Today: [Isaiah 9] When God Changes the Subject. In Isaiah 9 the prophet Isaiah is warning the two houses of Israel that their reliance on foreign powers to save them from invasion will lead to their destruction. In the midst of describing the dark days ahead Isaiah lapses into a pronouncement of Messianic glory within whose verses we find some of the most familiar, most quoted verses of the Old Testament about the coming of Jesus. Many times, when you are frustrated and pressed to the point of total anxiety, God will often and inexplicably change the subject and instead of telling you what He will do about what is right in front of you – begins and chooses to draw your attention to transcendent matters of coming glory that are difficult for us to put our minds on given our present distresses. Are you willing to let God steer His conversation with you where He wants it to go? These two houses of Israel in Isaiah’s day refused to hear what the prophet was saying. They dismiss His words and go on pursuing their own idea of what had to happen to save their nations. As a result, they will be overrun and come to defeat in spite of Isaiah’s promise of a savior to come.
[Isa 9:1-21 KJV] 1 Nevertheless the dimness [shall] not [be] such as [was] in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, and afterward did more grievously afflict [her by] the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. 2 The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. 3 Thou hast multiplied the nation, [and] not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, [and] as [men] rejoice when they divide the spoil. 4 For thou hast broken the yoke of his burden, and the staff of his shoulder, the rod of his oppressor, as in the day of Midian. 5 For every battle of the warrior [is] with confused noise, and garments rolled in blood; but [this] shall be with burning [and] fuel of fire.
In chapter 8 we see Isaiah under directions of the Father causes his wife to conceive. The pregnancy is verified by another prophet and a priestly scribe and reported publicly in the court of king Ahaz. Then Isaiah goes on to prophesy that before the child is mature enough to call its mother’s name that the northern kingdom will be dismantled and the southern kingdom will be overrun. The judgments Isaiah pronounces thus far in the book of Isaiah are because Jerusalem is a city called Sodom and Gomorrah, it is filled with idolaters and murderers. Both the northern and southern kingdoms have turned from trusting in God and formed alliances with foreign powers that Isaiah predicts will ultimately come in a destroy both kingdoms. In the midst of great rebuke and reproof there are moments of scintillating prophetic insight where in the midst of very dark contemporary events Isaiah by the spirit of prophecy sees down through the centuries that a virgin shall conceive and bring forth a son.
It is a peculiar nature of the prophetic that when we seek God regarding matters contemporary to us that He will often give us more information than we asked for. I have often gone to God crying out for relief or answers for something right in front of me only to have Him dismiss my urgent matter with a wave of His hand. It is as though He says “I’ve already taken care of this – let Me show you what is really on My mind!” Thus He does in Isaiah – breaking through the nauseating address of corruption, idolatry and faithlessness all around Isaiah to announce some of the greatest, most profound Messianic portents found anywhere in the bible and this chapter is no exception. So learn to let God steer the conversation where He wants it to go and not insist that what He has to say must address what you think needs His attention. Remember the words of Amos in Amos 9:13 that in a time of evil keep silence and be more ready to listen to what God has to say rather than demand that He act and speak according to what you think needs dealt with in your life. Then you are brought up into the mind of God and see things from His transcendant perspective rather than the confusing, blinding demands of the urgent issue that you think is so important and can’t see beyond.
Chapter 9 begin with a statement of perspective on the prediction of the total destruction of the two houses of Israel. Isaiah says in effect “though things are going to get bad – nonetheless it won’t be so dark as has happened before…” and then goes on to make the comparison of prior events in what is now known even in Isaiah’s time as Galilee of the Gentiles. Upon placing the lens of his prophetic insight on the land of Galilee Isaiah abruptly changes focus and declares “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined…” What is going on? Isaiah is looking down through several centuries and see the birth, and ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. He also looks by the prophetic spirit at what the nation will look like at that time and see that in Jesus’ day that the nation of Israel has increased and been restored from a destruction yet to come yet he also sees that there is no joy among them. Indeed in Jesus’ day there was much contention and strife among the Jews who were so full of turmoil that they rejected Jesus when He showed up and even crucified Him. He then turns His eye back to the great light he sees in Galilee and goes on to declare what he sees:
6 For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. 7 Of the increase of [his] government and peace [there shall be] no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this. 8 The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel. 9 And all the people shall know, [even] Ephraim and the inhabitant of Samaria, that say in the pride and stoutness of heart, 10 The bricks are fallen down, but we will build with hewn stones: the sycomores are cut down, but we will change [them into] cedars. 11 Therefore the LORD shall set up the adversaries of Rezin against him, and join his enemies together; 12 The Syrians before, and the Philistines behind; and they shall devour Israel with open mouth. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand [is] stretched out still. 13 For the people turneth not unto him that smiteth them, neither do they seek the LORD of hosts.
Do you understand how that in the midst of Isaiah looking at terrible things going on around him, God is breaking through to give Him much greater, deeper, more glorious and UNSOLICITED insight into the coming of Christ Himself? There will be a son given and the government will be upon His shoulder. Why speak of government? Because in Isaiah’s day as in our own the nations are reeling from one dependency to another because of vastly diverse and unreliable leaders. One king is godly and his replacement is filled with evil. That evil king is removed and the next is a godly king such as Hezekiah who will soon replace Ahaz the current king. The people are looking at government in great anxiety and struggle and to this Isaiah pronounces that a GOVERNMENT is coming that does not derive from man but from the hand of God Himself over which the Messiah shall be seated and rule forever. That is a kingdom that Jesus said in Luke 17:20,21 is ON THE INSIDE OF US. The Pharisees in Luke 17 were extrapolating from these very sayings of Isaiah that a governor would be raised up in their midst. They thought it would be a regional government established over their local situation but Jesus transcended this perspective and tells them in Luke 17 that the government and kingdom they are longing for is on the inside of them – which government He was come to tear down the walls of partition that prevented us and cause us to become one with the Father and immersed in that kingdom that is righteousness, joy and peace.
14 Therefore the LORD will cut off from Israel head and tail, branch and rush, in one day. 15 The ancient and honourable, he [is] the head; and the prophet that teacheth lies, he [is] the tail. 16 For the leaders of this people cause [them] to err; and [they that are] led of them [are] destroyed. 17 Therefore the Lord shall have no joy in their young men, neither shall have mercy on their fatherless and widows: for every one [is] an hypocrite and an evildoer, and every mouth speaketh folly. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand [is] stretched out still. 18 For wickedness burneth as the fire: it shall devour the briers and thorns, and shall kindle in the thickets of the forest, and they shall mount up [like] the lifting up of smoke. 19 Through the wrath of the LORD of hosts is the land darkened, and the people shall be as the fuel of the fire: no man shall spare his brother. 20 And he shall snatch on the right hand, and be hungry; and he shall eat on the left hand, and they shall not be satisfied: they shall eat every man the flesh of his own arm: 21 Manasseh, Ephraim; and Ephraim, Manasseh: [and] they together [shall be] against Judah. For all this his anger is not turned away, but his hand [is] stretched out still.
Even though Isaiah is speaking of things much beyond the narrow perspective of the immediate crises of the day – the people are being dismissive of his words. They will as Isaiah predicts in verse 9 and 10 go on their way acting in the stoutness of their heart, applying solutions that make sense to them. Many times when God speaks out of frustration we just dismiss His words and go on our way implementing solutions the best we can. This is what happened in John 11:25-28 when Jesus showed up to comfort Mary and Martha over the death of their brother Lazarus. Martha meets Jesus first and He tells her He is the resurrection. She becomes frustrated and walks away telling her more esoteric minded sister Mary “the Master calleth thee…” Jesus had not called Mary but Martha was uninterested in looking past her personal anguish to see that Jesus was offering her a deliverance that didn’t fit her narrow paradigm of what was going to happen next. She forsook her own mercy and contaminated her testimony. From that moment on for centuries her life has been a cautionary example saying to us not to think like a Martha but rather be willing as Mary to hear whatever Jesus has to say to us regardless whether we think it fits our situation. Because the two kingdoms refuse the call of Isaiah to trust in the Lord Isaiah pronounces that both kingdoms will be decimated and destroyed. This comes to pass in the northern kingdom, but before the southern kingdom is carried away captive there will be one more godly king by the name of Hezekiah before whom Isaiah will also prophesy.
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