Fifth Gospel of Isaiah: Prologue (Chap. 1) :: By Dr. Donald Whitchard

Isaiah 1:1-18

Summary: This is the first of a series of messages on the life and ministry of the prophet Isaiah and his prophecies concerning the Promised Messiah and His work of redemption on our behalf.

When you ask a Christian whether they are a long-time follower of Jesus or a new convert about the subject of prophecy, the first thing that usually comes to their mind is the prophecies describing the events leading to the return of Jesus Christ. Sermons, studies, and scholarship have been focused on the Second Coming because, as we see the events described by Jesus while on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 24; Mark 13: Luke 21) coming to pass with rapidity, our natural inclination is to, hopefully, look up, be watchful, for our redemption is drawing near (Luke 21:28).

Much ink, thought, and inquiry has been used to put together the varied theories of how everything in history is coming to a conclusion, with Jesus as the center of it all. A lot of attention has been given to the future, and rightly so. However, we may be missing something that is just as relevant when discussing or teaching Bible prophecy, and it does not deal with issues such as the timing of the Rapture, the coming time of tribulation, or the millennium. Prophecy, first and foremost, is to center on the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, for without Him, especially concerning His resurrection, the subject of prophecy, along with the entirety of Scripture itself, would be irrelevant and futile (1 Corinthians 15: 1-8, 12-19).

What I would like to do is turn the prophetic clock back to the time of the Old Testament “prince of prophets,” the man known as Isaiah, and in particular, his prophecies concerning the person and work of God’s Promised Messiah and the mission of redemption He would bring to His people and ultimately the world. Isaiah would also prove to be an evangelist, calling on the people of Israel to repent and prepare themselves for the arrival of the Messiah.

The name Isaiah means “Yahweh Saves.” It is an appropriate name for this prophet who wrote of both the judgments of God but also of His mercy and saving grace. Isaiah’s life and ministry took place in the kingdom of Judah from 740-701 B.C. He was in service to the LORD from the time of his calling (701 B.C.) until the last years of good King Hezekiah (716-687 B.C.) or the early reign of Manasseh (687-642 B.C.), Judah’s most wicked king who, according to tradition, had Isaiah put to death by being sawn in half.

Isaiah lived through the reigns of kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah, giving advice to all of them. He was also familiar with the last four wicked kings of Israel and prophesied the fall of the Israelite kingdom in 722 B.C.

Isaiah was born in Jerusalem around 760 B.C. He was a highly educated man, familiar with the history, customs, politics, and religious customs of both Israel and Judah. We know from Scripture that he was married, although we do not know the name of his wife. He had two sons. One was given the name of Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, so named because before he would be old enough to talk, the threats against Judah by the kingdom of Syria would be gone. The naming of this child coincided with the prophecy he gave to wicked king Ahaz that a virgin would conceive and bear a Son with the name of Immanuel, meaning “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14).

There are noteworthy events in Isaiah that merit our attention before we get to what many Bible scholars have called “the fifth Gospel,” specifically Chapters 52:13—53:12. In Chapter 1, Isaiah condemns the wicked behavior of Judah. He describes their condition as that of a sick person, full of sores, aches, and pains that seem incurable (1:2-9). If God had not decided to intervene, Judah would be no better than Sodom and Gomorrah, cities that had been destroyed by God for their unrepentant perversions and sexual deviancies (Genesis 19:1-29).

The kingdom of Judah vainly thought that their religious practices would get them off the hook with the LORD. Instead, it is condemned by God for its empty routines and vain repetitions, with no real indication that they were devoted to God (1:10-17). This is a lesson for the last days church in that we cannot afford to “go through the motions” of religious thinking that it will satisfy our obligations to the LORD. That is no better than offering Him a filthy leper’s rag, for it assumes that works and rituals will give us a pass into heaven. It does not work that way (Isaiah 64:6; Matthew 7:21-23; Romans 3:23; Ephesians 2:8-9).

Nothing of our own making is sufficient to take away the plague of sin that we brought upon both ourselves and the world ages ago in Eden (Romans 5:12, 8:18-23). The question is: If we cannot redeem ourselves before God, then what hope do we have? Hear the Word of the LORD. It is He who offers the following counsel that worked then and still does today:

“‘Come now, and let us reason together,’ says the LORD. ‘Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are like crimson, they shall be as wool'” (1:18).

Almighty God tells both the people of Judah and us to think for a moment. Do we live lives that are pleasing to the LORD? Do we actually think that our fallen nature and corrupted minds are sound enough to figure out a way to have peace with God? Are you kidding? It is the gracious mercy of God who calls for us not only to “reason with Him” but to understand and accept the truth that it is only He who can redeem us and change us from sinful, hell-bound reprobates into redeemed children who are His forever. It is the LORD who provides salvation to anyone who comes to Him (Matthew 11:28-30).

This is seen all throughout Isaiah’s writings, and the promise of salvation was made manifest in the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross on behalf of our sins and resurrection provided the one and only means by which any of us can come to God and receive both eternal life and the unchanging promise of a place with Him in heaven (John 14:1-6; Revelation 21:1-7), free from the curse of sin for all time.

Here is the question I present to the reader as I come to a close. If you were to die today and faced Almighty God, and He asked you, “By what right do you have to enter into my heaven?” I implore you to reason with the LORD, realizing that nothing you do in your own strength will suffice. Let Him take your wounded heart and corrupted soul and change you into a new creation in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Isaiah’s opening words in his book are that of an evangelist, calling on all who will hear to run to the Savior and receive the gift of forgiveness and true peace that the world cannot give. It still works today.