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Isaiah: Prince of Prophets—“From Darkness to Light”

Notes & Transcripts

The seventh chapter of Isaiah’s prophecy is a story of threat and counter-threat, alliance and subversiveness, and vassalage. Aram and Israel have invited Judah to form an alliance with them against the growing menace of Assyria—the region’s new superpower. King Ahaz of Judah refused, leading Aram, Israel, and perhaps Edom and Philistia to attack Judah. Ahaz had to choose between political alliances with these weak kings to his north or submission to the Assyrians. This led to one of the classic confrontations between prophet and king (Isa. 7:1-25). Ahaz’s choice is between trusting God or trusting in his own ability to play the power games of international politics. Ahaz chose to trust Tiglath-Pileser III rather than God. He calls upon Tiglath-pileser of Assyria for protection against Aram and Israel. That part of the story is found in 2 Kings, chapter 16.

“Then Rezin king of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem and besieged Ahaz, but they could not overpower him. At that time, Rezin king of Aram recovered Elath for Aram by driving out the men of Judah. Edomites then moved into Elath and have lived there to this day. Ahaz sent messengers to say to Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, “I am your servant and vassal. Come up and save me out of the hand of the king of Aram and of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.” And Ahaz took the silver and gold found in the temple of the LORD and in the treasuries of the royal palace and sent it as a gift to the king of Assyria. The king of Assyria complied by attacking Damascus and capturing it. He deported its inhabitants to Kir and put Rezin to death.” (2 Kings 16:5–9, NIV)

The Assyrians responded to Ahaz’s invitation swiftly, moving westward, conquering Damascus in 732 BC and killing King Rezin of Aram. The Assyrians also captured all of Galilee and Gilead from Israel which Isaiah had predicted: “The LORD will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah—he will bring the king of Assyria.” (Isaiah 7:17, NIV). Assyria would altogether obliterate Israel ten years later in 722 BC and the ten tribes disappeared from history in mass deportations. Judah lasted longer—until 587 BC when Jerusalem’s walls and Temple were razed by a Babylonian army.

Ahaz’s petition to Tiglath-pileser III came at a price. When Assyria responded to Ahaz’s plea for help, she swept down to crush both Damascus and Samaria, and then turned on Judah, her ally! Tiglath-Pileser came against Ahaz and “gave him trouble instead of help” (2 Chr. 28:20). Ahaz was forced to strip the land of its wealth to buy off Assyria (2 Chr. 28:21) and Judah became in effect a satellite nation that reflected the policy of its powerful neighbor.

Bitterly angry at God, Ahaz closed the Jerusalem temple, stripped it of its remaining treasures, and cut up even the golden vessels dedicated to God’s worship. From this time forward, Judah would never really be free.

Chapter 8 begins with an announcement of destruction—the people will walk in darkness. But chapter 9 begins with an announcement of deliverance—the people who have walked in darkness will see a great light.

I. THE PEOPLE SHALL WALK IN DARKNESS (Isaiah 8:1-25)

    • “The LORD said to me, “Take a large scroll and write on it with an ordinary pen: Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. And I will call in Uriah the priest and Zechariah son of Jeberekiah as reliable witnesses for me.” Then I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the LORD said to me, “Name him Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. Before the boy knows how to say ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria will be carried off by the king of Assyria.” (Isaiah 8:1–4, NIV)
            1. in vv. 1-4 Isaiah continues his prediction concerning the fall of Aram and Israel, but he does so in an unusual way
                1. the Lord commands Isaiah to use a visual aid to help secure the prophecy in the minds of his audience
                2. on a large scroll Isaiah was to record the name of a son yet to be conceived
                    1. the name Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, the longest personal name in the Bible, means “quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil”
                    2. Assyrian soldiers would shout these words to their comrades as they defeated and plundered their foes
            2. Isaiah predicts that before his son is old enough to say “mommy!” or “daddy!” Aram and Israel would no long comprise a threat to Judah
                1. in a very short time, the inhabitants of Israel will be walking in darkness
                2. this happened in 732 B.C., which confirms the date of 734 for Isaiah’s prophecy
            3. when Damascus and Samaria fell, Judah should have turned to God as Isaiah had told them to

A. JUDAH FAILS TO LEARN THE LESSON

            1. in the remainder of chapter 8, Isaiah describes Judah’s coming judgment (vv. 5-22)
                1. Isaiah uses three vivid contrasts to show the rulers of Judah the mistake they were making by trusting in Assyria
            2. 1st —They Chose a Flood Instead of a Peaceful River vv. 5-10
              • ILLUS. Most of you remember The Great Flood of 1993 that occurred in the American heartland, along the Mississippi and Missouri rivers and their tributaries, from April to October of that year. The flood was among the most costly and devastating to ever occur in the United States, with $15 billion in damages. As measured by duration, square miles inundated, persons displaced, crop and property damage, and number of record river levels, it was the worst natural disaster in the U.S. since the Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. Someone called it a “natural disaster in slow motion” because the waters just kept coming and rising, and coming and rising some more.
                1. this is how Isaiah pictures the coming onslaught of Assyria
                2. the pro-Assyrian faction in Judah rejoiced when Assyria defeated Aram and when both Pekah and Rezin died
                    1. these victories seemed to prove that an alliance with Assyria was indeed the safest course to follow
                3. instead of trusting the Lord (“the waters of Shiloah, that go softly” in v. 6), they trusted the great river of Assyria
                  • ILLUS. The Waters of Shiloah refer to the water system in Jerusalem. The Gihon spring bubbeled up at the base of Mount Zion and sent forth a constant stream of water into the city of Jerusalem. It represented the faithfulness and the supply of God to a people under siege. But the inhabitants of Jerusalem refused the waters of Shiloah, and instead pinned their hopes on Assyria as represented by the mighty flow of the Euphrates River. It’s referred to in Psalm 46-4-5: “There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.”
                    1. what Judah did not realize was that the “river” they desired would become a flood when Assyria came and destroyed Israel
                    2. within months Aram and Israel were crushed, their capitals plundered, and their people deported
                    3. but like a flood, the armies of Assyria flowed over the borders of Judah to flood that nation, rising swiftly from feet to knees to waist and shoulders, right up to their neck—Jerusalem
                    4. the waters would recede, but Judah was left a disaster
                4. God offered His people peace, but in unbelief they opted for war
                    1. they were walking by sight and not by faith
                    2. They Chose a Flood Instead of a Peaceful River
            3. 2nd —They Chose a Snare Instead of a Sanctuary vv. 11–15
                1. God warned Isaiah not to follow the majority and support the popular pro-Assyrian party
                    1. even though his stand was looked upon as treason, Isaiah opposed all foreign alliances and urged the people to put their faith in the Lord
                      • “The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.’ ” (Isaiah 7:9, NIV)
                      • “So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.” (Isaiah 28:16, NIV)
                      • “This is what the Sovereign LORD, the Holy One of Israel, says: “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.” (Isaiah 30:15, NIV)
                    2. of their alliance with Assyria, the Jewish political leaders were asking, “Is it popular? Is it safe?”
                    3. but the prophet was asking, “Is it right? Is it the will of God?”
                2. Isaiah compared the Lord to a sanctuary, a rock that is a refuge for believers
                    1. the image of Messiah as a rock of refuge is found throughout the Scriptures
                      • “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps. 46:1)
                      • “So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed.” (Isaiah 28:16, NIV)
                      • “As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by men but chosen by God and precious to him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4–5, NIV)
                      • “As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.” (Romans 9:33, NIV)
                    2. Israel, however, has chosen the snare over the sanctuary
                    3. God becomes a trap into which faithless Jerusalem would fall
                    4. They Chose a Snare Instead of a Sanctuary
            4. 3rd —They Chose Darkness Instead of Light vv. 16–22
                1. knowing that Ahaz and Israel have rejected his message, Isaiah retreats from confrontation with the king and people into the fellowship of his faithful followers
                  • “Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples. I will wait for the LORD, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him.” (Isaiah 8:16–17, ESV)
                    1. he is going to leave Israel to the darkness they have chosen
                2. the degree of spiritual darkness was evident throughout the society
                    1. King Ahaz took Judah’s apostasy to new levels of perversion
                    2. for the fist time in Judah’s history, a king in Jerusalem imitated the sins of northern Israel
                      • “Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. Unlike David his father, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD his God. He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire, following the detestable ways of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites.” (2 Kings 16:2–3, NIV)
                3. the result was “trickle-down” spirituality—with the people turning to mediums and spiritualists
                    1. in their time of crisis, instead of turning to God for wisdom, the people consulted demons, and this only increased their moral and spiritual darkness
                      • “And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living?” (Isaiah 8:19, ESV)
                    2. They Chose Darkness Instead of Light
            5. though Judah has rejected Isaiah’s message, Isaiah and his family were themselves a “living prophecy” that the nation could not ignore
              • “Behold, I and the children whom the LORD has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the LORD of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion.” (Isaiah 8:18, ESV)
                1. Isaiah’s name means “Jehovah is salvation,” and this would remind the people to trust the Lord to deliver them
                2. his older son’s name means “A remnant shall return,” and this was a word of promise when it looked as though the nation was destroyed
                    1. a believing remnant did return to Jerusalem from Babylon and they were encouraged by what Isaiah wrote in chapters 40–66
                3. the name of the younger son means “quick to plunder, swift to the spoil,” and Maher-shalal-hash-baz was a constant reminder that pointed to the fall of Aram and Ephraim

II. THE PEOPLE WILL SEE A GREAT LIGHT (Isaiah 9:1-7)

            1. Maher-shalal-hash-baz was Isaiah’s second son
                1. as we’ve already learned, his name means A remnant shall return, and the return of the Jewish remnant to their land is a major theme in chapters 10-11
                2. when Assyria conquered the Northern Kingdom of Israel (Ephraim), the nation was never restored but became what we know as Samaria
                3. after the Babylonian Captivity (606–586 B.C.), the people of Judah were given another chance to establish themselves in the land
                    1. through them, the Lord brought the Messiah into the world
            2. in Isaiah’s day, however, darkness—spiritual darkness—hangs over the land
              • “But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.” (Isaiah 9:1–2, ESV)
                1. Isaiah describes if in 9:2 as deep darkness
                  • ILLUS. Anyone who has ever done much camping knows that there is darkness and there is deep darkness. Even darkness has various shades of darkness. There is the darkness of a partial moon night that lets you distinguish shapes, and near objects. There is the darkness of a full moon night where you see clearly objects at a distance and readily identify them. Then, there is the deep darkness of a moonless and overcast night when even the stars are hid, and you literally cannot see your hand in front of your face.
                    1. this is the kind of deep darkness that has settled over the nation of Israel
                    2. the KJV, NIV translates the phrase deep darkness as the land of the shadow of death
                    3. the word deep in that verse is translated a number of ways and is used to refer to a grave, the deepest part of the sea, the bottomless pit of hell, and even the primordial chaos of Gen. 1:2
                    4. the idea is that you can’t get any deeper than this kind of darkness—it’s a darkness that is almost overwhelming; so black that you can almost feel it
                2. but a day is coming when light shall burst forth upon the Land of Israel
                    1. when Assyria invaded Israel, the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali were the first to feel the lash of the invader
                    2. according to Isa. 9:1 God humbled... Zebulun and... Naphtali for a while
                    3. isn’t it a striking “coincidence” that Jesus’ upbringing and early ministry was mostly in the very areas previous occupied by those two tribes?
                3. Matthew clearly say this as fulfilled prophecy
                  • “Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali— to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: “Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:13–16, NIV)
                    1. on them the light first shined, and they were certainly “honored” by the Anointed One’s presence
            3. in spite of the coming disaster, God’s intention to bless His people and bring them holiness had not been changed
                1. one day the Promised Child would be born
                2. one day the Promised Son would be given
                    1. He, whose names are Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace, will reign on the Davidic throne over a cleansed world

A. THE DAWN OF A NEW DAY (9:1–5)

            1. the gloom of God’s judgment upon his people would not be permanent
                1. the passage forecasts the great work of Christ and all the blessings which he would bring
                2. in four beautiful word pictures that glorious day is described
            2. First, the day of Messiah would be a day of expansion (9:3a)
                1. God would enlarge the nation
                    1. I think that his is a reference to the incorporation of Gentiles into the new Israel of God, the church of Christ
            3. Second, that would be a day of joy like unto that which follows a successful harvest or battle (9:3b)
            4. Third, Messiah’s coming would usher in a day of deliverance (9:4)
                1. the rod and yoke of the Great Oppressor would be shattered as in the day when Gideon crushed the hordes of Midian
                2. here I think, is a reference to the Messiah’s victory over sin and Satan and death
            5. Forth, that would be a day of peace (9:5)
                1. the picture is that of the clean-up after war
                2. warrior’s boots and blood-stained garments would be consigned to fire

B. THE BIRTH OF A MIRACLE CHILD (9:6)

            1. the glorious day described in the opening verses of the chapter would be ushered in by the birth of a male child
                1. Isaiah identified this child as God’s Son who had been given to all people as a deliverer
                2. the weight of government would rest on his shoulders
            2. four titles would be bestowed on that great ruler
                1. Wonderful Counselor
                2. Mighty God
                3. Everlasting Father
                4. Prince of Peace
            3. that this son is the virgin’s Immanuel of Isaiah 7:14 there can be little doubt

C. THE REIGN OF A GLORIOUS KING (9:7)

            1. the government of this ruler would be ever expanding
                1. unlike the kingdoms of this world, however, his kingdom would expand by peaceful means
                    1. justice and righteousness would be established and maintained throughout his realm
                    2. His kingdom would endure forever
            2. as a descendant of David, he would sit on David’s throne and rule David’s kingdom
                1. since David sat on God’s throne (1 Chr 29:23) and ruled God’s kingdom, these terms are not to be interpreted in a narrow, physical and earthly sense
                2. the New Testament testifies that Christ, the son of David, is now seated on the throne of God in heave
            3. only through the zeal of God for his people could these glorious promises be implemented

III. LESSONS FROM ISAIAH CHAPTERS 8 & 9

            1. When given the choice of aligning ourselves with God or the world, we should choose God
            2. When faced with an important decision our first questions out to be “Is it right? Is it the will of God?” not “Is it popular? Is it safe?”
            3. God promises to sustain us with, what at times, my seem very little or even insignificant
            4. When you fear the Lord, you don’t need to fear people or circumstances
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