How to Read Isaiah

Hello Dear Church,

It may surprise you, but one of the books that the Gospel of John quotes the most is Isaiah. So as I’ve been preaching through John, Isaiah naturally comes up quite a bit; this is great! But it is also daunting. Because anyone who opens up their Bible to the book of Isaiah will inevitably be confronted by a cacophony of names, judgments, and visions! So I wanted to spend a few moments giving some tips on how to get the most of Isaiah.

1. Keep the main thing the main thing. The name “Isaiah” means “God saves.” That’s also the point of the book. The whole book from chapter 1-66 is all about God’s salvation for his people. This is why much of the book is spent telling us about the Messiah to come, the Redeemer of Israel.

2. Endure the judgments: Much of the first half of the book (and also some of the second) of Isaiah is about God’s judgment on sinners. This judgment is because of their rebelliousness and idolatry. Reading through it can be pretty daunting and discouraging. But by “front-loading” the judgments, the book of Isaiah is preparing us to receive the mercy of God. Much like Romans hammers us with the law in chaps 1-3, then heals us with the gospel in chaps 4-8, so Isaiah hammers us with judgment, but then gives us the healing balm of his grace.

3. Don’t sweat all the names! There are a LOT of names in Isaiah, especially in the first half of the book. Don’t sweat that! If you want to know where all the places are, try looking at this online Bible Atlas here: But if you don’t remember where they all are that is quite alright. There are also a lot of strange names for people (what’s a Rabshekah anyways?). Just remember, keep the main thing the main thing – God saves.

4. Pay attention to Edom. Okay, one name you should pay attention to in Isaiah is Edom. It seems like God has a grudge against Edom. Why Edom? What did they ever do anyways? The reason “Edom” is brought up again and again is that in Hebrew, the name “Edom” is spelled pretty closely to “Adam”-which means all mankind. It’s a play on words. In other words, God’s judgments against Edom is really his judgments against all mankind for their sin.

5. Watch out for the women. Seriously. Isaiah gives a big role to women. For example, think of how the virgin who will give birth to Immanuel in chaps 7-10 sounds a lot like all the other women in the Old Testament who gave birth under duress (Sarah, Hagar, Rebekkah, Hannah). Or, think of how the New Jerusalem is pictured as a Bride on her wedding day in Isaiah 54. Women are really important in Isaiah, if you get that, you’ll understand Isaiah a lot better.

6. Remember Isaiah 6. Isaiah 6 gives us the call story for Isaiah. It is the story of how Isaiah saw himself before God as a sinner and from a sinful people, but God forgave him and cleansed him. That is the whole picture of Isaiah! It is all about God’s righteous judgment, and his abundant mercy.

7. Look forward to Isaiah 25. Isaiah 25 is one of the clearest predictions in the Old Testament about the Resurrection. It is a pretty amazing story about God putting death to death. It is a comforting-and convicting-chapter to read.

8. Search for the Christ. Isaiah has a lot to tell us about the Messiah who will come. It has a lot to tell us about the coming of the Christ. From the king who reigns in righteousness (Is 32) to the suffering servant (Is 52-53), Isaiah wants to teach us about the coming Messiah. He is of course how God saves. He is Jesus, our Immanuel. And Isaiah wants you to know him!


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