Idolatry and Deception: Isaiah Journal 26

Isaiah 8:1-8   Link to LXE

Overview of the Action

In Isaiah 8:1-8, the prophet finishes foretelling what the Lord began in chapter 7–the humbling and captivity of Israel/Samaria. He speaks also of assault upon Judah (Isaiah 8:8). The remainder of the chapter establishes the sovereignty of God. There, Isaiah speaks of Israel, Judah, and Gentiles, almost in the same breath. The only escape from the Lord’s judgment on each of these is to turn from idolatry and deception to the living Lord. The prophet presents the salvation of the Lord as the best option, because “God is with us,” (Isaiah 7:14).

Historical Perspective

Israel had divided into northern and southern kingdoms right after King Solomon died. By this point in their history, both kingdoms had lost the grandeur of the united kingdom under David. The northern kingdom, known as Israel, included Samaria. Israel/Samaria united with their former enemies, the Syrians. Together, they attacked Judah, but did not prevail (2 Kings 16:5).

During the portion of Isaiah recorded in chapters 7-8, King Achaz (Ahaz) ruled Judah in the south. 2 Kings 16:6-9 records how Ahaz approached Assyria to form an alliance with it to protect Judah from the attacks of the Israel/Syria alliance. Assyria, a more powerful kingdom further to the east than Syria, overwhelmed Israel and Syria. They carried Israel into captivity, from which the tribes of the northern kingdom never returned. This occurred mid-point in Isaiah’s long life of prophecy, just as he had spoken it to King Ahaz.

King Ahaz relied upon the Assyrians because he did not trust the Lord (Isaiah 7:12-13). While King Ahaz was cozying up to Assyria, he and his nation of Judah embraced the Assyrian pagan gods and customs. He imported these into Judah, destroying portions of the temple compound in exchange (2 Kings 16:10-18).

The Lord in his disciplinary displeasure allows Assyria to later invade Judah, but only as far as its “neck” (Isaiah 8:8). The Lord fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy of Assyrian attack during the time of King Hezekiah, who reigned just after Ahaz.

After Assyria failed to overwhelm Judah, Babylonia, a kingdom to the southeast of Assyria, destroys the latter. Eventually, Babylonia also deals the final blow to Judah and carries them off to their 70 year captivity. After that, the even larger kingdom of Persia, yet further to the east, defeats Babylonia. The Persian king is Cyrus, who sends Ezra and his remnant back to Israel.

SUMMARY: This portion of Scripture presents a picture of a food chain: Syria eats Israel; Assyria eats Syria; Babylonia eats Assyria; and Persia eats Babylonia. But whenever God’s tiny people trust in him, he spares and delivers them from all their enemies.

Details of the Action

  • ISAIAH 8:1-4. Isaiah prophesies the rapid, near-at-hand spoiling of the unholy alliance of Israel/Samaria and Syria (Damascus) by the king of Assyria. Application: The people of the northern kingdom of Israel were once God’s people. By turning to willfully persistent, unrepented idolatry, they rejected their identity as his people. When God’s people align themselves with evil, there is an even greater evil power ready to conquer them. Safety lies with God alone. (Did America learn this in its last election?)
  • ISAIAH 8:5-8. This new sub-section prophesies the devastation of Judah for similar idolatry and deception (Isaiah 2). One of the comprehension difficulties for our ears is Isaiah’s frequent use of pronouns, rather than more specific identifiers. In particular, when Isaiah writes, “this people” in verse 5: a) does he refer to Israel of the previous sub-section, or b) Judah, as clearly he does in verse 8? (All things considered, I prefer the former.) But either way, Judah will also be inundated by the Assyrian army.
    • Notes: Isaiah’s writing shows great sophistication (at least to one as simple as I am).
      • First, in 8:6, the “water of Siloam” (LXE, Septuagint in English) bears messianic symbolism. Its name means “sent.” In the New Testament, John narrates that Jesus healed a man’s blindness by anointing his eyes with dirt and his own spittle, then sending him to the pool of Siloam to wash his eyes completely (John 9:6). Notice, in John 9:4, Jesus refers to himself as “sent” by God. That is, Jesus is God’s sent-one, the Messiah. Isaiah 9:4 supports the symbolism of the “water of Siloam” by its mention of the “waters of salvation.” The Messiah is Israel’s salvation. An eager reader can also explore the many other references to water in John’s gospel, as for example, his discussion with the woman at the well in John 4:4-15.
      • Second, the closing phrase of Isaiah 6:8 is “God with us” in the Septuagint and O Immanuel in the Masoretic. This is also Messianic. In Matthew 1:23, an angel of the Lord prophesied to Joseph in a dream that the son to be born of his virgin wife (Isaiah 7:14) would be called “Immanuel (which means, God with us).” NET notes point out that God was with Judah even in their judgment by him.

Application: The Lord Disciplines Evangelicals

The evangelical church in America is experiencing a disciplining from the Lord at this particular moment, I believe.

    • Many evangelicals opened themselves to the deception of the enemy when they embraced a man whose faulty character was clear to them from the beginning. The character of that man has not changed. Nevertheless, many in the church believed the false prophets who told them this man would be elected a second time. They consider him to be the chosen of the Lord. Many persist in this false belief, expecting a miraculous turn-around in this person’s political fortunes. Their blind adulation borders on idolatry.

This man’s electoral loss ultimately led to violence in the nation’s Capitol. I see the loss, subsequent violence, and current state of confusion as a form of discipline upon evangelicals, which the Lord has allowed. I pray that the deception will be lifted, and these will fully trust in the Lord, rather than placing their trust in a mere man, whose “breath is in his nostrils” (Isaiah 2:22, NKJ). Many are also guilty of hating their perceived enemies, that is, their fellow Americans of an opposite political persuasion, rather than loving them, as the Lord commanded. A significant portion of these perceived enemies are actually sincere, believing, and faithful Christians, just as they themselves are.

    • On the other side, there are those Christians of an opposite political persuasion. Many of these have become overly concerned and passionate that the man of poor character be politically defeated. Their hope of this merely earthly outcome also borders on idolatry, because they have placed their trust in temporary, carnal solutions, rather than in the eternal Lord.
    • Prayer of Confession and Repentance: Lord, I confess my sin to you. Reveal to me the depth and breadth of my sinful ways. I ask that you forgive me. I pray that you free my spirit of all deception and blindness. Deliver me from the unholy weight of worry and fear that deception brings with it. Help me to love you with a pure and whole heart. Restore my vision to a single eye, one that is focused on Christ. I love you Lord, if ever so imperfectly. Bless your people on both sides of this political equation. Help us to truly love one another, even those of a different political persuasion. In your name, O Jesus, Immanuel. Thank-you, Lord. Amen


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