Isaiah—A Book Overflowing with Good News!
WELL has it been said that the writer of the book of Isaiah was an “evangelical prophet.” “Evangelical” has to do with good news, and his book is indeed overflowing with good news. Good news about what? Good news primarily about the restoration of God’s people to their homeland, made certain by the greatness and goodness of their God Jehovah. The book also contains much good news about the coming Messiah and his kingdom.
This grand message that Jehovah God had for his people was one of comfort and hope, one that called for gladness and rejoicing. And so we find that Isaiah abounds with such expressions as “Cry out in gladness,” “Cry out in joy,” “Joyfully cry out,” “Become cheerful.” In fact, we find more references to joy, joyfulness and rejoicing in Isaiah than in any other Bible book aside from the Psalms.—Isa. 35:6; 42:11; 44:23; 52:9.
Whom would Jehovah God choose for giving this exalted and jubilant message to his people! One who was preeminently qualified to put this message in the best possible language, namely, Isaiah. He it was who volunteered when, in a vision, he saw Jehovah in His holy temple and heard Him asking: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Appreciating this grand privilege, Isaiah called out: “Here I am! Send me.” (Isa. 6:8) And Jehovah did indeed use him. As a result of Jehovah’s holy spirit quickening Isaiah’s natural abilities, the book is a literary masterpiece, a fact acknowledged by all Bible scholars. Basically, it is in poetic style, some translations even putting 90 percent of it in poetic form.
When did Isaiah write his book? He prophesied during the eighth century, at least as early as 777 B.C.E. and down to 732 B.C.E., if not also later. (Isa. 6:1; 36:1) He prophesied, therefore, during at least some forty-five years, which was during the reigns of the Judean kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. (1:1) Some of his prophecies had immediate fulfillment, such as the one telling of Sennacherib’s defeat; others waited two hundred years until the time that the Jews returned to their homeland. Then again, some were fulfilled nearly eight centuries later with the coming of Christ, and still others have waited some twenty-six centuries, until our time. Isaiah is the prophet most frequently quoted in the Christian Greek Scriptures.
WHY THE GOOD NEWS IS SO CERTAIN
On what does Isaiah base his good news? Why can we have such confidence in it? Because of the sovereignty, the greatness, the goodness and the Creatorship of the Author of the good news, Jehovah God! (Isa. 40:26; 42:8; 45:18) As the “Sovereign Lord, Jehovah of armies,” he can use a mighty world power as a woodchopper uses an ax. (3:15; 10:15) He is the Great Potter, and we are but as clay in his hands. Appreciating this fact should make us willing to submit to him.—Isa. 29:16; 64:8.
Jehovah is so great that nations are but as the fine dust of the balance and as a drop of water that might still fall from an emptied bucket. From Jehovah’s vantage point high above earth’s sphere puny men seem as grasshoppers. (Chapter 40) Because Jehovah is such a God, we can draw comfort from his assurances: ‘Whatever he has spoken he will bring to pass; his word will have sure success.’ This he affirms for us time and again.—Isa. 14:24, 27; 46:10, 11; 55:10, 11.
Having these qualities, Jehovah is able to foretell the future, something no false gods can do. They have no witnesses, but He does: “You are my witnesses . . . in order that you may know and have faith in me . . . I—I am Jehovah, and besides me there is no savior. . . . So you are my witnesses . . . and I am God.”—Isa. 43:9-12.
GOOD NEWS ABOUT THE MESSIAH
Jehovah God is the Author of the good news, and it comes through his Son, the Messiah. (1 Cor. 8:6) Most appropriately, Isaiah has much to say about the Messiah. He foretold many details about Jesus’ life. (Isa. 7:14; 9:1, 2; 11:1; 42:1-4; Matt. 1:1, 6, 16-23; 4:14-16; 12:14-21) He foretold how John the Baptist would prepare the way before the Messiah (Isa. 40:3; John 1:23); that Jesus would be anointed with God’s holy spirit to declare a comforting message (Isa. 61:1, 2; Luke 4:17, 18), and that Jesus would be rejected as a stone of stumbling to the Jews, and yet become the “corner” foundation stone for spiritual Israel.—Isa. 8:14, 15; 28:16; 1 Pet. 2:6-8.
Isaiah also foretold Jesus’ future role as Leader and Commander of the peoples and that his name would be called “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace,” and that “to the abundance of the princely rule and to peace there will be no end.” (Isa. 55:4; 9:6, 7) Particularly striking is Isaiah chapter 53. The Christian Greek Scriptures record the fulfillment of every verse of this chapter and, though dealing mostly with Jesus’ suffering, it ends on a confident note: “He will be satisfied,” for God shall “deal him a portion among the many, and it will be with the mighty ones that he will apportion the spoil.” (53:11, 12) Yes, the good news will triumph through the offices of the Son of God, the Messiah.
GLOWING RESTORATION PROPHECIES
Many indeed are Isaiah’s glowing restoration prophecies. These, by and large, had their initial fulfillment when the Jews returned to their homeland after their seventy-year Babylonian exile. Some of these prophecies had a secondary fulfillment in the time of Christ. (Isa. 40:3; Matt. 3:1-3) And all have their major fulfillment in modern times.*
Isaiah says of God’s own people: “They will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.” (Isa. 2:2-4) In Jehovah’s spiritual paradise today persons who formerly had dispositions like a wolf, a leopard, a lion or a bear have become docile. As Isaiah says of them: “They will not do any harm or cause any ruin in all my holy mountain; because the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea.” (11:6-9) Jehovah will provide a sumptuous banquet for all peoples. “He will actually swallow up death forever,” and “no resident will say: ‘I am sick.’” (25:6-8; 33:24) What good news that is!
Also, Isaiah says: “The desert plain will be joyful and blossom as the saffron. . . . the eyes of the blind ones will be opened, and the very ears of the deaf ones will be unstopped. At that time the lame one will climb up just as a stag does.” (Isa. 35:1-10) Jehovah will create “new heavens and a new earth,” people will build houses and they themselves will occupy them, they will plant vineyards and they themselves will eat the fruit of them. (65:17-25) What Jehovah did for ancient Israel, and is doing for spiritual Israel today in fulfillment of these prophecies, we can rest assured that he will yet do in a literal way earth wide in fulfillment of the commission he originally gave to man in Genesis 1:28.
ADMONITION AND COMFORT
The book of Isaiah contains much encouraging admonition and counsel for us today. With such admonition there is always some good news—provided the counsel is heeded. Thus, in the very first chapter Jehovah tells his people that he has no delight in their formalistic worship and admonishes them: “Learn to do good; search for justice; . . . plead the cause of the widow.” If such counsel is heeded, then ‘though your sins be red like scarlet and crimson, they will become white as snow and wool.’ (Isa. 1:17, 18) To give but one other example: “Search for Jehovah, you people, while he may be found. . . . Let the wicked man leave his way, and the harmful man his thoughts; and let him return to Jehovah, who will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will forgive in a large way.” What comforting assurance that is—“forgive in a large way”!—55:6, 7.
Especially comforting are the principles that Jehovah enunciates by his prophet Isaiah, as can be seen by the following representative examples: “In the height and in the holy place is where I reside, also with the one crushed and lowly in spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly ones and to revive the heart of the ones being crushed.” (Isa. 57:15; compare 66:2.) Jesus when on earth quoted and applied the principle found at Isaiah 54:13: “All your sons will be persons taught by Jehovah, and the peace of your sons will be abundant.” Those who let themselves be taught by Jesus did have this peace. (John 6:45; 14:27; 16:33) And throughout the centuries God’s people could take comfort from the prophetic assurance given at Isaiah 54:17: “Any weapon whatever that will be formed against you will have no success, and any tongue at all that will rise up against you in the judgment you will condemn.”
Truly, the book of Isaiah is an ‘evangelical prophecy,’ it is good news. It contains good news about Jehovah God and his purposes and assurance that all his purposes will be accomplished. It also contains good news about the Messiah and what he will accomplish, and the good news about the restoration of God’s people in ancient and modern times. And seeing so many of his prophecies fulfilled, we can have confidence that the rest will also be fulfilled.
Moreover, the book of Isaiah helps all servants of Jehovah to have a better appreciation of their relationship with Jehovah by its stressing his greatness and the puniness of man. It also warns us against being content with formalistic worship, but to concern ourselves with practicing righteousness, to be clean as bearers of Jehovah’s “vessels,” and at all times to look to him as our “Grand Instructor” and Teacher. (Isa. 30:20; 52:11; 54:13) And it is not amiss to note that since Jehovah’s servants have such a fine message to bring to the people, they should, like Isaiah, be concerned with expressing it in the very best manner possible.—50:4.
See Man’s Salvation out of World Distress at Hand!, pages 90, 91.