|Topical Bible Study||July 1962|
The People in God’s Plan—Lesson XIV
The Prophet Isaiah
THE Prophet Isaiah ministered to the Lord’s typical people during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, who were kings over the two-tribe kingdom of Judah. (Isa. 1:1) During this period the rank and file of the Israelites were not living up to their privileges as servants of God, (Isa. 1:2-4) and there is much in the writing of Isaiah in condemnation of the people, and of exhortations, to return to the Lord and to obedience to his laws. The Book of Isaiah also contains dire warnings of punishments which were to come upon the Israelites because of their waywardness, and in due course these had their fulfillment.
During the entire Jewish Age God dealt with the people of Israel on a national basis. During the period of the kings, whenever a righteous king in the line of David was reigning, the whole nation was blessed and protected by God. This was the experience of the kingdom of Judah during the reign of Hezekiah. It was during this time that Jerusalem was attacked by Sennacherib and his mighty army, but in response to the prayers of Isaiah and Hezekiah, this army of the Assyrians was destroyed.—II Chron. 32:19-22; Isa. 38:4-6
Of particular interest to us in the Book of Isaiah are his prophecies which pertain to the outworking of God’s plan of salvation for the sin-cursed and dying race. The first of these is contained in an invitation to reason with the Lord, and the subject suggested is cleansing from sin. (Isa. 1:18) Elsewhere the Scriptures furnish us the needed information as to how the Lord cleanses the sinner from his sins so that though they be as scarlet, they shall become as white as snow; and though they be like crimson, they shall be as white as wool.—I John 1:7
God’s plan for the eradication of sin from human hearts and lives is by means of a Redeemer, and the Prophet Isaiah was used to foretell the birth of the Redeemer. He prophesied that this great One would be born of a virgin, and that he would become a “Wonderful Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father,” and “The Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 7:14;9:6) The New Testament calls attention to the fulfillment of these prophecies pertaining to the birth of the Redeemer.—Matt. 1:21-23; Luke 2:10,11
The various titles ascribed to Jesus in Isaiah’s prophecy of his birth suggest the different aspects of his service in redeeming and restoring the human race to life. As a Wonderful Counselor he serves during the Gospel Age as the Christian’s Advocate with the Father. (I John 2:1) Jesus will serve as the world’s Mediator during the thousand years of his kingdom, when the knowledge of his ransom will be testified to all.—I Tim 2:5
Jesus is also “The mighty God.” This does not mean that he is the Almighty God, but one who, at the time of his resurrection, was invested with all power in heaven and in earth, and is thus fully able to carry out every detail of the divine plan of salvation, even the restoring of the dead to life.—Matt. 28:18
Jesus was also born to be “The everlasting Father”; that is, a Father who would give everlasting life to those who, during the thousand years of his reign, will believe on him and obey the laws of his kingdom. While Jesus will thus serve as a lifegiver, those who are restored to life during his reign eventually will become the children of God, the Creator.—Matt. 25:34-36
Jesus will also be the world’s Prince of Peace, in that he will restore peace between God and men, and through the agencies of his kingdom will establish peace among men.—Isa. 9:7; 57:19; Luke 2:14
Isaiah also foretold the suffering and death of Jesus. (Isa., ch. 53) In this remarkable prophecy Jesus is first of all referred to as “the arm of the Lord,”—the One who carries out the divine purpose—which previously the prophet declared would be revealed in the eyes of all the nations, and that all the ends of the earth would, through him, see the salvation of God. (Isa. 52:10) But then, in the prophetic vision given to Isaiah, he sees a different development which causes him to inquire, “Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?”
Isaiah then proceeds to explain that before this mighty “Arm” of the Lord will be “seen” and appreciated throughout all the earth, and all mankind receive salvation from death through him, he would be “brought as a lamb to the slaughter.” (vs. 7) Thus we are taught that it was necessary for the Redeemer to die for the people in order for them to obtain salvation through him. In the New Testament this “Lamb” that was led to the slaughter is referred to a number of times.—John 1:29,36; Rev. 5:12,13; 14:1; 22:1
In Isaiah’s prophecy of the death of Jesus, he foretold that this “Lamb” would be given a portion with the Great, and that in turn he would divine the spoil, or reward, with the strong.” (Isa.53:12) The “Great” referred to in this prophecy is Jehovah, the Creator, our Heavenly Father. In his resurrection Jesus was given a portion with him; that is to say, he was highly exalted to the right hand of God. And then, as the Scriptures reveal, Jesus shares this high reward with those described in the prophecy as the “strong,” his followers of the Gospel Age who are strong, not in themselves, but strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.—Eph. 6:10; Rev. 3:21
The salvation and life which the divine plan provides for mankind through Jesus, the Redeemer, will be made available to the people as a whole during his reign of a thousand years, when his faithful followers of the present age will be living and reigning with him. In the Book of Isaiah there are a number of prophecies pertaining to Christ’s kingdom, showing its characteristics, and describing the blessings which it will vouchsafe to the people of all nations. In some of these prophecies Christ’s kingdom is symbolically referred to as a “mountain.”—Isa.2:2-4
To ancient Israel a mountain was a very apt symbol of a kingdom, or government, especially the Lord’s government; for God ruled the nation through his representatives who had their seat of government in a mountain, even “Mount Zion.” In the prophecy of Daniel, where the world-wide kingdom of the Lord is foretold as replacing the kingdoms of this world, it is also symbolically described as a “mountain” which fills the whole earth.—Dan. 2:35,44
In Isaiah’s prophecy the Lord’s kingdom is described as “the mountain of the Lord’s house”; in other words, the kingdom which is made up of God’s ruling house—his ruling family. (2:2) This language would also be understood by Israel at the time this prophecy was given. The Lord’s ruling house then was the family of David. It was from the descendants of David that each successive king of Judah was chosen, and each of these ruled as the representative of the Lord.—I Chron. 29:23
God’s promises to David concerning the kingdom not being taken away from his house, or family, had their ultimate fulfillment in Jesus, of whom it was said that he would sit upon the throne of David. (Luke 1:31-33) The faithful followers of Jesus will be associated with him as reigning kings, and, together with him, as the sons of God, will also be a part of God’s ruling house, “the mountain of the Lord’s house.”—Rev. 20:6
Isaiah wrote that “the mountain of the Lord’s house” would be “established in the top of the mountains, and … be exalted above the hills.” Here the mountain and hills are used to symbolize the great and lesser kingdoms of this world, and the assurance given that the Lord’s kingdom will exercise a dominating control over all of them.—Ps. 72:8; Micah 4:1
“All nations shall flow unto it,” Isaiah wrote. This language denotes that when the Lord’s kingdom is set up and operative the people of all nations will eventually recognize its superiority and become subject to its just and righteous laws. The prophecy explains that in doing this it will be with the desire to be taught the Lord’s “ways” and to walk “in his paths.” When they learn of the Lord’s ways they will, symbolically speaking, beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks, and will learn war no more. For a time there will be some opposers, and these will be “rebuked.”
Isaiah explained that in the Lord’s kingdom the Law would go forth from “Zion,” and the Word of the Lord from “Jerusalem.” The “mountain” of the Lord is thus seen to be the antitypical Mount Zion. It will be in this antitypical Mount Zion that Christ and his faithful followers of the Gospel Age will sit upon the antitypical throne of David. These will constitute the spiritual and invisible phase of the kingdom, the executive branch of this divinely established world government. It will be from these that the “Law shall go forth.”
The whole city of Jerusalem was closely associated with Mount Zion, the seat of David’s kingdom. Doubtless various agencies of David’s government were located in that typical city. So in the antitype, while the law goes forth from Zion, its dissemination and application will go forth from “Jerusalem.” Thus we are reminded that there will be human representatives of the invisible kingdom of the Lord. The Bible describes these as “princes,” and Jesus said that the people from every part of the earth will look to them.—Ps. 45:16; Matt. 8:11; Luke 13:28,29
It is good to know that the kingdom of Christ will establish peace throughout the earth—a lasting peace, based on justice and righteousness. We can be thankful that in the Lord’s kingdom, when the people learn his ways, they will destroy their weapons of war, and direct their energies toward the common security and prosperity of all mankind. These are bright prospects!
The Prophet Isaiah was used by the Lord to describe still other blessings which would be assured to the people in the “mountain” of the Lord. He prophesied that tears would be wiped away; that death would be destroyed; that the veil of darkness which now hinders the people from seeing and knowing God will be removed, and that persecution of the righteous will cease.—Isa. 25:6-9; 11:9; I Cor. 15:25,26
Isaiah also prophesied that in the Lord’s kingdom desert lands will become productive; that blind eyes will be made to see; that the way of the Lord will be made plain; that the world of mankind ransomed by the blood of Christ will return from death, and that sorrow and sighing shall flee away.—Isa., ch 35
The promise that blind eyes will be opened and deaf ears unstopped will have both a literal and a symbolic fulfillment. Symbolically speaking, the eyes of essentially the whole world of mankind are “blind,” so far as seeing and knowing God are concerned. Many do not even acknowledge the existence of a Supreme, Intelligent Creator. Millions who do believe there is a God have distorted conceptions of him. But all these “eyes” will be opened when the true knowledge of the Lord fills the whole earth. Then they will see, and know, and serve the true and living God.
As Isaiah foretold, the way of the Lord will then be made so plain that none will need to “err therein.” No longer will the deceptive influences of Satan be permitted to blind the people and hinder them from seeing and knowing God, for Satan will then he bound. (Rev. 20:1,2) Then, as Isaiah also foretold, the “book” of the true knowledge of God will no longer be sealed to mankind in general, as it is today. Then this “book” will he opened, and the “deaf” will hear, and the “blind” will see.
And how good it. is to know that the blessings of peace, of health, of life, and of knowing God, will not be limited to the generation living at the time when the kingdom of the Lord becomes operative throughout the earth; but that those in the sleep of death are to be awakened; that the ransomed of the Lord are to “return.” The Apostle John in the Book of Revelation also assures us of this.—Isa. 29:11,12,18,19
John’s reference to the dead returning and having a standing before God also mentions “books” which will then be opened. This is a further confirmation of the fact that the people will then be enlightened, and that they will be judged upon the basis of their knowledge of and obedience to God’s righteous laws. (Rev. 20:12,13) Isaiah, in a prophecy concerning Jesus” work of judging the world, informs us that he will not need to depend upon sight or hearing, but that the Spirit of the Lord will give him understanding.—Isa. 11:1-5; 26:9; Ps. 96:13
The blessings of peace and life which will be dispensed to the people through the agencies of Christ’s kingdom are to be permanent to all who obey the kingdom’s laws. These will not need to die at all, and they will be given a hundred years of probation during which to demonstrate their heart-desire to serve God and live in harmony with his righteous laws. If they continue in their opposition to the kingdom they will be “accursed” and die. But such will be merely in their infancy as compared to the time they could have lived had they obeyed the laws of the kingdom.—Isa. 65:20
In the prophecy of Isaiah the spiritual and earthly phases of Christ’s kingdom are referred to symbolically as a “new heavens and a new earth”—the heavens representing the spiritual, or invisible phase of the kingdom, and the “earth” the human, or visible phase. Here the kingdom is also referred to as “Jerusalem.”—Isa. 65:17-22
The Apostle John, in a vision of the kingdom which the Lord gave to him, saw this new heavens and new earth, and he also saw in vision the new Jerusalem. In John’s vision he was given to understand that the coming of this new Jerusalem meant that God’s favor would be with men, that he would “dwell” with them, and be their God. The result of this was, as seen by John, that there will be no more pain and no more death, that the former condition of evil will pass away, and all things will be made new.—Rev. 21:1-5
Not only did Isaiah prophesy concerning the blessings which will reach the people during the time of Christ’s kingdom, pointing out that these blessings had been provided through the death of Jesus, but he also foretold that Jesus’ followers would be associated with him in that great work of the kingdom, which is to include the releasing of the prisoners. In his prophecy of this, Jesus and his church are together likened to a servant of the Lord whom he has promised to preserve and use in the outworking of his plan to restore man to his lost inheritance.—Isa. 49:8,9; II Cor. 6:1,2
Isaiah was used by the Lord to present a brief outline of the Creator’s purpose in the creation of the earth; that it was not created in vain, but to be inhabited. (Isa.45:18; Gen. 1:26-28) Sin entered into the world, and brought condemnation to death. But this does not mean that God’s original purpose in creating the earth, and man, had failed, for he provided a Redeemer from sin and death, who was Jesus. Not only did Jesus die for the sin-cursed human race, but during his reign he will, as we have seen, serve as a Mediator to reconcile the rebellious world of mankind to God, and Isaiah prophesied that unto him every knee shall bow.—Isa. 45:22,23; Phil.2:9-11
Isaiah’s prophecy concerning this speaks of every knee bowing to God, but Paul’s reference to this prophecy explains that it will be carried out through Christ. The complete fulfillment of this prophecy will have been attained at the close of the thousand-year reign of Christ.—I Cor. 15:25-28
Thus we see how wonderfully the Lord used the Prophet Isaiah to foretell the outworking of much of his great plan for the redemption and recovery of the human race. Nor have we called attention to all of Isaiah’s prophecies which have a bearing on the plan of God, leaving it to the student to pursue his writings in greater detail. When we consider that the Book of Isaiah is but a small portion of God’s revelation to his people, we can truly say with the poet, “Blessed Bible, precious Word, boon most sacred from the Lord.”
WHO was Isaiah, when did he minister to God’s typical people, and what is the nature of much that is contained in his book?
During the Jewish Age God dealt with his people as a nation. What did this involve so far as the righteous and the unrighteous were concerned? Give an example.
Which prophecies of Isaiah are of particular interest to us? Name the first of these, and explain how it was presented.
What provision has the Lord made for cleansing from sin?
Cite Isaiah’s two prophecies of the birth of Jesus.
Explain how Jesus serves as a “Wonderful Counselor.”
In what sense can we speak of Jesus as being “The mighty God”?
Explain what is implied in the title “The everlasting Father” as applied to Jesus.
Explain the extent to which Jesus is “The Prince of Peace.”
In which of Isaiah’s prophecies does he forecast the suffering and death of Jesus, and why is Jesus referred to as the “Arm” of the Lord?
Isaiah foretold that Jesus would be led as a lamb to the slaughter. Cite references to him in the New Testament in which he is called a “Lamb.”
In what way was Jesus given a portion with the “Great,” and who, are the strong with whom he shares this reward?
When will the blessing of eternal life reach mankind as a whole?
Why is a mountain a fitting symbol of Christ’s kingdom? What does Daniel’s prophecy say about this “mountain”?
Why is the “mountain” of the Lord referred to by Isaiah as the mountain of the Lord’s “house”?
To whom does the “throne of David” rightfully belong? Will Jesus’ followers share in this rulership?
What is meant in Isaiah’s prophecy which says that the mountain of the Lord will be established in the “top of the mountains,” and “exalted above the hills”?
What is meant by the expression that all nations will “flow unto” the “mountain” of the Lord?
Explain what is meant by the Law going forth from “Zion” and the Word of the Lord from “Jerusalem.”
What blessings other than peace and security did Isaiah foretell would be provided in the “mountain” of the Lord?
Will both the literally and spiritually blind be given sight during the reign of Christ?
When is the way of the Lord to he made so plain that no one will need to have any doubts about his will, and how to do it?
Will Satan be permitted to deceive the people during Christ’s reign?
How do we know that the blessings of Christ’s kingdom will not be limited to the generation of humans living at the time of its establishment?
How did both Isaiah and the Apostle John in the Book of Revelation, symbolize the enlightenment of the people during the kingdom reign of Christ?
Will Jesus’ judgment of the world depend upon what can be learned from the outward appearances of those being judged?
Explain how the Prophet Isaiah portrayed the permanency of the blessings which will be available for the people in Christ’s kingdom.
Explain what is meant in Isaiah’s prophecy of “new heavens and a new earth,” and of a new Jerusalem. What does the Apostle John say about this?
Who are those referred to in Isaiah’s prophecy as being given to the people as a “covenant”? Prove your answer from the New Testament.
Quote Isaiah’s prophecy concerning the divine purpose in the creating of the earth, and that this purpose will not fail.
Who is it in the plan of God to whom every knee must ultimately how?
When will all sin be destroyed, and mankind be reconciled to God and he become “all in all”?
SUMMARY OF IMPORTANT THOUGHTS
In addition to warning the Israelites concerning their sins and the punishments they would incur, Isaiah was used by the Lord to prophesy the birth, suffering, death, and kingdom reign of Christ, and to foretell many of the blessings which would reach the people during the time of the messianic kingdom, including peace, health, everlasting life—even the resurrection of the dead.