There once was a farmer who lived south of a dam. After a couple of dry years, this farmer decided that the corps of engineers was too slow in releasing water. His land was suffering after all. They didn’t release near enough water and they waited too long to release what little they did. Those stingy corps of engineers folk don’t really know what they’re doing. So, the farmer took it upon himself to blow up the dam. And water was released; a wall of water that swept over and churned up his land. When it comes to water, gentle is better. Maybe when it comes to other things as well.
Isaiah 8:5-10 is an oracle of warning and comfort. The previous oracle makes it clear that Aram and Israel will soon be dealt with. This is important, because the current oracle begins with “adding to that Yahweh said again.” So, this will be a continuance of that theme. Because these people have refused or despised the gently flowing waters of Shiloah they will receive the strong and abundant river. But who are “these people?” Since they exult in Rezin and Pekah, they are most likely Israel. But what is the gently flowing waters of Shiloah. This most likely refers to the aqueduct that carries water from the spring of Sihon. It was a softly flowing water. The picture is a slow and gently moving water. In the context, the picture probably refers to Ahaz’s policy of subservience to Assyria. That is too gentle for Israel; too slow; too passive. They wanted action. So the exulted in Rezin and Pekah, the son of Remaliah. They were doing something. No gently moving along for those two.
Ah, but because they despised God’s gently flowing plan, Adonai was about to bring on or release the mighty and abundant waters of the river. The river most likely refers to the Euphrates. The Euphrates came to symbolize the nation beyond the river – at this time the Assyrians. The king of Assyria will come with all of his wealth and majesty. And like a river he will rise up over his channels and banks. Floods are devastating beasts, aren’t they? Because God’s plan was too gentle; too slow; too soft, they refused it and received the flood instead. This flood will also flow into Judah as well. The waters will reach up to the neck. Well, that’s uncomfortable. And why? After all, Judah is following the gently flowing waters plan. Ahaz, however, was never a good king. He may have been obedient to God in this one thing, but the rest of his reign was one of disobedience and disrespect. The end of chapter 7 reminded Judah that Assyria would plague them. This is another such reminder.
Verse 8 seems to be addressed to Immanuel. The flood will sweep into Judah and reach to the neck – Jerusalem. Its wings will spread over all of the land of Immanuel. What? Several sources try to link this with the Messiah, but this doesn’t make sense to me. Again, Immanuel means “God with us.” If Hezekiah is the initial fulfillment of the Immanuel prophesy of 7:14, then the oracle jumps ahead to his reign and speaks of the Assyrian threat under Sennacherib to destroy the city of Jerusalem (Isaiah 36-37). And this would make good sense. And if this be the case, verses 9-10 places the last part of the oracle in the mouth of Jerusalem. “Be broken, of peoples, and be shattered,” may be, “Associate with, o peoples, and be dismayed.” This may be something like a taunt song. Go ahead and gather yourselves together, but instead of a united front, you will be dismayed. Gird yourselves and prepare for war and yet be dismayed. Plot your plans but it will all be thwarted. Speak out a speech but it cannot stand. And then the final point is “God is with us.” Oh, and this is the name Immanuel. The prophesy of Immanuel stands as more than a promise that Rezin and Pekah will be no more; it also stands as a promise that God will be with them through the flood of Assyria. That flood will reach their necks and much of Judah will be overrun. But Jerusalem will stand. Immanuel! God was with them!
Often impatience leads to rashness. Poor decisions anyone. This is especially true when our impatience grows weary on waiting for God. Sometimes we don’t want God to be a gentle flowing water. We want the river. Well, until that water is a wall that sweeps away our land; our life. The reality is, we want God to be a nice soft aqueduct toward us. Even when we are rebellious and hard hearted. Right? But those other people; those people who are obviously worse than we are; we want God to be a mighty torrential river. But if God is with us, then even if the river rises up to our neck, we will be okay. The plots and plans of the enemy will be dismayed and thwarted. It may be slow and gentle. That’s okay. Trust in God’s water.