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 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 . 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 :
5 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