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Years ago John Kennedy noted, "Every man, woman and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident, or miscalculation, or by madness."
At first, you think that is cold war rhetoric, but you think again, and realize those words are true at every turn. The powers may have changed, but the threat is still there. The end of the cold war didn't bring the promised peace for which we hoped.
We still live in a day of confusion and madness. We go searching for wisdom and knowledge and are overwhelmed by the sheer volume we find. Never has an age been more complicated and confused. We don't know what to believe or who to believe any longer. We play mind games that begin with, "Well, define for me what you mean by . . . " Since when did dictionaries go out of style? Where do you turn for wise counsel this late in the game? Is there a wise counselor who can illumine our way?
There is a sense of pervading gloom and helplessness the world over. Many leaders of the world feel helpless at the rapidly changing political and economic circumstances. Political and economic rules have changed. We feel helpless at bringing about changes in a world gone mad. Is there no one who can give us power and strength to do what we need to do?
There is no sense of security in our world. No one leaves their homes unlocked any more, even in small towns across the nation. We have lost our sense of security. Very few people believe in the justice system. One person with power and money is treated one way, the common man another way. One man lies and commits perjury in a federal court and gets away with it, while thousands of others go to prison. Violence, crime, political intrigue, lack of integrity spell dome to security of the individual. The whole system will break down. Is there not someone who can give us eternal security in a day of insecurity?
We live in a day of restlessness. We have listened to twenty second sound bites, and thirty second commercials so long that we are restless if someone wants to speak to us more than a couple of minutes. We run to another job, a second home, another hobby, another spouse, another toy, etc. We can't stop and enjoy the moment. We get instant boredom because we are restless at the core of our personality. Is there someone who can give us peace? Is there someone to whom we can turn in our crazy mixed up confused, insecure, restless world and find peace?
The Hebrew prophet Isaiah lived in a day of political and
spiritual confusion and madness. Gloom and doom filled the air. There was a
sense of helplessness as the Assyrians knocked on the front door. Like ours,
insecurity and restlessness filled his day. Isaiah chapters seven and eight
opens with a faithless king. King Ahaz of the Southern Kingdom of Judah refused
to put his trust in the Lord God to save Judah from the hands of the Syro–Ephramidic
coalition. Except for the prophets of Yahweh, it was a time of spiritual poverty
THE SIN OF ISRAEL (8:1-22)
Spiritual poverty in Judah
The prophet Isaiah described the spiritual conditions of his day in 8:19, 21–22. "When they say to you, 'Consult the mediums and the spiritists who whisper and mutter,' should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living? . . . They will pass through the land hard–pressed and famished, and it will turn out that when they are hungry, they will be enraged and curse their king and their God as they face upward. Then they will look to the earth, and behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and they will be driven away into darkness."
It was a night without end in Judah. Spiritual darkness penetrated the land. It was a night without morning. These were deeply troubling times filled with crisis and panic. The events in this chapter took place probably after Tiglath–pileser of Assyria invaded Syria and Ephraim in 734–32 B. C. "Gloom" filled the land. The nation was in a state of spiritual darkness and political distress all over the land.
The whole northern region had suffered from the "scorched earth" policy of the invading Assyrians. Northern Galilee which cut across Napthali and Zebulun, especially felt the extreme devastation of the Assyrians.
This spiritual darkness was the result of persistent unbelief. How strange that those who think they are in the light when indeed they dwell in perpetual darkness. Such was the condition of Israel and Judah. Gloom encircled the Promised Land.
Ahaz's stubborn unbelief
During this crisis, the Lord God sent his prophet Isaiah. King Ahaz was busy inspecting the water supply in preparation for another siege by the Assyrians. He walked up to the king with his son Shear–jashub. Isaiah encouraged Ahaz with these words, "Take care and be calm, have no fear and do not be fainthearted because of these two stubs of smoldering firebrands, on account of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and the son of Remaliah" (7:4). His messages were dramatic at a time when the king was struck with panic. "Take care, and be calm, have no fear and do not be fainthearted because of these two pieces of burnt up sticks in which there is a lot of smoke, but no fire. These two sticks are so burnt out that there is not enough left in them to flame up again." Isaiah doesn't even acknowledge Pekah, but calls him "the son of Remaliah," meaning the son of a nobody. Tabeel's name signifies "Good for nothing."
That was probably enough to make Ahaz laugh, but when Isaiah called out the name of his son, Shear-jashub, that probably made him jerk his head. Shear–jashub means, "a remnant shall return." Moreover, if only a remnant, a small group will return from exile, the vast majority will not return. In stark contrast Isaiah's name means "salvation of Yahweh."
God's answer to the crisis was "it shall not come to pass." In less than 65 years, Ephraim will be shattered. It will no longer be a nation. Isaiah tells Ahaz, and if you do not believe this message, you will not last. Isaiah and his son were two witnesses to Ahaz. Yahweh is salvation and only a remnant will return if you don't put your trust in Him. The nation of Judah's whole destiny depends upon her readiness to believe the LORD God. If she and her king believe, they have a future. If not, their doom is sealed and only a small remnant shall return to the land. They will endure only as they continue in faith.
Ahaz already has his mind made up. His stubborn unbelief will not allow him to trust in the LORD. Therefore, the Lord says to him, "As a sign for yourself from the Lord your God: make it deep as Sheol or as high as heaven."
Ahaz persistent in his unbelief refuses and demonstrates pious unbelief. "I will not ask, nor will I test the Lord." Ahaz sounds so spiritual. However, when God proposes a sign it is not a test. Ahaz knows that if he did choose a sign and the LORD did demonstrate Himself he would be under necessity of believing him. He would be held responsible. Ahaz didn't want that kind of pressure. He did not want to be held accountable.
Even today, God has revealed Himself with undeniable signs and testimonies and still men do not believe because they will not. How tragic when it is evident that God is at work in a person's life and he persists in rationalizing his unbelief. We can find ourselves acting just like Ahaz. We make our unbelief sound so pious.
Isaiah's blood begins to boil. God was at work and Ahaz refused to believe it.
Isaiah responds, "You weary my God." Isaiah doesn't say, "your God." He says, "my God." "Listen, O house of David! It is too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well?" Ok, Ahaz if you will not ask for a sign, I will go ahead and give you one anyway. "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel" (7:14).
Ahaz's punishment consisted chiefly in that he never saw any light as to the meaning of the sign Yahweh threatened to give. How dark is spiritual darkness!
An unknown maiden will have a child, but its message reached out to the future to a virgin who would conceive and bear a son. That son by His very character and nature would be Immanuel, "God with us."
The physician Luke, after conducting his interviews and doing his research, quoted Mary when he wrote: "The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.’ Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I am a virgin?’ The angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God’" (Luke 1:30–35). Only in Jesus Christ could that great prophecy of Isaiah be fulfilled.
Some time passes and Isaiah returned to confront Ahaz's unbelief this time with a second son and another message (8:1-8).
Look at the significance of the names in these chapters. There is Isaiah, meaning, "Yahweh is salvation," or Shear–jashub, "a remnant shall return." Now Isaiah walks up with his second son, Maher-shalal-hash-baz! His name means simply, "swift is the booty, speedy is the prey." His name is vivid and filled with action; "speeding to the plunder, hurrying to the spoil." If you don't trust in God for salvation, judgment will be swift, and the only thing that will be left is a small remnant. That should have been enough to awakened Ahaz's faith.
Ahaz you are trusting in the wrong savior (8:13-14, 19-22). Instead of putting your faith in Yahweh you are listening to mediums and spiritists who whisper and mutter. Then he declares, "Should not a people consult their God? Should they consult the dead on behalf of the living?" (8:19).
Where is your faith? In whom are you trusting?
Judah had fallen into a night without morning. It was a time of crisis and panic. Gloom fills the land, and now judgement was coming because of unbelief. "They will pass through the land hard-pressed and famished, and it will turn out that when they are hungry, they will be enraged and curse their king and their God as they face upward. Then they will look to the earth, and behold, distress and darkness, the gloom of anguish; and they will be driven away into darkness."
This kind of darkness is a frightening description of sin. The lost person thinks he is in the light when indeed he dwells in continuous darkness. Spiritual darkness adds to the all–encircling gloom. However, on this background of dark judgment and unbelief is painted a beautiful picture of salvation for a sinful people.
With poetic beauty in verse two the prophet expands on the first suggestion of the coming of the Messiah in 7:14.
"The people who walk in darkness
Will see a great light;
Those who live in a dark land,
The light will shine on them."
God's presence is equated with light in the Bible. "God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5b). The great light that will appear is the Messiah. Seven hundred years later Jesus began His ministry right here in this area of Galilee. Light includes every possible blessing that the age of the Messiah can bring. Jesus stood in the Temple and declared, "I am the light of the world; he who follows Me shall not walk in the darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12).
Do you find yourself groping in blind, spiritual darkness? Our society is reeling from the effects of unfaithfulness to the LORD God. We worship idolatrous images of materialism, and prostitute ourselves to any deity that will make us feel good and give in to our desires and wants. We have lost our hope in this spiritual darkness. The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, "For God, who said, 'Light shall shine out of darkness,' is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ" (2 Corinthians 4:6).
"You shall multiply the nation,
You shall increase their gladness;
They will be glad in Your presence
As with the gladness of harvest,
As men rejoice when they divide the spoil."
Because of the coming of the Messiah, there will be "gladness" and joy before the Lord. Joy exults in Him, His power and His presence. The Lord is the source of their joy.
Do I speak to someone who is covered with a thick cloud of all pervading gloom? Here is hope in the only one who can lift us from our gloom and doom. Even from a Roman prison cell, the Apostle Paul could "rejoice" in his chains. "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4).
Isaiah addresses the cause of the rejoicing. They rejoice because the Lord has broken their chains. He has set them free.
Do I speak to someone who feels like they are bound with chains? Isaiah said, "For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian."
Jesus entered the synagogue in Nazareth and the attendant handed Him a copy of scroll containing Isaiah 61:1 and He began reading it. Luke records the scene in Luke 4:18–19).
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor.
He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives,
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set free those who are oppressed,
To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord."
Do you wonder when will the inner war in your soul will ever end? Listen to the prophet,
"For every boot
of the booted warrior in the battle tumult,
And cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire."
The birth of this child is a gift of God. He is a Child, but He is also a Son. From early time, the Messiah was recognized as son of David, a legitimate heir to David's throne and the Son of God. He will in some significant way appear on the scene as a child and will "be born" as human beings are. Yet, He will "be given." He is a Son par excellence. He is truly unique.
God incarnate! That is the only way it could be accomplished. This is how the Apostle Paul came to understand it. "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation . . . For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him. . . that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory" (Colossians 1:15, 19–20, 26–27). The expected king will be human and divine. He will be God–man. He will have attributes of God and characteristics of man. He is not some grotesque figure of science fiction, but the very perfection of love.
Moreover, this child will occupy a position of dignity––"the government will rest on His shoulders" (Vv. 6b, 7). This child will become a righteous ruler who will fulfil all the expectations of the family of King David (Cf. II Sam. 7:13–16). The Child is to be a King, a Ruler, a Sovereign. However, He will not be merely a human king. Clearly, He is the Messiah, the Anointed of Yahweh. The ancient Jewish Targum explicitly identified this person in Isaiah as the Messiah.
Isaiah describes for us the character of this child.
WONDERFUL COUNSELOR –– Literally He is "wonder of a counselor." He gives comfort and strength throughout time and eternity. The Messiah is Himself a "Wonder." The word refers to what God has done, not man. He is God Himself. This Child is a Wonder. He will rule with unfailing depth of Wisdom. He will not need counselors or a cabinet; He is Himself Counselor. The emphasis of His name is on teachings, character and life. He will be most efficient in planning, formulating action to carry out His plans. He is one counseling wonderful things.
Do you need wisdom in this hour of need? One wag said, "A wise person seeks much counsel. A fool listens to all of it!" Here is the counselor worthy of the name. He doesn't burnout. He is always on call. He is infinite wisdom. Come and humble your heart and listen to Him. Jesus, the Wonderful Counselor, asked, Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?" (Luke 6:46). He is worthy of our loyalty because His counsel goes beyond the human limitations.
Jesus issues an invitation to all who are in need of a wonderful counselor to come to Him. "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy–laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:28–30).
MIGHTY GOD –– He is full omnipotence; El––the strong One. Literally He is, the "God–hero." He is the Mighty God. El gibbor always refers in the Old Testament to God as Absolute Deity. The Messiah is all–powerful, living, true God, omnipotent, omnipresent and omniscient. Christ is the mighty El. Jesus said, "I and the Father are one" (John 10:30). The Messiah is God Himself and He is able to save all who trust in Him. He has nothing less than the full omnipotence of God at His command. What He devised He is able to achieve. Let Jesus Christ be the "Mighty God" in your life.
ETERNAL FATHER –– He is everlastingly a Father. He is loving, paternal, concerned, tender, faithful, wise, guardian, provider and protector. Ps. 103:13, "Just as a father has compassion on his children, So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him."
For those individuals in our day who struggle for a positive father image here is one who is worthy of the name. You can have perfect security in an intimate love relationship with your heavenly Father. The Apostle Paul admonishes us in Romans 8:15–18 with these words: "For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’ The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him." Here is a father worthy of the name who will never leave your or forsake you.
PRINCE OF PEACE –– He rules over His people with peace. The peace He gives is eternal. He is the embodiment of peace, therefore He rules over His redeemed people as a Prince bringing peace. In a post resurrection appearance Jesus said to His disciples, "My peace, I give you." The result of His coming into our hearts by faith is perfect peace. Romans 5:1 reads, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." He gives us His indescribable peace the very moment we put our trust in Him.
The Child to be born is Jesus.
The physician Luke recorded his investigation, "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people, And has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of David His servant" (Luke 1:68-69).
Matthew was writing to Jewish people to share with them the good news of the coming of the Messiah. He began his introduction, "The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham . . . Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, by whom Jesus was born, who is called the Messiah." "Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him . . . ‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’" (Matt. 1:1, 16; 2:1-2, 6).
You can not over look the powerful conclusion drawn by the rabbi Saul of Tarsus, "a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which He promised beforehand through His prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom. 1:1-4).
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Title: Isaiah 9:1-7 Name the Child
Series: Old Testament Bible Studies
Message by Wil Pounds (c) 2008. Anyone is free to use this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold under any circumstances whatsoever without the author's written consent.
Unless otherwise noted “Scripture quotations taken from the NASB." "Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation Used by permission." (www.Lockman.org)
Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://www.bible.org/. All rights reserved.
Wil is a graduate of William Carey University, B. A.; New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, Th. M.; and Azusa Pacific University, M. A. He has pastored in Panama, Ecuador and the U. S, and served for over 20 years as missionary in Ecuador and Honduras. He had a daily expository Bible teaching ministry head in over 100 countries for ten years. He continues to seek opportunities to be personally involved in world missions. Wil and his wife Ann have three grown daughters. He currently serves as a Baptist pastor and teaches seminary extension courses in Honduras.
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