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HE IS THE ONE YOU ARE TO FEAR

Isaiah 8:1-8:22
Key Verse: 8:13

We thank and praise God for the prophecy of Immanuel, which was fulfilled in Jesus. We learned that when we put out trust in Immanuel, God with us, based on the words of God we can stand firm in this world. In chapter 7, God was so patient and humble to help Ahaz, until the Lord himself gave the sign of Immanuel. Chapter 8 is God’s message to Isaiah. Let’s study this passage with the title “He is the one you are to fear.”

First, “O Immanuel” (1-10). Look at verse 1. “The LORD said to me, ‘Take a large scroll and write on it with an ordinary pen: ‘Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz.” What an interesting direction! In NASB “with an ordinary pen” is “in ordinary letters.” God wanted to make it sure that all can read the words “Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz” which means “quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil.” Writing on a large scroll with ordinary letters is not enough. He said in verse 2. “And I will call in Uriah the priest and Zechariah son of Jeberekiah as reliable witnesses for me.” The prophecy was not only to be recorded, but also attested by two witnesses. When we refer to 2 King 16:1-16 and 18:2, Uriah and Zechariah were close and reliable to King Ahaz. Without excuse, Ahaz also had to read this message.

Look at verse 3. “Then I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the LORD said to me, ‘Name him Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz.’” In MSG, “Then I went home to my wife, the prophetess…” Now the name of this son of Isaiah would be “Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz.” This message would not be a one-time message, but one lasting the duration of his son’s lifetime . Again, we see God’s shepherd heart for them, especially for Ahaz. God was trying to help one man even through the devotion of the whole family.

Look at verse 4. “Before the boy knows how to say, ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria will be carried off by the king of Assyria.” This is the interpretation of the words, “quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil,” Destruction would come to Damascus and Samaria very quickly and swiftly, even in a year. We can sense that God became hurried with urgency to announce the impending judgment that would come upon Damascus and Samaritan and then consecutively on Judah. It was so that his people might be aware of it and turn to God.

Then what is God’s next message to Isaiah? Look at verses 5-8. “The LORD spoke to me again: ‘Because this people has rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah and rejoices over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, therefore the Lord is about to bring against them the mighty floodwaters of the River the king of Assyria with all his pomp. It will overflow all its channels, run over all its banks and sweep on into Judah, swirling over it, passing through it and reaching up to the neck. Its outstretched wings will cover the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.” When God brought destruction to Damascus and Samaria according to his prophecy, it was the time of relief and joy to the people of Judah. But they could not think that their turn would come to them when they did not turn to God. They just rejoiced over Rezin and the son of Remaliah rejecting the gently flowing waters of Shiloah, God’s tender and patient care that gave them the sign of Immanuel. Then God would bring against them the mighty floodwaters of the River Euphates, that is the king of Assyria with all his pomp. Then what would happen at the mighty floodwaters of the River? It would overflow all its channels, run over all its banks and sweep on into Judah, swirling over it, passing through it and reaching up to the neck. The metaphor vividly showed how the mighty floodwaters would come to Judah. Its outspread wings would cover the breadth of the land. Then it seemed that no one could escape the floodwaters, even one. But surprisingly the judgment message of God ends with “O Immanuel!” It is truly amazing. The end is not, “O disaster!” “O What a ruin!” No. It is “O Immanuel!” The LORD himself said to Isaiah, “O Immanuel!” It is surely the message of hope imbedded in the message of judgment. Even in the prophecy of judgment God is still Immanuel, God with us. In Immanuel the wings of the might floodwaters can be turned into the wings of the grace of the LORD Almighty.

Proverbs 3:11,12 says, “My son, do not despise the LORD’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke, because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.” God wants us to know that Immanuel is both the God who comforts and the God who disciplines us. Exodus 19:4 says, “You yourself have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.” Being carried on eagles’ wings seemed to be fun. However, when we think about how God led the Israelites in the desert, it was the time of tough discipline because of their slave mentality. Whenever they faced hardships, they missed their slavery life and wanted to go back to Egypt, where they could at least eat three meals a day although it was a miserable life. But God bore with them forty years in the desert disciplining them so that they might be a strong people and a holy nation that belongs to him. Deuteronomy 32:11 says, “like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions.” When an eagle makes a nest for its young, it uses briers and thorns, not straw, and then put animal skins and fur. When the time comes to be trained, its young do not want to come out of the nest, because the nest is so comfy. Then the eagle takes away the soft leather and fur so that only the briers and thorns remain in the nest. Its young cannot stay there anymore being pricked by the thorns, but has to come out and receive soaring training. In this training, an eagle carries its young on the wings high in the air and drops them off, and when they are about to touch the ground, it catches them and carries them on its pinions. Through the repetition of this training the young become kings of the birds. In the similar way God carried the Israelites on eagles’ wings and brought them to himself. God wants us to be aware of Immanuel both in favourable times and unfavourable so that we can be the people he intended us to be.

After hearing God’s message of dreadful judgment, Isaiah was not discouraged or despairing. “O Immanuel!” Rather he became encouraged and victorious. “O Immanuel!” must have moved his heart. Look at verses 9-10. “Raise the war cry, you nations, and be shattered! Listen, all you distant lands. Prepare for battle, and be shattered! Prepare for battle, and be shattered! Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted; propose your plan, but it will not stand, for God is with us.” Here we are reminded of Romans 8:31, “…If God is for us, who can be against us?” We can be victorious in any situation because of Immanuel.

Second, Fear God (12-25). Now God gives a personal message to Isaiah. Look at verse 11. “The LORD spoke to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people.” In verse 10 Isaiah believed that they would be victorious over the nations, confessing, “God is with us” Yet, it would not be easy for him to overcome the way of the people of his generation. So with his strong hand upon Isaiah God warned Isaiah not to follow the way of this people, who rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah. In this part we learn how to live our practical life as we believe Immanuel, God with us.

Look at verse 12. “Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.” As we studied in chapter 7, at that time King Ahaz planned to get aid from the king of Assyria. So they considered everything that did not follow the king’s policy conspiracy, for it was treason to them. However, people had to know what was really conspiracy. The real conspiracy is to be unfaithful to God and reject God’s plan and his way of help. When they rejected God, they became very sensitive to what others spoke and what was going on. In their relationship with others nothing was sure. So they could not actually trust anyone and anything. In distrust their hearts were fearful. When their hearts were fearful, they feared everything, especially what would come to them in the near future. But God said, “Do not fear what they fear and do not dread it.” What they fear is not worth fearing. Then what is truly worthy of our fearing? Look at verse 13. “The LORD Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread.” The LORD Almighty is holy, so is different from all other gods and his creatures. As the LORD Almighty he is in control over all power and authority and anything and any nation in the world. All the futures are in his hand. Isaiah wrote in 40:15,17, “Surely the nations are like a drop in bucket; they are regarded a dust on the scales;…Before him all the nations are as nothing; they are regarded by him as worthless and less than nothing.” He wrote further, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff” (Isa 40:21-24). The LORD Almighty is truly holy and magnificent. He is truly he is the one we are to fear; he is the one we are to dread. When we regard him as holy and fear him, we can depend on him. When Mary realized that she would be the mother of Jesus, a song of praise came out of her soul. She said, “My soul glorifies the Lord…From now on all generations call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.” It has been true from generation to generation that his mercy extends to those who fear him.

Several days before his death Jesus said about the signs of the end of the age: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be great earthquake, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven…There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world…” (Lk 21:25-26). In our times there are many things that make people worry a lot and become fearful as such climate change, global recession, verichips, etc. But the words of God speaks to us, “Do not fear what they fear…The LORD Almighty is the one you are to fear.” When we fear the LORD Almighty, we can overcome the fear of this world and all other fears. The fear of the Lord is the key. So Isaiah 33:6 says, “He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.”

Look at verse 14. “and he will be a sanctuary…” What a grace! A sanctuary is a holy place, different from any other places in the world. Even if the world is corrupted, he will be a sanctuary. It is a hiding place. It is the place where one can find refuge. He himself will be sanctuary. Whenever fear of the world assails us, we can come to him and he can take away our fear and keep us safe. David confessed in Psalm again and again (more than 30 times) that the LORD is the refuge. He said, in Psalm 9:9, “The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in time of trouble,” and in 59:16, “…you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble.” And Proverbs 14:26 says, “Whoever fears the LORD has a secure fortress, and for their children it will be a refuge.”

Look at verses 14b-15. “…but for both houses of Israel he will be a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall. And for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare. Many of them will stumble; they will fall and be broken, they will be snared and captured.” We also should not water down this message.

Look at verse 16. “Bind up the testimony and seal up the law among my disciples.” Here we see the prophet Isaiah’s personal direction at a time when the people rejected the LORD Almighty and were swayed by the situations of the world. When he feared the LORD, he could know what to do in such a generation. He knew that the testimony and the law as very precious. He would not stop teaching the words of the LORD because of people’s rejection. When people rejected the LORD and his words, he would concentrate on teaching the words to his disciples and raising them up. In NLT 8:16 is written, “Preserve the teaching of God; entrust his instructions to those who follow me.”

Look at verse 17. “I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob. I will put my trust in him.” In doing the work of God he would not do it by himself, going ahead of the LORD. At each time he would wait for the LORD to reveal himself and guide him. He would put his trust in God, however difficult the work and life situations would be.

Look at verse 18. “Here am I, and the children the LORD has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the LORD Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion.” He made it clear that the LORD had given him the children for a purpose. He knew who they were before God. They were called to be sign and symbols of the LORD that could signify and represent God in that generation. Through them people would be warned and find hope in God (warning signs and hope signs in MSG). His family was an exemplary family who feared God and served the generation together in God.

In verses 19-22, we can see what the people of Isaiah’s time were like. Look at verse 19. “When men tell you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living?” When they rejected the LORD Almighty their God, they became so senseless and desperate that they consulted mediums and spiritists, the dead for the living. Apart from the testimony and the law, which are the words of the LORD, there would be no words that give light and life to men (20). When they could not hear the word of the LORD, what would happen to them? Look at verses 21,22. “Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.” This is the pitiful condition of those who reject the LORD. They are marked with distress, hunger, roaming, enragement, cursing, darkness, and fearful gloom. They will be thrust into utter darkness. There cannot be any solution in their politics, religion and the created world.

In this study we learn that there is always hope in Immanuel and the LORD Almighty is the one we are to fear. With this hope and reverent fear may we overcome ourselves and our generation and serve the LORD as Isaiah did in his time.

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