Summary: We learn from the words of Isaiah to Ahaz that we need to adjust our focus, anchor our faith and anticipate our future.
GOD WITH US – HOPE
Years ago a submarine was rammed by another ship and quickly it sank to the bottom of the ocean. The entire crew was trapped inside that submarine. Many boats rushed to the disaster, but no one really knew what the submarine crew went through in those few hours underneath the water. Men bravely clung to all the oxygen that they could get until, slowly, it gave out. One diver who came to the rescue, swam down and put his ear to the side of the submarine and listened. The diver heard tapping noises - someone was banging out a message in Morse code. The message was a question: ’Is there any hope?’ That question, is the cry of all humanity. Is there any hope?
Today we are starting our Christmas series entitled Christmas Through the Eyes of Isaiah. Over the next 3 weeks we will be looking at prophecies given by Isaiah relating to the birth of Jesus.
Isaiah 7:7 Yet this is what the Sovereign LORD says: " 'It will not take place, it will not happen, 8 for the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is only Rezin. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people. 9 The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah's son. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.' " 10 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, 11 Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights. 12 But Ahaz said, "I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test." 13 Then Isaiah said, "Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
I often hear Isaiah 7:14 read around Christmas, prophesying that a virgin would give birth to a coming savior. What most people do not understand is the story that is behind this prophesy.
In the chapter before this (Isaiah chapter 6) we read about Isaiah’s call to ministry. It occurred in the year that king Uzziah died. That was a very difficult year for Israel. Uzziah had served as king for more that 50 years. He had been a good king and now there were many uncertainties which Israel had to face. At that desperate time God met with Isaiah and asked “who will go for me and who can I send.” Isaiah responded “here I am, send me!” For more than 20 years Isaiah spoke God’s words to the nation.
Now, more than 20 years later, Uzziah’s grandson Ahaz is king. The nation had been divided: there was the Northern Kingdom, called Israel ruled by a king named Pekah; and there was the Southern Kingdom, now called Judah, ruled by Ahaz. Israel wanted to conquer Judah but it was a formidable fortress, so Israel forged an alliance with its northern neighbor Aram to attack the Southern Kingdom of Judah.
1. Adjust your FOCUS - (vs. 1-9) do not fight spiritual battles with earthly weapons
This was a very pivotal moment in the history of Israel as a nation. The threat to the nation was very great, but God had promised that everything would be OK. In verse 7 God says that the war “will not take place, it will not happen.” The armies of Israel and Aram were a powerful force. Ahaz had a choice, and his choice would decide the future of the nation. He could either trust the words of Isaiah and believe that God would protect them or he could try to figure out how to defeat the armies of Israel and Aram on his own.
In the end, Ahaz did not listen to Isaiah. He did not trust that God was in control and he did not believe that God would win the victory for him. Instead, he took matters into his own hands and cut a deal with the nation of Assyria to protect him.
In asking the Assyrians for help and coming under their protection, Judah became a vassal state of Assyria. A vassal state is “A holder of land by feudal tenure on conditions of homage and allegiance.” God had given the land to Israel. Even though it was rightfully theirs they gave it away to Syria out of fear. They were still able to live there, but they had sold their birthright out of fear. Historically we know that this was not very wise. When Babylon rose to power and started invading Jewish lands including Jerusalem, Assyria was not there to rescue them. When Babylon invaded Judah the Assyrians were nowhere to be found. Eventually Nebuchadnezzar attacked Jerusalem and burned it to the ground and there was no one to help.