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After the death of David's son Solomon, the kingdom of Israel split into two kingdoms: Israel in the north, and Judah in the south. In the north, all the kings were evil.

In the kingdom of Judah, some of the kings were good and some were bad. The good kings followed the example of their ancestor David. They obeyed the commandments of the Lord and followed God with their whole heart. God blessed these kings with success. But the evil kings did not obey the commands of the Lord, and the people of Judah became more and more evil. God sent prophets to warn the kings and to draw the people back to himself. (The Hebrew word for "prophet" means "one who is inspired by God," or "one who speaks for God.")

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About 300 years after King David died, there lived in Jerusalem a young man by the name of Isaiah. In the temple, Isaiah saw a vision of God. He saw the Lord sitting on a very high and wonderful throne. Angels were saying, "Holy, holy, holy, the Lord All-Powerful is very holy. The Lord's glory fills the whole earth."

Isaiah became very scared. He said, "Oh, no! I will be destroyed. I am not pure enough to speak to God. And I live among people that are not pure enough to speak to God. Yet I have seen the King, the Lord All-Powerful."

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There was a fire on the altar. One of the angels used a pair of tongs to take a hot coal from the fire. The angel flew to Isaiah with the hot coal in his hand and touched Isaiah's mouth with the coal. The angel said, "Look! Because this hot coal has touched your lips, the wrong things you have done are gone from you. Your sins are now erased."

Then Isaiah heard the Lord's voice. The Lord said, "Whom can I send? Who will go for us?"
Isaiah said, "Here I am. Send me!"

The Lord said to Isaiah, "Go and preach to the people."

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After this vision, Isaiah served as a prophet for fifty years. Isaiah warned the people about the dangers of sin, and called the people back to God.

Isaiah said to the people of Judah, "Listen to the Lord. The Lord says, `I raised my children. I helped my children grow. But my children turned against me. A cow knows its master. And a donkey knows the place where its owner feeds it. But the people of Israel don't know me. My people don't understand.'

"The Lord says, `Stop doing the bad things you do. Stop doing wrong! Learn to do good things. Be fair to other people. Punish the people that hurt others. Help the children that have no parents. Help the women whose husbands are dead.'"

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Again and again, Isaiah pointed out the sins of the people. He said, "You people rise early in the morning and go looking for beer to drink. You stay awake late at night, becoming drunk with wine. You party with your wine, harps, drums, flutes, and other musical instruments. And you don't see the things the Lord has done. The Lord's hands have made many, many things-- but you don't notice those things."

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With grief in his heart, Isaiah said, "Look at those people! They pull their sins behind them like people pull wagons with ropes. Those people say that good things are bad, and bad things are good. They think light is darkness, and darkness is light. Those people have refused to obey the teachings of the Lord All-Powerful. They hated the message from the Holy One of Israel. So the Lord has become very angry with his people. And the Lord will raise his hand and punish them."

Isaiah urged the people to change their hearts and lives. God wanted to forgive them. "The Lord says, `Come, we will discuss these things. Your sins are red like scarlet, but they can be washed away and you will be white as snow. Your sins are bright red, but you can become white like wool.'

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The Spirit of God came into Isaiah, and Isaiah was able to look into the future. Isaiah looked ahead and saw a new kingdom. It was not like the kingdom of Judah. It was a spiritual kingdom with spiritual values and laws. It was God's kingdom. It stood above all the kingdoms of the earth. It was a kingdom that would attract people from all nations. People would come from far and near to worship God and to learn about God's way of living. They would follow God's rule and obey God's commands.

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The kingdom that Isaiah saw was to have its beginning in Jerusalem with the preaching of God's special message on Mount Zion. From Jerusalem, the word of God would go out to all the world, and people who accepted God's rule would change their ways. Those who had been in the habit of arguing and fighting would learn to love one another and live together in peace. They would stop using weapons of war. They would make plows from their swords and use their spears as tools for pruning trees and vines. They would stop fighting against other people and never train for war again.

These prophecies pointed ahead 700 years to the day when God would set up his kingdom, the church, in Jerusalem. This kingdom would never be destroyed.

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As Isaiah looked into the future, he also saw a new King ruling over God's kingdom. This King was different from other kings. He was more than a man. Inspired by the Spirit of God, Isaiah described the new King as follows:

(1) The King will be born of a virgin. "Look, a virgin will become pregnant. This young woman will have a baby and she will name the boy Immanuel, meaning `God with us.'"

(2) The King will be the Son of God. "God will give a son to us. His name will be `Wonderful Counselor, Powerful God, Father Who Lives Forever, Prince of Peace.'"

(3) The King will come from David's family. "The King will be like a branch growing out of the stump of Jesse [David's father]." He will be a human being.


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(4) The King will be announced by a prophet in the desert. "Listen! You can hear the sound of a man calling loudly: `Prepare the way for the Lord in the desert! Make the road in the desert straight for our God!'"

(5) The King will have the Spirit of God in him. The King will say, "The Lord put his Spirit in me."

(6) The King will be a Servant. He will say, "The Lord chose me to announce good news to the poor people, to comfort the sad people, to announce freedom to the people that are not free, and to give new strength to the weak people."

(7) The King will be a Shepherd. "The Lord will lead his people like a shepherd leads his sheep. The Lord will pick up the little sheep and hold them in his arms."

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As Isaiah looked ahead, he saw an awful thing. He saw the King suffering and dying for all humanity.
Isaiah described that terrible scene as follows: "He (the suffering King) was shamed, and his friends left him. He took our troubles and made them his own. He was given pain to suffer for the wrong things we did. He was crushed for our guilt. We owed a debt, but our punishment was given to him. The Lord freed us from our guilt and put all our guilt on him.

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"He was hurt and punished, but he never protested. He said nothing--like a sheep being carried to be killed. He was quiet like a lamb is quiet while the wool is being cut from him. He never opened his mouth to defend himself. Men used force and took him, and they did not judge him fairly. He was punished to pay for the sins of my people.

"He died and was buried with the rich. He was buried with evil men. He did nothing wrong, but still these things happened to him. The Servant gave himself to be the One to die. But he will live again forever.

"He will suffer many things in his soul. But he will see the good things that happen, and he will be satisfied.
"People said he was a criminal. But the truth is that he carried away the sins of many, many people. And now he speaks for people that have sinned."

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This is one of the most amazing prophecies in the Bible. Seven hundred years before the King was born, Isaiah explained what the King would accomplish by dying on a cross. He would have no sin, but God would put our sins on him. God would do this for us so we could become right with God.

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God's plan for saving humanity from evil has developed before our eyes as we have traced the events of Old Testament history.

The relationship between God and humanity was ruined by sin. But God made a plan to restore that broken relationship:

* A descendant of Eve will crush Satan's head.
* All families of the earth will be blessed through a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
* A true King will come through the family of Judah and David.
* This King will be born of a virgin.
* He will be fully human and fully God.
* The Spirit of God will dwell in him.
* He will be God's servant for humanity.

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* He will be rejected by the people he came to serve.
* He will be forsaken by God.
* He will be forsaken by his friends.
* He will be mocked and shamed by his enemies.
* His hands and feet will be pierced.
* People will gamble for his clothes.
* He will sacrifice his life to save others from sin.
* But he will rise from death and live again.
* He will speak to God for people who have sinned.

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The prophets of the Old Testament have painted a picture of the coming King--like artists painting a picture on canvas. Other prophets add a few final strokes to the picture. The prophet Micah says that the King will be born in Bethlehem. Zechariah reveals that the King will ride into Jerusalem triumphantly on the back of a donkey, but will be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver. Daniel calls him "the Son of Man," and says that he will return to God to rule over an everlasting kingdom.

From beginning to end, the message of the Old Testament is the same: Someone is coming to defeat evil and to save humanity from sin.

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 Scripture References: I Kings 12-14; 2 Kings 17-19; Isaiah 2:2-4; 6:1-13; 7:14; 9:6-7; 11:1-2, 10; 40:3, 11; 53:3-12; 61:1-2; Daniel 7:12-14; Micah 5:2; Zechariah 9:9-12; 11:12 Acts 13:23; Romans 15:12; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Revelation 22:16.


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