The Word Made Fresh
1Then the LORD told me to take a large tablet and write in large letters, “Belonging to Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz” (“belonging to the one who speeds to the plunder, hurries to the prey”) 2and have it authenticated for me by reliable witnesses; the priest Uriah, and Zechariah son of Jeberechiah.
3Then I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. The LORD said to me, “Name him Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. Before the child knows how to say, ‘my father,’ or ‘my mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and all the spoils of Samaria will be carried away by the king of Assyria.”
5The LORD spoke to me again and said, 6“because these people have refused the gentle waters of Shiloah, and have shrunk in fear before Rezin and the son of Remaliah, 7I will bring against them the rushing flood waters of the River – the king of Assyria and all his might. It shall rise above its banks and overflow, 8sweeping like a flood into Judah as high as the neck and it shall fill the width of your land, Immanuel.
9“So, join together all you peoples, and be dismayed. Listen, all you nations from afar; brace yourselves and be afraid. 10Consult together, but nothing will come of it. Say anything you like, but it won’t matter because God is with us.”
11That is what the LORD said to me with a strong hand upon me, and warned me not to follow the ways of these people. God said, 12“Don’t call a conspiracy everything these people call conspiracy, and don’t fear or worry about what they fear. 13But regard the LORD of hosts as holy. Let the LORD be the one you fear. Let the LORD be the one you dread. 14And the LORD will become a safe place for you, like a stone people foolishly strike against. God will become for both houses of Israel a stumbling block – a trap, a snare for the people of Jerusalem. 15And many of them shall stumble, fall and be broken. Many will be snared and taken.
16“Bind up these words. Seal this teaching among my followers. 17I will wait for the LORD, whose face is hidden from the house of Jacob, and in whom I will place my hope. 18Don’t you see – I and the ones the LORD has given me are signs and warnings in Israel from the LORD of hosts who dwells on Mt. Zion. 19And when people say to you, ‘Make inquiry to the ghosts and other familiar noisy spirits. Shouldn’t people turn to their gods? Shouldn’t the dead be consulted on behalf of the living 20for teaching and instruction?’ Surely, those who say such things will witness scarcely another dawn. 21Oh, they will wander through the land hungry and distressed. When their hunger comes, they will be enraged, and they will curse their king and their gods. They will turn their eyes upward, 22or bow down to the earth, but they will see nothing but distress and darkness and gloom and anguish. And they will be thrown into deep darkness.
1-4: These verses are a follow-up to the passage in the last chapter about the young woman bearing the child Immanuel. Here, however, the young woman is “the prophetess,” and the name of the child is to be “the one who speeds to the spoil and hastens to the prey,” a description of unfolding events that will result in the despoiling of both Samaria and Damascus by the Assyrians. The tablet is inscribed and attested before the birth occurs to prove that Isaiah knew beforehand what was going to happen, and therefore demonstrates that he is indeed a prophet of God. The timeframe is narrower now: the Assyrian conquest will take place by the time the child is able to say “Mama” and “Daddy.” The “prophetess” is understood by most commentators to be Isaiah’s wife or consort, and the child is Isaiah’s child. The paragraph shows that Isaiah knew what was going to happen in the war with Syria and is a word of hope to Judah that Assyria will be their instrument of rescue from the designs of their northern neighbors.
5-10: However, here we have a second description of the advance of Assyria which now is continued into Judah, allowed by God because of the apostasy of the people of Jerusalem. Shiloah was a small stream of potable water that flowed out of a spring known as Gihon in the city of Jerusalem. Here it is used to refer to the line of David, and Isaiah is saying the people have refused to rally behind the king, a descendant of David, and instead have cowered in fear before Rezin king of Damascus and Pekah king of Samaria, the son of Remaliah. In contrast to the little stream that represents David’s line is the mighty River Euphrates, symbolizing the power of Sennacherib, king of Assyria.
11-15: The basic point of these verses is that the inhabitants of Jerusalem are in fear and dread of the wrong thing; they should fear God above all.
16-22: Isaiah is speaking here. Verse 16 reveals that he is the leader of a group of disciples, a statement that has scholars speculating that a school headed by Isaiah was responsible for preserving his sayings and perhaps for the final version of the book we are reading. In verse 18 “the children whom the LORD has given me” is a reference to Shear-Jashub (7:3 — “a remnant shall return”) and Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz (8:2-3 — “the spoil speeds, the prey hastens”). He denounces those who depend on seers to contact dead spirits and on pagan gods to teach them.
So, Isaiah has been chosen by God to teach the people what God wants them to know about events taking place around them as well as afar off in Assyria. God coordinates for us far beyond the horizon we can see. Our job is to trust the LORD and be faithful to the LORD’s will for us. How do we do that? Well, Matthew chapter 5 is a good start.