A Bound up Testimony

Proclaiming a word from God should not be easy. I am not a prophet in the Old Testament sense of the word. Hebrews 1:1-2 makes it pretty clear that in times past God spoke through the prophets but now he speaks through the son – through Jesus. So, the men and women of God who were given a “Thus says Yahweh” message relevant to specific realities are no longer the means of communication. We have the complete message we need all wrapped up in Jesus. However, the word “prophet” both in the Hebrew and the Greek means “one who interprets and proclaims a divine message.” In this basic meaning of the word, I am a prophet. So is everyone who utters a word about the Word. And that should not be easy. We are not called to tickle ears. Sometimes the message of God is difficult and uncomfortable calling out sin and judgment. It is often not what people want to hear. So much so that they become blind and deaf to any Word of Yahweh that stabs at their hearts. Ah, but that doesn’t render the Vision powerless.

In Isaiah 8:16-18 is a vision of hiding. Isaiah cries out “Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.” This terse statement has, of course, generated a lot of conversation. Many will compare this to Daniel 12 where Daniel is commanded to seal up his vision until the end of times. The truth is that the symbol of a book being sealed may have a different meaning in Isaiah than it does in Daniel. Isaiah 29:11-12 talks about the entire vision being like a sealed book. The literate cannot read it because it is sealed. Some take this to mean that it is sealed as evidence of its truth when the events prophesied actually take place. But what if it has a similar intent found in chapter 6 where God tells Isaiah that the vision is a call to “keep on listening, but do not perceive; keep on looking, but do not understand”? One source compared the binding and the sealing of this testimony (a rare word) and torah as a tying the message of God up in a purse. Maybe the point is that for the hard-hearted people, the message is bound up; tucked away into a purse they cannot and don’t want to penatrate. Ah, but Isaiah has students who will understand; who will keep and protect it. It is a difficult message that many do not want to hear. But that does not steal it of its power. It is a Word of Yahweh after all.

Then Isaiah states that he will wait for Yahweh who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob. Waiting for Yahweh is found in several psalms of trust (25:2, 5,21; 27:14; 130:5) but the idea of eagerly waiting for Yahweh’s message to be fulfilled, even a message of judgment against Judah, is found in Habakkuk 3:1-3. As terrible as the message is, it will not fail. Both Isaiah and Habakkuk are stationing themselves as watchmen eagerly waiting on the judgment of God. The eagerness is most likely not about the excitement for judgment, but again, for the fulfillment of God’s word. The favor of Yahweh is concealed from the house of Jacob. Again, there is no reason to believe that this refers to the southern kingdom. Israel, in rebellion to God’s message, has joined forces with Aram. Because of this Yahweh’s face, his favor, is concealed from them. And that, boys and girls, is not a pleasant thing. Israel’s punishment is sure. The only thing to do now, is to wait for it to happen. Isaiah is the watchman who has delivered his message.

“Behold” calls attention to a truth. Isaiah, which means “salvation of Yahweh,” and his sons are signs and wonders in Israel. Shear-jashub, means “a remnant will return.” It is a message of comfort to Ahaz and Judah. But it is also a message to Israel – God has chosen Judah. Maher-shalal-hash-baz means “swift is the booty, speedy is the prey.” Israel and Aram will be dealt with swiftly. So, the meanings of the names of Isaiah and his children are the sign. Even though “wonder” can refer to a display of God’s power, it can also refer to a token of a future event. There is nothing miraculous in the name of these children. But their names are signs and tokens of what Yahweh of Armies is telling Israel – Yahweh, who abides in Mount Zion. There really ought to be some impressively holy music playing when you read Mount Zion. It was an important concept to the exilic and postexilic prophets. And this is a symbol as well. Israel is receiving judgment and Jerusalem is where Yahweh of Armies resides. The choice has been made. Because the temple is in Jerusalem, they will be spared. Also, Ahaz is willing to follow God’s plan of submission and Israel was not. It is not an easy message. It is not meant to be. It is the same for us today. If there is salvation, there must of necessity be something to be saved from. People won’t want to hear it. Preach it anyway. It is Yahweh’s word. And it is good.