Text: Isaiah 8

When God’s people go astray, He sends His prophets to frankly and bluntly warn them of their sin and admonish them to repent and return to Him. Again, when I speak of God’s people, I am speaking of the church, Jewish believers, and Jews that do not yet believe that Jesus is their Messiah.

In the days of Isaiah, God’s people are headed for disaster —  exile (separation from His presence), and even death and condemnation. Oh, but if they will repent as I did, the Lord and I will rejoice and sing (Zephaniah 3:17)!

The LORD does not desire for any to perish, but all to come to repentance (2Peter 3:9). So, He sends Isaiah to speak to Jerusalem and Judah. And He assigns me to speak to today’s believers.

If I were going to give today’s teaching a title, it would be “His Swift and Speedy Punishment.” He quickly and suddenly disciplines those He loves, if they do not repent when they hear His warnings. As I have said throughout this study, His aim is that they turn back to Him!

Verses 1-2 — 

After warning King Ahaz in the last chapter, the LORD instructed Isaiah to take a tablet — a large writing surface that could be displayed publicly — and write on it, “Swift is the booty, speedy is the prey.” It would stand as a witness to the people, that Isaiah’s words were truly from the Lord.

God’s judgment on Syria and Ephraim will be swift, through Assyria. And Assyria will gather much booty from Syria and Ephraim. But then, Assyria will swiftly become the LORD’s prey, and will speedily abandon their invasion of Judah and Jerusalem, after the LORD sends His angel to strike down 185,000 of the Assyrian army in one night (Isaiah 37:36-37). 

I believe the prophecy extends farther, too. Later, according to the LORD’s plan, Babylon will swiftly overpower Judah and Jerusalem, carrying away much booty. But in 70 years, Babylon will suddenly, speedily become prey and fall to the Medes and Persians, in one night (Daniel 5:25-30)!

The LORD promised Isaiah that there will be witnesses to what He had told him, in addition to the witness of the tablet. Uriah the priest, and Zechariah (likely a member of the Levitical priesthood) will be the LORD’s faithful witnesses. They had not joined in Jerusalem’s apostasy (abandonment of the LORD).

Why did the LORD direct Isaiah to have additional witnesses? Again, to prove the authenticity of the prophecy. No one would be able to say that Isaiah prophesied after the LORD had taken action. He did not prophesy after the fact, but in advance, to warn God’s people! Therefore, his prophetic word had to have come from the LORD.

Verses 3-4 —

Isaiah then approached his wife, who was a prophetess (that is, she also prophesied), and she conceived and gave birth to a son. It seems like Isaiah is suddenly speaking history, and no longer prophesying. But read on!

The LORD directed Isaiah to name the child Maher-shalal-hash-baz, which means “Swift is the booty, speedy is the prey.” His son’s name was a prophecy of the coming invasion of Assyria. So, every time someone spoke his son’s name, the prophecy would again be declared!

The LORD said that before Isaiah’s son is able to say My father, My mother — that is, before he is able to understand his relationship to his parents —  Damascus, capitol of Syria, and Samaria, the capitol of Ephraim, will be carried away, in the presence of the king of Assyria. The LORD’s swift, speedy judgment is coming to Syria and Ephraim, within three years, for a child understands his relationship to his parents anywhere from 18 months to three years of age.

So there were three witnesses to the authenticity of Isaiah’s prophecy: 1) it was written on the large tablet for public display; 2) it was told to two faithful witnesses, and 3) it was again confirmed by the name of Isaiah’s son, every time his son’s name was spoken.

Any charge of sin must be confirmed by two or three witnesses, per Deuteronomy 17:6. This time, it was three.

Verses 5-6 —

The LORD further spoke to Isaiah, that the swift and speedy judgment of Ephraim will be meted out by the LORD because they had rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah. It was a reference to the pool called Siloam in Jerusalem, and a symbol or type of the LORD’s gentleness toward His people who do not rebel against Him.

King Ahaz and all who trusted and rejoiced in the king of Assyria were rebels against the LORD, just as the son of Remaliah (Ephraim’s king) rebelled by trusting and rejoicing in Rezin (Syria’s king). 

Jerusalem and Judah, and Ephraim, trusted in man and in man’s strength, not in their God. They knew they were not right with Him, but instead of repenting, they sought help elsewhere! Hear this, O church, O believer!

Verse 7 —

Therefore, BEHOLD, says the LORD! Take notice, Jerusalem and Judah! Take notice, King Ahaz!

The LORD will bring on Syria and Ephraim the strong and abundant waters of Assyria, since they rejected Him and His gently flowing waters! The king of Assyria, in all his glory (his great army, a display of his power) will wash over Syria and Ephraim as powerfully as a river that rises up and completely inundates the land with water. 

Verse 8 —

Then the king of Assyria and his armies will sweep on into Judah, overflow it, and pass through it, rising even to its neck — a reference to Jerusalem (see Isaiah 36, for the account of that attempted invasion). Assyria’s huge armies will spread its wings across the land and fill “your land, O Immanuel.”

“Your land, O Immanuel” was spoken by the LORD as sarcasm, for they certainly had not sought “God with us,” and saw the land as theirs, not His! So, He was certainly not with them, in their rebellion against Him! 

Are you rebelling against Him? Then He is not with you. Hear and heed, O church, O believer! His arm is not too short, nor is His ear deaf, but your sin has caused a separation from Him (Isaiah 59:1-2)!

Hezekiah was king of Judah when Assyria invaded Judah, captured many of its cities, and was now at the wall of Jerusalem. King Hezekiah clung to the LORD (2Kings 18:6), faithfully obeying Him.

So when Assyria was at the wall in Jerusalem, mocking the LORD, he mourned (Isaiah 37:1) and prayed to the LORD, spreading out before the LORD Assyria’s derision and blasphemy against the LORD (Isaiah 37:14). Then, as I have noted, the LORD sent His angel, and 185,000 Assyrian soldiers were struck dead in one night. Swiftly, speedily, Assyria was judged! 

NOTE: Many Bible scholars have theorized about why Isaiah Chapters 36-39 are written as history, in prose — a sudden change from Isaiah’s prophecies that were written in poetic form. But the purpose is obvious, to me. At the LORD’s instruction, Isaiah included what transpired in the days of King Hezekiah as proof of the prophecy the LORD gave him. The historical record is a fourth witness to His people — including you and me — that the LORD had spoken to him, and that He is faithful to discipline and punish those who rebel against Him.

Certainly, Assyria rose to the neck — even the to wall at Jerusalem. But again, it was not yet time for Judah and Jerusalem’s exile. God determines such things, not men.

Verses 9-10 

In their own time of trouble, Judah and Jerusalem will pretend alliance to the LORD, claiming that He will break all peoples who come against them. They will tell their enemies that the LORD will break them and shatter them. They are sure the LORD will save them, even though they rebel against Him. 

They would say to their enemies, “Give ear!” Listen and heed! “Gird yourselves and be shattered!” The LORD often repeated His words when something was to happen quickly. So they would mimic Him, repeating to their enemies, “Gird yourselves and be shattered,” as if God would act quickly on behalf of His rebellious people. 

Why did they believe the LORD would defend them, despite their rebellion? They said, “for God is with us!” Enemies, don’t you understand? He will rescue us because we are His people!

Believers in today’s wayward church say, No matter what plan Satan devises against us, it will be thwarted by the Lord! We declare and decree it! No matter what Satan attempts, it will not stand! We declare and decree it!

Why do they believe the LORD will defend them, despite their rebellion? They think God is with them! But He is not!

Verses 11-12 —

The LORD spoke to Isaiah, with mighty power, and instructed him, saying, Do not walk in the way of this people. Do not live as they live, rebelling against Me and yet declaring I will save them! 

Do not say, it is a conspiracy. The Hebrew word means “joining together, loving.” The LORD was saying, Do not join together with them and love what they love! 

Do not fear what they fear, or be in dread of it. The LORD is sovereign. He determines by whom and by what means His people receive His discipline and punishment, and He determines when it will happen.

Am I repeating myself? Yes, because He wants you to clearly see His sovereignty, O believer! You may say, “I declare and decree,” but you cannot declare and decree something over your life or someone else’s life. Your words are foolish — only the LORD declares and decrees! He is sovereign, not you, and if He judges and disciplines you, He is right in what He does!

Verse 13 —

The LORD says, fear the LORD of Hosts, the Captain of My armies! Regard Me as holy! Sanctify Me as God alone! Fear Me! Worship Me! Dread Me, for I will surely discipline and punish you, if you continue to rebel! 

Verses 14-16 —

The LORD shall become a sanctuary, but not to northern Israel and not to Judah and Jerusalem. To them, the LORD of Hosts, Jesus Christ, will be a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over, and a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 

Jesus, the LORD of  Hosts, quotes from Psalm 118:22-23 —

Matthew 21:42 Jesus said to them, Have you never read in the Scriptures:

‘“The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this,

and it is marvelous in our eyes.” 

And He declares that He will be a sanctuary for others —

Matthew 21:43  “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.”

The kingdom of God will be given to other peoples, not to those of His people who rebel. But do not dismiss Israel. They will return to the LORD, per Romans Chapters 9-11, and He will again receive them, at the end of things. But first, He will become a sanctuary for all peoples of the earth who believe into Jesus Christ!

Jesus Christ, the LORD of Hosts, commands Isaiah to bind up the testimony He has given. Seal the teaching to whom? To His disciples, 700 years from the time of Isaiah!

Verse 17 —

Isaiah says, I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob (all of Israel). The LORD often called them Jacob when they backslid — that is, when they tried to scheme against Him, or when they relied on the strength of men and not on their God.

Verse 18 —

The LORD of Hosts, Jesus Christ, says, “Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the LORD of Hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion (the heavenly Zion). 

Who are the children the LORD has given Jesus Christ, as miraculous evidence, as signs and wonders, that He is the Messiah? John says —

John 1:12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

And His children will become the signs and wonders that He speaks about. They will become His witnesses (Acts 1:8) when they are filled with His Holy Spirit. 

These are the signs and wonders of His holy children — they walk as He walks, and are as He is in this world! They are holy on the inside, sanctified through and through, as Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica (1Thessalonians 5:23)!

The writer of Hebrews confirms —

Hebrews 2:11 Both the One who makes men holy and those who are made holy are of the same family. So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers. 12 He says, “I will declare your name to My brothers; in the presence of the congregation I will sing your praises.” 13 And again . . . “Here am I, and the children God has given me.”

Verses 19-20 —

The LORD speaks again, rebuking His people for consulting in mediums (wizards) and spirits (familiar spirits that are not of God) who whisper and mutter — that is, they imagine empty things, and are so far from God that their voices are barely audible to Him.

Yet the people say, Consult them! The LORD says through Isaiah, consult Me! What are you doing, consulting the dead — for that is who the mediums and spiritists consult, and they themselves are spiritually dead — among the living. I am the living God. Consult Me! 

In Leviticus 20:6, He says, “I will set my face against the person who turns to mediums and spiritists to prostitute himself by following them, and I will cut him off from his people.”

How foolish you have become! Church, believer, who are you consulting? Could it be that you consult with such ones because your sin has caused a separation between you and your God (Isaiah 59:2)? Then repent! 

To the Law of God, and to His testimony! If anyone does not speak according to this Word, it is because they have no light of dawn. 

Believer, this is not just for the Old Testament. Many false prophets and false teachers do not speak according to His Word. They have no light of dawn. His light is not in them! Do not listen to them! Learn His Word, so you can discern the true from the false!

Verses 21-22 —

The LORD gives Isaiah a vision of a future time, and Isaiah sees apostasy and destruction. But it is not just Judah and Jerusalem’s destruction, but the destruction of all who reject the LORD and seek to be delivered by man!

Those who reject Him and rebel will pass through (cross over) the land in a grievous state (in pain and anguish). They will be famished, but when they are hungry, they will not repent. Instead, they will be enraged and curse Him as they look heavenward! Then they will look to the earth around them, and see what the Apostle John saw in the Revelation of Jesus Christ —

Revelation 16:9 And men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues; and they did not repent, so as to give Him glory. 

Revelation 16:11 and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds. 

Revelation 16:21 And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each,  came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe. 

Those who rebel against the Lord — even His own people — will see distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish, and they will be driven into darkness. They will perish. It is as true today as in Isaiah’s day! 

But there is hope for those who repent. We will see it in Isaiah 9, when he prophesies of the coming Christ who purifies and sanctifies!

Lord Jesus, may today’s believers hear and heed, and take warning. May they see their folly and repent. Amen. Let it be so.