Sunday, May 25, 2008

Weekly Meditations: Is. 8 (1)

Then the Lord said to me, “Take a large tablet and write on it in common characters, ‘Belonging to Maher-shalal-hash-baz.’ And I will get reliable witnesses, Uriah the priest and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah, to attest for me.”

And 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 boy knows how to cry ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.”

The Lord spoke to me again: “Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently, and rejoice over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks, and it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.”

Be broken, you peoples, and be shattered; give ear, all you far countries; strap on your armor and be shattered; strap on your armor and be shattered. Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us.

(Is. 8:1-10)

Following on from the scene in Is. 7 whereby God through the prophet Isaiah offered wicked King Ahaz a sign, which he has wickedly rejected, God continued to reveal His ways and judgments to Isaiah against Judah and the other nations.

As this chapter begins, in verse 1, Isaiah was commanded to take a large tablet and write on it the prophecy regarding Judah and the other nations. First and foremost, Isaiah was to deed the tablet as belonging to his new son, Maher-shalal-hash-baz, who has not yet been born when he prepared the tablet. Not only was Isaiah to prepare the tablet, but he was to do so in the presence of reliable witnessess, Uriah the priest and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah (v. 2), thus making the tablet and its contents, and the deed, official and legal, therefore serving as a most visible reminder to Judah of the Word and Judgment of God. After doing that then did Isaiah went to his wife (the prophetess), and she conceived and bore him a son who was then called the exact name deeded on the tablet — Maher-shalal-hash-baz (v. 3).

Several things need to be mentioned here. We do know that the prophetess stated in verse 3 is Isaiah's wife because Isaiah as a godly man just don't go and sleep with anyone. (Even the prophet Hosea did not just sleep with Gomer; he married her first. David did commit adultary with Bathsheba and was punished most severely for his sin.) We here note that Isaiah's wife is stated as being a 'prophetess', although there are no recorded instances or proofs that she had prophesied in any particular capacity. In fact, she probably never prophesied at all. If such is the case, this just proves the intricate relationship between husband and wife as being of "one flesh" (Gen. 2:24) such that they share the honor together for serving God even though one may be more prominent and does all the (visible) work.

The next thing we would notice is that the LORD asked Isaiah to deed the large tablet to Maher-shalal-hash-baz (v. 2), yet even up to then, Isaiah did not know who Maher-shalal-hash-baz actually is or will be. Isaiah only knew who that would be when the LORD told him to name his son by that name. This shows forth Isaiah's humility and obedience before God even despite his ignorance of what this would be about. Oftentimes, therefore, we may not know why the Lord does things in certain ways, yet we should learn to trust God like Isaiah did, for in His own time He will make plain His most glorious plan.

The name Maher-shalal-hash-baz is translated in the ESV footnote as "The spoil speeds, the prey hastens", and is thus a prophecy and a sign against Israel and Syria, as well as Judah. Coupled with that deed makes his very presence as a person a message of condemnation against the wicked within Judah including King Ahaz. Verse 4 shows the reason for the sign of his name, as the Lord revealed that in a short period of time of 1 or 2 years, before this child could learn how to call his father and mother, both Israel and Syria would be wiped out and their wealth carried away by Assyria. Judgment would fall very swiftly against Ephraim and Syria, both of which are contented with their seemingly powerful confederate armies. Therefore, the spoils speeds, and the prey hastens. Destruction and desolation would thus come to these two nations very quickly.

And following this, Judah herself was not spared. The LORD proclaimed judgment against Judah by sending the Assyrian army against them also, though they will not be destroyed. The people of Judah has disregarded the LORD and his commands, which was symbolized by Shilo(a)h, the place where the people of Israel assembled with God during Joshua's time (Josh. 18:1), through the time of the judges unto Samuel the last judge (1 Sam. 3:21). Coupled with that is their rejoicing over wickedness and power and thus they coveted the might of the kings of Syria (Rezin) and Israel (the son of Remeliah) (v. 6). Such an interpretation can be seen as the waters of Shiloh are said to flow gently, thus indicating it is peaceful rather than with power and might (forceful). The gentle waters of Shiloah are then contrasted later with the mighty waters of Assyria (the Waters of the Great River Euphrates). Therefore, the wicked people of Judah are actually coveting military power and might rather than to trust in God's provision.

The judgment against Judah of course is that God will send the Assyrians to discipline them. Since they love military power and might, God will send them the military power and might of the powerful Assyrian Empire, against them. It is stated as a river rising over its channels and go over its banks, thus symbolizing destruction flowing out of it over the nations. It flows on like a flood against Judah, swarming and passing through her, even occupying the land (v. 8). Yet in God's great mercy, they will not wipe out Judah, as it only flows "to the neck", yet will distress her greatly.

The land is said to be Immanuel's land (v. 8ff), thus showing forth God's declaration of ownership over Israel. Even though Assyria may occupy the territory, yet God still reigns! From this, we can learn that even when all seems lost, we should remember that Christ is still head of the Church, spiritual Israel, and therefore He will defend her and purify her. All we have to do is just to pray, have faith and work towards the goal of reformation and revival, knowing that in the final analysis, we would most definitely be successful, since the war has already been won.

Verses 9 and 10 concludes God's proclaimation of judgments against the nations that stand in Assyria's path, who despise Israel. He calls upon them that they may continue to prepare and get ready for war, but it will led to their destruction. They are all doomed to failure regardless of what they do; regardless of how many wise counsels they may make. For God has ordained it to pass, and none can alter it. For they have set themselves against Judah and against God, and therefore all their plans will ultimately be to nought. For God is with us, Immanuel, therefore God will foil the plans of the enemies, even using a pagan power (the Assyrian Empire) to foil their plans. We therefore can rest assured that no matter how powerful and how crafty the enemies of the Cross are, God has His methods to foil their plans, even using a greater evil to do so.

With this, let us therefore lean to trust in God, which we shall look at in the second part of chapter 8

[to be continued]

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