“The king is coming”! I am singing this beautiful song his morning and my eyes are filled with tears as I am taken back to those first weeks after my rebirth in Christ. – the expectation of Your return.
“Yes, since I walked the earth and passed to heaven there has been an expectation of My immanent return. That is right because my return has been as immanent then as it is now – because I am outside of time. The huge display of sound and light, trumpets and chariots are a mere symbols of the reality of what it is going to be like. In an instant, the present will roll back – everything will be transformed. I will display Myself in all My majesty and every knee will bow an every tongue will confess My Lordship – and you will be part of My Bride consisting of myriads of others who will be celebrating their redemption and rescue from the sin and evil of this world. Let this vision and thought transform you this week. Let it soak into your conscious right down to the bottom of your subconscious, so that it affects every part of your life.”
I am going to leave the vision in Isaiah for the time being and move on to the next section of Isaiah. Chapters 7 t0 12 have been called “the book of Immanuel”. Now the challenge is to read this meaningfully as a devotion, without doing a deep bible study. War is always complex and the biblical wars no less. To understand all the aspects of the conflicts which form a backdrop to Isaiah’s prophecy, one would have to study Kings and Chronicles and follow the thread of the whole history of Israel. So what I suggest we do is visualize a framework, within which Isaiah’s prophetic words can fit, in such a way that we can draw an intelligent conclusion on which to base what we feel Jesus is saying to us daily, without necessarily grasping all the details of the different hostilities and the intricacies of all the prophecies
So this is how I see the basic framework at the moment. The book has begun with 5 chapters describing Israel’s apostasy, with warnings of God’s judgement because of that. In ch 6 we see the beginning of God’s reaction. He has raised up and called a spokesperson to bring His message to the people. In this chapter we see the wrath and judgement of God as the immediate message. However there is a glimmer of hope, a remnant. Now we know where this picture of a remnant is ultimately aiming. From it God will raise up a “Servant” who through His suffering will bring release from God’s judgement to that remnant and later to the whole world.
We should take into account the way God communicates. He uses names, for instance to pronounce concepts, like Isaiah’s two sons. Into the mix comes a significant name “Immanuel” which means “God with us”. Initially, though this “name” is not necessarily attached to one particular person, but rather a general statement of God’s presence with His people cf 8:10b.
God also uses pictures to make the truth and severity of His judgement more real. Like 7:18, whistling for flies and bees, the result of calling on Egypt and Assyria for help. 7:19 the danger of hiring Assyria to help is likened to a razor that will shave everything even their private parts. 8:7,8 Assyria coming like a mighty flood to sweep everything away before them.
Behind this appears this mystical figure called Immanuel, which is a faint prediction, at this stage, of the real Saviour. We remember that He is later known as Immanuel. Matthew tells us that in Matt 1:23. We also read the familiar description of a figure who is a Stone to cause stumbling, a Rock which makes them fall. cf Isa 8:14. For now this description focuses on His role as judge. From ch 9 we will see Him in a different role.
So as I read now with this framework in mind, I see Ahaz, a weak king faced by aggressive nations, who are being used by God to enact His judgement. Ahaz is warned of this and reminded of the importance of standing firm in his faith. 7:9b. The Lord says “ask Me for a sign” 7:11, as He appears to offer help. However Ahaz is hard hearted and follows the plan he has already devised in his own mind 7:12. In the light of this attitude of rejection, God pronounces judgement, and the name Immanuel as the “sign” of that.
So what do I hear Jesus saying to me? God’s judgement looms large, even in the name Immanuel. This reminds me again of the reality of God’s judgement, as severe today as in that time. I only have to look around at the world to see the signs of that. Understanding this makes me ever so grateful that I have escaped it through the very figure we are getting the first glimpse of for now. I am also reminded of the urgency with which I should be telling this message to others.
But what speaks to me more clearly, is the interaction between Ahaz and God. Ahaz’s reaction reflects what many of us, myself included, often run to when we are faced with a crisis. Rather than stop and turn to God for His guidance, I immediately start devising my own plans and seeking another rescuer. This will not call God’s judgement down on me, however like Ahaz, because Jesus has taken that judgment on Himself. It may, however lead me down a path which takes me away from God rather than towards Him. Nevertheless I have His promise that He will always be with me.
What do you hear Jesus say to you from these two chapters?