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UCGia Bible Insights Thursday, January 07 2021

Isaiah - A prophet for then and now

The life of Isaiah goes beyond his personal example in difficult times. It also points to the future of mankind and God’s intervention, as Isaiah pleads with us to heed God’s admonitions and repent of our ungodly ways.

by Jerold Aust

The 66-chapter prophecy of Isaiah is the third longest book in the Bible, being exceeded in length only by Jeremiah and Psalms.

Isaiah was a prophet in Judah, ca. 740-700 B.C. Rabbinic tradition claims Isaiah's father, Amoz (not Amos the prophet), was a brother of King Amaziah. Isaiah would therefore have been first cousin to King Uzziah and grandson to King Joash, making him of royal blood.

Although much attention has been given to Isaiah's message of God's messianic salvation, he did not gloss over the sins of his countrymen. He consistently addressed the nation’s hedonism and lukewarm attitude toward the true God, which ultimately resulted in God allowing Assyria to invade Judah.

The Assyrian Threat

In 701 B.C. Sennacherib of Assyria destroyed 46 walled cities in Judah and took 200,000 captives. The Assyrian juggernaut was stopped at the walls of Jerusalem, with Sennacherib boasting of shutting up Hezekiah in Jerusalem "like a caged bird."

The Assyrian account, however, curiously omits any mention of Sennacherib actually capturing Jerusalem and there is a reason for this. (Isaiah 36-37 addresses the Assyrian siege of Jerusalem, which is also recorded in 2 Kings 18-19 and 2 Chronicles 32.)

When Sennacherib surrounded Jerusalem he sent three officers to demand the city's surrender. To his credit, Judah’s King Hezekiah immediately humbled himself and turned to God for deliverance, and also sought Isaiah's help, as a prophet of God (Isaiah 37:1-4, NIV).

God’s response through Isaiah was quick and sure: "...Do not be afraid... I am going to put a spirit in him (Sennacherib) so that when he hears a certain report, he will return to his own country, and there I will have him cut down with the sword'" (verses 6-7, NIV).

Sennacherib’s contempt for God and His servants proved his undoing. That night God sent an angel to kill 185,000 in the Assyrian camp. Sennacherib was so stunned he gave orders to head back to Assyria, and Jerusalem was spared. The Assyrian army had been crushed without a single arrow being fired.

Although records show Sennacherib ruled Assyria for another 20 years, he never returned to Jerusalem. He died when his own sons assassinated him as he worshiped in his pagan temple (Isaiah 37:37-38).

Mankind’s Destiny

Isaiah’s optimism and faith grew from God's guarantee mankind was destined to enjoy a glorious future. Isaiah 9 reveals the vision of the virgin birth of the King of Kings, who would redeem humanity. Ironically, Isaiah gave this prophecy at the time of Israel's being taken into captivity by Assyria.

"For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end..." (Isaiah 9:6-7). Isaiah also speaks of the Messiah's reign in chapter 32 and of a transformed world in chapter 35.

Isaiah's description in chapter 53 of Jesus Christ as God's servant, a man of sorrows suffering for us, is perhaps one of the best-loved chapters in the Bible. The death of Jesus is treated as if it had already happened, though some seven centuries would pass before the Saviour's death at Calvary.

Fittingly, the prophecies of Isaiah close by mentioning the glory of a new heavens and new earth in chapters 65-66, which is reemphasized Revelation 21-22.

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