I got behind on these last week, so this is the extra post to get us back on track to finish by the end of the year!
The latter part of Isaiah is a section of prophecies and words of encouragement for Israel and Judah (in regard to their capture and exile) and for all people who choose to believe in and follow God. Within them, there are 3 themes that I want to discuss.
Isaiah takes several opportunities to point out the foolishness of worshipping idols. Isaiah 44:13-20 says
The carpenter stretches a line; he marks it out with a pencil. He shapes it with planes and marks it with a compass. He shapes it into the figure of a man, with the beauty of a man, to dwell in a house. He cuts down cedars, or he chooses a cypress tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then it becomes fuel for a man. He takes a part of it and warms himself; he kindles a fire and bakes bread. Also he makes a god and worships it; he makes it an idol and falls down before it. Half of it he burns in the fire. Over the half he eats meat; he roasts it and is satisfied. Also he warms himself and says, “Aha, I am warm, I have seen the fire!” And the rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, and falls down to it and worships it. He prays to it and says, “Deliver me, for you are my god!” They know not, nor do they discern, for he has shut their eyes, so that they cannot see, and their hearts, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?” He feeds on ashes; a deluded heart has led him astray, and he cannot deliver himself or say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”
Isaiah condemns the worship of human creations. God intends for us to worship our Creator, not what He has created. And yet, people tend to get so caught up in the worship of the created things that they don’t even stop and consider the folly of their actions.
God, speaking through Isaiah in 57:13 says, “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.”
The Suffering Messiah
The book of Isaiah is sometimes referred to as the Gospel of the Old Testament. Through its pages we learn quite a bit about the promised Messiah. Isaiah calls him Immanuel (God With Us) in 7:14. He identifies him as being a descendant of David, laying claim to David’s promised eternal throne (16:4-5). Isaiah identifies this Messiah as coming from Galilee, being born as a baby and yet being God Himself taking on human flesh (9:1-7). In Isaiah 63:3-5, the Messiah is described as speaking in regard to the judgment of sin that he brings with him to the earth. He says,
I have trodden the winepress alone, and from the peoples no one was with me; I trod them in my anger and trampled them in my 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. I looked, but there was no one to help; I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold; so my own arm brought me salvation, and my wrath upheld me.
This is an interesting passage because it speaks of God bringing his own salvation to himself (e.g. God as God bringing salvation to God as man, in a sense). He identifies the necessity of this because no one else can do it.
Isaiah speaks (52:13-53:12) of this God-person as a suffering servant, one who is rejected by his own people, beaten beyond recognition, pierced (crucified), dying with sinners and buried in a rich man’s tomb. He would bear the sins of humanity under God’s judgment, and yet he would live again after his death, seeing his sacrifice bringing salvation to all who believe in him.
Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted. As many were astonished at you— his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind— so shall he sprinkle many nations. Kings shall shut their mouths because of him, for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand. Who has believed what he has heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
The Future for God’s People
In his descriptions of the Messiah, Isaiah makes it clear that He is not bringing God’s simultaneous judgment and salvation only to Israel, but to all the nations of the world. The judgment occurs when the servant dies, bearing the sins of all the world, but the salvation occurs when he lives again and provides a means of salvation from God’s judgment. In 49:6, God says “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the preserved of Israel; I will make you as a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.” Then, in 55:5, he says “Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the LORD your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you.” Both of these passages (and 56:1-8) indicate that there will be many who come to salvation through this Messiah who are not of the nation of Israel.
Finally, in Isaiah 65:17-25, Isaiah paints a picture of what the future holds for all of God’s people.
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in that which I create; for behold, I create Jerusalem to be a joy, and her people to be a gladness. I will rejoice in Jerusalem and be glad in my people; no more shall be heard in it the sound of weeping and the cry of distress. No more shall there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not fill out his days, for the young man shall die a hundred years old, and the sinner a hundred years old shall be accursed. They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat; for like the days of a tree shall the days of my people be, and my chosen shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain or bear children for calamity, for they shall be the offspring of the blessed of the LORD, and their descendants with them. Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the LORD.