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We are still in the section of chapters 7-9 where the promise of Immanuel from 7:14 is prominent:“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign; Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” We have seen that the precious meaning of that name for the Messiah is “God with us.” This precious promise and sign bypassed King Ahaz who chose to reject faith in the God of the covenant and align himself with the political arm of the flesh – the power of the pagan nation of Assyria. Ahaz feared the powers of Syria and Israel which were intending to defeat Judah and install a puppet king to control that land. Ahaz should have feared the God who had demonstrated His faithfulness in the past to His beloved people. So in our text today, the Lord is going to give Ahaz a different sign – that of Mahershalalhashbaz = “Swift is the booty, speedy is the prey.”

We are going to concentrate today on the contrast between trusting in the Arm of the Flesh and where that leads, to Taking Refuge in the Sanctuary of Immanuel. To appreciate the truths here you need to have some identification in your life of where you are tempted to trust in the arm of the flesh. Obviously if you have never turned to Christ for salvation, you have the ultimate futility of seeking to establish righteousness before a holy God on your own terms. But what about for believers? How do we wrestle every day with trusting in the arm of the flesh? It comes down to our dependency for day to day living. Do we think that we are capable to do something on our own and go about our day without conscious dependence on our new life in Christ? Do I prepare this sermon, confident in my analytical abilities and the experience of having prepared hundreds before this one? Or do I humble myself and admit my own bankruptcy and need for the Lord’s grace? Do you pursue your job or school responsibilities in your own strength or drawing upon the power of God’s grace. Do you look down in contempt on those who are falling prey to temptation, not regarding the word of God which says “Take heed, lest you fall too … there but for the grace of God go I.”

One reason the Lord brings trials and hostile enemies into our comfort zone is to shake us up and force us to more intensely examine our faith choices – are we trusting in the arm of the flesh or in the Lord?





A. (:1) Impressive Billboard Prophecy

“Then the LORD said to me, ‘Take for yourself a large tablet and write on it in ordinary letters: Swift is the booty, speedy is the prey.’”

Lord has a bit of marketing flair to Him; knows how to get people’s attention; First billboard in recorded history; big huge sign in prominent place

Illustration: Komatsu had impressive billboard as you flew into Peoria and drove away from airport to visit the headquarters of Caterpillar – making a statement

Go big or go home; Lord does not hedge His bets; puts His prediction out there in a bold statement

“ordinary letters” – no fancy script – wants all people to be able to read the message

Borgman: write in big capital letters so everyone can see it

Beall: write the message with an ordinary stylus (lit., vAna/ jr<x,B., “with the pen of a man”), i.e., so that any normal person could read what he wrote.

Young: We are not told where the tablet was to be erected, whether in the Temple court or in the house of the prophet. It was, however, to be set up so that the inhabitants of Jerusalem could see it.

Motyer: It is intended to provoke questions, not to answer them. It combines “Speed” with such an assurance of conquest that the oncoming foe does not think of the fight but only of the booty.

John Martin: Soldiers would shout these words to their comrades as they defeated and plundered their foes.

B. (:2) Impressive Authentication by Objective Witnesses – Those Aligned with Ahaz

“And I will take to Myself faithful witnesses for testimony, Uriah the priest and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah.”

Liberal scholars love to accuse prophecies as having been uttered after the fulfillment …

Borgman: We tend to assume these are allies of Isaiah; not so; Not in Isaiah’s camp – but a pagan priest; a religious yes-man for Ahaz; these both are probably supporters of Ahaz

Beall: These witnesses are Uriah the priest (probably the same priest mentioned in 2 Kings 16:10-16 under Ahaz, who obeyed Ahaz’s orders to modify the altar to correspond to the one at Damascus) and Zechariah (possibly the father-in-law of Ahaz [2 Kings 18:2; 2 Chr 29:1, 13], though since Zechariah was a common name we cannot be certain).

Young: These witnesses would be able to testify that the prophet had written and exhibited the prophecy a long time before its fulfillment. When the fulfillment did come, then they could point out that Isaiah had already written thereof. There were some men whose word the nation could trust, and such would these witnesses be. In the eye of the people, they were faithful and trustworthy.

C. (:3) Impressive Authentication by the Sign Provided by the Lord = Son of Isaiah

“So I approached the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. Then the LORD said to me, ‘Name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz;’”

Was she called prophetess just because she was married to the prophet?? No – but because the Lord used her in her own prophetic ministry – maybe that ministry was focused on the sign of the child that she gave birth to – out comes the intended word of the Lord

Oswalt: cf. Exod. 15:20; Judg. 4:4; 2 K. 22:14; Neh. 6:14

Differences between Mahershalalhashbaz and Immanuel: Van Parunak:

Van Parunak: The usual custom in the OT is for the mother to name the children (see Notes). In fact, this is what happens with Immanuel. The father gives the name only under exceptional circumstances, for example, when Jacob disapproves of the name that Rachel gives Benjamin (Gen 35:18). Here and in Hosea 1, the father, who is also a prophet, is commanded to give the child a name as part of a divine oracle.

D. (:4) Impressive Fulfillment by the Wonders Performed by the Lord – using the king of Assyria

“for before the boy knows how to cry out ‘My father ‘ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.”

Vine: His prophecy was not designed to be, nor was it actually, a comfort to Ahaz, for the success of the Assyrian King would be only the stepping-stone to his attack upon Judah

John Martin: In about a year and nine months (nine months for the pregnancy and one year of the child’s life), Assyria would plunder both Damascus (Aram’s capital city) and Samaria (Israel’s capital). This happened in 732 B.C., which confirms the date of 734 for Isaiah’s prophecy.

How does the Arm of the Flesh look impressive to us?

– Education looks impressive – credentials that gain you respect; open doors of opportunity

Character should be the credential; important that church leadership gets this right

– Beauty looks impressive – inward more important

Don’t idolize Hollywood with its façade of beauty and fame; man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart

– Wealth looks impressive – especially as you near retirement

Dependency on the Lord is key;

– Authority and Power look impressive – but ask Nebuchadnezzar how that can work out

Servant heart is the key

Fleeting nature of wealth or prosperity

Understand that the Arm of the Flesh tends to look impressive to us; we have a tendency to make decisions from the wrong frame of reference; Ahaz did not think that the invisible God could deliver him from such formidable hostile enemies … so he turned to Assyria for help



A. (:5-6) Two Reasons for the Lord’s Judgment

1. Rejection of His gracious provision and edifying governance

“And again the LORD spoke to me further, saying, ‘Inasmuch as these people have rejected the gently flowing waters of Shiloah,’”

“these people” – I take as a reference to the northern kingdom because of the parallel to “them” in vs. 7; but applied to Ahaz as well since the judgment will apply to both

Van Parunak: Instead, they are following a pagan king (Rezin) and a murderer and usurper (Pekah).

Shiloah = “that which is sent”

Motyer: Shiloah was the stream from the Gihon spring into Jerusalem. First, it stood for the Davidic monarchy (for it was at Gihon that the monarchy passed from David to his sons; 1 Ki. 1:33-34, 45), and secondly, it stood for Jerusalem as the city of faith. In 7:3 Ahaz, under threat of invasion and siege, was looking at his vulnerable water supply. Though Jerusalem occupied one of the most impregnable sites of the ancient world, its source of water was outside the city walls and the supply ran over ground in conduits into the city. To live in Jerusalem, therefore, required faith that the Lord would stand by his promises that this was the city he had chosen and which he would defend.

2. Rejoicing in the temporary, deceptive results of the arm of the flesh

“And rejoice in Rezin and the son of Remaliah;”


– What do you reject and why?

– What do you rejoice in and why?

B. (:7-8b) Two Images of Hostile Attack and Devastation – fierceness and extend of invasion

Mixed metaphor

1. (:7-8a) Image of Hostile Raging Waters – cannot be contained

“Now therefore, behold, the Lord is about to bring on them the strong and abundant waters of the Euphrates, Even the king of Assyria and all his glory; And it will rise up over all its channels and go over all its banks. Then it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass through, It will reach even to the neck;”

Young: The Lord, the sovereign God, the One who had the power to give Ahaz a sign, that powerful Lord is about to act. He will bring up – for only He can move nations at His will – upon those who with contempt have rejected His mercies something that Judah did not wish. From the waters of Shiloh Judah had turned away. Well and good! Judah should have waters, not those of Shiloh which flow slowly, but waters of the Euphrates. No slowly flowing waters, but great and powerful waters, which will not nourish Jerusalem but will overflow her, bringing harm and damage in their wake.

2. (:8b) Image of Fierce Bird of Prey – spreads its wings over the entire land

“And the spread of its wings will fill the breadth of your land,”

Flexing his muscles

C. (:8c) Glimmer of Hope = Land Ultimately Belongs to Immanuel

“O Immanuel.”

The hope of the house of David; surprising to see him address Immanuel here

Borgman: almost a plea for help; God always brings His people low before He lifts them up; God’s word to the remnant in the midst of the overwhelming flood


A. (:9-10) God is with Us — So the Plans of Men will Fail

“Be broken, O peoples, and be shattered; And give ear, all remote places of the earth. Gird yourselves, yet be shattered; Gird yourselves, yet be shattered. Devise a plan but it will be thwarted; State a proposal, but it will not stand, For God is with us.”

“it will not stand” – remember 7:7; take your best shot – you cannot succeed in opposing God and His people and His promise of Immanuel

Van Parunak: The next section is marked by pairs of commands. In each case, the first command is an ironic invitation to sin, while the second describes the judgment to follow, as though the sheriff were to say to the bad guys, “set foot in Dodge again, and die.” The meaning is clearly, “If you do A, you will experience B.”

Oswalt: To the extent that the plans of the nations are the result of their own rapacious arrogance, they will not stand, for God is with us.

Beall: The prophet here seems to go beyond simply the Ephraim/Syrian or the Assyrian threat to any assaults upon Israel (“all you from far countries”), possibly ultimately referring to the end-time battle of Armageddon.

B. (:11-12) Reject Worldly Mindset

1. False Cries of Conspiracy leveled against God’s Prophet

“For thus the LORD spoke to me with mighty power and instructed me not to walk in the way of this people, saying, ‘You are not to say, It is a conspiracy!’ In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy,”

Where Jehovah speaks in vv. 11-15 you could say that Immanuel is speaking

Three possibilities for understanding “conspiracy” here: something treasonous

1) The context has emphasized the Conspiracy that was in play with Syria and Israel aligned against Judah … but that does not seem the focus here

2) The people were accusing God’s prophet of being involved in a conspiracy against his own people because his message was not what they wanted to hear = my preference

Vine: The reference here is not to the alliance between Pekah and Rezin. Isaiah and his associates were being accused of a conspiracy against Ahaz and Judah under him, because of the prophet’s denunciation of the alliance with Assyria. This kind of calumny was what prophets had to endure whenever they opposed an appeal by God’s people for the help of Gentile aid (Amos 7:10).

Young: Throughout the history of the church, those who have sought to call the church back to her God-given mission and away from her man-made “programs” have been treated as troublemakers.

3) More general reference:

Oswalt: it is not necessary that the reference is to a specific conspiracy. Rather, the prophet may be talking about a general approach to the explanation of events, especially unpleasant and trying events. How easy it is, when situations go against us, to become paranoid and react accordingly. Isaiah challenges his people to reject paranoia and see God’s hand in the events of their tie. To refuse to do so is to become more and more fearful, more and more unstable, for it means that our lives are ultimately in the hands of unknown powers, too devious for us to know or control. This in turn leads us toward the occult in an effort to gain control over these unknown and devious powers.

2. False Fears

“And you are not to fear what they fear or be in dread of it.”

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Psalm 56




Fear is a powerful, paralyzing force


A. How does it feel to be Trampled Upon all day long?

“Be gracious, O God, for man has trampled upon me”

“My foes have trampled upon me all day long”

B. How does it feel to be Oppressed all day long?

“Fighting all day long he oppresses me”

“For they are many who fight proudly against me”

That is why we need the Grace of God!


A. Faith in God Requires an Active Commitment

“When I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee”

B. Faith in God Produces an Attitude of Invincibility

“I shall not be afraid.

What can mere man do to me?”

That is why we need the Word of God!

Refrain: “In God whose word I praise”


Don’t underestimate the danger of the situation

A. The Tactics of Oppression

1. Misrepresentation

“they distort my words”

2. Malicious Schemes

“their thoughts are against me for evil”

3. Manifold Variations

a. Open Attack

b. Secret stalking

B. The Overturning of Oppression

1. “cast them forth”

2. “put down the peoples”

That is why we need the Wrath of God!


A. God is Totally Aware of Our Pressures and Trials

“Thou hast taken account of my wanderings”

“Put my tears in Thy bottle”

B. God Will Respond to Our Cries for Help by Frustrating Our Enemies

C. Key to Victory = God is on Our Side

“God is for me”

That is why we need the Word of God!

Refrain: “In God, whose word I praise,

In the Lord, whose word I praise”

Review (:11)

Faith in God Requires an Active Commitment

“In God I have put my trust “

Faith in God Produces an Attitude of Invincibility

“I shall not be afraid”


A. Thanksgiving Because God Keeps His Promises

“Thy vows are . . . upon me, O God”

B. Thanksgiving Because God Has Delivered Us

“delivered my soul from death”

“Indeed, my feet from stumbling”

C. Thanksgiving Because God Allows Us to Continue to Live In His Presence

“So that I may walk before God in the light of the living”

That is why we need the Promises of God!

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C. (:13) Fear the Holy One Alone

“It is the LORD of hosts whom you should regard as holy. And He shall be your fear, And He shall be your dread.”

Fundamental attribute = Holiness

Vine: To sanctify the Lord is so to live that He has absolute authority and control over the heart and will, over every activity of the life, to walk in His fear, dreading to displease Him.

Oswalt: That which is holy is distinct from the common or ordinary. Thus to sanctify God is to demonstrate that he is “high and lifted up” (6:1) in power and in character, as well as in his very essence. To fail to sanctify him is to make him appear helpless, indifferent, and unimportant (Lev. 22:32; Num. 20:12; Ezek. 36:20, 21; Amos 2:7). This is exactly what the Judeans did when they sought to solve the riddles of their times according to human explanations and means: they made God appear insignificant. Rather, Isaiah calls upon them to make God the most significant fact of their existence, demonstrating by their attitudes and behavior that God is indeed holy.

E. (:14-15) Contrast between Refuge and Defeat

1. Image of Refuge = Sanctuary for Believers

“Then He shall become a sanctuary;”

Characteristics of a wildlife sanctuary:

– Safe haven – no one can hunt you or harm you

– Provision of all your needs in friendly environment appropriate to your nature

– Fellowship with creatures of the same nature

– Bucolic worshipful environment

– You must stay within the borders of the sanctuary to remain protected

Vine: Just as the Temple was designed to be to Israel the centre of their spiritual life, their joy in worship and praise, a place of holiness and peace as well as a defence, so Christ Himself is to the believer.

2. Two Images of Defeat for Those Who Reject His Rule

“But to both the houses of Israel,

a. Stone to Strike / Stone of Stumbling

“a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over,”

“And many will stumble over them, Then they will fall and be broken;”

b. Snare / Trap

“a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”

“And They will even be snared and caught.”

Motyer: The figure expresses a watchful divine providence whereby the sinner receives exactly what is due but does not do so without a warning having been raised to halt him on his disaster-course. It is as if a rock were put across a road to block the traveler from danger but, in carelessness or scorn, he refuses the warning and stumbles to his death. The stress in these verses is that what gives most offence to the sinner and what at the same time constitutes his greatest danger is the presence of the divine. The same God in his unchanging nature is both sanctuary and snare; it depends on how people respond to his holiness.

Beall: Both Paul and Peter use v. 14 to refer to those who reject Christ: Paul combines this verse with Isa 28:16 in Rom 9:32-33 to indicate that Israel stumbled over accepting Christ (“Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. 33 As it is written: “Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.””); and Peter writes that Christ is a precious stone to those who believe, but a stone of stumbling and rock of offense to those who are disobedient (1 Pet 2:6-8, citing also Isa 28:16 and Ps 118:22 [“And coming to Him as to a living stone which has been rejected by men, but is choice and precious in the sight of God, 5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For this is contained in Scripture: “BEHOLD, I LAY IN ZION A CHOICE STONE, A PRECIOUS CORNER stone, AND HE WHO BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED.” 7 This precious value, then, is for you who believe; but for those who disbelieve, “THE STONE WHICH THE BUILDERS REJECTED, THIS BECAME THE VERY CORNER stone,” 8 and, “A STONE OF STUMBLING AND A ROCK OF OFFENSE”; for they stumble because they are disobedient to the word, and to this doom they were also appointed.”]).


A. (:16) Preserve the Prophecy as you await fulfillment

“Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.”

B. (:17) Eagerly Await the Promise of Immanuel

“And I will wait for the LORD who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob; I will even look eagerly for Him.”

Who is speaking in vv.17-18 Isaiah or the Messiah? Does it have to be the same person?

I take the speaker to be Isaiah

Grogan: Perhaps it is best to view Isaiah and his disciples here as foreshadowing Christ and his church, especially as Christ himself was a prophet and his disciples, who formed the nucleus of the church, were — like those of Isaiah – themselves a remnant of Israel, committed to God’s word in him whom others had rejected.

John Martin: Because Hebrews 2:13 ascribes Isaiah 8:17c-18a to Christ, some interpreters feel that all of Isaiah 8:16-18 was spoken by the Messiah. Certainly the attitude conveyed in these verses was that of the Lord Jesus Christ. But in the context of Isaiah 7-9 these words should be ascribed to Isaiah (with the writer of Heb. applying them to Christ). This was the prophet’s attitude in spite of all the opposition he saw around him.

Oswalt: This waiting upon God is often a prerequisite to receiving his blessing, for in the act of waiting we confess our own helplessness and our complete dependence upon him. Without these characteristics, God’s work is both hindered and misappropriated (cf. Acts 1:8).

C. (:18) Take confidence in the Signs and Wonders Provided by the Lord

“Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.”


– The Arm of the Flesh will always be an enticing option;

– But understand that it leads to destruction.

– The promise of Immanuel must be our focus – Fear God alone and sanctify Him in our hearts.

– Immanuel will either be to you a refuge and sanctuary or a stone of stumbling and a snare.

– Eagerly look forward today to the blessed hope of the coming again of Immanuel – never losing sight of the fact that every day right now we enjoy the blessing of “God with us.”