"They knew not... the voices of the
prophets which are read every sabbath" (Acts 13:27).
them is fulfilled the prophecy of Isaiah..." (Matthew
very impressive that the Prophet Isaiah is quoted so many
times in the New Testament. Over fifty-five times is
Isaiah cited. Perhaps still more impressive is the fact
that so many of these quotations are related to Israel's
antagonism to God's messengers, and particularly to His
Son, Jesus Christ. In the Gospels, where Isaiah is quoted
so often, there are only two exceptions to this fact.
If this Prophet alone
has such a very large place in the New Testament, which
is the record of Christ; in other words, if there was so
much Christ background to this Prophet, how very true
it must have been that the Lord said so early to this
Prophet as to his ministry:
people, Hear ye indeed (marg. continually), but
understand not; and see ye indeed (marg. continually),
but perceive not. Make the heart of this people
fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes;
lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their
ears, and understand with their heart..."
sabbath," said Paul, but not perceived, not
We, who now have the
cumulative story, are amazed and cry: 'O, can it possibly
be that Jesus, the Son of God, could be so imminent, both
in prophetic ministry and His own personal presence,
speaking, living, suffering, working, for so many years,
and people be in close approximation without really
perceiving and understanding?'
Yes, it is all too
possible that, after years of hearing and being in touch,
the final verdict should be: 'After all, they have not
seen, the root of the matter is not in them, and they can
persecute and discard without a pang.' There is no
Prophet who brings Christ more into view than Isaiah.
Probably no Prophet has suffered more at the hands of
Biblical criticism. It is always significant that where
Christ is brought most to view, there the opposition of
every kind is fullest and fiercest. The work of
discrediting will be found to reach its strongest when
and where the glorifying of Christ is most present. We
have heard it said in our own time: 'We don't want
prophetic ministry; we want simple preaching!'
Tradition has it that
the Prophet Isaiah was sawn asunder, and that the
reference in Hebrews 11:37 is to him. If this is true, it
alone would indicate how vehement is the hatred of the
exaltation of Jesus. A focal point of this rejection is
the pre-incarnate Divine sonship of Jesus Christ. One of
the most remarkable statements in the New Testament
relates to this. Quoting Isaiah 6:10, John says:
"These things said Isaiah, because he saw his glory;
and he spake of him" (John 12:41). This means that
"The Lord, sitting upon a throne, high and lifted
up, and his train filled the temple... the Lord of
hosts... the King, the Lord of hosts" is identified
by John with Jesus. It is an astounding statement, and
makes the matter of spiritual perception and
understanding quite an acute one. Nevertheless, John
understood it, and it is a part of that tremendous
difference between the old Israel and the new spiritual
Israel. The blindness of the former, due to pride,
prejudice, and jealousy, has meant for them this closed
heaven and has cost them dearly.
Hearing the voices
of the Prophets, and not only the words, is thus no less
a matter than one of life or death, salvation or
condemnation. We repeat what we have said before: the New
Testament, Gospels, Acts, Epistles and Revelation, is
built very largely upon this faculty of the new creation
of 'having an ear to hear, and hearing'. It is a faculty,
like that of seeing, which - through new birth - gives
capacity for knowing meanings, and not only
theories or "the letter of the word". It is a
simple fundamental of the Christian life; hence it stood
right at the inception of things relating to the Kingdom,
as in the interview of Nicodemus - the scholar and
teacher - with Jesus. New birth means a new entity with
Israel, as a nation,
not believing and being born again, was doubly deaf by a
judgment. This is the first thing that Isaiah says and
'voices' in relation to the Son of God. We have heard,
read and said much about Isaiah 6, the Throne and the
Lord upon it; the Train and the Temple; the Seraphim and
their thrice Holy chant. Also the cry of woe from the
Prophet, and his call and response to God's appeal. But
we have learned little of the terrible issue of his
commission. We know that Isaiah was read in the
synagogues of Israel, for at Nazareth the ruler of the
synagogue handed that Prophet to Jesus to read publicly.
The Ethiopian eunuch of Acts 8 had been to Jerusalem and
probably secured from the Temple or synagogue a copy of
Isaiah's prophecies and was reading it in his chariot. He
confessed his blindness as to its meaning, and confessing
in humility, his blindness was removed. "He went on
his way rejoicing," while Israel - who had the same
scrolls - went on their way to perdition. It is not what
we have, but what we know that we have, and whether what
we have changes our lives, that matters.
The Holy Spirit, who
inspired the Prophets (1 Peter 1:11), made the Apostles
and believers understand that it was as the Spirit of
Christ in them (the Prophets) that they wrote of Him.
Thus they saw Jesus by the Holy Spirit where those who
had not the Spirit were blind. This is not only a
statement; it is a test.
which is just the proclamation and presentation of God's
mind, always has a threefold meaning:
(1) It brings that
presentation of the mind of God into the presence of men.
(2) It challenges to
the humble obedience of faith, with which is offered the
new capacity and faculty of spiritual understanding.
(3) It determines
destiny according to - not the hearing of the words, but
- "the hearing of faith" and the consequent
walking according to 'knowledge', or otherwise.
The serious and solemn
question must be honestly and sincerely faced: 'How much
of all that I have heard has really changed and shaped my
life?' 'Is it so much teaching, doctrine, theory, or is
it the truth of God?'
The right answer will
be the ground of life and salvation.
The wrong answer will
be condemnation and judgment.
The voices of the
Prophets have a stern as well as a comforting note. This
is peculiarly true of the voice of Isaiah.