What does it say?
Isaiah wrote during the reigns of four kings of Judah: Uzziah, Jotahm, Ahaz and Hezekiah. During his ministry that must have spanned 60 years, Isaiah witnesses the fall of the northern kingdom to Assyria and warns of a similar fate awaiting Judah at the hands of the ascending Babylonian empire. After Psalms and Jeremiah, this is the third longest book in the Bible and is often called a miniature Bible due to the breadth of material and arrangement of the book.
Most of the book is written as poetry, though this is not reflected in many English translations. In the first chapter God describes Israel’s tragic spiritual condition and urges them to accept his solution for their sin, that what he desires is reality of faith, not ritual. The final part of the chapter continues with Israel’s current spiritual reality and a warning of judgment and purification to come.
Isaiah 2 opens with a call to return to God’s missional purpose for Israel as light for the nations. What follows in the rest of this chapter and the next (Isa 3) and the first verse of Isaiah 4 is a graphic description of Israel’s sinful condition and warning of judgment ahead. Suddenly, in Isaiah 4:2, God speaks through Isaiah a message of hope and restoration following the purification of judgment. Many see the “branch of the Lord” (4:2) as a Messianic reference.
What does it mean?
Few books match the power, eloquence and scope of Isaiah. Isaiah writes to Jerusalem and Judah in a time when the world order is in turmoil and experiencing great change. He points to their sinful and superficial spirituality and calls them to renewed dedication to God’s missional purpose for Israel from the beginning.
We don’t have to stretch much to see parallels to our own times. The world order is in the throes of deep and rapid change. The digital age is bringing out societal change not seen since the invention of the printing press and the onset of modernism. A journey through Isaiah should bring much reflection about our current state of spirituality and the reality of it. We should use this as an occasion to reassess our dedication to God’s mission to have his name known among the nations of the world.
How will I respond?
Is my faith real, or am I merely going through the motions? What about my dedication to God’s global mission? What one decision can I make today to deepen the reality of my faith and engagement in God’s mission?