Trees and prophets share at least one important characteristic – both are planted for the future. Yet seedlings are often overlooked and prophets often ignored. Isaiah is one of the best examples of this. The people of his time could have been rescued by his words. Instead, they refused to believe him. With the passing of centuries, however, Isaiah’s words have cast a shadow on all of history.
Isaiah was active as a prophet during the reigns of five kings, but he did not set out to be a prophet. by the time King Uzziah died, Isaiah may have been established as a scribe in the royal palace in Jerusalem. It was a respectable career, but God had other plans for his servant. Isaiah’s account of God’s call leaves little doubt about what motivated the prophet for the next half century. His vision of God was unforgettable.
The encounter with God permanently affected Isaiah’s character. He reflected the God he represented. Isaiah’s messages – some comforting, some confronting – are so distinct that some have guessed they came from different authors. Isaiah’s testimony is that the messages came from the only One capable of being perfect in justice as well as in mercy – God himself.
When he called Isaiah as a prophet, God did not encourage him with predictions of great success. God told Isaiah that the people would not listen. But he was to speak and write his messages anyway because eventually some would listen. God compared his people to a tree that would have to be cut down so that a new tree could grow from the old stump (Isaiah 6:13).
We who are part of that future can see that many of the promises God gave through Isaiah have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. We also gain the hope of knowing that God is active in all of history, including our own.
Strengths and accomplishments:
- Considered the greatest Old Testament prophet
- Quoted at least 50 times in the New Testament
- Had powerful messages of both judgment and hope
- Carried out a consistent ministry even though there was little positive response from his listeners
- His ministry spanned the reigns of five kings of Judah
Lessons from his life:
- God’s help is needed in order to confront sin effectively while comforting people
- One result of experiencing forgiveness is the desire to share that forgiveness with others
- God is purely and perfectly holy, just, and loving
- Where: Jerusalem
- Occupations: Scribe, prophet
- Relatives: Father: Amoz. Sons: Shear-Jashub, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz
- Contemporaries: Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Micha
Key verse: “Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’ “ (Isaiah 6:8).
Isaiah’s story is told in 2 Kings 19:2-20:19. He is also mentioned in 2 Chronicles 26:22; 32:20, 32; Matthew 3:3; 8:17; 12:17-21; John 12:38-41; Romans 10:16-20, 21.