In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lofty; and the hem of his robe filled the temple. - Isaiah 6:1
Isaiah lived in what could euphemistically be called "interesting times." His initiation as a prophet came in a vision where his lips (which he bemoaned as unclean) were touched by a burning coal and followed by God's asking "Who shall I send?" Isaiah, like so many before and after him, proclaimed, "Here I am, send me!" God did, and Isaiah served as a prophet for Judah for the next fifty years, through the reigns of four kings and the Assyrian incursions. They were indeed interesting times.
The word prophet comes from the Hebrew word navi, derived from the term that means "fruit of the lips." Prophets were not necessarily predictors of the future like fortunetellers but rather commentators on contemporary trends and the results of those trends, both political and religious. Their job was speaking truth and guiding the people (and the rulers) into the righteous paths they should be following. Isaiah preached divine salvation through right living rather than military might and political treaties and alliances. He was also a prophet who spoke of inequity among the people, the oppression of the poor, the acquisitiveness of the rich and the consequences of both. Through the reigns of kings, both good and bad, Isaiah spoke the messages he was given, sometimes watching them fall on deaf ears but sometimes seeing them bear fruit in the lives of the rulers and the people to the benefit of all. The message for which we most remember Isaiah is that which spoke of the mashiach, the messiah who would come to restore and renew the earth and redeem the people. Both Jews and Christians hear those messages and interpret them according to their differing theologies, but both look for the restoration, renewal and redemption.
What can I learn from Isaiah? Being cleaned up and presented for service sometimes involves pain, sometimes physical and sometimes perceived. The proper answer to a call is, as it has been, "Here I am." Sometimes speaking what I see is harder than simply ignoring the wrongs I observe or simply saying what people want to hear. The right message is often unpalatable but it is necessary to correct the wrongs and begin the restoration.
Be a prophet.