Isaiah 1-6: A rebellious people
The vision of Isaiah opens with a sinful nation that needs more chastisement. Judah and Jerusalem have already been sorely chastised, but they have not yet turned from their rebellion against Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel. Jerusalem must be humbled and emptied before it can be exalted and filled. Israel and Judah, for whom God has thoughtfully provided everything, has brought forth nothing except wild fruit (5:4). Isaiah himself, when he sees the thrice-holy Lord of hosts lifted up, confesses that he dwells among a people of unclean lips (6:5). Judgment is coming until only a stump remains (6:13), and Isaiah is God’s messenger to deliver that message. God’s ultimatum to Israel is clear: obey and eat from your land, or disobey and be devoured (1:20). God is still willing to cleanse their sin (1:18), but will they listen?
Isaiah 7-12: Assyria and Immanuel
They will not, so God brings chastisement in the person of the king of Assyria, who will shave Israel like a razor (7:20). The staff in Assyria’s hands is the rod of God’s anger. “In all this, His anger is not turned away, and His hand is stretched out still” (5:25; 9:12, 17, 21; 10:4). Not until Isaiah 12 does God turn from His anger and come to His city, Zion, with deliverance (12:6). In the midst of chastisement, Israel is not to trust in alliances or consult wizards for deliverance from Assyria (8:12, 19). God has a purifying work in the hearts of His people that He is using the King of Assyria to accomplish, but when God is done with him, He will punish the king of Assyria (10:12).
Israel is not devoid of hope, though, because God is with them (8:10). Their land is Immanuel’s (8:8), the son born of a virgin as a sign to stubborn King Ahaz (7:14). He will shatter Israel’s darkness (9:1-2), reign on David’s throne (9:6-7), and as the root of Jesse, stand as a banner for all peoples (11:10-12).
Isaiah 13-23: Ten oracles against the nations
Isaiah 13-23 speaks of more divine wrath, but this time for the nations. God is king over them too, and all the purposes of punishment and restoration that He has planned for them will come to pass (14:24, 26-27; 19:12, 17; 23:8-9). Occasionally hope is extended to the nations but such hope is only found in the Lord of hosts who dwells in Mount Zion (14:32; 16:1, 5; 18:7).
Isaiah 24-27: The world’s end
Ultimately, Yahweh will bring the whole earth to its knees as punishment for its iniquity (Isa. 24-27; see especially 26:21). God will strip bare the earth--nothing more than an over-sized city to Him--but at His city, Zion, He will reign and display His glory (24:23). Therefore, God’s people are to take cover until His wrath passes (26:20-21), lay hold of His strength (27:5), and wait for the day that worship comes to God’s holy mountain, Jerusalem (27:13).
Isaiah 28-33: Six coming woes
At the same time, judgment is coming to both Samaria and Jerusalem (chapters 28-29), but God’s purpose is to purge not destroy (27:7-9). Chastisement is God’s “unusual” work, but He carries it out with wisdom. Like a veteran farmer, God knows just the amount of breaking up and threshing His people need (28:21-29).
God promises to protect Jerusalem from Assyria but in His way and in His timing. No amount of alliance-making or running to Egypt on their part will help. “In returning and rest you shall be saved and your strength shall be in quietness and trust” (30:15). At the right time, God will heal the wounds He has inflicted at the hands of the Assyrians (30:26). Assyria will be shattered by the voice of the Lord (as Isaiah 36-37 will reveal). God’s furnace is in Jerusalem (31:9), and its fire will unleash its fury against the enemies of His people. He will manifest Himself as Judah’s Judge, Lawgiver, and King, and save them (33:22)!
Isaiah 34-35: Edom’s doom and Zion’s joy
So all the nations better wake up and pay attention (34:1). No design of theirs against God’s people will ultimately succeed. Enemies like Edom will disappear forever, its fortified cities becoming nothing more than a dwelling for beasts (34:5-15).
But, oh!, how different the land of Israel and Judah, with the desert blossoming like a rose and a highway of holiness leading to Zion (35:1-8). Those redeemed by God will walk on that highway as they return to Zion, and all will be joy (35:10).
Chastisement, having accomplished its divine ends, is no more.