We have already met Isaiah’s son Shear-jashub and noted the meaning of his name: “the remnant shall return.” Now we are introduced to Maher-shalal-hashbaz, another of the prophet’s sons. His name, which was given as a sign to Judah, means “in making speed to the spoil he hastens the prey.”
Some critics have insisted that Maher-shalal-hashbaz was the son of the maiden referred to in Isaiah 7 and that she was the prophet’s wife. But there is no possibility of identifying Immanuel (7:14) with Maher-shalal-hashbaz. The significance of the name Immanuel was that God would dwell among men in the person of His Son (and this is confirmed in Isaiah 9), but the young lad with the long outlandish name was so called in view of something altogether different.
The name Maher-shalal-hashbaz was given and recorded in the temple before the child was born. Its significance was this: Damascus,”the Syrian capital that had been at enmity with Judah and confederate with Israel, was about to be spoiled by the Assyrians; and at the same time Israel was to fall prey to that great and mighty power. These events would transpire before the child was grown.
The allied peoples of Syria and Israel (the northern kingdom), refusing to recognize the value of association with Judah, had spurned the peaceful waters of Shiloah. They had joined forces under Rezin (king of Syria) and Remaliah’s son Pekah (the upstart king of Israel) in order to destroy Judah. Therefore the Lord was bringing against them the armies of the king of Assyria. The Assyrians would flow over Syria and Israel like a great river and would even reach into Judah, thus overspreading ImmanueFs land— the land promised by covenant to Abraham and his seed, which seed is Christ.
As Christians we delight to use the expression Immanuel’s land in a spiritual sense, and we are justified in doing this. But in 8:8 the words “thy land, O Emmanuel” actually refer to the land of Palestine. It was the land Jehovah had claimed as His own when He had declared, “The land shall not be sold for ever: for the land is mine” (Leviticus 25:23).
To ward off this danger from his land, Ahaz sought an alliance with Egypt, but no such association would avail to avert the threatened judgment.
Instinctively in times of stress and danger men think of confederacies as the best means of preserving the traditions and conditions that they hold dear. It was so in Judah; it is so in Christendom today. Individuals and churches join various leagues that their organizers hope will prove to be bulwarks against the onrushing tide of evil. But again and again it has been demonstrated that all such federations tend to deteriorate as time goes by. Afterward the children of those who formed these associations revert to the evils against which their fathers protested.
The only real recourse in a day of evil is to cleave to the Lord. No matter what happens, He remains unchanged and unchangeable. So the prophet exhorted the people, “Sanctify the Lord of hosts himself; and let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.”
When the Lord is given His rightful place, He will be as a sanctuary to those who put their trust in Him. But to those who reject Him, He will be “a stone of stumbling” and “a rock of offense,” as He was when He appeared in human form to both the houses of Israel. These words were applied to our blessed Lord in the New Testament (1 Peter 2:8). When He, the long-looked-for Messiah came in lowly grace, the nation stumbled over Him and so was broken and scattered, as predicted in Isaiah 8:15.
God’s Word is a dependable resource for His obedient people. To those who are willing to be taught of God, the Word becomes increasingly precious as the days grow darker. Hence Paul, after predicting the coming apostasy in the Ephesian church, said to the elders, “I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace” (Acts 20:32). In the same vein Isaiah, speaking on God’s behalf, exclaimed, “Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples.”
In 8:17 we hear the voice of him who takes the place of dependence on God: “I will wait upon the Lord, that hideth his face from the house of Jacob, and I will look for him.” The Lord may seem to be indifferent to the trials His people are passing through, but actually He is not. His face may be hidden, but His heart is always aware of them.
Isaiah and his family were called to be a testimony to all Israel. “Behold,” he said, “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” (8:18). Part of this verse is quoted in Hebrews 2:13, where it is applied to the Lord Jesus and those who receive life through believing in His name.
Isaiah 8:19-22 gives us a solemn warning against what is now known as spiritualism and against any form of necromancy. When we are urged to seek light and help from spirit-mediums, we should say, “Should not a people seek unto their God?” The living should not ask the dead for help. All attempts to get into contact with the spirits of the dead are forbidden in Scripture. (See Deuteronomy 18:9-12 and Leviticus 20:27.) It is a grievous offense in the eyes of God for anyone to turn from His revealed Word to those who profess to have power to summon the spirits of the departed. Either the mediums are charlatans, deceiving those who go to them, or they are possessed by impersonating demons, misleading all who follow them.
God’s sure Word abides. Those who speak contrary to it are in darkness themselves and there is no morning for them. When the day dawns for the eternal blessing of the redeemed, there will be outer darkness for those who have spurned the light of truth, only to be misled by falsehood. Such individuals will be exposed at last for what they really are: blind leaders of the blind. They will look in vain for help when those who have obeyed the Word of God find light and blessing. Spiritualism is a Satanic cult that can only disappoint those who follow the will-o’-the-wisp of its direction. They will at last be driven into the darkness.