Because of his message of non-involvement with the superpower Assyria, the prophet Isaiah was considered treasonous by the people of Judah. He chose, however, not to get political during a time of deep and divided political intrigue. He was simply God’s prophet proclaiming God’s word to the nation of Judah. God warned the people in Is. 8:12 not to get involved with conspiracy theories. “Do not call conspiracy everything that these people call conspiracy; do not fear what they fear, and do not dread it.” The Message says, “Don’t be like this people, always afraid somebody is plotting against them.” Wow! Is that a relevant warning for our day!
Remember: when God was looking for a spokesperson, Isaiah responded, “Here am I. Send me!” (Is. 6:8). But here, God was firm with Isaiah – and it seems He meant business. The Message tells us, “God spoke strongly to me, grabbed me with both hands and warned me not go along with this people” (8:11). Isaiah may have been influenced by the events of his day. Perhaps he had started believing some of the rumors he’d heard.
The NIVZSB gives this insight about Is. 8:11-13: “Two different understandings of history: (1) Give God the central place that only the Holy One must have, or (2) explain historical events as the result of human conspiracy, with the constant dread of the unknown that this view engenders.” The NET Bible speculates the conspiracy might have been the alliance between Israel and Syria. “Some of the people may even have thought that individuals in Judah were plotting with Israel and Syria to overthrow the king.” The NLT Study Bible notes, “People regarded Isaiah’s message of non-involvement with Assyria as treasonous, part of a conspiracy…What frightens them was the alliance of Syria and Israel attacking Judah.”
Isaiah exhorted the people to listen to the Lord of Heaven’s armies: “He is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread” (Is. 8:13 – emphasis mine). Isaiah goes on the say, “He will keep you safe. But to Israel and Judah he will be a stone that makes people stumble, a rock that makes them fall, and for the people of Jerusalem he will be a trap and a snare” (Is. 8:14).
Peter picks up on this passage in I Peter 2:4-8. He describes Jesus as a “living Stone” and those chosen by God to be “living stones” used to build a spiritual house, “to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (v. 5). Quoting Isaiah 28:16 Peter declares, “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame” (v. 6). Then he adds, “This stone is precious…But to those who do not believe…a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall” (vv. 7-8). “They stumble,” declares Peter, “because they disobey the message – which is also what they were destined for” (v. 8).
The implication for us as followers of Jesus is to examine our dedication to Jesus, our “chosen and precious cornerstone.” As “living stones” we are to trust that Jesus is the key to what God is building by his Spirit. We are warned that unbelief will cause us to stumble and fall. Men, make Jesus your “cornerstone.” Measure all you do both within and outside the church by your commitment to him. In these passages God gives us fair warning of the deadly consequences of not keeping our eyes fixed firmly on Jesus.