A friend asked me to quickly summarize the purpose of Isaiah. I am sitting outside a cafe jotting down some quick thoughts. I don’t think I’m ready to summarize Third Isaiah quite yet, but here are my thoughts on First and Second Isaiah.
First Isaiah (chs 1-39). The purpose is to warn the people and leadership that violence, greed, and oppression in the society God loves with a passion is bringing down judgment, which will come in the form of Assyria. The message is of a king in heaven frustrated with the failure of people, especially leaders, to do what is good. Human evil is ruining God’s project in Judah. They are like his vineyard, but they give only sour grapes. In the future, God’s ideals will triumph, but a dark time is coming first and it will come to the brink of Jerusalem’s ruin.
Second Isaiah (chs 40-55). The purpose is to encourage a beaten down Judah in exile, call the people back to Jerusalem from Babylon, break the hold that politics and the religion of idolatry have over the people, convince them of the incomparability of Adonai, and gently lead them back to Zion. The prophet stands in the tradition of Isaiah, perhaps because Isaiah had so accurately predicted the Assyrian destruction and the exiles saw their condition mirrored in what happened back in Isaiah’s day. But the hope Isaiah had forecast was very much desirable now for this depressed people in need of light and hope.