Summary: Ahaz changed history by the decision to trust in himself instead of God; his decision ended in disaster for his nation. What would happen if we decided to put our full trust in God?
IN WHOM DO YOU TRUST?
“Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:20-21).
There is a very familiar verse in Isaiah 7 that we very clearly and quite properly attach to Christmas. It is a prophecy that assures us that Jesus was to be born of a young woman. “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” (v. 14).
We know the verse but do we know and understand the context? We trust the prophecy that this points to Jesus and his miraculous birth but do we truly understand it? Can you really trust what you do not understand?
Maybe you do understand the history that this prophecy is couched in, or maybe you don’t care. For the first time in my life I have set out to understand the whole of chapter 7 and what we could call ‘the whole council of God.’ And it is amazing how God works. It is thrilling to see how he orchestrates events, even when men mess it up, so that his purposes are accomplished. And when you see it too I believe it will cause you to stand in awe and trust him more.
It is very easy for us to say we trust God. Our behavior would suggest otherwise as we rely on money or the ability of another person or some greater human power to help us. When God says something in his Word, can we trust him that he will carry out his work on our behalf?
That is what we want to study this morning as we look at a familiar scripture and understand it together.
1. When you are threatened…
The opening verses give us a nutshell of the situation. “When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it” (v. 1).
More of the story is told in 2 Kings. What we do know is that the northern kingdom, Israel, led by Pekah, and Aram, led by Rezin, wanted to form an alliance against Assyria, Ahaz refused to join them. The two kings decided that the best thing to do was conquer Jerusalem and depose Ahaz putting their own king on Judah’s throne. Then they thought they could resist the great superpower of Assyria.
Ahaz and all of Judah trembled at the thought. What do you do when you are threatened by bullies? Hire a bigger bully to beat them up. That’s what Ahaz did. He gathered up the gold and silver of the temple and sent them to the king of Assyria hiring him to deliver Judah from the threat of Israel and Aram.
It was a foolish thing to do. The situation would have been similar to Poland asking the Soviet Union to help them fight the Nazis in World War 2. When the war was over the Soviets didn’t leave Poland and the Poles remained a threatened people, a people living in fear.
Fear can force us to make rash decisions. When we are threatened by seemingly overwhelming odds we tend to trust what we can see. God is unseen and to human comprehension so very far away. Our temptation then is to reach for what we can do ourselves, or arrange for ourselves. We will solve our own problems.
This behavior goes against what we as followers of Jesus say we believe. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:5-6).
Fear and doubt, if we let them, will rob us of the Lord’s plan to rescue us. That’s what happened to Ahaz.
2. “Trust Me”
God knew of the fear that paralyzed Ahaz and sent Isaiah to tell him two things. The first was this:
“Then the LORD said to Isaiah, ‘Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub, to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman’s Field. Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood…” (Vv. 3-4).
In two words God says to Ahaz, “Trust me.” Ahaz has two fears. One is that Judah will be invaded by Aram and Israel and he will lose the throne. The second is that if he joins Aram and Israel, Assyria’s retribution will be worse than anyone can imagine. But God says not to fear because Aram and Israel are all used up, they are nothing but smoke and ashes. There is no fire in them. And there is no need to ask Assyria for help as a result.