Why Biblical Prophecy Matters: Isaiah’s book is indubitably one of the most poetic and beautiful books in Scripture. Isaiah was a prophet in the 700s-600s B.C. during the time of the kings Uzziah and Sennacherib. This is helpful not just to history buffs but also because it reminds us that God raises up prophetic voices to speak into the lives of those who will listen. God works in and through history. God enters history because it is His story. God spoke and the universe came to be (Genesis 1). God formed man from the dust of the earth (Genesis 1:26-27). God the Son took on flesh “in the fullness of time” (Galatians 4:4).
Jesus spoke to Pilate in a particular week, and on a particular day, and was betrayed by Judas, and went to the cross on a particular Friday, and was resurrected on a particular Sunday, and all of this matters because God is a God who works in history. We live, in sum, in God’s world, and what happens in this world happens under the sovereignty of God. And one of the most powerful recurring patterns you see in Scripture is the role of the prophet to call out to the nations, to warn them of God’s holiness, of God’s nature, of our sin and rebellion, and of judgment.
The many prophets’ messages were often a variation upon this theme: Return to the Lord, because your sins have separated you. Because you are spiritual/political/moral/individual rebels, exile is your just state. Because you have rejected God and his kingdom, because God’s justice demands he deal justly, you are where you are. Return, therefore, in humility–and be restored.
Examples from Scripture: And yet God raises up men like Isaiah. Why? To plead with sinners to repent, to humble themselves before it is too late, to return to God. God’s hand “is not shortened, that it cannot save, or his ear dull, that it cannot hear …” (Isaiah 59:1).
Isaiah called out a simple, unpopular, clear warning to the people in his generation (and to ours by extension), Why will you choose exile instead of the kingdom? Listen to the prophet’s words to the nation in his time:
Truth is lacking, and he who departs from evil makes himself a prey. The LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no justice. He saw that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him (Isaiah 59:15-16).
Sounds like it could be from today, doesn’t’ it? We live in the midst of a people of unclean lips. We see relationships fractured due to sin, betrayal, moral cowardice, dishonesty, bribery, and on and on.
Connection to Our Day: But read those words from Isaiah again. You see, he was telling the people that “God saw that there was no one to intercede.” See that in the text? So what happened? God’s own arm brought salvation. What could that possibly refer to? God would bring salvation from himself? Yes. Exactly.
God declares that he is a God of justice: “I the LORD love justice; I hate robbery and wrong” (Isaiah 61:8). God knows that a kingdom of righteousness means that its denizens practice righteousness, live justly rather than unjustly, love goodness rather than evil. But is that what we see? No, we see exiles behaving as rebels against God and his will, and we see secular fiefdoms in conflict, wars and rumors of wars. Just as, wait for it, was prophesied.
Encouragement: Isaiah’s message, like that of the other true prophets in the Bible, called those who would hear, to look to the One who was and is the only means of redemption. Listen to how Isaiah ends chapter 59:
“And a Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who turn from transgression,” declares the LORD. “And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the LORD, “from this time forth and forevermore.” (Isaiah 59:21)
And what do you see Jesus do when he begins his public ministry? He quotes Isaiah’s words as being fulfilled. How? In and through himself—Jesus, the Christ, the Redeemer:
And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captive and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:16-21).
You see, folks, God did keep his promise about the One who would be raised up by God himself, the intercessor, the Righteous One, the Holy One of Israel. His name is Jesus. He is the Messiah. And he has his prophets who call out and herald the same refrain: Exile or the Kingdom? The king has come once; he went to the cross, in precise fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. He is coming a second time, too, again in precise fulfillment of prophecy. But this time it is a coronation for his kingdom. Will you attend to the words of the Lord? As Luke records in 4:22, they “marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth.”