113-108 Isaiah Chapter 8
Damascus and Samaria Fall
The prophecy of this chapter is a continuance of the previous chapter when God had assured Ahaz that he would not be overthrown by the combined forces of Syria and Israel. The Lord God had announced judgment against Syria and Israel saying that their attack against Judah would not stand or come to pass. Ephraim would be broken within 65 years and it would no longer be a people. God gave Isaiah a sign to show how soon Syria and Israel would come to their defeat.
Not often were the prophets commanded to write but Isaiah was in this instance. Isaiah was to write concerning Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, which means “speed to the spoil, hurry to the plunder.” Isaiah was to write with his own pen and to write in the ordinary language of the day. The use of man’s pen “denotes any man of ordinary rank; and the meaning is, that not even the most ignorant and uneducated persons may be unable to read the writing.” (Calvin) The message of Isaiah was meant to be public and that any man could read and understand.
The Lord would appoint faithful witnesses to the validity of His word and it would be established. (Deuteronomy 19:15) Isaiah then went to the prophetess, which is a reference to his wife. Isaiah calls here a prophetess though it could only mean that she is the wife of a prophet. But she clearly brought forth the prophecy of bearing a son and naming him Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. His name was from the word of God and by her obedience, she had brought forth the prophecy. There were women prophetesses in the Bible. Miriam, (Exodus 15:20) Deborah, (Judges 4:4) Huldah, (2 Kings 22:14) Anna, (Luke 21:8-9) Noadiah, (Nehemiah 6:14) and the four daughters of Phillip. (Acts 21:8-9) It could be then that the wife of Isaiah had a prophetic ministry of her own. Through the birth and naming of Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, the Lord had given a time frame for the invasion of Syria and Israel.
The people of the northern kingdom did not appreciate the quiet waters of their land. They rejoiced in wicked leaders so God will give them a different kind of river. It will not be a quite river but will be strong and mighty. “The little stream of Shiloah sprung from Mount Zion on the southwesterly side of Jerusalem. It flowed as softly as oil without any murmur. Jerusalem’s existence and continuation depended on it.” (Bultema)
The Assyrian Empire’s capital was the city of Nineveh, which was founded by the great river Tigris. Assyria was also centered across another mighty river, the Euphrates. In the whole land of Israel, they did not have a river like the Euphrates of the Tigris. God is using the small and humble adequate waters of Israel and the mighty uncontrolled rivers of Assyria to make His point. It is as if God was saying “You do not like what I have given? Do you persist in rejecting what I have given you? Then I will give you something different, but you will not like it either.” “The small and gentle waters should be more highly valued by us than the large and rapid rivers of all the nations, and we ought not to envy the great power of the ungodly.” (Calvin)
As a large river in a flood it will not be confined to the banks and neither will the Assyrian army be confined. As they attack Syria and Israel they will also flood Judah with violence and destruction as they pass through Judah.
Assyria would be successful in their conquest of Israel. The ten tribes of Israel would cease to be a nation after they were conquered by the Assyrians. But the Assyrian’s would not conquer the nation of Judah. They would flood their land and reach their neck but they would not overflow their head. The Southern Kingdom of Judah would survive the invasion of Assyria. The extent of the effects of Assyria’s invasion is found in 2 Kings 18:13. “Now in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and seized them.” King Hezekiah was able to keep the King off Assyria away from Jerusalem and was barely able to survive. Hezekiah bought the favor of the Assyrian king with the riches from the Temple. Hezekiah even stripped the gold from the Temple doors to appease the pagan king. “The sacred history assures us that these things were fulfilled . . . for the Assyrians, whom the Jews called to their assistance, destroyed them. This was the just punishment of their distrust; and we see in it a striking instance of the wicked greediness of men, who cannot be satisfied with the promise and assistance of God.” (Calvin)
The land of Immanuel refers back to the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14. The land that the Assyrians had invaded does not belong to Judah or to King Ahaz. The land belongs to the Lord God and to the coming Messiah, to Immanuel.
Syria, Israel, and Judah could prepare themselves for the invasion of Assyria all they wanted but their preparation would not protect them. They could take counsel together but their counsel would come to nothing. All of their plans and ideas would not stand, for God is with us. The will of God would be done despite the plans of men.
The question becomes who is the “us” in “God is with us.” The “us” in this case was the Assyrian army because they were the instruments of God’s judgment against Syrian, Israel, and Judah. Nothing could have stopped the Assyrian army, even if they did not know, even if their hearts were wrong, God was using them. The word “us” is also the Prophet Isaiah. He was God’s messenger and his word would come true no matter what the three nations did to prepare against it.
Trusting the Lord
After Isaiah saw a vision of God’s goodness and glory he looked at life with a renewed perspective on God’s righteousness and exaltation. The prophet saw that mere humans prove untrustworthy; the Lord alone is holy and to be feared. The prophet led his family and disciples to wait for and hope in the Lord alone.
Isaiah’s trust in the Lord represents the spirit of the “new community.” God’s children come out of Israel, Judah, and the Gentile nations. They live in awe of the Lord and are not afraid, knowing that the Lord will be with them. They respond with praise because they trust in Him. The faithful might feel the effects of God’s judgment on His enemies as they await the Lord’s salvation. Yet they find new strength day by day. They see themselves as citizens of God’s city, Zion, even while living with contemporizes who do not believes as they do.
In all this, Isaiah anticipates the coming servant, the Messiah. The lifestyle of trusting the Lord brings true and lasting inner peace.
A Believing Remnant
Isaiah and the people of Judah were tempted to fall into fear and panic because of the dangerous position that they were in. When Isaiah had received this prophecy the armies of Syria and Israel had destroyed much of Judah. The armies of their enemies had ether encircled Jerusalem or were on their way. Their plan was to be rid of King Ahaz and to place their own man on the throne. Isaiah’s prophecy had declared that the armies of Syria and Israel would not be successful in conquering Judah. But their allies the Assyrians would attack them and do much damage to them. With all this in mind, it would be easy to let your mind think of conspiracies and threats that might be against them. Here God is telling them not to fear their enemies.
Instead of the threats, instead of the conspiracies, it is the Lord God who they should fear. They were not at the mercy of the conquering armies because they were in the hands of God. The people of Judah should worry about their place with the Lord instead of their enemies. The Lord will be their sanctuary and He will be their sacred place, a place of protection. It is the Lord who will keep them safe from their enemies.
Those who trust in the Lord will be safe but for those who do not, He will be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. To those instead of finding protection, they will trip over Him and fall into destruction. Many of them did stumble and they were broken. “Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way, For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” (Psalm 2:12)
It is Jesus that is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. (1 Peter 2:6-8) Some find this a strong statement on the deity of Jesus but we see it in Isaiah 8:13-14. The Lord of Host is a stone and we see in 1 Peter that Jesus Christ is a stone. This idea was also behind the statement of Simeon when he was to hold the child, Jesus. “And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed.” (Luke 2:34)
To wait upon the Lord is not a passive inactivity but to wait on the Lord as a waiter who waits on a table. Waiting on the Lord means to be totally attentive to the Lord. To be focused on His every move and to be in response to His every desire. In the time that Isaiah spoke these words the leaders and the people were waiting for Israel and Syria because they were under attack. When they heard of the dangers from Assyria they were tempted to place their focus on them. They were focused on their enemies and not on the Lord. Isaiah advised them to battle against their enemies by placing their focus on the Lord. Prepare for the coming attack from the Assyrians by waiting on the Lord and not their enemies. When we wait upon the Lord it is a connection to His Word. We wait on the Lord by waiting on His Word.
Isaiah was called to be a prophet of God and he was also to use his children in his prophetic message. (Isaiah 7:3; 8:3) So Isaiah declares “Here I am and the children whom the Lord has given me!” It was as if he was saying “Look at us! We are the message!” One son’s name Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz means “Speed to the spoil, hurry to the plunder.” This name spoke of the coming attack of Syria, Israel, and Assyria. The other son’s name Shear-Jashub means “A Remnant Shall Return.” This name spoke of the restoration that God would bring. Isaiah means “Salvation is of the Lord.” This represents the attitude and hopes that Judah needed to have.
We as Isaiah are also the children of God and we are to be His message. (Hebrews 2:11-13) As the children of Isaiah were living witnesses of the truth of God’s Word so are we as children of God.
In the desperation of the people because of the dangers from Syria and Israel and the danger from Assyria the people of Judah will be tempted to seek answers and comfort from mediums and wizards. Isaiah exposed the foolishness of this when he said, “Should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living?”
When you find yourself in trouble should you not seek the Lord your God? if in times of trouble you cannot rely upon your God, then what good is your God? What good is it to seek the dead to prosper the living? The Living God speaks through His living Word. The Living God also speaks through His living people to guide them. What reason would one have to consult the dead, they are dead. It is the same foolishness for the living to seek the saints that have gone on before. That is the same as seeking the dead on behalf of the living. Forget about the mediums and the wizards and the dead. They are all a deception and it is foolishness. To seek the law and the testimony go to God’s Word.
Law and testimony refer to God’s Word. The law is the holy commands and His testimony is His dealings with His people, as recorded in His Word. The law and the testimony of God’s Word are greatly needed today to be spoken from the pulpits of the Church. Enough with the overdose of anecdotes and jokes! Enough with the emphasis on entertainment and stories! Enough to the catering of itching ears! Enough with the hobbyhorses and pet peeves! Preach the law and the testimony of God’s Word. “Let us remember, as ministers of the Gospel, what M’Cheyne beautifully said; ‘Depend upon it,’ said he, ‘it is God’s Word not man’s comment upon God’s Word, that saves souls;’ and I have marked, that if ever we have a conversion at any time, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, the conversion is rather traceable to the text, or to some Scripture quoted in the sermon, than to any trite or original saying by the preacher. It is God’s Word that breaks the fetters and sets the prisoner free, it is God’s Word instrumentally that saves souls, and therefore let us bring everything to the touchstone.” (Spurgeon)
If there is a question or a disagreement between God’s Word and the messenger, then it isn’t hard to figure out who is wrong. It is the messenger who is wrong. The Word of God judges the messenger the messenger doesn’t judge the Word. When the people place their trust in mediums and wizards and the dead they are courting darkness and not the light.