Summary: Isaiah gives us an opportunity to observe faithfulness in difficult times. The first verse of the Book of Isaiah gives the setting for his amazing ministry. He is a prophet for our times as well.
The Gospel According To Isaiah:
Ancient Wisdom for the Modern World, Part 1:
The Gospel in an Unsettled World
February 26, 2012
Rev Stephen Aram
It was about the year 1980. Kathy and I lived in Holland, on staff in a discipleship school run by the same mission that we had worked with in Asia. We lived in a little 2-bedroom cottage in the woods on the edge of a very large nature preserve. We had three kids then, all young, and in a dinky cottage it was hard to pray at home, so I would often take my Bible and head into the woods to pray. I often do my best praying while walking. It was a beautiful woods. Holland is on the North Sea and gets a lot of rain so everything was very green. This nature preserve was known for having many different kinds of mushrooms. It was a beautiful place to walk.
I remember one day sitting on a bench beside a little creek and I opened my Bible to the first chapter of Isaiah. And there are many amazing passages in the Bible, but on that day, I was just deeply moved by Isaiah. It struck me that the prophets give us a chance to see the world through God’s eyes. You can read in the newspapers or online all sorts of different opinions on most any topic, from the most serious to the most trivial. But where do we get to actually hear from God, the word of the Lord? Last week for Ash Wednesday we looked at part of that chapter, where Isaiah tells us that God was deeply displeased by some of the actions of his people. And as I read Isaiah years ago I just felt deeply God’s indignation, God’s anger with so much that goes on in our world, too. And I read wonderful words of hope as well. God is here to make this world right. He has spoken it out to us. Will we listen? Will we follow?
This morning I want to give you a bit of an introduction to the prophet, Isaiah, an amazing man, and to the times in which he lived. When you read the New Testament you might notice that again and again the New Testament points to the Old Testament, showing how the New Testament teachings and events were fulfillments of the Old Testament. And to which part of the Old Testament did they point the most? Isaiah. He was amazing in the way that he foreshadowed the life and ministry of Jesus. He was amazing in his understanding of the issues we humans face in all times. He is amazing in the way he speaks to me today.
To get us started we are going to read just one verse, the opening verse of Isaiah, and let me try to introduce you to this amazing man. So here is our one verse, Isaiah 1:1.
The vision of Isaiah son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
So what does that tell us about Isaiah? It tells his father’s name was Amoz. And do you know what the Bible tells us about Amoz? He was the father of Isaiah. That’s it. So it doesn’t help very much. But as you read through Isaiah it looks like Amoz may have been from the royal family because Isaiah seemed to have a lot of freedom to just walk into the king’s palace and talk with the kings. He seemed very knowledgeable about world events. And CNN wasn’t available on cable in Jerusalem in his time, so the place you would hear what was happening was in the king’s palace.
When you read through the Book of Isaiah, you also find mention of his wife and kids. We don’t know the name of his wife, but she is mentioned as a “prophetess.” (8:3) In ancient times women were often held down, but Isaiah’s wife was a prophetess. People recognized that God spoke through her. And Isaiah respected her for it. I like that.
They had two sons, Shear-jashub and Maher-shalal-hash-baz. If anyone is having a baby in your family you might want to consider using one of those names.
Our text tells us that Isaiah’s prophetic ministry lasted a very long time, through the reigns of 4 of the kings of Judah. Isaiah spoke for God for at least 50 years. And if you think we live in perilous times, listen to what Isaiah saw.
He was probably born during the reign of King Uzziah. Those were mostly good times, the best times Israel had had for quite a while. Long before Isaiah had been born the nation of Israel, which had been so blessed by God started falling away. And God had told them how to live: be honest, work together, love one another, stick with me and I’ll take care of you. And when they chose to stop doing that disaster struck. There was a civil war and Israel was divided. The northern two thirds was still called Israel and they turned to other gods right away. Jerusalem was left in the southern kingdom, now called Judah, and they stayed loyal to God longer, but they had their ups and downs. Isaiah lived in Jerusalem, in what was then called Judah.