Israel had been warned. For years, decades, and centuries.
Moses, in his blessings and cursing message in Deuteronomy 28, promised blessings to those who obeyed the LORD, and warned of the consequences of continued disobedience. Those consequences increased with intensity over time until God finally raised up captors who removed His people from the land of promise and took them into captivity.
Before that captivity, God raised up numerous prophets throughout Israel and Judah’s history to remind them of God’s promises and warnings. Isaiah is one such prophet. Approximately 700 years after Moses’ message to Israel Isaiah witnesses the captivity of ten tribes of Israel by the Assyrians (722 BC). Isaiah’s ministry lasts nearly sixty years—through the reigns of Judah’s kings Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, and the early years of Manasseh.
Not only does God speak through His prophets to warn of sin’s consequences and coming judgment, but He also reveals a certain future. Without God’s revelation of the future, man walks through the world blindly. Therefore, it is to Isaiah that the LORD reveals Israel’s political recklessness, Israel’s planned rebuilder, and Israel’s physical and spiritual redeemer.
- Israel’s political recklessness
King Hezekiah lies dying upon his bed and prays for healing. God sends Isaiah to take a lump of figs and place it on the boil, and Hezekiah recovers. He is granted another fifteen more years of life. Hearing of Hezekiah’s recovery, the king of Babylon sends Hezekiah a letter and gifts via an emissary. Hezekiah shows the Babylonians all the treasures of his house and kingdom. In response, Isaiah confronts Hezekiah for his boasting and prophesies of the day when the Babylonians would carry Hezekiah’s possessions and descendants into captivity (2 Kings 20:12-18). Jerusalem was indeed destroyed and Judah taken into captivity by the Babylonians 56 years after Hezekiah’s death.
- Israel’s predicted rebuilder
Isaiah prophesies of Judah’s rebuilding and rehabilitation after their Babylonian captivity, “Thus says the LORD . . . Who confirms the word of His servant, and performs the counsel of His messengers; who says to Jerusalem, ‘You shall be inhabited,’ To the cities of Judah, ‘You shall be be built’,” (Isaiah 44:26). Further, He reveals the pagan king through whom He will work to bring this about, “Who says of Cyrus, ‘He is My shepherd, and he shall perform all My pleasure, saying to Jerusalem, “You shall be built,” and to the temple, “Your foundation shall be laid”’” (44:28).
- Israel’s prophesied redeemer
After Adam and Eve’s sin of rebellion God, provides a promise of redemption (Genesis 3:15) and a picture of its cost when He sacrifices animals He had made and called “good” (Gen. 3:21). Further promises throughout the story build on that seminal promise of redemption and that original picture of sacrifice. It is through Isaiah that God explains more fully the cost that He Himself would bear to redeem man.
The Immanuel, Son conceived and born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) would be everything Adam and Eve, Israel, and all humanity were not—He would “refuse evil and choose good” (7:15). This suffering servant would be without form or comeliness or beauty that we should desire Him; He would be despised and rejected by men; He would be a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He would bear our griefs and carry our sorrows; He would be smitten by God and afflicted. He would be wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities. Our iniquities would be laid upon Him.
In other words, Immanuel would bear the consequences of our sin in our place. He would be the spotless Representative of the race as He fulfilled the Law in obedience and paid its penalty by His death.
In likeness to the Garden’s first sacrifice, it would cost God to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness, “Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My Righteous Servant shall justify many, for He shall bear their iniquities” . . . “because He poured our His soul unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors, and He bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (53:10-12).