Isaiah was a prophet while the nation of Israel was divided into two kingdoms – Israel in the north, and Judah in the south. The Northern Kingdom had sinned greatly against God, and the Southern Kingdom was headed in the same direction – perverting justice, oppressing the poor, turning from God to idols, and looking for military aid from heathen nations rather than from God.
Isaiah came primarily as a prophet to Judah, but his message was also for Israel. Sometimes ‘Israel’ refers to both kingdoms. In fact, Isaiah lived to see the destruction and captivity of the Northern Kingdom in 722 B.C. Thus his ministry began as one of warning.
Isaiah called the people to turn from their lives of sin, and warned them of God’s judgment and punishment. Isaiah had an active ministry for 60 years before he was executed during Manasseh’s reign. As God’s messenger to Judah, Isaiah prophesied during the reigns of several of its rulers, and many of those messages are recorded in his book: Uzziah and Jotham, chapters 1-6; Ahaz, chapters 7-14; and Hezekiah, chapters 15-39.
However, the last 27 chapters are filled with consolation and hope as Isaiah unfold’s God’s promise of future blessings through the coming Messiah. Isaiah brings his book to a close with great drama. For the faithless there is a sobering portrayal of judgement. For the faithful, there is a glorious picture of rich reward. The contrast is so apparent that it would seem that everyone would want to be God’s follower. But many individuals are just as foolish and reluctant to change as the Israelites.
As you read Isaiah, imagine this strong and courageous man of God, fearlessly proclaiming God’s Word, and listen to his message in relation to your own life – return, repent, and be renewed. Then trust in God’s redemption through Christ and rejoice. Your saviour has come, and he’s coming again!