ISAIAH, Part 3

Isaiah 8:11—14

Chapters 7 through 12 of the book of Isaiah constitute a series of prophecies given during the reign of King Ahaz. Verse 1 of chapter 8 is important because it was an immediate fulfillment of the famous “Christmas prophecy” of 7:14—

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Of course, we know that ultimately this verse was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus Christ, but like many prophecies in the Old Testament, it had more than one meaning. The context of 7:14 is clearly related to a request made by King Ahaz for some kind of sign as to what the future held for Israel. By this time in Israel’s history, Israel’s fate was sealed, and so we read this interesting exchange between the Lord and Ahaz:

Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, “Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test.” (7:10—12)

But Ahaz was stubborn and rebellious, just as his people were, and because he refused to be obedient to the Lord’s expressed wish for him to as for a sign, the prophet Isaiah stepped up and gave the following dire prophecy:

Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of human beings? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. The LORD will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah—he will bring the king of Assyria.” (7:13—17)

So, this prophecy had a specific time limit in which to be fulfilled right before King Ahaz’s eyes. In fact, it is was what scholars refer to a “dual fulfillment prophecy.” The ultimate fulfillment was the birth of Christ, but the immediate fulfillment is found in the very next chapter:

Then I made love to the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the LORD said to me, “Name him Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. Before the boy knows how to say ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria will be carried off by the king of Assyria.” (8:3, 4)

The Lord was going to use Isaiah’s son, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz as a living clock, ticking down to the end of Israel as a nation: before he was able to talk, the Assyrian army would destroy Israel and take the Israelites off into captivity. The King of Assyria, Tiglath-pileser, was the leader who led the mighty Assyrian army in the destruction of Damascus and Samaria, the two capital cities of Israel.

That is the context of what we are about to study. Isaiah’s message of “the mighty sanctuary” was given during a time of great distress and confusion in Judah, the kingdom to the south of Israel. It’s good to know that God’s Word today, as in Isaiah’s day, contains guidance and comfort to any believer who may find themselves in similar circumstances.

1. The danger

The problem now was in Judah, not in Israel. The prophet, a resident of Judah, had made it clear to Israel, to north, that their time was short. This message, of course, put Israel on the defense, and a new confederacy was formed. Syria and Israel joined forces against the kingdom of Judah. Not only that, even though God would use Assyria to judge Israel, Judah, because of their rebellion and their very close proximity to Israel, would be effected by the devastation to the north. Of the massive Assyrian army, the Lord said through his man, Isaiah:

It will overflow all its channels, run over all its banks and sweep on into Judah, swirling over it, passing through it and reaching up to the neck. Its outspread wings will cover the breadth of your land, Immanuel!” (verse 8)

So, even though Israel is the nation coming under God’s hammer, Judah will face some “collateral damage.” This threw Judah into a tizzy.

But there was more than “collateral damage” threatening Judah. There were many in the southern kingdom who were unhappy with the House of David and were secretly in sympathy with the enemies of their country.

…this people has rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah and rejoices over Rezin and the son of Remaliah… (verse 6)

They were literally refusing to follow the Word of the Lord that came from Shiloah and were rejoicing over the successes of a heathen king. This was the danger that threatened Judah. Because of a rebellious segment of the population, the whole nation would face a kind of “overflow” judgment. Judah wouldn’t be destroyed, but it would be hurt.

Here is the problem that faces the Church of Jesus Christ today. Just as there was a confederacy aligning itself against Judah, so a confederacy today has aligned itself against the Church. Naturally, there is the world at large that opposes virtually everything the Church stands for. We expect that. For all intents and purposes, these are “practical atheists” who have absolutely no regard for God and His Word regardless of they say.

But there is a group within the Church itself that has aligned itself with those “practical atheists” of the world who are rejecting the “gently flowing waters” of the God’s Word. These people not only align themselves with the ideas and philosophies of the world, but they have more in common with the world than they do with the Church, of which they claim to be a part.

The current controversies which have burdened the Church are the result, not of the “practical atheists” outside of it, but the “practical atheists” inside of it. The aptly named “mixed multitude” always causes problems for God’s people. Weeds in a garden are always a pain for the gardener, but when you have a garden, no matter how hard you try, you will always have weeds to contend with. The same is true of the Church. This was true of Judah. The difference between Judah of old and the Church of today is God’s grace. Right now, the Church is enjoying an extended period of grace. What that means is that we, faithful and dedicated believers, have no choice but fight false teaching and false believers in our midst.

2. The remedy

How the Lord dealt with Judah is enlightening as to how He deals with the Church and those “practical atheists” within.

a) A revelation

This is what the LORD says to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people…

This is a powerful verse. The hand of the Lord was always on every prophet of God, but here Isaiah makes special mention of it. He was under a special, divine constraint probably because he was feeling increasingly isolated from the very people he was called to minister to. Think about it; while it is true that in comparison with the undeniably godless nation of Israel Judah was far more godly, they were still far, far from where they should have spiritually. Judah has lost sight of God and disregarded their special relationship with Him, and, as a result, were preferring to associate themselves with a more prosperous, popular kingdom. Isaiah preached his heart out and too often his words fell on deaf ears; nobody wanted to hear what he was saying. But God’s Word to his man was this: do NOT align yourself with the people.

Sadly, this is the choice that faces modern believers today. When more and more churches are opening the door to all manner of worldliness, it may feel like you are in the minority when you desire to stand firm on the Word of God rather than the latest whims and whimsy of man, but God’s Word to you is the same as His Word to Isaiah: do NOT align yourself with the people.

b) A rebuke

Do not call conspiracy everything this people calls a conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it. (verse 12)

The Lord warned Isaiah not to follow the way of the majority. That fact alone is highly suggestive. Even great men and women of God may be tempted to go along with the “confederacy” for all kinds of reasons, from “keeping the peace” to being tricked and manipulated into following them.

But Isaiah was more concerned with pleasing God than pleasing his fellow man. But even more than that, Isaiah knew the ancient command of God:

Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd. (Exodus 23:2)

What a lesson for believers today. The faithful, sincere servant of God must beware of “creeping worldliness” in the Church of Jesus Christ. The tone and tenor of a sinful culture must never be allowed in the Church, and yet it is, and many believers have been duped into tolerating it. In fact, faithful believers are often referred to as “homophobes” or bigots or labeled with other derogatory names when they stand up for the Word of God in the face of sin.

God had advised his man, Isaiah, not to fear the confederacy, for the one who puts God’s will and God’s Word first is always the true patriot. It doesn’t matter what the majority thinks, Isaiah was not to be afraid of them. There were those in Judah so terrified of Israel and Syria that they were willing to join up with Assyria for protection! This kind of compromising with evil must always be sternly rebuked. Whatever lessens faith in God is always dishonoring to Him. Judah did not Assyria; they needed faith in God.

c) A counsel

The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread. (verse 13)

The KJV tells Isaiah to “sanctify th Lord,” which means to set Him apart for everything and everybody else as the sole object of confidence. This was the problem so many in Judah had. All they saw was the confederacy coming against them. All they saw was an ungodly allegiance with Assyria as their solution. What a terrible way for God’s people to think!

This verse is interesting because of what Jesus said in John 17:19. A side-by-side comparison shows us a powerful truth:

Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. (Isaiah 8:13, KJV)

And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. (John 17:19, KJV)

Our duty is to set God apart in our lives as the ONLY object of faith. In Him alone do we have faith. Jesus Christ, for His part, set us apart in His life because we are that important to Him.

The people in Isaiah’s day had made the fatal mistake of fearing people more than fearing God. There may be many dangers facing the believer, but nothing is more terrifying going against the God of the universe!

d) An assurance

He will be a holy place… (verse 14a)

In other words, for Isaiah and faithful in Judah, God Himself would become a “holy place” or a “sanctuary.” God would become a place of rest and protection for the faithful. This is a truly marvelous promise that works for any believer in any dispensation! God is not only a divine Person, in a sense, He is a Place for all believers to dwell safely and securely in! Numbers 14:9 is very illustrative of the fact that when God is present—in an individual, in a church, or in a nation—people will be protected from any enemy:

Only do not rebel against the LORD. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the LORD is with us. Do not be afraid of them.

But the guarantee of God’s protection comes ONLY when we live obedient lives for God. For those of us who are endeavoring to live for God, Psalm 46 is a precious truth:

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.

If you want to live a life free of fear, the first step is yielding your will to God’s. As God warned Isaiah: Do not fear what they fear. Fear God instead. Trust Him.

(c)  2011 WitzEnd

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