Isaiah 7–11: Fear & Reliance

Read the Bible in 2023 ◊ Week 2: Friday

For thus Yahweh spoke to me with a strong hand and disciplined me not to walk in the way of this people, saying,
“You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’
In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy;
And you are not to fear what they fear, and you shall not tremble.”
Isaiah 8:11-12 LSB

Today’s Bible reading is Isaiah 7–11. In his introduction to Isaiah, Derek Kidner has this historical background on today’s reading:

Isaiah lived through a pivotal period of his nation’s history, the second half of the 8th century BC, which saw the rise of written prophecy in the work of Amos, Hosea, Micah and himself, but also the downfall and disap­pearance of of the greater part of Israel, the ten tribes of the northern kingdom.

In 740 BC the death of King Uzziah (6:1) marked the end of the Indian summer in which both Judah and Israel had enjoyed some 50 years’ respite from large-scale aggression. This would soon be only a memory. The rest of the century was to be dominated by predatory Assyrian kings…Their ambitions were for empire, not for plunder alone, and in pursuit of it they uprooted and transplanted whole populations, punishing any sign of rebellion with prompt and hideous reprisals.

In 735 Jerusalem felt the shock-wave of their approach, when the armies of Israel and Syria arrived to force King Ahaz into their Assyrian coalition.1

In Isaiah 7, when these enemies come to wage war against Ahaz, King of Judah, and the people, Isaiah records that: …his heart and the hearts of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind. God sends Isaiah to Ahaz to reassure him, but Ahaz will have none of it. God declares to Ahaz:

“If you do not establish your faith in Yahweh, you surely shall not be established.”
Isaiah 7:9b LSB

In his commentary on Isaiah, Ray Ortlund, Jr., writes:

God literally says, “If you do not firm up, you will not be confirmed.” In other words, “You’ll live by faith, or you won’t live at all…

Isaiah 7:9b makes faith in God the central, unavoidable question of our lives.2

Kidner explains:

Ahaz, King of Judah

Isaiah’s confrontation of the king (ch. 7) brought to light the real issue of this period, the choice between quiet faith and desperate alliances; and the king’s decision to stake all, not on God but on Assyria itself, called forth an implied rejection of him and his kind, and the prophecy of a perfect king, Immanuel, to arise out of the felled stock of the Davidic dynasty [Isaiah 11:1, Jesse was King David’s father: 1 Samuel 16:1–13].3

Did you notice the many Messianic prophecies within these chapters: Isaiah 7:14, 8:8; Matthew 1:23; Isaiah 9:1–2, Matthew 4:12–16; Isaiah 9:6–7, Luke 1:32–33; and Isaiah 11:1–5, Romans 15:12? Did you know Isaiah “is more widely quoted in the New Testament than any other book”4?

Another theme caught my eye as I was reading, and that’s the theme of fear. Later on in chapter 8, Isaiah writes that God told him:

For thus Yahweh spoke to me with a strong hand and disciplined me not to walk in the way of this people, saying,
“You are not to say, ‘It is a conspiracy!’
In regard to all that this people call a conspiracy;
And you are not to fear what they fear, and you shall not tremble.
It is Yahweh of hosts whom you should regard as holy.
And He shall be your fear,
And He shall be your cause of trembling.
Then He shall become a sanctuary;
But to both the houses of Israel, a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over,
And a snare and a trap for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
And many will stumble over them;
Then they will fall and be broken;
They will even be snared and caught.”
Isaiah 8:11–15 LSB

God’s people are not to fear what other people fear. We are to fear God, and if we fear Him, then He will be our sanctuary. In 10:20, Isaiah writes that the remnant will truly rely on the Lord. (The remnant is mentioned in Isaiah 10:20–22; 11:11, 16; and throughout Scripture—the remnant whom God will save).

Now it will be in that day, that the remnant of Israel and those of the house of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely on the one who struck them, but will truly rely on Yahweh, the Holy One of Israel.
Isaiah 10:20 LSB

Ortlund comments:

Sometimes Christians cozy up to ideas, institutions, trends, and even emotions that strike at the heart of their faith…We are more susceptible to alien saviors, spirits, and gospels than we know.

This is the question Isaiah wants each of us to think through: Where do I get my security, coping skills, confidence for the future? Many salvations are vying for our allegiance. And every false support we lean on turns around and bites us. We do lean on forces that strike us, abuse us, sneer at us. But Jesus never betrays our trust. Isaiah is helping us understand the difference that grace makes. We learn to examine ourselves: “When I am stricken with disillusionment, emptiness, self-hatred, when these emotional undercurrents are dragging me down, what false savior am I leaning on?”

To his glory, God will not put up with that humiliation. He wants you to know what it means to lean on him in truth—a practical faith in him alone—because that is your salvation. When he rips from your arms some false trust that has struck you a thousand times, and a thousand times you’ve gone back to it in servile compliance, and you’re ready to go back again—when God tears it away, do you see what he is doing? His grace is setting you apart as one of his remnant, dear to his heart.”5

I struggle with fear of the future. Do you? Do you have other fears? Isaiah brings us back to God alone—to come to Him for help and to rely on Him.

These are hard times for many people. There are many things of which we can be afraid. It is so easy to build false idols and rely on the same things we see the world relying on—even when those things have proven themselves false in the past.

Do you see how the Bible strengthens us? The Holy Spirit takes it and writes it on our hearts—God actively teaches us, convicts us, and comforts us through His Word.

God wants you to know Him, and to trust in Him. Stay in the Bible—read it to know your God. May He help us to fear only Him, and no one and nothing else. May He enable us to rely and lean on Him alone. In our times of need, may He alone be our sanctuary.

Silvesterzug Laterne: Bk muc. (CC BY-SA 4.0).
Ahaz, king of Judah, the son and successor of Jotham: Public Domain.
1,3Derek Kidner, “Isaiah,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds., (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 595.
4“Biblical Backgrounds: A Survey of Each Book,” Holy Bible: New American Standard (Broadman & Holman Publishers, Nashville TN: The Lockman Foundation 1977).
2,5Raymond C Ortlund, Jr., Isaiah: God Saves Sinners (Crossway Books, Wheaton IL: 2005) 89, 111.

Copyright ©2011–2023 Iwana Carpenter

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