Over the coming weeks, we will be sharing extracts of the prophets in the Bible. The term ‘Prophet’ was used to describe a messenger of God.
Across much of the Old testament, God’s communication with His people was via messages through a particular person to another person or a group of people with either a promise or warning. The messages God sends/shares has a purpose or call for action. This does not mean God does not speak directly with any person(s) as this was evident with the example of Balaam and the donkey.
The Old testament depicts prophets as individuals who received a ‘call from God’ and often received ‘messages from God’ either through voice, vision or dream. These prophets often led solitary lives with their messages proving unpopular to the recipients.
The Old testament lists sixteen prophets with Isaiah standing at the head of the Prophets. God often sent these prophets on daunting and sometimes dangerous missions. They were responsible to speak out clearly the things God had given them to say. The general thrust of their messages were to bring the people of Israel back from the brink of destruction, to call them back to repentance and warn them of judgement.
Notwithstanding, listeners had responsibility too for ensuring whether the prophet was speaking from God by critiquing what was said.
In the New testament, very few people were identified as prophets. Instead, the gift of prophecy is presented as belonging to the whole Church. All believers are now viewed as having a priestly role, able to enter the presence of God without the need of any mediator other than Christ himself.
Today, we look at Isaiah.
Week 1: The Prophet Isaiah
Isaiah has been depicted as the 8th century prophet in the Province/State of Judah to whom God predicted the events of later history.
The prophet Isaiah was a descendant of the royal house of Judah. He was the son of Amoz (whom some have suggested was the brother of King Amaziah of Judah), and was born around 8th century BCE.
Isaiah was called by God during the reign of Kings of Judah - Uzziah, Ahaz (Uzziah’s grandson) and Hezekiah (son of Ahaz).
He was married and his wife, described as ‘the prophetess’ may have shared his calling. They had two sons, naming the eldest Shear-jashub, and the youngest Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz.
Isaiah is described as a seer, prophet and counsellor of Kings in particular King Hezekiah.
The calling / God’s manifestation to Isaiah
Isaiah’s calling to prophesy can be found in Isaiah 6:8 - 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 describes his calling from God in the year 740BC around King Uzziah’s death and first saw God through a vision in the Temple. He had seen God as the ‘Holy One of Israel’ and never forgot it. As such, ‘Holy One/Holy God of Israel’ was Isaiah’s special title for God.
Jerusalem was Isaiah’s home and it was here he had his visions. Isaiah is notable for the prophesy of the coming of the messiah (Jesus).
He prophesised for 40 years but often knew his words would fall on deaf ears. Throughout Isaiah’s life, he preached about God’s righteousness, warned of judgement on sin, the knowledge of God’s love and salvation, and the glories in store for those who remain faithful to him. These span the 66 chapters of the book of Isaiah. He died in 7th century BCE
Isaiah’s prophecy and teaching span 3 central themes:
God’s case against his people Israel for their rebellion and sin against him which would result in military defeat;
God’s request for a whole change of lifestyle not just religious rituals – a call to a lifestyle of purity of living and concern for justice; and
The redemption of those who align themselves with God and the destruction of those who don’t.
The general thrust of Isaiah’s prophecies was to call the people of Israel, in particular Judah, to repentance to avoid impending judgement – the destruction of Israel through military defeat and captivity resulting in their exile.
The final chapter of Isaiah pictures a bright future for Jerusalem - after their rebellion against God and their restoration by God through his mercy and love - shows people (pilgrims) coming from distant lands to worship God.
Today, this is evident from the millions of pilgrims visiting the Holy Land.