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What Is the Book of Isaiah About?

Around 740 B.C., a prophet stepped onto the world stage after King Uzziah of Judah had died. His preaching and prophetic words would echo through the halls of history and figure prominently in the New Testament, where his writings were quoted over sixty times. Isaiah would live until roughly 681 B.C., as indicated by the fact that he records the death of Sennacherib, king of Assyria, in Isaiah 37:38. Isaiah’s prophetic messages and predictions would go on to make a generational impact and strengthen the faith of many.

So, who was this influential prophet whose impact was so far-reaching, and what messages do we need to learn from him today?

Basics of the Book of Isaiah

Little about Isaiah’s biography is known from Scripture or Jewish historical texts. What we do know is that he was the son of a man named Amoz. From the first few lines of the text, we also learn that he lived during the reigns of Uzziah (767-740 B.C.), Jotham (750-735 B.C.), Ahaz (735-715 B.C.), and Hezekiah (715-686 B.C.). During his ministry, Isaiah saw and experienced much, including the fall of Israel to the Assyrian empire. We also know that Isaiah’s name in Hebrew is read as ‘Yəšaʿyāhū’, which means “Yahweh is salvation.”

The Bible contains several genres of writing. When reading the Bible, significant genres include narrative, poetry, wisdom literature, prophecy, gospel, epistle, and apocalyptic. The book of Isaiah falls into the prophetic, poetic, and narrative categories. The narrative genre means that the book of Isaiah tells stories of what was happening. The poetic genre means that Isaiah repeats ideas utilizing Hebrew parallelism and often vivid figurative language. Finally, the prophetic genre serves two functions: to show how God felt about what was currently going on with His people (either to correct disobedient actions or encourage them to continue doing what was right) and to give predictions.

The book of Isaiah can be broken down into three sections for the reader. The first contains Isaiah 1-39, written for the eighth-century Israelites, often discussing the Assyrian threat. This section of the book was written to a people often rebellious against God and looking for security within the world surrounding them.


What is the book of Isaiah about? “The book of Isaiah falls into the prophetic, poetic, and narrative categories.”


The second section of the book occurs from Isaiah 40-55. This section contains prophecies looking ahead to the sixth century and related to the Babylonian exile that would occur. In this section, we also see the salvation of Israel mentioned in Isaiah 53, a servant who would suffer for Israel and redeem them in God’s eyes. In this exile, God’s people would find themselves under domination by the very world in which they had sought security.

The third section of Isaiah contains prophecies related to future events and ongoing situations. These predictions are intended for individuals who remain steadfast in their commitment to the covenant made by God with His people.

Isaiah and the New Testament

Out of the multitude of references to Isaiah in the New Testament, it becomes evident that Isaiah’s teachings find resonance and more profound realization within the context of the New Testament. Reflecting on this, we learn much from Isaiah as his teachings play out in the New Testament. While some references might raise skepticism, suggesting potential manipulation of Old Testament scriptures to fit personal agendas, I believe that these cross-references are integral parts of the cohesive design of the Bible, meticulously orchestrated by God.

For instance, passages in which Jesus confronts the Pharisees’ hypocrisy (Matthew 15:7-9, Mark 7:6-7) by invoking Isaiah 29:13 help to underscore the Messiah’s discernment and teachings. When Peter references Isaiah 40:6-8 in 1 Peter 1:24-25, we see the enduring nature of God’s Word. We see Jesus point back to Isaiah’s prophecy from Isaiah 61 in Luke 4:16-21. We encounter the fulfillment of the foretelling of a virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14) in Luke 1:26-35 and Matthew 1:22-23. We see Isaiah’s promise of God’s Spirit resting upon David’s offspring (Isaiah 11:1-2), realized in Jesus as a descendant of David.

Likewise, Isaiah’s prophecies about blind seeing, lame walking, and deaf hearing echo throughout Jesus’ ministry. When John the Baptist, now imprisoned, was discouraged and wondered if Jesus really was the Messiah, Jesus alluded to multiple of Isaiah’s prophecies when describing to John the miraculous things happening through His ministry (Luke 7:22).


What is the book of Isaiah about? “Isaiah’s prophecies about blind seeing, lame walking, and deaf hearing echo throughout His ministry.”


Isaiah’s proclamation of the inclusion of Gentiles in God’s plan (Isaiah 11:10, 42:1, 55:4-5) finds fulfillment in the New Testament (Matthew 8:5-13, Mark 7:24-26, Acts 13:48), exemplifying God’s eventual plan to rescue the whole world from sin.

There are innumerable teachings within the book of Isaiah that are important for the disciple of Jesus, and I encourage you to spend time in Isaiah exploring the rich themes and prophecies you find there.

Our Similarities with Isaiah’s Audience

The book of Isaiah is long—66 chapters, which is interestingly the same number of books that comprise the Bible. As I’ve studied Isaiah, more insights have emerged than I have space to write about. But I will mention a significant impact that Isaiah’s writings should have on Christians today.

As we Christians can feel increasingly comfortable and confident in our church services, programs, etc., we can put our reliance upon our spiritual “achievements” and forget about what counts. What counts? As the apostle Paul put it, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Galatians 5:6, NIV). When we think more highly of our way of doing things than our need for God, we eclipse faith in God and love for others. We become like the generation Isaiah described here:

“Hear the word of the Lord you rulers of Sodom! Give ear to the teaching of our God you people of Gomorrah! What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? Says the Lord; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls or of lambs, or of goats. When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations. I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me’ I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood.” (Isaiah 1:10-15, ESV)


“I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls or of lambs, or of goats.”


Through the prophet Isaiah, God often rebuked habits His people had fallen into. The very nation He set apart to help the world know Him had fallen into desiring to be like the world around them. They conducted religious practices without their hearts being focused on God. They had moved away from having a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe, the One that saved them from Egypt and led them to the promised land. Their worship had become robotic and lacking in meaning. They had fallen to pagan practices of the time and begun to lose understanding of the fear of the Lord and why it should be treasured.

“And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone will be exalted in the day. And the idols shall utterly pass away.” (Isaiah 2:17-18, ESV)

In these verses, we get a hint as to what has caused God’s people to begin to stray from Him and no longer fear Him. It can be summed up in the word pride. The Hebrew people, in their pride of being God’s chosen people, had begun to stray away from God’s intention for them. In doing so, they had become discriminatory, classist, and unfit leaders both in a civil setting and religious setting.

Instead of seeking security in God, they sought security in a world that would increasingly seek to destroy them.


“Instead of seeking security in God, they sought security in a world that would increasingly seek to destroy them.”


Reading through Isaiah and reflecting on today’s world can bring with it a scary realization. We are not too different from the Hebrews of Isaiah’s time. Many Christians have grown prideful and boastful. Many have embraced false beliefs and sinful life choices—and have altered their interpretation of Scripture accordingly. Many have lost how to cherish the fear of the Lord and hold it as a pillar of life.

Isaiah’s words to a prideful generation strike at the epicenter of our culture.

Isaiah Reminds Us to Fear the Lord

In Western culture, we tend to ignore God and wonder why life feels meaningless and drained. It is because we are not drinking from the wellspring of life anymore. Sadly, this mentality has begun to influence Christian culture. To make people feel like they belong, many Christians no longer confront them with the truth and instead let them blissfully continue in sinful lifestyles that separate them from God. Or we allow people to pick and choose what pieces of God’s instructions they like and throw out the pieces they don’t. Instead of falling before the God of the universe, they have fallen for a god of their creation that needs constant remodeling to fit whatever stage of life they are in.

So, what is the remedy? Here’s a message from Isaiah that we need today:

“The Lord is exalted, for He dwells on high; He will fill Zion with justice and righteousness, and he will be the stability of your times, abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is Zion’s treasure.” (Isaiah 33:5-7, ESV)

We must regain an understanding of and love for the fear of the Lord. We must hold close to our God, even when the world tells us to forget or “upgrade” Him and His teachings. When we treasure the fear of the Lord, we follow Him more closely. It is a fear which protects us, guides us, and draws us closer to our Creator, our Heavenly Father, and away from the influences and pressures of the world.


What is the book of Isaiah about? “We must regain an understanding of and love for the fear of the Lord.”


Fearing God—and not fearing people—is a common theme throughout Scripture. You’ll find God giving His people this reminder throughout their history, whether in the law books (Leviticus 19:32, Numbers 21:34, Deuteronomy 6:2; 10:12; 14:23; 17:19; 28:58), books of poetry (Job 28:28, Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:29; 2:5; 8:13; 9:10; 10:27; 14:26; 15:16; 15:33; 16:6; 19:23; 22:4; 23:17), or in the New Testament (Acts 9:31, 2 Corinthians 5:11). When we fear God, we don’t find ourselves falling for the fears which cripple those around us. As Isaiah put it, “Do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear . . .” (Isaiah 8:12b-13a, NIV).

Isaiah Reminds Us to Repent of Sin

These verses from Isaiah, often quoted in the church, are from Isaiah’s commission for ministry in Isaiah 6:

“And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then I said, “Here I am! Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8, ESV)

This is a beautiful passage which resembles our commission from Jesus to go and spread the message of the gospel (e.g., Matthew 28:18-20).

Yet, it is easy to forget Isaiah’s realization before receiving this commission. Isaiah was thrust into the throne room of the Lord, and the first statement out of His mouth was,

“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5, ESV)

Isaiah understood his standing as a sinful human in front of the Lord. He was not in the proper standing to approach the Lord as a human contaminated with sin. After Isaiah confessed his sinfulness to God, we see God, through seraphim, purify Isaiah’s mouth and remove his guilt with a live coal from the altar. Isaiah was drawn into God’s redemptive mission for the broader world in the context of having his guilt taken away.


What is the book of Isaiah about? “Isaiah was drawn into God’s redemptive mission for the broader world in the context of having his guilt taken away.”


In our day, it seems easy to tell people about God’s amazing and saving love. Yet without the seriousness of our sinfulness as a context, hearing about God’s love strikes people as nice—but unnecessary. When we like the idea of God but don’t see the need to deal with our sins, we end up comfortable with God—and our pride makes us indistinguishable from the people Isaiah was sent to warn.

It’s easy to forget that Jesus preached fear of God to His disciples in Matthew 10:28. We forget that the apostle Paul told Christians to work out their salvation “with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12). It can feel as though fearing God and repenting of sin would be unnecessary in the light of God’s love—until we realize that “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance” (Romans 2:4, NIV).

Let’s remember that God’s commands are not there to rob you of fun but to protect you from the genuine dangers of worldly obsessions and demonic influence that seek to destroy you.

Isaiah Reminds Me to Hope amid Chaos

Isaiah’s message was also this: amidst the chaos, there is hope. Let’s be honest: living in today’s world often makes us apprehensive about what tomorrow may bring. Whether it’s through watching the news, browsing YouTube, or scrolling through social media, it doesn’t take long to encounter stories that plunge us into the depths of despair. Just as Isaiah portrays at the start of his book, we quickly realize that darkness has enveloped our world to a point where the darkness seems almost normal. Yet Isaiah reassures us that the darkness will be dispelled by a beacon of light: the Suffering Servant, Jesus.

During a bleak period for the Jewish people, God conveyed a message of salvation, pointing them toward a future where darkness would be vanquished, and those who embraced His Servant would enter an everlasting covenant of peace. The hope offered is profound. For those of us feeling lost, searching, despondent, or shattered by the world, the cross of Calvary offers forgiveness and redemption. In a world overshadowed by darkness, it is through Christ’s strength, not our own, that we are rescued. In this hope, we don garments of purity, our tears are wiped away, and the darkness cannot linger.

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