This morning we are going to do a biography. I’m not sure I have ever done a biographical sermon before. We are going to do a biographical expose’ of the Prophet Isaiah. We are going to piece together stuff from his book... Isaiah; stuff from 2 Kings and, maybe, a bit from the New Testament. Sound like fun?
Let’s start with Isaiah’s birth. That is a good place to start a biography. We don’t know anything about his birth. We do know his father’s name from the opening line of his book...
Isaiah 1:1 The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
We don’t know anything about Isaiah’s father, Amoz from scripture. But Jewish tradition claims that Amoz was the brother of Amaziah... the king of Judah right before Uzziah. If this is true, Isaiah was a nephew of one King and a cousin of some kind to many others. Wow. Isaiah may have grown up running around the palace playing with future kings. This is an interesting glimpse into his influence on the kings.
Amoz, his father, named his boy... Yesh ay a hu. which means... salvation of YHWH. This is amazingly close to Joshua; Ye ho shua, which is “YHWH is salvation. Jesus and Isaiah have the same name; backwards. Isaiah’s name is both appropriate for who he was and then not so much... That is the challenge this morning... Let’s see when Isaiah lived up to his name and when it was hard to live... salvation of YHWH.
The first solid story we have about Isaiah is his calling... recorded in chapter 6 of his visions... Did you notice that? The book of Isaiah is called his vision... wow...
Isaiah 6:1-4 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!" And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke.
Isaiah enters into the throne room of YHWH, I assume in heaven. It is always interesting that every time YHWH is mentioned there is very little description of God but more description of what is going on around Him. This nebulous figure of YHWH is sitting high on a throne... the train of his robe came down from on high and filled up this room of the temple. Angels fly above him singing... “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts whose glory is not confined to one room but echoes through the whole earth... earthquakes and smoke... quite the inspiring sight.
Isaiah records his feelings...
Isaiah 6:5 And I said: "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!"
Staring into the glory of YHWH, Isaiah is overwhelmed with fear... I am nothing compared to the King. My words are unclean. I come from a long line of unclean words. Isaiah’s first thoughts... “Such a mighty being is going to despise such an insignificant thing as me.” But that is not true. Watch what happens next.
Isaiah 6:6-7 Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: "Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.
What? Without sacrifice, without payment, without appeasement, the glorious YHWH takes away his guilt and covers his sin. King YHWH of the hosts wanted Isaiah to know that he could speak for Him. YHWH needed Isaiah to know he was worthy to be his prophet!
With Isaiah ready, YHWH asks a question.
Isaiah 6:8 "Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?" Then I said, "Here am I! Send me."
“Pick me! Pick me!” Isaiah is ready to use his lips to speak for the LORD!
Coolest calling ever! That is who Isaiah was called to be! Isaiah is called to speak the salvation of YHWH.
The next event in Isaiah’s biography is recorded in 2 Kings 19.
Let me set up this event.
Assyria was the big dog in town. They have conquered most of their world with efficient brutality. Assyria is led by King Sennacherib. Sennacherib was a boss. All the cities have fallen before him all the way from Nineveh to Jerusalem. Sennacherib’s huge army shows up on the doorstep of Jerusalem, where Hezekiah has been king for 14 years. Hezekiah has watched Sennacherib creeping closer and closer to Jerusalem. Now Sennacherib has come to add Jerusalem to his list of conquered cities.
Interestingly, an archeological find, tells of this event. A six-sided prism was found that contains the annals of Sennacherib. In Sennacherib own words, it says... “Himself (the king of Judah) I made a prisoner in Jerusalem, his royal residence like a bird in a cage.”
Here is how the 2 Kings describes this event. Sennacherib’s commander, Rabshakeh, gives this challenge...
2 Kings 18:28-32 “Hear the word of the great king, the king of Assyria! Thus says the king: 'Do not let Hezekiah deceive you, for he will not be able to deliver you out of my hand... Do not listen to Hezekiah, for thus says the king of Assyria: 'Make your peace with me and come out to me... that you may live, and not die.”
Rabshakeh overs freedom to anyone who will betray Hezekiah. When Hezekiah heard this challenge, watch what Hezekiah does.
2 Kings 19:1-4 As soon as King Hezekiah heard it, he tore his clothes and covered himself with sackcloth and went into the house of the LORD. And he sent Eliakim, and others covered with sackcloth, to the prophet Isaiah the son of Amoz. They said to Isaiah, "Thus says Hezekiah, This day is a day of distress, of rebuke, and of disgrace... It may be that the LORD your God heard all the words of the Rabshakeh, whom his master the king of Assyria has sent to mock the living God...”
Isaiah send message back to Hezekiah for YHWH...
2 Kings 19:6 Isaiah said to them, "Say to your master, 'Thus says the LORD: Do not be afraid because of the words that you have heard, with which the servants of the king of Assyria have reviled me.’”
Isaiah then sends Hezekiah another vision... recorded in Isaiah and 2 Kings... A prophecy against Sennacherib...
2 Kings 19:27-28 "But I know your sitting down and your going out and coming in, and your raging against me. Because you have raged against me and your complacency has come into my ears, I will put my hook in your nose and my bit in your mouth, and I will turn you back on the way by which you came.”
What happens next, in fulfillment of this vision, is stunning. As Sennacherib’s army is sieging the city...
2 Kings 19:35-37 That night the angel of the LORD went out and struck down 185,000 in the camp of the Assyrians. And when people arose early in the morning, behold, these were all dead bodies. Then Sennacherib king of Assyria departed and went home and lived at Nineveh. And as he was worshiping in the house of Nisroch his god, his sons, struck him down with the sword!
Certainly, Isaiah lives his name... the salvation of YHWH.
The book of Isaiah is the longest of the literary prophets. His book is mostly a series of prophecies; visions attempting to turn Judah back to YHWH. I might add ultimately unsuccessfully. Listen to some excerpts from Isaiah’s prophecies. They are a bit scary...
Isaiah 1:2-3 “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth; for the LORD has spoken: "Children have I reared and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master's crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand."
Isaiah 1:5-6 “Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds.”
Isaiah 1:11-13 "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... Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me.”
Isaiah 1:15-20 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. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause. Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken."
Isaiah 2:2-5 “It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be lifted up above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: "Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths." For out of Zion shall go the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations and shall decide disputes for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD.”
The salvation of YHWH is for those who turn their hearts toward him. Isaiah spent his entire career, as a prophet, attempting to turn his people back to the LORD! But Isaiah ultimately did not turn Judah away from the idols.
Let’s turn, briefly, to one of the most meaningful visions of Isaiah...The suffering servant prophesy. It is the hope Isaiah had for the future... for us.
Isaiah 53:2-7 For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely, he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
Isaiah saw a vision of a man who was nothing to look at, who came to us. But we rejected him. Humans crushed the son of God on the cross. We blamed God, but he gave himself to show us the way of peace; to show us the healing, to show us the way of salvation. The lamb of God was silent as he went to the cross. The salvation of YHWH was demonstrated by Yesuha; the YHWH who is salvation.
Isaiah started his job as a prophet in the last year of Uzziah, around 740 BC. Isaiah continued his visions through King Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, all the way into the reign of Manasseh which began in 686 BC. Isaiah was on the job for over 55 years, as a prophet to the kings!
Jewish tradition has Isaiah dying at the hand of Manasseh, son of Hezekiah by being sawed in two. 55+ years of pleading for the salvation of YHWH for his people ended in his brutal death at the hand of one of his cousin-kings.
Let me close this sermon with some inspiration for our lives from Isaiah’s biography.
Isaiah was faithful to his name throughout his entire life... From his calling - through the victory over Sennacherib – Through his failure to keep his own people from worshipping the idols – through his vision of a suffering Savior. Isaiah was faithful to his name... Salvation of YHWH! That was the theme of his life!
Wow... I would love to have something like this said at the end of my life... He was faithful to his name.
May 6, 2017
Los Alamos Church of Christ