Isaiah is considered to be the crown of the Old Testament. We will be reading through Isaiah for the next few months. As we begin our reading of this majestic book of prophecy, having a big picture will be helpful. In a Bible with only chapter divisions it is hard to grasp a clear idea of the whole. It just seems like one thing after another. So here is an outline map of Isaiah.

Chapters 1—5. Isaiah’s Preface

Using a selection of messages he had preached over the years, Isaiah paints a picture of the situation in which he was called to a prophet.

Chapters 6—37. The Book of the King

In chapters 6–12, against the background of the failed monarchy of the house of David, Isaiah shares the vision of the great David who is yet to come (e.g., 9:6-7; 11:1-10) who will have a universal and endless reign. But is this realistic? David’s historical kingdom was tiny. Will his promised descendant really rule the world? The answer is given in chapters 13—27 in which Isaiah uses the nations of the world as he knew them to describe the ongoing course of history right up to the promised End. So far so good, but is the vision just ‘pie in the sky’ or really possible? In chapters 28—35 Isaiah picks out a historical situation in which the three nations which he had used to depict the final glory (19:24-25) come face to face. Tiny Judah was caught in the middle of a squabble in which the then world superpowers (Assyria and Egypt) came face to face, and in which the God of Israel showed himself to be in sovereign charge of the nations, their history and their destiny. And chapters 36—37 record how completely sovereign he was and how totally subservient to him was (even) Assyria.

Chapters 38—55. The Book of the Servant

Chapters 38—39 record how King Hezekiah turned disastrously from the way of faith to the way of works. In a personal crisis of health he had been given a double promise—of healing for himself and of deliverance for his city. But, having been healed, and having received a huge sign of confirmation, he turned from trusting the Lord’s promises to seeking deliverance from Assyria by making an alliance with Babylon. In response, Isaiah in effect said—since you have chosen Babylon, to Babylon you shall go. Was that then to be the end? Were all the promises of a great coming David forfeited by one false choice (however serious)? Can the sin of man annul the promises of God? The immediate message of ‘comfort’ (40:1) says ‘No.’ The Lord’s answer to sin is the revelation of ‘the Servant of the Lord,’ portrayed from 42:1 onwards, culminating in the great sin-bearing work of Isaiah 53.

Chapters 56—66. The Book of the Conquerer

The Servant’s work of sin-bearing included his victory over every foe (53:11-12). For this the Lord’s people are called to wait in obedience and righteous living (56:1). Like the Servant, the coming Conquerer is revealed in four special passages, starting in 59:20 and culminating in the spine-tingling climax of 63:1-6.

It would be worth your while to read through this outline as many times as it takes to fix it firmly in your memory, so that as we read Isaiah together you will always know where you are in the map.

* Adapted from Isaiah By the Day by Alec Motyer.

This week’s Bible reading schedule:

Monday: Isaiah 2 Thursday: Isaiah 5
Tuesday: Isaiah 3 Friday: Isaiah 6
Wednesday: Isaiah 4 Saturday: Isaiah 7