Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Isaiah 7 & 8

Isaiah's Warning to Judah

The Lord commanded Isaiah to warn Judah not to form a political alliance with Assyria. To briefly provide a background, the superpower of that day was Assyria. Assyria was on the move and was going to invade Israel and Jerusalem. Israel (Ephraim) saw the imminent invasion and formed an alliance with Syria. This alliance also wanted Judah to join them, but Judah refused. Therefore the Syro-Israeli alliance was going to force Judah into the alliance by attacking her. Hoping to repel this attack, Judah intended to form an alliance with Assyria whereby Assyria would protect Judah from the Syro-Israeli alliance. Isaiah and his son were sent to the king of Judah to warn him against forming an alliance with Assyria and instead to put faith in the Lord.

Isaiah tells Ahaz to "fear not, neither be fainthearted" (Isaiah 7:4). Syria and Israel will not attack Judah. Instead, they will be scattered and broken. But Ahaz lacks faith. Isaiah further warns him, "If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established" (Isaiah 7:9). I like the translation Ludlow uses; "If you do no stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all" (140).

In order to prove the legitimacy of Isaiah's words, the Lord tells the king through Isaiah to ask for a sign. But Ahaz refuses. It almost seems that he is like an ostrich with its head stuck in the sand. He trusts more in establishing an alliance with Assyria to protect Judah than in having faith in the Lord. Either is trust in the arm of flesh or his complete lack of faith in the Lord causes him to not even want to see a sign. But the Lord insists he sees the sign.

The Immanuel Prophecy

We have been taught my modern revelation that the Immanuel referred to in this prophecy is Jesus Christ. But given that this prophecy to Ahaz was delivered centuries before Christ, this prophecy may also have referred more directly to a boy who lived in during this era. As with many prophecies from Isaiah, there are multiple levels and meanings.

Ludlow offers three theories in his book. The one I tend to agree with is multi-level meaning prophecy. He describes the three levels:

1. As mentioned earlier, Ahaz and the people of Judah needed to develop faith in the Lord to deliver them from the confederacy of Rezin and Pekah. A son was to be born and named Immanuel as a sign of the Lord's power of deliverance in the subsequent withdrawal and humiliation of the threatening alliance.

2. To the people at the time of the birth of Christ, it was a sign to know that Jesus Christ, the Messiah, was to come. Therefore, Isaiah was promised that God himself should "come down from heaven among the children of men and dwell in a tabernacle of clay" (Mosiah 3:5) to free them from the threat of sin and spiritual bondage. (This level of fulfillment is the one usually stressed by General Authorities of this dispensation as they quote and apply the Immanuel prophecy.) (See Matt. 1:21-23.)

3. Isaiah's prophecy is a call to faith in the last days. The birth of Christ strengthens our faith that in the end of the world, against all odds, the Lord "shall bring again Zion." (See Isa. 52:9-10; D&C 84:99.) The memorial of Immanuel's birth is a sign of God's help in such extremity and is intended to build our faith today that indeed "God is with us."
Isaiah's Warning Reiterated

Judah received confirmation of Isaiah's legitimacy as a prophet when his second son began to speak. He warned the people by writing on a large parchment that the attack of the Assyrians on Israel to the north was approaching. He embodied this warning in his son's name which meant "to speed to the spoil, he hasteneth the prey" (see footnote Isaiah 8:1d). He further stated that before the boy would be able to speak, all the spoils of Israel and Syria would be carried away by Assyria. The people observed closely and received a confirmation that Isaiah was a prophet of God.

Next he warns them that as they have rejected the "waters of Shiloah," which meant they rejected the Lord, then they would be flooded by the waters of the river or "the king of Assyria" (Isaiah 8:7).

He also warns them again of forming an alliance with Assyria (Isaiah 8:9). He also warns those who would fight Judah. In Isaiah 8:10, he tells them that for all their planning, it will be for naught, "for God is with us."

The Lord commands Isaiah to not follow the way of the people. Rather, he needed seek the will of the Lord. Those who listen to Isaiah and the Lord will find a sanctuary or a protection in the Lord. Those who do not heed the Lord's counsel will stumble, then fall and then be broken and then snared by the devil and finally taken to hell (Isaiah 8:15). This verse reminds me of 2 Nephi 26:22 where we learn that the devil would lead us by the neck with a flaxen cord until he binds us with strong cords forever.

Isaiah conclude by testifying of himself and his sons as signs from God (Isaiah 8:18). Then he teaches them to not seek after mediums and "wizards that peep." Rather, they should go directly to the source for revelation. One of the great lessons from the Restoration is that each of us can go directly to the source. We do not have to seek "wizards that peep" to tell us God's will concerning us. Each of us can pray and receive personal revelation and testimony from above.

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