The Way We Ought To Walk (8:11-18)
Not like the world (8:11-12).
The Lord comes to Isaiah and warns him not live like these people. In chapter 6 we saw Isaiah declare that he was a man of unclean lips and lived among an unclean people. God had purified him and charged him to preach God’s message to the people. Part of this charge is to not return to the lifestyle of the people you were called out from. They walk in the way of darkness and you cannot belong to that way. Don’t fear what the people fear. God tells Isaiah to honor the Lord and fear him. In fact, there is nothing else to fear. The life of those who are God’s children is to honor the Lord and fear him alone.
Honoring God (8:13-15)
Those who treat God as holy do not ignore his words, dishonor his name, or fail to trust him. They bow in awe to the Lord. They give the Lord his due reverence. In faith they obey what the Lord says. God is showing that we do not honor God when we fail to trust him. Those who follow God will do things differently than the world because their trust is in God and they fear no one but God. God’s call to not living like the world is not a call to isolated, monastic living. Physical separation is not going to be the factor that keeps us from acting like the world. You can live alone and still be just like the world in thought and action. Obedience to God’s word is what keeps us from acting like the world. Honoring God is what keeps us from acting like the world. A fear and reverence for God is what keeps us from acting like the world.
Verse 14 describes what God will be for the people. He will either be a sanctuary or he will be a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling. We see the picture of God as the holy place, the sanctuary, in Exodus 25:8 where God says that he will dwell among his people. If Isaiah and the people will fear God, then he will be a sanctuary, a place of solid strength and refuge, a blessing, and a comfort. God is telling us that he will be with us and be a blessing to us if we will trust him and not live like the world. However, to those who will not trust him, the Lord will become a stone of offense and rock of stumbling. The rock will lead to ruin rather than refuge. There are strong consequences when we refuse to treat the Lord as holy. Notice that this is the very connection that the apostle Peter makes in his teaching, pulling this context into his own day. In 1 Peter 1:15 Peter called for Christians to be holy in all their conduct. Peter continues in chapter 2.
7 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” 8 and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:7–12 ESV)
The rock was put in the road to block the traveler from danger. But in carelessness or rebellion, he refuses the warning and stumbles to his death. How you respond to God determines whether he is your sanctuary or your stumbling stone.
Treasuring God’s Word (8:16).
God tells Isaiah to preserve this neglected teaching for a later generation who will listen (vs. 16-18). Treasuring God’s word and finding hope in God are inseparable. Faith in God is waiting for the arrival of that hope.
Trusting and hoping in God (8:17-18).
Further, Isaiah says that while he waits for the Lord and puts his hope in God, his children are signs of that hope to the people. Recall that their names reflect the coming judgment and the coming hope. This phrase in verse 18 is quoted in Hebrews 2:13. In Hebrews the quotation is used of Jesus talking and speaking about his children that God had given him, referring to us his followers. Jesus put his hope and trust in the Father in experiencing the sufferings that flesh and blood experience. In doing so, we are able to be called his brothers and sisters (Hebrews 2:12), his congregation (Hebrews 2:12), and his children (Hebrews 2:13). This means that we have become signs to the world of the hope that is in Christ because he has suffered for us. Not only are we signs to the world and into him we place our hope and trust, but Christ is able to help us because we have put our trust in him. Since we are his children and he experienced flesh and blood, Christ is able to help us when we are being tempted (Hebrews 2:18).
The Way We Walk (8:19-22)
Unfortunately we fail to put our trust in God just as they did. Verse 19 reveals that rather than asking God and trusting God, we walk in darkness. We live like the world. We do not put our trust in the Lord. Isaiah reveals that the people were trusting mediums and sorcery. It is a good thing that people today don’t try to figure their lives out by trying to talk to the dead, chasing ghosts, getting palms read, seeking paranormal experiences, or trusting in psychics. God asks why people are not asking him. Why are people not asking of the Lord? Why would anyone ask the dead about the affairs of the living? It does not make any sense. Yet we seek answers in everything but the Lord which causes us to be worthy of judgment.
God says that if you want answers, then see the teaching and the testimony of the Lord! (vs. 20). Don’t go to the dead. Go to the word of God! Anyone who does not speak according to the word of the Lord is completely in the dark and does not have the light of dawn. God’s words are the only source of light. We are rejecting God when we look in other places for guidance and hope.
We become practical atheists. We say that we trust God but in practice we do not trust him at all. We do not believe that we can place our hope firmly in him. So we live our lives in distress and anguish. We live in emptiness and futility of life. Further, we become jaded and disenchanted with life, not finding the answers we are looking for. Then we become angry at God and blame him for the problems and difficulties in our lives, not recognizing that it is because we have rejected the teaching and the testimony of the Lord that we are in anguish. So we turn and look back to the earth. We look back at this world trying to find answers only to find more distress and more darkness. Therefore, God describes the people and the land as covered in distress and darkness. It is the gloom of anguish and the people will be thrust into thick darkness — judged, exiled, separated, and lost. Verse 17 tells us that God is hiding his face from his people. It is a time of darkness and gloom. The scene ends with a picture of darkness and gloom over the people and over the land.
The Way of Light (9:1-3)
But the future is written as if it has already occurred. It is spoken of in prophetic certainty. These seven verses of Isaiah 9 describe these events as completely. Therefore the people are to look forward to it with great certainty. Now there is a triumph of grace. “But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish.” The land of Naphtali and Zebulun brought contempt, but in latter times God will make the way glorious. God is going to give his people light again in the latter time. Zebulun and Naphtali are chosen because these were parts of the northern nation which were conquered and added to the Assyrian Empire. But this would be the land where the light would shine first. The region of Galilee is where Jesus’ ministry began!
13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” 17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:13–17 ESV)
Now the people and the nation have multiplied. The fulfillment of the covenant made with Abraham is arriving. The nation is multiplied and the joy of the people has multiplied. The triumph of God’s grace brings joy. The people are rejoicing like it were harvest time and are pictured as victorious as the spoil is divided. Isaiah speaks in great amazement. Of all people God has increased their joy. Verses 4-7 will describe the joy that we have.
Why We Have Joy (9:4-7)
Verse 4 reveals that the people have joy because God is breaking the power of the oppressors. The imagery pictures how God broke the power of the oppressors in the days of the judges. The rod of the oppressor will be broken just like on the day of Midian. The day of Midian refers to the days of Gideon when, with only three hundred men, God wiped out the Midianites. There is going to be another Liberator who will come and deliver the people, but he will be greater than Gideon. The victory will not be accomplished by our power or might, but by God’s power, just like in the days of Gideon.
But there is no need to get ready for battle. Verse 5 reveals that the battle is over. The victory is accomplished. Every boot and every garment has already been in battle and are now burned as fuel for the fire. The king has won the battle. God has accomplished his victory and we simply walk in after the battle has finished and the battle clothes are being burned. Why has the victory come? How has the victory come? Verses 6-7 explain how.
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” When the son is given, all that results from his coming is at once secured. It is the announcement of the birth of a son who would reign forever as a righteous Davidic ruler, a ruler very different than wicked Ahaz. God is going to graciously give a child and he will be the ruler of this glorious kingdom. Who is this child? Who is this son that God will give so that darkness will be turn to light, that anguish will be turned to joy, that the rod of the oppressor will be broken, and through whom the victory will be achieved? Isaiah is noted for its significant names. The King has a fourfold name.
Wonderful Counselor. We use the word “wonderful” in a way that evokes emotions that is really not intended here. “Wonderful” does not mean that he is delightful. We sometimes use the word “wonderful” in that way. For example, my meal was wonderful. The idea of the word is “full of wonder” or “full of miracles.” He is doing something extraordinary and miracles with the skill of giving wise advice, plan, and counsel. He is going to exhibit the miraculous acts of God. God will be working through the son to demonstrate his extraordinary wisdom to plan miraculous things.
Mighty God. There is something special about this son because he carries the power of God. Some want to deny the aspect of deity here, suggesting that a verb must be supplied so that this reads, “God is mighty” or “God is a mighty warrior.” However, no other person is called by God’s name and God is never called by a human name. There is something special and amazing because this son is able to carry God’s name.
Everlasting Father. Everlasting is a title that does not apply to any human ruler, except the promise made to David that one would rule on his throne forever (2 Samuel 7:16). Father depicts the tenderness of this ruler and king. He leads his people as a father leads his children.
Prince of Peace. Many kings came and brought peace to their subjects. But this king does something that other kings cannot do. He brings peace between God and humans. This is important to the context of the prophecy because Isaiah 8:17 revealed that God was hiding his face from the people. When this son is born, then peace will be reestablished between God and the people.
Verse 7 continues to explore what this child will do so that joy is increased to the people. His rule will continue to increase and his kingdom continue to expand. No one will be able to successfully oppose his authority or destroy his government. This reign will consist of righteousness and justice and his reign will always be that way. Unlike the reign of Solomon, the son of David, whose reign began in righteousness, wisdom, and justice but then eroded as Solomon turned away from the Lord, this son of David will rule in righteousness, wisdom, and justice now and forevermore.
Finally, the Lord’s zeal will see to this. It will happen because God is passionately involved with his people.
We are the people that Isaiah is speaking about that will experience great joy. We are the ones who have had the power of the oppressor broken. Sin no longer has to have its enslaving power over us through Jesus. The victory was decisive. The battle is over. The child was born, was killed by his enemies, but raised from the dead three days later where he established his throne. Now his kingdom is growing and expanding and no one will be victorious against it. To put the image into something we can relate to, if you knew the outcome of a war, which side would you be on? If we had known the outcome of the Vietnam War we likely would have never entered into it. Knowing the outcome of World War II, would you choose to be on the side of the Germans or of the allies? Obviously we would choose the winning side. Here is the picture for us. The outcome is already determined. Christ wins. He won on the cross. Now the kingdom is moving throughout the earth. Resist the king and be judged. Serve the king and find joy and peace. The light of the Lord has come into the anguish of our gloom. Our Lord will deal with every enemy and bring joy to every follower of his. We are to have joy! Look at what God has done to our sinful circumstances! Come to the Lord Jesus and enjoy the blessings of his victory.