A Warning and a Hope
1The Lord said, “Isaiah, get something to write on. Then write in big clear letters the name, MAHER-SHALAL-HASH-BAZ. 2I will tell Uriah the priest and Zechariah son of Jeberechiah to serve as witnesses to this.”
3Sometime later, my wife and I had a son, and the Lord said, “Name him Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. 4Because before he can say ‘Mommy’ or ‘Daddy,’ the king of Assyria will attack and take everything of value from Damascus and Samaria.”
5The Lord spoke to me again and said:
6These people have refused the gentle waters of Shiloah and have gladly gone over to the side of King Rezin and King Pekah. 7Now I will send the king of Assyria against them with his powerful army, which will attack like the mighty Euphrates River overflowing its banks. 8Enemy soldiers will cover Judah like a flood reaching up to your neck.
But God is with us.
He will spread his wings
and protect our land.
9All of you foreign nations,
go ahead and prepare for war,
but you will be crushed.
10Get together and make plans,
but you will fail
because God is with us.
It is easy to say God is with us: in the huddle before the match, before the battle, when we send each other to war.
Ahaz is sure “God is with us.” Isaiah is not. Ahaz sheltered under the wings of Assyria, but its talons would pierce him. He is caught in the same snare he laid for his enemies.
We make our plans, and ask, sometimes, for God to bless them. But are we with him or are we just hoping he is with us? Are we following him or expecting him to follow us.
Isaiah names his son, “The spoils [of war] speed, the prey hastens.” (That’s what MAHER-SHALAL-HASH-BAZ means.) We don’t just burden our children with their names. They carry the consequence of our priorities, just as we are prey to our parents’ choices.
Life is never a private matter. Ahaz is not the only one up to his neck in Assyrian jackboots. Sometimes we mean by “us” the royal we, sometimes we mean just many I’s. But when Isaiah says “God with us” he really does mean “us.” Whatever “us” you or I may be a part of, “us” is who God is with.
Our identity is isolated from those around us by our culture. But our influence is not. Rarely do we think how the direction we take will lead others. For we all lead someone, in some way: children, spouse, family, friends, neighbours, colleagues.
Yet if God is not with us, when we are alone, he will never be with us when we are together. When you pray, you are not just seeking God’s presence for yourself. You are inviting him to be with everyone you ever encounter.
Jesus’ last prayer was for all who hear and who are influenced by that very prayer (John 17). Who will be influenced by ours?
Let me pray like Jesus: for those who, though I may not know them, will be affected by my life. Be with me so that through me you will be with others. Make me fit to be part of an “us” just like you, Son, Father and Holy Spirit.