“Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! For the Lord has spoken” Isaiah 1:2a
What’s Going On?
This week we begin the last section of the Old Testament, the Prophets. This section will cover 17 books and they will parallel the time periods of the divided kingdom, the exile, and the return. Remember all those kings we read about in 1-2 Kings and 1-2 Chronicles? They will play an important part of this next section because they will help up figure out where we are on the timeline. Unfortunately, the books of the Prophets won’t fall in chronological order so we’ll need to use the Kings as references.
God began speaking to His people through messengers, known as the Prophets. He was calling His people to stop turning to the false gods of the nations around them and keep their focus on Him, the One, True God. Unfortunately, the people rarely listened and the prophets rarely lived happily ever after. We begin our reading this week in the book of Isaiah, the first of the books known as the Major Prophets. It will take us nine weeks to get through the first five books, or the Major Prophets, and only two and a half weeks to read through the twelve Minor Prophets.
We first met Isaiah in 2 Kings 19-20 when he reassures the kingdom of Judah that Assyria will fall before destroying Jerusalem. Isaiah’s ministry actually began twenty years earlier, the year that King Uzziah died, which we read about in 2 Kings 15 and 2 Chronicles 26. Our reading this week will parallel this part of the story and will begin with the warning that the Lord’s wrath is imminent. Isaiah speaks of the judgment that is coming because the people of God have rejected Him and broken their sacred covenant with Him. God called both Israel and Judah to repent of their sins. Israel did not heed the warning and fell to the Assyrians, but under King Hezekiah, Judah did in fact turn to the Lord, thanks in part to the ministry of Isaiah.
Throughout the seventeen books of The Prophets, there are going to be three different types of prophecies. The first type will be prophecies that will come about relatively soon after the prophecy is given. For example – the Babylonian captivity. Also, there are prophecies concerning the Messiah that would be fulfilled through Jesus seven hundred years later. But there are also prophecies concerning the end times that are yet to be fulfilled (or are currently being fulfilled – depending on how you see things). There is a repeated reference to the “Great and Terrible Day of the Lord”, which most scholars agree, references the return of Christ and the end of this current age. More on that subject later.
When and Where Are We?
The book of Isaiah covers the time period of 740 BC during King Hezekiah’s reign over Judah to approximately 690 BC. During this time, Israel falls to Assyria in 722 BC, leaving Judah to defend for herself as Assyria continues to expand and conquer the lands all around her. During Hezekiah’s reign, Assyria attempted to invade Jerusalem, but thanks to Isaiah and Hezekiah’s prayers, the angel of death fell on the Assyrian army and later, its king, freeing Judah from imminent captivity. Isaiah probably spent most of his life in and around Jerusalem.
- Isaiah, son of Amoz (not the same as Amos). His name means “The Lord Saves”
- Hezekiah, King of Judah who led great reforms and turned Judah toward the Lord
“The people walking in darkness have seen a great Light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death, a Light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2
Weekly Reading Assignment:
- Monday: Isaiah 1-4
- Tuesday: Isaiah 5-8
- Wednesday: Isaiah 9-12
- Thursday: Isaiah 13-16
- Friday: Isaiah 17-20
- Saturday: Isaiah 21-23