Immanuel

Isaiah 7‑9  •  13 min. read  •  grade level: 9
Isa. 7-9:7
IT may be profitable for our souls to meditate for awhile on this beautiful strain of the Prophet Isaiah, which we have called Immanuel.” Blessed it is to have an “ear to hear” and a “heart to understand” our God, as He unfolds to us His counsel and faithfulness and purposes in the word of Prophecy, addressing us as His friends in showing us “things to come.” “Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth, but I have called you friends: for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known to you.”
We must take a backward glance at the elect nation of Israel, to ascertain for ourselves, from the historic writings, the circumstances and the condition of the people here addressed by the Lord through His prophet. Ever faithful in the midst of their unfaithfulness, He had established this link between Himself and the people, whereby He might reach their consciences, on the occasion of the failure of the priesthood, as we find by 1 Sam. 1-3. In 2 Sam. 7 we find the Lord attaching certain promises to the house of David, the king of His own choice, after He had given him rest round about from His enemies; well calculated to draw forth his heart in worship to the Lord as he pours forth those beauteous words in 2 Sam. 7:18-2918Then went king David in, and sat before the Lord, and he said, Who am I, O Lord God? and what is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto? 19And this was yet a small thing in thy sight, O Lord God; but thou hast spoken also of thy servant's house for a great while to come. And is this the manner of man, O Lord God? 20And what can David say more unto thee? for thou, Lord God, knowest thy servant. 21For thy word's sake, and according to thine own heart, hast thou done all these great things, to make thy servant know them. 22Wherefore thou art great, O Lord God: for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears. 23And what one nation in the earth is like thy people, even like Israel, whom God went to redeem for a people to himself, and to make him a name, and to do for you great things and terrible, for thy land, before thy people, which thou redeemedst to thee from Egypt, from the nations and their gods? 24For thou hast confirmed to thyself thy people Israel to be a people unto thee for ever: and thou, Lord, art become their God. 25And now, O Lord God, the word that thou hast spoken concerning thy servant, and concerning his house, establish it for ever, and do as thou hast said. 26And let thy name be magnified for ever, saying, The Lord of hosts is the God over Israel: and let the house of thy servant David be established before thee. 27For thou, O Lord of hosts, God of Israel, hast revealed to thy servant, saying, I will build thee an house: therefore hath thy servant found in his heart to pray this prayer unto thee. 28And now, O Lord God, thou art that God, and thy words be true, and thou hast promised this goodness unto thy servant: 29Therefore now let it please thee to bless the house of thy servant, that it may continue for ever before thee: for thou, O Lord God, hast spoken it: and with thy blessing let the house of thy servant be blessed for ever. (2 Samuel 7:18‑29), and well calculated to cheer the hearts, and strengthen the faith of those of the nation whose hearts were resting in Him.
But when we open the Book of the Prophet in which he prophesied, (2 Kings 15-20 Chronicles Isaiah, and also the historic Scriptures of the periods 26-32.,) and glance backward at the career of that royal house, we find a sad, dark tale of evil, brightened truly, here and there, by a bright spot, as now and again a faithful one sat upon David's throne, and tried for a time to stem the torrent of evil, which bid fair to overwhelm the nation in its tide, alas! to return with redoubled energy as the faithful one was gathered to his fathers, until we come down to the days of Ahaz, who represents the royal house at the time of our prophecy. Sad indeed had been the story of this representative—sad had been his career step by step, till at last he set up the altar of a strange God, and shut up the doors of the house of the Lord and put out the lamps. During his unhappy reign the Lord, ever faithful, addresses, by His prophet, “the house of David,” to whom the promises had been made, and in whom they would be fulfilled.
The prophet brings before us in chapter 7:1 the circumstances in which the message finds him— Syria and Ephraim in league against Jerusalem. Little confidence had he in the word of the Lord. The prophet and the symbolic child Shearjashub (the remnant shall return) meets Ahaz with this message from the Lord, well calculated to assure a faithful heart, and draw it out in grateful praise. Terrible as had been the failure, Jehovah was ready to meet the heart that would respond to His faithfulness, and trust in Him. “Take heed and be quiet, fear not, neither be fainthearted, for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria and the Son of Remaliah Thus saith the Lord, it shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people. And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah's son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.” He looked for some response from the heart before Him, some feeble “Amen” to His faithful word, a little link of faith, to permit Him, so to say, to bring to pass all He had promised; but no response was there. Again, He would try this faithless one. (Ver. 10,11) The Lord Himself would propose to him to ask a sign: no matter how great, either in the height or in the depth. Faith would not ask a sign, requiring it not; faith walks alone with God. But still poor flesh would seek a sign, for flesh cannot walk except by sight and sense. And the Lord proposes to Ahaz to ask a sign. But no! Ahaz would not do this. His heart is too far from God to recognize His faithful word. He would not “tempt the Lord.” Ah! how pious the flesh can seem to be sometimes! and yet that same word is ever true, “the carnal mind is enmity against God” even in its fairest forms. Well, said the Lord, you will not ask a sign of me, so I will give you a sign unasked. “The Lord himself shall give you a sign.” “Behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know how to refuse the evil and choose the good.” And before the child (Shearjashub) should know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land the king abhorred should be forsaken of both these confederate kings. But the Lord would bring upon that faithless house days that had not come since the day that the house of Israel, the ten tribes, had revolted from His father's house. The days would come when the Lord would stretch forth His hand with the rod of His anger, the Assyrian. He would shave the head and the hair of the feet, and the land of his delight would be so bereft of its people, that the feeble remnant that would be left would eat butter and honey to the full in the land.
But still no response came from the king to the Lord Jehovah. “How often,” said He, in the day of His humiliation afterward, as He wept over the beloved city, whose day had then gone past, “How often would I have gathered thee and ye would not.” They would not believe, and He could not therefore establish them. But the Lord God of their fathers had not yet pronounced the solemn sentence. “There was no remedy.” He would not yet stay His hand, “because He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling-place, although they had despised His words.” And again He gives another sign, another symbolic child, whose name was Mabershalalhashhaz. (In making speed to the spoil he hasteneth the prey.) Ere this child should have knowledge to cry, My father and my mother, the riders and spoils of these two fierce firebrands, Syria and Ephraim, should be taken away before the King of Assyria. But they refused the soft-flowing waters of Shiloah, those promises to the house of David given to cheer the heart of the faithful one till Shiloh would come; and they rejoiced in an arm of flesh, in Rezin and Remaliah's son. So the Lord Jehovah Himself would interfere, and instead of the refreshing streams of Shiloah, He would bring upon them the fierce torrent, which would reach to the neck, overflowing his channels and his banks—the King of Assyria and all his glory. He would pass through Judah, and the stretching out of his wings would “fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel.”
But now the Spirit takes the occasion before Him to bring in the whole history of the nation, going onwards till the last days, including the rejection of Jesus, the Lord of hosts Himself, and the place it put that feeble remnant in who trusted in Him, and those who believe on Him. The people would associate themselves in vain, and the nations who would be gathered together then; but they would be broken in pieces and come to naught; their counsels would fail, and the word would “not stand because of Immanuel.” (Verse 10.) He was there.
But when that day would come, what would the feeble remnant do, those who had “trembled at his word” while trusting in Him, sorely broken, what would they do? With gracious care He would tell them what to do, and teach them to stay themselves upon their God, to walk not in the way of the apostates, to fear not their fear nor be afraid, but to sanctify the Lord of Hosts Himself and to fear Him. How beautifully analogous are the words of Jesus in Luke 12! How the New Testament flashes back its light upon the Old Testament, and the Old reflects the brightness back again upon the New! “Be not afraid,” He says, “of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear: Fear him which, after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell; yea, I say unto you fear him.” And again afterward, when that remnant, absorbed into the Church of God, are taught, as strangers and pilgrims, to look no longer for an earthly deliverance, but for an heavenly reward, “even the salvation of their souls,” — “are begotten again to a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus out of the dead;” and as strangers and pilgrims journeying onwards to the inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, they are taught the lesson, “But and if ye suffer for righteousness' sake happy are ye, and be not afraid of their terror (those that do evil) neither be troubled, but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts.”
But to return, “Many would stumble and fall and be broken.” The builders would reject that chief corner stone, but “he that believed on Him would not be confounded;” “unto you therefore which believe He is precious, but unto them which be disobedient the stone which the builders disallowed the same is made the head of the corner, and a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense even to them which stumble at the word.” They would “stumble and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken.” And the Lord would hide His face from the house of Jacob. “Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples;” they would learn to wait for Him while He hid His face, and to look for Him. Truly He has hidden His face from that once-loved house, the house of Jacob, and still beloved for their fathers' sakes; for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. We must be prepared for this—to find the prophets passing across the dispensation in which we live, and connecting the time when the nation was before God as a nation, with the latter days, when the present dispensation shall have passed, and the nation of Israel is before Him as a nation again. Now He hides His face from them. The Spirit in the prophet brings us along from the circumstances in which He finds them, where God addresses the house of David, which represented the nation, till the rejection of Jesus, the Lord of hosts Himself, come in grace and lowliness into their midst and then He passes over the entire period during which Jehovah hides His face from the house of Israel, till the circumstances of the last days.
“Behold I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and wonders in Israel, from the Lord of hosts which dwelleth in mount Zion.” This the Spirit uses in Heb. 2, when telling us of the grace of Jesus, who had passed through humiliation and death, when passing to the headship of all things: not that He needed it Himself, it was His by right; but when He would associate others with Himself and bring many heirs to glory. Primarily it referred to Isaiah and the symbolic children, given as signs and wonders to awaken the conscience of the nation then. And thee in verse 19, he passes on to the time when the Lord of hosts has again turned His face towards His elect nation. He finds them still a froward generation, children in whom is no faith. Their spot is not the spot of His children, apostate still in heart to their God: but still a little remnant would be found to whom the word of the Lord would be the joy and rejoicing of their heart. The apostates would say to them, “Seek ye to them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep and mutter.” Ah! should not a people call unto their God? “To the law and to the testimony if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.” The old apostate spirit of idolatry shall have returned in sevenfold intensity to his house from whence he had gone out; and they would pass through the land hardly bestead and hungry, and they would curse their king and their God, and look upward, finding trouble and darkness in that day of Jacob's trouble; dimness of anguish, and they should be driven to darkness. How analogously does the prophet, in Rev. 16:10, 1110And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain, 11And blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, and repented not of their deeds. (Revelation 16:10‑11), speak of this. The kingdom of the beast “was full of darkness, and they gnawed their tongues for pain and blasphemed the God of heaven, because of their pains, and their sores, and repented not of their deeds.”
Nevertheless the dimness would not be as of old, in the former ravages of the Assyrian. The Lord of hosts had now taken the thing in His own Almighty hand. The great light would now shine forth upon a people who were walking in darkness, upon those that had learned to fear the Lord, and to obey the voice of His servant, walking in darkness, having no light. Those that had learned to trust in the name of the Lord and stay upon their God, (Isa. 1:1010Hear the word of the Lord, ye rulers of Sodom; give ear unto the law of our God, ye people of Gomorrah. (Isaiah 1:10),) upon them the light would shine. Light in the harvest time, when men divide the spoil. “Thou hast multiplied the nation and to it (margin) increased the joy; they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.” The oppressor's yoke would then be broken—the yoke of their burden, and the staff of his shoulder, and the rod of the Assyrian—by Him against whom it had boasted itself. It would be like the day when Gideon took his 300, with empty pitchers and lamps within. The sword of the Lord had scattered the mighty hosts of Midian, not merely like the battles of the warrior, with confused noise and garments rolled in blood: this would be with burning and fuel of fire—the fire of God's judgment would be there. (Compare Isa. 10:12-2712Wherefore it shall come to pass, that when the Lord hath performed his whole work upon mount Zion and on Jerusalem, I will punish the fruit of the stout heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his high looks. 13For he saith, By the strength of my hand I have done it, and by my wisdom; for I am prudent: and I have removed the bounds of the people, and have robbed their treasures, and I have put down the inhabitants like a valiant man: 14And my hand hath found as a nest the riches of the people: and as one gathereth eggs that are left, have I gathered all the earth; and there was none that moved the wing, or opened the mouth, or peeped. 15Shall the axe boast itself against him that heweth therewith? or shall the saw magnify itself against him that shaketh it? as if the rod should shake itself against them that lift it up, or as if the staff should lift up itself, as if it were no wood. 16Therefore shall the Lord, the Lord of hosts, send among his fat ones leanness; and under his glory he shall kindle a burning like the burning of a fire. 17And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day; 18And shall consume the glory of his forest, and of his fruitful field, both soul and body: and they shall be as when a standardbearer fainteth. 19And the rest of the trees of his forest shall be few, that a child may write them. 20And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. 21The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God. 22For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness. 23For the Lord God of hosts shall make a consumption, even determined, in the midst of all the land. 24Therefore thus saith the Lord God of hosts, O my people that dwellest in Zion, be not afraid of the Assyrian: he shall smite thee with a rod, and shall lift up his staff against thee, after the manner of Egypt. 25For yet a very little while, and the indignation shall cease, and mine anger in their destruction. 26And the Lord of hosts shall stir up a scourge for him according to the slaughter of Midian at the rock of Oreb: and as his rod was upon the sea, so shall he lift it up after the manner of Egypt. 27And it shall come to pass in that day, that his burden shall be taken away from off thy shoulder, and his yoke from off thy neck, and the yoke shall be destroyed because of the anointing. (Isaiah 10:12‑27).) Thus would the delivered remnant, with their faces in the dust, learn that the same Savior God had walked through the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, in the way of the sea beyond Jordan in Galilee of the Gentiles, in His day of humiliation, and had passed through death to be their Savior. But now, in the day of His glory, they would learn to say, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, (so long and deeply faithless,) and upon His kingdom to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” “The work of righteousness shall then be peace: and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever.” P.