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What is the book of the Lord in Isaiah 34:16?

book of the Lord

Isaiah 34 announces a profound judgment on the nations and exhorts all the earth to pay attention to what God says (Isaiah 34:1). In describing the desolations that God will bring against the wicked, Isaiah exhorts the people to “seek and read from the book of the Lord” (Isaiah 34:16, ESV).

Earlier in the book of Isaiah, God had told Isaiah to write a message of judgment on a tablet and in a scroll to serve as a witness forever (Isaiah 30:8). The judgment was for those who had been rebellious and refused to listen to the Lord’s instruction (Isaiah 30:9). The rebels had wanted the prophets to prophesy pleasant words and illusions because they didn’t want to hear what God actually had to say (Isaiah 30:10). But Isaiah wrote God’s true words on a tablet and in a scroll, drawing a sharp contrast between the words of false prophets and the book of the Lord. As God pronounces widespread judgment in Isaiah 34, Isaiah exhorts the reader to seek the book of the Lord and read from it.

God’s Word is certain and reliable. If the people wanted to know the truth of what was coming, they needed to seek the book of the Lord. If they doubted the future judgment, they needed to seek the book of the Lord—they needed to read from the book that recorded what God had said. God’s Word does not change. What was written was still there. Isaiah emphasizes that things would transpire exactly as the book of the Lord (in this case, Isaiah’s prophecy) had stated.

Elsewhere in Isaiah, the prophet gave the people a test for discerning false prophets from true: “Look to God’s instructions and teachings! People who contradict his word are completely in the dark” (Isaiah 8:20, NLT). God’s unchanging Word is the standard. It is truth (John 17:17).

Jesus commissioned the writing of Revelation, telling the apostle John to record what he saw and write it in a book (Revelation 1:11, 19). John emphasizes the authority of that book, explaining that no one can add to or take away from what is written there (Revelation 22:18–19). If one seeks to know the truth, he or she will need to read the book of the Lord that was written by John.

Paul explains that all Scripture is God-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16). The Word of God is revealed through chosen men, as Peter explains (2 Peter 1:20–21). The Holy Spirit moved these men and they spoke (and wrote) the words of God. These writings of Isaiah, John, Moses, etc., are the book of the Lord, or the Lord’s book. In other words, God has revealed Himself through people who used written language to communicate the divine message. Roughly forty different men recorded God’s Word over a period of around fifteen hundred years. Isaiah’s prophecy is part of that Scripture and is appropriately referred to as the book of the Lord in Isaiah 34:16.

These biblical references—including Isaiah’s—serve to remind us of the importance of God’s Word. It alone is trustworthy and reliable to make us adequate for all that God has designed us to be (2 Timothy 3:17). While there are many books and teachers that may tell us what we want to hear (2 Timothy 4:3), there is only one way of knowing what God wants us to hear, and that is by spending time in the book of the Lord. As Paul exhorts the Colossians, we should all “let the word of Christ richly dwell within” (Colossians 3:16, NASB). This is how our minds are renewed, and this is how we are transformed (Romans 12:2). The book of the Lord and all of the books it contains (including Isaiah’s) are integral to the lives of those who desire to know God better.

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What is the book of the Lord in Isaiah 34:16?
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This page last updated: January 24, 2023