As Edward Young has explained: the first chapter is an introduction to the entire book, containing the basic themes of Isaiah’s ministry, namely, the sinfulness of Judah and Jerusalem (vv. 3-8), the tender appeals of the Lord (vv. 16-19), the certainty of the coming judgment (vv. 24, 25, 29-31), and the blessedness of the salvation to come (vv. 26, 27). This collection of oracles of judgment, prophecies of the first and second coming of the promised Messiah, and gospel appeals to turn from idolatry and sin to trust the deliverance that only God can provide covers a lot of theological ground – both in terms of the character of God and person of the Messiah. The historical background of Jerusalem and Judah must be understood in the context of the opposition from powerful world empires like Assyria and Babylon. But the Sovereign God over all the nations proclaims His message of hope and deliverance through the coming Immanuel.
Salvation through Immanuel.
Isaiah 9:6-7 “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over His kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.”
I. (Chaps. 1-35) ORACLES OF WARNING AND JUDGMENT –
Coming Judgments on Both God’s People and God’s Enemies But Hope Offered in the Future Millennial Kingdom – Focus on the Threat from Assyria
A. (1:1 – 12:6) Jerusalem and Judah Headed for Judgment (Near Term and Eschatological) but the Delivered Remnant Will Enjoy Millennial Blessings Via the Reign of Immanuel
(1:1) Introduction to the Book of Isaiah
1. (1:2 – 5:30) Indictment of Judah with Interludes regarding Millennial Blessings and Insights into God’s Judgment –
2. (6:1-13) Isaiah’s (Conversion?) Call to ministry and Commissioning
3. (7:1 – 12:6) Immanuel Introduced as the only valid object of trust and hope for God’s people
B. (13:1 – 23:18) Ten Oracles of Judgment (mainly on the Gentile nations surrounding Judah) Because of Their Pride and Self-Reliance – Destined for Both Near Term and Eschatological Judgment With Some Remnant Hope – Application: Trust in God Alone!
1. (13:1 – 14:27) Judgment on Babylon – Root Sins of Pride and Self-Reliance Will Be Judged
2. (14:28-32) Judgment on the Philistines – God’s Kingdom will Triumph in the End
3. (15:1 – 16:14) Judgment on Moab – Compassion for the Lost – Prideful idolaters should stir our hearts to compassion as they face grievous devastation for their rejection of refuge in Christ
4. (17:1-14) Judgment on Damascus – Warning Against Forgetting God – Forgetting God dishonors Him greatly but does not cancel out His covenantal remnant program
(18:1-7) Core Salvation Message for the Gentiles (represented here by the Ethiopians) – Transition from Woe to Worship
Stand Still and See the Salvation of the Lord and Worship Him Alone
5. (19:1 – 20:6) Judgment on Egypt – The Futility of Trusting in the Arm of the Flesh and the Process of Salvation –
6. (21:1-10) Judgment on Babylon – The Horror of God’s Judgment – Horror strikes those who perceive the destructive consequences of trusting in the arm of the flesh
7-8. (21:11-17) The Certainty of God’s Judgment – There will be no stay of execution with respect to God’s judgment plans for the nations – regardless of how general or how precise the revelation of His timeline
9. (22:1-25) Judgment on Jerusalem – The Valley of Vision – Unbelief = The Unpardonable Sin – Two Specific Examples of Self-Reliance:
10. (23:1-18) Judgment on Tyre – The Pride of Earthly Affluence – Greedy capitalism with its root motivation of prideful self-sufficiency will be judged by God as prostitution – yet a remnant will be restored and sanctified
C. (24:1 – 27:13) Songs of Praise for the Blessings of Faith Enjoyed in Millennial Triumph After the Catastrophic Devastation of the Guilty World – City of Man Reduced to Rubble While the City of God Worships and Sings Praises
1. (24:1-23) Judgment on the Earth – The Whole Earth is Headed for Catastrophic Devastation and Only the Remnant Remains to Praise God
2. (25:1-12) Songs of Praise for God’s Greatness and His Salvation – The Redeemed Need to Express Their Praise to God for His Greatness and His Salvation Culminating in Swallowing Up Death for All Time
3. (26:1-21) Songs of Praise for the Blessings of Faith – Faith in the Rock of Ages is Fortified by Valuable Lessons From God’s Righteous Judgments
4. (27:1-13) Song of Praise of the Fruitful Vineyard – Regathered Israel Flourishes in the Millennial Kingdom as God Deals Decisively With Her Enemies
D. (28:1 – 35:10) 6 Woes Against Worldly Alliances Based on Pride and Self-Reliance – Destined for Both Near Term and Eschatological Judgment With Some Remnant Hope – Application: Trust in God Alone!
1. (28:1-29) Woe #1 – Directed Against Harmful Political Leaders = Disoriented Drunkards and Security-Seeking Scoffers of Israel –
2. (29:1-14) Woe #2 – Directed Against Religious Hypocrisy in Jerusalem –
The Lord Judges Rote Religious Tradition with Spiritual Blindness
3. (29:15-24) Woe #3 – Directed Against the Sophisticated Self Sufficient = Those Who Think They Are Smarter Than God = Deceivers and Defrauders –
Those Who Think They are Smarter Than God Will be Wiped Off the Face of this Earth
4. (30:1-33) Woe #4 – Directed Against Alliances with the World –
5. (31:1-32:20) Woe #5 – Directed Against Those Who Trust in the World’s Wisdom and Power
6. (33:1-12) Woe #6 – Directed Against the Destroyer with Deliverance for Zion –
When God Springs Into Visible and Dramatic Action, the Destroyer is Destroyed and God’s People are Delivered
7. (34:1-35:10) Summary Conclusion of Woes Against Worldly Alliances
HISTORICAL HINGE (Chaps. 36-39) –
Object Lessons Regarding Judgment and Deliverance — Looking back to Threat of Assyria and Forward to Threat of Babylon
A. (36:1-37:38) Threat From Assyria
B. (38:1 – 39:8) Threat From Babylon
II. (Chaps. 40-66) ORACLES OF COMFORT AND SALVATION –
The sovereign God of creation and history (40-48) sends His promised Suffering Servant to redeem His people from the judgment they face (49-57) with the anticipation of entering into the future glory of the Messianic Kingdom (58-66) –
Focus on the Threat from Babylon
A. (40:1–48:22) Supremacy of the Lord – Deliverance From Captivity / Ultimate Redemption – His Credentials as Sovereign Creator and as Accurate Predictor/Controller of the Future
1. (40:1-31) Introduction of Supremacy – Application = Promised Comfort of Zion
2. (41:1-29) Test of Supremacy = Who Calls the Shots – Challenge to False Gods to Prove Themselves
3. (42:1-25) Praise of Supremacy
4. (43:1-44:5) Redemptive Purposes of Supremacy
5. (44:6-46:13) Uniqueness of God Undergirds His Supremacy
6. (47:1-15) Humiliation of Babylon (and Their False Gods) For Opposing God’s Supremacy – Powerless to Deliver
7. (48:1-22) Warning Against Neglecting the Message of God’s Supremacy – Keys to Spiritual Listening
B. (49:1 – 57:21) Servant of the Lord – Suffering Precedes Glory
1. (49:1 – 50:3) The Unveiling of the Servant with Promised Blessing to Both Israel and the Gentiles
2. (50:4-11) Servant Song #3 — The Marks of an Obedient Servant — The victorious Servant/Disciple has God as his helper in effective communication and persevering commitment
3. (51:1 – 52:12) Preparation for Responding to the Mission of the Servant – Suffering Precedes Glory
4. (52:13 – 53:12) Servant Song #4 — The Mission of the Suffering Servant in Accomplishing Redemption
5. (54:1 – 56:8)) Results of Redemption Accomplished by the Suffering Servant
6. (56:9 – 57:21) Condemnation Remains for Self-Serving Leadership and Man-Made Religion
C. (58:1 – 66:24) Salvation of the Lord – Future Glory Lies Ahead
1. (58:1 – 59:15a) The Need for Salvation
2. (59:15b – 63:6) The Anticipation of Eschatological Salvation
3. (63:7 – 65:16) The Petition for Salvation
4. (65:17 – 66:24) The Realization of Salvation
WHY STUDY THIS BOOK?
• Our understanding of eschatology and our hope for the future will derive from how we treat the large volume of prophetic material in the book of Isaiah
• The foolishness and futility of idolatry are exposed in this book along with the severity of God’s judgment
• Isaiah’s vision for the holiness of God should help us to take sin seriously
• The treatment of the Messiah as the Suffering Servant provides much theological depth in the realm of Christology
• The attributes of God receive a good deal of focus from the prophet Isaiah so that we can clarify our view of God
• The heart of the gospel is unfolded in this book as we see the pervasiveness of sin, the depravity of mankind, the necessity for judgment and yet the substitutionary atoning sacrifice of the Suffering Servant who will rise from the dead to reign victorious over all
David Malick: Message Statement: The restoration of God’s created order will come to those in Israel and the world who trust in him after he judges the wicked.
John MacArthur: Through a literary device called “prophetic foreshortening,” Isaiah predicted future events without delineating exact sequences of the events or time intervals separating them. For example, nothing in Isaiah reveals the extended period separating the two comings of the Messiah. Also, he does not provide as clear a distinction between the future temporal kingdom and the eternal kingdom as John does in Rev 20:1-10; 21:1-22:5. In God’s program of progressive revelation, details of these relationships awaited a prophetic spokesman of a later time. . .
The most critical of the interpretative challenges in Isaiah focuses on whether Isaiah’s prophecies will receive literal fulfillment or not, and on whether the Lord, in His program, has abandoned national Israel and permanently replaced the nation with the church, so that there is no future for national Israel.
On the latter issue, numerous portions of Isaiah support the position that God has not replaced ethnic Israel with an alleged “new Israel.” Isaiah has too much to say about God’s faithfulness to Israel, that He would not reject the people whom He has created and chosen (43:1). The nation is on the palms of His hands, and Jerusalem’s walls are ever before His eyes (49:16). He is bound by His own Word to fulfill the promise He has made to bring them back to Himself and bless them in that future day (55:10-12).
On the former issue, literal fulfillment of many of Isaiah’s prophecies has already occurred . . . To contend that those yet unfulfilled will see non-literal fulfillment is biblically groundless. This fact disqualifies the case for proposing that the church receives some of the promises made originally to Israel. The kingdom promised to David belongs to Israel, not the church. The future exaltation of Jerusalem will be on earth, not in heaven. Christ will reign personally on this earth as we know it, as well as in the new heavens and new earth (Rev 22:1, 3).
J. Sidlow Baxter: What Beethoven is in the realm of music, what Shakespeare is in the realm of literature, what Spurgeon was among the Victorian preachers, that is Isaiah among the prophets. As a writer he transcends all his prophet compeers; and it is fitting that the matchless contribution from his pen should stand as leader to the seventeen prophetical books. All who have any sense of literary appreciation must be impressed by the combined excellences of Isaiah’s style – its grandeur and dignity, its energy and liveliness, its profusion of imagery, its vividness of description, its forceful play on words, its dramatic and rhetorical touches, and last, but not least, its wonderful variety.
The character of Isaiah claims note. . . Boldness, patriotism, tenderness, broad sympathy, stormy indignation at hypocrisy, with deep spirituality and a profound sense of the Divine majesty – oh, these are grand qualities, and just such as need restoring to the preaching of our day!
John Oswalt: 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.
J. Alec Motyer: The Isaianic literature is built around three Messianic portraits: the King (chapters 1-37), the Servant (chapters 38-55) and the Anointed Conqueror (chapters 56-66). . .
The Messianic enigma evidenced in the Old Testament is especially prominent in these three portraits with their implication of a Messiah who is plainly man and truly God. The King is born in David’s line (11:1) but he is also the root from which David springs (11:10) and the “Mighty God” (9:6). The Servant possesses a human ancestry and appearance (53:2) and had the common human experience of rejection (53:3) and a trial of suffering beyond any other (50:6; 52:14). But he was also “the arm of the Lord”, the Lord himself visibly present in saving action (53:1; cf. 51:9, 52:10).
Allen Ross: The book is a collection of oracles, prophecies, and reports; but the common theme is the message of salvation. There was, according to these writings, no hope in anything that was made by people. The northern kingdom of Israel had been carried into captivity (722 B.C.), and the kingdom of Judah was in the middle of idolatry and evil. The kingdom of Assyria had dominated the Fertile Crescent and posed a major threat to both kingdoms; and the kingdom of Babylon was gaining power and would replace Assyria as the dominant threat. In view of the fast-changing international scene, the people of Israel would be concerned about their lot in life—what would become of the promises of God? How could the chosen people survive, let alone be a theocracy again? And must the remnant of the righteous also suffer with the nation that for all purposes was pagan?