The other day, my wife and I took our grandchildren to Fort Lincoln State Park. One of the things in this park to see is an On-the-Slant Village. It is a replica of how the Mandan Native Americans used to live. The dwelling places were mounds constructed with wood and covered with earth. Our grandson was a little hesitant to enter. But he held my hand and went in. But then his fear overwhelmed him and he wanted me to pick him up. So, I did. And I soothingly told him, “It’s just a house. Look. It’s just a house.” But fear still clung to him as he clung to me. But I think in that moment, even though he was afraid, he trusted his Papa. He didn’t scream to get out. He didn’t run away from me. And because he trusted his Papa, he was able to endure through the situation. And eventually, when he saw his sister pretending to grind grain, he was able to get down. Sometimes, our situation may change; relief may come. But sometimes it doesn’t. Terminal illnesses sometimes end terminally. The question is who do you cling to in the midst of the crisis.
Isaiah 8:1-4 is basically the same prophecy as that of 7:10-16: Israel and Aram will cease to be a threat. The oracle of 7:10-16 was delivered to Ahaz. This one is for the people. Well, technically, they are both for all of Judah, but Ahaz was the prime recipient of the first oracle. Okay. Isaiah is told to take a large tablet. A tablet may have been wood, clay, or leather. Isaiah is to write will a stylus of humankind. Well, what? Most likely the point is to write in the language of the people. This message is for the common person. Habakkuk 2:2 is similar. There the prophet is told to write the vision on a tablet “that the one who reads it may run.” Make it easy enough so that the person who is running can read and understand. This oracle is not delivered to the court. It is not primarily for the leaders; the decision makers. Like the leaders, the people are terrified of the immediate threat, which is Aram and Israel – Rezin and Pekah. So, Isaiah is commanded to write down a name: Maher-shalal-hash-baz. The name has a prefix attached to it that usually indicates ownership. In this context it probably means something like “in relation to” or “of.” So the message on the tablet is “In relation to Maher-shalal-hash-baz.” And as is often the case, especially in Isaiah, the name has meaning: “hurried is the plunder, make haste the spoil.”
Then God said, “I will bear witness to myself with those who are confirming as a testimony.” The word “faithful” can mean “to confirm.” And this may make better since. We may not be able to describe the people named as faithful. Is this Uriah the same priest mentioned in 2 Kings 16:10-16 who was commissioned by Ahaz to build a Damascus style altar in the temple? It seems likely. His name means “Yahweh is light.” Ah, but he is willing to build a pagan altar in the temple. Well, that doesn’t seem faithful. The second person was Zechariah (“Yahweh has remembered”). In 2 Kings 18:2 we are told that Zechariah is the name of Ahaz’s father-in-law; Hezekiah’s grandfather. What is important here, is that God provides two witnesses. In Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15 we are told that two or more witnesses were necessary. This is all about confirming the prophecy. This will be important when the oracle comes to pass.
Isaiah then draws near to the prophetess and she conceives and gives birth to a baby boy. Most agree that the prophetess was Isaiah’s wife. There are four other prophetesses named in the Old Testament: Miriam (Exodus 15:20), Deborah (Judges 4:4), Huldah (2 Kings 22:14), and Noadiah (Nehemiah 6:14 – she was a false prophetess). We are not told much about Isaiah’s wife. She was a proclaimer of the divine message. She probably was aware of the significance of the birth of this son. The son is named Maher-shalal-hash-baz. Before this child can cry out “my father” or “my mother,” Damascus will be plundered (732 BC) and Samaria will be robbed (733 BC). This is sooner than the sign given to Ahaz. A child is able to say “my father” much sooner than they can refuse evil and choose good. So, this prophecy was delivered at a later time. Immanuel has already been born. From the inception of this prophecy till its fulfillment a year and nine months have passed. Looking back that is a blip in history.
What are you afraid of? Recession? Loss of freedom? War? Assyria was the bigger threat, but Aram and Israel were more immediate. But really, it was Yahweh that Judah should have feared. It was because of their disobedience that God whistled for Assyria to come plague them in the first place. There are no guarantees in this life. Will the situation change? Will it pass? Maybe. But maybe not. The real question is not will it pass. The real question is who do you trust in the midst of the situation? No matter how it seems, God is sovereign; God is in control. Fear and trust in him. Shalom.