Monday, December 27, 2010

The Immanuel Book- Isaiah 7-12 # 3

TEXT :  Isaiah 8: 1- 22
TITLE :  Fear God , wait for the Lord
DATE PREACHED  :   26th  December 2010

Over this  Christmas season  I have been preaching from  the “Immanuel  Book “  - (Isaiah  Chapters  7 -12). I wanted us to  see the  fuller picture  behind this wonderful OT  prophecy  and to understand  how this is connected to  the fulfillment of the prophecy in Matthew 1 : 21-23
I  began by  drawing your attention  to Isaiah’s  vision of God in the temple and  his  subsequent call to the prophetic ministry  (Isaiah 6) . It had perhaps surprised you to find that  Isaiah  has been commissioned  to prophesy to a  hard hearing , non understanding , unperceptive  people  (Isa 6:9-10) .
The prototype of this sort of  person is the king of Judah , Ahaz  .  In Chapter 7  we  have seen how  Isaiah  was commissioned to  convince  Ahaz that  in the face of the impending invasion  by  an alliance of the Northern kingdom and Syria , he needed not fear . He needed only  to put his trust in the Lord.  But Ahaz would not hear of this . He wanted to put  his trust in a political alliance  with  the most powerful nation of that time -  Assyria . Isaiah  challenges him and says , “well if you don’t believe me then  ask  the Lord for a sign !” ( 7:11) . Ahaz  declines . Isaiah   then cries  out  with exasperation , but nevertheless with prophetic  vision :  Therefore the Lord  Himself will give you a sign. Behold , the virgin shall conceive and bear a son , and shall call his name Immanuel.(7:14) .
By way of application we have seen that  God is the God , who appears  to  deaf ,  unresponsive  , unperceptive , dull people because He is committed to the fulfillment of His own covenant  . He  gives to them His  Immanuel – a Saviour  , who as we see in Matthew 1:21-23  is the Lord Jesus  Christ .  This of course  does not mean that God  shall ignore Ahaz’s  faithlessness in this matter . In verses  17-25  we see  the inevitability of biblical logic :  those who hate wisdom  love death “ (Prov.8:36)  . It is vain to trust  in the power of earthly kings .

And now let us continue  our exposition of  Isaiah  Chapter 8 . The Lord continues to speak to Isaiah . Consider the first  four  verses with me :
Then the Lord said to me, “Take a large tablet and write on it in common characters,  ‘Belonging to Maher-shalal-hash-baz.’  2 And I will get reliable witnesses, Uriah the priest and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah, to attest for me.” 3 And I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. Then the Lord said to me, “Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz; 4 for before the boy knows how to cry ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.”
8:1-4  Isaiah  is commanded” to  get  a placard “ ,  something  like an advertising poster and write upon it  large and legibly :  “Maher Shalal Hash Baz  which  literally means : “speed- spoil- haste –booty  . This is a typical “ prophet- thing “ .  They throw out something symbolic  and parabolic , thereby provoking  questions .  This issue at hand  relates to the  threatened invasion . He also tells him  to get two reliable witness  , Uriah  the priest and Zechariah[1]     to testify that  Isaiah had set up the placard . But the prophecy isn’t yet  finished . It had to become flesh  in the form of a son  that would be born to Isaiah’s wife[2] . When that son is eventually born  (at least 9 months later )  he receives that prophetic  name , which conveys a message . His name was  intended to be  a sign (see 8:18).  
In  8:4  we are informed that before  this boy  would be able to talk, the Assyrians would successfully attack  the Syrians (Aram)  and Israel , utterly defeat them and  carry off the spoil or booty .  Please note – God was going to do this ! Ahaz did not need  to associate with the ungodly Assyrians  who would only be a snare  to him rather than   an ultimate  help to  the kingdom of Judah .

And so we note that God continues to speak through Isaiah :
The Lord spoke to me again: 6 “Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently, and rejoice over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, 7 therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks, 8 and it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.”
9 Be broken, you peoples, and be shattered;  give ear, all you far countries; strap on your armor and be shattered; strap on your armor and be shattered. 10 Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us. Fear God, Wait for the Lord
8:5-10   This people  refers to the  northern kingdom of Israel . Remember that   200 years earlier these 10 northern tribes  had rejected the House of David as king, though it was God’s ordained monarchy.   They had refused  the  gentle waters of Shiloah . The  waters of Siloah flow from the Gihon spring into Jerusalem.  At Gihon the son of David was anointed and declared to be king (1 Kings 1:32-35). It was here that Isaiah first found king  Ahaz ( 7:3)  , who at this time was worried that the  enemy would cut off the water supply from  Jerusalem .  “ Now ‘ these people ‘ had alienated themselves from that life giving water  long time ago  and had trusted in  foreign alliances – in this case with the Syrians  and their capital city Damascus . 
So now , the Lord says here that  they  ( the NK  and Syria ) would endure  the “Assyrian flood  , BUT  which would not  wipe out Judah!  It would come “up to the neck” ,  but no further. Please note also that Jerusalem did not fall to Assyria;  In Hezekiah’s day , the Lord struck  down 185 000 Assyrians  ( 2 Ki.19:35) , and that was basically the end of Assyria .  
Ahaz  believed in his human  strategy ;  he had it all worked  out in his mind , but his dependence was not upon the God of his father David . The strong point that is made in verses 9 &10  is that this was Immanuel’s  land ! THEREFORE  ( and not for any other reason )  God’s promises cannot be thwarted by any  human  power.  Verse 10 could also be  paraphrased  :  Go ahead, make your crazy plan; it will  fail! 

All this  begs us to stop for a moment and reflect  upon a very comforting doctrine : Every opposition against the church  must fail!   The reason is plain :   God is with us .   The true church is  now Immanuel’s land . Therefore , no weapon formed against her  will stand   against the church ( Isa 54:17)  !  Jesus  said that the gates of hell would not prevail against His church! ( Matt 16:18)  The LORD who cared for Israel and supplied their needs in the desert  we are told in  1 Cor 10:4  was Christ !  He is the same Lord that  keeps His people today !  In Isaiah’s  day the  Assyrians  were  the world power of that day .  Assyria  had capacity to swallow  Judah , but it was still Immanuel’s land !

This thought gives rise to the next section  in verses 11 – 22 , where the Lord speaks to Isaiah  yet again !  And  He leaves Isaiah and every  believer  with  sound principles  that ought to undergird  our  thoughts :
1. The first principle is that we  must guard our hearts and minds in such times of  attack  by not following a pragmatic route of escape . In this case  Isaiah  is warned  not to  follow the  unspiritual thinking of the world  around him  (8:11-13)  :   11 For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: 12 “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. 13 But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
Godly people  must learn  not to  fear what  people around them fear . Godly people  must fear the LORD alone .  It is very tempting  to think like the world. But Romans 12:1&2  encourages us not to be conformed  to this world , but to be transformed by  the renewal of our minds …” .

2. The second principle is  this  - 8:14,15: God  is either for you or against you . There is no middle-ground  : 14 And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15 And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”
Let us always remember  that the Lord is either a sanctuary or a stone of offense/ stumbling  for all people  . The sanctuary is the holy place where God dwells and  where He is approached by sacrifice for acceptance and thus protection.
But He is also a  stumbling stone  for  those who will not take Him seriously.  This is what is said of  the Lord  Jesus , who as  was prophesied by  the old prophet Simeon was destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel (Luke 2:34).  Many people stumble  because they disobey the message about Christ (1 Peter 2:8). To those who believe in Him and obey Him , he will be a sanctuary . He is either  a  snare or a Saviour. No one can get away from Christ.

3.The third principle is this  : 8:16-20    Hold  on  to the Word of God:   16 Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching  among my disciples. 17 I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him. 18 Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion. 19 And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? 20 To the teaching (law)  and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn.
In times of attack it is good to hold on to God’s word more than to any  word from man . Let God be true and every man a liar  .  What God had  said through Isaiah was God’s word.   Just because people could not see and hear (6:9,10) it did not make the word less valid . Isaiah had to believe this word despite  long  seasons of  non fulfillment . But we know it was believed by Isaiah, his family, and his disciples. In time  it would prove to be a true word. We must remember   that the prophets  rarely ever saw  the fulfillment of their prophecies  ( 1 Peter 1:10-12)
In addition to written prophecies, Isaiah’s family were  signs and symbols  that communicated truth. One name (Shear-Jashub 7:3) promised that there would be a remnant;  another name  Maher-Shalal Hash Baz was a prediction that swift destruction would come on Judah’s enemies. It happened while  this boy  was still a baby who could not yet talk .  Isaiah’s  own name means  the Lord saves”, a gospel message in  itself !  Immanuel would appear in flesh in the line of David centuries after Isaiah spoke!
Those who reject God’s word  always seek alternative counsel  and wisdom .  So they turned to mediums  and necromancers who chirp and mutter ( 8:19) . By doing this they broke God’s law (Deut 18:9-13),  and  preferred some word from the dead over the Word of the Living God. He was their God ( see vv.19 & 21), but they were rejecting Him.
In doing so they lost their heritage, blessing, and life. The result was that they cursed their king and their God. Unbelief would bring distress, darkness, and fearful gloom.
The words in vv 21& 22 are all too true : 21 They will pass through the land,  greatly distressed and hungry. And when they are hungry, they will be enraged and will speak contemptuously against  their king and their God, and turn their faces upward. 22 And they will look to the earth, but behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish. And they will be thrust into thick darkness.

Let us learn from this .  We must  not   be tempted  to reject  God’s law , or the word of His  prophets  and  apostles  all  built upon the  Word  of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God directs  our lives  with truth. . The Psalmist says  : The  unfolding of your words gives light ( Ps 119:130) and “ Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light to my path…  ( Ps 119:105) . If we  reject  God’s revelation and direction in favor of some other “light”, we will not have light at all but darkness and the despairing gloom that comes with it.
 Next week we are going to take a close look at  Isa 9: 1-7  in which we see Immanuel  dispelling the gloom  of people  that have been walking in darkness .

Once again   we discover the  wonderful prospects of the gospel . Thank God for Immanuel . Oh come let us adore Him . Amen

[1] See  2 Ki. 16:10-16;18:2
[2] The title ‘ prophetess ‘ was probably given to Isaiah’s wife here because she was literally the bearer  of the  Lord’s Word, incarnate in her son  ( Motyer , p.90)

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