Is. 1:1 The vision concerning Judah and Jerusalem that Isaiah son of Amoz saw during the reigns of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.
This is the headline which opens up the first unit of the book of Isaiah (chapters 1-5). The whole unit serves as a kind of preface, or perhaps even an overture. As such, it introduces the key themes of the book.
The vision that Isaiah sees relates to Judah and Jerusalem. The ‘vision’ is a perception of the truth granted by divine revelation. And this truth anchors the book geographically and theologically. Jerusalem is the capital city, the seat of government and the home of the king. But its greatest significance lies in the temple. The temple was God’s ‘dwelling place’ on earth– even though he is not contained by it or limited to it. If a person wanted to address God, or to hear from God, or to engage with him in worship; the Jerusalem temple was the place. So if the vision ‘concerns Jerusalem’ then God has something to say about his people, their worship, and their leadership, represented by the four named Kings– Uzziah (aka Azariah), Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah. The narrative of 2 Kings 15-20 provides a general history of the four generations of rulers, and as such, is the history into which Isaiah speaks God’s message.
The premise of Isaiah is therefore that God speaks. He speaks universally, for all time; but also specifically and directly– even to these four named kings. And so at the outset, I am challenged about my readiness to be addressed by God. For, if God speaks, this will certainly require change on my behalf. I will need to submit my will, my ways, and my thoughts to his. God’s word calls for my obedience.
Why does ‘obedience’ to God’s word sound like a bad thing, a drudgery, a burden? Obedience to anything or anyone less-than-God is just that, but not God. Instead, God’s word is light and life. It is to my great benefit that I hear his voice (or read his words) because he reveals that which I cannot know, which I cannot deduce, which I could only speculate about. God speaks, and it is a great blessing to be able to hear him and obey him.
Dear God and Father, please incline my head and my heart to hear you well. And by the work of your Holy Spirit, grant that I would delight to obey all that you show me, even from this book of Isaiah. Amen.