THE PROPHET ISAIAH

During the time of the Divided Kingdom of Israel, God sent His prophets to both regions to call them back during their periods of infidelity.  The tribes Judah and Benjamin had formed the region of Judah in the South, and the remaining 10 tribes of Israel had formed the region of Israel in the North. Both regions strayed from God; Israel in their worship of other Gods and Judah in their stony hearts. As a whole, both Judah and Israel would meet these prophets with great resistance, yet God persisted in calling his people back to them. 

The Prophet Isaiah was a major prophet who prophesied to the Kings of the South (Judah) in the 8th century BC. It is theorized that he was of noble birth because of his connections to the inner courts of the king. He may have even been of the priestly tribe. Isaiah received his call to be a prophet around the year 740 BC after the death of King Uzziah. 

Isaiah had a vision of God’s holy temple. God was seated on His throne with His angels surrounding Him in worship. The might of God shook the temple, and Isaiah realized his sinfulness and his unclean lips (words). Then an angel with tongs takes a fiery ember from the altar of the Lord and touches it to Isaiah’s lips, making them clean. God asks for from His throne for someone to go on His behalf, and Isaiah responds that he will go. From that point on, Isaiah was a prophet for God. 

The prophecies of Isaiah have been written down and preserved first in the Jewish scriptures and then in the Christian Bible. The book of Isaiah can be split into two sections: The book of woe and the book of restoration. In the first section, Isaiah warns Judah of their impending exile, and he calls out the kings and the people for their internal infidelity. In the second section, God sends a message of hope to the Jews in their coming restoration after exile. Throughout both sections of Isaiah, there are significant prophecies that speak into the time period, but also will be fulfilled in Jesus and his kingdom. 

In Isaiah 7, God sends Isaiah to King Ahaz, son of the now deceased King Uzziah. The people of Israel are fearful that they will be conquered as the North has been conquered and exiled by the Assyrians and are planning to form an alliance with Egypt. However, God does not want this or His people to fear. He will protect them. He tells Ahaz to demand any sign from God, but in false humility, Ahaz refuses. Instead God gives Ahaz the sign of a virgin who will conceive and have a son who will be named Immanuel (God is with us). While this prophecy is fulfilled by Isaiah’s wife having her first child (not a virginal birth, she was just a virgin prior to pregnancy), this prophecy ultimately points to the virginal birth of Jesus, born from his mother Mary. Jesus will be ‘God with us’ and He will save us from our sins. 

In Isaiah 22, we hear of the ‘El ha bayit’ or the Prime Ministers of the Kingdom of Israel. As Eliakim replaces Shebna as the ‘head over the house’, we are introduced to the keys of the kingdom. This is a term Jesus will use when He proclaims Peter as the rock on which He will build His Church (Matt 16:18). Just as the Prime Minister of Israel was in charge and spoke for the King while he was away, so also does Peter and his successors stand as the Vicar of Christ until His second coming. 

John the Baptist quotes Isaiah 40 when preparing the arrival of Jesus. The Pharisees question his purpose and John replies, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord (John 1:23).  It is fitting that this quote comes from the beginning of the book of restoration. Even though Israel had already been restored from exile physically at the time of Jesus, the true spiritual restoration is signaled by the coming of the Messiah who has come to His people to save them from their sins. 

In addition, we see that in Isaiah 9, God promises to make the land of Zebulon and Nephtali glorious in the region of Galilee. It is here that a people who have walked in darkness will see a great light (Is 9:2). This land is where Jesus grows up and begins His earthly ministry. It is through his preaching, teaching, and healing that Jesus makes glorious the way of the sea (Is 9:1)

FInally, possibly the most significant section of Isaiah occurs in Isaiah 52-53. In these chapters we encounter ‘the suffering servant.’ We are told of a man whose appearance will be marred beyond human semblance (Is 52:14).  He will be despised and rejected by man  and will bear our grief and carry our sorrows (Is 53: 3-4). He will be bruised for our iniquities and wounded by our transgressions  and God will lay upon Him the guilt of us all (Is 53:5-6). In every verse of the suffering servant prophecy, Jesus fulfills it in His passion and death on the cross. Yet, the end of the suffering servant prophecy foretells the blessings that will be bestowed upon the faithful servant, and that through Him, many will be accounted as righteous because He will be the intercession for their transgressions (Is 53:11-12). Jesus, in His death, allows us to enter into His righteousness and He is our intercessor at the right hand of the Father until He comes again in glory.  

There are even more passages in the book of Isaiah that not only speak to the time period, but also point to Jesus and the coming Kingdom of Heaven. We know that through Isaiah God not only called to the Kings and the people of Israel in the 8th century BC, but He is also appealing to us and all Chirstians throughout history. The message of repentance for sins and restoration is one that finds its completion in the person of Jesus, and Isaiah clearly prophesied His coming. However, Israel did not listen to Isaiah which resulted in their eventual defeat and exile. Thus Isaiah leaves us with hope and a warning. As long as the Word of God is proclaimed, God has restored His people through the suffering servant of Jesus that is offered to us through the Church Jesus established on Peter. But we must repent and embrace Jesus as the Messiah if we want to enter into His life. 

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At the National Eucharistic Congress, Decided Excellence Catholic Media - with the help of Bishop William Waltersheid - will be presenting "Beautiful Revelation: The Eucharistic Timeline". Throughout human history, God has left repeated proof of His presence in the Eucharist and that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our Salvation. God has given us the wisdom. Have you taken the time to understand? Read this spiritual journey through time to examine critical moments that God uses to reveal the truth of the Body of Christ.

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