For Isaiah, words are watercolors and melodies and chisels to make truth and beauty and goodness. Or, as the case may be, hammers and swords and scalpels to unmake sin and guilt and rebellion. Isaiah does not merely convey information. He creates visions, delivers revelations, arouses belief. He is a poet in the most fundamental sense—a maker, making God present and that presence urgent. Isaiah is the supreme poet-prophet to come out of the Hebrew people.
Isaiah is a large presence in the lives of people who live by faith in God, who submit themselves to being shaped by the Word of God and are on the lookout for the holy. The Holy. The characteristic name for God in Isaiah is “The Holy.” As we read this large and comprehensive gathering of messages that were preached to the ancient people of Israel, we find ourselves immersed in both the presence and the action of The Holy.
The more hours we spend pondering the words of Isaiah, the more the word “holy” changes in our understanding. If “holy” was ever a pious, pastel-tinted word in our vocabularies, the Isaiah-preaching quickly turns it into something blazing. Holiness is the most attractive quality, the most intense experience we ever get of sheer life—authentic, firsthand living, not life looked at and enjoyed from a distance. We find ourselves in on the operations of God himself, not talking about them or reading about them. Holiness is a furnace that transforms the men and women who enter it. “Holy, Holy, Holy” is not needlepoint. It is the banner of a revolution, the revolution.
The book of Isaiah is expansive, dealing with virtually everything that is involved in being a people of God on this planet Earth. The impressive art of Isaiah involves taking the stuff of our ordinary and often disappointing human experience and showing us how it is the very stuff that God uses to create and save and give hope. As this vast panorama opens up before us, it turns out that nothing is unusable by God. He uses everything and everybody as material for his work, which is the remaking of the mess we have made of our lives.
“Symphony” is the term many find useful to capture the fusion and simplicity and complexity presented in the book of Isaiah. The major thrust is clearly God’s work of salvation: “The Salvation Symphony” (the name of Isaiah means “God Saves”). The prominent theme repeated and developed throughout this vast symphonic work are judgment, comfort, and hope. All three elements are “movements” of the book that so powerfully enact salvation: Messages of Judgment (chapters 1-39), Messages of Comfort (chapters 40-55), and Message of Hope (chapters 56-66).
You’ve been reading from the introduction to the book of Isaiah found in The Message Bible. Discover the surprise and wonder of Scripture as you hear it with fresh ears. With its vivid language, The Message compels readers to recognize their own lives from a new perspective—God’s perspective.