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Isaiah is the prophet of Salvation. He is also known as the truly "Universalist" prophet, by which is meant that He makes it clear that salvation is extended equally to all nations and not just to Israel. He lived to see the fall of Israel and the deportation of the Israelites to Assyria, and he prophesied of their "return" to God (through repentance). He is truly a "major prophet" whose prophecies greatly influenced the Apostle Paul in the New Testament.
Category - Bible Commentaries
Isaiah 6:8 says,
8 Then I heard the voice of the Lord [Adonay], saying, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” Then I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
As the voice of the Seraph fell silent, the Lord Himself spoke, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?” The “I” in this case is Adonay, a title of Christ, the One sitting in majesty upon His throne. Both the singular “I” and the plural “Us” are used in the same sentence, sparking many discussions about the nature of the Godhead. The Trinitarian view is that this indicates one God in three Persons.
The same discussion arises in a study of Gen. 1:26, where we read, “Let Us make man in Our image.” The question is whether the use of the plural is to be taken as more than one Being. Some say it includes the heavenly hosts or perhaps “every family in heaven and on earth” (Eph. 3:15). Others say it is simply the plural of majesty that has been used since the beginning of time.
Whatever the case, Isaiah lets us know that Adonay is speaking, but he does not explain the meaning of “Us.” My view, explained in my Theology of the Logos and in my commentary on the Gospel of John is that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are indeed unique and of the same substance, but not co-equal in authority. Hence, the “Us” in verse 8 could refer to these three, all of whom were present, or it could simply be the plural of majesty. The prophet himself is unclear.
The prophet, whose lips had been cleansed by the fiery coal from the altar of incense, responded immediately to the apostolic call. There are two main elements to be learned in this. First, it is God who calls, for He is sovereign. Man is not self-called. God speaks; man responds (or not). Isaiah heard the voice of God and responded by faith. That is, he believed the word that he was hearing—in this case, the call for a messenger of truth.
Because this call came from Adonay, or Christ Himself, it is a perfect example of the faith that Paul mentioned in Rom. 10:17,
17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
There is no biblical faith apart from Christ speaking, for faith is defined as a response to His word. Faith is not something we build in ourselves through positive thinking, nor is the exercise of faith a matter of being persistent in telling God what we think He ought to do. When God hears the words of men, He does not suddenly obtain a download of faith to respond positively to our demands.
The prophet’s faith is evident by his immediately response. This means the word of Christ resonated with Him, and he found himself in full agreement with the word. His response, then, was both immediate and automatic, even as Jesus Himself always responded to the word of His Father. Rev. 3:14 refers to Christ as “The Amen,” the Father’s double witness to bring the will of heaven into the earth.
The prophet will expound more on this toward the end of his book. Isaiah 65:16 says,
16 Because he who is blessed in the earth will be blessed by the God of truth [Hebrew: amen]. And he who swears [an oath] in the earth will swear by the God of truth [amen]….
The Hebrew text literally speaks of “the God of Amen.” John, in turn, shows that this is primarily a reference to Jesus Christ, who was “the Amen” of His Father, “the faithful and true Witness” of all that His Father said and did. By bearing witness on earth to what His Father spoke in heaven, Christ was the double witness that established the new creation by the law of the double witness.
So too is it with all who, like Christ, respond by faith to the word of God. By the law of the double witness the new creation is built one brick at a time, and the Amen company of faithful witnesses are active participants in that great work.
This is the work that Isaiah accepted by faith. Adonay’s call was for men on earth to be sent out as divine agents who would say Amen to the mind and will of Christ. Hence, Isaiah’s response is normal and typical of any who are of that Amen company.
Isaiah 6:9, 10 says,
9 He said, “Go and tell this people: ‘Keep on listening, but do not perceive; keep on looking, but do not understand.’ 10 Render the hearts of this people insensitive, their ears dull, and their eyes dim, otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and return and be healed.”
With that, we are introduced to the theme of Israel’s blindness and deafness, which the prophet mentions many times hereafter. In essence, Isaiah was commissioned to say Amen to the divine plan to make Israel deaf and blind so that they would not perceive and understand the truth!
Isaiah’s call has been used often as a model to call people into the ministry. When I was young, the church used it often to call for more missionaries to be sent out, since that denomination was a missionary society. No one suggested, however, that their call would be to blind the people and to stop their ears, lest they should “understand with their hearts and return and be healed.” That is no way to promote successful evangelism and “save souls.”
Yet later we find Jesus teaching the people with parables in order to accomplish this very purpose. Matt. 13:13-15 says,
13 Therefore I speak to them in parables, because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, “You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; 15 for the heart of this people has become dull, with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes, otherwise they would see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and understand with their heart and return, and I would heal them.”
No one can truly comprehend this part of the divine plan without understanding the sovereignty of God and His plan to save all mankind in the end. Without that understanding, men conclude that God intends to lose the vast majority of humanity and that He did so deliberately by blinding their eyes and stopping their ears from hearing.
Calvinists thus see God as an unjust tyrant, for they know He is sovereign (Romans 9) but they do not know the love of God in Romans 5, by which He saves all sinners and reconciles all of His enemies. Arminians revolt against this and reject the sovereignty of God, while attributing enough love to His nature to help men be saved by the power of their own free-will decisions.
Neither option explains the whole truth of Romans 5 and 9.
As part of the law of tribulation, Deut. 28:28, 29 says,
28 The Lord will smite you with madness and with blindness and with bewilderment of heart; 29 and you will grope at noon as the blind man gropes in darkness…
If Israel persisted in its national rebellion against God’s right to rule, the law of tribulation threatened them with deportation and exile, saying in Deut. 28:64,
64 Moreover, the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth; and there you shall serve other gods, wood and stone, which you or your fathers have not known.
In other words, because the Israelites had persisted in worshiping false gods, the divine judgment decreed that they would be put under the authority of those foreign nations who worshiped those same gods. This would serve to show the Israelites just how oppressive the laws of those gods were. Further, God was to blind their eyes so that they would indeed serve false gods. In this way, they would learn by contrast that the laws of God are not as oppressive as they had thought.
In the time of Isaiah, the northern House of Israel was about to go into its Assyrian exile. The laws of tribulation were about to be applied to them, and with it was to come a long season of blindness and idolatry. Their idolatry was both the cause and the effect of their exile. They were sent into exile because they were idolatrous; and once in exile, they were blinded so that they would continue in idolatry for as long as their captivity was decreed.
The same law also applied to the House of Judah but in a different manner. Judah yet had to bring forth the Messiah, so Judah’s captivity to Babylon came a century after Israel was exiled to Assyria, and that captivity lasted just 70 years (under the “yoke of iron”). Judah had to return to the old land in order for Jesus to be born in Bethlehem, as prophesied in Micah 5:2. Neither could Judah be divorced from God, because then Jesus would have been born illegitimately.
When Jesus was finally born, and when He had concluded His ministry, His disciples, who recognized Him as the Heir of David’s throne, remained as members of the tribe of Judah, while the rest were “pruned” from the “tree” of Judah. Paul tells us in Rom. 2:28, 29 who is and who is not a Jew (i.e., Judahite). In effect, Judah was in the midst of a civil war, having two groups claiming the Dominion Mandate given to Judah in Gen. 49:10.
It was a repeat of the situation where Absalom claimed the throne of David a thousand years earlier. During that split, were the true Jews led by Absalom or David? We believe that David’s followers had the right to be of the tribe of Judah, because they followed the rightful heir of the throne and possessed the calling given to Judah in Gen. 49:10.
So also was it in the first century. Those who followed Jesus and recognized His right to the throne of David were the legitimate “Jews” whose praise was not of men but of God. Judah means “praise,” and Paul uses this as a play on words. He indicates that one’s status as a member of the tribe of Judah was dependent upon the praise of God, which could only be given through faith in Jesus Christ.
See my book, Who is a Jew?
Paul again explained in Rom. 11:7, KJV that the remnant of grace was not subject to blindness, whereas “the rest were blinded.” In other words, the remnant of grace, though expelled from Judea by persecution, were not subject to the general blindness of the nation that suffered under the law of tribulation. The Jews as a whole, however, remained blind, and hence, Jesus spoke in parables, for He was careful not to overturn the judgment of God during the season of captivity.
This captivity was not to last forever, of course. The law of God specified a period of “seven times,” which was general enough to be applied in various ways, while always ending at some point in time. Those generations of Israelites and Judahites who were blinded during their captivity will be healed of blindness and set free in God’s time, though not during their lifetime.
In the end, every knee will bow and every tongue will profess Christ to the glory of God the Father (Isaiah 45:23; Phil. 2:11). Hence, God’s righteous judgment upon the nation, which resulted in many centuries of captivity and blindness, has not doomed all those individual people to be lost forever. Nonetheless, they must await the resurrection and their summons to the Great White Throne, where they will finally see Christ face to face and know and understand.