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8. Assyria, the Lord's Instrument

Moreover the Lord said unto me, Take thee a great roll, and write in it with a man’s pen concerning Maher-shalal-hash-baz. 2And I took unto me faithful witnesses to record, Uriah the priest, and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah. 3And I went unto the prophetess; and she conceived, and bare a son. Then said the Lord to me, Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz. 4For before the child shall have knowledge to cry, My father, and my mother, the riches of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria shall be taken away before the king of Assyria.

5The Lord spake also unto me again, saying, 6Forasmuch as this people refuseth the waters of Shiloah that go softly, and rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah’s son; 7Now therefore, behold, the Lord bringeth up upon them the waters of the river, strong and many, even the king of Assyria, and all his glory: and he shall come up over all his channels, and go over all his banks: 8And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel.

9Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces. 10Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us.

11For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying, 12Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy; neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid. 13Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread. 14And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. 15And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken. 16Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples. 17And I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him. 18Behold, I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts, which dwelleth in mount Zion.

19And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? 20To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. 21And they shall pass through it, hardly bestead and hungry: and it shall come to pass, that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward. 22And they shall look unto the earth; and behold trouble and darkness, dimness of anguish; and they shall be driven to darkness.

14. And he shall be for a sanctuary. He promises that the true worshippers of God will enjoy tranquillity of mind, because the Lord, covering them, as it were, under his wings, will quickly dispel all their fears. There is an allusion to the word sanctify which he had lately used; for the word מקדש, (mikdash,) which means sometimes a sanctuary, and sometimes a place of refuge, is derived from the same root. 130130     It may aid the English reader, in understanding this observation, to be reminded that the two words sanctify and sanctuary, come from the same root, sanct, or saint, that is, holy. — Ed. The meaning therefore is, that God demands nothing for which he does not offer mutual recompense, because every one that sanctifies him will undoubtedly find him to be a place of refuge. Now, although in this sanctification there is a mutual relation between us and God, yet there is a difference, for we sanctify him by ascribing all praise and glory to him, and by relying entirely upon him; but he sanctifies us, by guarding and preserving us from all evils. As there were few who believed and relied on his promises, the Prophet wished that the godly should be fortified against this kind of temptation; for there was a danger lest they should be carried away by such bad examples as by a kind of tempest.

The Prophet therefore meant, “The Lord will be your best and most faithful guardian. Though others stumble against him, yet be not you terrified; remain steadfastly in your calling.” And here a contrast is implied, though not expressed; for a sanctuary may be said to be a citadel situated in a lofty position, and a bulwark for defending and guarding the godly, but for destroying and overwhelming the ungodly, because they rashly stumble against it. We shall afterwards see more clearly how this was fulfilled, partly during the reign of Hezekiah, and partly at the time of the captivity into Babylon; and yet at the same time Christ was prefigured, who was to be not a place of refuge, but rather a stone of stumbling to the Israelites. Isaiah forewarns them of this stumbling, that the godly may be aware of it.

To the two houses of Israel. The Jews ignorantly and improperly tear asunder this verse, instead of dividing it. “God will be,” say they, “partly a sanctuary and partly a stone of stumbling; as if by the two families he distinguished between the godly and the unbelievers. On the contrary, he enjoins believers, though nearly the whole multitude of both kingdoms should dissuade them from obedience to God, not to be discouraged, but to disregard everything else, and break through all opposition. The Prophet might have simply said, he will be for an offense to Israel; but he intended to express more, for he includes the whole nation, and declares that God will be their destruction. The nation was divided into two kingdoms, Ephraim and Judah; and, therefore, he mentioned both. There were, indeed, some exceptions, but he speaks here of the whole body.

This is a remarkable passage and cannot be sufficiently called to remembrance, especially at the present time, when we see the state of religion throughout the whole Christian world brought nearly to ruin. Many boast that they are Christians who are strongly alienated from God, and to whom Christ is a stone of stumbling. The papists insolently and proudly boast of his name, though they profane the whole of his worship by superstitions, and bring upon it dishonor and reproach. Among those to whom a purer worship of God has been restored, there are very few who embrace the Gospel of God with sincere regard. Wherever we turn our eyes, very sore temptations meet us in every direction; and, therefore, we ought to remember this highly useful instruction, that it is no new thing, if a great multitude of persons, and almost all who boast that they belong to the Church, stumble against God. Yet let us constantly adhere to him, however small may be our numbers.

For a snare to the inhabitant of Jerusalem. This is the second circumstance introduced for heightening the picture; for, after having mentioned the two kingdoms, he names the metropolis itself. Although the whole country was crippled, yet it seemed that the Lord kept his abode there. He therefore means that God became a snare, not only to the common people who were scattered throughout the fields and villages, but to the nobles themselves, and to the priests who dwelt in Jerusalem, who dwelt in that holy habitation in which God intended that the remembrance of his name should be chiefly preserved. That was testified also by David, that those builders whom the Lord appointed rejected the chief corner-stone. (Psalm 118:22.) Christ quotes this passage against the Jews, and shows that it applies to himself. (Matthew 21:42; Mark 12:10.) This happened, indeed, in the time of Isaiah, but still more in the time of Christ; for ungodliness and rebellion gradually increased till they came to a height. Accordingly, both the highest and the lowest, who always had obstinately disobeyed God, at that time broke out against him still more with unrestrained indulgence, and therefore their destruction also reached its height; for they were altogether rejected by God, whose Son they had refused. Hence also we infer the eternal divinity of Christ, for Paul shows that it is God of whom the Prophet here speaks. (Romans 9:33.) Now, he speaks not of a pretended God, but of that God by whom heaven and earth were created, and who revealed himself to Moses. (Exodus 3:6.) It is, therefore, the same God by whom the Church has been always governed.


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