Isaiah foretold that after a period of punishment, God would free His people. Temple servants of various gods were branded with the name of their god. He used the expression of, “I am the Lord’s” to indicate Israel’s ownership by God. They were indeed God’s servants even while being disobedient.
The Lord is King of Israel; his Redeemer; the Lord of hosts; the First and the Last. Isaiah pointed out the folly and futility of worshipping idols. A blacksmith may make a molten image or a craftsman may carve a wooden god, but they are useless. The god’s maker may become hungry and tired, but his god cannot relieve his discomfort. After falling down to worship the idol, nothing happens because it cannot see nor hear the pleas of its worshipper.
Only God can predict the future and see His prediction fulfilled. Many years before Cyrus’ birth, Isaiah had prophesied that Cyrus would divert the river and capture Babylon by traveling on the dry riverbed. God’s people would be freed to return to rebuild Jerusalem and His temple.
Isaiah is often referred to as the Messianic prophet because of the many times that he wrote regarding the Christ who would come to suffer and die to save spiritual Israel—His church. Gentiles would also be included in the new kingdom. The prophet spoke numerous times regarding God’s Servant. At times, collective Israel is His servant and at other times, the Savior is the subject of his message. Instead of carved images, the Messiah would bring forth justice and mercy to Israel. (The word Messiah is rarely used in the Scriptures. However, it is a Hebrew term defined as the Anointed One. The same word in the Greek language is Christ.) In humility and tenderness, the Messiah would do for Israel what they had been too blind and deaf to do for themselves.
Israel had turned their backs upon God and had refused to obey Him. In His anger, He used other nations to render justice in punishment of them. The prophet could foresee a time when God’s mercy would allow the Israelites to come from all directions of the earth to be restored. They had dishonored Him in many ways, even from very early times, but with their repentance and obedience, He would blot out and forget their sins.
The previous writings of Isaiah contained prophecies of judgment, doom, disaster and captivity in a foreign land for God’s people. Even the same consequences would befall those nations who would be inflicting God’s punishment. However, brighter days began to be predicted for the future of Israel/Judah. Much was prophesied regarding the coming Savior and His kingdom.
“Comfort, yes, comfort My people!” The prophet could visualize the end of their physical captivity. He could also see the end of spiritual captivity from sin as the voice in the wilderness cried out, “Prepare the way of the Lord…” Many years later, John the baptist was the one who prepared the way of the Lord.
In contrast to the temporary nature of man, God’s word will last forever. When man turns to God, he reaps the reward that has been promised to him. God’s gentle care for man was compared to the care that a shepherd has for his sheep. However, nothing can be adequately compared with the greatness and power of our God, the creator of all things.
The prophet asked a redundant question regarding who had performed all things and was over them. God’s answer—“I, the Lord, am the first; And with the last I am He.” He reaffirmed His commitment to Israel that they had been chosen and that He would strengthen them. Those who had been against Israel would be as nothing.
“Fear not, I will help you.” Israel would be renewed and God would provide for their needs. He reminded them of the futility of following heathen idol gods. They can neither tell events of past nor show the things that are to come. “Indeed they are all worthless; Their works are nothing; Their molded images are wind and confusion.”
Babylon was in a period of political unrest. Nabonidus had become king, but was living in the Arabian desert. His son, Belshazzar became a regent over Babylon, but served the duties of king.
While serving as regent or substitute king, Belshazzar hosted a great feast at which he called for the gold and silver vessels that had been plundered years earlier from the temple of God.
As the king and his guests drank wine from those vessels and praised their various gods, a strange event occurred. Fingers of a man’s hand appeared, writing upon the plaster wall. After his astrologers, Chaldeans, soothsayers and wise men had failed to interrupt the writing, the terrified Belshazzar, at the suggestion of the queen called for Daniel.
The aged prophet read the words, “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.” They pronounced bad news to the wicked Belshazzar. “MENE: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it; TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting; PERES: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.”
Even though the news was bad, Belshazzar ordered that Daniel be clothed with royal purple with a golden chain around his neck and pronounced third ruler in the kingdom.
Belshazzar was slain that very night and the kingdom was received by Darius, the Mede.
Isaiah continued to speak against the evil nations. Those who had plundered and dealt treachery against Israel would become recipients of that same treatment. However, the righteous are humble and submissive to God. They will be forgiven for their iniquity.
The prophet described the vengeance that God would take upon the nations that had been in rebellion against Him. Edom was named as a representative of those nations. They would die in a great slaughter and their land would grow up in thorny weeds and be occupied by wild animals.
The blessings of the righteous were likened to the freshness and new life of a desert after a refreshing rain. Jesus, several hundred years later opened the eyes of the blind, unstopped the ears of the deaf, gave strength to the lame and put words into the mouths of the dumb/mute. There would be a highway for the righteous to travel in safety. “And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, And come to Zion with singing…sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”
Is. 13:1-14:23; 21:1-17
Approximately two hundred years before it occurred, Isaiah prophesied the fall of Babylon. Babylon had been a great and powerful empire, but they also had worshipped idol gods instead of the living God. Various other idol worshipping kingdoms who had opposed Israel had been warned by the prophets of impending destruction. The Lord instructed Isaiah to declare the fate that would also befall the Babylonians. He described the cruel events that would occur during the attack against them by the Medes. Babylon would be destroyed never to be rebuilt.
The result of Babylon’s overthrow would allow Israel to return to their own land as their captivity would end and their captors would become their servants. Mighty Babylon would be humiliated and join their previous victims and become as they were in defeat. The land would be at rest and happy.
Babylon’s destruction was further described by the prophet as he saw a distressing vision of their fall. Elam/Persia and Media would form a coalition to attack and conquer the mighty Babylon. Treachery and plunder would be rampant. The images of their idol gods unable to save them would be broken as the true God inflicted His punishment upon the evil kingdom. Isaiah continued his prophecy by pronouncing doom against the Edomites and Arabians.
II Kn. 25:27-30; Jer. 52:31-34
After many years of power, King Nebuchadnezzar died and his son, Evil-Merodach succeeded him. Soon after becoming king, Evil-Merodach released Judah’s king, Jehoiachin from prison during his thirty-seventh year of captivity. The new Babylonian king allowed Jehoiachin to have special privileges in his household for the rest of his life.