Isaiah 7.1-9 — The Sign of Immanuel

Here’s the context: Toward the middle of the 8th c. BC, Assyria was beginning to expand its empire; part of its goal was to reach Lebanon. Syria (Aram) recognized Assyria’s intent and realized that Assyria would view them as a major roadblock to reaching their goal. Syria and Israel (called Ephraim) therefore formed an alliance to repel the Assyrians. This new alliance hoped to gain further strength from the surrounding nations, but Ahaz, the king of Judah, was unwilling to join forces with them. This placed Syria and Israel in a precarious position (i.e. Assyrian forces would likely come from the East and North, while Judah, a possible enemy, lay to the South). Thus the coalition of Syria and Israel was getting ready to descend upon Jerusalem to neutralize the possible threat to their plans.
The situation is filled with ironies: It is probably the encroachment of the Assyrian Empire that prompted Syria and Israel to unite and try to force Judah into a defensive coalition with them. So Judah aligns with Assyria to protect herself again Syria and Israel. But the stupid king didn’t realize that the real threat to Judah was Assyria, to whom Ahaz opened the doors of his country. So he aligns himself to save his life, but loses it in the process. Sound familiar?
The decision to appeal to Assyria had spiritual implications as well as political ones, for Assyria’s help could only be procured through a covenant with her. Such a covenant would involve the recognition of the Assyrian gods and an admission of their lordship. Again, to save himself he compromised himself to his own detriment. Such a bad judgment, because he is thinking of himself, and making his own plans rather than trying to follow God. This stuff is so familiar. It’s the story of our lives over and over.
Another observation of mine: Almost as soon as Isaiah is commissioned, he gets a large challenge: one of the most evil kings of Judah. When you commit yourself to Christ and to do his work, don’t expect that things are going to get easier. It can actually often be the time when everything in your life falls apart. It’s also true of Nehemiah (Sanballat’s resistance), Esther in the court of Xerxes, Paul having to be let down in a basket, Joshua dealing with Ai, and others.
So here’s the situation: Those who are Ahaz’s enemies (Assyria), he makes into friends, so that those who should be his friends (Israel) turn into enemies. Ahaz’s world is backwards and upside down. He has nowhere to turn and no one to trust. It is into this context that the Lord comes and says, “Come to me and trust me.” God is reaching out to him when he doesn’t deserve it, and initiating fellowship.
V. 2: They were scared, and for good reason. Sometimes you get the feeling that everyone’s out to get you. Here it is. The result of poor decisions (Ahaz allying with Assyria) and disobedience is always fear. You are afraid because your vulnerability is based on bad decisions. But through God’s initiative, Isaiah is sent to tell the king (v. 4), “Don’t worry, be happy.” He gives the king good advice for us in any challenging situation:
1. Be careful: weigh the options, consider the consequences, think it through, avoid rash and sudden judgments.
2. Stay calm: control your emotions, angers, and anxieties.
3. Don’t be afraid. Fear warps our decision making process. Such decisions are rash and based on survival, not on reason or morals.
Yeah, yeah, the others have plotted your ruin. So what’s new? When people disagree with us, they’re jealous of us, or trying to control the situation or get their own way. He we see it in royal colors: put others down for person gain: power, control, manipulation—plot again others, invade them, tear them apart, and divide the gain among ourselves. Sound familiar? But the outcome is not in the hands of the enemies, but of God.
“Nope, ain’t gonna happen,” says God (v. 7).
I’ll end today with a great line (v. 9): “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” We don’t need food, money, armies, politics, or anything else in all creation. We need God. All rises and falls with God. All that matters is God’s will and God’s kingdom. Cast all your cares on Him. Don’t be afraid of those who can hurt the body. Your soul is what counts.

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