God’s promised judgment on the people of Israel in Isaiah 28-29 is sweeping and fierce. God will rally foreign nations against Israel, confound the teachers and prophets, and act in justice against all oppressors. Let me pause and reflect today on the reality that the book of Isaiah made it into the Hebrew scriptures, which we Christians call the Old Testament.
It is well attested in ancient history that other nations would predominantly publish propaganda or write histories that focused on their glorious achievements while omitting their dark side. It is hard to imagine more forceful denunciation of Israel during the days of Assyrian and Babylonian captivity than we see in Isaiah. Still, it is one thing for a prophet to say and write these things. It is an entirely different matter for descendants a few hundred years later to decide to preserve this book in their “canon” (canon means rule or norm). Those who embraced Isaiah as God’s words believed that God had truly judged Israel as a nation and people for the evil things they had done. Future generations chose to trust that God had spoken through Isaiah and removed them from power due their wickedness.
Interestingly, the authority of Isaiah as prophet and of the book as holy scripture would be inconvenient for the religious leaders in Jesus’s day when he warned the Pharisees, “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me” (Isaiah 29:13). Jesus forcefully reveals that not much had changed in the few hundred years since Isaiah (see Matthew 15:8). Jesus consistently referenced Isaiah, as this book prepared the way for God to bring both His ultimate judgement and His mercy to Israel through Jesus’s life and ministry. We thank God that Isaiah was preserved as scripture that we might fully appreciate Jesus’ place in the history of Israel and our world.