What Is Happening?
Over these passed two years or so,
- The Years of COVID
- The rise of Critical Race Theory
- The centering of the LGBTQ+ concerns
- Overseas, the violent aggression and even overthrow of nations
- Worldwide, the worsening effects of climate change
- Scarcity of natural resources
people have been crying out that life is a mess.
People are trying to figure out how to live in this messy world of increasing famine and water shortages, of diminishing resources, of rapidly changing political and diplomatic landscapes, and families, careers, politics, social injustice, the environment, the economy, it is all on the line.
And just as with people in antiquity, we are finding out there are no simple solutions, no quick and easy answers.
Yet, God does offer answers.
Not simple, not easy, but deep, timeless truths and an authentic response.
A Royal Young Priest Asks for Answers
Isaiah might have been about twenty years old when he began to ask these questions about greed in the face of starving children, the destruction of the environment, the emptiness of religion, and the absence of good and godly leaders.
Born to a father named Amoz (not the famous prophet) his parents named him “God is salvation,” very similar to the name of Joshua, or Jesus.
Tradition says his father Amoz was brother to king Amaziah of Judah. That would have made Isaiah King Uzziah’s cousin, which would explain Isaiah’s easy access to the royal court, and his insider’s knowledge of the politics of his day, and the international situation. He may have even grown up in the palace and overheard conversations about world affairs.
Think of all the eavesdropping he may have done! God had perfectly placed him.
His ministry began in 740 BC, while he was worshiping in the temple, grieving the death of his cousin, King Amaziah, and worrying about what was going on in his own country, as well as the world. As he was praying, God called Isaiah to cleansing and to preaching.
Isaiah’s vision of God was the most important event of his life.
Nearly eight centuries later, the apostle John would explain that the person Isaiah saw was Jesus.
Although [Jesus] had performed so many signs in their presence, they did not believe in him. This was to fulfill the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah:
“Lord, who has believed our message,
and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?”
And so they could not believe, because Isaiah also said,
“He has blinded their eyes
and hardened their heart,
so that they might not look with their eyes,
and understand with their heart and turn—
and I would heal them.”
Isaiah said this because he saw [Jesus’] glory and spoke about him.John 12:37-41 (NRSV)
That moment defined Isaiah’s life.
The moment God revealed the Lord to Isaiah.
The moment when God began to pour God’s message into Isaiah’s heart.
Isaiah’s words were the very words of God.
From this point forward, Isaiah lived true to his vision of God. He was a man of his convictions. He spoke one consistent message despite the rejection of the people around him. He lived an uncompromising life that authenticated the truth of his words, and he did it for at least sixty years. He was living proof of his words, a man of integrity.
He was also a man of compassion and loved the people of his country. In Chapter Sixteen, he wrote about drenching the nation with his tears. He longed for God to comfort God’s people.
He was a faithful and loyal friend, helping each king whenever he could.
Devotion to Family
His whole family was involved with him in ministry. Isaiah’s wife also prophesied, and together they gave their two sons prophetic names. Their firstborn was named Shear-Jashub, meaning “a remnant will return.”
In Chapter Seven, Shear-Jashub accompanied his father, Isaiah, to an important meeting with King Ahaz, who was trying to figure out how to deal with the pressure the northern kingdom of Israel, and Syria were putting on him.
In Chapter Eight, their second son was named Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, which means “Quick to plunder, swift to the prey,” a prophetic name that was a sign of Judah’s deliverance from the Israel-Syria coalition.
Isaiah’s family stood with him, conveying God’s message.
He was a man in touch with God, who knew God as a personal Savior.
But now thus says the Lord,Isaiah 43:1-3 (NRSV)
he who created you, O Jacob,
he who formed you, O Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through fire you shall not be burned,
and the flame shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
In every chapter Isaiah wrote about the names and attributes of God. Though God’s thoughts and God’s ways are so much higher than our own, God will reveal more of God’s Person to you and me through Isaiah, and uncover God’s mysteries, the Holy One, Lord over all.
For sixty years Isaiah called God’s people to turn away from sin and turn towards the Lord. Isaiah hated empty religion and he was highly sensitive to sin. His words will help you and me to not only see sin and recognize it in ourselves, but also to repent from it.
He was the prophet of hope, even with all the judgment that he was called to warn God’s people about. No matter how grim it got, Isaiah would promise that God would save.
He was a courageous man and a skilled communicator. Not intimidated by kings, not put off by people mocking him or refusing to listen, he persevered, boldly declaring God’s word, using vivid illustrations to get his point across.
Isaiah served under four kings: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. Hezekiah died in 698 B.C. and his son Manasseh became the next king. There are two Talmudic traditions claiming Isaiah suffered martyrdom at King Manasseh’s hand, most likely sawn in half, an allusion the writer of Hebrews would make, in writing about prophets of God being “sawn in two.”
Isaiah’s intimacy with God, his integrity, his compassion, his loyalty, his hope, and his unswerving devotion to God and God’s word were so influential in his day that king Hezekiah was moved to lead Judah in both national and spiritual reforms.
That is a large impact from just one person!
A consistent lifestyle combined with uncompromising convictions can profoundly influence a culture.
In talking with a friend, recently, we both were thinking out loud about the quandary Christians find themselves in today. Our Lord Jesus said we are to be known by our love. But, so often, Christians seem to be known for turning on each other, or for celebrated pastors and leaders being toppled by their crimes and excesses. So often, Christians are known for being judgmental and accusatory, even punitive.
And yet, we both also remembered the Apostle Paul’s wise saying,
For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing;
—to the one a fragrance from death to death,
—to the other a fragrance from life to life.
Who is sufficient for these things?Apostle Paul, 2 Corinthians 2:15-16 (NRSV)
Yet, Isaiah’s influence continued long after he died. His is the most quoted and referred to Hebrew Testament book in the Christian Testament. Even to this day, Isaiah is profoundly influencing those who hear his words.