Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Isaiah 8:9-12


Isaiah 8:9-12

from the Amplified Bible

9 "'Make an uproar and be broken in pieces, 
O you peoples [rage, raise the war cry, do your worst, and be utterly dismayed]! 
Give ear, all you [our enemies] of far countries. 
Gird yourselves [for war], and be thrown into consternation! 
Gird yourselves, and be [utterly] dismayed!
10 Take counsel together [against Judah], but it shall come to nought; 
speak the word, but it will not stand, 
for God is with us [Immanuel]!'
11 For the Lord spoke thus to me with His strong hand [upon me], and warned and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people, saying,
12 'Do not call conspiracy [or hard, or holy] all that this people will call conspiracy 
[or hard, or holy]; neither be in fear of what they fear, 
nor [make others afraid and] in dread.'"

I opted for the Amplified Bible's translation of our verses today. The detail included provides great clarity. God is continuing to speak to and through Isaiah, and Judah receives a message of amazing hope. (And, so should we!)

There is a shift in voice with today's passage, in that God is speaking not directly to Judah but to Syria and Israel, and other nations that would make war against Judah in verses 9 and 10. It's a bit of trash-talking, if you will. God says, "Hey, you wanna take on Judah? Sure...get together, plan, organize, rally, call the media, pump yourselves up. Bring it on! Whatever...."

"...Be broken in pieces" (vs. 9); "...It shall come to nought" (vs. 10); ."...It will not stand" (vs. 10). And, the capper: "...For God is with us [Immanuel]!'" Let us remember that there was a very real threat against Judah. We read about this in Chapter 7. King Ahaz was not completely wrong to have concern over the alliance of these powerful nations. God sent Isaiah out to him to speak words of assurance on purpose:

"'Take care and be calm, have no fear and do not be fainthearted because of these two stubs of smoldering firebrands....'"
--Isaiah 7:4 (NASB)

But, we know what happened with Ahaz's decision. Still, Judah receives words of assurance from the prophet in spite of its king's choices, and the stamping out of Syria and the Northern Kingdom by the Assyrians: "For God is with us." This is one of those prophecies that has fulfillment in the earliest of times yet still has yet to be completely fulfilled. No matter who comes to take on God's chosen people, He has said that it will "come to nought," because no power can change God's chosen plan.

"And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us?
And if our God is with us, then what can stand against?
What can stand against?"
--from "Our God," lyrics by Chris Tomlin

Then, in verse 11, Isaiah says that God had worked a mighty thing in him, so that he would be fortified to bring this strong word to Judah. Obviously, the Holy Spirit strengthened as no one on earth could do. My study Bible further explains the difficulties the prophet encountered in carrying out his ministry: "Many in Israel considered Isaiah, Jeremiah and other prophets to be servants of the enemy when they advocated a policy of non-reliance on foreign powers and complete dependence on the Lord alone." When we think it's hard to explain to someone today that God is in control, imagine being a prophet back in the day, approaching the king of a weak nation with a message so contrary to the belief of the time. Even Immanuel fell upon deaf ears!

God didn't just tell Isaiah that this would be tough. He "warned" and "instructed." Just as God would not leave Judah unaided, He would not leave His man in the field unprepared. And, given the political climate and worldview of the day, God knew Isaiah would need some spiritual bolstering.

"Corruption is sometimes so active in the hearts even of good men that they have need to be taught their duty with a strong hand, and it is God’s prerogative to teach so, for he only can give an understanding and overpower the contradiction of unbelief and prejudice. He can teach the heart; and herein none teaches like him."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Verse 12's words to Isaiah from God say, "Do not call conspiracy [or hard, or holy] all that this people will call conspiracy." The King James Version uses 'confederacy' for 'conspiracy'. The Hebrew word is defined as "an (unlawful) alliance, confederacy, conspiracy, treason." [Strong's] Again, Isaiah is told that the word from God is not the "conspiracy" the people will claim it is. What the people are afraid of is not a fear that Isaiah should think twice about, even though it will be a threatening-sounding word to those who will hear it from his lips.

I'm in the midst of a study of Paul right now with my small group at church. We just finished reading Acts, Chapter 19, in which Paul who has been ministering to Ephesus, is kept out of a riotous situation by fellow believers. Demetrius, a silversmith, sees his trade of making idols to the god Artemis coming to ruin with Paul's preaching against other gods. Demetrius begins a public outcry.

"The city was filled with the confusion, and they rushed with one accord into the theater.... So then, some were shouting one thing and some another, for the assembly was in confusion and the majority did not know for what reason they had come together."
--Acts 19: 29 and 32
No doubt, Isaiah felt the undercurrent of Judah's emotional response as he received his message from God not to respond to the threats of its enemies. What kind of riot might ensue, with the throngs joining together, not even knowing why? But the hand of God came upon Isaiah, to reassure and build him up for the challenge--just as surely as an angel had visited saying, "Do not be afraid!" Indeed, if Isaiah was to be effective in reaching Judah's remnant--which was important--he needed not to be "fainthearted" as Judah's king.
"When you are approaching the battle, the priest shall come near and speak to the people. He shall say to them, 'Hear, O Israel, you are approaching the battle against your enemies today. Do not be fainthearted. Do not be afraid, or panic, or tremble before them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.... Then the officers shall speak further to the people and say, ‘Who is the man that is afraid and fainthearted? Let him depart and return to his house, so that he might not make his brothers’ hearts melt like his heart.'"
--Deuteronomy 20: 3, 4 and  8
We'll have to wait quite a few chapters before reading Isaiah's beautiful words about not being faint. But I can close with Jeremiah's words any time:

"'For I know the plans that I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'"
--Jeremiah 29:11

Whom shall I fear?.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Isaiah 8: 13-16

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).

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