The previous article dealt with “The Sign of Isaiah’s Son” (Isaiah 8:1-6), under the headings:
A. Foretelling Destruction of Confederated Syria and Israel by Assyria (1-4).
B. Revealing Desolations Made by Assyria in Israel and Judah (5-8).
1. The sin of distrust and misplaced trust on the part of Judah (5-6), and now,
2. The flood of God’s judgments for these sins. “And therefore (because the people had distrusted God’s protection and had relied on the success of their application for help from one of their enemies), behold, (take note of what is about to come upon you), Adonai brings up upon them the waters of the river, the mighty ones (waters) and the great ones (waters), even the king of Assyria and all his glory, and it shall go up over upon all its channels, and it shall go over all its banks (submerging Israel and finally inundating Judah). And it shall come on against Judah; it shall overwhelm and pass over even to the neck; it shall reach and (there) shall be the expansion of its wings (to) the fulness of the breadth of Thy land, O Immanuel!” (v. 7-8).
Judgment against Syria and Israel is also to extend to Judah, which turned away from the waters of Shiloah, the waters flowing softly in mercy. For this, Judah then will not have the quiet waters of Shiloah, but the mighty, sweeping, damaging waters of the Euphrates. For men who will not have the river which flows from the throne of God will receive the overflowing flood waters of judgment. The world has its Minne-ha-ha, Laughing Water, or its Sault, Dancing Water, but the Church has its Waters of Shiloah. The tiny rill of the gospel should mean more to us than the grand rapids or great powers of the ungodly world. Churning rapids are dangerous, especially when formed by the mad jumble of ecclesiastical streams crammed into one ecumenical channel. It all leads to enslavement under an Assyrian tyrant and all his earthly glory.
But, say modem men, you are behind the times. We have no patience with your waters of quietness, your golden thread of election, or your scarlet thread of atonement and imputed righteousness. We live in a fast-paced age and must keep up with the times. We require more advanced thought in this enlightened age of titanic oil spills at sea, and other grand improvements; and we have discovered that the universe made itself. So we can’ not afford to lag behind the cognoscenti, but must head for an atomic smash, like other people.
But as people of God, we may well wait patiently for Him, knowing, as one man put it, that “the day will come when the worldly-wise will not only be called fools by others, but will confess themselves so in endless despair.”
Now the flood waters are up to the neck. The enemy has gotten Judah (the kingdom of Christ) by the throat. So it is not even a matter of “sink or swim.” Judah is going down. But God can keep the head of the remnant of His people above water. Yet punishment for their despising the Lord and His kingdom is upon them and cannot be avoided. The wings of the Assyrian military shall spread over the breadth of Judah, Thy land, O Immanuel! Where Palestine is said to be Immanuel’s Land we have the assumption and implication of the Messiah’s heavenly origin, His Davidic descent and royal authority. Isaiah prophetically addresses Christ, the promised Messiah, to hold out to the elect remnant a remnant of hope. Their comfort is that He shall yet come, and that in order that He may come, they then must be returned to Immanuel’s Land, where Immanuel must be born, out of Judah’s tribe.
Sweeter sounds than music knows
Charm me in Immanuel’s name;
All her hopes my spirit owes
To His birth and Cross and shame.
God was saying, as Calvin put it, “Nevertheless, the land shall be Thine, O Immanuel; in it Thou shalt have Thy residence and abode.” The land, and the Jews, shall be overrun, but cannot be destroyed until Immanuel, the virgin’s Son, be born there, live there, preach, work miracles, and die there. Isaiah is so refreshed by the name and sight of Christ as to forget all distresses, and in Him “to triumph over Satan and over enemies of every description.” There is comfort in the name Immanuel, God with us, to all who receive the promises of God by faith. For it is only by faith that we know God is with us.
C. Encouraging God’s People in the Destruction (9-22).
1. Their enemies shall not prosper against them. “Be evil (Ger., bose), peoples, and ye shall be broken in pieces, and give ye ear, all from distant lands; gird yourselves (for attack and battle against God’s people), and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves and ye shall be broken in pieces. Counsel ye, counsel, and it shall come to nought (be frustrated); speak a word, and it shall not stand (be carried out); for with us (is) God” (v. 9, 10). Judah’s enemies are destined to fail. Their conspiracies are not the most to be feared (v. 12) Jehovah is to be feared (v. 13). He is for the elect a sanctuary, but for the reprobate a stone of stumbling (v. 14-15).
Here, in v. 9, the heathen nations are addressed. They, the breakers in pieces, shall themselves be broken in pieces. In every age the nations of the world are shivered to pieces on the rock of the Church. The Church, the spiritual Israel, is as a rock, for “God is with us”! The nations surrounding and distant from Israel are evil. Well, then, says God through His prophet, Be evil! as evil as you please! Be bad! Be the worst you’re capable of! You think your might is sovereign and independent? There is no power but of God! But do your worst; you shall be shivered to pieces. Gird yourselves (like a wrestler tightly bound about the waist, like a boxer with hands taped, an athlete with taped wrists, feet, and ankles, or like a hoplite who puts on full armor from head to foot), but you will be shattered to pieces. We, too, have seen our arch-enemy and those enemies, our sins, broken, overthrown, as God had promised it would be, according to the mother-promise (Gen. 3:15). But gird yourselves for the worst you can do in rebellion against God. For all your pain and rage, you will be shattered. For God is just. Do not imagine that He will not punish sin in time as well as in eternity. The records of divine history bear this out. Our first parents, for one sin, were driven out of Eden. The violently wicked world He drowned with a flood. Fire from heaven fell on Sodom. This tells us God is just and will now punish sin. The open mouth of the earth, swallowing up Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, loudly warns you that God will not spare the guilty. The overthrow of Egypt in the Red Sea, the destruction of 185,000 of Sennacherib’s men, tell you God justly judges in time. Is it out of place to say that there are judgments of God also in our days? Many a sinner who boasts himself against the Almighty is broken in pieces. We have seen empires collapse, tyrants fall, despots fade away and the heathen dashed in pieces like a potter’s vessel.
So God says to the Church’s enemies (v. 10), Take counsel all you please, but “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure” (Isaiah 46:10). There is no counsel against the Lord. Who is he that saith, and it cometh to pass, when the Lord commandeth it not? Christ’s Church fights boldly and remains on the field (Calvin). The Church has infallible counsel. The Lord further challenges the enemy: Speak the word (or decree). Make your decrees, but behind them is the decree of God determining whatsoever comes to pass. He works all things according to the counsel of His own will (Eph. 1:11), while the decrees of God’s enemies shall not stand, for—Immanuel! God is with us! God’s enemies exult when things go their way. They despair when things go badly for them. But God’s people are safe in His hands both in good and bad times. The plots, plans, and decrees of the wicked are war against God and His people. But if God be for us, who against us? Their counsels shall be annulled, blotted out, and the hail of the fiery darts of their enemies, too, shall sweep away the refuge of their lies. Enemy waters shall overflow their hiding places (Isaiah 28:17, 18).
“The enemies of the Church of God, and of His people, can never do more than the Lord permits; they cannot go a hair’s breadth beyond the divine license, and when they are ‘permitted’ to do their worst, there is always some weak point about all that they do, some extreme folly which renders their fury vain: The wicked carry about them the weapons of their own destruction, and when they rage most against the Most High, the Lord of all brings out of it good for His people and glory to himself. Judge not ‘Providence in little pieces; it is a grand mosaic, and must be seen as a whole. Say not of any one hour, ‘This is dark,’—it may be so, but that darkness will minister to the light, even as the ebon gloom of midnight makes the stars appear the more effulgent. Trust ye in the Lord for ever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength. His wisdom will undermine the mines of cunning. His skill will overtop the climbings of craft. ‘He taketh the wise in their own craftiness, and the counsel of the froward is carried headlong.'” (C.H. Spurgeon).
2. Their enemies not to be feared, while they take refuge in God (11-14) “For so spoke Jehovah unto me in the being strong of the hand (of God impelling me—Tregelles), and (under the influence of divine inspiration, Ezek. 3:14) dissuaded (disciplined) me from going in the way of this people, saying,” (v. 11). The word of the Lord comes to His people through His prophets, and comes by the separating hand of God, withdrawing His people and His prophets from those who trust in men and ally with the world (God’s enemy). It is dangerous to be allied with unbelief and with those who despise the promises of God. So the prophet and his disciples are protected from the infections of infidelity.