Wednesday, July 12, 2023

2023.07.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Read Isaiah 7:1–9:7

Read Isaiah 7:1–9:7

Questions from the Scripture text: In whose days does this take place (Isaiah 7:1)? Who go where to make war against them? With what success? What is Ahaz’s house called in Isaiah 7:2? What were they told? With what response? Who speaks to whom in Isaiah 7:3? Whom does Yahweh say to meet? With whom? Where? What does Yahweh say not to do (Isaiah 7:4)? Why will He defend Judah (Isaiah 7:5-6)? What does Yahweh say of their plans (Isaiah 7:7)? What fate will Syria and Ephraim (Israel) suffer, on account of their leaders in their capital cities (Isaiah 7:8-9)? What will happen to Ahaz (and, by extension, Jerusalem and Judah) if he does not believe? What does Yahweh command Ahaz to do in Isaiah 7:10-11? How does Ahaz (supposedly piously) respond (Isaiah 7:12)? But what does Yahweh think of this religiously rationalized disobedience (Isaiah 7:13)? What sign does Yahweh choose instead (Isaiah 7:14)? What will the virgin call her son? What will he reach the age of eating (Isaiah 7:15)? What will he reach the age of reasoning? But what will happen to Israel and Syria before then (Isaiah 7:16)? How (Isaiah 7:17)? And who will begin to shave Judah clean, also, at that time (Isaiah 7:18-20)? What will they have to live off of (Isaiah 7:21-22)? Why not off of crops (Isaiah 7:23-25)? What was Isaiah to take in Isaiah 8:1? And write what quadruple name on it? Who will witness this (Isaiah 8:2)? To whom does Isaiah go in Isaiah 8:3? What does she do? Who picks the name for the son? Why this name (Isaiah 8:4)? To whom does Yahweh speak in Isaiah 8:5? Who have Judah rejoiced in instead of the Lord (Isaiah 8:6)? Whom will the Lord bring upon them for having put their trust in the northern kingdom (Isaiah 8:7-8)? How does the virgin’s son’s name testify against all three peoples (Isaiah 8:9-10)? In what manner does Yahweh now speak to Isaiah (Isaiah 8:11)? What was Ahaz trying to form with Assyria, from which Isaiah was to distance himself (Isaiah 8:12a–b)? What mustn’t he fear when opposing king and people (verse 12c)? Whom should he fear instead (Isaiah 8:13)? What will Yahweh be to Isaiah (Isaiah 8:14)? But what to Israel and Judah? What will happen to many of them (Isaiah 8:15)? What is Isaiah to affirm and protect with those whom he instructs (Isaiah 8:16)? Upon whom is he to wait with them (Isaiah 8:17)? To Whom does he present himself and them (Isaiah 8:18)? What about the people trying to seek spiritual knowledge or power some other way (Isaiah 8:19)? Where, alone, must they seek it (Isaiah 8:20)? How much light do they have without it? What will the one who goes to superstitions instead of the Lord go through (Isaiah 8:21-22)? Where will Assyria bring its darkness first (Isaiah 9:1)? But the what also will be seen there (Isaiah 9:2)? How big will the remnant ultimately be (Isaiah 9:3)? And what will be their experience (verse 3)? Why will they be so glad (Isaiah 9:4)? What will they have to do with the vast amount of spoil (Isaiah 9:5)? How does this multiplication, joy, and victory come about (Isaiah 9:6)? What do we learn about the King by His multi-faceted Name? How long will this last (Isaiah 9:7)? From whose line will He come? What sort of reign will this be? How can all of this come about?

What hope is there against great enemies and even against our own sin? Isaiah 7:1–9:7 looks forward to the first serial reading in morning public worship on the coming Lord’s Day. In these fifty-four verses of Holy Scripture, the Holy Spirit teaches us that Christ alone is the forever-King Who is righteous before God and redeems a remnant whom He makes righteous like Himself. 

We have quite a large portion of text today, because this is really all one section in the book of Isaiah. On the whole, chapters 6–12 are dealing with the coming King, as He is necessitated by, and pointed to by, what is currently occurring in Judah and Israel. Isaiah 7:1–9:7 cover God’s dealings with Judah in the south. Then Isaiah 9:8–11:16 parallel them, but this time in His dealings with Israel in the north. Then, there is a closing hymn (chapter 12) making personal/individual application of this promised salvation. For today, we see how Ahaz’s anxiety, self-reliance, and false spirituality necessitate the coming of the true Forever-King.

Circumstances that threaten to move our hearts (Isaiah 7:1–9). Fear can take our hearts off of trust in the Lord and devotion to Him. Even though he was “the house of David,” the threat of an alliance against him, between Syria and Israel, moved Ahaz’s and the people’s heart “as the trees of the woods are moved with wind” (Isaiah 7:2). So the Lord sends Isaiah and his oddly named son (“Remnant Returns”) to rebuke the king for this anxiety (Isaiah 7:4) and inform him that he is about to make the same mistake as Syria and Ephraim (the northern kingdom, often called Israel, or by its capital city, Samaria). They have disregarded that the most important, practical reality that is exists is  God Himself, and God will crush their plans, but if Ahaz disregards God by anxiety, then he and his plans will not be established either (Isaiah 7:6-9).

The false spirituality that threatens to destroy our houses (Isaiah 7:10–8:8). People make all sorts of spiritual-sounding excuses for not obeying the Lord. They excuse their laxity in using God’s means or obeying God’s law by saying they “have a relationship not a religion.” Or by saying that they are “letting go and letting God.” Or because “they wouldn’t be sincere enough yet (as if that will ever be true in this life!) and want their service or obedience to come from sincerity.” As we’ve been seeing in Romans, the logic of the flesh can use the language of the Bible, but it always boils down to the same thing: not doing what God says, and blaming God Himself for our not doing it. Dreadful!

This is what is going on in Isaiah 7:10-13. Yahweh gives Ahaz a direct command to ask for a sign that He will defeat Syria and Ephraim (Isaiah 7:10-11), but Ahaz refuses on spiritual grounds (Isaiah 7:12). He even does it in overly dramatic fashion (verse 12), which is often the case with those whose spirituality is bursts of sensationalism or sentimentality, rather than steady faith and obedience. Rather than be impressed with Ahaz’s piety, the Lord is simply offended by his disobedience (Isaiah 7:13). 

So the Lord gives him a sign now not of Syria and Ephraim’s destruction, but of Judah’s own destruction! To affirm this, a virgin will bear a son (Isaiah 7:14), and the destruction that this son affirms will come upon Syria and Ephraim by the time the son is old enough to each cheese and act rationally (Isaiah 7:15-16). But the Lord will also bring Assyria (whom Ahaz was trusting in instead of the Lord, cf. 2 Kings 16:7–9) to punish Judah devastatingly (Isaiah 7:17-25).

Immanuel. God is with us. But if He is with us while we disobey Him and trust in others, He will be “with” us by way of the rod of His wrath. And in the symmetrical wisdom and justice of His providence, whatever we have hoped in instead of Him, He will make the instrument of our suffering.

What is needed is a King in Whom, and for Whom, God is with us as the One perfectly to be obeyed and entirely to be trusted. Ahaz is of the house of David (Isaiah 7:2Isaiah 7:13Isaiah 7:17), but the promised King is not Ahaz but one who will be according to the name of the son of the sign. 

At this point, another son is born, with the same purpose: to show how foolish it was for Ahaz and Judah to be so afraid of Syria and Ephraim. Before the child speaks his first words (Isaiah 8:4, a much earlier age than weaning in that culture), the threat that had frightened them so much will be gone. By the birth of the new son, the Immanuel child’s name is “freed” to refer only to the future King. This new prophecy-child is a much more blunt reference to what Assyria is about to do: “Speed-Soil-Haste-Booty” (Isaiah 8:1–3). But the king of Assyria won’t be stopping up north; thanks to Ahaz’s unbelief and disobedience, he will move right along to despoil Judah as well (Isaiah 8:6–8). 

The steady confidence and obedience that characterize God’s remnant  (Isaiah 8:9–22). Not everyone will be like Ahaz and the majority of the church in his day. There will be those who do not fear the alliances of other men (Isaiah 8:9–10) or trust in alliances of their own (Isaiah 8:12), but they will join Isaiah (Isaiah 8:11) in fearing (Isaiah 8:13) and trusting (Isaiah 8:14a) God alone. 

Israel as a whole stumbles over this salvation by faith in God’s Immanuel (Isaiah 8:14-15, cf. Romans 9:31–33), but there are those whose only hope, and sure hope, is “God with us” (Isaiah 8:10c). Trusting in their own works at the time of Jesus and Paul was just a new variation upon the theme of Israel’s trusting in man—whether Ahaz’s political/military maneuverings or even their own “charismatic” movement that looked for man’s sensationalism (Isaiah 8:19) even over God’s actual miraculous provision in Christ. But their self-made hope in the king, and self-made way of “approaching God” will fail them, and they will curse their former hopes (Isaiah 8:21) as they suffer the consequences (v22).

The same continues in the churches whose approach to increasing in number is by what they think will draw people in, or whose approach to improving performance is by techniques of men instead of means of grace, or whose idea of worship is what feels spiritual instead of what God has commanded. All of these are stumblings over the rock of offense.

On the contrary, God’s remnant sticks only to the Scripture (Isaiah 8:20). They see no dawn, no beginning or ray of light, except whatever is in the Bible. If we belong to Immanuel, let His perfect obedience and trust be our worthiness and hope before God, and let us seek to be conformed to Him in how we respond to the reality that God is with us in our lives. Let us walk with God steadily, in the way that He has commanded, rather than trusting our wits in lives, which we punctuate with outbursts of what feels spiritual to us.

The Immanuel to come (Isaiah 9:1–7). With his brother “Speed-Soil-Haste-Booty” having taken over the role of “indicator of what Assyria is about to do,” there is still the ultimate question of what will come of the House of David. The promise of 2 Samuel 7:12–16 stands over-against the likes of Ahaz. Upon whose shoulder will the government be? How will David’s throne and kingdom finally have a forever-king upon it? 

Salvation will come to the unexpected. Zebulun and Naphtali were the least among Israel, intermixed with Gentiles, and would have been the first upon whom the darkness of Assyria descended (Isaiah 9:1-2, cf. Isaiah 8:22). But God’s ways are not like ours. Ahaz assessed things by relative human strength. God’s strength to save is displayed especially in weakness! So this is precisely where the great light shines (Isaiah 9:2). This comes literally true in the One Who still identifies Himself as from Nazareth, even sitting upon the throne of glory (cf. Acts 22:8)! 

And His salvation has come not only to these “second-class” Israelites (Samaria) but even to the Gentiles (nations) themselves (the ends of the earth). Thus the “remnant” from before is now a multitude in Isaiah 9:3. And it is not just their number but their joy that has increased. The deliverance is pictured by metaphor where the spoils of war are now not being taken away by Assyria, but stacked neatly outside the homes of God’s redeemed people. There will be no need for firewood, when there is such an abundance of yokes, staffs, rods, sandals, and battle-clothing (Isaiah 9:4-5). 

How will this unexpectedly broad, unexpectedly great, salvation come? This section of oddly named children—Remnant-Returns, God-with-Us, and Speed-Soil-Haste-Booty—concludes with another Son. When He finally comes, we learn that He too must be born of a virgin. But that will be more than a miraculous sign of a great work of God; it will be necessary for His spotlessness because of His identity as Wonderful (the God Whom Manoah met, cf. Judges 13:18), Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Several of these are already obviously divine names. By the time Christ has come, and the Spirit has given us the rest of Holy Scripture, we find that every single one of them is a divine Name! 

Yahweh is zealous to keep His promise of a Forever-King to David, zealous to fulfill His plan of redemption that drives all of history. He is redeeming for Himself a people who will hallow Him, fear Him, trust Him, and obey Him in steady faithfulness and exceeding joy. And His zeal will accomplish this in Jesus Christ! 

Are you among the remnant-multitude? Is your King’s obeying God and trusting God your own worthiness and hope before God? Are you being conformed to Him in your own trust and obedience? 

Sample prayer:  Lord, forgive us for being anxious like Ahaz. Forgive us for hoping in our own efforts. Forgive us for being impressed with manmade spirituality. Consider us in Christ, Who has trusted in You perfectly. And receive us as He represents us, saying “behold I and the children whom You have given Me.” For, we are Yours in Christ, and we come to You through Him alone, AMEN!

Suggested songs: ARP130 “LORD, from the Depths to You I Cried” or TPH434 “A Debtor to Mercy Alone” 

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