Why Study Isaiah

Why study Isaiah?

"Of all the books in the OT, Isaiah is perhaps the richest. Its literary grandeur is unequaled. Its scope is unparalleled. The breadth of its view of God is unmatched. In so many ways it is a book of superlatives. Thus it is no wonder that Isaiah is the most quoted prophet in the NT, and along with Psalms and Deuteronomy, one of the most frequently cited of all OT books. Study of it is an opportunity for unending inspiration and challenge.      ...the book of Isaiah...comes to us as a word from God, a revelation of the inevitable conflict between divine glory and human pride, of the self-destruction that pride must bring, and of the grace of God in restoring that destroyed humanity to himself. To read the book with the open eyes of the spirit is to see oneself, at times all too clearly, but also to see a God whose holiness is made irresistible by his love." John Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah, 1986.


"In terms of theological significance, the book of Isaiah is the 'Romans' of the OT." Barry G Webb, The Message of Isaiah, 1996.


"Isaiah is the Paul of the OT in his teaching that faith in God's promises is the single most important reality for the Lord's people: this is the heart of ch. 1-37. He is the 'Hebrews' of the OT in his proposal of faith as the sustaining strength of the Lord's people in life's dark days: this is the heart of ch. 38-55. He is also the James of the OT in his insistence that 'faith works,' proving itself in obedience: thus ch. 56-66." J. Alec Motyer, Isaiah, 1999.


What Bach's first biographer said about his music applies to Isaiah's prophecy:

"[Bach's music] is not merely agreeable, like other composers,' but transports us to the regions of the ideal. It does not arrest our attention momentarily but grips us the stronger the oftener we listen to it so that, after a thousand hearings, its treasures are still unexhausted and yield fresh beauties to excite our wonder."


Let's Talk, Part I: How Stupid Can You Be (Isaiah 1a)

Isaiah 1:1-31; 18, 3 (1-9, 10-20, 21-31)

"Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool" (Isa 1:18, ESV). "Let us settle the matter" (NIV). "Let's settle this" (NLT). "Let us discuss this" (HCSB). "Let's argue our case."

"The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner's manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand" (Isa 1:3, NIV).

Theme and title for the book of Isaiah: The Broken Heart of God (Isa 6:8). (Other titles: A Savior will suffer to save you; Only God saves; The Lord is salvation; God preserves a remnant; A suffering Messiah/Savior; Behold the beauty of the Lord; God loves and hopes as his heart breaks; God saves sinners; God judges and saves; Your God reigns; I am God and there is no other; On eagles wings.) [Some key verses of Isaiah: Isa 6:8; 12:2; 45:22; 48:11; 53:5.]


Conviction of Sin

Isa 1:2-9 is a lament that decries God's people's disregard for righteousness and brings conviction to their souls.  What is conviction of sin?
  • "What is conviction of sin? It is not an oppressive spirit of uncertainty or paralyzing guilt feelings.
  • Conviction of sin is the lance of the divine Surgeon piercing the infected soul, releasing the pressure, letting the infection pour out. 
  • Conviction of sin is a health-giving injury. 
  • Conviction of sin is the Holy Spirit being kind to us by confronting us with the light we don't want to see and the truth we're afraid to admit and the guilt we prefer to ignore. 
  • Conviction of sin is the severe love of God overruling our compulsive dishonesty, our willful blindness, our favorite excuses. 
  • Conviction of sin is the violent sweetness of God opposing the sins lying comfortably undisturbed in our lives. 
  • Conviction of sin is the merciful God declaring war on the false peace we settle for. 
  • Conviction of sin is our escape from malaise to joy, from attending church to worship, from faking it to authenticity. 
  • Conviction of sin, with the forgiveness of Jesus pouring over our wounds, is life."
Ray Ortlund, Isaiah: God Saves Sinners, p. 26
Our Urgent Need: A New Self-Awareness 1 (Isaiah 1:2-9).


No Other Savior (Isaiah 45-46)

Isaiah 45:1-25; 21b-22; 46:1-13

"And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me. Turn [Look] to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other" (Isa 45:21b-22, NIV).

In Isaiah 44-46, Isaiah repeatedly and emphatically declares that apart from God there is no God (Isa 44:6, 8; 45:6, 14, 18, 21-22; 46:4, 9). Isaiah also declares that there is none but God who is man's Savior (Isa 45:21b-22; 46:13). God's salvation is an everlasting salvation (Isa 45:17). How does God save his people?
  1. Through humiliation a foreign power (45:1-8, 13; 44:28).
  2. By his sovereign will as man's Maker (45:9-13).
  3. By hiding himself and revealing himself (45:14-17, 18-25).
  4. By carrying you (46:1-13).
  1. Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae: Isaiah.
  2. Isaiah: Title of each chapter and commentary. Matthew Henry Complete Commentary: Isaiah.
  3. Study Guide for Isaiah 45 (David Guzik): Look To Me and Be Saved. Charles Spurgeon conversion is from Isa 45:22.
    1. Look to God who choose Cyrus (1-7).
    2. Look to God who created everything (8-13).
    3. Look to the God above all Gods (14-25).
  4. Study Guide for Isaiah 46 (David Guzik): Dead Idols and the Living God.
    1. The idols of the nations are carried into captivity (1-7).
    2. A call to remember (8-13).
  5. Outline of Isaiah 45, 46, 47, 48 —The fall of Babylon and rise of Persia. Isaiah 40-51 deliver a series of messages to Judah and the remnant of Israel. Isaiah looks into the next two centuries. He sees beyond the Babylonian captivity to the fall of Babylon, and even predicts that Cyrus king of Persia will return the captives to Jerusalem to rebuild it.
    • The last verse of Isaiah 44 names a future king of Persia who would shepherd the remnant of God's people and oversee the rebuilding of Jerusalem. All this came to pass.
    • The Lord calls Cyrus by name before he has even been born and before the kingdom over which he will reign has risen to power (Isa 45:1-7).
    • Cyrus is warned in advance not to argue with God (Isa 45:8-10).
    • Cyrus will respect God's purpose and plan, and will co-operate with it to rebuild Jerusalem (Isa 45:11-13).
    • God promises that, when Israel has been saved by the Lord, he will give over to Cyrus the idolatrous Egyptian kingdom and other southern nations (Isaiah 45:14-19).
    • When God so powerfully brings to pass the purpose he has long ago announced, as he did in the case of Cyrus, all peoples of the earth should acknowledge him, every knee should bow to him (Isa 45:20-25).
    • The gods of Babylon like Bel and Nebo, will be useless before Cyrus (Isa 46:1-2).
    • Now God tells all the remnant of Israel to listen and remember. He reiterates that he is their true God, not some dumb unmoving idol. He, God, will save them from Babylonian exile when he calls Cyrus from the east, Cyrus the man of God's purpose (Isa 46:3-13).


No Other God (Isaiah 44)

Isaiah 44:6-28; 6, 24

"This is what the Lord says—Israel's King and Redeemer, the Lord Almighty: I am the first and I am the last; apart from me there is no God" "This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, the Maker of all things, who stretches out the heavens, who spreads out the earth by myself" (Isa 44:6, 24, NIV).
Who is the only God?
  1. The first and the last (6-8; 46:10). There is no other like God.
  2. The one offended by our idolatry (9-20). Idolatry is the worst sin.
  3. The Redeemer of his people (21-23, 6, 24). God desires his people to remember him and return to him.
  4. The Creator who delivers his people (24-28). God is faithful to his people.


When God is Your Savior and King (Isaiah 43)

Isaiah 43:1-28; 3a, 15

"For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior..." (Isa 43:3a, NIV). "I am the Lord, your Holy One, Israel's Creator, your King." (Isa 43:15, NIV).

What are the practical effects of God being our Savior and King?
  1. He redeems and protects us (43:1-7). There is no fear in adversity.
  2. He makes us his witnesses (43:8-13). We declare that he is God (Isa 43:13).
  3. He will do a new thing (43:14-21). We experience miracles.
  4. He forgives our sins (43:22-28). Despite our rebellion (Isa 43:22-24), God extends mercy.
  5. He blesses our children (44:1-5). Despite the parent's sins, God pours out his Spirit on the children.
  1. The LORD is the Gracious Redeemer (Isaiah 43:1-13).
  2. Study Guide on Isaiah 43 (David Guzik): Fear Not.
    1. Reasons to not fear (1-7): You belong to God (1). God is with you (2-7).
    2. Witnesses to the work of the Lord (8-13).
      • The nations and the people of Israel are called to either prove their case or accept God's (8-9).
      • The Lord commissions his witnesses (10-13).
    3. The Lord redeems a hard-hearted people (14-28).
      • A promise to judge Babylon (14-17).
      • God promises his exiled people a new work (18-21).
      • The hard-heartedness of God's people (22-24).
      • The Lord's mercy to a hard-hearted people (25-28).
  3. Outline of Isaiah 40, 41, 42, 43, 44 — Messages to Judah and the remnant of Israel.
    • Do not fear! (Isa 43:1-7).
    • You are my witnesses (Isa 43:8-13).
    • God's plan to rescue Israel from Babylonian captivity (Isa 43:14-21).
    • Israel has forgotten God (Isa 43:22-28).
  4. Webb Barry G. The Message of Isaiah. Isaiah 43:1-44:5 is a reaffirmation of Israel's calling to be the Lord's servant. Though the Lord has pointed to another greater Servant, it does not mean that Israel's own servant role is abrogated. Rather, God states otherwise (Isa 43:10; 44:1-2). Isa 43:1-44:5 can be summarized in six great statements of encouragements, one for each of its six parts:
    1. Fear not (43:1-7).
    2. You are my witnesses (43:8-13).
    3. I am the Lord ... your King (43:14-15).
    4. See, I am doing a new thing! (43:16-21)
    5. I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions (43:22-28).
    6. I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring (44:1-5).


The Servant of God (Isaiah 42)

Isaiah 42:1-25; 1

"Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will bring justice to the nations" (Isa 42:1, NIV).

The "servant of God" theme is one of the richest strands of Isaiah's thought. It lies at the heart of his message as it moves to its climax in the 2nd part of the book (ch. 40-66). Isa 42:1-9 is the first of four "Servant Songs" (Isa 49:1-13; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12).

What does Isaiah say about the servant of the Lord (Isa 42:1-4, 5-9)?


The Servant's Ministry is Justice

Isaiah 42:1, 3, 4

The servant's ministry is justice (Isa 42:1, 3, 4).
  • It is justice to the nations (1): worldwide justice.
  • It is in faithfulness (3): genuine justice.
  • It is justice on earth (4).
Authoritative pronouncement and decision. We naturally think of justice as implying a fair, unbiased, pure and just society, with no prejudice or favoritism. The Hebrew word מִשְׁפָּט (mishpat) does cater to this -- but only derivatively. The parallel in Isa 42:4 between "justice" and "law" provides a clue that in this passage Isaiah is using the word to express one aspect of divinely revealed truth. "Law" means "teaching" (Isa 1:10). Mishpat occurs (421 times in the OT) nearly 30 times in Psalm 119 (Ps 119:7, 13, 20, etc) and nearly 20 times in Deuteronomy (Dt 4:1; 5:1; etc) as one aspect of what we would call "the word of God." The verb behind the noun means "to give judgment," the authoritative pronouncement of king or judge. Just as the Lord's law is his teaching, so his justice (judgment) is what he has pronounced to be true, the decision he has reached.


How God Helps His People (Isaiah 41)

Isaiah 41:1-29; 14

"'Do not be afraid, you worm Jacob, little Israel, do not fear, for I myself will help you,' declares the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel" (Isa 41:14, NIV).

The fall of Jerusalem in 587 BC tested Israel's faith more profoundly than any other single event in the entire OT. Isaiah knew that it would happen (Isa 39:5-7). He never regarded this as calling God's sovereignty into question. Babylon, like Assyria before her, had a part to play in the drama of history, but it was the Lord, not they, who wrote the script.

In Isaiah 41, God presents himself as the helper of his people. What can we learn about how God helps his people Israel?


Soar Like An Eagle (Isaiah 40)

Isaiah 40:1-31; 31

"But those who trust (wait, hope) in the Lord will find new (renew their) strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint" (Isa 40:31, NLT).

  1. God's Comfort Enables the Weak to Soar on Wings Like Eagles (Isaiah 40). My daily bread Dec 2010.
  2. Webb, Barry G. The Message of Isaiah. 160-167.
    • Overture (1-11),
    • Majesty (12-31): The incomparable one (12-26). Strength for the weary (27-31).
  3. Motyer, J. Alec. Isaiah. 273-283.
    • The message of comfort (1-11).
    • God the Creator, guarantor of his promises (12-31):
      • The Creator in his wisdom (12-14).
      • The Creator in his greatness (15-17).
      • The Creator in his sole deity (18-20).
      • The Creator in his role as King of kings (21-24).
      • The Creator in his direct management of the cosmos (25-26).
      • The Creator in his self-giving (27-31).


Who Do You Trust? (Isaiah 36-39)

Isaiah 36-39
"Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you, Lord, are the only God" (Isa 37:20, NIV).
On whom are you depending (Isa 36:5)? Whom are you trusting? Where is your trust ultimately being placed? The entire book of Isaiah forces us to ponder these fundamental questions again and again. Isaiah 36-39, in particular, expresses and presses this question which is absolutely central to the total message of Isaiah. The context of Isaiah 36-37 is in 2 Kings 18-19, and in particular 2 Ki 18:13-16. The Assyrian king, Sennacherib, had apparently accepted Hezekiah's submission and a monetary satisfaction (300 talents of silver and 30 talents of gold), but immediately renewed his pressure on Jerusalem.


The Highway to Happiness (Isaiah 34-35)

Isaiah 34-35

"And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it. 9 No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, 10 and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away" (Isa 35:8-10, NIV).

Theme: What is the unmistakable highway to happiness? To everlasting joy and gladness?

Isaiah 34-35, side by side and consecutively, cover the two major repeated themes of judgment (ch. 34) and salvation (ch. 35) that is repeated throughout the book of Isaiah.


A Beautiful King (Isaiah 32-33)

Isaiah 32-33

"Your eyes will see the king in his beauty and view a land that stretches afar" (Isa 33:17, NIV).

A beautiful king:
  1. Reigns in righteousness, rules with justice (Isa 32:1; 33:5-6, 21-22).
  2. Protects and transforms his people (Isa 32:2-4, 19-20; 33:17-20).
  3. Judges accordingly (Isa 32:5-8).
  4. Condemns complacency and false security (Isa 32:9-20).
  5. Destroys the destroyer (Isa 33:1-6).

God Longs to be Gracious to You (Isaiah 30-31)

Isaiah 30-31

"Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to you; therefore he will rise up to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!" (Isa 30:18) "Return, you Israelites, to the One you have so greatly revolted against" (Isa 31:6, NIV).
Theme: Though we stubbornly and proudly insist on relying on our own plans instead of trusting God, yet God still longs to be gracious to us. This is the amazing logic of grace.

Isaiah 30 and 31 are connected because they both begin by denouncing the alliance with Egypt in the most explicit terms (Isa 30:1-5; 31:1-3).