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Guest Article: More On Isaiah 7-8 From Rod MacArthur Final Installment

 

 

Be sure to begin reading this at part #1 here. Rod has done a fine job of exegeting Isaiah 7-8!

 

“Hunkering down” until Messiah

In 816–18 Isaiah made a crucial application of this future projection:

Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. And I will wait for Yahweh who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob; I will even look eagerly for Him. Behold, I and the children whom Yah­weh has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from Yahweh of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.

The impact of this echoed through the centuries: from Isaiah until beyond Jesus. Herein is contained the counterpart to the fear that paralyzed Ahaz. Ahaz took a step that plunged the nation into darkness. Isaiah and his disciples were not to fear. They were to trust Yahweh, and keep His law bound up among them. Though Yahweh hid His face, the faithful would wait for the light to shine again. This is the same patience and endurance Jesus expected, as we noted from Matt. 2413, “the one who endures to the end, it is he who will be saved.”

 

This thought, from verse 17, reminds us of Hosea 5. Twice God said, “I am going away, and will not return to them until they repent. Then you’ll eagerly seek for me, and I will raise you up” (Hos. 56, 15; 61–3). All of this clearly referred to the work of Jesus (as is made obvious from Hos. 63 and 1 Cor. 154).

The Hebrews writer (HW) intriguingly applied this passage (Heb. 29–17). He talked about how Jesus came through the grace of God to taste of death for every man. As a result, He was not ashamed to call them brothers. At this point HW cited two Old Covenant references to show the promised relationship between Messiah and His followers. Heb. 812 reads: “I will proclaim my name to My brothers, in the midst of the congregation I will sing Your praise.” That’s Psalm 2222. And Heb. 813 has, “I will put my trust in him”; and again, “Behold, I and the children whom God has given me.” These are from Isa. 817–18.

Thus, HW extended Isaiah’s meaning. He took it as an admonition to hide, keep the Law and hold on to faith until such time as God gave help to the children of Abraham. Verses 12–13 lead naturally into verses 14–16. The “children” (Heb. 213) share in flesh and blood; so He became the same; in order to help the children. Thus, Isaiah looked ahead to the days and work of Jesus. This leads to a solid conclusion: Ahaz’ lack of faith (so typical of the majority) plunged his nation into an outer darkness that would not be dispelled until the time of Jesus. In the interim, one was warned to consult the Law and the testimonies. “My disciples will do that,” said Isaiah (speaking for Messiah). “My disciples will wait through the period of darkness until I’m ready to act. Then, I will die The Death for them and help them out of it.”

The chapter closes with these words, Isa. 819-22:

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? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn. 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

Conversely to disciples whose cry was “to the law and to the testimony,” the non-disciples were consulting “mediums and the wizards who whisper and mutter” (v. 19). Isaiah focused on two choices, which merely echo Moses’ two admonitions: 1) “When you enter the land which Yahweh your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead” (Deut. 189–11); and 2) “Yahweh your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your countrymen, you shall listen to him” (Deut. 1815). In short, the two choices are: either look to God’s Word, or figure it out on your own. Listen to the Living God or consult dead things, and pretend that they talk to you!

By not consulting the law and the testimony, they had no dawn. Isaiah saw a people about to be plunged into darkness, because they were not saying, “Let’s see what God has to say.” They were going to stay in darkness—have no dawn—and pass through the land, hard-pressed and famished. In response to their hunger; they would be enraged and curse their king and their God, as though they were shaking an angry fist (instead of lifting holy hands). All they would see as they looked to the land was distress, gloom and darkness.

This is the “Outer darkness” of Matt. 812 and 2530. This was the kind of darkness, absence of “dawn” or enshrouding in gloom, that could occur on the brightest of sunny days. It was gloom of the heart. It was the absence of spiritual light. It was the utter void of being deprived of God! So great was this darkness that only the Son of God could remove it. (But, that is for the next article.)

Let’s make one final point. As we saw in Isa. 530 and here again in 822; when Assyria invaded, the entire land (earth) was plunged into darkness. Yahweh allowed Assyria to invade because His people refused to trust Him or to follow Him. So He brought darkness. It was darkness which would not be dispelled until the Child was given (Isa. 91–7). When this Child was born, the darkness would begin to be dispelled.

It is interesting to note that the next section (chapters 13–23) shows the impact upon the various nations of this darkness that was starting
to spread. When we get there we’ll see Yahweh’s wondrously simply solution for those nations: Come to Zion.

In one of those prophecies (to Edom, 2111) we read: “One keeps calling to me from Seir, watchman, how far gone is the night? Watchman, how far gone is the night?” In other words, he wondered when the night would be over. The answer came back, “Morning comes but also night. If you would inquire, inquire; come back again.” In other words, when the Assyrian night ended, morning came, but there was yet another night coming. He was told to come back and ask again later.

It seems that with the lifting of the Assyrian threat, there was another one right on the horizon. And we know from Isaiah that Assyria gave way to Babylon. We know from Daniel 2 that Babylon gave way to Medo-Persia, which gave way to Greece, which gave way to Rome. And we know here from Isaiah 9 that the night didn’t actually lift, the dawn did not come until the son was born.

So here we have the concept of the night being introduced. Such a thing as had not happened since Israel departed from Judah, and it was going to continue from about 700 BC until about 70 AD when “the night was almost gone, and the day was at hand” (as Paul said in Rom. 1312). This is why Jesus urged faithfulness to the end (Matt. 2413); the end brought the light!

Summary

Ahaz found himself in a hard place. He was afraid of the pending invasion but he didn’t trust Yahweh. “If you do not believe,” God said to him, “you surely will not last.” In fact, only those who believe Yahweh will last. That’s why Isaiah’s son, Shear-jashub, accompanied him. The remnant of believers: that’s all who would return when God raised up that One born of the virgin. The fear and mistrust that prompted Ahaz to hire the Assyrian may have given him a brief respite (which God would have granted through other means); but it invited a bigger enemy into the area and plunged the covenant land into great darkness. Yet, the Virgin Born Deliverer would come and gather His remnant.

What a gripping picture followed: a horrible “night” with the disciples of Immanuel hunkered down together waiting for the Lord, who was hiding from them at that time, but who would someday give them a Son to dispel their darkness. They needed faith and patience to ride out the storm.

Yahweh is always true and good to those who trust Him—especially during life’s “storms.” 

 

 

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