ISAIAH CHAPTER 8.
A Sign, a Rebuke, and an Exhortation.
A DOUBLE PROPHETIC SIGN. — V. 1. Moreover the Lord said unto me, apparently not long after the event related in the last chapter, Take thee a great roll, evidently a large writing-tablet of the kind usually employed, and write in it with a man’s pen, the stylus making impressions on the wax covering the tablet in such a way that the ordinary man could read the script, concerning Mahershalal-hash-baz (“Make speed to the spoil – Hasten to the prey”). The inscription, as made by Isaiah, was purposely enigmatic, the purpose being to arouse the interest and curiosity of the people, to make them feel that the announcement contained in these mysterious words was very important. V. 2. And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, the Lord Himself choosing them through the prophet to be present and to testify to Isaiah’s preparing the tablet, Uriah, the priest, 2 Kings 16, 10, and Zechariah, the son of Jeberechiah. These men could later, when the prophecy was fulfilled, vouch for the fact that Isaiah had written concerning the future. But in close connection with this event there was another. V. 3. And I went unto the prophetess, to his own wife, and she conceived and bare a son. Then said the Lord to me, Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz, the same mysterious words which had been written on the tablet almost a year before, the word signifying either “Make speed to the spoil – Hasten to the prey,” or, “The spoil hastens – Robbery hastens forward.” V. 4. For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, “My father,” and, “My mother,” that is, before the passing of another year, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria, so that all their wealth would be borne as a trophy before the king of Assyria. This happened about the year 739 B. C., Syria being entirely overthrown, together with that part of the northern kingdom which was east of the Jordan – the sad beginning of Israel’s destruction.
A REBUKE AND AN EXHORTATION. — V.5. The Lord spake also unto me again, in a series of prophecies whose final object was rich comfort to the true believers in Judah, saying, v. 6. Forasmuch as this people refuseth the waters of Shiloah, the spring and tiny brook which sprang up at the foot of the Temple-mount and, with another spring, fed the pool Siloam, that go softly, with none of the boisterousness of a large stream, such as the Euphrates, the people despising the quiet manner in which the kingdom of God works in the midst of men, and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah’s son, the latter statement referring chiefly to the people of the northern kingdom with their trust in the strength of men and in the power of huge armies, v. 7. now, therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, that is, the Euphrates, typical of the entire heathen power bent upon the destruction of Israel, strong and many, even the king of Assyria and all his glory, his powerful host; and he shall come up over all his channels and go over all his banks, like a mighty river overflowing at the time of the spring freshets; v. 8. and, he shall pass through Judah, penetrating to its remotest ends; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck, threatening Judah’s very life; and the stretching out of his wings, as the streams leave the main channel of the river on either side, shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel, the people in whose midst the Messiah would be born. Thus the judgment would begin in Israel and progress southward to encompass Judah as well, threatening its existence. Therefore the end of the sentence is a call for help addressed to Immanuel, the Messiah, not to forsake His people, but to remember them in mercy. V. 9. Associate yourselves, O ye people, rather, “Be wicked, rage, raise tumults,” as much as ye please, and ye shall be broken in pieces, for all enemies directing their attacks against the people of God will finally be destroyed; and give ear, all ye of far countries, the nations inhabiting distant parts of the earth; gird yourselves, in preparing for battle, and ye shall be broken in pieces. The double imperative in the Hebrew and the repetition of the command makes it all the more impressive; it places the majesty of God in contrast to the feeble endeavors of men to overthrow His power. V. 10. Take counsel together, against the Lord and against His people, Ps. 2, 2, and it shall come to naught; speak the word, in discussing the attack, and it shall not stand, it will most certainly be frustrated; for God is with us. With Immanuel on their side, the children of God have a refuge against all enemies. Even if all the powers of this world combine to attack the Church, they are bound to suffer defeat. V. 11. For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand, literally, “while His hand became strong,” while His Spirit came upon the prophet with power, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying, namely, in warning the prophet and those who adhered to his people against the great mass of reprobates in Israel and Judah, v. 12. Say ye not, “A confederacy,” to all them to whom this people shall say, “A confederacy,” literally, “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy,” the prophet and his disciples and adherents should not be filled with apprehension on account of the conspiracy and confederation of Syria with the northern kingdom; neither fear ye their fear nor be afraid, they should not join the unbelieving people in their dread of the enemies. V. 13. Sanctify the Lord of hosts Himself, giving Him the honor, setting Him apart for adoration as the almighty Ruler of the universe, and let Him be your fear and let Him be your dread, standing in awe of Him and taking care not to make Him angry by a show of little faith, for He wants the believer’s full confidence, his undivided trust. V. 14. And He shall be for a sanctuary, a safe, sheltering, holy asylum to all believers; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offense to both the houses of Israel, causing them to fall, for a gin, a trap set in the way, and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, namely, to those who do not truly fear Him. V. 15. And many among them, all those who persist in their enmity toward the Lord, shall stumble, by their own fault, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. To him who deliberately rejects Jesus and His mercy the very Gospel-message becomes a savor of death unto death, as the application of this word by Simeon, Luke 2, 34, by Paul, Rom. 9, 33, to the obdurate Jews of their day, and by Peter, 1 Pet. 2, 7. 8, to the unbelievers in general shows. This fact will tend all the more to make the believers serve the Lord with fear and to rejoice with trembling.
WARNING AGAINST FALSE TESTIMONY. — V. 16. Bind up the testimony, so the Lord says to Immanuel, the Messiah, or directly to Isaiah, seal the Law among My disciples, so that the Word of the Lord is sealed and kept safe through the power of the Savior exerted through the Gospel message. V. 17. And I will wait upon the Lord, so Immanuel – or the prophet – calls out in cheerful confidence, that hideth His face from the house of Jacob, by rejecting the great mass of unbelievers among the people, and I will look for Him, trusting in the riches of His mercy, in the certainty of the salvation of His chosen people. V. 18. Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given Me, all those who have accepted the Messiah in true faith, who belong to the elect of the Lord, are for signs and for wonders in Israel, placed before the eyes of all men, of the whole world, as a remarkable evidence of God’s love, from the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth in Mount Zion. Jesus, through His Word, as proclaimed by the mouth of His servants, gains those whom the Father has given Him and will, on the Last Day, present this entire host to the Father in the temple of heaven. Cp. Heb. 2, 13. We are kept by the power of God, through faith, unto salvation. The prophet now adds a strong warning against necromancy and spiritism. V. 19. And when they, the unbelieving people, shall say unto you, in endeavoring to coax the faithful away from the truth of the revealed Word, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, asserting that they possess the ability of interviewing departed souls, and unto wizards that peep and that mutter, said of the murmuring noises made in imitation of the shades in the realm of death and of the whispering of magical formulas which they claimed to have received from disembodied spirits, just as the modern tribe of spiritists does: Should not a people, so the Lord indignantly asks, seek unto their God? turning to Him for counsel and assistance in every emergency in life, for the living to the dead? How can men be so foolish as to seek help from the dead? as the spiritists insist that they are quoting the spirits of the departed. Over against this blasphemous foolishness the Lord places His urgent summons: v. 20. To the Law and to the testimony! Turn to the Word and the promises of the Lord alone; trust in His Gospel, in the glorious assurance of salvation contained therein; make the clear exposition of His Word the one guide of your lives! If they, the unbelieving majority, speak not according to this word, if they do not join in this call and invitation nor heed its summons, it is because there is no light in them, the dawn of salvation will not arise for them. He who sets aside, ignores, rejects, the Word of God destroys himself, has no hope for time and for eternity. V. 21. And they, the unbelievers, shall pass through it, walking about in the land, hardly bestead, oppressed both from within and without, and hungry, in the very depths of misery; and it shall come to pass that when they shall be hungry, in the midst of tribulation besetting them on every hand, they shall fret themselves, be filled with a helpless rage, and curse their King and their God, blaspheming the Lord and His Messiah, and look upward. V.22. And they shall look unto the earth, seeking alleviation and deliverance from their affliction, and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish, not one ray of relief and salvation penetrating the night of their suffering; and they shall be driven to darkness, cast out into utter darkness. Such is the punishment of God upon the unbelievers, upon those who reject the Messiah, even here on earth; how much more terrible, then, will the condemnation of eternity be into which the present punishment will merge!