In the previous chapter, with the help of New Testament quotations, we received the announcement concerning a child who would one day come, Immanuel, “God with us.” In Isaiah 8 the prophet is told about another child who will be a sign for the Lord’s people. His name will be Maher-shalal-hash-baz, “The spoil speeds, the prey hastens.” What spoils of war? What captured beast of what predator? Judah was concerned about Israel to the north and Syria to the northeast. In league together, these nations hoped to take possession of Judah. Yet whatever success those other nations might have had, the Lord was bringing a bigger imperial power from further east, the Assyrian Empire. That imposing military force would quickly take away any gains from the hands of Israel and Syria.
Why would this happen? Because the Lord’s people refused the heavenly “waters” of their God. Instead they had preferred the “river” of Assyria’s military might. Foreign warriors would soon descend upon Judah like a flood. They would take hold of much of the land that God had given to His people. Only Jerusalem would be kept safe from them. Despite this swiftly approaching danger, the Lord insisted that Judah should not be overcome with panic regarding the threatening forces of this world. Instead, they were to honor God as the Lord of all armies. “Let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.”
The land that would fall into the hands of the Assyrians actually belonged to the Son of God. The good promises of the Almighty were entirely centered in Him. He would be a “sanctuary” for the true people of faith, both Jews and Gentiles, and “a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling” to many who should have received Him as Lord. See Isaiah 8:14 as quoted by Paul in Romans 9:33 and by Peter in 1 Peter 2:4-8.
In general, the people of Judah in Isaiah’s day were not willing to honor God and believe His Word. Therefore they fell for every conspiracy theory and were regularly overcome by their terror of other nations. Only the true “children” of Isaiah, his disciples who believed the Word of God, could truly rejoice in the Lord’s promises. Most people in Judah were prepared to join the unfaithful and to “inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter.” They should have turned to the living God rather than to dead idols.
How can anyone avoid the loud voices of the crowd that would move them in accord with worldly passions? In the days of Isaiah, too many in Judah were overwhelmed with the military plans of Israel and Syria. What are the dangers that too easily paralyze us today? More importantly, how can we pay more attention to the voice of Jesus than to the advice of others who would lead us into panic? The ancient words of Isaiah still show us the right way to hear from our Lord. “To the teaching and to the testimony!” If any spiritual advisers will not speak according to this Word, “it is because they have no dawn.”
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Almighty Father, You have spoken through the prophets. Your words were faithful in the mouths of Your holy servants, but they longed for a better fulfillment, one that is ours now in Your church. We still desire the best of all answers to our holiest longings. Come soon, Lord Jesus! Until that final day, there is some measure of difficulty among us. Yet You have given Your church the privilege of being a sign to the world. You have planted the seed of Your true Word in our hearts, and we believe. Why will men turn to deceiving demons, when You have clearly spoken to Your people? We trust in You and we cling to Your Word and Your testimony.