In the last essay we studied Isaiah 7:1-17, which is the first half of a section on how God is with us. In this essay we are studying the second half of the larger section that presents the idea of God with us. The first thing I want you to notice about verses 18-25 is the recurring phrase, “On that day.” It occurs at the beginning of verses 18, 20, 21, and 23. What Isaiah is doing is revealing, one by one, several things that will take place “on that day.” The “day” he is referring to is the “day” of Immanuel’s accountability that was mentioned in verse 16.
The first thing Isaiah reveals, in verses 18-19, is the names of the nations that will devastate the land, Egypt and Assyria. He depicts their armies as hoards of insects that go into every nook and cranny. Since Egypt didn’t actually conquer Judah until a little over a hundred years later (609-605 BC), some scholars believe Isaiah was prophesying about these later events. But Assyria wasn’t a power then. Rather Babylon was. So there is no advantage to such an interpretation.
Second, in verse 20, Isaiah describes Assyria as a razor that shaves all of the hair off of Judah. Shaving captives was a universal symbol of humiliation.
Third, in verses 21-22 Isaiah reveals a powerful irony. The land will be so depopulated by Assyria, that the remaining people will have an abundance of food.
Fourth, the once lush vineyards will turn into briar patches; and the land will be suitable only for grazing stock and hunting, verses 23-25.
In the first four verses of chapter eight, we see the sign of Isaiah’s son. You will notice that these verses are similar to what we found in 7:10-17. There the sign given to Ahaz had to do with a young woman giving birth to a son (7:14); and the reason given was that before the child reached the age of accountability, the threat from Syria and Israel would be over (7:16). Here again a woman (Isaiah’s wife) is to give birth to a child (8:3), and the reason given is the same (8:4). This is why some scholars believe that Isaiah’s son was the child that was a sign to Ahaz, even though his name is not Immanuel.
The purpose of writing the prophecy on a large placard, and having it witnessed by reliable witnesses, seems to have been to guarantee that no one could later accuse Isaiah of writing the prophecy after the fact.
In verses 5-6 the figure “the waters of Shiloah that flow gently” represent God’s help, which the people rejected. In verses seven and eight Isaiah sets in contrast “the mighty flood waters of the River,” meaning the Euphrates, as a depiction of Assyria. She not only will destroy Syria and Israel, she will flood Judah up to its neck, nearly drowning it. However, notice at the end of verse eight, that the land is Immanuel’s land. It is the Lord who is in ultimate control of the situation.
Then in verses 9-10 Isaiah boldly announces that in spite of present circumstances, the plans and preparations of the nations will come to nothing. They will come to nothing, because God is with us, because of Immanuel.
In verses 11-15 notice the interesting language Isaiah uses to express God’s inspiration. Isaiah says that God spoke to him, quote, “while his hand [that is God’s hand] was strong upon me.” And God warned Isaiah not to follow the way of the people. Instead he was to keep God at the center of his life and not forget God’s holiness, meaning his otherness and majesty. In other words, he is to maintain a proper fear of God. To those who regard God as holy, he becomes a sanctuary, a place of refuge and peace. But to those who do not, he becomes a stone to trip over, or a trap in which to be snared. Isaiah undoubtedly did as he was told and found God to be a sanctuary for him. But unfortunately, most of the people of Judah experienced the latter stumbling and snaring.
Now then, some interpret verses 16-17 to mean that Isaiah withdrew from public life at this point and ordered his prophecies sealed up until a later time when the country would be more open to them. But Oswalt says that Isaiah may have been referring to God’s word in general, including his own prophecies, and simply affirming his dependency on God. In any case, verse 18 indicates that Isaiah and his children are ongoing signs to the people.
Verses 19-22 tell us that for those who did not have the faith of Isaiah, the temptation was strong to turn to spiritism or the occult. But that course was, and still is, a dead end. The results of going in that direction are hunger, distress, gloom of anguish, and thick darkness.
In 9:1-9 Isaiah returns to the Immanuel theme and brings it to a conclusion. The first thing we see here is that the prophesied gloom will not be permanent. The geographical area referred to in verse one is that between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean. The significant thing about this is that it shows Isaiah to be concerned not just for Judah, but for all of Israel. Indeed all Israel will participate in the eventual redemption and restoration.
The Immanuel poem begins in verse three with a pronouncement of the coming Light of God. When that happens the population will grow and joy will be abundant, as at harvest time, or when plunder is divided. The reason for the joy will be that the Lord will have freed them from their burden of sin, rebellion, and oppression. The reference to Midian at the end of verse four is an allusion to the story of Gideon in Judges 6-7, when a small band of faithful routed a large force of enemy by following God’s orders. Indeed God’s victory will be so complete that the boots and cloaks of the armies will be used for fuel. Since this is God’s victory, rather than Israel’s, it means an end of warfare.
In verse six we see the third “for” in the passage. There was one at the beginning of verse four, one at the beginning of verse five, and now one at the beginning of verse six. Each of them is used in the sense of “because.” There is joy because God has delivered his people, verse four, because he has ended war, verse five, and because a child is born, verse six. And for Christians, it is this third one that is all-important.
For us the child is the end-time Messiah, the Christ. As revelation unfolds, we will see much more clearly that he is God with us in a very literal sense. But as we see here, he also will be a human being. God, who has the power to snuff out his enemies at any time, instead chooses to save us by becoming one of us, by becoming humble and vulnerable. The titles at the end of verse six, “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace,” underscore the child’s deity.
Notice the eternal aspect of the Messiah in verses 6-7. He will be an Everlasting Father. His authority will grow continually. There will be endless peace. And he will establish his kingdom forevermore. The last sentence in verse seven indicates that end-time blessings can only be produced by God himself. In summary of the entire section, 7:1-9:6, a virgin-born child demonstrates that God is with us (7:14). This child is the Messiah who, we learn later, will die for our sins and make possible our forgiveness. And in the end-time he will end war and institute peace and joy for all believers.