And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. — Isaiah 8:14
It is a joke in our family that I can stumble over almost anything. Even a little irregularity in the pavement can be sufficient to cause me to become quite a spectacle! Almost invariably there is one cause for the problem — I did not lift up my toes quite enough. Spiritually speaking, the irregularities in our lives can be stumbling blocks or stepping-stones. Often, the decisive factor is how much we lift our focus toward God and His plan for us.
With a little consideration, we can probably think of numerous people who have turned what seemed to be immense stumbling blocks into stepping-stones. Lowell Montgomery is a name that comes to my mind. Through many years of his life, he had debilitating physical problems, yet it would have been hard to meet a more positive man. He could see the good in everyone and every situation, and it was always an encouragement to be around him. He had turned stumbling blocks into stepping-stones.
In the focus verse, God indicated through Isaiah, that He wanted to be a sanctuary — a safe and secure place — for the Children of Israel, but that was only possible if they trusted in Him. For those who disobeyed, He was a stumbling block (rock of offense) and trap (gin). Both Paul and Peter referred to this verse, indicating that Jesus was a stumbling block to the Jewish people when they rejected Him as their Messiah.
Today, all of us may choose either to stumble or to step up. First, we must make a decision about the Lord and whether we will take His offer of safety and eternal life, or stumble along in disobedience. Then, if we decide to follow the Lord, we can make a choice about the daily circumstances that face us. We can lift our focus to God and rejoice in His plan for us, or we can stumble along with complaints, anger, or self-pity. Let’s step up!
This chapter in the Book of Isaiah begins with a specific and severe judgment against Israel and Syria: Assyria would invade and overrun them because of their sins. The chapter opens with God commanding Isaiah to name his child Maher-shalal-hashbaz. The translation of this name meant “plundering and spoiling will come quickly.” God commanded that name to be given because Israel would fall by Assyria before the child was old enough to talk.
The passage in verses 5-9 is a picture. The waters of Shiloah flowed peacefully and were to be compared to depending upon and trusting in God. In contrast, Assyria was like a mighty river that would invade Israel and destroy it, overflowing to the southern kingdom of Judah and nearly wiping it out also.
Yet, in the midst of this prophesy of doom, God gave a glimmer of hope in His warning to invading nations: “Give ear, all ye of far countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces” (verse 9). God promised to stand with Judah to help them. However, there were instructions that they needed to follow to make this victory a reality: they were not to rely on human help in the form of alliances.
The prophesied invasion, while apparently a military threat, stemmed from a problem that was neither military nor political, but spiritual. Therefore the solution had to be spiritual also. The people who wanted to serve God were to sanctify Him in their hearts, even while the multitude in Israel and Judah fell before Assyria.
God’s instructions in this passage were to Isaiah personally, as well as to the people of Israel and Judah. God wanted Isaiah himself not to go along with the people who were disobedient. Those who were faithful were to regard and revere the Lord (verse 13). God placed a “strong hand” (verse 11) on Isaiah, and some Bible commentators believe Isaiah’s response is shown in verse 17, “I will wait upon the Lord.”
Furthermore, God warned the people not to fall prey to the occult influence of their fellow countrymen, reminding the faithful of the misery and defeat that such practices lead to.
(Hannah’s Bible Outlines - Used by permission per WORDsearch)
II. The message of condemnation: the Holy One of Israel provoked, rebuking and judging
B. Prophecies related to Israel
1. The destruction of Israel by Assyria
a. Judah’s promise of deliverance from Israel
(2) Isaiah’s message of the time of Israel’s demise (8:1-4)
(a) The sign to Judah (8:1-3)
(b) The significance for Israel (8:4)
(3) Isaiah’s message of Assyria’s invasion (8:5-9:7)
(a) Assyria’s destruction of Israel (8:5-7)
(b) Assyria’s desolation of Judah (8:8)
(c) The pronouncement against confederacy (8:9-15)
(d) The promise of deliverance for Judah (8:16-22)
We are surrounded daily by problems, both in our personal lives and in the world around us. Some are small, some immense. But no matter how enormous they may appear, God is able to turn them into stepping stones and help us to continue to walk steadfastly with Him.