MEDITATIONS IN ISAIAH – No.16
Isa 8:3,4 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.”
Understanding prophecy and how it is fulfilled requires a simple, open heart. It almost seems sometimes that the Lord does either the most obvious things or the most obscure, but whatever it is, it needs simple faith to understand it. God is constantly revealing the state of our hearts, and the way we respond to prophecy (Biblical or personal) does that. We made brief reference in the previous meditation about the ‘Immanuel prophecy’, that this was taken by Matthew and applied to Jesus. Now many of the New Testament writers do this sort of thing, taking an Old Testament prophecy and applying it to current events. It takes simple faith to understand and accept that God spoke words that would speak about the immediate future AND about His long term plans. You either have that simple faith, or you don’t!
The ‘Immanuel prophecy’ spoke about a virgin, or simply young girl (who in Hebrew culture would have been a virgin), having a child. Now in the context of Isaiah there is nothing miraculous about that. It was simply a prophetic picture that said within just a few years these things will happen. It is only in the New Testament that we find Matthew applying it because there IS a miraculous intervention by God with a young girl who is obviously a virgin, to bring in the Son of God, and no man is involved. Matthew sees the circumstances fit the prophecy! He catches God’s longer term plans in that word.
But as we said, this word in Isaiah has an immediate fulfilment. Let’s examine the order of events. First of all the Lord calls Isaiah to write down a name, a strange name which has meaning and significance: Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, which means ‘quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil’. Now actually He doesn’t at that point say it is a name, just that Isaiah is to write it down and get it witnessed. The next thing to happen is that Isaiah goes to his wife, the prophetess, and she conceives and a son is born. Now frustratingly we aren’t told if the prophetess and Isaiah are just married and she was a virgin, but the closeness to the prior prophecy seems a little bit beyond coincidence.
Right, we now think, this child is to be named ‘Immanuel’ according to the prophecy, but no, he is to be called Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz, ‘quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil.’ What a name to have! So what does that really mean? We are told in verse 4: “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.” A plunderer will quickly come and strip the land. Now look in your Bible at something of great significance. Verses 6 to 8 expound on this invasion but they are clearly spoken to the child and end with the name that the Lord applies to him, Immanuel! So he is called by a name that points to a coming discipline from the Lord, but he is also to be known as a prophetic fulfilment that says, “God is with is”, the meaning of Immanuel.
What is going on here? The Lord is making it plain through Isaiah that He is in the midst of all that is about to happen. This is not an out-of-control pillaging nation; this is an invader who has the hand of the Lord upon him. This is not a word for the faint hearted, but it is designed to make the proud and arrogant faint hearted! Remember, throughout all this, the Lord is seeking to draw Judah back to Himself so that they can come back into the place of right living, a place of blessing where peace and prosperity are the order of the day.
In our ordinary everyday world we believe in discipline and deterrent and justice. We discipline (and train) our children, otherwise they run amok and feel insecure. We enforce the Law that seeks to bring peace and order to our streets. We imprison criminals. All these things we take for granted, but the critical among us object to the Lord doing these things with a nation.
Carry out a simple exercise. Compare the description of Ahaz that we saw previously and consider the state of the nation as it must have been under him, and then go and read about the state of the nation under king Solomon as he ruled with the wisdom of God bringing the nation to the best and most affluent that it ever was. The latter is a picture of God’s desire for His people, because He was the one who enabled Solomon at the prime of his life. The former is a picture of foolish sinful mankind, getting in a total mess when it rejects God.
What we also find, when we consider what has been happening, is the Lord who is seeking to make obvious to His people what He is doing. When God brings warnings it is not because He wants to bring this invader, but He wants Ahaz to respond to the warning and take the appropriate action to avoid it. What is the appropriate action? It is to call the nation to repentance, to call them back to the Lord. If that had happened then the invader would never have come. If we are given warnings it is so that we can take appropriate action to avoid the danger. When we see warning signs on the road, we take avoiding action. If we see symptoms of the onset of a disease we don’t laugh it at and just carry on; no, we immediately rush to a doctor to see how to stop it happening. Why can we do these things when they are practical or health issues, but somehow be so blind when they are spiritual issues?