Isaiah 8 has the prophet continuing his prophecy around Assyria. This time it gets very close to home, as it involves his wife and unborn child. “Then the Lord said to me, Take a large tablet and write on it in common characters, Belonging to Maher-shalal-hash-baz”. God has Isaiah take a tablet and write down the name of his yet to be born son. It’s not often prophets are asked to write things down. Most people couldn’t read, so speaking and storytelling was how information was passed on. But in this case, God asks Isaiah to write down his unborn son’s name.
He goes further asking Isaiah to find two very trusted and high profile witnesses to watch him write it. “And I will get reliable witnesses, Uriah the priest and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah, to attest for me”. Seems like a bit of overkill, doesn’t it. It’s quite a feat that Isaiah wrote it, but he also gets two very well-known leaders to witness what he did. Then Isaiah goes to the prophetess, or what we’d call his wife, and gives the same message. The birth and naming of her son Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz was a word from God. There can be little question that God’s right in the middle of this birth and it sets a timeline for the destruction of Assyria.
As usual, the people were complaining about what they had. This time, in regards to rivers. The small and gentle waters should be more highly valued by us than the large and rapid rivers of all the nations, and we ought not to envy the great power of the ungodly. “Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently….therefore….the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory….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”. God makes it clear – you want more river – I’ll give you more, way more than you can imagine.
Isaiah makes it clear that God’s people are fearing the wrong things. They are afraid of the Assyrian army, but it is God they should fear. “But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread”. He’s the one who will unleash the power on them. God warns Isaiah to not go with the rest of the people in their misguided direction. And he makes the right choice, the choice to follow God. “I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him”. We have to be willing to stand alone and do what is right – obedience to God’s instruction. That’s how we avoid being consumed by the enemy or God’s wrath.
Isaiah 7 has the prophet beginning with a tirade about Ahaz who was a wicked king of Judah, worshipping other gods and even sacrificing his son to Molech. The only good thing Ahaz seemed to do was father Hezekiah, who became a good king of Judah. Ahaz makes a pact with Syria to save his skin. But King Ahaz and his people are filled with fear instead of with trust in God. They are shaken up and terrified in their hearts. God sends Isaiah out to meet Ahaz.
Isaiah is told to tell Ahaz “Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint”. The message was that he needed to trust God, and take courage in the Lord. The enemy was merely smoking fire – not a real threat if put in perspective against the very power of God. But Ahaz was focused on what he saw with his eyes, not what he should have felt in his heart. Ahaz fails to trust God. We have to truly trust God and His power in our lives. Ahaz is told “If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all”. Faith is the foundation of our strength. We have to stand firm in it.
Ahaz doesn’t – he caves and while God spares Jerusalem – He doesn’t bless Ahaz. What could have been a complete and total victory was far less. Isaiah tells Ahaz to ask God for a sign of His power and presence. Ahaz refuses, which would have brought him blessing, but he was unwilling to put God to the test. This was not testing God in the wrong way. It is never testing God to do as He says. He wanted to show Ahaz His power and how it could be available to him through faith.
God takes it into His own hands. He tells Ahaz that since he won’t ask for a sign, God’s going to give one anyway. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel”. This won’t be a simple small sign. This is the sign of all signs – the Son of God coming to earth to save us from our sin. This is far bigger than Ahaz as the prophecy is addressed to the entire house of David. What a blessing that we have a loving God who made a way for us through Jesus Christ!
Isaiah 6 has the prophet sharing his vision of the great King Uzziah dying. Uzziah led Israel in military victories over the Philistines and other neighboring nations, and he was a strong king. Uzziah was a energetic builder, planner, and general. But his life ended tragically when he disobeyed God, was struck with leprosy, and then was an isolated leper until his death. “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple”. This is a big deal – for a good king to die like this.
So where was the Lord? Isaiah sees the picture clearly. He was ‘sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up’. This didn’t happen without God knowing what was happening. He was still in charge of all creation. There is a throne in heaven, and the Lord God sits upon it as the sovereign ruler of the universe! God has always been on that throne, and the good news is He always will be. There are few constants in the world today, but God and His sovereignty is one of those we can depend on always being the same.
As Isaiah sees God on the throne, His angels call out “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory”! God is worthy of our praise. We see it happen when His angels are in His presence. Why do they often say ‘holy’ three times? It may refer to the Trinity and the praise of all Three. In biblical times, repetition of words was a way to show the intensity of their communication. The angels wanted to make it clear that God is more than worthy of praise. He is holy. Holiness is not an aspect of God’s personality; it is one characteristic of His entire Being.
Isaiah saw his sinfulness, and the sinfulness of his people, mainly in terms of sinful speech. He knows he is not worthy at all to be in His presence. And then, Isaiah has an encounter with God. “And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for”.” Isaiah’s sin had to be burned away; the fire of judgment was applied to his place of sin. Sin always has a price that has to be paid. In this case, God dealt with that price with a burning coal to Isaiah’s lips. In our life, our sin has to be paid for too. Jesus went to the cross to pay that price. What we have to do is receive His gift of grace.
Isaiah 5 begins with the prophet telling a story about a vineyard. The owner cleaned it, planted it, tended it, cared deeply for it only to have it yield a harvest that was no good. What a frustration when one goes to all that work and the outcome is not at all what was expected or should have resulted from the hard work that was done. Isaiah goes on to translate the story to real life. “For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah are his pleasant planting; and he looked for justice, but behold, bloodshed; for righteousness, but behold, an outcry”!
It’s a picture of His people and how they have not turned out anywhere close to what was expected based on the love and care God has given them for generations. They are such a disappointment compared to God’s desires and expectations. God has requirements for His people. When we fail to meet those, there are consequences. “Surely many houses shall be desolate, large and beautiful houses, without inhabitant”. Obedience is such an important expectation God has for us. We are to walk in His presence and with His purpose.
It isn’t negotiable. God’s plans are not up for discussion. He has a standard – holy and just – and we are measured against that. We all fall short because we are sinners. And with that, there is a price to pay. “Therefore my people go into exile for lack of knowledge; their honored men go hungry, and their multitude is parched with thirst”. It’s not mean for God to punish our disobedience. His standards are perfect and clear. Left to deal with those standards on our own, we’ll fall far short. That’s why Jesus had to come to earth and die on the Cross. He alone is the one way we have to deal with our shortcomings in obedience.
He can’t tolerate our sin. His holiness and righteousness, His character, requires Him to deal with us directly. “For they have rejected the law of the Lord of hosts, and have despised the word of the Holy One of Israel. Therefore the anger of the Lord was kindled against his people, and he stretched out his hand against them and struck them”. Scripture is full of examples of God dealing with His sinful people. Isaiah paints the prophecy clearly and throughout history we see God’s consistent ways when people fall short of His standards. There is a price for sin. Jesus paid that price if we’ll make Him our Savior and Lord!
Isaiah 4 has the prophet talking about the desperation in Jerusalem after God pours out His judgement. “And seven women shall take hold of one man in that day”. There were so few men left that they literally would be fighting over the few that remain. To say they can’t be picky is an understatement. They would be so desperate for marriage that they will not expect their husbands to provide for them at all. “We will eat our own bread and wear our own clothes, only let us be called by your name; take away our reproach”. They just want to be married and able to avoid the treatment of being unmarried and without children, which was not looked upon well in those days.
Along with the pain and suffering that will happen, Isaiah paints a picture of the promise of a Messiah. “In that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land shall be the pride and honor of the survivors of Israel”. It doesn’t mean that Jesus will be coming during this time, but that when He comes, it will be more beautiful and glorious than the suffering they now endure. There is One who will come and take away the challenges and pain, and He is Messiah!
Isaiah makes it clear than those who remain will be holy. “And he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy, everyone who has been recorded for life in Jerusalem”. Holy does not mean sinless or perfect. It does not mean they will be everything that God expects. It means a life, a heart, a mind, and a body that is genuinely separated unto the Lord. It is a life lived apart from the thinking and heart of this world. It is living with a choice to walk in obedience to the Father, rather than to follow their own desires.
“When the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning”. The process of being made clean is not a painless one. God cleanses us through judgment and burning of the dross in our life. We become clean by the shed blood of the Lamb. He not only washes his people from their sins, but takes away our desire for sin, or our sinful nature, without which we’d jump right back into the sinful life He is cleansing us from. It is the power of Christ that allows us to be made holy and clean. And that love and shed blood is also what allows us to spend eternity with God in heaven!
Isaiah 3 has the prophet painting a picture of what is to come for Judah. “For behold, the Lord God of hosts is taking away from Jerusalem and from Judah support and supply, all support of bread, and all support of water; the mighty man and the soldier, the judge and the prophet, the diviner and the elder, the captain of fifty and the man of rank, the counselor and the skillful magician and the expert in charms. And I will make boys their princes, and infants shall rule over them”. The prophecy begins with God saying He will take away their food and water. They are heading into famine.
But it goes much further. God is going to deal with their lack of godly leadership. God is addressing the incompetent leaders on every level from top to bottom. The prophecy says they will all be captured. Isaiah’s prophecy came to pass in 2 Kings 24 where all the leaders were captured and carried into captivity. But the destruction will go further. “And the people will oppress one another, every one his fellow and every one his neighbor; the youth will be insolent to the elder, and the despised to the honorable”. There is a huge leadership void as all the leaders are taken away and the people are left to rule themselves.
So the bar for leadership gets pretty low. “You have a cloak; you shall be our leader”. God warns His people that He will strip away all that they have come to depend on. And when He does, there is no one qualified to step up and lead. So people are grabbed and put in authority to fill the void. This is a sure way to create disaster – when people not qualified are put in a place of authority and lead. Leadership is such an important trait that every people and nation need. God’s punishment for Judah is to strip it away and leave them without. A very big punishment indeed.
The reality is that God will deal with those who don’t walk in His ways. “For Jerusalem has stumbled, and Judah has fallen, because their speech and their deeds are against the Lord, defying his glorious presence….haughty and walk with outstretched necks, glancing wantonly with their eyes, mincing along as they go, tinkling with their feet”. How we live does matter. Our sinful life will cause us to be separated from God, just like the people of Judah. We have to determine what we’ll go about our sin – which is based completely on what we do with the blood of Jesus. But after that one decision that determines our eternity, how we live and our obedience to God will shape how that eternity looks.
Isaiah 2 has the prophet warning us about how we will live in the latter days. He is prophecying about the reign of Christ to come, when all things will be under His command. “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths…. come, let us walk in the light of the Lord.”. People will seek Him to learn how to live, which is exactly what we should be doing today as well. God has given us clear direction in His Word. We need to learn it and live it so we walk well in His path.
Isaiah points out one of the major issues for mankind – idols. “Their land is filled with idols; they bow down to the work of their hands, to what their own fingers have made. So man is humbled, and each one is brought low— do not forgive them”! Idols have been a problem for man forever. It’s the practice of putting anything other than God in His rightful place of adoration and authority. We make them out of gold and silver and other people and stuff. We allow things to get in the way of keeping God first. They will be wiped away, but far better that we don’t fall to them at all.
Man tends to believe we are pretty big stuff. We even place ourselves in God’s spot of authority. That will be changed. “The haughty looks of man shall be brought low, and the lofty pride of men shall be humbled, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day”. There will be a day when Jesus is truly exalted as the Son of God. Pride will bring us down, not only when Christ comes again, but even today in our day to day lives. We must be careful not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought. Scripture warns us of that.
Isaiah repeats some words verbatim a second time in this passage, which should cause us to really stop and take a look. “And the haughtiness of man shall be humbled, and the lofty pride of men shall be brought low, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day”. He goes on to add “And the idols shall utterly pass away” which indicates that He will clean up the mess we created of putting other things ahead of Him, but make no mistake, He will take His rightful place when He comes again. And mankind will be put in the spot they belong, under His authority. “Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he”? We may think we’re big stuff, but in light of God we are nothing!