The coming Assyrian invasion against Syria and Israel.
Isa 8:1-4 The Assyrian invasion is announced by the naming of Isaiah’s son.
“Moreover the LORD said to me, “Take a large scroll and write on it with a man’s pen concerning Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. And I will take for myself faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah.” Then 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; for before the child shall have knowledge to cry ‘My father’ and ‘My mother,’ the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be taken away before the king of Assyria.”
Always remember content.
This is a very important rule for better understanding of any biblical text. The chapter breaks and verses throughout the bible were a later addition. When we read the bible we should always look back at the preceding chapters and verses to be sure we understand the full scope of what the author is saying.
The Assyrian army approaches: (The history)
This Assyrian invasion prophecy is closely connected to what Isaiah said in chapter seven. There we saw the Lord assured Ahaz, king of Judah, that he would not be overthrown by a prior attack from the forces of Syria and Israel. God pronounced a judgment against both nations, saying of their attack against Judah: It shall not stand, nor shall it come to pass … Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be broken so that it will not be a people. This coming Assyrian attack is the fulfillment of that prophecy.
Take a large scroll: The special message must be written. It will be very specific and a matter of public record so all will know the Lord has spoken. The message has a name of significant importance–Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, which means speed to the spoil, hurry to the plunder.
Then I went to the prophetess: Here Isaiah refers to his wife. She is a prophetess. One of the unique ways the Lord uses her is in the naming of her children. The birth and naming of her son Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz was a word from God.
For before the child shall have knowledge to cry “My father” and “My mother”: Through the birth and naming of Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, the LORD gives a time frame for the invasion of Assyria that will punish Syria and Israel. Before the child learns to cry out for mom or dad the judgment would arrive.
This sign was clear and public. From the time the prophet wrote it to the time of fulfillment, less than three years would pass. Sometimes the Lord doesn’t give much time for a nation if they continue to ignore his warnings.
Isa 8:5-10 Judah will be afflicted also.
“The LORD also spoke to me again, saying: “Inasmuch as these people refused the waters of Shiloh that flow softly, and rejoice in Rezin and in Remaliah’s son; now therefore, behold, the Lord brings up over them the waters of the River, strong and mighty; the king of Assyria and all his glory; he will go up over all his channels and go over all his banks. He will pass through Judah, he will overflow and pass over, he will reach up to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings will fill the breadth of Your land, O Immanuel. Be shattered, O you peoples, and be broken in pieces! Give ear, all you from far countries. Gird yourselves, but be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, but be broken in pieces. Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; Speak the word, but it will not stand, for God is with us.”
These people refused the waters of Shiloh that flow softly: The people of the northern kingdom of Israel were not content with the humble streams (the waters of Shiloh) that God had provided. Don’t we always want more? Isn’t it always better what the other guys have?
Israel preferred the wicked leaders and stronger rivers of Syria. So, God says, “You want a river I’ll give you one”, but it will be a different kind of river – the waters of destruction, strong and mighty, will come. The river will be the advancing Assyrian army.
The capital of the Assyrian Empire was Nineveh. The city of Nineveh was built upon the banks of the great Tigris River. The Assyrian Empire was also centered across another mighty river; the Euphrates. Israel did not have a river like the Euphrates or the Tigris. It stirred envy among Jewish leadership. God used this jealousy to make a point. It was as if God was saying, “You don’t like what I have given you? Do you persist in rejecting what I give you? Then I will give you something different, but you won’t like that either.”
He will go up over all his channels and go over all his banks: Large rivers often overflow their banks. The Assyrian army will not stay confined to its “banks.” They will “flow over” during their attack on Israel and Syria, and “flood” Judah with violence and destruction.
It’s important to remember Israel was a divided nation. Judah, to the south and formerly united with the ten northern tribes, would not escape the reach of this Assyrian attack.
He will reach up to the neck: Assyria would completely conquer the northern nation of Israel on its way to Judah. The ten northern tribes would cease to be a nation after the Assyrians conquered them. The assault on Judah would be less successful. They would “flood” them, and reach up to the neck, but not over their heads. Judah would survive the Assyrian invasion but suffer devastating destruction.
2 Kings 18:13 describes the extent of the Assyrian invasion against Judah: And in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah, Sennacherib king of Assyria came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and took them. Hezekiah was able to keep the king of Assyria away from Jerusalem, and barely able to survive, by buying his favor with riches from the temple – even stripping gold from the temple doors to appease the pagan king!
Your land, O Immanuel: This refers back to the “Immanuel” of Isaiah 7:14. The land of Israel doesn’t really belong to Judah or to King Ahaz. It belongs to the LORD God, to the coming Messiah, to Immanuel. Fake kings and armies can do what they will but the true King will reign when all is fulfilled.
Gird yourselves, but be broken in pieces … speak the word, but it will not stand, for God is with us: They could prepare themselves for the invasion. But all their preparations would not protect them. They could make plans, but they will come to nothing. All their plans, words, and ideas will not stand. God’s will was going to be done, despite all the plans and preparations Syria, Israel, and Judah might make against it. It’s the same for us. Prepare all we may. We cannot fight against God if we oppose his will.
Immanuel=God is with us
When the prophet writes, ‘God is with us’ who does he refer to? In one sense it refers to the Assyrian army because they were the instruments of God’s judgment against Syria, Israel, and Judah. Nothing could stop the Assyrian army, because even though they did not know it, God was using them. But the prophet also refers to himself. As a messenger of God, his word would come to pass no matter what the three nations did to prepare against it.
A third reference the prophet makes is to the Immanuel prophecy because Immanuel means “God is with us.”
Isa 8:11-15 Prepare by fearing God, not Assyria.
“For the LORD spoke thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying: “Do not say, ‘A conspiracy,’ concerning all that these people call a conspiracy, nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled. The LORD of hosts, Him you shall hallow; let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread. He will be as a sanctuary, but a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, as a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble; they shall fall and be broken, be snared and taken.”
Do not say, “A conspiracy” … nor be afraid of their threats: Isaiah and the people of Judah had good reason to fall into fear. They were weak and vulnerable. Now the Lord tells them an unstoppable Assyrian invasion is possibly only months away. Already the armies of Israel and Syria had destroyed much of Judah. Now the Lord tells Isaiah the Assyrians, with a much stronger military, would attack them and inflict great damage. In the midst of all this, it would be easy to let one’s heart or mind settle on conspiracies and threats. But God tells them not to.
The LORD of hosts, Him you shall hallow; let Him be your fear: Instead of fearing conspiracies and threats, fear God. We should never resign ourselves to be at the mercy of opposing armies; we are in God’s hands. We should concern ourselves with our relationship with the LORD instead of our enemies or others we might fear!
He will be as a sanctuary: The LORD should be our sacred place and our place of protection. He will keep us safe from our enemies.
But a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense: For those who trust Him, the LORD will be as a sanctuary. But for those who don’t, He will be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. Instead of finding protection from the LORD, they will “trip” over Him, falling to destruction. Indeed, many among them shall stumble; they shall fall and be broken.
Instead of being protected, they will fall and be broken.
A great companion passage to this is Psalm 2:12.
Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.
Jesus is this stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. This is a strong statement affirming the deity of Jesus. Clearly in Isaiah 8:13-14, the LORD of hosts is the stone, and clearly in 1 Peter 2:6-8, Jesus Christ is the stone.
This is the same idea behind the statement of Simeon when he held the child Jesus, as recorded in Luke 2:34:
Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against.
Isa 8:16-18 Prepare by waiting on the LORD.
“Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. And I will wait on the LORD, who hides His face from the house of Jacob; and I will hope in Him. Here am I and the children whom the LORD has given me! We are for signs and wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells in Mount Zion.”
And I will wait on the LORD: Waiting on the LORD is not passive inactivity. It means to be totally attentive to the LORD. Sometimes he directs us to wait, but we should stay focused on Him, waiting for how he directs next.
At the time Isaiah spoke, the leaders and the people of Judah were waiting on the armies of Israel and Syria, because they were under attack. When they heard about the additional danger from the Assyrians, they were tempted to increase their worries. But their focus was on these armies, not on the LORD. Isaiah says,
“Battle against Syria and Israel by setting your focus on the LORD. Prepare for the coming attack from Assyria by waiting on the LORD instead of your enemies.”
Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples: Waiting on the LORD means reading and responding to His word.
Here am I and the children whom the LORD has given me! We are for signs and wonders in Israel: Isaiah had been called to prophesy, and to use his children in his prophetic messages (Isaiah 7:3, 8:3). So he declares, Here am I and the children whom the LORD has given me! It is as if he is saying, “Look at us! We are the message!”
The name Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz means, “Speed to the spoil, hurry to the plunder.” This referred to the coming attack on Syria, Israel, and Judah by Assyria. The name Shear-Jashub means, “A Remnant Shall Return.” This spoke of the restoration God would eventually bring. The name Isaiah means, “Salvation is of the LORD.” This spoke of the attitude and hope Judah needed to have.
We are also the children of God, and we are His message. Hebrews 2:11-13 quotes this passage to communicate this truth:
For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying … “Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.” Just as much as Isaiah’s children were living witnesses of the truth of God’s word, so are we as God’s children.
Isa 8:19-22 Prepare by seeking His light and word, not the darkness of the occult.
And when they say to you, “Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,” should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. They will pass through it hard pressed and hungry; and it shall happen when they are hungry, that they will be enraged and curse their king and their God, and look upward. Then they will look to the earth, and see trouble and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and they will be driven into darkness.
Seek those who are mediums and wizards: In the present danger from Syria and Israel, and in the coming danger from Assyria, Judah will be tempted to seek guidance and comfort from those who are mediums and wizards.
Isaiah exposes the foolishness of this, when he says, “Should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living?”
When you are in trouble, shouldn’t you seek your God? If you can’t rely on your God when you are in trouble, then what good is your God?
What sense does it make to seek the dead on behalf of the living? The dead are the dead, the living is the living. The living God speaks through His living Word and His living people to guide us. There is no reason to seek the dead.
Praying to Saints?
This passage also exposes the foolishness of praying to the saints. The exact same question should be asked: Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living?
To the law and to the testimony! Forget about mediums and wizards and the dead. Instead of all that deception and foolishness, To the law and to the testimony! Go to God’s Word!
Law and testimony each refer to God’s Word. We might say that law refers to God’s holy commands, and testimony refers to His dealings with His people as recorded in His Word.
How greatly this message needs to be preached more boldly in our pulpits today:
To the law and to the testimony! Enough with your over-use of anecdotes and jokes! Enough with your emphasis on entertainment and sappy stories! Enough with your catering to itching ears! To the law and to the testimony!
If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them: If there is a disagreement between God’s word and the word of the messenger, it isn’t hard to figure out who is wrong. The messenger is wrong.
The word judges the messenger; the messenger doesn’t judge the word.
They will be driven into darkness: When they forsake God’s word and trust in mediums and wizards and the dead, they are courting darkness, not light.