The section of Scripture beginning with Isaiah and continuing through the Old Testament is called the prophetic portion but there are prophecies as far back in the Bible as Genesis.
The prophets were men God raised up in times when there was neither a priest or king who was worthy of proclaiming God’s Word to Israel and Judah and the world.
God chose whom He would to be a prophet. These men were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write what God wanted His people to know. Sometimes they prophesied local events for the immediate future and sometimes events that were to come to pass in the distant future. Peter wrote, in 2 Peter 1:21: “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”
Isaiah prophesied the deliverance of Jerusalem from the army of Assyria without an arrow being shot while Assyria was poised to attack. He prophesied the general leading the attack would be killed in battle in his own land and it all came true shortly.
Isaiah also spoke of events far in the future. He wrote of a man who would be born over 150 years later who would be named Cyrus and would become a Persian ruler, conquer Babylon, and send God’s captive people back to Jerusalem.
He told of the first coming of Christ in detail some 700 years before His advent. He told where He would be born, of His death by crucifixion, His resurrection, and His second coming to earth. That last prophecy is yet to be fulfilled.
One of the greatest evidences that the prophets were speaking the word of God is that hundreds of their prophecies have been literally fulfilled. Man can’t guess the future. With all the scientific advances we have today, the weatherman still can’t predict the weather 24 hours in advance, yet God's Word has over three hundred prophecies concerning the first coming of Christ, all made 400 years or more before He came, which have been literally fulfilled.
From our vantage point in time and history, we see that God identified Christ’s first coming so clearly that Israel had no excuse for not recognizing the Messiah when He came.
Isaiah’s prophecy covers things from the immediate siege of Jerusalem to the Babylonian exile and return of the captives, the birth and first coming of Christ, the Tribulation at His second coming and the Millennial Reign of Christ, and all with great accuracy.
Isaiah 1:1 "The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah."
The writer is the prophet Isaiah. His name means "Yahweh is salvation." His prophecy here is a vision of the divine truth of God’s plans concerning Judah, which was the southern kingdom consisting of the tribes of Benjamin and Judah, and of Jerusalem, its capital city. He even gives the date - "in the days of Uzziah"- and three other kings.
Verses 2-6. "Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the LORD hath spoken, I have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me. 3: The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master's crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. 4: Ah sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a seed of evildoers, children that are corrupters: they have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel unto anger, they are gone away backward. 5: Why should ye be stricken any more? ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. 6: From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment."
God accuses His people of ingratitude in verses 2-3, and states that His people, “His children that He nourished and brought up,” have rebelled against Him and are a sinful people. Their sin was well known and He cites all Heaven and earth as witnesses against them.
The charge of ingratitude to God is serious. All creation observes the laws and purposes for which God made them. The ox and the donkey know their master who feeds them and cares for them, but the people of Judah didn’t recognize their God who so generously provided for them. They rejected God and the people’s sin was so bad and so accepted that the nation had sunk below the level of dumb animals.
Worse yet, they even encouraged others to sin with them. They put God, as a restraining force, out of their lives completely. We have the same situation with many people today. They encourage you to sin like they do so that it seems the normal thing to do.
They had forsaken the Lord with their defiant conduct, they were deserters and traitors and had alienated themselves from God and provoked the Holy One of Israel to anger.
In verses 5-6, Isaiah illustrated Israel's backsliding by likening it to a diseased person. The sick and untreated body is a graphic portrayal here of the degeneration of the nation. God calls them a body covered with putrid and untreated sores from head to foot. The mental, spiritual, and intellectual processes of the whole nation had become morally and spiritually corrupt like much of society today.
Verses 7-9. "Your country is desolate, your cities are burned with fire: your land, strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as overthrown by strangers. 8: And the daughter of Zion is left as a cottage in a vineyard, as a lodge in a garden of cucumbers, as a besieged city. 9: Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.
In verse 7, Isaiah is describing the nation of Judah as if these things had already happened. This is likely one of the prophet's later visions which was placed first to serve as a graphic introduction to the whole book. It would come to pass shortly. Their country would become utterly desolate, their cities burned with fire, their land would be taken by foreigners before their very eyes. Their leaders would be overthrown and the land laid waste. This probably refers to Sennacherib's invasion of Judah around 701 B.C.
The northern kingdom of Israel had been destroyed by Assyria by that time and it should have served as a warning to the southern kingdom of Judah.
Verse 8. Jerusalem is called the daughter of Zion. This verse refers to the city and the area surrounding it outside the walls. It would be so desolated that it’s likened to a temporary shelter in a melon field or a besieged city.
Verse 9. God’s only guarantee against complete destruction would be a very small remnant like Elijah’s seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to Baal. (1 Kings 19:18; “Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him,”)
Verses 10-15. "Hear the word of the LORD, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. 11: To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? saith the LORD: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he goats. 12: When ye come to appear before me, who hath required this at your hand, to tread my courts? 13: Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting. 14: Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth: they are a trouble unto me; I am weary to bear them. 15: And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood."
God really laid it on the line here. The people had rejected the Lord in verse 10 and He rejected their empty worship in verses 11-15. Many in the world today are guilty of this.
God, through the prophet Isaiah, drastically denounced both the judges and people of Jerusalem and called them “ye rulers of Sodom” and “ye people of Gomorrah” to demonstrate the low moral level they had sunk to. Sodom and Gomorrah no longer exist but their sin of homosexuality is practiced today and God still condemns it. (Reference - Romans 1)
He warned them to “Hear the word of the Lord...give ear unto the law of our God.” God rejected their worship as a front for godliness devoid of divine power. At a later date, the apostle Paul warned us about this also, in 2 Timothy 3:5: "Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away."
Their worship was so false it nauseated God. He had His fill of their hypocrisy and false worship. “Bring no more vain oblations; incense is an abomination unto me; the new moons and sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot away with; it is iniquity, even the solemn meeting.” Their un-repentance shut them off from God and in the next verses He demanded that they change.
Verses 16-17. "Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; 17: Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow."
The people were commanded to put the evil out of their lives. In the moral sense, their hands were full of blood and required cleansing before their prayers would be heard by God.
The first requirement for doing good is, obviously, to stop doing evil. As long as your acts are evil, your ability to live a good life is impossible.
We’re born knowing how to sin. We have to learn how not to. Ever since the Garden of Eden incident, all mankind has been born with a sinful nature.
We have to learn what is right in our physical and moral life and to obey those who can guide us like governmental officials and authorities. In our spiritual life we need the Holy Spirit indwelling us to enable us to live a moral and upright life and help others in need. We are only able to do this with Christ as our Savior and the Holy Spirit as our guide, and by associating with other believers. Satan wants us to accept the ways of the world like the people of Judah were doing at the time of Isaiah’s writing.
Verses 18-20. "Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. 19: If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: 20: But if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.”
God is saying, “Let’s take a common sense approach to this matter.” The people had sinned and God graciously invited them to listen to reason. He wanted to prove that He is the God of mercy and God of justice. He wanted to show the equity of His ways to pardon as well as punish. The Lord in His grace is willing to bless and pardon if His people will listen to reason concerning their sin. Sin always blinds us to reason and makes us look foolish.
Scarlet is a danger sign. It calls our attention to things so it’s a fitting symbol for sin. New snow is usually a brilliant white and clean. “Scarlet” pictures our sins and the "crimson" pictures Christ on the cross shedding His blood to save the sinner. A worm was crushed to make the dye for crimson cloth and Psalm 22 likens Christ on the cross to a crushed worm.“Though your sins be as scarlet. Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
Wool, when it’s cleaned and washed, is white and pictures the sinner as God sees us when we get saved. God washes the redeemed sinner with the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. His great purpose is to reason with lost sinners and bring them to salvation.
There’s more to salvation than escaping eternal hell. If we respond in faith and obey God, we will escape judgment and be blessed and highly favored. God’s favor and blessings are spoken of here as “eating the good of the land.” Failure to obey God will bring punishment in the eternal fires of hell and God states that “the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.”
Verses 21-23. "How is the faithful city become an harlot! it was full of judgment; righteousness lodged in it; but now murderers. 22: Thy silver is become dross, thy wine mixed with water: 23: Thy princes are rebellious, and companions of thieves: every one loveth gifts, and followeth after rewards: they judge not the fatherless, neither doth the cause of the widow come unto them."
Jerusalem was once a faithful city, full of justice where righteousness prevailed. Now, in striking contrast, it was a sad spectacle. The people were faithless and evil like a harlot. There were unpunished murderers and dishonest judges who didn’t care about justice just like we have today.
The people there were so selfish and self centered that God said they were like silver mixed with worthless metals and like wine diluted with water. Their ritualistic worship and perverted works were empty. God's redeeming grace and His salvation were utterly rejected. Today the world calls this lifestyle “alternate theology.”
Their rulers had rebelled against God and His commandments and were so degraded that they actually did business with robbers and took bribes. Doesn’t that sound kind of familiar to us today? God detested it then and He detests those things now.
Verses 24-26. "Therefore saith the Lord, the LORD of hosts, the mighty One of Israel, Ah, I will ease me of mine adversaries, and avenge me of mine enemies: 25: And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin: 26: And I will restore thy judges as at the first, and thy counsellers as at the beginning: afterward thou shalt be called, The city of righteousness, the faithful city."
God's enemies, which includes all non-believers, are going to be destroyed. He’s going to use His infinite power to punish, cleanse, and restore a remnant of His people Israel and rid Himself of His adversaries and avenge Himself on His foes. This includes the unsaved of both Israel and the Gentiles in the Great Tribulation.
Isaiah was a warning of punishment under Assyria, Babylon, and others in historical perspective, but this also looks forward to the second advent of the Messiah and the day of vengeance when the Lord will destroy the unfaithful in Israel and the Gentile nations who oppose the Messiah and His Kingdom. (Reference Revelation 14)
There is a time of great suffering coming during the Great Tribulation period. Jesus, the Messiah, will return and seek out those in Israel who are faithful. Then, He will set up His kingdom on earth and they will enter the Kingdom with Him for a thousand years.
All the enemies of Christ of all time, all those who don’t accept Him as Lord and Savior in this life, will appear at the Great White Throne Judgment at the close of His thousand year reign here on earth and will be condemned to hell for eternity. At that judgment, every knee will bow and every tongue confess Him Lord.
Christ is going to restore the righteous judges as they were at the first. They will act under the personal reign of the Messiah as in the best days of Israel under Moses, Joshua, and others.
When this is established, Jerusalem will he called the city of righteousness, the faithful city. No longer a harlot, it will be the capital of the millennial earth.
Verses 27-31. "Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness. 28: And the destruction of the transgressors and of the sinners shall be together, and they that forsake the LORD shall be consumed. 29: For they shall be ashamed of the oaks which ye have desired, and ye shall be confounded for the gardens that ye have chosen. 30: For ye shall be as an oak whose leaf fadeth, and as a garden that hath no water. 31: And the strong shall be as tow, and the maker of it as a spark, and they shall both burn together, and none shall quench them."
Zion, (Jerusalem) will be judged and redeemed and those that return to God will be the Jewish believers who are part of Israel's final deliverance. They will ultimately embrace Christ as their Messiah at His second coming. No one will be able to stand against Him.
Apostate Israelites and the nations who worship the antichrist and deny the name of Christ will be consumed in the apocalyptic judgments that immediately precede His kingdom.
The idols they worship won’t be able to help the apostate. They’ll he ashamed they had practiced idolatry. The worship places will be like a dried up and leafless oak tree.
There judgments during the Tribulation will be like a wick, or like tinder, which is burned up with fire that nothing can quench. Surely this is just a preview of what eternal hell is going to be like for those who reject Christ in this life.
God has made great and wonderful provision
for man to escape this horrible punishment.
He sent His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins
and if we will sincerely repent of those sins
and trust that Jesus paid our debt
to God there on the cross,
we will be saved from the fires of hell for all eternity.
Trust Him today!