And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6:5)
When an individual comes to an understanding of the LORD’s holiness, they also come to an understanding of their sinfulness. What was true of Israel, the Apostle Peter (Luke 5:1-11) and the Apostle John (Revelation 1:9-20) was also true for Isaiah ben Amoz.
Dr. R. C. Sproul writes that, “The prophet in the Old Testament was a lonely man. He was a rugged individualist singled out by God for a painful task. He served as a prosecuting attorney of sorts, the appointed spokesman of the Supreme Judge of heaven and earth to bring suit against those who had sinned against the bench. The prophet as not an earthly philosopher who wrote his opinions for scholars to discuss; he was not a playwright who composed dramas for public entertainment. He was a messenger, a herald of a cosmic king. His announcements were prefaced by the words, ‘Thus says the LORD’.”
Such a prophet was Isaiah ben Amoz. Isaiah was a prophet of prophets. What the New York Yankees are to professional baseball and the New England Patriots are to the National Football League, the example for which all other teams are compared, so was Isaiah. Along with Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel, Isaiah is referred to as major prophet.
Isaiah ministered in and around Jerusalem as a prophet to the Kingdom of Judah during the reigns of four kings: Uzziah (called “Azariah” in 2 Kings), Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah (Isa. 1:1), from 739–686 B.C. He evidently came from a family of some nobility because he had easy access to the king (7:3). He was married and had two sons who bore symbolic names: “Shear-jashub” (“a remnant shall return,” 7:3) and “Maher-shalal-hash-baz” (“the spoil speeds, the prey hastens,” 8:3).
Dr. John MacArthur writes, “When called by God to prophesy, in the year of King Uzziah’s death (c. 739 B.C.), he responded with a cheerful readiness, though he knew from the beginning that his ministry would be one of fruitless warning and exhortation (6:9–13). Having been reared in Jerusalem, he was an appropriate choice as a political and religious counselor to the nation. Isaiah was a contemporary of Hosea and Micah. His writing style has no rival in its versatility of expression, brilliance of imagery, and richness of vocabulary. The early church father Jerome likened him to Demosthenes, the legendary Greek orator. His writing features a range of 2,186 different words, compared to 1,535 in Ezekiel, 1,653 in Jeremiah, and 2,170 in the Psalms. Second Chronicles 32:32 records that he wrote a biography of King Hezekiah also. The prophet lived until at least 681 B.C. when he penned the account of Sennacherib’s death (cf. 37:38).”
Tradition teaches that Isaiah met his death under King Manasseh (c. 695–642 B.C.) by being cut in two with a wooden saw (cf. Heb. 11:37).
A final note. What set the prophet of God apart from all other men and their occupations was the sacredness of God’s call. A prophet did not apply for the job. God sovereignly selected who would serve Him as a prophet. Because God’s call upon a man to be His prophet was a sovereign one, it was an offer an individual could not refuse. Additionally, the call and job of being a prophet was for life. There was not quitting or retiring. The prophet’s job ended the day he died.
What we witness in Isaiah 6 is not an account of Isaiah’s conversion but rather an account of God’s call. Upon witnessing the heavenly seraphim choir give praise to the thrice holy LORD of the universe, Isaiah was anything but ready to be a prophet. It is to this call, and Isaiah’s initial reaction, that we will examine when next we meet.
May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.
Soli deo Gloria!