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Isaiah 8:11-22

Daniel Tan

Isaiah 8:11-22 (NKJV)

For the Lord spoke thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying:

“Do not say, ‘A conspiracy,’ Concerning all that this people call a conspiracy, Nor be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.

The Lord of hosts, Him you shall hallow; Let Him be your fear, And let Him be your dread.

He will be as a sanctuary, But a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence To both the houses of Israel, As a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

And many among them shall stumble; They shall fall and be broken, Be snared and taken.”

Bind up the testimony, Seal the law among my disciples.

And I will wait on the Lord, Who hides His face from the house of Jacob; And I will hope in Him.

Here am I and the children whom the Lord has given me! We are for signs and wonders in Israel From the Lord of hosts, Who dwells in Mount Zion.

And when they say to you, “Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,” should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.

They will pass through it hard-pressed and hungry; and it shall happen, when they are hungry, that they will be enraged and curse their king and their God, and look upward. Then they will look to the earth, and see trouble and darkness, gloom of anguish; and they will be driven into darkness.

Today we shall be addressing God’s response to the people claiming that prophecies are a conspiracy. We see very early on in this new passage why God had to enlist the aid of witnesses. The people would rather shrug God’s warnings off as a conspiracy than change their hearts. In fact, because of this attitude, the people had begun to threaten Isaiah. They imagined him to be a troublemaker as they did with many of the prophets. God tells Isaiah not to fear those people or be troubled. There is a different reading to this, where God simply tells Isaiah not to fear what the people feared and become entrenched in the same faithless terror they had succumbed to. The phrase here translates something like “do not fear their terror”, which is probably why different versions of the Bible have different translations. Regardless of what the verse actually means, God redirects Isaiah’s fear to Himself; “The Lord of hosts, Him you shall hallow; let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.” Know that fear here does not simply mean terror. It is this idea of there being a greater power you can do nothing about. Fear of the Lord is not simply being afraid; it is trembling in your boots because of the sheer might of God. Only He is deserving of that fear because all else is dwarfed by His power. The Lord continues to proclaim Himself as a sanctuary to Isaiah, but a “stone of stumbling and a rock of offence” (the word “offence” here translates something like stumbling as well) to both the houses of Israel (the Northern and Southern kingdoms) so that many of them would stumble and fall and be broken. The punishment for those who spread false rumours or who treat the word of God with the same blatant terror as a conspiracy is for them to be ensnared by their terror of God. Isaiah uses the poetic structure of this stanza well, addressing the subject matter at the start and end to ensure some form of literary symmetry whilst sandwiching the idea of God’s strength in the middle. We are taught to remember that at the center of God's message is not merely punishment, but protection as well. There is never enough emphasis on the idea that God’s desire is to set things right. The next stanza is Isaiah’s direct proclamation. He tells some unknown person to “bind up the testimony” and to “seal the law among his disciples”. During this time, he would wait on the Lord and hope in Him. This idea of waiting reoccurs later on in Isaiah 40, and I believe that much of Isaiah’s direct addressals in the book nod at the fact that Isaiah does not simply prophesy. He lives it out just as much as any of the prophets around. Add on to the fact that the word “wait” here qavah is not a passive thing. It is a verb, meaning to gather or anticipate. It is not a passive act to wait; it is an active one to hold onto God’s promises. Another thing to note is that Isaiah at this point had disciples. It is an interesting piece of information because some scholarship maintains that later parts of Isaiah were written by his disciples. Whether or not that is true is up to debate, but the presence of such disciples is still rather intriguing and should be noted. These prophets were not necessarily all alone as they are generally depicted. Isaiah had a wife and son as well as disciples. Yet even after all that God had said, he anticipates their horrid response: to seek mediums and wizards rather than their God. To seek the dead for insight into what is happening. Similar to how Saul had tried to implore the spirit of Samuel, these people had sunk so low as to ask mediums rather than God how to deal with the situation. They had so much lost their understanding of God’s power that they would rather go to other outlets to find a way. In the same vein, do we go to other places (not necessarily mediums and wizards but maybe even stuff like tarot or astrology or various sources on the internet) to deal with our issues despite having access to an almighty power? For those people, the consequence is for them to pass through it hangry (well the Bible says “hungry” and “when they are hungry… they will be enraged”) towards God, cursing Him. These people, who would rather rely on other powers than God both in the physical and spiritual realms and whose only interaction with God was cursing Him for their fate despite having never gone to Him for help, all that waits for them is “trouble and darkness”.

Daniel Tan

Daniel is currently and forevermore will be a student and a learner, trying to delve into the deep conundrums of life and seeing where the path leads. He enjoys linking different things in life back to God through strange and seemingly random connections. Daniel is in the Young Professionals ministry of the Central Christian Church.

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