Summary: As Isaiah reminds Ahaz to believe in God’s security we are also reminded by the Christmas season to trust in the Immanuel.
Around the year 720BC, God’s chosen nation was already a divided nation: there was the Northern Kingdom, called Israel ruled by a king named Pekah; and there was the Southern Kingdom, now called Judah, ruled by an able but misdirected leader named Ahaz. There were small tribal wars nearby and there was a looming empire up north in Assyria. The Assyrian empire who was then led by a master maniacal named Tiglath Pileser was already bullying everyone in that part of the world. It will only be a matter of time before before every civilization falls under the cruel dominion of Assyria. But for now, smaller kingdoms are doing conquests of their own within their neighbors. In short, the smaller nations are at war with each other.
These small nations include the neighboring: Israel, Judah and Syria (not to be mistaken from Assyria). Israel wanted to conquer Judah but Judah seems a formidable fortress, so Israel forged an alliance with its northern neighbor Syria to attack the Southern Kingdom of Judah. This strategic alliance, called the Syrio-Ephraimite alliance is the beginning of a long line of conflict for this region for the nation of Yahweh. The events that happened here were so crucial that it “paved the way for the prolonged period of foreign domination that continued beyond the time of Christ” ( J.A. Motyer, s.v., “Ahaz,” in Bible Dictionary, J.D. Douglas, ed. [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987], 26.)
Why this story is important for us is because of a watershed moment for a king at a crucial time. A watershed moment is a point in time that marks an important, often historical change. This Christmas season, we are also faced with this challenge. We call Jesus Immanuel. Today, in this sermon we will talk about how that term Immanuel came to be in the Bible, what is its role in the unfolding drama of redemption and what it would mean for us today.
BIG IDEA: ISAIAH REMINDS AHAZ TO BELIEVE IN GOD'S SECURITY
Ahaz, king of the Southern Kingdom of Judah, learned from his prophet Isaiah that
5 Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah's son
have plotted your ruin, saying,
6 "Let us invade Judah;
let us tear it apart
and divide it among ourselves (Isaiah 7:5-6 NIV)
His southern brothers, the Israelits or Ephraimites, are planning to attack him in alliance with a pagan nation of Syrians. Ahaz – ruler, military strategist with a bad moral compass -- made some wrong decisions despite the fact that his trusted prophet gave him some pretty specific instructions:
7'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." (vv. 7-11 NIV)