Fulfilled Prophecy: Introduction of Isaiah
Harry R. Osborne
If we accept the fact that there is a God and that he created this world, how can we know that he is the same God we read about in the Bible? How can we know that the Bible is his product? Does the Bible show any evidence of having a source of greater power than the men who penned the words contained in it? Upon what evidence are we to believe that the Bible is actually the word of God? Is our faith in the Bible as the product of divine inspiration to be a blind leap in the dark or a rational conclusion based upon identifiable evidence?
In Isaiah 40-44, the prophet draws an extended contrast between the God of the Bible and the gods of idolatry. Isaiah often attributes the words to God. This section of Scripture shows the incomparable greatness of God and his ability to help his people. The section also declares the futility of believing in the false gods of idolatry which were not real, but merely a creation of man's imagination.
To show that the false gods were not real, God challenges those idolatrous gods to prove their existence by demonstrating their power. Note the words of that challenge (Isa. 41:21-24):
"Present your case," the Lord says. "Bring forward your strong arguments," the King of Jacob says. "Let them bring forth and declare to us what is going to take place; as for the former events, declare what they were, that we may consider them, and know their outcome; or announce to us what is coming. Declare the things that are going to come afterward, that we may know that you are gods; indeed, do good or evil, that we may anxiously look about us and fear together. Be-hold, you are of no account, and your work amounts to nothing; he who chooses you is an abomination."
God does not exempt himself from the scrutiny of such a challenge. First, God is introduced as "God the Lord, who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it, and spirit to those who walk on it" (Isa. 42:5). Then, God claims his own ability to foretell future events unerringly as he declares:
"Behold, the former things have come to pass, and new things I declare; before they spring forth I tell you of them" (Isa. 42:9). Thus, God claimed to have already manifested himself to his people by prophesying of things to come which had already occurred as he had prophesied. Yet, he says he will do the same again so that the evidence of his power will be more apparent. The purpose of his actions are de-tailed a little later in the section (Isa. 43:10-13):
You are My witnesses," declares the Lord, "And My servant whom I have chosen, in order that you may know and believe me, and understand that I am He. Before me there was no God formed, and there will be none after me. I, even I, am the Lord; and there is no savior be-sides me. It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed, and there was no strange god among you; so you are My witnesses," declares the Lord, "And I am God. Even from eternity I am He; and there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?
Time of Writing
From that premise, God proceeds to declare what is going to come to pass just as he had challenged the idolatrous gods to do. The statements made about various nations, rulers and world events as recorded in Isaiah read like history to us since we may look back upon those statements to see that they are historical facts. But we must remember when they were written.
Isaiah prophesied from about 740 to 690 B.C. during "the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah" who were kings in Judah (Isa. 1:1). At that time, Assyria was the dominant world power in that region. In fact, the book of Isaiah tells about the siege of Jerusalem which took place about 701 B.C. as Sennacherib led the Assyrian army in an attempt to capture the city.
Examples of Prophecy by Isaiah
Yet, Isaiah does not say that Assyria was going to over-throw Jerusalem or take the people of Judah away into captivity. Isaiah does record such predictions regarding Samaria and Israel (the northern kingdom). Those predictions came true. However, Isaiah repeatedly quotes God as saying that Babylon would destroy Jerusalem and take captive the people of Judah. This occurred in about 606 B.C. How could Isaiah have foreseen such without the help of God's power?
However, God does not rest his case as written by Isaiah solely upon this prophesy. In chapters 45-47, he prophesies the destruction of Babylon (which had not even come to power at that time) by the Medo-Persians. God even names the Medo-Persian ruler, Cyrus, who would subdue Babylon and release the Jews from captivity (Isaiah 45:1). That is some prediction since it took place over 150 years before Cyrus came to power! How could this be done by a mere man?
If one claims that the book was written after the time of the fulfillment, there is another problem. One who writes at one time while claiming to live at an earlier time will not correctly represent the setting and events of that earlier time. Yet, Isaiah has been vindicated over and over when tested by the known facts found through archeology. He has never been found wrong!
Thus, the skeptic who seeks to deny the divine power seen in such prophecies is left on the horns of a dilemma. If he tries to explain away the predictions as statements made after the fact, he must contend with the accuracy of the prophet in relating the conditions existing long before his time. The difficulty of this task can be seen if we think about how accurate we might be if we tried to write as if we were living 150 years ago. Sooner or later our fraud would be discovered due to mistakes we would surely make. Isaiah was entirely accurate concerning the time in which he claimed to live.
Yet, to explain such accuracy by saying that Isaiah actually lived in the time he claimed, one must admit that he made such specific predictions of a future time that it necessitated divine help. Either way the skeptic goes, he finds himself in trouble with the facts in his attempt to deny the existence of God and his inspiration of the Bible.
In other articles we will see more evidence for the Bible's claim of divine inspiration. We will examine the evidence that God challenges us to examine his prophecies fulfilled throughout history. The total accuracy of every prediction made by Bible writers assures us that we may rely on the other things said as being the word of God, for no man has the power to see perfectly into the future with-out divine help. A compelling, positive case is made for the existence of God and his inspiration of the Bible through the evidence of fulfilled prophecy. No world religion is founded upon such an evidence-based appeal to reason. Let us be ready to answer every doubt and denial of the skeptic by showing the reason for our hope as we boldly proclaim the facts about God's presence and power.
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: No. 21, p. 20-21