Isaiah was a prophet in ancient Judah, whose father is traditionally identified as the brother of King Amaziah, making him a grandson of King Joash (Is 1:1; 2Ki 14:1). Isaiah prophesied from about 740 to 681 B.C. during a period of steady decline—economic, political, and military—but Judah’s real distress was spiritual and moral.
Isaiah thus begins his book with a warning (chs. 1-6), showing the people that their sinful hubris violated the holiness of God himself, “the Holy One of Israel” (Is 1:4). Unfortunately, instead of responding with “a contrite and lowly” humility, Judah closed the eyes of their heart and rejected the healing of the Lord (57:15 ESV; 6:10). So Isaiah turns to the future, predicting God’s holy judgment and his merciful deliverance. Like a miniature Bible, Isaiah spends 39 chapters laying out the bad news, and then 27 chapters tracing out the good news, with a few detours along the way. Like many of the prophets, his visions are fulfilled in three ways: (1) initially in threats from Assyria (chs. 7-38; 7:17) and Babylon (39:1-44:23; 39:6-7), (2) eventually in the exiles’ return under the Persians (44:24-66:24; 13:17), and (3) ultimately in the reign of God himself (52:7).
It’s this coming of God’s kingdom that most fascinated the writers of the New Testament. When they read of this newborn king (Is 9:6-7) and suffering servant (52:13), they recognized him as the same bringer of good news they knew as the Lord Jesus (Acts 8:35). Isaiah’s own name says it all: Yahweh is Salvation. The prophet’s ultimate hope is therefore the same as ours today: one day our King will return to reign over an everlasting kingdom filled with joy, love, and light (Is 35:10; 54:8; 60:19-20).
Why These Texts? And What’s With the Outlines?
Selecting texts for a 12-week survey can be difficult, but especially for a book as significant as Isaiah. These lessons focus on those passages most influential in the New Testament (NT). To identify them, I started with an outline of Isaiah from Outline of Bible Books by David Lang, Greg Ward, and Sean Nelson (Accordance, 2015), and then simply listed NT citations from Isaiah using the margins of my ESV and NKJV, plus a great table in The ESV Study Bible (C. John Collins, “Old Testament Passages Cited in the New Testament”). Next, I highlighted the passages of Isaiah that were cited most often (sometimes expanding or contracting sections in the outline to fit the context), and then rounded these selections out by adding an introduction (chs. 1-2) and conclusion (chs. 65-66).
When I teach, I prefer to use outlines just deep enough to remind me of the author’s thoughts, but not so in-depth that I get bogged down in my notes. I share these here in hopes they might be of help to others too. These were usually tweaked right after I taught the text, so they don’t always reflect exactly what was recorded. To focus our thoughts each week, I like to ask a few fundamental questions:
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