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Isaiah 8:1-3 - Homilies By R. Tuck

Prophecy in a name.

The interpretation of this name demands some acquaintance with the history of the times, and with the views of political parties in the city of Jerusalem. The great danger immediately pressing was the combined attack of Rezin and Pekah, representing the neighbor-kingdoms of Syria and Israel. Isaiah had prophesied the fall of these nations, and, so, encouraged Judah to hold on, and keep trust in Jehovah's protection. But time passed on, and there were no signs of calamity overtaking Rezin and Pekah. On the other hand, they seemed to be only too successful. They had overrun the country, taking many away captive. Rezin had captured Elath, the Red Sea port. And, taking advantage of Judah's time of weakness, the Edomites were harassing the north-eastern frontier. To politicians the state of affairs was hopelessly dark; and they could see no way out of the difficulty, save by seeking alliance with the growing power of Assyria, which was pressing its conquests toward the Mediterranean. But to do this was to declare their unbelief in Isaiah's assurances, and to put public dishonor upon him as the servant of Jehovah. So he repeats his prophecy. In order that the people might know it and understand it, he puts it into one word, one name; he writes it in large letters, sets it up in a public place, and so testifies against the perilous policy which fear of the national enemies was dictating. "The tablet was to be large, and the writing was not to be with the sharp point of the artist, or learned scribe, but with a 'man's pen,' i.e. such as the common workmen used for sign-boards, that might fix the gaze of the careless passer-by, and on that tablet, as though it were the heading of a proclamation or dedication, he was to write 'to Maher-shalal-hashobaz.'" This name recalls the prophecy which Isaiah had already given ( Isaiah 7:14-16 ). The word actually and precisely means "Speed plunder, haste spoil." It refers to the Assyrians whom Isaiah sees hurrying to spoil both Syria and Samaria. First the public sign, and then the child, bearing the prophetic name, were to be a constant testimony to the truth of Isaiah's words, and a means of keeping the cheering prophecy ever before the people. The passage reminds us of the value attached to, and the use made of, Old Testament names . On this subject F. W. Robertson has a very suggestive passage (vol. 1.41, 42): " In the Hebrew history are discernible three periods distinctly marked, in which names and words bore very different characters. These three, it has been observed by acute philologists, correspond to the periods in which the nation bore the three different appellations of Hebrews, Israelites, and Jews. In the first of these periods names meant truths, and words were the symbols of realities. The characteristics of the names given then were simplicity and sincerity. The second period begins about the time of the departure from Egypt, and it is characterized by unabated simplicity, with the addition of sublimer thought, and feeling more intensely religious. Words mean realities, but they are impregnated with deeper religious thought. The third period was at its zenith in the time of Christ; words had lost their meaning, and shared the hollow unreal state of all things." Keeping in mind how conveniently and efficiently Isaiah wraps up his prophecy into a name which will at once arrest attention, this use of names may be illustrated:

1. In relation to families . We recall to mind loved relatives, or acts of kindness done to us, or persons whose heroic lives we admire, by giving to our children some significant name.

2. In relation to the sale of articles . The skill of the advertiser is shown in the discovery of some taking name, which will draw public attention to the article offered.

3. In relation to science and invention . The results of research and discovery do not become public property until they can be fixed in a name; even men's theorizings getting thus labeled for use.

4. In relation to doctrines . Statements of Divine revelation do not become public property until they get a name, which is a sort of handle, by which the ordinary mind may grasp them. By such illustrations the practical wisdom of Isaiah's act may be shown, and then the truth which he sought thus to keep before the minds of the people may be impressed, The staring name, calling the attention of all the passers-by, said plainly, "Trust God, not man." "Fear nobody but God; nothing but God." "His word is surely true: though you see it not, it is hurrying even now to its accomplishment." That name said, "Trust in the Lord forever." "He maketh the wrath of man praise him, and restrains the remainder of wrath."—R.T.

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