Isaiah was one of the grandest of the Lord’s prophets, and the author of the book that bears his name. The son of Amoz (2 Kings 19: 2), he was probably born in Jerusalem, and was apparently related to the royal house of Judah. Isaiah was married to a woman who is referred to as “the prophetess” (Isaiah 8: 3). He had two sons, Shearjashub (Isaiah 7: 3) and Mahershalalhashbaz (Isaiah 8: 3). Isaiah lived during the reigns of the Judean kings Ussiah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah and perhaps the first years of Manasseh. It is believed that Isaiah was a tutor to Hezekiah.
We remember that Israel continuously gravitated toward idolatry, and even when corrected and brought back through divine judgments at the hands of their enemies, their prosperity lasted but a brief time, until they were delving again into idolatry, and required fresh chastisements. The Lord apparently used Israel as an illustration of the natural tendency of humanity towards sin, resulting from the fall.
Isaiah 6: 1-13 records Isaiah’s call to the office of prophet. He was called in a vision, during the year that King Uzziah died. The vision represented God’s majesty, His greatness and glory. His holiness is brought to our attention by the seraphim’s acclaim, “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.” It is a prophecy of the future, when the “glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together” in the establishment of God’s Kingdom.
No wonder Isaiah felt his own unworthiness to see such a vision, saying “Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips.” But one of the seraphim brought a live coal from off the altar and touched the prophet’s lips, symbolically indicating his cleanliness and that he would proclaim the Lord’s message. Isaiah’s faith was firmly established, and he was prepared to deliver whatever message the Lord would send. Consequently, when the Lord inquired for a faithful servant, he responded immediately and offered himself. Isaiah was accepted and the message was given to him.
Isaiah’s Message and Ministry
The Lord’s message through Isaiah to His people, including its rebukes and exhortations, is given in kindly sympathetic terms. As a sample, note the following:
“The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib: but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider. . . . Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do well. . . . 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. If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword” (Isaiah 1: 3, 16-20).
Nevertheless, Isaiah’s message was an unpleasant one. The warnings, threatenings, chastisements, which had, and would come upon Israel and Judah, would fail to reach their hearts and turn them to repentance; and as a consequence, the land would be made desolate, and the people carried away into captivity. Although Isaiah lived to the age of seventy, there seems to be reasonable ground for the tradition that he eventually died a martyr’s death, being sawn asunder (Hebrews 11: 37).
It was not long after Isaiah had this vision that the ten tribes were carried away into captivity, and although a reformation set in with Judah, it was but temporary, and Judah’s share in the prophesied captivity occurred about 150 years later.
But Isaiah’s message and prophecy to Judah and Israel is more comprehensive. It not only has a larger application to nominal spiritual Israel, but sublime glimpses of the glorious future which the Lord in His own due time will bring to pass for the blessing not only of Israel, but of all the families of the earth are presented. And no doubt, when the Lord establishes His Kingdom upon the earth, the prophet Isaiah will be one of the “princes in all the earth” (Psalm 45: 16).