If you and I would only trust God, for the Lord will be with us through it all, upholding, sustaining, comforting, equipping, and finally, in the end, bring us home to God.

To refuse the Lord can only bring sorrow and loss, in the end.

The Truth Will Out

Some time after this public oracle, the Lord had Isaiah make arrangements to legally document God’s word.

Then the Lord said to me, “Take a large tablet and write on it in common characters, ‘Belonging to Maher-shalal-hash-baz,’”

Isaiah 8:1 (NRSV)

[“Belonging to ‘Quick To Plunder, Swift To Spoil‘” the translation of that name]

“and have it attested for me by ‘reliable’ witnesses, the priest Uriah and Zechariah son of Jeberechiah.”

Isaiah 8:2 (NRSV)

This Zechariah was an unknown person, not the famous prophet. But Uriah the priest was known. He was King Ahaz’s ally, and personally instrumental in the spiritual decay in Judah. In the following story, you will see how King Ahaz had all along secretly been maneuvering under what he thought was the cover of stealth. He thought Isaiah—and therefore God, in his mind—would have no idea what he was up to.

Basalt wall slab showing Assyrian soldiers in procession. They hold maces and bows. Each soldier has a sword, hanging by his side. The leading figure wears a different dress. From the palace of Tiglath-pileser III at Hadatu (modern-day Arslan Tash), Syria. Neo-Assyrian period, 744-727 BCE. Ancient Orient Museum, Istanbul. | By Osama Shukir Muhammed Amin FRCP(Glasg) – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=70041464

Secret Alliance with Assyria

Ahaz sent messengers to King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria, saying, “I am your servant and your son. Come up and rescue me from the hand of the king of Aram and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.” 

Ahaz also took the silver and gold found in the house of the Lord and in the treasures of the king’s house and sent a present to the king of Assyria. 

The king of Assyria listened to him; the king of Assyria marched up against Damascus and took it, carrying its people captive to Kir; then he killed Rezin.

2 Kings 16:7-9 (NRSV)

Uriah’s Reproduction of Damascus Altar

When King Ahaz went to Damascus to meet King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria, he saw the altar that was at Damascus.

King Ahaz sent to the priest Uriah a model of the altar and its pattern exact in all its details. 

The priest Uriah built the altar; in accordance with all that King Ahaz had sent from Damascus, so did the priest Uriah build it, before King Ahaz arrived from Damascus. 

2 Kings 16:10-11 (NRSV)

King Ahaz’s Unholy Rites

When the king came from Damascus, the king viewed the altar. Then the king drew near to the altar, went up on it, and offered his burnt offering and his grain offering, poured his drink offering, and dashed the blood of his offerings of well-being against the altar. 

2 Kings 16:12-13 (NRSV)

Ahaz’s and Uriah’s Desecration of God’s Altar

The bronze altar that was before the Lord he removed from the front of the house, from the place between his altar and the house of the Lord, and put it on the north side of his altar. 

King Ahaz commanded the priest Uriah, saying, “Upon the great altar offer the morning burnt offering and the evening grain offering and the king’s burnt offering and his grain offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, their grain offering, and their drink offering; then dash against it all the blood of the burnt offering and all the blood of the sacrifice,

“but the bronze altar shall be for me to inquire by.” 

The priest Uriah did everything that King Ahaz commanded.

Then King Ahaz

– cut off the frames of the stands

– and removed the laver from them;

– he removed the sea from the bronze oxen that were under it and put it on a pediment of stone. 

– The covered portal for use on the Sabbath that had been built inside the palace and the outer entrance for the king he removed from the house of the Lord.

He did this because of the king of Assyria.

2 Kings 16:14-18 (NRSV)
Articles of the Biblical Tabernacle and Temple, illustration from the 1890 Holman Bible | By 1890 – http://thebiblerevival.com/clipart/1890holmanbible/color/articlesofthetemple.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9424296

It was not as though the priest Uriah and Zechariah son of Jeberechiah were men of good character, but rather they were well-known and had presence in the community. But the more important part was their position near to King Ahaz. By signing God’s document, they had to have read it. They, and the king, could not deny they knew God’s prophecy of judgment.

The Prophetess

Then Isaiah and the prophetess, his wife, had a son and God delivered more details about what was to come.

And I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. Then the Lord said to me, “Name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz, or before the child knows how to call ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away by the king of Assyria.”

Isaiah 8:4 (NRSV)

This was further confirmation of what was going to happen just a year down the road. As the people of Judah saw this prophecy come to pass, they would be able to put their hope in the long-term promise of Immanuel.

Then God gave Isaiah three vivid contrasts to illustrate what would come and why.

First Contrast, Gentle Water Versus Great River

The Lord spoke to me again: 

“Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently and melt in fear before Rezin and the son of Remaliah, therefore the Lord is bringing up against it the mighty flood waters of the River, the king of Assyria and all his glory;

it will rise above all its channels and overflow all its banks; 

it will sweep on into Judah as a flood and, pouring over, will reach up to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.

Isaiah 8:5-8 (RSV)

Illustration of Assyrian relief of Tiglath-Pileser III besieging a town. From Nineveh; in the British Museum. | British Museum, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Lord contrasted God’s real protection with the seeming protection of Assyria.

The pro-Assyrian faction in Judah threw confetti when Assyria defeated Aram and Israel, and both king Rezin and king Pekah died. These victories seemed to prove that an alliance with Assyria was the safest course to follow.

Instead of trusting the gentle water of Shiloah they trusted in the great river of Assyria.

What they did not realize was that this river would become a flood when Assyria would come to destroy Israel and devastate Judah along with it. The Lord had offered God’s people peace and protection, but in unbelief they had gone for military power.

“Take notice, you peoples, and be dismayed;
    listen, all you far countries;
gird yourselves and be dismayed!
Take counsel together, but it shall be brought to naught;
    speak a word, but it will not stand,
    for God is with us.”

Isaiah 8:9-10 (NRSV)

The meaning of these two verses would become apparent when, at the eleventh hour, God would come through with an astounding miracle because that king—King Hezekiah—a generation later, chose to trust the Lord.

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