Isaiah 8

CLICK HERE to read Isaiah 8.  Compare to 2 Nephi 18.

This chapter opens with Isaiah’s wife having a baby, and Isaiah’s “two witnesses” confirming his account (verse 2).  This is a signal to us as readers that he is about to teach us a principle, that we are about to learn a law and its consequences (good for following the law, bad for breaking the law).  The Law of Two Witnesses is what confirms a message from the Lord, and so it is significant that Isaiah calls upon its authority here.

The name of his son is also significant because Hebrew tradition is such that names really mean something.  So the next prophesy comes through the naming of this child, which is Maher-shalal-hash-baz, which means “‘to speed to the spoil, he hasteneth the prey”.  In other words, the covenant people of the Lord have not listened to what He told them, and they have not heeded His instruction.  Because of this, their consequences will “hasten” or speed up the destruction that is coming.

In verse 4, he is talking to Syria (“Damascus”) and northern Israel (“Samaria”).  These are the two kingdoms allied together against southern Judah, preparing to attack because Israel won’t boycott the Assyrian taxes (see Isaiah 1 essay).  He is warning them that because they have not repented and turned to the Lord, the Assyrian invasion will for sure happen.  He is pleading with them to repent so that the tribes of Judah will still survive.

This is the pattern of how the Lord works, always, through prophets, always.

First, the Lord sends no destruction without first sending a prophet to warn the people.

If the people listen, and repent, then they are saved from destruction.

If they do not, then captivity or bondage must happen in some way, but if they repent, He can lighten their load.

If they do not repent, then they must experience the full burden of their captivity/bondage, but they still have another chance to repent before being utterly destroyed and scattered.

If still they do not repent, then they are destroyed and scattered.

We see this with the people here, as we learned in the previous chapter.  The people do not repent, so they are conquered and go into captivity with Assyria.  But still, the Lord gives them another generation – the 65-100 years – where they have time to repent so they are not destroyed.  But when they do not, then the Babylonian captivity happens, and the people are scattered.

This is an important lesson to keep in mind for ourselves, as we liken the scriptures to our own lives.

If we repent, He restores us to an at-one state.

If we do not, we are choosing bondage – whether it be financial bondage, misery-ness of bitterness and un-forgiving hearts and negativity, bondage to the drama of unhealthy emotional expression, or other consequences to our health or jobs or families – these consequences come because of our choices.

But still we can repent, and if we do, He will lighten the load and bless our efforts at getting out of bondage through the process of repentance – which includes being restored to at-one-ness again.

But if we do not repent, then that bondage will become our destruction.  Our lives as we knew them will be destroyed, and our families will be scattered.

This is another reason the blessings of the Temple are so significant, because part of those blessings is the gathering of families from the scattering we have experienced.  It is the promise of Elijah, that the Lord “shall turn the heart of the fathers (and mothers) to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers (and mothers!)” (See Malachi 4:6).

I know my family has been blessed by this promise, absolutely.

And when we are gathered, as families and as a covenant people, then the Lord can protect us, prepare us, and provide for us.

Verse 6 says that the people “refused the waters of Shiloah that go softly”, and says the people “rejoice in Rezin and Remaliah’s son”.

Rezin was the king of Syria (Damascus) and Remaliah’s Son was Pekah, king of Israel.  These were the allies (Syria and Israel) that were uniting together against Judah, wanting to invade because Judah wouldn’t stand with them against Assyria.  Isaiah is warning them that Assyria is about to conquer them, and they will be scattered and destroyed for listening to “the world” rather than the Lord.  He is using them as an example to help the people of Judah repent before it is too late.

Shiloah is another word for Siloam, as in the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem (see the Index to the Triple Combination; Genesis 49:10; JST Genesis 50:24; ).  It means “he whose right it is” (Ezekiel 21:27), and is a name for the Savior (Topical Guide – Jesus Christ, Messiah; Topical Guide – Jesus Christ, Prophesies About).

The water is the cleansing (baptism) and nourishment (spiritual renewal of Sacrament each Sunday, in contrast to the physical resurrection of the bread).

It means it is Christ who has the right to offer us laws, and that when we accept these laws (via covenant-making and covenant-keeping), it is “soft” – gentle, good, refreshing, renewing, nourishing, strengthening, quickening.

Sheep only drink from the “still waters” (Psalm 23:2).  He is our Shepherd, leading us beside the still waters via covenants that help us live a higher law so that we are safe and so that we become more like Him.

But these people have refused those waters, or those laws.

In John 7:37, the Savior was at the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem when He said:

if any man thirst, let him come unto me.

When the Savior said this, He really meant it.  He said this on the Feast of Tabernacles, which was one of three annual celebrations the Lord required of the Israelites.  This one in particular commemorated Israel’s wandering in the wilderness for forty years, and the fact that the Lord kept His promise to deliver them to the promised land.

If we remember that any time we read “wilderness” we can substitute “mortality”, and any time we read “promised land” we know it also means “celestial-ness”, we can liken it unto ourselves by remembering how the Lord leads us through mortality and having faith He will keep His promise to prepare us for life in the celestial world – if we do what He says, or, rather, through your faithfulness.

During the Feast of Tabernacles, priests drew water from the Pool of Siloam and carried it to the Temple (see Mishnah Sukkah 4:9; 5:1; Talmud Sukkah 48b).  When they brought the water to the Temple, the priests would circle the altar and pray repeating the words “We beseech Thee, O Eternal, save us, we pray” (Mishnah Sukkah 3:9; see also 4:5).   This is a prayer of preparation, a declaration that we agree with Him that the way for us to be saved – or led through mortality to celestial-ness with Him – is by making and keeping sacred covenants.  David prayed the same prayer as he prepared to make covenants (Psalm 54:2):

Hear my prayer, O God,
give ear to the words of my mouth.

So it was here, at the Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem, on the Feast of Tabernacles, the day when priests came to draw water to be taken to the altar of the Temple, when the Savior steps up and says make covenants with me.  He is telling the people that it was not the rituals that saved them, but that the power of the ordinance comes by His authority.  It must be done His way, by His power, and by His authority.

Isaiah is using the metaphor of the waters of Shiloah to mean God’s government and teaching: His ordinances, His priesthood, His power, His authority.  He is telling the people of the northern tribes that they have rejected their temple covenants, and so will suffer the penalties they have already agreed to endure for breaking their covenants.

(For more information about the Feast of Tabernacles and how it (and temple covenants) usher in the millennium, read Zechariah 14 and SEE THIS ARTICLE.)

So in verse 7 when he says the waters of the river overflow their banks, Isaiah is talking about the invasion of the Assyrian army crossing their boundaries (even rivers!) to conquer Syria and Israel.

In verse 8, Isaiah is warning the people of Judah that while Israel and Syria will be destroyed, Judah themselves still have time to repent.  However, the time has passed to avoid being invaded.  They did not repent, and did not turn to the Lord.  Now the Lord cannot prevent the invasion because they would not ask Him for help or turn to Him by doing what He said.  It is too late.  They can still survive, but they cannot avoid being invaded.  Isaiah is warning them to repent before it is too late, to repent before they are also destroyed.

Judah’s problem is that they have listened to “the world” instead of listening to the Lord (specifically, king Ahaz listened to the counsel of his political neighbors instead of doing what Isaiah told him to do).  Instead of doing what the prophets said, they have done what they wanted.  Instead of relying on spiritual power, they have relied on political power (verse 9).  This will be their destruction.

No matter what “evil counsel” tries against us, it will come to nothing; no matter what they say, it will be meaningless “for God is with us” (verse 10).   That’s Immanuel, as promised in the last chapter!  When we are at-one, then we are the Lord’s people.  And when we are His people, He will instruct us.  It’s a promise.

But we must walk in His ways, in the ways of righteousness.

To be His people, we must be holy, which means “set apart”.

To be His people, we must be separated from the world, and doing things His way and not our own ways or in the ways of “evil counsel”.

“For the Lord spake thus to me with a strong hand, and instructed me that I should not walk in the way of this people, saying… “neither fear ye their fear, nor be afraid” (verses 11 and 12).

Do not be afraid of them, but act in faith by walking in the Lord’s ways and doing what He commands us to do.  In this way, we can let God be God.

If we have faith, then we are acting.

Faith is never just sitting around.

Faith is always a call to testify, and a call to act.

“Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples” (verse 16).

Our testimony is “bound up” when we give it, whether it be a Fast Sunday or with friends or the way we love others or the good that we do through service.

The Law is “sealed” in us by the Holy Spirit.  We know the Law is sealed in us by the evidence of the Spirit working, by the fruit of the Spirit:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience), gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such things there is no law.  And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections (inappropriate emotional attachments) and lusts (infidelity)” (Galatians 5:22-24).

Those are the things that give evidence of the Spirit having sealed the law in us.  We are sealed to it by attaching ourselves to the atonement.  Then we will know it is sealed in us – we are sealed to it – when we see the evidence of the law being lived in our lives.  We will know when a law is taught, and we are softened toward doing better at it, and feel strengthened to continue living it.  When we are convicted or think it is hard, we will know it is not sealed to us, and we need to repent and attach ourselves to the atonement, so that the Spirit can seal the law in us.

And then, we can have confidence in the Lord, knowing that He is working in us.

It is not us doing so good, but it is His goodness in us that changes us.

That’s the atonement.  That’s the at-one-ment.

And so in this we have peace, where we can be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).  Isaiah says it this way:

“I will wait upon the Lord… I will look for Him” (verse 17).

Isaiah is saying this in the context of knowing the people are about to be sent into captivity, and that they will still not repent and so will be destroyed after that.

Yet he knows, he has faith-becomes-knowledge, that even still, even then, still the Lord will keep His promises.  And so he will wait, knowing the Lord will do what He promised to do.

Anything less is not having faith, not believing the Lord will do what He promised.

And without this faith, without the evidence of the Spirit, without testimony, “there is no light in them” (verse 20).   That’s a serious statement, referring back to the Lord as sheckinah, and how we should become like Him, how we should become a light to the world – always, always, always offering hope and love and inviting (through behaviors and words and friendships) to the Savior.  Everything we do and say should point to the Savior.  That is how we are a “light” to the world around us, because He is our Light.

But without His light, it is a dark world.  Without His Light in us, it is a miserable state of being, a miserable way to live life:

“And they shall pass through it hardly bestead and hungry; and it shall come to pass that when they shall be hungry, they shall fret themselves, and curse their king and their God, and look upward.  And they shall look unto the earth and behold trouble, and darkness, dimness of anguish, and shall be driven to darkness” (verses 21 and 22).

It is better, then, to be still and know that He is God.

It is better, then, to be holy, set apart from the world around us.

It is better, then, to wait on the Lord, knowing He will keep His promises.

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About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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