M. A. Rudge
The prophet Isaiah served in the royal circle for a period of sixty years, during the reign of four of Judahís kings; Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah (Isa. 1:1). It was the latter half of the seventh century, a crucial period in Judahís history. The prophecy is divided into two major parts, chapters 1 - 35 and 40 - 66, with an intermediate historical section, which is in the form of an epilogue to the first part (ch. 36 and 37) and a prologue to the second part (ch. 38-39). A threefold division can also be identified in (1) the book of the King, chapters 1-35(6:5; 9:1-7; 11:1-16; 32:1-8; 33:17,22), (2) the book of the Servant, chapters 40 - 57 (42:1-9; 49: 1-13; 50:4-11; 52:13-53:12) and (3) the book of the Anointed Conqueror, chapters 58 - 66 (59:20,21; 61:1-3,10,11; 63:1-6).
It is unusual that Isaiahís call and commission are not recorded until chapter 6. His description of conditions in the nation (chs. 1 -5), makes it clear that he is called to serve against a background of judicial hardening. Chapters 7-12 show how the judgment passed by the Lord on Israel in chapter 6:9-12, began to be worked out in the specific historical circumstances of Judah and Jerusalem (and Ephraim). In particular, the hardening foreshadowed in 6:10, is at once reflected in Ahazís response to Isaiah in chapter 7. There is a word for Judah in 7:1-9:7, "a word.. .hath lighted on Israel" in 9:8-11:16 and a word to the Assyrian in 10:5-20.
The crucial issue in this decisive period of the nationís history is highlighted in Isaiah meeting Ahaz and the kingís response (7:2-17). The issue of where confidence will be placed and who will be depended upon in the difficult times ahead is presented in the prophetís message, "Take heed and be quiet; fear not.. .if ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established" (7:4-9). This marked a watershed in the nationís history and the beginning of a movement towards the later Babylonish captivity. The same issue is reenacted in Hezekiahís day, and at the same place, (7:3; 36:2,4-7).
Jerusalemís vital water supply symbolizes the whole issue. When Hezekiah rerouted the water supply through an underground tunnel to within the city, it might have seemed a very commendable thing to do. But Isaiah is given a vision, which exposed the true nature of what it represented, "Ye made also a ditch... But ye have not looked unto the Maker thereof, neither had respect unto Him that fashioned it long ago" (Isa 22:1-14). See 2 Chron. 32:24-26; 30,3 1. If Judah had been in a right relationship with Jehovah, the king would not have needed to resort to such measures. No invader would have come within sight of Jerusalem and placed its water supply in jeopardy.
There are important lessons here. We are frequently tempted to take matters into our own hands and make our own arrangements in difficulties, as these kings and the nation were. We can only be established in divine things by quiet, confident waiting upon God and taking heed to His word (Isaiah 30:15; 32:32:17). The Lord loves to be trusted and have the confidence of His people. Another lesson is, that the wellsprings of Christian life can only be safeguarded by daily dependence upon God (Proverbs 4:23).
Although the prophetís ministry is largely unheeded, its development among a remnant (8:16-20), preserves "the law and the testimony" for future generations, in what is the major prophetic book in the Old Testament. "This represents the basis of hope for the future, guaranteed by the Immanuel promises." The first and second sections in the first part of the prophecy (Chapters 1-6 and 7-12), trace two closely related themes of Redemption through Judgment (1:27; 4:4-6; 5:5-7) and Redemption through Immanuel (7:14; 8:8-10).
- To be continued