Summary: This is a preview sermon to help prepare the congregation for the upcoming sermon series on Isaiah. It contains some historical and socio-political information to put Isaiah into context.
PREPARE TO MEET…ISAIAH
If I say that “the Lord spoke to me” one might understand that I heard an audible voice. For some that might be the case but for me it means that God puts thoughts in my head when I pray. When I was praying this week the Lord spoke to me. He said, “Plow deeply.”
A picture formed in my head of soil with a layer of tough, thick crust on the surface. At first glance this soil would seem impossible to plow. But the Lord said to plow and plow deeply. I could see the shine on the blade of the plow as it began to cut into the soil. Underneath the thick exterior came a beautiful, rich and dark soil that showed the promise of a great crop. “Plant the seeds,” the Lord said, and I knew what I had to do.
You are the soil and the plow is the message of Isaiah, the seeds the Word of God contained therein. Plow deeply, he said, and show them Jesus in the Old Testament.
If Isaiah said that the Lord spoke to him, we can assume that he had visions and experiences where he audibly heard the voice of the LORD. Here was a man whom God had anointed to present a very special message to a chosen audience. It would plow deeply and overturn their perceptions of themselves and of their God. The message would change their lives if they listened to it, internalized it, and obeyed it.
Before we begin the series of sermons from Isaiah I would like you to understand the book of Isaiah, its author, the background and its purposes. I want you to grasp everything you possibly can from this book of the Bible and from the sermons we preach from it.
This is a preview then, of Isaiah. My hope is that you will be challenged to read it and to pray about its impact on your life. This is a presentation more than a sermon but I hope it will inspire the same excitement in you as it does in me, if not more. So then, Prepare to meet…Isaiah.
1. Who was Isaiah?
Very little is actually known about Isaiah personally. The introduction to the book tells us he was the son of someone named Amoz. That means very little to us unless we consider the Jewish tradition that Amoz was a brother to King Amaziah. This would make Isaiah the cousin of Amaziah’s son, King Uzziah. It would also explain why Isaiah enjoyed a free pass into the royal courts to speak. Isaiah was royalty. He was the perfect person to speak to the kings on behalf of God.
His ministry extended across the reigns of four kings as it says in the first verse: “The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah” (1:1).
Jewish tradition again suggests that it was due to his ministry for the Lord and his relentless passion to speak for God that he was put to death by King Manasseh. There is a reference in Hebrews 11:37 about God’s heroes being sawn in two; Isaiah is said to have been killed this way.
Isaiah was married and he called his wife “the prophetess” (8:3) suggesting that prophecy was the family ministry, not his alone. They had two sons, one named Shear-Jashub (7:3), which means “a remnant shall return,” and one named Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, which means “quick to plunder.” These names were given as prophecies of what was to come and a reinforcement of the prophet’s predictive message.
Isaiah himself was called a man of God, implying that he was more closely related to God than most people. He was a servant of Yahweh, specially commissioned to do God’s work. And he was a messenger of Yahweh; his words were authoritative because they were spoken in the name of the Lord.
This is all we know of the man but it is enough to earn our respect for what he was and what he said.
2. What was the Socio-Political Climate of Isaiah’s life?
a) The Divided Kingdom – Isaiah’s life and ministry were lived in the midst of the Divided Kingdom. Often when preachers speak of the Divided Kingdom they assume that their congregations know what they are talking about. But it is important to understand what it is and I have been asked to explain it.
The Kingdom of Israel was united for the first time under a human king when Saul took the throne. It had originally been God’s plan to be their King, but the Israelites wanted a human king like the other nations. David replaced Saul because Saul disobeyed God. Then Solomon, David’s son took the throne. But Solomon would be the last king of a united Israel since a great civil war broke out when Solomon died.