Sunday, January 13, 2008

Weekly Meditations: On the book of Isaiah

Starting from this week, I would be posting something each week as I read through the books of the Major Prophets: Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel. I wouldn't say I am an expert, but in an effort to positively exegete the Bible biblically instead of topically (which I have been doing for some time to derive, examine and consolidate my beliefs according to the Scriptures), I have decided that I should do some serious book study so as to get the most from the Scripture, especially since that is the best way to be balanced in our approach to Scripture instead of only talking about one particular "pet doctrine" to the exclusion of others.

With that, let us start.

The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah. (Is. 1:1)

The book of Isaiah was written by the book of Isaiah and recounts the visions that God gave him in his fulfiment of the prophetic office God has appointed him to. Isaiah lived in the days of King Uzziah (Azariah), King Jotham, King Ahaz and King Hezekiah, all kings of Judah. According to tradition, he lived into the reign of the wicked king Manesseh when he was matyred. But I digress.

Now, since Isaiah lived through the reigns of these kings, it would be good to look at the type of kings they are, so as to understand the spiritual state of Israel during that time.

In 2 Kings 15:1-7 and 2 Chron. 26:1-22, we can see the state of Israel under and the character of King Uzziah (Azariah). In 2 Kings 15:3 and 2 Chor. 26:4, it can be seen that King Uzziah was a godly king. He followed the Lord and obeyed His commands in general. Yet, we can see the problems with Judah during His reign. 2 Kings 15:4 showed that he did not prohibit the people from sacrificing to Yahweh at the pagan high places (ie syncretism), nevermind tearing them down. Thus, the state of Judah during his reign seems to show the picture of a generally godly king who was not exactly zealous for God, and of a people who serve God but not doing so whole-heartedly; who compromise the faith. Later during his reign, King Uzziah, who was mightily blessed by God, became proud and elevated himself to the priestly office which he was not entitled to. He thus tried to offer sacrifices to the Lord and was struck by the Lord with leprosy untill his death because of his rebellion and infidelity (2 Chron. 26:16-21).

Now, although I would really love to go into the details of the narrative accounts, such is not the point of this exegesis, which is survey the spiritual state and thus the background upon which Isaiah performs his prophetic ministry. I would like to point out briefly however, that since the Bible is inerrant (axiomatically), the differences between the naming of King Uzzaiah (Azariah) between the accounts in 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles may be due to the fact that King Uzziah has two names (compare 2 Kings 15:5 with 2 Kings. 15:32), and that Uzziah is probably used in 2 Chron. to differentiate between him and the high priest who possess the same name of Azariah (2 Chron. 26:17)

The next king we would look at is King Jotham., the son of King Uzzaiah, of which his reign is dscribed in 2 Kings 15:32-38 and 2 Chron. 27:1-9. Jotham continues the faith and obedience to God of his father King Uzzaiah, yet without being proud (I am sure he has seen what happens to his father when he became proud). Also, he was propspered by God and granted victory over his enemies like the Ammonites (2 Chonr. 27:5-6). However, the waywardness of the people continued in his reign as seen in 2 Kings 15:35 and 2 Chron. 27:2. In 2 Chron 27:2, the phrase "But the people still followed corrupt practices" was introduced to described the situation of the people's spirituality, of which such sentiments are absent in the Chronicle passage describing the reign of King Uzzaiah. This suggest either that the people are becoming more wayward, or also probably that the continuation of such syncretism daily compounded the sin of the people of Judah, who through perpetuating it increased their guilt before God.

King Ahaz, unlike the other 3 kings, was a wicked king, as described in 2 Kings 16 and 2 Chron. 28. He turned to other gods, even to the god of Syria when he was defeated by them. We can see in 2 Kings 16:4 and 2 Chron. 28:4 that he sacrificed at the high places, which suggests that the idolatry and syncretism practiced at the high places, and tolerated under King Uzziah and King Jotham has borne evil fruit. The Kingdom of Judah thus was afflicted by all sets of troubles sent against them by the Lord, of which God has already started judgment against Judah back in 2 Kings 15:37 because of their persistent compromise.

His son King Hezekiah, unlike his father, was a godly king. And unlike his fathers before him, Hezekiah even tore down the high places (2 Chron. 31:1) which were a snare to Judah. During his time, he instituted national revival in re-establishing temple worship and sacrifices, and in celebrating the Passover (2 Chron. 30). Yet, despite all these wondrous things, we can see from the fact that his son Manesseh was able to turn them astray so quickly (2 Kings 21:9) that such a revival was superficial.

From such a preliminary survey of the kings ruling the nation of Judah then, and of the spiritual state of the people, it can be seen that compromise was rampent, syncretism was the "in" thing, and that even a national revival instigated by the godly king Hezekiah was more superficial than true. This such is the sociao-religious background of Judah of that time, and the context upon which Isaiah performed his prophetic ministry. As we shall see later, Isaiah saw through all the gloss and veneer of faithfulness to God, and saw the spiritual rot that will slowly and ultimately detroy the people of God in Judah. And this we will look at in subsequent meditations.


Anonymous said...

Wow, thank you for the upcoming series, I'm looking very much to reading the series in its entirety. You might guess that one of my favorite books is the book of Isaiah given my baptised name, ha ha!

Shalom Aleichem.

PuritanReformed said...