Lesson 4

The Hard Way

(Isaiah 8)
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Introduction: Let's review. King Ahaz of Judah finds that his enemies (Syria and Israel) have shown up, armed and dangerous, at his front door step. He could rely on God for help, but he does not. Instead, he bribes the King of Assyria to attack Syria and Israel. What does Ahaz use for bribe money? The valuables from God's temple and palace money. Instead of relying on God, he relies on money and other humans. Is it a smart move? Let's jump into our lesson and find out!

  1. Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz


    1. Read Isaiah 8:1-2. Let's put this in modern terms. Isaiah gets a big banner and he writes on it "Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz." Why would someone put a message up on a banner? (They want to get people's attention.)


      1. Notice that Isaiah calls in a couple of witnesses. Why would he do that? (It tells us that he wants to have no dispute that he wrote what he did, when he did, on this big banner.)


    2. We don't know what this means, or why he wrote it, but God must have thought it important, right? Let's continue with our story. Read Isaiah 8:3. Have any of you seen these stork signs in front of homes? What does it mean? (That they have a new baby in the house. It is a birth announcement.)


      1. Consider how Isaiah does this. He puts up a birth announcement - a sign with his son's name on it - before the son is even conceived. (By the way, the "prophetess" is his wife.) This is strange behavior! Why would Isaiah announce the birth of his son before he is conceived? (This is not just a normal birth announcement. Something else is going on.)


    3. To solve this mystery, we need to skip down a few verses. Read Isaiah 8:18. What are Isaiah's children? (They are signs!)


    4. This child's name bears some further investigation now that we know he is a "sign." How would you like to have the name "Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz?" (One of the ladies in our office just gave birth to a son. The son has a very long and complex name. I figured the kid would learn to walk before he could say his name. Writing that name would be a task for second grade! Writing the name Isaiah gave to his son seems like junior high school level work to me. It is the longest personal name in the Bible.)


      1. "Hash-Baz" seems to have a "ring" to it. Anyone know what the name means? (It means "Quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil.")


      1. If this son is supposed to be a sign, what does his name mean as a sign? (Pirates are present!)


    1. Read Isaiah 8:4. How old do have to be before you can say "Momma" or "Daddy?"


      1. Put this prophecy together with the boy's name and tell me what it means? (It means that within a very short period of time the Pirate Assyrians are going to defeat Syria and Israel - the enemies of King Ahaz.)


    2. Put yourself in King Ahaz's place. Last week we learned that he decided to trust the King of Assyria instead of God. He bribes the King of Assyria to defeat his enemies, Syria and Israel. The King of Assyria does just that. What is King Ahaz saying to himself? (I was right to trust the Assyrians. It was money well spent.)


      1. Now tell me why Isaiah wrote the boy's name on a banner and had it witnessed before the child was even conceived? (God wants absolute proof that He knew what would happen. This would tend to prove that He was responsible, and not the King of Assyria.)


      2. Have you been in the place of King Ahaz before? You trusted in yourself or in other humans and it worked out just fine?


        1. Have you had the experience of being unable to tell if something happened because of God's power or the influence of someone else? Was it God's power or just a coincidence? Was it God's power or luck?


  1. The Choice


    1. Read Isaiah 8:5-8. Have you ever seen a river at flood stage? How does it compare to the river normally? (Rivers and streams at flood stage are dangerous.)


      1. To what does God compare Himself? (A gentle flowing river. "Shiloah" actually means a conduit. This gives the sense that the water is controlled.)


      2. To what does God compare the Assyrians? (A river at flood stage.)


        1. Why are these comparisons appropriate? (A gentle river brings life and blessings. A river at flood stage cannot be controlled and brings destruction.)


      3. Notice verse 8. How high does the Assyrian river get? (Up to the neck.)


        1. What does this mean? (It will seem to be a close call. However, Judah will not perish in this Assyrian attack. In Isaiah 37 we read where God defeated the Assyrian army under Sennacherib.)


    2. Read Isaiah 8:9-10. Who is speaking here? The Assyrians or the people of Judah?


      1. The answer turns on the end of verse 10 "for God is with us." With which army was God at that time? (I think this refers to the Assyrian army. The New Living Translation attributes this language to the Assyrians. God was aiding the Assyrians.)


    1. Step back a minute. God compares the Assyrians to an uncontrolled river at flood stage. Is that really an accurate picture? (The Assyrians could not be controlled by King Ahaz or the pro-Assyrian faction in his country. However, God says they will come up to your neck and no more this time. They were indeed controlled by God.)


      1. Is this still true today - that uncontrollable circumstances are still under God's control?


    2. Read Isaiah 8:11-13. This is a famous verse. What do you understand this advice about conspiracy to mean?


      1. How does this advice apply today? (I see the problem to which this advice is addressed all the time. God's people ally with the enemies of God's people because they fear for the future. As Isaiah says, "The Lord Almighty is the one [alone] ... you are to fear." In every controversy, in every conspiracy, decide who and what promotes the Kingdom of God and support that. Don't join with God's enemies simply because you know things might change in the future. In every change of circumstances, God will hold the winning hand.)


    3. Read Isaiah 8:14-15. What is a sanctuary? (A safe place.)


      1. What is a stumbling stone? (Something in your way. Something that trips you up.)


      2. What is a sanctuary which turned into a stumbling stone? (Compare Matthew 21:44 and Romans 9:33. Jesus is the stumbling stone. To use another analogy, God is like fire. He can do you a lot of good, but if you do not respect Him, you will be hurt.)


      3. How would you put the statements in these verses in modern terms? (Be wise. Trust and obey God and you will be sheltered. Distrust and you will fall.)


  1. Source of Advice


    1. Read Isaiah 8:19. What motivates people to consult mediums? What motivates people to consult the dead? (They know them and think they have inside knowledge.)


      1. What does God say is unreasonable about this? (God tells us that the best source of advice is Him. Why go any place else? However, I think more is being said here. The dead are contrasted with the living. I think this suggests that the dead are really dead and any supposed consultation with the dead is a consultation with demons.)


    2. Read Isaiah 8:20. How can we distinguish good advice from bad advice? (God says that if the advice you get is contrary to what I have already told you, then ignore it.)


    1. Read Isaiah 8:21-22. What comes of taking bad advice? (First, your situation gets worse. Then you get angry about it and blame God. Then, you turn away from God and enter "utter darkness.")


    2. Friend, the choice is yours. You can trust God and go to Him for advice and sanctuary. Or, you can take the "hard way," by trusting others, taking unrighteous advice and ending up badly. Will you make the right choice?


  1. Next Week: Noble Prince of Peace.

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Lessons on Isaiah

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