Wednesday, January 25, 2012

An Introduction to Isaiah

Welcome to the blog! For some of you, this may be your first visit. This is a place of learning and going deep! I made a decision a few years ago to dedicate this blog to the study of the prophets, after looking at Proverbs and focusing on some other Biblical topics. I began my studies with the earliest-recorded prophet, Obadiah. Now, I'm on the first of the so-called major prophets, Isaiah. 

For those who have been visiting and have supported me in prayer for direction, I thank you. This will be a long bloggy journey--probably 3 years plus or minus--as I've decided to continue taking my study in segments of Scripture passages rather than full chapters. This will give ample time for exploration of the text as well as quality focused time in the writing.

I always begin a study of a prophet with an introduction. Who was Isaiah? The fun facts first: Isaiah's name means, "The Lord is salvation" or "Jehovah saves." He is mentioned in the New Testament more times than any other Old Testament prophet, and by name in the New Testament more than 20 times. Including Jesus, in a moment with the Pharisees:

"You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: THIS PEOPLE HONORS ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR AWAY FROM ME....'"
--Matthew 15: 7 and 8

I am encouraged in what my study Bible says of Isaiah's writing: "His writing style has no rival in its versatility of expression, brilliance of imagery, and richness of vocabulary." This means, it should be a rich read as well as an educational one. George L. Robinson, writing in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says, "Isaiah is the Paul of the Old Testament."

Isaiah was the son of Amoz (which means strong in Hebrew [Strong's]). He grew up and continued to live in Jerusalem and its vicinity, making him a wise choice for a prophet of God's Word to the area. He was married with two sons, who are referred to in the text of his book. It would seem that he was in a family of some importance, as he had easy access to the king. Some accounts even suggest he was a cousin to King Uzziah, who was the first king in power of the four reigns through which Isaiah prophesied. We will read about Isaiah's calling to ministry in Chapter 6.
Isaiah served from about 739 B.C. until his death in 686 B.C. Where Hosea spoke mostly to the northern kingdom of Israel, Isaiah spoke to Judah, the southern kingdom of the divided nation of Israel. His ministry overlaps with the second half of Hosea's ministry, and occurs in the time before Judah is led into captivity. He was killed at the word if not by the hand of King Manasseh of Judah.

During Isaiah's ministry, Judah grew in commercial stature but declined in its spiritual well-being, not unlike Israel at this time. Indeed, Judah and Israel were enemies as they each sought international power and prestige. Judah would be known for building up its military, its fortifications and its conquering of new land--and, its reliance on foreign aid from Assyria. In fact, once Assyria came in to help Judah, it marked the beginning of the end for Israel (which was put under Assyrian captivity in 722 B.C.)

Judah would run into its own captivity troubles at the hand of the Babylonians in 605 B.C., after Isaiah had passed. But, the prophet foretold this event as well as many others under the reign of these kings--not to mention, the coming of the earthly reigns of the King of Kings!

Still, as a prophet, much of Isaiah's work revolved around the issuing of words of judgment upon the nations, and Isaiah will cover many more nations than Hosea. We will look at history, as we see some of the drama of the day-to-day political events that take place in and through these prophecies. The latter third of the book abounds in words of deliverance and grace.

With that brief overview, next week we begin the journey through Isaiah, not surprisingly, with the rebellion of God's people.

Welcome, or, welcome back!.... 'Til next Wednesday!


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Next week: Isaiah 1: 1-4

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).