How to Read Isaiah
During the month of September, our church will be reading the book of Isaiah. Use this study guide to help you as you read this amazing book.
What’s Isaiah All About?
Isaiah was a prophet in Jerusalem during the time of the Divided Kingdoms of Israel. His message was one of judgment against the corrupt kings and priests who lead the people in idolatry and oppression of the poor. God would bring the destruction of Israel unless they repent. Yet, Isaiah’s message was one of hope too. God is going to be faithful to his promises to bring a king in the line of David, to lead his people into faithfulness, and to bless all the nations of the earth.
Isaiah has some of the most beautiful passages in the whole Old Testament. The book is full of amazing visions and poems about God’s great love for his people. The book also has some of the most vivid passages pointing to the coming of Christ. There is the story of Immanuel in chapters 7–9. There is the Spirit-filled king of chapter 11. There is the suffering servant of chapter 53. There are the New Heavens and the New Earth in chapter 65.
While it is very long and can be confusing at times, the book of Isaiah stands out as an amazing work that plunges the depths of the dangers of sin and the heights of God’s covenant faithful love.
Outline of the Book
1—5 | God Exposes The Sin of His People
6—12 | God Extends Hope Through Judgement
13—27 | God’s Judgment and Hope for the Nations
28—35 | God’s 6 Speeches To His Wayward People
36–39 | God Brings Judgement Through the Exile
40—55 | The Glory of the Lord Will Be Revealed
56—66 | The True Worship of God Will Be Restored
Things to Look For
Look for Isaiah’s message to his countryman. Remember the prophets weren’t future tellers, though they did talk about God’s hope for the future. Instead, they spoke messages directly to their contemporaries. Look for those messages to understand the book.
Look for the dangers of sin. All over this massive book the dangers of idolatry and immorality are put on display. Think through what exactly is being condemned and how you might be guilty too.
Look for the glory of the Lord. God’s glory is a huge theme in the book. Look for it in the visions and the poems. See how the problem of Israel’s sin is ultimately about the glory of God. God’s people have tainted his glory by giving themselves over to idolatry and sin.
Look for Jesus. The hope of Jesus is all over this book. Look for ways that Jesus both fixes the problems of our sin and fulfills the promises of God to his people. Looking up New Testament cross-references will help you see these connections to Jesus too.
Look for instruction on true worship. This book has a lot to say about worship. Of course, our worship is different now that we are in Christ and under the New Covenant. But the book still has lots of great instruction about the heart and right attitudes of worship.
Tips for Reading
The book of Isaiah is long—66 chapters. You’ll need to read 2 to 3 chapters a day. That is only about 10 minutes a day. The average American adult spends 38 minutes on Facebook. You can do it!
Follow along with the outline as you read. There can be long poems and oracles at times that get confusing. Try to keep a watch on where you are in the overall design of the book.
Try using a journal as you read. Write down the main ideas in the passages you read. And write down one thing you can do to be obedient to God’s Word. This can keep you from mindless reading.
Take some time to pray before you read. Pray for God to expose your sin and to fill you with the book’s message of hope in Christ.