Isaiah 1-3…Return to the Lord.
Isaiah, a contemporary of Hosea, ministered from the death of Uzziah in 739 BC through the reign of Hezekiah. If he prophesied until Hezekiah’s death in 686 BC, this represents a ministry of more than fifty years. During this period, Judah watched as Assyria was on the prowl, and was no doubt devastated when its brother Israel fell. Judah had to decide whether it would submit to Assyria as a vassal state or resist the empire. Moreover, once it decided to resist Assyria, Judah had to choose whether it would do so in its own strength, relying on alliances with other earthly powers, or whether it would trust wholly in the Lord. Isaiah, of course, called Judah to the latter option, rebuking the people for their sin and calling for their repentance (1:18–20; 7–8). In so doing, he also prophesied about what would happen to Judah hundreds of years later, after the people had been exiled to Babylon (586 BC; see Isa. 40–66).
Isaiah opens his book not with his call to ministry but with a picture of Judah in his day, a grim picture full of rebellion and idolatry. At the same time, there was still hope, for God was willing to forgive His people if they were to return to Him (Isa. 1).