Isaiah 4-8
(Branch of the LORD)
July 16th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

Then I heard the Lord say, “Whom shall I send? Who will be our messenger?”

I answered, “I will go! Send me!”

- Isaiah 6:8 (GNB)

Summary of Chapters

In yesterday's study of Isaiah we read the beginning of a set of chapters called "Oracles Against Israel." This section continues in today's study and through chapter 12. The reason for the oracles is better understood with a quick recap of the historical context. As noted in chapter 6, Isaiah began his ministry the year King Uzziah of Judah died, which is estimated to be about 742 B.C. Uzziah was one of the descendants of King David who had had great success in building up the military and commercial status of this southern kingdom.

Jotham succeeded Uzziah and continued to lead his country in times of prosperity and relative security for a brief period. He was succeeded by Ahaz around 735 B.C. Meanwhile, a man by the name of Tiglath-pileser became the leader of Assyria, a nation to the north that was quickly acquiring new land for his empire and spreading fear among all the neighboring nations. This fear prompted the northern kingdom of Israel to ally itself with Damascus, Askelon, and Gaza to defend themselves from the aggressor. Ahaz of Judah refused to join this alliance, and as a result the alliance attacked his nation and it's capital Jerusalem. In desperation, and against the advise of Isaiah, Ahaz turned towards Assyria for protection. At a much later date, a subsequent king of Judah would rebel against Assyria and be subjected to a prolonged siege and ultimate defeat (1).

Today's chapters include elements of poetry and history in a non-chronological sequence. Chapter 4 describes a prophecy titled "Branch of the LORD," which is a remnant of Israel that will survive future disasters, perhaps referring to a future siege by the Assyrians.

Chapter 5 includes a poem subtitled "The Song of the Vineyard." The beginning set of verses uses the allegory of a vineyard that produced bad fruit to illustrate the unfaithful people of Israel who failed to follow God (the vineyard owner) after he had done so many things to care for them. The vineyard owner expresses his despair over the lost crops and declares his intent to remove all protective boundaries.

The remainder of chapter 5 falls under the subtitle "Woes and Judgments," in which God condemns specific types of sinful attitudes and activities, such as greed, excessive drinking, failure to seek forgiveness, conceit, and injustice. The end of the chapter describes how God will call on other nations to conquer those who commit these sins: "He raises a flag, signaling a distant nation, whistles for people at the ends of the earth. And here they come— on the run! (5:26 - MSG)"

Chapter 6 is a flashback in which Isaiah records the events that led to his calling to be a prophet. He described a vision in which he sees the LORD in heaven and he volunteers to serve the LORD: "Then I heard the voice of the LORD saying, 'Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?' And then I said 'Here I am' (Is 6:8 - NIV)." God commands Isaiah to tell the people about God, but explained that they will not listen. Therefore he will destroy their cities and fields. He also said that a tenth will remain and from it "the holy seed will be the stump in the land (Is 6:13 - NIV)."

Chapter 7 recounts the event where Isaiah warned King Ahaz not to fear the alliance of Aram and Ephraim (a synonym for the northern kingdom and its allies) because the LORD would have protected Judah. "Take care you remain calm and do not fear; do not let your courage fail before these two stumps of smoldering brands (Is 7:4 - NAB)." The LORD told Ahaz to ask him for a sign, but Ahaz refused. Instead, Ahaz tried to purchase favor from Assyria by selling precious objects from the temple, as described in 2 Kings 16.

Isaiah then foretold the birth of a child and predicted that by the time the child is a toddler, the lands of Aram and Ephraim will be destroyed. In addition, he notes that the LORD will send the King of Assyria to punish Judah for not following the LORD.

In chapter 8, the LORD describes to Isaiah how he will send Assyria to conquer Judah because the people rejected him and instead sought protection from Assyria. The LORD also warned Isaiah to fear him instead of fearing other people. The LORD says he will make these others stumble and fall in his trap. Isaiah responded by saying he will wait for the LORD and put his trust in him.

The final verse in chapter 8 prophesizes regarding future salvation, "There is no gloom where there had been distress. Where once he degraded the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, now he has glorified the way of the Sea, the land across the Jordan, Galilee of the Nations (Is 8:23 - NAB)." This verse is quoted in Matthew's Gospel

Reflection and Application

God is patient and caring, but we must be careful not to push our good fortune with him. He will provide for us and forgive our sins, but if we worship other areas of our life and don’t return to recognize him, then he will eventually allow us to try to survive on our own, without walls of protection and without the trimming of weeds and other maintenance.

God controls the universe. As such, he can use people to serve others or punish others. He can whistle for these people in the same way a person whistles for a dog under his or her control. Notice the different responses between Ahaz and Isaiah when God calls them. God made a simple command, asking Ahaz to ask God for a sign. Ahaz refused, presumably because he did not want to become beholden to God (bad move). By contrast, when Isaiah heard God asking for someone to do his work he stepped up and said, "Here I am! Send me!" This is the example we want to follow. If God calls us, then our best response is to acknowledge and submit.

God may send us on a task where there are no short term gains, as was the case for Isaiah in today's reading, who wondered what the point was of prophesying if no one would listen. We may have similar frustrations when following God. In some cases, our assignment may seem as pointless as the task of Sisyphus, the Greek King in a mythological story who was condemned to roll a large stone up the same hill over and over, only to watch it roll back down to the bottom.

When given a task by God our job is to do it without wondering how it actually serves him. The writings of Isaiah served the branch of Israel who remained loyal, became a prophetic reference point for the writers of the New Testament, and inspires us today. Isaiah could have given up because no one seemed to listen to him, but he feared and trusted God and continued his assignment. When we get our divine assignment we must carry on and never give up.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What experiences have you had with an assignment from a boss or client or family member that seemed pointless at the time, but you later learned the value of it?
    2. How ready are you to say "Here I am, send me!" when God calls you?
    3. Has God given you an assignment that seems pointless at times? What is the assignment and why does it seem pointless? If you have not yet had this experience, then consider how you would react if you did receive an assignment like that

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know that you have great expectations for us and have given us everything we need to serve you. Help us to produce the good fruit that you intend.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Missionaries in Africa and Europe


    (1) The New American Bible, Sponsored by the Bishop's Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Catholic Bible Publishers, Wichita, KS, 1970, pp 76-81

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Isaiah 9-12 (For Unto Us a Child Is Born)

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