the nations because of their wickedness. “For My sword is satiated in heaven, behold it shall descend for judgment upon Edom and upon the people whom I have devoted to destruction.” The language of judgment permeates the chapter. “The sword of the Lord is filled with blood … For the Lord has a day of vengeance … And its land will become burning pitch. It will not be quenched night or day; Its smoke will go up forever.” When the nations stand against God, God stands against them and, ultimately, they have no ability to stand any more. The New Testament uses similar language to describe judgment against the unrighteous. We must continually consider how important it is for us to remain faithful to God and His Word.
Isaiah 35: The Redeemed will Return
God would redeem His people after they went into exile. Isaiah describes this redemption as a desert that will rejoice and blossom abundantly. They would see the glory of and splendor of God. They were then encouraged to “strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees,” a passage referenced in Hebrews 12:12. Those who were anxious were told, “Be strong; fear not!” God would come in vengeance on the enemies and He would save them. When He redeems, the eyes of the blind are opened and the ears unstopped (see Luke 4:18-19). God would provide a highway, the Way of Holiness, where the redeemed shall walk. These ransomed one would then have everlasting joy. We should see in this language pointers to Jesus, and we can share in being the redeemed who rejoice.
Isaiah 36: Whom do they trust?
Hezekiah was king of Judah, and in his fourteenth year Sennacherib, king of Assyria, came up against Hezekiah to seize Jerusalem after taking several other cities. Rabshakeh, the Assyrian military officer, came to Jerusalem with a great army. He mocked Hezekiah. He mocked God. He boasted that the Assyrians could not be defeated and even claimed that Yahweh sent him there to destroy the city. Rabshakeh told the people of Judah not to be deceived by Hezekiah into thinking that the Lord would deliver them. He promised that if they would surrender to him, then they would have their own vineyards and cisterns, grains, wine, and bread. “Beware lest Hezekiah mislead you by saying, ‘The Lord will deliver us.’ Has any of the gods of the nations delivered his land out of the hand of the king of Assyria?” No one answered Rabshakeh, though because Hezekiah had told the people to keep silent. Hezekiah received word of what was being done. His response is in the next chapter. Let this chapter remind us that the world will often try to turn us against God and one another. We must continue to trust the Lord.
Isaiah 37: God Saves Hezekiah
When Hezekiah heard what the Assyrians were saying, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and went to the house of the Lord. He sent for Isaiah to see if God had anything to say about this. Isaiah responded that the Lord said not to be afraid. He would make the king of Assyria fall by the sword in his own land. The Assyrians once again warned Hezekiah not to trust in the Lord and that no god of any nation could stop them. Hezekiah got the message and went before the Lord with it, praying, “So now, O Lord our God, save us from his hand, that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone are the Lord.” Isaiah sent word that God heard Hezekiah, and there was a message for Assyria, too. God promised to turn them back and defend Jerusalem. Then, “the angel of the Lord went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians.” Sennacherib did return back home, where he was soon assassinated by his own sons. No one ultimately will get away with mocking and taunting God.
Isaiah 38: A Life Spared
Hezekiah became sick and almost died. Isaiah told him to set his house in order, but then Hezekiah prayed and wept. God heard the prayer and told Hezekiah that fifteen years would be added to his life. Hezekiah then recorded what he wrote about this event after he recovered. He shows how he had little hope of surviving at first, but then expressed confidence in God’s salvation. Sometimes we need reminding that we can pour out our hearts to God when the difficulty and sorrow is greatest.
Isaiah 39: What Have They Seen?
After Hezekiah’s recovery, some envoys from Babylon came to see him. He welcomed them gladly and showed them all of his treasures. This was foolish, and Isaiah came to him and asked him what all these Babylonians saw. “They have seen all that is in my house. There is nothing in my storehouses that I did not show them.” Isaiah then gave a difficult prophecy. The days were coming when all the treasures would be carried away to Babylon. Nothing would be left, and Hezekiah’s own sons would be detrimentally affected. This would happen after Hezekiah was gone. Babylon has now seen what they would later want to take. The wheels were set in motion for later Babylonian captivity. This chapter ends the first section of Isaiah.
Isaiah 40: Comfort My People
From Isaiah 40 to the end, the prophecies now shift to address those who would later be in Babylonian captivity (about 100 years after Isaiah). While there have been many messianic passages in Isaiah, this feature becomes even more pronounced. Isaiah 40 opens with the prophecy that would later be fulfilled in John the Baptist as the voice crying out and preparing the way for the Lord. The glory of the Lord would be revealed in the Messiah. This prophecy has God’s promise attached, and His word stands forever. We then read about the glory and greatness of God, who cannot be compared to anything or anyone else. His power is great, and all the nations are as nothing before Him. It is this God, the God of the universe, who will strengthen and renew His people. In these familiar words we find some of the greatest encouragement anywhere in Scripture: “but they who wait for 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.” When we need strength, this passage will help us.
Isaiah 41: I am with you
God is continuing to comfort His people who will have been taken into Babylonian exile. He is the One who can give victory at every step. He is the One who can deal with the nations. But Israel is God’s servant, and “I have chosen you and not cast you off; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” The enemies would be put to shame for their shameful behavior toward God’s people. They needed simply to trust God, then, and avoid turning to the idols of the nations who made themselves God’s enemies. The same warning works today: we need to trust God to deliver His people and not trust in the idols of the world. “And you shall rejoice in the Lord; in the Holy One of Israel you shall glory.”
Isaiah 42: The Servant
Once again the Messiah is brought into view through the first few verses: “Behold my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. …” This passage is quoted in Matthew 12:18-20 and applied to Jesus as the Servant. God’s servant — first Israel, then Jesus as He fulfills God’s purpose — would be the light to the nations. In doing so, God would not share His glory with anything else. This message from the Lord should result in songs of praise for those who trust Him. Yet God continues contrasting Himself with the idols of men and Israel’s failure to hear and see. Today we need the continual reminder of God’s greatness in contrast to the world, showing us how important it is to keep our eyes and ears open to His word.
Isaiah 43: Hope and Judgment
God longed to restore His people. In the midst of this section of Isaiah in which the prophet addresses those who would be in Babylonian captivity, God provides hope even while speaking to the reason why they were being judged. God created and redeemed His people, telling them not to fear. “I have called you by name, you are mine.” God promises to be with His people through water and fire. He promises to bring them back, and they would be His witnesses “that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me.” He alone is Savior. Yet for all that God had done for them, “you did not call upon me, O Jacob; but you have been weary of me, O Israel!” God had not burdened them, but tells them that they “have burdened me with your sins; you have wearied me with your iniquities.” God is willing to blot out the sins, but they were judged for unfaithfulness.
Isaiah 44: Folly of Idolatry
God chose and formed His people, and there is no one like Yahweh. “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god. Who is like me? Let him proclaim it.” Isaiah then launches into a stark contrast between Yahweh and the false gods made into idols. Those who fashion the idols are nothing, and those who do so would be put to shame. The process of making the idol is then described. The ironsmith and the carpenter go through great trouble to make and fashion their idols of metal and wood. For a wooden idol, a tree is cut down. Half of it is made into an idol; the other half is burned as firewood. The people are not thinking about how foolish this is. They become like the idols they made: blind and deaf with no understanding. God wants His people to remember this and to recognize that only Yahweh can be there Redeemer. At the end of the chapter, God calls out the name of Cyrus, a king who would fulfill God’s purpose. This chapter reminds us of God’s power and the folly of turning from Him.
Isaiah 45: Cyrus, God’s Anointed
Isaiah has now specified Cyrus as the one who would carry out God’s plans for restoring His people to the land. Cyrus was the king of Persia, who indeed issued a decree that would allow those from Babylonian captivity to return back to the land (see Ezra 1). He is actually referred to as the “anointed” (Messiah), which ultimately points to Jesus who would bring relief to those captive to sin. The Lord says of Cyrus, “I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me. I am the Lord, and there is no other, besides me there is no God; I equip you, though you do not know me…” Bear in mind that this is well over 100 years before those events would occur. The chapter continues by once again showing God’s power of the creation. There is no god like Yahweh, no idol that can satisfy, and no other who can save.
Isaiah 46: Captive Idols
The theme of contrasting Yahweh with idolatry continues. The idols have no saving power; in fact, they themselves are captives: “They stoop; they bow down together; they cannot save the burden, but themselves go into captivity.” In contrast, God does save, and He promises to save the remnant of His people. Thus, “To whom will you liken me and make me equal, and compare me, that we may be alike?” The idols cannot move nor can they answer the cries of those who bow to them. Yet there is none like Yahweh, “declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose…’” God implores through Isaiah, “Listen to me, you stubborn of heart…” He will put salvation in Zion!
Isaiah 47: Babylon won’t escape
Isaiah turns his attention once again to Babylon. Though God allowed Babylon to take His people captive for their sins, Babylon itself would not escape judgment for the way she has behaved. “I was angry with my people; I profaned my heritage; I gave them into your hand; you showed them no mercy; on the aged you made your yoke exceedingly heavy.” The pride and arrogance displayed by Babylon did not go unnoticed. Babylon said, “I am, and there is no one besides me; I shall not sit as a widow or know the loss of children.” Consequently, she would be judged for her sins as well. She felt secure in her wickedness, but “evil shall come upon you, which you will not know how to charm away; disaster shall fall upon you, for which you will not be able to atone; and ruin shall come upon you suddenly, of which you know nothing.” This is a stark reminder that God holds all nations accountable. Sin will destroy any people.
Isaiah 48: No Peace for the Wicked
Isaiah now reminds God’s people that everything God said would happen did in fact come to pass. “The former things I declared of old; they went out from my mouth, and I announced them; then suddenly I did them, and they came to pass.” God did all of this in such a way that they could not claim that their idols did any of it. God knew they would be stubborn. Even so, God did not totally cut them off. As heavy as the punishment was, God still withheld from them what He could have done. Isaiah calls them once again to listen to the Lord, who alone is God. There is no peace for the wicked. They needed to take heed and return to God. God would redeem His people. Today, we are blessed to see redemption from the other side of the cross of Christ.
Isaiah 49: The Servant
Israel was called to be the servant of the Lord. “You are my servant, Israel, in whom I will be glorified.” Sadly, Israel had often failed at this, and now Isaiah addresses a nation that would be in captivity for their idolatry and other sins. Yet God’s intentions for Israel’s purpose was clear: “I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” God is faithful, and people will see God’s purposes fulfilled. This is one reason why God would restore His people and bring them back out of captivity. Then they will know: “For the Lord has comforted his people and will have compassion on his afflicted.” Though the people (Zion) thought God had forsaken them, Isaiah assures them God would never forget them. The coming restoration and the destruction of the enemies would make that clear. While this chapter comforts those who would be in captivity, there is also a pointing forward to the Messiah, the Servant, who would be the true light to the nations and who provides the greatest comfort for a people oppressed by sin.
Isaiah 50: Who fears the Lord?
The Lord makes it clear that Israel’s sins were the reason they were sold into captivity and her “mother” sent away. They did not suffer captivity because God’s hand was unable to redeem them. Rather, they were to learn the lessons of disobedience. At the same time, we find in this chapter the Servant, the type of Christ, who says, “I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting.” Even so, the Lord God helps and His own will prevail. People who walk by the light of their own fires will suffer torment. Yet those who trust God will have true light: “Who among you fears the Lord
and obeys the voice of his servant? Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.” This is still a powerful thought for today.
Isaiah 51: Comfort and Salvation
The Lord offers comfort for those who seek Him, for Zion. God promises that He will set everything right: “I will set my justice for a light to the peoples. My righteousness draws near, my salvation has gone out, and my arms will judge the peoples.” While the earth will wear out like a garment, God’s “salvation will be forever, and my righteousness will never be dismayed.” Consequently, the people are told not to fear “the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings.” Ultimately, “my righteousness will be forever, and my salvation to all generations.” God’s strength has been aroused to help and comfort the people. The ransomed will return and everlasting joy shall be on their heads. Only God can provide comfort, offer salvation, and judge the wicked. He will again say, “You are My people.” Jerusalem had been judged for her sins, but so will her oppressors be judged. The chapter reminds us how important it is to put our trust in God for comfort and salvation.
Isaiah 52: God reigns!
The Servant comes even more into focus. Jerusalem would be redeemed. The people will return. The enemies will be judged. People shall know the name of the Lord. Yet the chapter points forward to the Messiah: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” Paul quotes this in Romans 10. God’s reign is made known through Christ. The ends of the earth will see the salvation of God (see Acts 1:8). Yet this was not without a price. The description of the suffering Servant is taken to another level in this chapter and the next. His is a suffering none would want: a visage marred more than any man. He is a King who was crowned through the cross.
Isaiah 53: Suffering Servant
Perhaps the most well-known of Isaiah’s teachings, the suffering Servant is described in more detail. His appearance did not make him popular. He was despised and rejected, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. The people esteem him smitten of God, afflicted, yet he was pierced for the transgressions of the people. By his stripes we are healed. The people are like sheep, going astray, but the Lord has laid on the Servant the iniquity of all. This was God’s will. By the suffering of the Servant, the people—we—can ultimately be redeemed and forgiven. The New Testament identifies this suffering Servant with Jesus Christ, who bore our sins in His own body. God be thanked that He saw fit to bring redemption through Christ!
Isaiah 54: God’s People Called Back
Redemption is seen in God’s people. They can sing and rejoice for what the Lord has done. “For you will spread abroad to the right and to the left, and your offspring will possess the nations and will people the desolate cities.” They need not fear anymore. The Lord has called His people back like a husband to a wife, and He will show great compassion. The “‘mountains may depart and the hills be removed, but my steadfast love shall not depart from you, and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” People can know the peace that God offers, and if anyone stirs up strife, it is not from God. God’s people are finally vindicated. What great comfort this provides God’s people today!
Isaiah 55: Seek the Lord
The invitation to seek the Lord is given. “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters…” We find this echoed in Revelation 22:17, “And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.” Isaiah says to come “without money and without price.” Why spend resources on that which does not satisfy? Instead, “Seek the Lord while he may be found; call upon him while he is near.” The wicked are to forsake their way and turn to the Lord, knowing that His thoughts and ways are not ours. God has sent forth His word and it will not come back without fulfilling its intended purpose. Blessings will come to those who listen to the call and respond favorably. “Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.” The messianic implications should be clear here. We need to be seeking Jesus.
Isaiah 56: For all Peoples
The Lord calls upon the people to ““Keep justice, and do righteousness, for soon my salvation will come, and my righteousness be revealed.” Those who follow Him are blessed. Salvation is also intended for all, Jew and Gentile, and the unity that should exist between them under Christ is made clear in this chapter: “Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say, ‘The Lord will surely separate me from his people.’” All those who “join themselves to the Lord” are brought to the house of the Lord, for “my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” Sadly, Israel’s history was filled with shepherds who had turned to their own way and mislead the people. In Christ, we may all find the blessings and the unity described. May we be dedicated to God’s justice and righteousness.
Isaiah 57: No Peace for the Wicked
When the righteous die, they enter into peace. But that is not so for the wicked: “Whom are you mocking? Against whom do you open your mouth wide and stick out your tongue? Are you not children of transgression, the offspring of deceit…?” They will not come to a peaceful end: “When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you! The wind will carry them all off, a breath will take them away. But he who takes refuge in me shall possess the land and shall inherit my holy mountain.” God provides comfort and revives the heart of the upright, but there is no peace fo the wicked. This is a sharp contrast between followers of God and those who turn from Him. In Christ, we have peace and will enter into peace. The wicked will not find such peace.
Isaiah 58: Declare Transgressions!
Isaiah is told to lift up his voice like a trumpet and “declare to my people their transgression,
to the house of Jacob their sins.” “They seek me daily,” but it is clear in this context that they seek the Lord falsely. They fast and give the appearance of humbling themselves, but “Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high.” They weren’t doing what God wanted. It wasn’t “the fast that I choose.” They were still not practicing justice and righteousness. What did God want? What was the “fast” that He chose? It was to loose the bonds of wickedness, to let the oppressed go free and break the yokes. It was to share their bread, bring in the homeless and cover the naked. Then if they called the Lord would answer. The Lord is telling them that true righteousness and justice was manifested in how they treated others, particularly those in need. The New Testament shows the same concerns, telling us that righteousness and justice are grounded in how we treat people, not simply in going through ritualistic motions.
Isaiah 59: His Arm brings Salvation
The Lord’s hand is not short that it cannot save or His ear dull that it cannot hear. Their sins were responsible for the breach between them and God. Their hands were defiled with blood and their lips were full of lies. Their works are full of iniquity and their deeds full of violence. Their feet ran to evil and were swift to shed innocent blood. Their thoughts were about iniquity and there was no justice in their path. Consequently, even when they hoped for justice, it was far from them. When they looked for salvation, it was not there. They had thoroughly turned their backs on God, and now had no reason to think that God should help them. The Lord was displeased, but no one was there to intercede. But then “then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him. He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on his head.” We recognize the echo of this in Ephesians 6:10-18. God promised a Redeemer from Zion and a covenant in which God’s Spirit would be upon them. Christians are blessed today to be able to enter into that covenant. Be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the armor of God.
Isaiah 60: The Glory of God’s People
Isaiah describes the future glory of God’s people, the fulfillment of which can only be found in the Messiah. Once again, the nations are a focus: “the Lord will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” Great blessings are described here, and all “for the name of the Lord your God, and for the Holy One of Israel, because he has made you beautiful.” God has shown mercy, and “Your gates shall be open continually; day and night they shall not be shut, that people may bring to you the wealth of the nations, with their kings led in procession.” We can hear the echo of this in Revelation 21:25-26, where the “gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.” This is the glory of the people of God. We see another echo from Isaiah 60:19-20, where we see that God is the everlasting light and the days of mourning are over (compare Revelation 21:4, 23-27). What a glorious picture of what it means to be the people of God!
Isaiah 61: The Lord’s Anointed
The opening lines of Isaiah 61 point directly to the Messiah, the anointed one: “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor…” Jesus specifically quoted this passage as He began His public ministry and told the people, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Through the Messiah, God would bring tremendous blessings to the people—“the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.” Then God’s people would be called “priests of the Lord” who “speak of you as the ministers of our God.” God blesses His people and judges the nations. Yet, “the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations.” The blessings of what the Lord offers are tremendous. Let us praise Him for what He had done through Jesus Christ.
Isaiah 62: A New Name
The Lord speaks up for and blesses Zion (Jerusalem), which ultimately references His people in the Messiah. The nations would see what God has done, and so His people would be “called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will give.” The new name is given in context. Instead of being called Azubah (forsaken) and Shemamah (desolate), God’s people would be called Hephzibah (my delight is in her; cf. Mal 3:12) and Beulah (Married). This emphasizes the reversal that takes place in the Messiah. God would rejoice over what was considered lamentable. God has set a watchman and sworn an oath that these blessings will not be taken away. Jerusalem would become “a praise in the earth.” The Lord proclaims, “‘Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.’ And they shall be called The Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord; and you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken.”
Isaiah 63: Do Not Grieve the Spirit
A figure comes in crimson garments “speaking in righteousness, mighty to save.” Why are the garments red? Now the language of judgment is once again used. He has trodden the winepress in his wrath; “their lifeblood spattered on my garments, and stained all my apparel. For the day of vengeance was in my heart, and my year of redemption had come.” No one could help. But there is an alternative: God would be merciful and become the Savior of the people. He could redeem them. Yet here Isaiah turns to the language of the Exodus and wilderness wanderings where the people rebelled and grieved the Holy Spirit. God put the Holy Spirit in their midst to lead them, but they rebelled. Consequently, God’s people suffered for it. We are reminded of the lessons to be learned from the time in the wilderness when those who ought to have known better essentially refused to be led by God. May we learn the significance of this today: “And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Eph 4:30).
Isaiah 64: What Sin has Done
Knowing that the Spirit is grieved and God is not blessing His people because of rebellion makes the problem of sin very personal. “Behold, you were angry, and we sinned; in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved? We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” Yet we still find hope in remembering who God is. “But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.” There is a remembrance here of what sin has done to the people, but there is also the plea of the helpless for God to come to their aid. We have already seen that God does just that. He makes what was desolate into something beautiful. Praise the Lord!
Isaiah 65: New Heavens and New Earth
God does not sit back aloof and distant. He wants people to seek and reach out to Him. God Himself has reached out. He says, “‘Here I am, here I am,’ to a nation that was not called by my name. I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices.” Though the people provoked God through their evil, He was still willing for them to return and receive His blessings. He would not destroy them all, and the land would once again be prosperous “for my people who have sought me.” However, those who forsook the Lord and forgot His holy mountain would be destined for the sword “because, when I called, you did not answer; when I spoke, you did not listen, but you did what was evil in my eyes and chose what I did not delight in.” He then contrasts His servants with those who forsook Him, showing how His servants are truly blessed “by the God of truth.” Isaiah then describes the new heavens and new earth where “the former things shall not be remembered.” All is reversed and changed. That which previously was seen as a danger “shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the Lord. Again, we find Revelation 21-22 echoing these passages, with God’s people enjoying the blessings of His rewards.
Isaiah 66: Life or Judgment
God owns everything: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool.” What can man build to impress God or where can man make God a place of rest? Who is it that God looks upon with favor? “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” This is one who is humble. While people delight in their abominations and evil deeds, those who tremble at the word of God are in the position to glorify Him. Once again we find the language of restoration. God brought forth the children of Zion and says to rejoice in her. Why? Because God would extend “peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream.” God’s hand would be shown, bringing salvation and life to His people and judgment to His enemies. Those practicing abominations would come to an end. All nations would be gathered and see His glory. “For as the new heavens and the new earth that I make shall remain before me, says the Lord, so shall your offspring and your name remain.” But for the dead bodies of those who rebelled, “their worm shall not die, their fire shall not be quenched, and they shall be an abhorrence to all flesh.” Isaiah ends with this basic choice before us: choose to glorify God and receive His blessings or choose to rebel and receive judgment. This is the same basic choice we still have today.