“Then the Lord said to me, “Take a large tablet and write on it in common characters, ‘Belonging to Maher-shalal-hash-baz.’ 2 And I will get reliable witnesses, Uriah the priest and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah, to attest for me.”
3 And I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. Then the Lord said to me, “Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz; 4 for before the boy knows how to cry ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.”
5 The Lord spoke to me again: 6 “Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently, and rejoice over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, 7 therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks, 8 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, O Immanuel.”
9 Be broken, you peoples, and be shattered; give ear, all you far countries; strap on your armor and be shattered; strap on your armor and be shattered. 10 Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us.” (Isaiah 8:1-10)
Interspersed with many Messianic prophecies within the Book of Isaiah are narrative sections, such as Isaiah 6:1-7. Isaiah 8 begins as a first person narrative account between Isaiah and the LORD. We often see pastors, preachers and evangelists use visual aids to help them in the preaching. Isaiah was to use a visual aid to help secure the prophecy contained in Isaiah 8 within in the minds of his audience, the nation and the king of Judah.
The overall theme and truth contained in Isaiah 8 is that God is always with His people. He never deserts those with whom He is in a covenant relationship. Hebrews 13:5-6 says, “5 Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” 6 So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
The LORD instructed Isaiah to take a large tablet, a placard, poster or sign, and in the people’s language informing them of the coming judgment from the LORD through the Nation of Assyria against the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Two respected leaders in Judah, Uriah and Zechariah, would verify that what the prophet had written was indeed true (Deuteronomy 18:21-22; Jeremiah 28:1-9).
Isaiah used figures of speech in order to illustrate the coming judgment upon Israel in 722 B.C. The primary one Isaiah used was that of overflowing waters. Because Israel allied with Syria, she would be swept away by the mighty floodwaters from the River, a reference for the Euphrates River, which ran in the center of the Assyrian Empire. The king of Assyria (cf. 7:17) would sweep down upon the Northern Kingdom like a river in flood stage overflowing its banks. Amazingly this “Assyrian floodwater,” would continue on into the land of Judah (701 b.c.). Assyria would cover Judah up to the neck, meaning that Judah would be almost, but not quite, drowned.
What is the LORD’s counsel to His people in the predicted judgment? God would be with them and that this judgment from Assyria was not in their own strength. In fact, the LORD warned the Assyrians that they were only an instrument of the LORD. 9 “Be broken, you peoples, and be shattered; give ear, all you far countries; strap on your armor and be shattered; strap on your armor and be shattered. 10 Take counsel together, but it will come to nothing; speak a word, but it will not stand, for God is with us.”
Israel’s sin, and Judah’s as well, was a lack of trust in the LORD. Instead, these two nations chose to trust in political alliances and false gods of their own making. Things have not changed very much since the 8th century B.C.
The phrase “God is with us” again is the Hebrew word Immanuel. Immanuel guaranteed the eventual triumph of His remnant and covenant people, Israel. What was true for 8th century B.C. Israel and Judah is true for God’s people today. He is with us.
Soli deo Gloria!