Isaiah is considered by many as the greatest of the writing prophets. But as I re-read the Book of Isaiah, I felt it was part-lamentation, part-curse and part-prophecy. His words drip with raw indignation. He is saddened to see, before his very eyes, a city that has lost its inner compass. The scene that Isaiah describes is no different to any modern urban environment. It is a city that in the author’s view is degrading and spiralling downwards.

There is sin everywhere as people pursue the pleasures of life. There are as many attractions as there are distractions. There is no justice. Everyone is too busy thinking about themselves and it’s each man for himself. People are ‘lost’, but they don’t seem to know it. There is rampant corruption, injustice against the widowed, the poor and the less fortunate. The signs of affluence everywhere, but there also exists terrible inner poverty as the beloved capital city has lost its moral and ethical compass.

The Lord enters into judgment
against the elders and leaders of his people:
“It is you who have ruined my vineyard;
the plunder from the poor is in your houses.

Isaiah 3:14

Despite the grandiosity of the language and the emotive use of indignation, the message is simple and clear. Repent and make amends or you will have to pay the price. The price is punishment by fire.

It is in the midst of this long lamentation that the prophecy is revealed; as well as the hope for salvation. It is prophesied that the Lord himself will ‘give a sign’ and that the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son.

Till today, after what must be millennia since the events transpired, many scholars challenge the claim that Isaiah authored the entire book that bears his name. In either event, Isaiah is a book that reveals the full dimensions of judgment as well as salvation.

Prophet Isaiah at the Sistine Chapel

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