Pleads with the People
During the evil reign of Ahaz, Isaiah had faced the sinful people and pleaded with them to return to G‑d. The following themes run through all his prophecies, and express the essence of the prophet's immortal messages. His prophecies have never been equalled either in form or in content.
The prophet pictures G‑d as the merciful father of Israel, but Israel has proved itself ungrateful and disobedient:
"Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the L-rd has spoken: 'Children have I nourished and brought up, but they have rebelled against me. The ox knows his owner, and the ass his master's crib, but Israel does not know, my people does not consider...' They have forsaken the L-rd, they have provoked the Holy One of Israel to anger, they have gone backward. Why should you be stricken more, that you increase the revolt? Every head is sick and every heart is faint... Your country is desolate, your cities are burnt with fire; your soil-- strangers devour it in your presence, and it is desolate, as if destroyed by enemies. And the daughter of Zion is left as a hut in a vineyard, as a lodge in a cucumber field, as a besieged city. Had G‑d not left to us a remnant ever so small, we should have been like Sodom, and should have been compared to Gomorrah."
Isaiah does not hesitate to blame the leaders, whom he calls "Rulers of Sodom," for the low moral state of the people. He sternly rebukes the hypocritical worshippers who offer sacrifices to G‑d, but who do not refrain from sin.
"Hear the word of the L-rd, you rulers of Sodom: Give ear to the law of our G‑d, you people of Gomorrah: 'To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto Me,' says the L-rd; 'I am sated with the burnt-offerings of rams, and the fat of fatted beasts; the blood of the bullocks, of sheep, and of he-goats I do not desire! When you come to appear in My presence--who has required this of you, that you trample my courts? Do not continue to bring me gifts of deceit... the New Moons and Sabbaths, the calling of assemblies, I cannot bear misdeed with solemn gathering... And when you spread forth your hands I will withdraw my eyes from you; when you speak ever so many prayers, I will not hear; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your deeds from before Mine eyes; cease to do evil; learn to do good; seek for justice; relieve the oppressed; do justice to the orphan; plead for the widow.'"
The prophet then challenges the people to reason. He tells them that G‑d is ready to forgive them if they will turn back to Him, and he warns them that their disobedience will lead only to destruction: "'Come now and let us reason together,' says the L-rd: 'Though your sins should be scarlet, they shall become white as snow; though they should be red like crimson, they shall become like wool. If you be willing and obey, the best of the land you shall eat. But if you refuse and rebel, by the sword you shall be devoured; for the mouth of the L-rd has spoken it!'"
Justice and Righteousness
Isaiah tells the people that whether or not the sinners will repent of their own accord, G‑d will purify the nation. A remnant, chastised and purified, will survive the Judgment which would befall Israel, and become the seed of a holy, eternal nation. Zion shall be redeemed through justice and righteousness; "Therefore, says the L-rd, G‑d of Hosts, the Mighty One of Israel: "I will ease Me of Mine adversaries, and avenge Me of Mine enemies. And I will turn My hand upon you, and purge, as with lye, your dross, and remove all your alloy. And I will restore your judges as of yore, and your counselors as at the beginning. Thereafter you shall be called the city of righteousness, the town that is faithful. Zion shall be redeemed through justice, and they that return to G‑d through righteousness."
G‑d's Kingdom on Earth
Foreseeing the Messianic era in the distant future, the prophet continues: "And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of G‑d's house shall be firmly established above all mountains, exalted above all hills; and unto it shall flow all the nations. And many people shall go and say: 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the L-rd, to the house of G‑d of Jacob, that He may teach us His ways, and we may walk in His paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the L-rd from Jerusalem.' And He shall judge among the nations, and reprimand many people. Then they shall beat their swords into plough-shares, and their spears into pruning-knives: Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, and they shall not learn war anymore."
Israel's Future Glory
Isaiah's prophecies on the future glory of Israel are as eloquent as they are inspiring: "Comfort ye, comfort ye My people, saith your G‑d. Bid Jerusalem take heart and proclaim unto her, that her time of punishment is accomplished, that her guilt is paid off..."
Israel's future will not be based on armed force, but on the G‑d-fearing and peace-loving lives of all her children. "And all thy children shall be taught of the L-rd, and great shall be the peace of thy children. In righteousness shalt thou be established; be thou far from oppression, for thou shalt not fear, and from ruin, for it shall not come near thee."
The prophet calls to all, without exception, to participate in the blessings of the new era, by turning back to the Torah which is the source of Jewish life. He likens the Jewish faith and the knowledge of G‑d to refreshing water, nourishing milk, and gladdening wine:
"Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye for water, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come buy wine and milk without money and without price... Incline your ear and come unto Me; hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David."
As though seeing the exiles coming back to Zion, preceded by a herald hastening over the hills with his message of joy and salvation, the prophet exclaims: "How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of the messenger of good tidings, who announces peace, the harbinger of good tidings, who announces salvation; that saith unto Zion: Thy G‑d reigneth.'"
"Thy sun shall no more go down, neither shall thy moon withdraw itself; for G‑d shall be thine everlasting light and the days of thy mourning shall be ended. Thy people are all righteous; they shall inherit the land forever, the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, wherein I glory. The little one shall become a thousand, and the young--a mighty nation; I, the L-rd, in its time will hasten it."