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Isaiah 7-11: The Trustworthy Plans of the Lord Print E-mail
Sunday, 02 November 2008

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The Protestant Reformation did not happen in a day. Before Luther nailed his 95 theses, God had already been at work (consider the lives of Wyclif and Hus). Likewise, there was still much that remained to be done after Lutherís famous actions on October 31st, 1517. He along with many other reformers spent their lives fighting to recover the truth of the gospel. Yet, Luther understood that this was not ultimately his battle. At one point, a fellow reformer had written to Luther about his concerns for the future of the Reformation. Listen to Lutherís response to such concerns:

Christ knows whether it comes from stupidity or the Spirit, but If for my part am not very much troubled about our cause. Indeed, I am more hopeful that I expected to be. God, who is able to raise the dead, is also able to uphold his cause when it is falling, or to raise it up again when it has fallen, or to move it forward when it is standing. If we are not worthy instruments to accomplish his purpose, he will find others. If we are not strengthened by his promises, where in all the world are the people to whom these promises apply?

Luther knew that the cause of the Reformation was not his alone to move forward. He knew that God has a plan for the Church, His people. He knew that nothing would ultimately thwart those plans. Thus, he put his trust in the Lord and encouraged others to do the same.

In our passage this morning, Judahís trust in the Lord will be tested. Specifically, her King, Ahaz, will be told by the prophet to trust in the Holy One of Israel. In order to understand what is going on, look again at 7:1-2. Syria and Israel (the northern Kingdom) were threatening Judah and seemingly trying to get Ahaz to join with them against Assyria, who was a threat to all of them at this time. Isaiah tells us that Ahaz and the people of Judah were afraid of what these two small kingdoms would do to them. Yet, beginning in verse 3, the Lord tells Ahaz, through the prophet, that they should not fear these two kingdoms.

So then, Ahaz is put to the test. Will he take action by seeking help from powerful Assyria, everyoneís enemy, or will he trust in the Holy One of Israel? Unfortunately, Ahaz fails the test. He chooses to ignore Isaiah and will not ask for a sign (7:10-12). The Lord does in fact does give him a sign for the failure of these two small kingdoms, but now the sign also includes the downfall of Judah as well for Ahazís lack of trust (7:13-25). The rest of the passage will speak more about why Ahaz (and Godís people) should trust in the Lord. It is the truths that run through passages such as this that encouraged men like Luther to put their trust in the Lord. So then, according to Isaiah 7-11, why should we trust in the Lord and His plans?

First, we should trust in the Lord because His plan will bring justice to the arrogant.

Syria and Israel had plans to overthrow Ahaz and put someone else on the throne of Judah. Yet, the Lord had other plans. Look at 7:5-9. The Lord told Ahaz that their plans would fail. He warned him saying: If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all. The Lord is telling Ahaz to stop looking at the enemies and their strength. Rather, look to the Sovereign Lord.

The Lord tells Ahaz who will carry out this humbling of Syria and Israel (and even Judah to some degree, namely the powerful Assyria. Look at 8:5-8. The Lord is going to raise up Assyria to destroy Israel and Syria and even parts of Judah due to the peopleís lack of trust. In fact, in 9:8-10:4 we are given a four stanza poem that speaks clearly of the coming judgment on Israel and Judah. This is the Lordís plan.

Yet, what about Assyria? The Lord is using them to bring judgment, but what about their own arrogance? The Lord will bring justice to them as well. Look at 10:5-12, 15. Assyria was not intending to carry out the plans of God, but they were doing it nonetheless. No, they were arrogant in all their victories and their King bragged of his strength and his power. He did not know that he was only an axe in the hand of Almighty God. Just as an axe or a saw or a staff has no power in themselves, so the King of Assyria has no power that has not been given him by the Sovereign Lord. Thus, for his arrogance, the Lord will judge Assyria as well. They too will be humbled by the Lord in His timing. We can trust the Lord because we know that His plan is to bring justice to the arrogant.

Second, we should trust the Lord because his plan will preserve a remnant of His people.

Once again, Isaiah does not merely talk about judgment in this passage. No, he also talks about God preserving a people for Himself. We have already seen that He told Ahaz that Israel and Syria would not destroy Judah (see 7:7-9). Likewise, even though Assyria will invade, we know that Judah will not be destroyed completely (see 8:8-10). Isaiah goes on to speak even more about a future remnant of Godís people. Look at 10:20-23. The Lord will preserve a remnant even from the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Thus, as he will go on to say, Isaiah encourages the people of Judah to not fear the Assyrians, for they cannot bring an end to Godís people.

The idea of God preserving a remnant of His people is prevalent in the Old Testament, particularly in the prophetic books. Of course, it should be said that there is disappointment in this news as well. Yes, God will preserve a remnant, but it will only be a remnant. In other words, the destruction will so great that only a few will remain. In this way, Isaiah is balancing his message of judgment and his message of hope. Godís plan of preserving a people is never meant to encourage us in a false security. Rather, it should soberly remind us of the words of Christ: the path that leads to life is narrow and few find it. At the same time, we hold out hope for the Church that will ultimately never be prevailed against. In this way, the teaching of the remnant, and only a remnant, encourages our trust in the Lord.

Third, we should trust the Lord because his plan will include signs (and wonders).

There are a number of signs that are mentioned in these five chapters. As we look at how they play out, we can see God revealing His plans to His people (even though they are not always listening). I use the word Ďwondersí because these signs are miraculous and they point us to the signs and wonders of Jesusí ministry as well as the Apostles. The first sign comes in chapter 7. Ahaz refuses to trust the Lord and ask Him for a sign. The Lord, through Isaiah, gives him a sign anyway. Yet, now the sign not only tells of Syriaís and Israelís downfall, but it also speaks of the downfall of Judah. Look at 7:14-17.

These verses are somewhat familiar because Matthew sees them as ultimately fulfilled in Christ (see Matthew 1:23). This is a classic example of prophecy that has an immediate fulfillment and a future fulfillment. In one sense, this prophecy was fulfilled when the child named ĎImmanuelí was born in the days of Isaiah and Ahaz and before he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, Syria and Israel will be deserted. Yet, we know that ultimately this all points to Christ: the One who would come and truly deliver Godís people from their enemies, the One who would pay for their sins at Calvary, the One who would ultimately be ĎImmanuelí God with us.

A second sign that we see comes with the birth of Isaiahís second son, whose name was Maher-shalal-hashbaz. Look at 8:1-5. The prophet predicts his birth by writing his name on a tablet and we see this immediately fulfilled. His name, which means Ďthe spoil speeds, the prey hastensí points to the coming Assyrian invasion. Since these signs are so similar in what they point to immediately, namely the downfall of Syria and Israel by Assyria, some think that they are the same sign. In other words, the immediate fulfillment of Isaiahís prophecy to Ahaz about ĎImmanuelí coming was the birth of his second son. This is a possibility and I like it because it is a simple solution to what is going on here. Yet, there are some difficulties with this interpretation as well. But either way, we see immediate fulfillment which points to ultimate fulfillment. With these signs and wonders Isaiah is pointing us to the promised Messiah, which leads us to our final reason why we can trust the Lord and His plans.

Fourth, we should trust the Lord because His plan will send His people their promised King.

Along with the signs that we have already considered, which point us to Christ, Isaiah speaks of a child who will bring true peace to Godís people. Look at 9:1-7. This child will be the son of David, for He will reign on Davidís throne forever. Yet, He will be called Mighty God, a name never given to the kings of Israel. So then, who is this promised King? We are not given an answer until the pages of the New Testament. Matthew labors to show us that Jesus was a son of David. Yet, through the virgin birth (which Isaiah also foretold), we know that He was not just Davidís son, but He was Godís Son. Isaiah is writing about the coming of Christ 700 years before the event would actually take place! He goes on in chapter 11.

Look at 11:1-9. Isaiah has predicted fierce judgment on Judah and Israel. They will be reduced to nothing more than a stump. Yet, he has already told us the holy seed is its stump (see 6:13). Here, he tells us that a shoot shall come forth from the stump of Jesse (Davidís father). He will come in the line of David, but He will be more than just a king of Israel. The Spirit will rest upon Him. He will judge with righteousness and bring justice to the wicked. In fact, Isaiah even describes a time when the wolf shall dwell with the lamb and the nursing child shall play over the hole of the cobra. I think that these point us to days yet to come, when the created order will be restored by Christ. He will gather His people from all the nations and they will have complete victory over all of their enemies (see 11:11-16).

Thus, we can trust the Lord and His plans because He will bring justice to the arrogant. He will preserve a remnant of His people. He will give us signs and wonders. And He will send us the Promised King. Indeed, as we sit here after the time of Christ, we have even more reasons to trust the Lord because we have seen much of these plans unfold. Our world is consumed right now with the election, but we know Immanuelís name. We know that He came to deliver us from our enemies by dying on a cross for our sins. We know that He arose victorious over the grave. And we have His promise that He will return for His Bride, the Church. Our situation may be dire, but the plans of the Lord are sure. We can vote and face this week with great confidence in our Sovereign King. Thus, the only remaining question is simple: will you trust Him? Will you stop looking to yourself and your own plans and place all of your hope in what He has done and will do? I pray we do just that for our good and His glory. Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 11 November 2008 )

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