Summary: When adversity comes in like a flood, don't fear the flood; fear the Lord and keep His Word.
Alan Wright, in his book God Moments, talks about an old-time preacher who once experienced a bad, bumpy flight. So for the rest of his life, he hated airplanes. On one occasion, he sat down next to a calm passenger who noticed the preacher's nerves.
“Why are you afraid, Preacher?” the passenger asked him. “Doesn't that Bible of yours say God is with you always?”
“No, that's not exactly what the Bible says,” the minister responded. “The Bible says, ‘Lo, I am with you always.’” (Alan D. Wright, God Moments, Multnomah, 1999; www.PreachingToday.com)
Low or high, God is always with us, so we don’t have to be afraid. That’s the message of Christmas. Did you know that no less than four times, the Bible declares, “Do not be afraid,” when it tells the Christmas story? You find it in Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:13; Luke 1:30; and Luke 2:10.
We don’t have to be afraid, because Jesus has come! He is Immanuel, God with us, and God’s presence means our protection. It means our security. If you have your Bibles, I invite you to turn with me to Isaiah 8, Isaiah 8, where we see this played out in the little nation of Judah as she was being terrorized by foreign invaders 700 years before Christ.
Isaiah 8:1 Then the LORD said to me, “Take a large tablet [a billboard, if you will] and write on it in common characters, ‘Belonging to Maher-shalal-hash-baz.’ (ESV)
“Maher-shalal-hash-baz” – the name means “swift is the booty, speedy is the prey.” It was a battle cry that soldiers shouted to each other as they defeated and plundered their enemies.
Isaiah 8:2 And I will get reliable witnesses [God says], “Uriah the priest and Zechariah the son of Jeberechiah, to attest for me.” (ESV)
In other words, these men will faithfully declare my Word.
Isaiah 8:3 And I went to the prophetess [Isaiah approached his wife] and she conceived and bore a son. Then the Lord said to me, “Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz.” (ESV)
Poor kid. He was probably in the 8th grade before he learned how to spell his own name. Maher-shalal-hash-baz – Swift is the booty, speedy is the prey. Now why give the boy such a name?
Isaiah 8:4 …for before the boy knows how to cry ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria.” (ESV)
Before the boy is a year old, Judah’s enemies will be wiped out. The king of Assyria will carry them away.
In the context, Syria and Israel had formed an alliance against Judah. They were killing tens of thousands of men in Judah, capturing hundreds of thousands of women and children, and stripping Judah of its wealth.
However, God declares that a larger nation would come in and wipe Syria and Israel out, and that’s exactly what happened. Less than a year later, the king of Assyria sent his armies in to conquer Syria and Israel. They were “swift to the booty, speedy to the prey”, as they took away Syria and Israel’s wealth and people.
There was only one problem with this: Judah got rid of one enemy only to face a bigger one. It reminds me of the man swimming in a river, a little concerned about the possibility of alligators. He saw another man standing on the shore and asked him, “Are there any alligators in this river?”
The man on shore said, “No, not a single one,” but the man in the water was not entirely convinced.
So again he asked the man on shore, “Are you sure there are no alligators?”
And the man on shore replied, “Certainly. Do you see those gray forms in the water? Those are sharks that have chased the alligators away.” (Bible Illustrator, #999-1000, 2/1987.21)
Assyria was to become the shark that chased the alligators away. Then it would come after Judah.
Isaiah 8:5-8 The LORD spoke to me again: “Because this people has refused the waters of Shiloah that flow gently, and rejoice over Rezin and the son of Remaliah, therefore, behold, the Lord is bringing up against them the waters of the River, mighty and many, the king of Assyria and all his glory. And it will rise over all its channels and go over all its banks, and it will sweep on into Judah, it will overflow and pass on, reaching even to the neck, and its outspread wings will fill the breadth of your land, O Immanuel.” (ESV)
God warns Judah that Assyria will come in like a flood. God’s people would be in deep water up to their necks, but they would not drown. Why? Because this is Immanuel’s land. God is with them. That’s why Isaiah can say to all the nations…