Let me share with you the Book of Isaiah. The original title of this book was “Yeshaya” meaning “The Lord saves.” It was written in Hebrew not long after 701 B.C. The prophet Isaiah was a giant of Jewish history. The New Testament quotes him more than all other prophets combined. No other biblical author can match his rich vocabulary and use of imagery. Unlike John the Baptist and other wilderness prophets, Isaiah spent his days in the corridors of power. He was a court prophet, an advisor to the royal court and a messanger of God. He served as adviser to the kings of Judah and helped set the course of his nation.
Isaiah lived at a crucial time, midway between the founding of the kingdom under Saul and David and its eventual demise. A civil war had split the Israelites into North(Israel) and South(Judah), and Isaiah lived in the more pious Southern Kingdom of Judah.
When Isaiah began his work, the nation seemed strong and wealthy. But Isaiah saw signs of grave danger. People were using their power to harass the poor. Men went around drunk; women cared more about their clothes than about their neighbours hunger. People gave lip service to God and kept up the outward appearance of religion but did little more.
Outside dangers loomed even larger. The armies of neighbouring Israel were rattling swords and spears at the border. On all sides, monster empires were growing, especially Egypt and Assyria. Judah was caught in the middle.
The nation of Judah, said Isaiah, stood at crossroads: it could either regain its footing or begin a dangerous slide downward. The prophet did not temper his message for the sake of popular opinion. He had harsh and unyielding words about what changes must take place.
Although he moved in royal circles, Isaiah was hardly a yes-man in politics. Sometimes he stood alone against a tide of optimism. His very name meant “The Lord saves”, and he warned kings that relying on military power or wealth or any force other than God would lead to disaster.
Isaiah outlasted four kings, but he finally offended one beyond repair. King Manasseh (notorious for practicing infant sacrifice) found Isaiah’s strong words too much to bear. Tradition records that he had Isaiah killed by fastening him between two planks of wood and sawing his body in half. Manasseh has long since disappeared into obscurity. But Isaiah, through his book, endures as one of the great authors of all time. We cannot deny that the pen is mightier than the sword.
Below are few of my favourite verses in the Book of Isaiah. I’d like to share them with you.
“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, they shall be as wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land;But if you refuse and rebel, you shall be devoured by the sword.” For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. Chapter 1 verses 18-20
“Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, Yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand”. Chapter 41 verse 10
“I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you by the way you should go.” Chapter 48 verse 17
“It shall come to pass that before they call, I will answer; And while they are still speaking, I will hear.” Chapter 65 verse 24
“Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” Chapter 43 verses 18, 19
“Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, But those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength; They shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” Chapter 40 verses 30, 31