Making Sense of Isaiah: Insights and Modern Applications (Hardcover)

by Terry B. Ball, Nathan Winn


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Isaiah’s writings have been described as the “Brussels sprouts of the scriptures.” We know they’re good for us — the Savior commanded us to “search” them “diligently” — but some of us read them reluctantly, hurriedly . . . or not at all. Perhaps we’re overwhelmed by the complexity of the writing, frightened by its style, or confused by its ancient context and language. More than any other book, this simple volume makes Isaiah understandable, applicable, and teachable. It provides a brief overview of each chapter to help readers understand the context and content of the writings, then presents an example of one latter-day application or fulfillment for each chapter. This approachable book will enable readers to actually enjoy studying this remarkable prophet’s writings and help them to ponder other applications and fulfillments in our day.

About the Authors

Terry Ball is a professor of ancient scripture and the dean of Religious Education at Brigham Young University. Brother Ball is a widely-recognized expert on the writings of Isaiah. He has taught and traveled extensively in the Holy Land, including teaching at the BYU Jerusalem Center. He holds three degrees from BYU, including a PhD in Archaeobotany. He and his wife, DeAnna, have six children.

Nathan Winn is an ardent student of Isaiah and a former research assistant for Professor Ball. Nathan has spent countless hours searching Isaiah for insights to help modern students understand and apply the prophet’s writings. He received an undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University and a masters degree in Public Administration from James Madison University. He and his wife, McKenzie, have one daughter. He is currently a hospital administrator residing in Richmond, Virginia.

Chapter 1



Isaiah 1 is sometimes called the Great Arraignment, for in it the Lord, in an arraignment-like fashion, lays out His charges against the apostates among Israel.

First, Isaiah and the kings who ruled his native Judah during his ministry are introduced, from Uzziah (ca. 790 B.C.) to Hezekiah (ca. 725 B.C.). Then, at the beginning of the chapter and again at the end, Isaiah outlines the spiritual maladies that trouble the people. With vivid imagery he decries their widespread apostasy and apathy (1:2–6), as well as their hypocrisy and insincerity as they casually, and consequently vainly, go through the motions of worship prescribed in the Mosaic law (1:10–15). He further condemns the people and their leaders for being murderous, rebellious, dishonest, greedy, and lacking in compassion (1:21–23).

As Isaiah describes the people’s wickedness, he warns of destruction that will befall them. Speaking of things to come as if they had already occurred (compare Mosiah 16:6), Isaiah foretells the desolation and abandonment that await the people (1:7–9, 20) and promises that the Lord will purge the wickedness from them to redeem Zion and restore her to righteousness (1:24–31).
In typical Hebrew style, the highlight of Isaiah 1 is found in the middle verses, where the prophet prescribes the spiritual therapy the people should undergo if they wish to be healed and offers them a beautiful prognosis of hope (1:16–19).


The remedy Isaiah prescribes for the wickedness plaguing the people is good medicine for any spiritual malady in any dispensation. He counsels, “Wash you, make you clean; put away the evil of your doings from before mine eyes; cease to do evil” (1:16). In other words, “Repent!” But repentance is not enough. The people must also “learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow” (1:17). If the transgressors wish to be healed, they must not only stop doing wrong but also start doing right—exercising charity by serving, helping, defending, and loving others, especially those who are oppressed and destitute.

Through Isaiah, the Lord offers great hope to all who yearn for forgiveness. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (1:18). Many who struggle with the deep sorrow and regret that initiate repentance wonder if they can ever truly be forgiven. This promise answers the question as it hints at how such forgiveness is made possible. The imagery of sin being as scarlet reminds us of the atoning blood Christ shed for us as He worked out the great and infinite atonement on our behalf. The imagery of wool causes us to think of the whiteness, purity, and innocence of a lamb. Perhaps Isaiah used this imagery to remind us of the sacred paradox that we may be “washed white through the blood of the Lamb” (Alma 13:11).


1. Why do you think Isaiah used the head and the heart for metaphors in describing in 1:5 the spiritual maladies of the people?
2. How can a modern covenant people fall under the same condemnation as that described in 1:10–15?
3. How would you summarize God’s plan described in 1:25–27?

This book is a wonderful study guide and teaching resource

by  Tyler  -   reviewed on  January 04, 2010

I very much enjoyed Bro. Winn's and Bro. Ball's book on Isaiah. I found each chapter to be informative and also very accessible. This book really gives a great lesson plan for each chapter of Isaiah by explaining the context of the chapter, pointing out individual scriptures and then providing insights into modern day application. This book is a great tool for anyone teaching Old Testament courses or giving lessons on Isaiah. I would also highly recommend it for any individual who hopes to receive a firmer grasp of this book of scripture. It truly gave me a lot of insights and has made me more excited to continue to study this wonderful book.

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