A bird flying in the sky has a better perspective on the earth below than someone standing on the ground. His perspective, you might say, enables him to see the forest for the trees. I want to rise above the verses and chapters of the book of Isaiah and look down to see if we can get a picture of what the entire book of Isaiah is about. I think you’ll be surprised at the picture that emerges!
1) The Problem of Sin
The opening verses of Isaiah introduce us to a problem. This problem is a major theme of this book. Simply put the problem is sin. First of all, Isaiah uses words which help us understand what sin is. The word rebellion is used a number of times (1:2, 20, 23; 30:1, 9; 50:5; 63:10; 65:2). This emphasizes the intent of our sinfulness. There are times when we decide to sin! The word iniquity is used several times (1:13; 5:18; 6:7; 13:11; 14:21; 32:6; 53:6; 64:9). This is a way of speaking of the stain and blot of our sin, the mark it leaves. Isaiah uses the generic word sin (5:18; 30:1; 40:2; 42:24), a word which is a catch-all phrase to describe all wrong doing, acting and thinking. But Isaiah doesn’t just use theological words to describe sin, he also uses word pictures to describe sin. Sin is spoken of metaphorically as a father who is dealing with rebellious kids (read Isa.1:2-3). He uses the metaphor of sexual promiscuity (1:21). Isaiah gives us specific illustrations of sin. He talks about the way we treat the most vulnerable in society (1:23; 10:2; 32:7). Isaiah speaks of oppression (3:5; 5:7; 59:13). I think Isaiah’s point is that we operate in a manner which uses others to get what we want. The word transgression is also used. This carries the idea of not fulfilling God’s law; crossing the line, so to speak (1:28; 24:5, 20; 43:27; 50:1; 53:5; 57:4; 58:1). Isaiah also speaks of lying (30:9), covetousness (Isa.57:17) and violence (Isa.59:6). In Isaiah, everyone sins. The children of God, the people called by his name – his chosen people the Jews, they sin (27:9; 30:1; 33:14; 42:24; 58:1). Not only them but those who come against the enemy nations who come against them sin too (Babylon – Isa.47; Assyria 10:12-24). In fact, the whole world sins. There is no one in Isaiah who escapes the stain and reach of sin (Isa. 26:21).
2) Coming Judgment
Judgment is a major theme of Isaiah’s prophecy. Because of the sin and wickedness of Judah, God promises judgment. His judgment is described in fearful and foreboding terms. No one escapes this judgment.
There is a judgment on God’s people. In Isaiah 3:8, 9, 11. The Lord stands in judgment against his people in v.13. God is coming to judge his people who supposed to walk in this ways, but rebelled instead. God is also coming in judgment against those nations who persecute his people. Listen the Isaiah’s prophecy against the nation of Babylon who would come against Judah (13:17ff).
The same fate is described for Assyria, who came from the North with ruthless efficiency. In Isaiah 14:24-27 we read of a judgment for them. In fact, we read about the judgment that God sent upon their army in Isa.37:36.
Egypt to the South does not escape either. Judah was tempted to trust in her, but God says that judgment would be coming upon Egypt too (19:22). No nation, it appears would escape the coming judgment of the Lord. This judgment incidentally is something that the book of Isaiah says will one day be directed to all the inhabitants of the earth (Isa.2:12; 13:6, 9; 34:1-2)
3) The Need for Repentance
There is a way out of all this talk of sin and judgment. It is to turn to the Lord it is to repent. From the first chapter of Isaiah (1:18-20) to the last chapter of Isaiah (66:2), there is a consistent message. Salvation is available if you repent (Isa.30:15; 31:6; 59:20). Isaiah message is, you have sinned deeply. Your sin has earned the judgment and wrath of God. But if you will turn from your sins, there is rescue for you.
4) The Identity of the Savior
God knows there is nothing inherently good about people. He understands that they are rebels by birth and by choice, unable to save themselves from their sin (Isa.59:3-9). And so in his grace, he sets out to redeem (57:12; 59:16). He sends a servant, one who suffers for sins to placate the anger of God (50:2-7; 52:9-15; 53:4, 10; 63:1-8). God pours out his judgment over sin, on one is not deserving.
The savior then, is not one who comes in glorious power and might, but one who suffers at the hand of God, not for sins that were his own, but for sins that were not his own. He is divine, coming in grace and humility demonstrating to people that the path to salvation is not in prestige and greatness but in meekness and humility.
5) The Promise of an Eternity
Isaiah also says that one day the suffering servant, the messiah who comes and brings salvation will also come and bring a kingdom. The last theme of Isaiah is the Kingdom. The consummation of the age. The coming king will rule over this kingdom (Isa.32:1), it will be a time of blessing for Israel and prominence for the Jew (Isa.27:6; 35:5-10). A time of international peace (Isa.2:4; Isa.60:19; 66:23;).
Friend, do you recognize these themes? Do you see the picture now? It is the gospel message. Think of it. The Bible says that everyone, everywhere is a sinner (Rom.3:23). It also says that because of their sin, everyone deserves judgment (Rom.6:23). Because of sin and the sentence of condemnation, you and I cannot save ourselves (Eph.2:8-9). However, in the gospel message of sin and judgment, there is hope. Hope for the one who will turn from his wicked ways in repentance and trust in the finished work of Jesus. Jesus is the only one who can forgive your sins and save you (John 14:6; Acts 4:12). And so you must believe on him, and not in yourself for salvation. Then, the promise of God to believers is that there is a future time of blessing that awaits all those who know him (John 14:1-3).