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STAND FIRM IN YOUR FAITH

Isaiah 7:1-7:25
Key Verse: 7:9b

“If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.”

Thank God for giving us an opportunity to study Isaiah 7, 8, 9. In these chapters the birth of the Messiah is prophesied. Chapters 7 and 8 can be considered the background for chapter 9, in which the coming of the Messiah as a baby and who he is are written. In chapter 7 God tries to help, Ahaz, the king of Judah, to stand firm in his faith despite the invading of the fearsome enemies. God’s persistent and patient help led to the point of giving the sign of Immanuel. May we learn to stand firm in faith living in this world.

First, the only way of standing (1-9). Look at verse 1. “When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah,...” What kind of king was Ahaz? He served both God and Baal like the kings of Northern Israel. He sacrificed his sons in the fire, following the detestable ways of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites (1 Ki 16:3; 2 Ch 28:3).

Look at verse 1 again. “When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it.” It was 735/734 B.C. when Ahaz has just begun his reign. King Rezin of Aram and Pekah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem. They besieged Ahaz, but could not overpower him (2 Ki 16:5). When we refer to 1 Kings 16 (16:5) and 2 Chronicles 28 (28:5-8), the damage inflicted by this invasion of the coalition of Aram and Israel was heavy. People were taken as prisoners to Damascus, 120,000 soldiers were killed and 200,000 people were taken captive by Israel. Yet they could not overcome.

Look at verse 2. “Now the house of David was told, ‘Aram has allied itself with Ephraim’” It was most likely their 2nd attack after retreat. At this the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind. The heavy number of casualties that previously inflicted Judah were certainly vivid before his eyes. Ahaz must have felt that the whole nation Judah was about to be blown away by the powerful wind of the enemies’ assault. The situation looked hopeless. However, in that situation God wanted to help the house of David.

Look at verse 3. “Then the LORD said to Isaiah, ‘Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub, to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman’s (Launderer’s) Field.” “Upper Pool” and “Washerman’s Field” seemed to be interesting places. At that time, King Ahaz was inspecting the open canal which brought water from a spring into the city, for the water supply was essential in defense of ancient cities. He was desperate to defend Jerusalem and survive. God was sending Isaiah and his son Shear-Jashub to meet him there. It was really God’s grace to him. The name “Shear-Jashub” means “a remnant will return.” Isaiah’s going with his son Shear-Jashub was God’s living message to Ahaz that the house of David would be a remnant in that generation.

Look at verse 4, “Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose your heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood—because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah.” Here are four consecutive commands: “Be careful”, “keep calm”, “do not be afraid”, and “do not lose heart”. God was enthusiastic to help Ahaz. His heart was shaken like the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind. To Ahaz the two kings were like a powerful wind which shook the trees of the forest. But God wanted him to see them as the two smoldering stubs of firewood, ready to be extinguished in a matter of time.

Look at verses 5-6. “Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying, ‘Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.’” Their plot was to get rid of even the very existence of Judah, cutting off kingly line of David and raising a puppet king. The words of their plan and decision sounded gruesome and unyielding and were likely to happen. But what did God say? Look at verse 7: “Yet this is what the Sovereign LORD says, ‘It will not take place, it will not happen.’” Human plan against God will never take place, never happen for he is sovereign. God gave Ahaz a surprising yet interesting message. Look at verses 8-9: “for the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is only Rezin. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people. The head of Ephraim is a Samaria, and the head of Samaria in only Remaliah’s son.” We all know the importance of the head. If the head is weak, everything connected to it is weak. In history Damascus was captured by the king of Assyria (2 Ki 16:9), and King Rezin and the nation were no more. God even set a time limit for Ephraim. Within 65 years Ephraim would be too shattered to be a people. Pekah (752-732 B.C.) was assassinated by Hosea (732-722 B.C.) in 3 years (1Ki 15:30; 17:1). In 722 B.C., northern Israel fell by Assyria and the people in Samaria were deported to Assyria. By c.670 B.C., Esarhaddon (and, shortly after him, Ashurbanipal), king of Assyria, settled foreign colonists in Israel (cf. TNIV study Bible). Their intermarriage with the few Israelites who had not been deported resulted in the “Samaritans” (See 2Ki 17:24-34). The two heads, the head of Damascus and the head of Samaria, were exactly two smoldering stubs of firewood. Truly God is the Ruler of history and all the future events of the world are in his hand. He sees them as if they were past events.

Then what is the Sovereign LORD’s final message to Ahaz through Isaiah? Look at verse 9b. “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” Here the LORD urged Ahaz to stand firm in his faith. This would be the only way of standing. At this time Ahaz had in mind to call for help from the king of Assyria. Ahaz thought that he could stand in that way through relying on the powerful nation. But the LORD clearly said that he had to stand firm in his faith, otherwise he would not stand at all. People try to stand in their career, knowledge, physical strength, or human relationships. But one can truly stand firm in faith.

Then how could Ahaz stand firm in his faith? It is through hearing the words of the LORD. This is the reason the LORD gave him such a detailed message through Isaiah. In this passage there were the words of Rezin and Pekah and the words of the LORD. The words of the enemies were fearsome and would make Ahaz fearful. But if he heard and accepted the words of the LORD, his heart would be changed and he would have inner strength and courage to stand firm despite the presence of the invading strong enemies. In standing firm in faith, hearing the word of the LORD is critical.

One of the important messages in Isaiah, actually in the whole Bible, is to hear the word of the Lord. In chapter 1, verse 2 says, “Hear, O heavens! Listen, O earth! For the LORD has spoken…” Verse 10 says, “Hear the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the law of our God.” Verse 19, 20 says, “If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land, but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.’ For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

It is interesting that Isaiah in his book introduces two kings of Judah, Ahaz and Hezekiah, and how each king responded to God’s message through Isaiah when the enemies attacked them. In chapter 7 Ahaz was attacked by Aram and northern Israel; in chapter 37, Hezekiah, by Assyria. Both were fearful, and to both God sent his servant Isaiah. God spoke to each of them through Isaiah, “Do not be afraid…” Ahaz would not listen to the end, but Hezekiah listened and went to the temple and prayed. Then he could see God’s deliverance; the angel of the Lord killed 185,000 enemies one night, and the king was slaughtered. Those who listen to the words of the Lord will stand and be victorious. May God help us to stand in faith at any situation through hearing the words of God and holding on to the words of his promise.

Second, the sign of Immanuel (10-25). Look at verse 10. “Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz.” It was because Ahaz did not hear such an awe-inspiring message of salvation. Yet, the LORD did not give him up. He spoke again, “Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.” What a generous offer! I think it is the most generous offer in the Bible. God wanted him to ask for anything in heaven and on earth so that he many open his spiritual eyes to see that God is the Ruler of the world and that God is with Judah. In Judges 6, to make sure of God’s victory before going to a war, Gideon asked God for a sign. He first tested God with a piece of wool; he placed it on the threshing floor and asked God to make the wool fleece wet with dew while keeping the rest of the ground dry. When this happened the next day, he asked God to make the wool fleece dry and the rest of ground wet and that night God did so (Jud 6:36-40). Then with that assurance he went out for a battle and won a great victory. But at this offer of the LORD, Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test.” He even refused such a magnanimous offer in a deceptively humble way. He seemed to be a pious man with great faith. In truth he did not want to change his fixed plan and idea.

At this Isaiah could not bear with him, his masked terrible unbelief and stubbornness. He said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also?” If God’s patience ran out, that would be truly the end. Yet, God’s patience was still there. When Ahaz did not ask for a sign, God would himself give a sign. Look at verse 14. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” This is one of the most glorious verses in the Bible. At that time no one would know how the virgin would give birth to a so but it was amazingly fulfilled when the baby Jesus conceived by the Holy Spirit was born of virgin Mary. When Matthew found this out, he could see the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14 and wrote in Matthew 1: 22, 23: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel!’—which means, “God with us.”’” This promise was fulfilled uniquely in Jesus. Because of Matthew’s writing there cannot be any doubt or compromise for this.

But we can think of how God was with Ahaz. Look at verse 15. “He will eat curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right.” This means that when he is at the age of moral determination and responsibility, he will eat curds and honey because there will be no agricultural products due to the devastation of the land by Assyria. It is likely that he will have a boyhood full of suffering. Then verse 16 says, “But before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of two kings you dread will be laid waste.” It was God’s impending judgment upon Aram and Northern Israel. Then God will judge Judah by bringing the king of Assyria. Look at verse 17. “The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah—he will bring the king of Assyria.” In that day what would happen to the land of Judah? In verses 18-25 there are four-folded phrase “in that day”: “In that day the LORD will whistle for flies…bees”, “In that day the Lord will use a razor…the king of Assyria—to shave your head…”, “In that day, a man will keep alive a young cow and two goats. And because of the abundance of the milk they give…” and “In that day, in every place where there were a thousand vines worth a thousand silver shekels, there will be only briers and thorns….” In verses 23-25 verses “briers and thorns” are written three times. The land would be indeed the land of briers and thorns. By giving this message of judgment God was with Ahaz still having hope of his turning to God. Judgment with a personal message is different from judgment without a message. In his whole life God was with him through Isaiah and his sons who were signs and symbols from God (8:18). Judah was destroyed until the people were taken captive to Babylon. Still God was with them suffering together and at his time let them return to their land. God was with them, though they were unfaithful until Christ Jesus was born (Mt 1:1-17).

Look at verse 14 again. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” In the Old Testament God was with his people, individually and nation-wise. But in the fulfillment of the prophecy God himself came down to this world and appeared in flesh as hymn song, “O Come, All Ye Faithful” says, “Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.” He is Jesus. Then how did Jesus show Immanuel? He showed God’s living presence in many ways written in the gospel story. Especially he spoke the words of God. He spoke the words which no human tongue could speak. Hebrews 1:1-2 says, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son…” What did he speak while on earth? He said that heaven and earth would pass away, but his words would never away (5:18; 24:35). Particularly he spoke about the kingdom of heaven. Until that time no human being had spoken about the kingdom of God. No human could know about the kingdom of God at all. All would be born in this world and be gone. But Jesus talked about the kingdom of God and how to see and enter the kingdom of God. He taught how to be set free from sin and have eternal life in the kingdom of God. For this he predicted his death and resurrection. Human beings are curious about what the future world be like. Yet, no one knows clearly what the future holds, even what will happen tomorrow. He asserted about the end of the age. According to Jesus the gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come (24:14). He will come in his Father’s glory (16:27). He will come on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory (24:30). Immanuel Jesus holds the future. In the grace of Immanuel, we can hear God’s word so closely and intimately. He said in Matthew 13:16,17, “But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because you they hear. For I tell you the truth, many prophets and righteous men longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

When I think of each of God’s people here, Immanuel is true to us very personally. The evidence of Immanuel for me is that he has given me his words so that I could share them with his people. It is a wonderful grace of Immanuel Jesus that we can serve the ministry of God’s word together in him in this generation.

Thank God for the study of Isaiah 7. In this troubled and relativistic world may we stand firm in our faith by hearing and holding on the words of God and trusting in Immanuel.

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