Isaiah 7:1-18 (NKJV)
Now it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to make war against it, but could not prevail against it. And it was told to the house of David, saying, “Syria’s forces are deployed in Ephraim.” So his heart and the heart of his people were moved as the trees of the woods are moved with the wind.
Then the Lord said to Isaiah, “Go out now to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-Jashub your son, at the end of the aqueduct from the upper pool, on the highway to the Fuller’s Field, and say to him: ‘Take heed, and be quiet; do not fear or be fainthearted for these two stubs of smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria, and the son of Remaliah. Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah have plotted evil against you, saying, “Let us go up against Judah and trouble it, and let us make a gap in its wall for ourselves, and set a king over them, the son of Tabel” — thus says the Lord God:
“It shall not stand, Nor shall it come to pass.
For the head of Syria is Damascus, And the head of Damascus is Rezin. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be broken, So that it will not be a people.
The head of Ephraim is Samaria, And the head of Samaria is Remaliah’s son. If you will not believe, Surely you shall not be established.” ’ ”
Moreover the Lord spoke again to Ahaz, saying, “Ask a sign for yourself from the Lord your God; ask it either in the depth or in the height above.”
But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, nor will I test the Lord!”
Then he said, “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Curds and honey He shall eat, that He may know to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the Child shall know to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land that you dread will be forsaken by both her kings. The Lord will bring the king of Assyria upon you and your people and your father’s house — days that have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah.”
And it shall come to pass in that day That the Lord will whistle for the fly That is in the farthest part of the rivers of Egypt, And for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.
Today we will talk about Ahaz and his interchanges with Isaiah. Firstly, I would like to say that in a previous article I mentioned Ahaz and was instead thinking of Ahab. Ahaz is not the most evil king that Israel has had. He is simply one of the worst. With that out of the way, let's begin the actual look at the verses. Probably the best act that Ahaz did was fathering Hezekiah and not somehow sacrificing the boy to Molech like he had his other son. If you thought Uzziah was bad in the latter years, Ahaz just picked up the baton and went wild. But this part of the passage isn’t about how bad Ahaz was. It was that despite all else, God was delivering a message of hope. Ahaz had gone up to war against two kingdoms inclusive of Syria, which was a powerful nation and a horrible enemy to have. Two nations against one took a heavy toll on the Southern Kingdom of Israel, causing many of them to die. This is documented in 2 Chronicles 28: one hundred and twenty thousand were dead, and a great multitude of women and children were carried off as captives by Syria. More were captured by Remaliah, king of the Northern Kingdom. This would be a devastating loss even by today’s standards, but in ancient times, Judah might as well have been destroyed in the process. In light of all of this, they were shaking like the wind. Yet instead of trusting in God, Ahaz instead trusted in the favor of the king of Assyria, which would have been an ungodly alliance due to the nature of Assyria. In 2 Kings 16, it is documented how Ahaz took gold and silver from the temple of the Lord as offerings to the king of Assyria as well as remodelling the temple of the Lord after the pagan temples. This was the complete opposite of trusting in the Lord. God’s response to all of this, was for Isaiah to take his son (whose name meant ‘a remnant shall return’), and say to Ahaz to take heed and be quiet. To pay attention to what God was going to do and stop talking so much. Rather, Ahaz had to trust in God and take courage in Him. It was very likely that Ahaz would’ve been very untrusting of the Lord, given what he had done. Whether or not he felt that the Lord had abandoned Judah or guilty (unlikely) of what he had done in trying to protect Judah, Ahaz probably needed a reminder to trust in God. In Ahaz’s eyes, he was facing a powerful enemy. In God’s eyes, they were merely the “stubs of smoking firebrands”, nothing to be afraid of and simply giving the impression of danger. He would not allow them to pass nor to treat His nation thusly. God gave Ahaz a very powerful message: believe and those who stood against him would fall. Ephraim and thus Samaria would become no more a power, and Syria would not stand against the might of the Lord. But of course, Ahaz didn’t believe. God tells Ahaz to ask for a sign as demonstration of God’s power, but Ahaz refuses under the guise of not wanting to test God. Except here, God wants Ahaz to do so because then the Lord can demonstrate that He is on the side of Jerusalem and show His great power. Instead, Ahaz displays false humility and spirituality. It seems like Ahaz is being spiritual, but this could not be further than the truth. Regardless of why Ahaz said what he said, it was against God's will. How often can we also act the same way? Refusing God’s will under some pretence of being spiritual? Or some self-imposed restrictions that limit the power of God? We reject God's offer of grace and mercy for a measure of being ‘righteous’ or wanting to flagellate ourselves for our wrongdoings. We think what we are doing is right because we are ‘following Scripture’ in not testing God but really all we are doing is fulfilling our human desire to display ourselves as better than we could be. In our times of greatest need what God wants is not humility but reliance on Him. God’s reply to Ahaz tells us this clearly. “Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men but will you weary my God also?” Isaiah and God through him begins to proclaim the coming of the Immanuel (God with Us), who will refuse evil and choose the good despite the land being forsaken by the kings of both Jerusalem and Samaria (we know that later on this would be true as Herod the Great would ascend to rulership of Israel). Since Ahaz had not believed, God would bring upon him Assyria, a greater power than Syria and Samaria combined. So it was that Assyria would take over Jerusalem, despite Ahaz thinking that it was a strategic move to trust in Assyria to deliver Jerusalem from her enemies. It was probably better if Jerusalem had lost to Samaria and Syria, because the Assyrians were reputed for being wicked. God’s rebuke therefore was carried out in full measure; the idea of Immanuel, or God being with the people, was a foil to Ahaz’s belief in other powers rather than in God. Jesus who we proclaim as Lord is not merely a figure of salvation but the very presence of God with Us. Despite Ahaz and the rulers’ poor treatment of both their people and of God, and despite the impending doom that would be brought upon Jerusalem, God had a message of hope and a promise of deliverance in the future. Because despite what we say or how we act, God’s story has less to do with our individual decisions and more to do with the grand scheme of things. When these events happen or how prior events transpire is up to how much we are willing to place faith in God. But at the end of the day, what God wants to happen will happen. Because He is God.
Daniel is currently and forevermore will be a student and a learner, trying to delve into the deep conundrums of life and seeing where the path leads. He enjoys linking different things in life back to God through strange and seemingly random connections. Daniel is in the Young Professionals ministry of the Central Christian Church.