Isaiah served as Israel’s prophet during a time when God was allowing other nations to come against them as a means of discipline and judgment for their idolatry. While they were outwardly religious, their hearts were far from God. Throughout Israel’s history, they often took God’s grace and providential care for granted, thinking that nothing would happen to them because they were His chosen people.
History tells a different story. At various times, God used wicked kings (Assyria, Egypt, and Babylon to name a few) to attack and destroy Israel, decimating their cities, killing men, women, and children, or holding them in siege until they destroyed one another. When we reject God’s commands and dishonor His name, He will hold His people accountable.
The book of Isaiah is filled with Messianic prophecies – promises of God that are fulfilled only in Jesus’ final reign at the end of the age. Generations heard and read these promises but died without seeing them fulfilled. Since around 34 AD, however, succeeding generations have experienced personally many of the promises God made.
The Lord did give a sign … a virgin did conceive and bear a son; His name is Jesus (Isaiah 7:14).
The people who walked in darkness did see a great light; the light did shine on them. Jesus is the Light of the world (Isaiah 9:2).
A Son was born to us; His name is Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).
A shoot did spring from the root and stem of Jesse and bear fruit, and the Spirit of the Lord was upon Him (Isaiah 11:1-2).
All of God’s promises are fulfilled in Jesus, but God’s plan is not complete until Jesus returns and rules, first for a thousand years here on this earth, and then for eternity in the new heaven and new earth. Until then, God’s people will go through the refining fire of discipline and judgment, just as Israel did then, and will again during the Tribulation. And just like Isaiah preached, God calls His proclaimers of truth to speak, urging those who know the Lord to serve Him faithfully. Just as the faithful children of Israel suffered because of the unfaithful, as followers of Jesus, we suffer because of God’s hand of discipline on the unfaithful. Our God is a consuming, refining, fire.
Isaiah’s message of hope to His people was to persevere, knowing that God would preserve His faithful remnant and that He would not completely destroy them. In time, His righteous anger would be satisfied, and He would turn in judgment against the wicked nations He was using to discipline His people. For now, they were to keep their eyes on His promises.
Isaiah 8:11-14a – For thus the Lord spoke to me with mighty power and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people, saying, “You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy’ in regard to all that this people call a conspiracy, and you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it. It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear; and He shall be your dread. Then He shall become a sanctuary.
These words are written to a specific people at a specific time, but they have meaning for us today. It is man’s tendency to get caught up in the bad things that are happening, distracted and anxious that we need to fix them. Instead, we are to focus on the Lord, fearing Him alone.
The KJV says it this way: Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
It might seem like Satan is winning and that evil has the upper hand, but the reality is, God is refining and judging. When the time is fulfilled, those who believe it is their own plans and abilities that have come against the people of God will face His judgment, and the believing remnant will be saved. Our attitude and posture in life should be a reverence and holy fear of the Almighty God who is ruling over our world from His throne in heaven, and a heart of compassion to share the good news about Jesus to all who will listen before God’s plan for mankind comes to its intended conclusion.