Isaiah Chapter 8

CHAPTER EIGHT

Hebrew names are divinely intended to teach truths: The refusal of Shiloah: Where
those waters are still flowing: The invasion of Immanuel's Land: Counsel as to
consulting the dead: The Rock of the Word: Sorrowful condition of the deluded.


The opening words, "Moreover the Lord said," mark a new subsection of the prophecy, which we may say began with the child Shear-Jashub in chapter 7, ascended to the Son, Immanuel; descends again to the lad Maher-shalal (ver. 1), and finally ends with the Child "Wonderful" in ch. 9:6.

Now, Ahaz is no longer seen: Isaiah is addressed directly. He is to take a large tablet, such as could be hung up prominently for all to see, and is to write upon it "with a man's pen":* that is, in such plain letters that the most humble of mankind may be able to see and read it, one strange compound word, surely never before seen"Maher-shalal-hash-baz."
[*Literally, the stylus of a frail mortal man: enosh.]

Then, by divine direction, he selects two witnessesthe necessary number for a competent testimonywhose names are given us, and therefore we may be quite sure are significant: Uriah, meaning, "Jehovah is my light," and Zechariah, "Jehovah remembers," son of Jeberechiah, meaning, "Jehovah will bless." Thus the one witness says by his name: "Jehovah is my light," and the other, Jehovah's purpose is to bless,and the offspring of that purpose of grace is that He will never forget His people. Both Light and Love may thus be said to witness to the genuineness of the writing as to Maher-shalal, as indeed they do to all He writes. Are not our Scriptures similarly confirmed?

Thus when the Assyrian armies are devastating Syria and Ephraim, the two witnesses shall testify what the prophet's tablet, which has been exposed for about twenty months, bearing that one strange enigmatical word, has meant: first, that a son should be born to him, who should bear this name that none would think of giving to any child; secondly, that name has foretold what they see taking place before their eyes; and thirdly, all this should occur while the child was still an infant, unable to speak the simplest words, "Abbi" or "Immi"; thus it is not the military prowess or statesmanship of Ahaz that has brought this devastation on their enemies, but the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of Jehovah.

All is enigmatical and parabolic; and whilst Maher-shalal can by no means be absolutely equivalent to Immanuel, yet one can discern a link between them. Immanuel is "God with us"; Maher-shalal-hash-baz is "Hasten booty, speed prey"; that really means, "God is against those against us"; for God evidences Himself for Israel by the destruction of their enemies, which of course is another form of "God for us."

Verses 5 to 8 form another step in the progress of this prophecy. It is a continuation of Jehovah's word to the prophet:

5: Again the Lord spake to me, and spake to me thus:
6: Forasmuch as this people refuseth Shiloah,
Whose waters go rippling so softly along,
Boast in their treaty with Syrian Rezin,
And with Remalyah's (weak) son,
7: Jehovah brings on them the flood of the river,
Its torrent of waters many and strong
(Even Assyria, its king and his glory);
O'er-rising its banks and leaving its bed,
8: Till, passing through Judah, 'tis still overflowing
Till a man is submerged to all but his head.
As a bird on its wings, so shall he hover,
Aye, even the breadth of thy land he shall cover,
IMMANUEL!
Here the waters of Shiloah ("sent") are clearly in antithesis to the flood of the river (which can be none other than the Euphrates); the one so gentle, the other so threatening, so clearly picturing judgment; and since this latter is interpreted for us as representing the power that comes from the river, the Assyrian, with all his military pomp and power, the other must be identified with the House of David.

Marvelous is the very topography of that "pleasant land"; its rivers, its brooks, its springs, its mountains, its values, all silently, but eloquently preach eternal verities. Here there are indeed,

"Tongues in trees, books in the running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything."

Listen to Shiloah softly flowing* between Mounts Zion and Moriah; if you are listening with the inward ear, you will hear a voice sweeter than its own rippling music, for Zion ever tells of grace, as in contrast with Sinai, which stands for law (Heb. 12:18,22). Moriah tells the same story, for it was here that the sword of judgment was stayed in David's day (2 Sam. 24; 2 Chron. 2:1). It was here that God provided Himself a Lamb (Gen. 22:2, 8), so that He should not be debarred from exercising that grace to sinful man. It was on Moriah that the temple was built, where those sacrifices, so ineffective in themselves, still pointed forward to that same Lamb of God. Now Shiloah is at the base of both these mountains. Could anything speak more clearly of Christthe true Shiloah, the Sent Onebeing at the base of all God's goodness, grace and mercy?
[*The word carries with it the idea of a gentle sound, murmuring as waters, or sighing as winds. Compare "Flow gently, sweet Afton."]

2 Chron. 13:4-12, a son of David convicts Ephraim of refusing the waters of Shiloah by treading under foot the divinely-appointed priesthood, by counting the blood of the divinely-appointed sacrifices an unholy thing, by doing despite to the Spirit of God in fighting against the one anointed by the Lord God of their fathers. Many years have rolled their course since then. Another king, another set of people, are on the scene, but it has never been forgotten; and now after so long a time, it is on this account, combined with a course consistent with that beginning, that the Assyrian is coming to take away their place and nation.

Now again the historical outlines fade, as mere history, and become prophetic of a far more serious rejection of the true "waters of Shiloah" in Immanuel Himself, the virgin's Son.

In what gentle grace the "Sent One" (Shiloah) of the Father came. How softly flowed the stream of His goodness! Let one drink of those waters, and never more would that one thirst (John 4:14). Let the blind wash therein, and straightway he "comes seeing" (John 9:7); wherever they flowed there was life and healing. Yet the waters were refused by that people, and the Cross was the evidence and measure of that refusal, while the Roman, who was, in that day, in the place of the Assyrian, took away the place and nation, and it remains scattered even unto this present hour.

Where are the waters of Shiloah now?for we must learn what and where they are, that we may not refuse them. They are still "flowing softly," but it is through the Scriptures vivified by the Holy Spirit, and through those who have themselves drunk thereof (John 7:38), by whom the "love of the truth" is still proclaimed. Alas, the story is unvaried, still these "waters of Shiloah," of the gospel of the grace of God, are refused with ever-increasing repulsion, for one must stoop to drink them, and they bring no promise of wealth.

In verses 7, 8 we see that, not content with overflowing Syria and Ephraim and thus fulfilling his mission, the Assyrian passes into Judah, still like the mighty river whence he comes, till in intensity that river becomes so deep as to reach even to the neck of a man; while, in extent, it covers, as a ravening bird's wings, the whole breadth of "Thy land, O Immanuel!"

Here these last words seem like a cry, an astonished shout, on the part of the prophet himself: "An enemy's foot is on the soil that is Thine, O Immanuel! Wilt Thoucanst Thoupermit such a dishonor?" So today the throne of the Earth has Satan the usurper on it, and we cry: "It is Thine, O Lord Jesus, our Immanuel!"

Earnest as is this appealing cry, there appears to be no answer.

But is there not? Whence then that sudden change in the prophet's note, from fear to the joyous, triumphant chant that is now heard?

Ah, God can answer a cry without any audible speech. In a moment He can put "gladness into the heart more than in the time that their corn and wine increase." Here that gladness finds expression in a defiant, triumphant chant, thus:

9: Rage, ye peoples, and ye shall be broken;
Listen, ye dwellers on earth afar;
Bind ye together, and ye shall be broken!
Bind ye together, and ye shall be broken!
10: Consult ye in counsel, it cometh to naught:
Utter the word, it shall not stand:
For IMMANUEL!!
Here the same word, the Name of the promised Son, is, as it were, the very answer to the appeal, and becomes Israel's battle-cry. Was there ever one like it? "The sword of the Lord and of Gideon" was inspiring; but it challenged not all the far-off nations. Here is a feeble little remnant of a people, solely in the power of this Name uttering the strongest challenge in one Word, "Immanuel," to all the mighty nations of the whole earth! Do your worst! Make your military alliances! Form your new World-Empire! Let the federated nations consult together! (Note the emphasized taunt in the reiteration of the line.) Thus perfect their plans! Then issue their orders! It will all amount to nothing, for "Immanuel"God, is with us, in Jesus our Messiah, and, if God be with us, who can be against us?

But now there comes a word from Jehovah to His servant Isaiah, with such power as accords with its importance:

12: Cry not ye, Confederacy!
As this people all, are crying,
Neither fear what they are fearing.
Let not this, their dread, affright you.
13: Sanctify the Lord Tzebaoth:
For indeed 'tis well to fear Him
Well before Him may ye tremble
14: So He shall become to you a
(Refuge safe), a Sanctuary;
But to both of Israel's houses,
He shall be a stone of tripping,
Rock that causes them to stumble.
He shall be a snare and gin to
Jerusalem: for its dwellers
15: Striking foot 'gainst it shall stumble
Falling, shall be dashed to pieces
Being snared, shall so be taken.
We may well question, with some misgiving, what would be the result today of some widespread threatening terror as is predicated in these verses, and well may we listen to the word of the Spirit through the Old Testament prophet, "Fear not their fear," taken up and repeated for our special benefit by the same Spirit through the New Testament apostle: "Be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled: but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts" (1 Peter 3:15). Set Him apart above all, give Him His rightful place in your hearts, fear only to dishonor Him, and then He shall be for a sanctuary. But who shall be for a sanctuary? The same One who, as the Lord Jesus, is to unbelief a "Stone of stumbling." Therefore it follows beyond all cavil that Jesus is Himself the Lord God.

So here we have the first reference to our Lord as "the Stone"; but so small, and lying so low on the ground, that Israel, who expected Jehovah's intervention in quite another way, and was looking for Him high up among the great ones of the earth, overlooked altogether the Stone lying so low before them that they tripped over it, and fell; and by that fall, salvation is come to us Gentiles. It is that very lowliness of the Lord of Glory who came "not to be ministered to, but to minister" (to our very feet, as it were, see John 13), that makes Him a very precious Stone to all whose faith sees the divine glory beneath the humiliation.

This brings us to a portion of our prophecy of the greatest value to every Christian heart, and needing careful attention, as the words intimate.

16: Firmly bind the testimony,
Seal the law to my disciples,
17: Whilst I upon the Lord will wait
Who hides His face from Jacob's house;
Yea, on Himon Him alone
Will I wait expectant.
In the preceding verses, the prophet foretells of One who is to be a sanctuary for faith, but a stumbling-stone for unbelief; now the prophecy goes on without interruption till in chapter 9:7 we see that same One crowned as the final King, never to be dethroned. Nor is there apparently, at first sight, one break from the day on which he wrote to that day of final consummation. The conditions continue unchanged: the same mass in rejection of the light, the same few termed "the remnant," cleaving to the written Word as the only stay and anchor to their souls, and always the reference is to the Jews. Now here is a difficulty, for we know of a tremendous change in all God's dealings with man, by which the Jew has been left utterly neglecteda nation without a countryand God's direct work confined to drawing out from the Gentiles a heavenly people. That was a "mystery" of which Isaiah knew nothing (Romans 16:25); how then could he write on it? There must be then somewhere an unnoticed parenthesis of over 1900 years that really breaks into the line of this prophecy, before the end in chapter 9:7 is reached. We must find that hidden parenthesis.

The prophet prays that the Word of God may be bound to his disciples, that they may rest upon it, be governed in all perplexing questions that may come up, not by what the mass about them are saying, or doing, but rather standing apart from the great majority, and governed solely by what is written. What divine authority is thus given to the Scriptures!

Nor will Isaiah, who stands here symbolically for our Lord Himself, fail to associate himself with the few rather than the many: his part will be to wait upon the Lord patiently; in full recognition that Jehovah's Face is hidden from the house of Jacob.

Let us note the significance of that name of Jacob just here. In the day of Jacob's trouble, the One who was wrestling with him, had said, "What is thy name?" and he had to answer, "Jacob," for he had no other then. "Crooked, supplanting Jacob is my name; that expresses my nature"; and at once, instead of a blow on such a character, as one might expect, there is love and blessing embracing the poor, crippled, self-confessed sinner, Jacob. So here, the prophet confesses that the nation still bears every trait of their father "Jacob." But Jacob had a Lord who never left him, never forsook him, and so will never leave nor forsake any of his "House"; and Isaiah will wait both patiently and hopefully for His intervention. His Face is hidden now, it is true, from the nation, but soon it will shine upon them, as it did on their father when he joyfully called the place "Peniel," the Face of God (Gen. 32:30).

All this is very interesting; but for us the joy is in seeing the force of the next verse wherein Isaiah says as plainly as possible that both he and the children whom God hath given him "are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts which dwelleth in Zion."

Throw the light of Hebrews 2:13 on this, and we see in Isaiah a type of our Lord. The two children then must also be types. Where shall we find their antitypes? Not in the Church; nothing in her answers either to Shear-Jashub or to Mahershalal; but in that recovered remnant of the Jews that return to their land we shall find perfect correspondence to both.

Yet, while this primary application is surely to the Jew, ponder the cheering correspondences that directly affect ourselves:
 

Isaiah had disciples: that is, those whom he had "taught." Jesus had disciples whom He had taught.
Isaiah prays for these, his disciples, who may be identified with "the children God has given him." Jesus prays for His disciples, who are the children whom God has given Him (Heb. 2:13).
Isaiah prays that the word he has given his disciples may be sealed to them, and so they may be kept from the evil. Jesus prays that His disciples may be sanctified by the Word He has given them, and by it be kept from the evil that is in the world (John 17:17).

Isaiah is indeed a type of Jesus, yet he comes short as every type must, for while he could thus "make intercession," he could not "save to the uttermost"; that is reserved for the blessed Antitype.

But as to the two children, they must be typical only in their significant names, and in their relationship to Isaiah.

In the latter point of view (as Israelites) they may be discerned in that "remnant according to the election of grace" (Romans 11:5) that is always to be found among the Jews, even to the present day; of whom our Apostle Paul speaks of himself as one. In their names they tell us of that remnant that shall return to their land after centuries of banishment (Shear-Jashub). There and then shall they pass through their final sorrow in which they shall "turn to the Lord," and the veil that now hides Jesus from them is taken away forever (2 Cor. 3:16). There and then, they begin to see a glory in Moses, i.e., in his writings, never seen in all the long, dark night of their unbelief. There and then are they given to the Lord Jesus, and then He owns them, too, as His "children," as having the same divine nature as Himself.

In the present day the elect remnant of the Jews have lost their identity with Israel; but (with all believers) form the one Body, the Church, in which there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither of whom have any part or place in the land or the earth at all. But in the day of trial lying ahead, they shall again be strictly Jews and return to all Israel's peculiar hopes and expectations. No longer shall they anticipate any rapture to heaven, but wait expectant for His salvation on the earth. So speaks the prophet Micah in his fifth chapter: "Then shall he give them up, until the time that she which travaileth hath brought forth; then shall the remnant of his brethren return unto the children of Israel." That is, in the time of Zion's travail, the children that she brings forth, pictured in our prophet by Shear-Jashub and Maher-shalal, shall not be a heavenly people, with heavenly hopes, but Jehovah's beloved people, Israel, with hopes and fears confined to the earth and its government; which they"the meek"shall eventually inherit (Matt. 5:5).

Nor does the threatening character of the name Maher-shalal-hash-baz conflict with this, although it does undoubtedly speak of severe judgment; but this judgment is not directed against the afflicted remnant of Israel, but against their foes. For this child is also the offspring of Isaiah (the salvation of Jehovah) and must necessarily therefore forecast some element of that salvation. Israel is saved by judgment.

Now comes the counsel needed by that remnant in the future, but no less by us this very day.

19: When they shall say to you:
Ask counsel of dead ones,
Enquire of the wizards,
Who chirp* and who mutter,
(Thus shall ye answer)
Should not a people
Enquire of its God?
Should those who are living
Take counsel of dead ones?
20: To the lawto the word of
(Divine) testimony
If with these they agree not,
They shall never see dawning.**
[*The word I have rendered "wizards" has in its root the idea of supernatural intelligence. It is, literally, "the much-knowing"; wise-ards. These "chirp," Heb. tzaphtzeph: the sound of the word giving its meaning. It was in this hardly articulate way, that the shades of Hades uttered their oracles.]
[**The last line is much debated as to its exact form, but its force is perfectly clear; no true light of a happier day shall ever dawn on these apostates. This dawn we shall see in the next chapter.]
By our very constitution, by the very fact that man has a spirit as well as soul and body, he must seek some support for that spirit in the day of mental strain and distress. Nor does the enemy of men allow that need to go without filling it in his way, and for his own ends. As dependence upon "God and the word of His grace" is loosened, the chains of "spiritism" are bound upon truth-rejecting men. All kinds of information is sought from those who have been introduced by death into a sphere where the future is assumed to be as clear to them as the past is to the living. The "mediums" of these communications are "wizards" (wise-ards), and if you want any secret revealedfrom the whereabouts of a lost article to the eternal condition of a deceased relativeyou have only to consult some "medium," and you will be put into communication with the spirit of the departed, who will tell youjust what you wish to hear!

Take heed, says Isaiah to his disciples, and the Lord Jesus to His, that you have nothing to do with them. Go not near to their seances. Touch not the defiling thing. It is truly supernatural, it is to be attributed to personalities in an unseen world, it is information given by those who were exposed, when the Light of the World was on earth, as "unclean spirits of demons." Nor were they exterminated then or confined to the bottomless pit, but still left on the earth. Where, then, are they now? Do you think they are passive? Do you suppose that they have forgotten, or forsaken their old successful devices for deluding poor, wretched men? Nay, they are to this very hour active in teaching all that is opposed to the claims of the Lord Jesus, the Son of God, in the three spheres of infidel-rationalism, politics, and superstition.* They have a sure footing in that church which has taken the place of being the witness for God on the earth, and it needs but the rapture from this earth of the true people of God, for the formation of Babylon, in the union of all pseudo Christian profession, to be the "hold of every foul spirit" (Rev. 17). Well may we avoid, as deadly poison, all traffic with spiritism, for Christendom is full of it; there is far more than goes under that name.
[*Compare Rev. 16:13, 14, the three frog-demons from mouth of dragon (infidelity), beast (politics), and false prophet (superstition).]

On the other hand, what is the resource of faith in every dispensation? The Word of God! In this you will find no "muttering" voice, no foolish "chirp," but the living Voice of Him who indeed is without limit of understanding, who knows our deep needs, and who, without pandering to all our unhallowed curiosity, has met them all. Here we may learn, if we be "poor, and of a contrite spirit, and tremble at His Word," divine secrets indeed, secrets of love and wisdom beyond human fathoming. Here we may find a light on the dark problems of our day, here the purposes of God as to heaven and earth are revealed, here faith may find a solid rock on which her feet may stand, and hope may be so directed as never to be disappointed. Well may we bring, then, every claim to supernatural assumption to this divine Standard. If there is divergence from this, then we may put it down as certain that our counselors have no true light, and that indeed on them shall never the light of morning dawn.

But what, then, is the inward condition of those deluded ones all through the time of their darkness?

21: They shall pass through it*
Hard-pressed and hungry,
Torn with convulsions;
When faces look upward
Then king and God curse they.
22: When they look earthward,
Trouble and darkness,
Dimness of anguish,
Thick gloom wide-spreading.**
[*That is, through the gloom.]
[**Note the reference to gloom and darkness in these last three lines.]
Could there be a more distressing picture of misery? Amid thick darkness without, with a never-satisfied longing within, these wander. Looking up, they curse all above them; nor can they find any comfort in anything on the earth around them. Without, within, above, below, nothing but darkness and anguish.

It is a picture of the land at the due time of the Lord's first coming, and we may say that it is a picture of us all, for we all have wandered till One who loved us came with a Light that is dispelling gradually the darkness of nature. But we will eliminate the division made by the intrusion of the chapter, and see this Light shining in the darkness.

Footnote:

*2 Thess. 2:4). There is the true "son of Remaliah" of the future, acting exactly as his father, walking in the same path. He is to be also found under such names as "False prophet," "Beast from the land," "Antichrist," and many another of dreadful import that he bears in the Scriptures, as heading up the corrupt or religious form of evil, when all evil, in both its forms, comes to its head; and, as of old, he was found at the head of apostate Israel, so shall his future antitype be a Jew.

His allay is Rezin, king of Syria. The very word, rezin, in Gen. 49:8, is rendered "self-will." Nor can the name of his kingdom be misunderstood when we leave the Hebrew, Aram, unchanged into the Greek, "Syria"; for Aram is from precisely the same root as the first syllable of Remaliah, and means again, "lifted up." It was, of course, thus applied to the highlands of Syria as expressive of their topography; but what weighty significance it has as expressive of the moral characteristic of the sphere of the rule of this king. He, the self-willed one, is king of Aram, of those "lifted up"the children of pride.

Thus Rezin, king of Aram, is an excellent prototype of that "prince that shall come" (Dan. 9:27), the Gentile head of the revived Roman Empire in its utter apostasy, and ever, to the end, the ally of Jewish Ben-Remaliah, the false prophetfor pride governs both, and in pride is the bond of relationship between all the discordant elements of evil.