We are pleased to bring you more of the on-going study of Isaiah from Rod MacArthur. Rod is an excellent Bible student, bringing rich insight to the reader.
This will be a multi-part presentation on Isaiah 7-8. So, enjoy!
Just like Isaiah 1–4 form one prophetic discourse, so also do 7 & 8. They should be taken together as one extended message. Recall from Isa. 6 that a remnant, a tenth portion, would remain. But, that tenth portion remnant would still be subject to burning. I propose that the burning of chapter 6 is none other than the burning of AD 70; long after the Assyrian-Babylonian burning. They were still subject to burning after that return. That’s what John meant in Matt. 3 when he said that the ax was laid at the root and every tree that didn’t bear fruit would be cut down and cast into the fire. The remnant was subject to burning in John’s day. So here we have Isaiah looking beyond the immediate to the ultimate. And that’s of course what Jesus said.
But God used Isaiah’s two sons—Shear-jashub and Maher-shalal-hashbaz—as signs to the house of Israel. The first spoke of the remnant; while the second spoke of the plundering invasion. Chap. 7 promised divine deliverance; while chap. 8 foretold deep darkness which had to come first. Still, it was Immanuel’s land which was under discussion (88). Immanuel’s disciples must trustingly wait (817) for the Light that would penetrate the darkness (91–2).
Sword-rattling by Israel and Syria
Introducing his book, Isaiah’s earlier chapters consist of overview messages, laying a foundation for the entire book. So, in chapter 7 Isaiah began in earnest to deal with current events, starting with the impending threat that Aramea (Damascus) and Israel (Samaria) posed to his nation; Judea (Jerusalem).
We’ll begin with Isa. 71–2
Now it came about in the days of Ahaz, the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Aram and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not conquer it. When it was reported to the house of David, saying, “The Arameans have camped in Ephraim,” his heart and the hearts of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake with the wind.
Throughout this chapter “The house of David” refers to the current king, Ahaz; as well as all who would follow and sit for David on his throne. They told Ahaz, “The Arameans have camped in Ephraim.” It was not the purpose of Aramea to wage war against Israel. Instead, it had come to combine troops with Israel in order to wage war against Jerusalem and Judea. When Ahaz heard that they had joined forces, his heart shook; like the trees of the forest shake in the wind. So also did the hearts of his people tremble. They were afraid.
Isaiah 73–4 begins Isaiah’s commission to Ahaz.
Then Yahweh said to Isaiah, “Go out now to meet Ahaz, you and your son Shear-jashub, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool, on the highway to the fuller’s field and say to him, ‘Take care and becalm, have nofear anddo not be fainthearted because of these two stubs of smolderingfirebrands, on account of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and theson of Remaliah.’”
According to the marginal reading, Shear-jashub means “a remnant shall return.” Thus, when God said, “Go meet Ahaz with your son, ‘A-remnant-shall-return,’ and talk to him”; it was as though he had a living sign standing beside him. And every time anyone would call out to him, “Shear-jashub,” all who heard would hear that fateful portent: only a remnant will return.
The message was simple: Trust Me! “Take care, and be calm and have no fear and do not be fainthearted because of these two mighty kings,” He said. In fact, He didn’t actually say “mighty kings,” though they provoked much fear in all Jerusalem. No, he called them “two stubs of smoldering firebrands.”
Perhaps you haven’t heard this term, but you know what a smoldering firebrand is. Suppose you’ve been sitting around a campfire. As it faded it consumed the sticks that were piled on it. However, the ends of those sticks were left only partially burnt. In fact, the ember on the charred end may still have been smoldering. That’s a firebrand.
An old burnt out stick-stub is useful for nothing. In essence, God told Ahaz that these two kings and their armies were about to be burned up. He had a choice to visualize the mighty encampment or to see the left-over charred wood. He had a choice to trust a promise or act in fear on what he could see. Ahaz was looking at massive armies, but God was seeing little bitty stubs that had been burned up. Before the battle commenced God foresaw up to 90% of the armies dead; with the others wounded, weary and wandering. He built a case for fearless trust.
For which trust, read Isa. 77–9:
Thus says the Lord Yahweh: “It shall not stand nor shall it come to pass. For the head of Aram is Damascus and the head of Damascus is Rezin (now within another 65 years Ephraim will be shattered, so that it is no longer a people), and the head of Ephraim is Samaria and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you will not believe, you surely shall not last.”
Ahaz had those two choices. We know he was frightened, shaking at the aspect of the mounted army that was posturing to come and attack him. He was afraid of them. So choice 1 was: I will believe that God can take care of this and trust him. Or, choice 2 was: I can take matters in my own hand.
Here is a fact: Fear is an indication that one is looking to himself for answers, “I don’t think I can work this out.” If he trusted God, he wouldn’t be afraid. But apart from God he must take it on himself. He relies only on himself, and the situation is bigger than he can handle.
This is the message Isaiah took to meet Ahaz: Don’t fear, trust God. At the same time he stood there with his young son; the sign of a second message: A remnant shall return. Condense it to this simplicity: “If you trust God you’re going to stand; but if you don’t trust God, only a remnant will come back.”