Isaiah: the evangelical prophet

The scope of the prince of the Prophets, Isaiah, is as wide as the sea. We may gather his poetic revelation under three heads:

1. To detect, reprove, aggravate, and condemn the sins of the Jewish people especially, but also of Gentiles;

2. To invite persons of every rank and condition, to repentance, by numerous promises of pardon and mercy;

3. To comfort all the truly pious, in the midst of all the calamities and judgements denounced against the wicked.

But closely knit to these distinct thematic strands, the promises of the true Messiah, born of a virgin, called the Mighty God, are such as to anticipate the Gospel history. Their extent and clarity are such that they unmistakably foreshow the divine character and mission of Christ. On this account Isaiah is rightly called the Evangelical Prophet.

The number and variety of his prophecies concerning the advent and character, the ministry and preaching, the sufferings and death, and the extensive, permanent kingdom of the Messiah are there to be fed upon, enjoyed and believed by God's covenant people, to their own spiritual strengthening and growth in faith.

The Holy Spirit so moved the son of Amos that today we still have explicit and determinate predictions, now largely fulfilled by Christ's first advent. In a peculiar way Isaiah seems to speak rather of things past than of events yet future (about seven centuries before their fulfilment). In this respect he seems to be proclaiming historical facts as already happened: for this reason Jerome called him an evangelist rather than a prophet. And that appellation, "The Evangelical Prophet," being so proper, has stuck.

No reader can be at a loss in applying Isaiah's prophecies to the mission and character of Jesus Christ, and to the events which are cited in his history by the writers of the New Testament. In his proclamations of what the God of Israel has done (was actually to do), Isaiah is sublime and elegant, forcible and ornamented; his writing attains to an uncommon elevation and majesty, and notwithstanding the obscurity of his subjects, a surprising degree of clearness and simplicity.

Together with all the holy men and prophets of old, Isaiah anticipated and with hope looked forward to the coming of the Redeemer. Like Abraham, he rejoiced to see the day of Christ. And he himself "enquired and searched diligently....searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in (him) did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow" (1 Peter 1:10,11).

Undoubtedly, a Christian Evangelist "before the time"!

Isaiah, to a greater extent than all the prophets before the Coming of the Woman's Seed, spoke of Christ because he saw His glory.

He saw Him in a vision, seated on the throne of heaven, the Eternal and Supreme One, with angels attending and worshipping Him (Isaiah 6; John 12:41).

But the burden of Isaiah's message was not the Son of God, eternal in being, majesty and power. Rather it is the same Person, but the accent is brought to bear on his state of humiliation for the sake of His people whom the Father had given Him by covenant: "I will preserve thee and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth..." (Isaiah 49:8).

Thus Isaiah proclaims Him as incarnated, tabernacling among men, being Himself the Son of man: "Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14). Again: "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given..." (Isaiah 9:6).

The unity of Godhead and Manhood in Him is noteworthy (Isaiah 9:6 and 32:2). His humble life and upbringing is described: "For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground..." (Isaiah 53:2).

His miraculous and powerful ministry is highlighted (Isaiah 35:5,6; cf. Matthew 9:35), as the foundation and chosen stone (Isaiah 28:16; cf. 1 Peter 2:6-8); he would be prove to be God's delight, with the Holy Spirit upon Him, and declaring righteousness even to the Gentiles (Isaiah 42:1-3; cf. Matthew 12:15-21); and preaching the gospel (Isaiah 61:1,2; cf. Lk.4:17-21).

His passion and atoning death is eloquently described (Isaiah 52:13-53:12). The substitutionary element is brought out powerfully: "He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities..." (v.5).

His burial and resurrection are not excluded; rather the conquest of the grave is proclaimed as the climax (v.10), with the resulting blessings of justification (v.11) for all believers in Him. Because of His obedience, He is granted a kingdom radiant with glory. All flesh will see it (Isaiah 40:5), especially the Gentile world (Isaiah 60:1,2).

The fruits of His reign are righteousness (Isaiah 32:17) and peace (Isaiah 48:18), for He Himself is the "Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6,7).

With breathtaking poetic language the prophet concludes his message by striking a note of victory. All Israel will be saved with an everlasting salvation (45:17) and God's purpose to bless the whole world shall be fulfilled (chapter 60 to 66).