Summary: Year A. 4th Sunday of Advent –December 30th, 2001 Title: “Listing to human advice even when it conflicts with the Divine Word.” Isaiah 7: 10-14
Year A. 4th Sunday of Advent –December 30th, 2001
Title: “Listing to human advice even when it conflicts with the Divine Word.”
Isaiah 7: 10-14
Ahaz was the Davidic king of Judah, the southern kingdom, from 735 until 715BC. Israel’s king, the northern kingdom, also called Ephraim, Pekah, and Syria’s king, Syria is also known as Aram, Rezin, wanted Ahaz to team up with them to fight Assyria, the really large and powerful kingdom threatening the entire region. Ahaz was in a dilemma. He knew from Isaiah that God did not want him to side with either Israel and Syria or with Assyria, but his human advisers were telling him he had to do one or the other. Israel and Syria were plotting against Ahaz at this point in order to dethrone him and place a non-Davidic successor, “the son of Tabeel,” on his throne, thereby interrupting the Davidic line, the line of the promised Messiah. Since Ahaz believed in and worshiped idols, specifically Baal, sacrificed his own son in the valley of Hinnom, Gehenna, and desecrated the Temple, he was little inclined to listen to the prophet Isaiah who would tell him to trust in the Lord and not in human advisers. Human wisdom dictated that Ahaz would never be able to withstand the combined power of Israel and Syria. In fact, at this point, they had already defeated Ahaz in battle. Divine wisdom, on the other hand, was saying through the prophet that they will not be successful in dethroning him or in defeating Assyria. He does not need to ally with Assyria and should not. He is to leave his and his country’s fate in the hands of God.
Historically, Ahaz represents the dilemmas kings find themselves in regarding national security, personal security and foreign policy. Metaphorically, Ahaz stands for all people who listen to human advice even when it conflicts with the divine Word, who panic and take matters into their own hands, consciously ignoring the Word of God, who want the quick fix rather that the long term solution.
In verse ten, the Lord spoke to Ahaz: This means that the Lord was speaking through Isaiah to Ahaz, not directly. In this second encounter with Isaiah Ahaz has clearly made up his mind. He is no longer confused and vacillating; he is angry at the prophet for not just keeping quiet and going away. The prophet is bothering, “wearying,” his conscience.
In verse eleven, ask for a sign: “Sign,” Hebrew ‘ot, was not necessarily an event or object that was miraculous in itself, although it often could be and was. However, a “sign,” could be a natural happening or ordinary thing that was vested with extraordinary meaning, a meaning open only to one of faith. Even extraordinary events were not seen as signs by the unbelieving, the hard hearted, whom Isaiah calls “blind, deaf, dumb, lame.” The “sign,” in question here is a birth and naming of a child. Although not miraculous or extraordinary in itself, it will turn out to be just that.
Deep as the nether world or high as the sky: This is obvious hyperbole for “anything at all.” Isaiah is prepared to give Ahaz any “sign,” he asks for in order to convince him of the truth of God’s word to him. It is not unusual for a sign to be offered without being requested (cf 1Sam 10:7, 9; 1Sam 2:34; 2Kgs 19:29; Is 37:30).
In verse twelve, “I will not tempt the Lord”: All of a sudden Ahaz gets religion. Here this idolater now remembers his catechism about not “testing,” God. He pretends that he has no need of a “sign,” to confirm his decision because he is such a firm believer in God. Ironically, it is God who is “testing,” him. It is God who is offering a sign and Ahaz who is refusing it. He does not really want to know what God thinks and is afraid to find out. His mind is made up.
In verse thirteen, “Listen, O house of David”: Isaiah now addresses Ahaz as representative of the entire Davidic lineage. Isaiah knows the stakes. It is the future of the Davidic dynasty, the future of the promised Messiah at issue here, not just Ahaz’s arrogance.
Weary men…weary my God: Isaiah does not say “our God,” for Ahaz long ago abandoned God. He excludes Ahaz from the covenantal relationship. The word “weary,” Hebrew l’h, was commonly used in the law courts, in legal argument, to mean someone has had enough of his opponents arguments. He will accept no more, “enough already!.” Greek agona parechein. “Agony,” in Greek means all the athlete goes through in preparing for a contest, a “testing,” and in actually competing. It connotes struggle, pain, strife, “agita.” The Greek translation hits on the meaning. We might say Ahaz was being a “pain in the neck,” or elsewhere, to God. He certainly wearied his subjects with his procrastinating and vacillating. Now he is wearying God with his arrogant decisiveness.