6.35 Isaiah -- the Nature of Prophetic Revelation

The Book of Isaiah occupies a large chunk at the center of the Bible.  Apart from 4 chapters (Isa 36-39), which are narrative history and can be found repeated in 2 Kings 18-20, the entire book is direct revelation -- God speaking to or through Isaiah.

       

This book more than any other defines the prophetic tradition:  a collection of “sayings”, directed to different groups inside Israel as well as beyond her borders, targeting specific sins, giving ultimatums, pleading for response, pronouncing doom and destruction, offering consolation.  The three primary characteristics of this amazing record are immediacy, passion and variety:

        a. immediacy:  the words of the prophet are considered to be the direct voice of God, coming through His human vessel.
        b. passion:  all the ranges of emotion are represented -- from tenderness to savagery, joy to despair.
        c. variety:  the catalog of nations and people addressed ranges over the entire contemporary world:  Tyre, Egypt, Tarshish,  Moab, Assyria, Babylon, the "daughters of Zion," the leaders of Israel,  Jerusalem, Cyrus, the "servant" of the Lord, and so on.

       

Interwoven with these Words from God are words of the prophet, petitioning God, reminding him of Israel’s desperate condition:

        "Why, O Lord, do you make us wander from your ways  and harden our hearts so we do not revere you?   Return for the sake of your servants,  the tribes that are your inheritance" (Isa 63:17).

       "Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down,
            that the mountains would tremble before you!
       As when fire sets twigs ablaze and causes water to boil, 
           come down to make your name known to your
           enemies and cause the nations to quake before you!"
          (Isa 64:1-2)    

       

Isaiah is no passive mouthpiece for the oracles of God.  He strives with the words he must pronounce in much the same way as Moses did when God spoke to him against Israel (for example, Ex 32:11-14).  The prophet thus occupies the role of intercessor:  he is not merely the spokesmen of God to His people, but the pleader of Israel’s case before God.