The Assyrian army was rapidly advancing on Jerusalem when the prophet appeared before King Ahaz. The Northern Kingdom of Israel had already been defeated by Assyria and taken into captivity. The Southern Kingdom of Judah lived in fear of the same fate. Isaiah was sent to give the assurance they would be kept safe. God offers to give King Ahaz a sign (something visible to see) to bolster confidence in God.
Sheol is the term the Hebrews used for the place of the dead. They had no concept of hell as we understand and use the word today.
Prepare to listen as light 3 purple and pink candles. Pray: ‘Worship the LORD in holy splendour; tremble before him, all the earth. (Psalm 96:9)
Prayerfully Read Isaiah 7:9b-16
If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all. Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test. Then Isaiah said: ‘Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.
With the Assyrian army besieging Jerusalem, Ahaz had reason to be fearful. He needed the prophet’s warning: ‘If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all.’
The way of fear and the way of faith are two ways to live. It’s up to us to decide which way we’ll choose. Ahaz chose fear despite God’s willingness to give him a visible sign of his choosing, evidence to bolster his faith. One glance at the powerful Assyrian army besieging his city and he rejected God’s way and chose fear. As a result, he did not stand for long. His fear could have become a seed to newness and confident faith in the Lord. Instead, it become a suffocating wasteland. He rejected God’s offer to ask for a sign, piously quoting Moses’ Law, ‘I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test’ (see Deuteronomy 6:16). But it’s not disobedience if God offers to give a sign. Ahab rejected God and his offer.
God promised a sign anyway. ‘Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.’ God with us! Because he chose fear rather than faith, Ahaz missed experiencing the assurance of God’s powerful presence.
In this culture of fear mongering, how can you let your fear become a seed to newness rather than a wasteland?
Respond to Jesus
God-With-Us, help me today to hold fast to the truth of your ever near presence even though things around me seem so bleak and hopeless. Help me walk the way of faith and reject the way of fear. You are still Immanuel. Thank you. Amen.
Go live obediently in the world letting fear be a seed foe newness not a wasteland.