Isaiah 7:4

I. THE POLITICAL OUTLOOK. The kings and chieftains of Palestine were in dread of the great Assyrian power. Under the weak rule of Ahaz Judah had sunk very low, and the King of Damascus, with the King of Ephraim, think it a favorable opportunity to attack the little kingdom, and so strengthen themselves against the Assyrians. "Far down to the gulf of Akaba the shock of invasion was felt. Elath, the favorite seaport of Jehoshaphat and Uzziah, was made over to the Edomites" (2 Kings 16:6; 2 Kings 15:37). Jerusalem was now threatened, and a usurper was to be placed on David's throne (ver. 6).

II. THE ALARM OF THE ROYAL FAMILY. (Ver. 2.) News is brought to the palace "Aram encampeth in Ephraim;" the junction of the forces of Syria and Israel had taken place. A shivering fear, like the wind swaying the trees of the forest, passed over their hearts. The court went forth to inspect the fortifications and the waterworks, and came to "the end of the conduit of the upper reservoir, upon the path to the fuller's field" - a well-known spot (cf. Isaiah 36:2; 2 Kings 18.).

III. THE MEETING WITH ISAIAH. At this spot the prophet, with his son, stood before them. It seems that by Divine intimation the prophet had called the boy Shear-Jashub, which means "Remnant-shall-be-converted," reminding us of the hope of his calling (Isaiah 6.). He would look upon the boy as a living pledge, not only of conjugal affection, but of Divine promise for a nobler Israel. See how he dwells upon the thought in Isaiah 10:20-22. Inspired by this confidence, he now addresses the king.

IV. COMFORT FOR THE FAINT-HEARTED. "Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, and be not faint-hearted." A calm, collected mind is a match for any danger. Agitation and fear magnify the ill; stout resolve reduces it to its true proportions. The worst is ever in our own fancy.

"Some of your hurts you have cured,
And the sharpest you still have survived;
But what torments of grief you endured
From evils which never arrived!" The timid king sees a fiery mass of war rolling towards him; the stout heart of the prophet contemptuously defies the two kings as "two stumps of smoking firebrands." If we would comfort men, we must, like the prophet, tell them to draw upon the resources God has placed in the soul: intelligence, prudence, self-reliance, and self-help. There is no true self-trust which is not at the same time a trust in God.

IV. THE DEEPEST SOURCE OF STRENGTH AND COMFORT. What are the heads of the Syrian power and of Israel's power against Judah's Head, the Lord? Damascus and Samaria will rear their fronts in vain against Jerusalem, if Jerusalem only trust in Jehovah. (Ewald supposes that the words," Judah's head is Jerusalem, and Jerusalem's head is Jehovah," have fallen out of the text, ver. 9.) Only have confidence. There is a play upon words in the original which we might represent in English by: "Fear not, fail not;" or, "Firm in faith is free from scathe; "or," If ye confide not, abide ye shall not."

1. Confidence, presence of mind, is a duty in times of danger.

2. It may be gained, if we will fall back upon God as our Leader and Defense. "The Lord is on my side: I will not fear what men shall do unto me." - J.







Take heed and be quiet.
That is, be on your guard and do not act precipitately, rather keep at rest.

I. A WARNING AGAINST SELF-WILLED ACTING.

II. AN EXHORTATION TO UNDISMAYED EQUANIMITY.

(P. Delitzsch. D. D.)

This is the attitude we should observe in all this human life — on the one hand, vigilance, determination, earnestness; and on the other silence, resignation, hope. Just as we observe in due proportion the active and passive aspects of life will our character become complete and our heart find rest.

I. ALL TRUE LIFE IS A LISTENING.

1. "Take heed," i.e., be attentive, alert, susceptible. Light will not come to careless, inattentive souls. We must hearken, which really means the concentration of all the powers of the soul that we may detect the significance of things.(1) This is true in relation to nature. The light does not shine into our soul irrespective of our gazing; the secret does not disclose itself to us irrespective of our listening.(2) This is true in relation to revelation. The Bible is a great whispering gallery; but God's whisper is often lost because men come with souls full of noises, or because they do not lend their ear patiently and systematically.(3) It is so with our personal life. Our personal history is a revelation of the mind of God; but we often miss the precious instructions.

2. And when you have given full place to observation and reflection, "be quiet," for you will find plenty of room and reason for suspense, resignation, silence. When you have carried criticism to its final limit, see that no place is left in your heart for anxiety, unbelief, and despair.

II. ALL TRUE LIFE IS A WATCHING. "Take heed." Be cautious, vigilant, circumspect. There is no room in life for presumption. But when we have felt the need of earnest prayer, when we have cultivated the habit of prayerful watchfulness, let us "be quiet." Many Christians feel the need of walking softly, of being on the alert, their soul is full of solemn caution; but they never know how to combine with this that strong confidence in God which brings the sensitive heart assurance and peace. Let us remember that when we have done our best God will do the rest.

III. ALL TRUE LIFE IS A STRIVING. "Take heed." Life must be full of effort, aspiration, strenuousness, perseverance. The policy of many. is the policy of drift. But this is not the true idea of life. We are perpetually called upon to consider, to discriminate, to decide, to act. And yet with all this we are to be "quiet." Calm amid tumult, tranquil in severest effort, full of peace and confidence when life is most difficult and denying. Let us remember this —(1) In all our worldly life. God has not promised the things of this life to the lazy. We must be earnest, discreet, economical, prudent, painstaking. But when we have done our best to provide honest things we must be quiet. No painful, misgiving thoughts or words.(2) In all our religious life. We shall never moon and dream ourselves into spiritual knowledge, strength, beauty, completeness. But having given ourselves to God's service and glory with a single, purposeful heart, let us for the rest "be quiet."

(W. L. Watkinson.)

True rationalism not only investigates, but is cautious, reticent, patient, hopeful. Much about us is very mysterious and bewildering.

1. It is so with nature. Ages ago the patriarch Job found this out. "By His Spirit He hath garnished the heavens; His hand hath formed the crooked serpent." "Garnished the heavens!" — that we can understand, that we can admire. The vast, the balanced, the magnificent, the beautiful, the benign — this is what we expected from the wise and generous Source of all things. "His hand hath formed the crooked serpent." Nature contains the mean, the unharmonious, the dark, the grotesque, the bloody; and this we did not expect. The thoughtful man is sorely puzzled in the presence of these confusions and contradictions.

2. It is so with revelation. We are often greatly delighted with the contents of the Bible. It is a firmament full of stars of light, speaking to us eloquently of the glory of God. We cry with rapture as we scan successive constellations which gleam with truth and love and righteousness. "By His Spirit He hath garnished the heavens." But it is not long before the problems of nature reappear in revelation; there are teachings obscure and painful, in fact, the crooked serpent wriggles across the page. People who read cursorily-and think loosely may glide over such pages, but thoughtful souls are often sorely troubled.

3. It is the same in our personal history. There are times in our life when all things go smoothly with us — our health is good, in business we are in the swim, we are socially popular, and, full of gratitude and thanksgiving, we wonder how anybody can ever be fretful, or call into question the government of God; we feel that the Spirit that garnished the heavens has brought order and beauty into our persona! lot. But soon circumstances change: our health fails, we are called to attend two or three creditors' meetings, our popularity wanes; and then we are staggered, and begin to ask sceptical questions touching the ways of heaven. What is the matter? The crooked serpent crawls across our path of roses. Now what are we to do when these dark enigmas reward our study, when we witness the contradictions of nature, the tragedy of history, when we endure the pathos of our own life? Are we to take refuge in scepticism, cynicism, despair? Surely not. "Be quiet."

(W. L. Watkinson.)

I. A WORD OF CAUTION. "Take heed." It is as though Isaiah called a halt; as though, to use another metaphor, he swung the red light in front of the rushing train as though he put a detonator on the rails in the time of mist and fog. Saith he, "Take heed; you are very busily preparing, your mind is filled with a multitude of thoughts." He does not speak ill of these preparations and these plans, but he does say, "Proceed with caution; look before you leap, think before you act. Do nothing till you have thought it over and prayed about it. You will discover, Ahaz, that whereas some of your precautions are legitimate, others of them are dishonouring to God and to the throne of David." Well now, is there not a word for you and for me just here? Take heed! — do not rush blindly on, wait to be guided, slip your hand into God's. Ye people of God, take heed! Worldliness is gradually creeping into the Church and fastening its fangs upon her. Doctrine of all sorts is at a discount, except false doctrine. Take heed lest you sip of the poisoned cup or ever you are aware. And ye shepherds of the flock, take heed! Ministers are too busy nowadays "getting up" this, that, and the other Be it ours to bring the blessing down. Sunday school teachers, take heed that you do not merely amuse or only instruct the children. Win them for Christ. Take heed, ye who profess to follow Jesus! Look where you are going; ponder the paths of your steps.

II. THEN THE PROPHET RECOMMENDED QUIET. "Be quiet." It is not the easiest thing in the world to be quiet, especially when there are two confederate armies coming up against you. It is ever easier to assault than to "sit tight." I do not believe there is anything that more honours our holy religion than self-possession in the time of stress and storm. It is then that the worldling says, "Why, I could not do that!" What is the secret of that wonderful composure! The secret is God. That heart is kept quiet that is stayed on Him.

III. Then Isaiah says, "FEAR NOT." He has spoken of the outward attitude and action; now he refers to the reward emotion. Know you not that fear is fatal? I suppose that, humanly speaking, almost as many people die of fear as of anything else. Many of our best hopes are thwarted, not because there was any real necessity they should suffer so, but because we were afraid from the first that they would. Many of our high ambitions come to nought because we were never very confident that they would have any other ending. if the work be of God, trust God to see it through. We may have our fears, but we must not cherish them. There were words of cheer accompanying this message. The prophet said, "These great flaming firebrands that you fear are going out. Already they are smoking. They are only the tails of firebrands. A little patience and you will see an end of this trouble." We do not ask a sign of God that Ha will give us the victory in our warfare, and success in our work for Him. He gives it without asking. We would believe without a sign. "Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed." But if God offers us a sign we do not refuse it. Ahaz did. He said — suddenly posing as a saint — "No, I will not tempt God." When God offers us a sign it is not reverence to refuse it; it is gross irreverence. But He has granted us the best sign of all, the sign to which I do not doubt that Isaiah made reference. Christ has come; nay, God has come, for Christ is God. "If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established." John Bunyan used to call unbelief a white devil.

(T. Spurgeon.)

The two allies are at once designated as what they are before God, who sees through things in the future. They are two tails, i.e., nothing but the fag ends of wood pokers, half-burned off and wholly burned out, so that they do not burn any longer, but only still keep smoking.

(F. Delitzsch.)

Life is danger. The more precious anything is the more enemies it has. You rarely see any lice on the wild rose in the hedgerow, but the prize rose in the garden will soon be covered with them if the gardener remits his severe attention; crab apple trees on a common may be left with confidence to take care of themselves, but the husbandman must watch by night and day an orchard full of sweetness. Man has the most enemies of all, they swarm on every hand, he walks in jeopardy every hour. But we often forget all this and act with strange heedlessness. Awhile ago, from the flowery cliffs, I was watching the beautiful gulls as they flashed between the sun and the sea uttering cues of joy, when some wretched sportsmen appeared on the scene and began to fire at the lovely creatures. I thought that at the first shot the birds would have vanished into space, but, strangely enough, as if they were enchanted, they continued to whirl around the very focus of destruction. Fortunately they were not hit, the marksmen's aim was as bad as their temper; but at any moment the glorious birds might have dropped shattered, bloody things, into the sea. It is very much the same with men. They go negligently, presumptuously, although moral dangers are thicker than all other dangers, and any moment might see the glory and hope of life quenched in midnight darkness.

(W. L. Watkinson.)

We all know suspicious souls whose nervousness gives them not a moment of peace. If they are going on a railway journey, they anxiously look out for the middle compartment of the middle carriage, fancying that the safest place, and there is no telling how many trains they miss looking for that carriage; if they are in the country, they will not drink a drop of milk until they have ascertained whether the foot and mouth disease has been in that district; and at the railway station they cross-examine the driver to know whether he has conveyed in that cab any passenger having an infectious malady. Now, if you once give way to a morbid nervousness of this sort, there is positively no end to the thing, and every bit of comfort is taken out of life.

(W. L. Watkinson.)

The sensible voyager lays his head on the pillow and goes to sleep, although the gleaming teeth of sharks are only a few inches away; the thickness of the plank or plate is practically the thickness of a planet: and although hell is always nigh., let us remember that God is still nigher, and that a bit of tissue paper in His hands is the munition of rocks to those who trust in Him.

(W. L. Watkinson.)

The bird on the branch is intensely sensitive and tremulous; it looks around, above, beneath; all the world might be a fowler, a mare, a eat, and yet at the same time it goes on pouring out its happy soul in music. Let us be like it in watchfulness and gladness.

(W. L. Watkinson.)

When I was a growing lad I was always measuring myself to see how much I had gained every week or two. Sometimes there was a distinct gain, and then another testing seemed to indicate that I was standing sty; so I fed my hopes and fears. But I did very well on the whole, and it would have been a great deal better if I had let the measuring tape alone and attended to my learning and my business. Do not afflict your souls with morbid solicitudes.

(W. L. Watkinson.)

God will have those in derision who set their shoulders against His throne for the purpose of overturning it.

(J. Parker, D. D.)

There is a legend which is in itself instructive concerning the time of plague in a certain Eastern city, to the effect that 20,000 people having died therein, a traveller entering the gates spoke to the plague as it was leaving, and said, "I understand that you have slain 20,000 people within these walls." "No," said the plague, "I have slain but 10,000; the rest have died of fear." It is an instructive story.

(T. Spurgeon.)

Once I remember I picked up a small bird which had fallen on the pavement by my feet. I sought to reinstate it among the branches overhead; but the creature could not appreciate my generosity, and with passionate eagerness struggled to escape. I began unconsciously to talk aloud to it, "Poor, silly thing; why do you not trust your best friend? All I want is to get you up again in the fork of the tree. You are making it harder for me, by dashing so against my fingers; for I am obliged to hold you firmly, and you do all the hurting yourself." Why is it we all struggle so, when the Lord is giving us help

(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)

Phoebe Simpson said to Ellice Hopkins, "I think, miss, religion is doing things still." Stillness of spirit is like the canvas, for the Holy Spirit to draw His various graces upon.

(Dr. Love.)

The really and substantially happy people in the world are always calm and quiet.

(Recreations of a Country Parson.)

The child of God should live above the world, moving through it, as some quiet star moves through the blue sky, — clear, and serene, and still

(Hetty Bowman.)

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