Prophecies in the Crisis with Syria and Israel
What two symbolic acts did God tell Isaiah to perform?
God told Isaiah to perform two symbolic acts to represent the coming destruction of Syria and Israel at the hands of the Assyrians.
First, God instructed Isaiah to take a large clay tablet and inscribe it with the clearly legible message, “Swift is the booty, speedy is the prey” (8:1) or, “Quick pickings – Easy prey” (J.B. Phillips’ translation). Isaiah was also careful to invite two witnesses to attest the recording of the message of the doom of Syria and Israel (8:2). These witnesses would be able to furnish incontrovertible testimony regarding the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy should it be questioned in the future.
Second, God instructed Isaiah to give the name on the clay tablet to his second son (8:3). God also told Isaiah that Syria and Israel would lie in ruins before the boy was old enough to say “mommy” and “daddy” (8:4). The Assyrian army would indeed be “quick to plunder and swift to take the spoil.”
What prophecy of judgment did Isaiah declare?
Isaiah declared that because Ahaz and the people failed to trust in the Lord (“the gently flowing waters of Shiloah”) and trusted instead in Assyria (8:5-7), God was going to allow the Assyrians to engulf the land like a raging river overflowing its banks (8:7). The great Assyrian army would move over Syria and Israel like flood waters and then flow on into Judah (8:8). The alliance with Assyria would bring more than the relief Ahaz and Judah sought from the Syro-Ephraimitic pressure, it would ultimately bring misery and destruction. Verses 9-10 seem to look beyond the present crisis to a time of hope. These verses picture a day when the plots of God’s enemies will backfire and affirm that God is in control of history.
Note: Sin leads to suffering.
The Northern Kingdom of Israel would soon feel the full force of God’s judgment at the hands of the mighty Assyrian war machine. The Southern Kingdom of Judah would also feel the backlash of that judgment within its own borders. Sin always leads to suffering. That is true of both individuals and nations. No man or nation can sin with impunity.
What personal admonitions did God give to Isaiah?
God admonished and encouraged His prophet during the pressure-filled days of the Syro-Ephraimitic crisis. He told Isaiah to continue taking a stand against the popular pro-Assyrian policy of the day (8:11). Isaiah was told to not become involved in the conspiracies or fears of other men (8:12). God told Isaiah to fear God and not man (8:13).
Isaiah was to continue standing for what was right rather than what was expedient. He was to continue urging the people to trust God rather than rely on an alliance with the Assyrians. God would be a sanctuary (refuge) to those who trusted in Him but a stumbling block (ruin) to those who did not trust in Him (8:14). Failure to trust God would surely lead to stumbling (8:15).
According to verses 16-18, Isaiah (perhaps because his message fell on deaf ears) retreated from confronting the king and people and devoted himself to teaching his students (8:16). Isaiah was willing to wait for his words to be vindicated (8:17). His presence and that of his sons (with their convicting/symbolic names) would however, silently testify to and remind the people of the truth of his message (8:18).
Note: We must stand for what is right.
In the face of a nation that refused to trust God and was determined to enter into an imprudent alliance with Assyria, Isaiah did not bend to popular opinion. He dared to swim against the pro-Assyrian policy tide and hold the nation and its leaders accountable for their failure to put their trust in God. Isaiah was bold in declaring God’s message because he feared God and not man. God could count on Isaiah to speak the truth even when it was unpopular to do so. We too, must stand for what is right, regardless of the flow of popular opinion.
God’s Light in the Darkness
What impact did Isaiah’s silence have upon the people?
Isaiah temporarily retreated from public ministry/remained silent, perhaps because his words had fallen on deaf ears. With Isaiah’s silence there would be no Word from the Lord. The people would experience a “famine” of God’s Word much like that which Amos predicted in Israel (see Amos 8:11-12).
Isaiah and his children, however, would serve as “living epistles” to the people of Judah during this period. The presence of Isaiah and his sons, whose names were messages in themselves, would serve to convict the people and remind them of coming judgment. During this period, the people would consult mediums and spiritists for insight into their personal lives (8:19). Isaiah’s disciples, however, were to point the people “To the law and to the testimony!” (8:20) lest they continue to grope in spiritual darkness and despair (8:21-22).
Note: Those who refuse to listen to God are easily tempted to consult wrong sources for help.
Those who will not consult God’s Word for direction, comfort, perspective, and counsel will try to find those things in other sources. People want answers to their problems, perplexities, and pains and will look for those answers in the wrong places if they do not consult God’s Word. Millions of people in our society dial 1-900 numbers daily to speak with psychics, astrologers, or other human beings because they are confused, lonely, and groping in darkness. People who look for answers and help apart from God’s Word will be disappointed, if not immediately, ultimately.