The God-Endowed Man
The name Isaiah means “Yahweh is Salvation” or “Salvation of Yahweh.” Of his personal history we know but little. We are told that he was married (8:3), and had two sons (7:3; 8:1-4). Isaiah says that he and his children were for signs, and this is very suggestive (8:18). Mahershallalhas-baz, means “Speed to the spoil, hurry to the prey,” and represents chapters 1-39; Shear-Jashub means “a remnant shall return” and represents chapters 40-66 and Isaiah, which means “Salvation of the Lord,” is representative of the whole book.
Isaiah has been called the greatest of all prophets. He has been referred to as the king of all the prophets; the Paul of the Old Testament; the evangelist of the school of the prophets, and by common consent is one of the greatest of the prophets in intellectual endowment. He takes an unchallenged place among the statesmen of Israel, and the great writers which humanity has produced.
The scene of his labours was chiefly if not exclusively, Jerusalem. It appears that he was of royal blood because of his immediate access into the royal count. His sphere of ministry touched the king’s court and during his lifetime he was marked by a strong and commanding personality, a prophet of God who wielded tremendous influence for good in the country. Tradition says that he suffered martyrdom in the reign of the infamous king Manasseh.
The- prophet stands midway between Moses and Christ and begins to prophesy 21 years after the division of the united kingdom. His ministry includes the last years of the northern kingdom. That he lived during the eighth century before Christ is confirmed by the chronology of the Kings of Judah, mentioned in the first verse of the book. Again, recent archaelogical discoveries testify to the unity of the book that bears his name.
The outlook of the book is historic, prophetic and Messianic. It is our purpose in this study to consider the times in which the prophet lived and to observe their prophetical and Messianic bearing upon the person and work of the Servant of Jehovah, and the future sovereignty of the Star of Israel.
Isaiah’s Mission to Israel
The writing of Isaiah and his burden for the people is needed as never before to be sounded out to all the seed of the Jewish race. In Chapter 5, the prophet describes the national state of Israel in its relation towards God. In Chapter 6, he sets forth a private picture of the nation, as represented in his call, cleansing and commision. The closing verses of this same chapter bring to mind the words of Exodus 3:2, “Behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.” As a nation Israel is indestructible, and although almost extirpated as the context reveals, and history proves, yet God has not forgotten His ancient people, and the stock remains and will yet reproduce, yea, even bud, blossom and flourish.
The Vision of the Prophet (6:1-4)
The call of God came to Isaiah in the year that King Uzziah died. Never could he forget the death of the Sovereign whom God had smitten. Though Uzziah had been endowed with power, prosperity and success in his rule, he overstepped the boundaries of God in seeking to add to his control the privileges of the priest. Thus in his pride and folly he came under the severe hand of the Lord, and ended his days a leper, completely removed from the people of his kingdom. The holiness of Jehovah is in the mind and heart of Isaiah, and under these circumstances the vision depicted in verses 1-4 is given.
The scenery of the vision is taken from the Temple. God is represented as seated on the throne, above the ark, in the most holy place, where the glory appeared above the Cherubim, surrounded by his attendant ministers. John, the beloved disciple, tells us the Lord upon the Throne was Christ (John 12:41) and the vision is related to His future kingdom, when His glory shall cover the earth. The angelic beings which he saw were six-winged; with two they covered their feet in lowliness; with two they covered their faces in reverence; and with two they flew in glad and obedient service. The holy hymn of worship they rendered was not in concert, but as the demonstrative pronoun suggests “this one” and “that one” crying to each other, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is full of His glory.” The intensity and vividness of this vision produced such awe in the soul of the prophet that again and again in his book he refers to the Lord as the Holy One.
His Confession (V. 5)
From being occupied with the Lord of glory the prophet now has a vision himself, “Woe is me, for I am undone, because I am a man of unclean lips and dwell among a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” The majesty and dazzling splendour of the throne reveal the utter corruption of his own heart, and thus, as the Hebrew suggests, Isaiah was struck dumb. His muteness is because of his own defilement and the fact that he dwelt amongst a people of like character and conversation. His threefold confession reveals his inability to sing unto the Lord, to speak on behalf of the Lord, and finally to serve the Lord among such a sinful people.
His Cleansing (Vs. 6-7)
Confession is the doorway that leads to forgiveness,. The prophet is cleansed on the basis of the altar. It ever speaks of the provision of grace revealed in the person and work of Christ. A red-hot coal is taken from off the altar and touched or placed upon his mouth, and his sin is covered. The completeness of his cleansing is brought out by the Hebrew words “to take away” and “to purge.” These coals are the burning symbols of the holiness and justice of God, which consumed Christ in His gracious provision for the sinner. Before we can ever be vessels fit for His service, it is imperative that we have this great experience.
His Commission (Vs. 8-13)
The purpose of the vision is now made clear to the prophet and the voice speaks, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” He instantly realizes in the question asked, a call and a commission to himself. He immediately places himself at God’s
disposal, as the bond-slave of his Lord. No longer is he conscious of his sinner-ship, but is ready for the whitened fields of Israel. Now the Lord discloses his ministry, “Go, tell this people, hear ye indeed but understand not, see ye indeed but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy and
shut their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and convert, and be healed.”
What a disappointing assignment! Nevertheless, it is the essence of his message. It is not as though God hardens their hearts, but the prophet views the self-determination of the people in refusing to hear the Word of God, and hence the process of hardening sets in.
This was vividly seen in God’s dealing with the King of Egypt. Pharoah hardened his heart ten times against God. Thus God in His Divine Sovereignty hardened Pharoah’s heart ten times and at once it is evident that the Egyptian monarch was determined to defy and resist the voice of Jehovah. In the history of the nation of Israel the same process is observed. How true it is that the same sun that melts the snow hardens the clay. The mission of Isaiah is drab to say the least. His message was one of governmental judgment, and the importance of his task is realized in the oft repeated mention of this prophecy in the N.T. The Holy Spirit uses this verse to show why the people were blinded even when Christ was performing many mighty works among them, Matthew 13:14; Mark 4:12; Luke 8:10; John 12:38). Paul uses the same message in directing his ministry to the Gentiles (Acts 28:26-27 and Romans 11:8). To this present hour even in modern Israel with Jewish people from all parts of the globe, they are still marked by judicial blindness, deafness and hardness of heart as far as their national salvation is concerned. It is no wonder the prophet cried out, “How long?” What an insight into the heart of this dear man of God! The answer to his cry comes in words of terrible severity. The obduracy of Israel will persist down the years, as verses 11 and 12 tell out. However, there is a word of comfort in the fact that a fraction, a tenth, will turn towards the Lord. Israel cut down is never utterly destroyed, but like a tree stump remains, she will sprout again. Through this small remnant, God will work out His promises in the fulfillment of His truth. He alone will cause the stook to revive and reproduce, and in spite of all that has happened to Israel in the past and on to the future, “God hath not cast away His people,” but through his remnant He will be glorified.