Salvation in Isaiah 8
In Isaiah 7 the prophet and his son Shearjashub had met King Ahaz and appealed to him not to fear the Israeli-Syrian alliance. We recall that the name Shearjashub means a “remnant shall return.” It was a name with a promise and an assurance that God had not stopped being merciful despite Ahaz’ and the people of Judah’s apostasy. But King Ahaz had refused to listen and had gone his own way entering into an alliance with the Assyrians. Nevertheless, even though he had refused the offer of a sign, God gave the sign through Isaiah – the promise of Immanuel – God with us. The sign was not just to Ahaz but also to his whole family – the family of the house (the dynasty) of David.
In this 8th chapter we firstly see another sign given to the people of Israel – encompassed in the name of Isaiah’s second son.
Then there is warning that the Assyrians would come down upon them like a flood.
Thirdly Isaiah calls the people to fear – not the Assyrians – but the Lord God Himself.
We start with
1. The Forecast.
Verse 1 – 4 relates how the prophet Isaiah was instructed to take a great tablet – tablet in the sense of a notice. It would be of the nature of a huge billboard so constructed that everyone could see it. The word translated ‘roll’ is a little obscure occurring only here and in chapter 3 v 23 where it is translated ‘glasses or mirrors.’ It could have been wood, stone or even animal skin. Whatever it was, the people could see it plainly. Isaiah was to write on it with some kind of pen, letters that could be understood by the common people. This is what was to be written on the big notice –
This complex Hebrew name means this – “the spoil speeds along and the prey hastens.” What is the message we wonder. The Israelites had the same problem. All Isaiah was to do, under instructions from the Sovereign Lord, was to put up the message. No explanation was supplied for the people; they were left to determine the meaning for themselves.
It would appear that God was speaking about something in the future through this mysterious name.
Would we call our sons by a name like this? No – and it seems that neither would the Jews in Jerusalem either. All the more significant then to have such a name written up – it was not Fred or Bill – but MAHER-SHALAL-HASH-BAZ. You don’t forget a name like that.
Now the prophecy surrounding this name was not spoken to King Ahaz until a year after Isaiah’s fruitless meeting with the King. In that year the proceeds of war had run very heavily against Judah. 2 Chronicles 28 records a crushing defeat of Judah by Syria and Israel in which 120,000 were killed in battle in one day. After this 200,000 men, women and children were carried away captive to Samaria – until the prophet Obed preached God’s word to the Israelite leaders in the North to release them. Only Jerusalem city, out of all the territory of Judah, remained un-invaded.
Ahaz the king still thought that his hope of deliverance rested with Assyria. So at this point comes Isaiah with his message for Ahaz. ‘Speed the plunder, hasten the spoil.’
Verse 2 shows two witnesses, called faithful witnesses, testifying to the fact that Isaiah himself had written this prophecy. Uriah the priest was probably the senior priest who had built a replica of the altar in the pagan temple of Damascus in the Temple at Jerusalem. Zechariah, may have been Ahaz’ father in law. So these two men were not on Isaiah’s side – but on the side of King Ahaz. Nevertheless their testimony would have counted for much.
Then we read in verse three that Mr and Mrs Isaiah were expecting and 9 months later the son was born and named MAHER-SHALAL-HASH-BAZ. And then things became much clearer about the forecast – verse 4 – within two to three years, the time that it takes for a child to learn to speak the elementary words “Mum and Dad” the riches of the city of Damascus capital of Syria would be plundered; and the spoil of the city of Samaria, the capital of Israel would be carried away – “speed the plunder, hasten the spoil.” And it all happened when the King of Assyria invaded the North in 732 BC. It was just as the Lord had told Ahaz in chapter 7 – but the people of Jerusalem received the message through this son of Isaiah. These were momentous times! And it reminds us that God always keeps His promises and is true to the fulfilment of His predictions – and we had better notice from His word the prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled. His Son the Lord Jesus Christ is coming again to judge the world – that is in the future – are you ready for that my friend? That judgement will separate believers from unbelievers and each group have a fixed future – are you ready for that? To which group do you belong?
Each of us will have to account for our lives – Jesus said so – have you prepared your case? Do you have anyone to speak up for you? The Christian does – it is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself! On the evidence of fulfilled prophecy don’t risk your eternal future by not being prepared to meet God!
2. The Flood.
The great tragedy of the policy of King Ahaz was that his efforts to court the favour of the King of Assyria FAILED. Instead of saving Judah it only brought further misery and ruin to the people. So a direct word from the Lord God to the prophet tells the people what to expect. Verse 5 – 8. The Assyrian army would come and act like a flooding river.
We have seen a lot of that this winter – rivers becoming full and overflowing their banks – water rising in the garden, then to the threshold, then over the doorstep – rising up the walls causing great damage. Several villages and towns have been affected like this in recent weeks. This is the picture of the Assyrians coming – and graphic it is. Verse 8 shows people up to their necks in the flood!
But what is this about Shiloah? Shiloah is the Hebrew rendering of Siloam in the Greek. It refers to a spring or fountain in the Southeast quarter of the city of Jerusalem, which issued from beneath the temple area and flowed in a small stream. The stream was very pure and clean and represented the Lord God’s purity, presence and power. However compared to the size and power of the waters of the mighty Euphrates river, one of the sources of the wealth of Assyria, Shiloah was tiny – and seemingly insignificant. The people of Judah and Jerusalem disdained their little stream wishing they had a Euphrates. They were not content with Shiloah’s narrowness nor its purity – they desired the wide strong Euphrates. They symbolised their insignificance as a nation by this little waterway.
The parallel is not hard to see in life. Worldly people, who discount God in their lives, are walking along the broad way that leads to destruction – the popular way – the easy way, the prosperous way, the pagan way, up to their necks in sin and selfish pleasure. The nations of the world are flooding their ways through life and will one day pour into hell and a godless eternity. There will be a Niagara of a waterfall of all those who have refused the Lord God tumbling down into the abyss reserved for Satan and his angels.
However the faithful believing remnant of God’s people, who are satisfied with the little stream of Shiloah, its narrowness and its purity, unpopular and misunderstood though they be, will enjoy what God provides. Perhaps this is what the Psalmist meant in Psalms 36 v 8
They shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness of thy house; and thou shalt make them drink of the river of thy pleasures.
Verses 11 – 17 are a challenge from God through Isaiah the prophet to the heathen nations the enemies of God’s land and His people. We home in on verses 12 & 13 –
12 Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid.
13 Sanctify the LORD of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.
Isaiah’s opposition to the alliance with Assyria would have been seen as treason against Ahaz. However God said that Isaiah should not fear MEN – rather to fear God.
Set apart God as holy (sanctify) and recognise His holiness and let Him be your fear. This was nothing new – it was just that the people had forgotten it. In our country Christianity is not new – it is just that our people choose not to know or remember the great things that God has done for us in the past that were rooted in God’s powerful dealings with us – for our good.
Notice how plain Moses had been in telling the people this in Deuteronomy 6
13 Thou shalt fear the LORD thy God, and serve him, and shalt swear by his name. 14 Ye shall not go after other gods, of the gods of the people which are round about you;
This is the passage that the Lord Jesus Christ quoted in Matthew 4 v 10 as He answered the temptations of Satan.
What principle is here? It is this. When God is held in reverential fear, when we honour Him in our lives, when we speak highly of Him, when we are careful to obey Him, and when we refuse to question His sovereign dealings with us His people – then – we need fear no one else – no weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper. No enemy, no regime, no dictator, no secular authority, shall cause the true people of God to fear – if they have the fear of God in their hearts! How can we be so sure? Look at v 14
And he shall be for a sanctuary;
He the Lord God Himself shall be a refuge – do we recall our motto text for 1998 – it was Nahum 1 v 7
The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.
God knows those who take refuge in Him. Are you taking refuge in Him tonight? You may know of the ancient law of sanctuary in which a fugitive may go to a place of worship and be free from arrest. Such a person can hide under the protection of the building where people meet for the worship of God. But we have a far greater sanctuary – it is in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ – our safety, eternal safety is in a relationship with Him. We will sing in a few minutes – Hiding in Thee, Hiding in Thee, Thou blessed rock of ages I am hiding in Thee. The Lord Jesus Christ is our sanctuary, our hiding place – and in Him we will always be safe.
However this same 14th verse warns those who do not believe in Jesus and who are not hiding in Him and reject His word and reject Him – that he will be for a stone over which they will stumble – a rock, which will offend them – for Israel and unbelievers in Judah too.
How sad that an inevitable and total destruction awaits the people that follow their own human delusions to reject Divine Truth. May it not be said of any here tonight that you are rejecting God and His truth!
In the last section of the chapter, verse 18 – 22 Isaiah comes back to the names of his children – v 18 and to his own name.
Isaiah – ‘Jehovah saves or Salvation is of Jehovah’. This name pointed to the fact that the people must look to God alone for salvation.
Shear-jashub – ‘the remnant will return’ signified that a portion of the people of God would return in the future – return physically after captivity – but more importantly would turn spiritually to act and believe as the people of Jehovah should.
Maher-shalal-hash-baz – as we have seen pointed to the defeat and captivity of Israel and Syria.
These names were a sign and wonder – an assurance from God that He would act and produce awe in the eyes of those who looked on at His dealings with His people. And it would eventually be through His Immanuel – that other name – the name above every Name – Messiah the Lord Jesus – God with us.
Isaiah was faithful in His message to the people.
And he was faithful in challenging the false prophets who spoke in those days. They used dark forces to seek the future – astrologers, necromancers, those with familiar spirits, that is mediums – people involved with the occult. God outlawed these idolatrous practices – and through Isaiah says this –
20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
Don’t listen to them who do not have the light of the truth in them. Don’t listen to those who are not faithful to the scripture.
This word is for us today as well.
Isaiah was a faithful prophet. And we need to pray for faithful men today who preach the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth as it is in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The truth that He is the only saviour and the one who loves His people enough to die for them.
The one who is a prophet – let us listen to what He has said in His word and follow it.
The one who is a priest – who gave Himself on the cross offering up an acceptable sacrifice to God for His people’s sins.
The one who is the King – Lord of lords, mighty God and Prince of Peace – who rules and reigns for ever and ever. What is He to you my friend?
Are you up to your neck in sin and the world floundering in the flood? Come to Christ the stream that refreshes and cleanses your soul.
Do you know what it is to fear the Lord? To have Him in reverence and awe? Sanctify Him then and honour Him.
Do you know anything of faithfulness to God’s word both in your listening and in your living?
May He be everything to you – all these things – and especially Immanuel – God with you and in you – for His glory’s sake.