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Lowell Brueckner

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The Forest of Shaking Hearts



A little personal counsel

I chose the photo on the left to represent this article from Isaiah, chapter 7. It doesn’t show trees, bending in a storm, but trees that have been shaped by decades of contrary forces. Pick any tree… Does it tell the story of your life? Has the enemy of your soul beat upon you day after day, year after year, until you feel that there is no defense for these onslaughts? You need to know that you are not alone; other believers are targets of the same kind of attack. There have always been those, who have endured Satanic barrages and not all of them are people, naturally plagued by emotional and psychological weaknesses, as you might imagine. No these are spiritual attacks! It would surprise you to know the names of some – household names among Christians – who are among those most mightily used of God.

 My friend, there is an answer. God has good news for you through His prophet Isaiah. I am singling out this message from my study, which I published several years ago, of the entire book of Isaiah. It is before your eyes again, because I know that the soul of some of God’s people are under continuous attack these days. Please believe this: God intends to bring you out from under this storm and straighten your thoughts through the truth of His word. The truth will set you free!

 You will have to have your Bible open and follow along, as I attempt an expository lesson. I hope that I’m not being naïve, when I imagine someone sitting at a desk or table with the Bible on the right, open to Isaiah, and articles like this one on the left… 


 Everyone who knows me will tell you that I am a proponent of the reading of good Christian books, as a complement to consistent Bible reading and study. Read as much as your time will allow from time-proven authors! I don’t know of any reputable Christian, now or in church history, who would advise you differently. However, the trend today of sitting in a circle to study together the latest book, in general, is not advisable. I’m not saying that in the case of some books, especially classics in church history, it might be profitable to do so, but I shudder to think of how many Christians have been misled by some of the most popular literature of our day. Much is simply garbage!

 Christians today really need to study the Bible in expository form and if you are not doing so in some other Bible class, well here is a good opportunity for you. By expository teaching, we hear best what God has to say, rather than to consider the opinions of men. We often do hear their opinions, because preachers and teachers have certain thoughts, which they have developed on their own, and look for Bible texts to give authority to their thinking. This method is not only unwise, it is dangerous. I hope that you will join me, as I attempt to hear the voice of God through the book of Isaiah, as we study verse by verse.

 An expository study of Isaiah, chapter 7

 This chapter has valuable truth for the life of any believer and contains various messianic prophecies. However, I have found it especially edifying for people, who are struggling through severe spiritual battles. Personally, I have shared it for that purpose and have sometimes been asked to repeat the message for others in similar circumstances. Just in case you have not learned it, the Christian life has plenty of soul-shaking, life-and-death conflicts that threaten our spiritual survival. The sooner we find this to be true, the sooner and better we will be able to face them.

 As the chapter begins, here is the situation that we find: The king of Judah is Ahaz, the worst of the kings, mentioned at the beginning of the book, to come into power during Isaiah’s ministry. Yet, I am amazed at the mercy and grace of God, who, through Isaiah, reaches out to try to help this man come into faith.

 The kingdom of Judah is being threatened by its “brother” country to the north, Israel. This had to happen sooner or later. The northern kingdom bore the name Israel and for that reason some of the southern kings tried to maintain friendly relationships with it. By this time, idolatrous Israel was showing its true colors and joined forces with the totally pagan king of Aram to war against Jerusalem, the city which still showed some allegiance to the true God. The attacks against Jerusalem failed up to this time (v.1).

 Unchecked fear

 The House of David, mentioned in verse two, is that which God promised to David back in 2 Samuel, chapter 7:8-29. He assured him that this house would stand in good times and in bad times, would endure and be established forever. His lovingkindness, removed from Saul, would not be removed from the house of David. We cannot apply the consequences of Saul to David. God would chasten David’s descendants “with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness shall not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul” (v.14, 15).

 When Ahaz, the descendant of David and the representative of his house in Isaiah 7, heard that Arameans were poised for another confrontation, “his heart and the hearts of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake with the wind.” All right, friend, can you relate to this heart condition? The text speaks of the heart and, whatever the threat may be, physical or spiritual, what concerns us today is the condition of our heart. Perhaps you have never been faced with a dilemma as the one described in these verses or maybe you have had the courage to withstand anything that has come up against you up to this point. I will simply state that there is a limitation to any person’s courage, beyond which the overwhelmed heart shakes as trees in the wind. The wind speaks of spiritual forces, preceding whatever storm enemy armies might bring to Judah. I will confess that I have stood in the forest of shaking hearts.

 Now we will see how the Lord deals with this situation and learn from it how we can face the situations that come into our lives. There is little or nothing that we can do about a shaking heart. It is useless to say, “Stop shaking!” However, there are principles that will stablize a shaking heart, of which we can take notice and respond obediently to the Lord’s instructions.

 “Fear-not” lessons to conquer our shaken hearts

 1.      Lessons from the names of biblical people

Click for slightly larger view of Upper Pool

 Isaiah and his son are sent on a mission to the king (v.3). His son’s name, Shear-jashub, means a remnant shall return and he must accompany Isaiah, whose name means the Lord is salvation. These are the first two truths that Ahaz will encounter, when he meets with them in the fuller’s field. He is to see that the Lord is salvation and therefore the House of David cannot be fully destroyed. The sovereign purpose, which God determined from the beginning, cannot be frustrated. 

 Ahaz is either contemplating a way to assure that the water will continue to run into Jerusalem during a future crisis, or planning to make it unavailable to the invading armies. The source of the Upper Pool, 316’ x 200’ x 18’ deep, is the nearby Fount of Siloam, and from it conduits carry the water underground into the city. Later Hezekiah stopped any water accessible to the enemy, but saw to it that it flowed behind the walls of Jerusalem for his people (2 Chr.32:4). The ruins of the pool still exist.   

2.      Lessons from God’s view of the enemy

 Ahaz is wasting time and energy, because his thoughts are in vain. He has been preoccupied with the threats of the enemies and he needs to see them from God’s point of view, because that is the viewpoint of truth. Remember, we can apply these same steps or principles to our lives, in order to steady a shaking heart. How does God see these, who are causing so much consternation in Judah and Jerusalem? He calls them “stubs of smoking firebrands”, meaning that the fire has been extinguished and there is nothing left, but an angry smokescreen (v.4). Our enemy is a deceiving serpent, whose poisonous fangs have been removed at Calvary. He goes through the motions, he raises his head and belches out smoke, but no real damage can be done. For those whose confidence is in the cross and in the One who hung there, “He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him” (1 Jn.5:18).

 Ahaz is told not to fear, because there is no real cause for fear. The Lord reveals that He is the omniscient Sovereign who rules over the plots of men. He gives to the king their very words and then declares with total authority, “It shall not stand nor shall it come to pass” (v.5-7). What you are fearing and against which you are mounting a defense, will never happen! This is the second lesson given, after sending the first one in the person of a father and son. So much for the lies from the opposite camp!

The eternal Lord places a time element upon the threatening nations. They will be swallowed by the finite limitations, both in time and range, of their existence. They will never be more than what they are now and what they now are will not continue to be. Ephraim, that is the northern kingdom, whose capital is Samaria and whose king is now Pekah, only has 65 years remaining before they will be completely annihilated (v.8). Can you be destroyed by the temporal, when you are upheld by the eternal? That’s the lesson and let’s be sure to learn it! Every time you are tempted to believe the wind of the spirits, which move the waves on the oceans of men, read Revelation 20:10: “And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” As to Damascus, Aram and its king, read chapter 17:1-3.

 3.      Lessons about trusting God

 Next we learn the mighty principle, which exceeds all others, as far as the people of God are concerned: “If you will not believe, you surely shall not last” (v.9). To believe is to place your confidence in God and that is the meaning of faith. Hear the central core truth of the entire Word of God: “The just shall live by faith.” See the purpose defined in the Gospel of John 20:31: “These have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” There is no assurance for the unbeliever, whether he lives in Samaria or Jerusalem; before the first coming of Christ or before His second coming. Believe God, trust His word in this matter and in all matters. The one goal of faith is to believe in Him and to place your whole trust in Him, and then you surely shall last!  

 I find consolation in the Lord’s work to bring Ahaz to faith. Remember he is at this time the House of David (v.10-13).  “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent” (Jn.6:29). We just noticed John’s purpose in his inspired Gospel and, in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Jesus encourages His disciples to have the faith of God (as some versions translate Mark 11:22). “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock and it will be opened to you” (Mt.7:7). Then, should one of them feel that he is the exception to God’s promises, as Ahaz, perhaps because of his sin, Jesus removes that doubt also: “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened” (Mt.7:8). Jesus then argues His point by turning to an example of a natural father/son relationship. The human father, born with a sinful nature, still knows to give good things to his son.

 Referring again to the House of David, God promises, “I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him…” (2 S.7:14). God pleads with David’s descendent, “Come Ahaz, learn faith! Ask a sign for yourself from the Lord your God; make it deep as Sheol or high as heaven” (v.11). However Ahaz wastes the opportunity by a sanctimonious response, “I will not ask, nor will I test the Lord!” Was he ever spiritual! But history has him down as a wicked, unbelieving king. God opened heaven to him as a sign that He is a prayer-answering God, if he would simply humble himself, as a child would ask a father for a sign, but Ahaz’ spiritual pride gets in the way and the evil in his nature is proven by his unbelief. Unbelief is sin; justify it as you will by theological garbage. Add to his unbelief, passivity and indifference, when God is looking for passionate involvement; He is looking for someone to stand in the gap.  

 4.      Lessons about the sovereignty of God

There is another lesson to learn and stand upon. Never mind the sinful reluctance of fallen man, God’s purposes will be carried out. The doctrine that God is subject to man’s faith can easily be disproven in the Scriptures. Much later in his book, Isaiah proves, “He saw that there was no man, and was astonished that there was no one to intercede; then His own arm brought salvation to Him…” (59:16). As all the inspired writers of Scripture, the Psalmist declares His sovereignty, “Our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Ps.115:3). I have often challenged listeners to name one disciple who believed that Jesus would rise from the dead… but He arose!  

 When Ahaz loses his chance to take his part in God’s eternal purposes, God Himself steps in with a sign for all ages. What a sign it is! He points to, not only the hope of Israel, but of all the nations. Whatever sign Ahaz might have thought too big, God had a bigger one in mind. “Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel” (v.14). The angel announced to the shepherds of Bethlehem, “This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger” (Lk.2:12). The simple shepherds believed the sign, hurried straight to Bethlehem and found the fulfillment of the sign, told it to everyone that they could reach, and glorified and praised God.

 Let us then, as individuals, when we are afflicted, learn the lessons of Isaiah and Shear-jashub. The Lord is our Savior and though we are severely tried, we will not be destroyed. Let us not lose heart and be shaken by the lies of the enemy, but learn to see him as God sees him. Let us not waste our lives, in defending against that, which will never be able to touch us. As we refuse to listen to the enemy’s threats, let us learn to hear and obey God. Let us be simple and passionate in our prayers, not passive, justifying our unbelief with self-invented doctrines. By God’s answers let us grow in heavenly faith and listen, as He reveals to us the hope that is only in Christ. Let us hold to him in faith and let us live with Him, as our Immanuel. Let us be assured that He is sovereign over spiritual powers, earthly potentates and, most of all, over our own weaknesses and strengths.

 Christ and Shear-jashub

 The state of Ahaz and his nation is vitally connected to the Messiah, as it was since the time of Abraham. God gave Abraham and Sarah supernatural ability to have a son, when they were well past age, in order that one day a virgin would conceive and bear a Son. For that very reason, Israel was delivered from Egyptian bondage and brought into the Promised Land. In that land, God became the commander of Israel’s army, because this was His chosen country, in which a virgin would move from Nazareth to Bethlehem in order to bear a Son according to Scripture. For this reason, God removed Saul and put David on the throne and gave the promise concerning his house. This is God’s one purpose; His one sign for all history. Therefore Jerusalem was preserved in the time of Ahaz and on through the following centuries until this prophecy was fulfilled.

 Now, it seems, Isaiah turns from his prophesy and points to his own son Shear-jashub. It would appear that he is an infant and God uses him to show the beginning of the total destruction of the enemy armies within a few years. That is why he accompanies his father on the mission. Before he would come to an accountable age, they would be destroyed and Shear-jashub, a remnant shall remain, shows that although God’s people will come through severe trials, they will survive to fulfill His purposes (v.15-17).

 We will learn of the siege of the mighty king of Assyria later in Isaiah, as one of these severe trials. God will whistle for the fly and the bee from Egypt to Assyria to punish the House of David with the rod of men. As bees and flies settle in the pastures and the bushes, strangers would fill the land (v.18-19). Notice now, as you read through the rest of the chapter, how Judah will be decimated. It will be as a razor shaves the hair from the head and body (v.20), so the valuable vines will be stripped from the land and replaced by briars and thorn (v.23). The world’s great herdsman, who typified Israel since the time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, will be reduced to a heifer and a pair of sheep, if he is able to even keep them alive (v.21). The economy will fail and, instead of selling milk products, the producer will eat them to survive (v.22). Honey will be available, because the bees will thrive on the wild flowers that cover the formerly tillable fields. Cattle, sheep and goats will break through the fences of these fields, in order to forage (v.25). It will be necessary to hunt wild animals for meat (v.24). So Judah will be broken down and humbled, but it will not perish.



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