Isaiah Sent to King Ahaz
Our third look now at Ahaz — first, the historical account of 2 Kings 16, then the priestly account from 2 Chronicles 28, and now the prophet’s account.
In the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not yet mount an attack against it.
Ahaz was a wicked king of Judah, worshipping other gods and even sacrificing his son to Molech (2 Kings 16:1-4).
Rezin, king of Syria had joined with Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, against Jerusalem. The alliance between these two nations and their unsuccessful attack on Jerusalem is described in 2 Kings 16.
The attack on Jerusalem was ultimately unsuccessful, but the war against Judah took a great toll against the southern kingdom. 2 Chronicles 28:6 documents the damage: For Pekah the son of Remaliah killed one hundred and twenty thousand in Judah in one day, all valiant men, because they had forsaken the Lord God of their fathers. 2 Chronicles 28:5 says that the Syrian army carried away a great multitude of them as captives. The king of Israel also captured 200,000 men, women and children as captives, but sent them back to Judah at the command of the prophet Oded (2 Chronicles 28:8-15).
All in all, when the events of this chapter unfold, the nation of Judah had faced terrible calamity, and was devastated. As the combined armies of Israel and Syria approached Jerusalem, it looked like everything would be lost. Ahaz was challenged to trust God when things were bad, and it looked like soon, all would be lost.
How was Ahaz saved from this attack? Because he entered into an ungodly alliance with Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, and even gave Tiglath-Pileser silver and gold that was found in the house of the Lord as a present to win his favor and protection (2 Kings 16:7-9).
2 When the house of David was told, “Syria is in league with Ephraim,” the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.
3 And the Lord said to Isaiah, “Go out to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer’s Field.
4 And say to him, ‘Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah. 5 Because Syria, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has devised evil against you, saying, 6 “Let us go up against Judah and terrify it, and let us conquer itfor ourselves, and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it,” 7 thus says the Lord God:
“‘It shall not stand,
and it shall not come to pass.
8 For the head of Syria is Damascus,
and the head of Damascus is Rezin.
And within sixty-five years
Ephraim will be shattered from being a people.
9 And the head of Ephraim is Samaria,
and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah.
If you are not firm in faith,
you will not be firm at all.’”
Their plans will not succeed because the nations are led by ungodly men (Rezin and Remaliah’s son), and not by the Lord. This is God’s promise, and Isaiah calls Ahaz to trust in the Lord and in His promise. But Ahaz cannot, or will not, “stand firm in his faith.”
How is the Lord calling you and me to stand firm in our faith? Is it a matter of giving up grudges or resentments? Is it a matter of unforgiveness? Do we struggle with purity of our thoughts, or laziness, or impatience, or harshness, or gossip, or lack of self-discipline? Do we eat too much? Whine too much? Not pray or praise enough? Not smile with the joy of the Lord enough?
There is Someone who can help us. Someone who even now is praying for us. Someone whose very name means “God with us.” Christ stands with us so we can stand firm in our faith.
The Sign of Immanuel
10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.”
Make your petition deep, O heart of mine,
Your God can do much more
Than you can ask;
Launch out on the Divine,
Draw from His love-filled store,
Trust Him with everything;
And find the joy that comes
When Jesus has His way!
–from Streams in the Desert, June 5.
12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign.
Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
15 He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. 17 The Lord will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria.”
Why did Ahaz refuse to ask for a sign? He looked on Jehovah not as his God, but only as the god of Judea and as inferior to the god of Assyria. Ahaz had determined to apply to the king of Assyria for help, or perhaps had already applied to him for help, as he considered Assyria a more trustworthy helper than the Lord. Ahaz refused the sign because he knew it would confirm the struggling voice of his conscience and that voice he had resolved not to obey.
–N. E. Constance
18 In that day the Lord will whistle for the fly that is at the end of the streams of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria. 19 And they will all come and settle in the steep ravines, and in the clefts of the rocks, and on all the thornbushes, and on all the pastures.
20 In that day the Lord will shave with a razor that is hired beyond the River—with the king of Assyria—the head and the hair of the feet, and it will sweep away the beard also.
21 In that day a man will keep alive a young cow and two sheep, 22 and because of the abundance of milk that they give, he will eat curds, for everyone who is left in the land will eat curds and honey.
23 In that day every place where there used to be a thousand vines, worth a thousand shekels of silver, will become briers and thorns. 24 With bow and arrows a man will come there, for all the land will be briers and thorns. 25 And as for all the hills that used to be hoed with a hoe, you will not come there for fear of briers and thorns, but they will become a place where cattle are let loose and where sheep tread.
All of which is to say, the land will be devastated.
Handel’s Messiah and “Behold, a virgin shall conceive” (verse 14), continuing with “O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion.” HERE is mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly with the Westminster Abbey Choir and joined by the period-instrument orchestra St. James’s Baroque.