Perhaps you saw the headlines last week:
- “Prophet Isaiah’s ‘signature’ may have been found on clay seal”
- “Clay seal with ‘signature of Prophet Isaiah’ found in Jerusalem”
- “Researchers say they have discovered Prophet Isaiah’s ‘signature'”
- “Physical evidence prophet Isaiah existed discovered in Jerusalem”
- “‘Isaiah’ seal: More evidence of biblical narrative”
There were many more like it in all the major media.
Isaiah may be the most famous of all the Hebrew prophets and the one who offered the most startling predictions about the birth of a Messiah who bears an uncanny resemblance to Jesus of Nazareth.
So, maybe the time is right for a quick refresher course on the significance of Isaiah and what he wrote.
Isaiah is one of the four “major prophets” of the old Testament because of the prolific nature of his writing. He’s the prophet most quoted in the New Testament – and with good reason. Some of Isaiah’s prophecies are often mistaken as quotes right from the gospels because they deal with repentance and grace.
Like this one from Isaiah 1:16-18: “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.”
How about this familiar passage from Isaiah 2:2-4: “And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
In Isaiah 7:14, we see this amazing prophecy about the birth of Jesus: “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
You’ve no doubt received Christmas cards with that famous quote.
And here’s another one like it, from Isaiah 9:6-8: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this. The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel.”
Isaiah even offers what I call God’s Middle East peace plan in the final verses of chapter 19: “And the Lord shall smite Egypt: he shall smite and heal it: and they shall return even to the Lord, and he shall be intreated of them, and shall heal them. In that day shall there be a highway out of Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrian shall come into Egypt, and the Egyptian into Assyria, and the Egyptians shall serve with the Assyrians. In that day shall Israel be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land: Whom the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance.”
That’s the happy ending of the bloody conflict in that part of the world that will accompany Jesus’ Second Coming, as I wrote about in my book, “The Restitution of All Things: Israel, Christians and the End of the Age.
There’s even a famous gospel song found in Isaiah 26:3: “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.”
In chapter 53:3-12, Isaiah presents a description of the coming Messiah that can only be One Man in history: “He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his o wn way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.”
Chapter 61 of Isaiah may also sound very familiar to you – even if you have only read the gospels in the New Testament That’s because Jesus spoke the opening words of this chapter in the Gospel of Luke 4:18-19. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord …” Jesus closed the scroll at that point and said: “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.”
Why did He say that? Very simple. At that time, Jesus’ mission was to preach good tidings, bind up the brokenhearted, offer a pardon to those captive by sin. It was not yet the time for what followed – a day of vengeance and the ushering in of His Kingdom on Earth. He came as the Lamb of God, the suffering servant. When He comes again He will come as the Conquering King, the Lion of Judah.
Indeed, Isaiah was a real person – a real prophet. God used him to point to the coming Redeemer who will wipe away all our tears, beat our swords into plowshares and cause the lion to lie down with the lamb.
That’s our destiny as believers – to live in a fully perfected and restored Earth that will be like the Garden of Eden before the Fall of man.
It’s all there in Isaiah. Aren’t you glad he was real and pointed to Jesus of Nazareth so clearly, persuasively and poetically?