Isaiah was from the city of Jerusalem. Some people have a name for him. It is ‘the evangelical prophet’. The word ‘evangelical’ speaks about belief. It says that salvation is by faith only. Nobody can earn it. Nobody can get it in any other way. God chose Isaiah to serve him in the 8th century BC. (BC means Before Christ.) There were other prophets in that period too. Three of them were in the same century. They were Amos, Hosea and Micah. There was also a lot of trouble in historical events at that time.

God called Isaiah to serve him at a difficult time. There was no king in Judah, the Southern Kingdom of Israel (6:1). So there was nobody sitting on the throne. But God is always king. So the throne of God is never empty. The Lord God wants us to do his work. He is in control. (6:1). He is holy (6:3). But he is also full of mercy (6:7).

The book has three main sections. Each section has a particular message. Each message was for a period of history in the life of the Jews. Most (but not all) of the book was about later times.

Isaiah had a school of prophets. They may have copied and kept Isaiah's messages safe. They loved them. And they may have been editors of them. They may have explained their meanings too. This school was a group of people who followed Isaiah. He was their teacher. A word for people like this is ‘disciples’. Chapter 8:16 and 18 mentions a group of disciples. Such groups of students may have been common. Earlier, the prophet Elisha had a group like this. They even built their own college (2 Kings 6:1-2)!

There are three great ‘evangelical’ subjects in the book of Isaiah.

[Note: This means the good news of salvation by faith only.] They are:

God's Judgement (Chapters 1-39)

God said that the people were guilty. So God had to punish them. People had the ‘evangelical’ message. But they could not appreciate it. And they could not use it. Something else had to happen first. They had to see sin as it really was. And Chapter 1 shows this:

  • Sin is resistance against authority (1:2).
  • Sin is not being loyal (1:4).
  • Sin is illness (1:5-6).
  • Sin is to refuse to obey (1:19-20).
  • Sin is unfair behaviour (1:21-23).

Isaiah's service was to Judah. (This was the Southern Kingdom of Israel.) He served during the times when four kings ruled (1:1). Things were difficult. There were problems in the country itself. The nation of Israel had gone away from God. And there were problems from outside nations too. There was cruelty from enemy armies.

The 8th century prophets spoke against sacrifice (1:12-15). There was a reason for this. They knew what God preferred. God wanted right behaviour. He would rather have that than ceremonies (1:16-17, 21-23. Compare Hosea 6:6 and Amos 5:21-24).

These prophets also spoke against unity with foreign nations. There was a reason for this too. It showed the people's loss of faith in God. It also showed their failure to trust him completely. So they asked for help from other people. They did not ask for help from God. This was a main subject in Isaiah. (Read 30:2; 31:1-3; 36:6.)

We can divide the first section like this:

National judgement (1-12). God blamed the Southern Kingdom. The people were guilty in two ways. First, their religion was false. They refused to follow God's laws. Secondly, they relied on political answers to their problems. They were a disappointment to God. He meant them to produce good things in their lives (5:1-4). But they only produced bad things (5:4-7).

Two armies united against Judah. There was the army of Israel. Pekah was their leader. Then there was the army of Syria. Rezin was their leader. This happened while Ahaz was king of Judah. The prophet Isaiah had a promise for Judah. Someone else would defeat these two nations. And it would happen before his own child could talk (8:3-4).

Universal judgement (13-23). These chapters are a series of prophecies. They were words against the nations who lived around Judah. These nations were sure that they could succeed by themselves. They did not need the help of anyone else. They were too confident.

God's judgement was not just for Judah. God is in control. He rules all the nations. Some nations had their own ‘national’ gods. But God was not like these gods in any way.

Eternal judgement (24-27). These chapters were not about Judah's neighbours. They are about the final judgement. Then not just one nation will be sad. But all human beings will be sad (24:4,21).

So, judgement was not just for the Jews. But, in a similar way, hope was not just for the Jews (25:6-7). There was hope for all human beings. Isaiah expected a time of judgement. He taught about the judgement of kings who did not know God (24:21). But he also expected judgement of the worst enemy (27:1. Compare Revelation 12:3-9).

Imminent judgement (38-39). (This word means ‘coming soon’.) The punishment of Judah began. The army from the land of Assyria arrived. And it surrounded Jerusalem city (36:1-20). Hezekiah prayed and the Lord saved the city (37:33-37). However, this was only a delay. More things that were awful would happen. Judah had other enemies. They would attack soon. And they would defeat Judah (39:5-7).

Hope (Chapters 40-55)

God warned about judgement in 39:6-7. And now it had happened. The details are in 2 Kings 24-25. Isaiah 40-55 is a wonderful description of hope. The Babylonian's rule would end soon. And Cyrus, king of Persia, would defeat Babylon (41:2,25; 44:28; 45:1-4).

Chapter 46 is a wonderful account. It describes the people who were from the land of Babylon. They were leaving their capital city. Their gods were on their backs. (They were carrying their gods to safety. Compare 46:4. Our God carries us!) God had finished his judgement.

Now he was preparing a special road for his people. They would return across the desert (40:3-4). This was the good news. God promised that they would return to their land (40:9). Their leader was a Shepherd God (40:11). He cared for his people because he had created them (40:12-14).

There are three special people in this second main section.

[Note: A Rescuer is someone who rescues.]

The all-powerful rescuer. This was God. The prophet Isaiah was careful to show that God acted in history. First there was God the Creator. (This means the one who creates.) We can read about this in Isaiah 40:12-31; 45:9-12,18-19. Then there was God the Conqueror. (This means someone who defeats the enemy.) God saved his people, the Jews. He brought them out of Egypt. We can read about this in Exodus, the second book of the Bible. But Isaiah told the story again. He did this to encourage the people. God could do it again (43:15-21; 48:20-21; 51:9-11).

The military rescuer. Cyrus was a prince who came from the land of Persia. God likes to use people to achieve his purposes. Cyrus did not know God (45:4-5). But he became the rescuer of God's people (46:8-11).

The spiritual rescuer,

[Note: This word refers to the part of life that relates to God.]

This section has a wonderful description. It describes the Servant of the Lord. The prophet spoke about a ‘servant’. This servant would complete God's purposes for his life. And God's purpose was that he should die for the sins of the people. The servant had the punishment that the people deserved. Isaiah has four special passages. They are called ‘Servant Songs’. The passages are 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9 and 52:13―53:12. There is only one person who did all this. His name is the Lord Jesus. (Compare Acts 8:30-35.)

Correction (Chapters 55-66)

The last section seems to see God's people in the future. They are just back in their own land. They are having the usual feasts (special meals). They are having the usual religious ceremonies (58:3-5). But they have not yet built the Temple again (63:18; 64:11; 66:1).

This section has three main subjects:

Grief (56-59). (This means that a person is feeling very, very sad.) Religious leaders were selfish. They wanted power for themselves (56:10-12). They were worshipping idols again too (57:9,13). The people only thought about getting money. They did not care about helping other people (58:3. Compare 58:6-9). God was very sad about them (59:2,15).

Glory (60-62). This is a main word in these three chapters. (Some examples are 60:1, 2, 7, 9, 19, 21; 61:3; 62:2,3.) Things could have been so different. People could have been giving glory and honour to God. They could have done this by their words and in their lives.

Grace (63-66). There is one subject in these last chapters. In Hebrew, the Jews’ language, the word is ‘hesed’. This is God's steady love. It is also his kindness and his grace. (An example is in 63:7. Here, one translation uses the words ‘steady love’. Another translation uses ‘kindnesses’ for the same Hebrew word.)

The book of Isaiah ends with great confidence and hope. The prophet was expecting a wonderful time in the future. People from all nations would come to Jerusalem. The city would be holy then. People would come to worship the Lord (66:18-21).