Isaiah places his message first, coming to his own call in chapter six. The overwhelming holiness of the Lord, seen by vision, crushes him, leading to forgiveness and commissioning, and here are the lessons for soul winning and warning so often left unapplied today.
Isaiah came from Jerusalem in Judah, and was called to the prophetic ministry around 739 BC. He prophesied through the reigns of four kings of Judah, and he has the most remarkable and unique manner of writing – inspired and overruled by God, but his own style shines through, with an enormously rich vocabulary.
He lived until 680 BC, and there is a tradition – if we can rely on it – which says that he was martyred under King Manasseh by being sawn in two with a wooden saw. And if that was so, it would probably make him the person referred to in Hebrews 11.37: ‘sawn asunder’.
One thing we can be certain about is that he is the most quoted prophet in the New Testament – over 60 times in total. He ministered through Uzziah’s 52 year reign and beyond. Most of that reign was a time of great prosperity, but Isaiah doesn’t reflect that – instead he describes tremendous declension and disaster in the land. This is because Isaiah takes a spiritual view of the land. And he may use earthly language and describe the chaos and disorder in earthly terms, but it’s a spiritual view. Without understanding that, you can’t understand the book.
Many of Isaiah’s prophecies were fulfilled in his own lifetime, so he was well authenticated. Judah was warned of what lay ahead for them because of their disobedience to God, and the faithful remnant, the truly saved people, were greatly encouraged by his messianic prophecies. These are so numerous and so wonderful – not only the prophecies of Christ, but the prophecies about the New Testament age that would follow. They are so rich and full and remarkable in their accuracy of what would happen in the Gospel age.
There is a dual sense, even sometimes a triple sense, in many of Isaiah’s prophecies. They refer to a historic event, something that will literally happen on earth – but that does not exhaust the meaning of the prophecy. That in itself is a figure of something which is going to happen in the future, when Christ comes. So there is at least a dual sense in many of the prophecies.
And it’s always obvious. To help in understanding this, Isaiah’s grand prophecies start in earthly language. And you can see that they are capable of earthly fulfillment. And like an aircraft going down the runway, at some point, the aircraft leaves the ground. And the prophecies take off. Isaiah begins to use elevated language and say things which really are not possible to see fulfilled physically on earth. And when the prophecy takes off and uses exalted language, you know you’re into dual sense. You know you’re going higher and further forward than the immediate literal sense.
You have to understand this dual sense in the prophecies, or you will not get the blessing and the riches and the meaning of the book of the prophet Isaiah.
The Lord calls His disciples to live modestly, without substance and eminence, and requires humility and approachability. He prepares them for the founding of autonomous churches, and commands them to give up any activity, pursuit or desire that spoils spiritual life and service.
It is a sad fact that many Bible-believing Christians do not engage in any real service for the Lord. They loyally attend meetings for worship and ministry, and often give generous financial support, but they do very little. This booklet focuses on the strong terms of exhortation to Christian service found in the New Testament.