Isaiah 7:1–3a, 7a: 1 In the days of Ahaz…king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah…the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it [Judah], but could not yet mount an attack against it. 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… “‘It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass.’”
Ahaz became king of Judah at age of twenty, and he was a wicked king. He was so wicked in fact that he offered one of his sons as a burnt sacrifice to pagan gods (2 Kgs 16:3), yet God in his amazing grace offered mercy to Ahaz and the people of Judah.
God in this text promises to deliver his people from their enemy.
Looking back on this promise in light of over 2500 years of history, knowing the end of this story, and seeing the promised Immanuel ultimately fulfilled in Jesus Christ, it’s easy to dismiss the utter despair of the moment and miss the depth of faith required to trust God in such bleak circumstances.
While the promise of our Isaiah 7 text is being presented, 2 Kings 16:1-20 and 2 Chronicles 28 gives us additional information concerning the circumstances surrounding this kingdom threat.
God offers to deliver his people when deliverance seems impossible. These invading kings had already captured 200,000 of Judah’s soldiers (2 Chron 28:5, 8). Worse yet, they had killed 120,000 more of them in battle. That’s over two times the number of US troops lost in Vietnam.
Why did God wait? Why did God allow the destructiveness of these pagan men to take so many if his intentions were deliverance? The text doesn’t say, but the text does reveal an important principle. Sometimes we think if God is going to deliver us that he will do it on the front end; however, sometimes God waits until deliverance feels impossible so that when he comes through, we will know it is him.
Ahaz didn’t wait. He panicked. Instead of trusting God, he resorted to a worldly, ungodly solution. (By the way, Abram did a similar thing by taking Hagar in Genesis 16.) Ahaz ignores God’s promise and rests in his wisdom and the powerful methods of this world. He took the gold and silver from the temple, gave it to the King of Assyria (Tiglath-pileser), became a servant, and acknowledged pagan gods over Jehovah (2 Kgs 16:7-8).
As I piously read Ahaz’s failure, I began to ponder how we in the church, all too often, act similarly in resorting to the ways of the word while ignoring God’s promises. The way some of our business meetings and pre-meetings are conducted with sly skill and careful political manipulation is worldly and sinful. Conflict with contentious members resulting in anger, slander, gossip, and snickering statements like, “Some people look better going than coming” do not rightly represent Christ’s kingdom ethic. Blatant sins are regularly overlooked for the sake of “unity,” while wealthy members are treated with special attention. Pastors fall into the trap of being administrators of business instead of ministers of God’s word and shepherds of the flock.
It seems that we can easily fall into the same pit Ahaz did. We too can quickly exchange the promises of God’s for the methods of this world. We probably don’t even mean to. If you are like me, you are trying to protect God’s people, God’s church, God’s plan. The problem is that I need to be careful that I do so in the timing, methods, and means that he has commanded in his word and not in a way more representative of city council than kingdom priests.
We have to be careful when the pressure mounts not to default into a world system that defies the very gospel we preach.