Why Study the Book of Isaiah?
The book of Isaiah is difficult. It is one of the biggest books in our Bibles and it fits both narrative, poetic, and apocalyptic literary genres. To commit to preaching through Isaiah is no easy task. However, it is one that is extremely worthwhile. Since the leadership of our church has planned to spend the next year in Isaiah, it is good for us to ask, “What is relevant about the message of Isaiah?”
What Value Does Isaiah Hold for Modern-Day Believers?
Some may say that it is better to spend time preaching verse by verse through New Testament books because they are more relevant to us today. The truth is, the book of Isaiah was written with future readers in mind (yes, this includes you and me). In fact, even the New Testament exhorts us to read and preach the Old Testament.
Paul commands Timothy in 2 Timothy 4:2 to “preach the word.” This includes the Old Testament—Isaiah as well—because the message of the Old Testament, including the words in Isaiah, are all about Christ and the gospel. Isaiah is a great book to preach from because it calls us to repentance, promises a future Kingdom, and introduces a prophesied King.
The Book of Isaiah Calls Us to Repent
The message of all of the prophets could be summed up in verse 17 in the first chapter of Isaiah: “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” This command to live righteously is one that we see consistently repeated by the Old Testament prophets. They repeated this so often because of the wickedness of the people in the nations they preached to. Isaiah is no different, calling his readers to hear the message of the Lord and repent of their wrong behavior.
Isaiah was a prophet to a sinful nation and his words passionately warn of the destruction that comes to the wicked but also the grace and mercy for those who repent and live righteously. This message is the same one we need to hear today. The same injustice that Isaiah speaks out against in his life and nation, exists in our world, in our country, and even in our churches. We need the message of Isaiah to call us to repentance and exhort us to live righteously.
This message is no different than the one that Jesus began preaching at the beginning of Mark, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” The message of Isaiah is the same great message that we find in the rest of our Bibles. This message was relevant then and still has just as much significance now.
The Book of Isaiah Promises a Future Kingdom
The good news in Isaiah is that for those who do repent and live righteously by faith, there is an everlasting kingdom coming that will have no wickedness. In fact, in the future kingdom, there will be no need for weapons because there will be no war. Isaiah 2:4 tells us that in the new kingdom people will, “beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks.”
This means that instead of needing weapons for defense or attack, we will live in a land that is marked by peace and prosperity. God will be our perfect judge and settle all disputes.
This is the same kingdom we have to look forward to as members of the new covenant in Christ. This description of the kingdom is one that we can cling to with hope and excitement in anticipation of what is to come.
Isaiah Introduces a Prophesied King
Not only does Isaiah tell us about a future eternal kingdom, but it also introduces us to the eternal King. Through Isaiah, God tells us of a child to be born who will sit “on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and uphold it with justice and with righteousness” (Isa. 9:7).
Isaiah gives us hope because it tells us about the King who will reign justly and righteously.
In this King’s kingdom there will be no injustice but only holiness and honorable living. In a world where we look around and constantly see injustice, brokenness, and sin displayed all around us, the message of Isaiah tells us that there is someone who will rule in a way that brings perfect justice, heals brokenness, and offers grace instead of judgment.
This message may seem too good to be true, but Isaiah also tells us how this is possible. This King who is to come will be despised and rejected by the same people that he came to save. Isaiah 53:12 says, “Yet, he bore the sin of many and makes intercession for the transgressors.” This is the good news that Isaiah has to offer to us.
The difference between the message to the original audience and the one to us is that we know by name the one who is the king, who came and suffered. We know that Jesus has come and has died on the cross for our sins. There is no better message than the truth that Christ came and bore the sin of many so that we could live righteously in his coming kingdom.
This is why the message of Isaiah is so relevant to us, and it’s why it is so important to preach and proclaim this valuable book both inside and outside the church.