SIGNS OF THE TIMES
Dear God, in the drama of Bethlehem, You showed that words are not enough. You gave Your only Son. Bless the Lord, O my soul.
Read ISAIAH 8
Isaiah and His Children as Signs
8 The Lord said to me, “Take a large scroll and write on it with an ordinary pen: Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz.”[a] 2 So I called in Uriah the priest and Zechariah son of Jeberekiah as reliable witnesses for me. 3 Then I made love to the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son. And the Lord said to me, “Name him Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. 4 For before the boy knows how to say ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the plunder of Samaria will be carried off by the king of Assyria.”
5 The Lord spoke to me again:
6 “Because this people has rejected
the gently flowing waters of Shiloah
and rejoices over Rezin
and the son of Remaliah,
7 therefore the Lord is about to bring against them
the mighty floodwaters of the Euphrates—
the king of Assyria with all his pomp.
It will overflow all its channels,
run over all its banks
8 and sweep on into Judah, swirling over it,
passing through it and reaching up to the neck.
Its outspread wings will cover the breadth of your land,
9 Raise the war cry,[c] you nations, and be shattered!
Listen, all you distant lands.
Prepare for battle, and be shattered!
Prepare for battle, and be shattered!
10 Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted;
propose your plan, but it will not stand,
for God is with us.[d]
11 This is what the Lord says to me with his strong hand upon me, warning me not to follow the way of this people:
12 “Do not call conspiracy
everything this people calls a conspiracy;
do not fear what they fear,
and do not dread it.
13 The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy,
he is the one you are to fear,
he is the one you are to dread.
14 He will be a holy place;
for both Israel and Judah he will be
a stone that causes people to stumble
and a rock that makes them fall.
And for the people of Jerusalem he will be
a trap and a snare.
15 Many of them will stumble;
they will fall and be broken,
they will be snared and captured.”
16 Bind up this testimony of warning
and seal up God’s instruction among my disciples.
17 I will wait for the Lord,
who is hiding his face from the descendants of Jacob.
I will put my trust in him.
18 Here am I, and the children the Lord has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the Lord Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion.
The Darkness Turns to Light
19 When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? 20 Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. 21 Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. 22 Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has come to His people and redeemed them.’1
Wait for it! Christmas is coming! Isaiah is about to focus on the Child coming to turn darkness into light and bring God’s peace to a redeemed world. He has a few other reminders to bring first, however, using his own son’s name as a picture. We are all different; some respond better to statements and facts, whereas others are more influenced by images and pictures. Isaiah is happy to use both – the important thing is that the message gets across. The warnings given in this chapter are stark: verses 19–22 make it clear that the possibility of forever remaining in the darkness is very real. The key seems to be who and what God’s people listen to and trust. At various points Israel makes positive and helpful trade relations with neighboring countries – the use of Lebanon’s cedar wood in the building of the temple is a good example2 – but when God’s people begin to see political alliances as the basis for building a prosperous future and defeating their enemies, rather than concentrating on what God requires of them, then they are heading for disaster. Furthermore, when they listen to and join in the fears and conspiracy theories of those around rather than fearing the Lord Almighty, then God Himself would be a stumbling block to them (14) rather than the cornerstone of a new building!
Our situation is rather different. The church is chosen by God as His people, but not as a nation. However, we do need to hear and heed these warnings. In a democratic context, everyone has responsibility to make choices, but if the whole church chooses to yoke itself to any political group and give primary allegiance to it, then we, like Israel of old, will be heading for disaster!
Pray that God will reveal to you whether the values of any group you are allied with have become more important than God’s values. Pray for help to make changes.
Lord of the Manger, at this season fill my heart with kindness, so that I may become more like You. I give thanks to You, Prince of Peace.
1 Luke 1:68 2 1 Kings 5
Click here to sign up to receive the EXTRAs via email each quarter.
© 2023 Scripture Union U.S.A. All rights reserved. Reproduction of the whole or any part of the contents without written permission is prohibited.
Encounter with God is published in the USA under license from Scripture Union England and Wales, Trinity House, Opal Court, Opal Drive, Fox Milne, Milton Keynes, MK15 0DF.