Who Do You Trust? - Isaiah 7

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©Copyright January 30, 2022 by Rev. Bruce Goettsche
What is required before you can trust somebody with your deepest secrets and your most difficult trials in life? Do you need to see a consistency over the course of time? Trust is important but it is given reluctantly and can be lost in an instant.
Today we move into a new section of the book of Isaiah. In chapters 7-39 we see a number of the judgments of God on the local nations and on Israel. The issue over all these chapters is trust: “Who will you trust?” These pepole are judged because of their unwillingness to turn and trust the One who made the world. We will jump around a bit in these chapters, however, it is important to see the big picture. These judgments are bookended by two historical events. The first event (which we will look at today) is a time God told a King (Ahaz) not to worry about external threats and Ahaz ignored God and compounded his problems. The last account speaks of Hezekiah and illustrates what happens when a King is willing to trust God. In between these accounts God judges specific nations (chap 13-23); Judges the entire earth (24-27) and then judges Israel (28-35).
This morning we look at the first part of the story of Ahaz. Ahaz was the grandson of Uzziah whom we learned about last week. He was the son of Jotham who reigned for likely 11 years with his dad and then for another 5 years on his own. At this time, Israel was divided into two parts, a northern and a southern kingdom. The northern kingdom was called “Israel” and the southern Kingdom was called “Judah.” It is important to keep this in mind, otherwise the story will not make much sense to you. Ahaz was the king over Judah.
Listen to what 2 Chronicles 28 tells us about Ahaz,
Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. He did not do what was pleasing in the sight of the Lord, as his ancestor David had done. 2 Instead, he followed the example of the kings of Israel. He cast metal images for the worship of Baal. 3 He offered sacrifices in the valley of Ben-Hinnom, even sacrificing his own sons in the fire. In this way, he followed the detestable practices of the pagan nations the Lord had driven from the land ahead of the Israelites. 4 He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the pagan shrines and on the hills and under every green tree. (2 Chronicles 28:1-4)
That’s all the introduction we need so let’s look at Isaiah 7,
When Ahaz, son of Jotham and grandson of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Syria and Pekah son of Remaliah, the king of Israel, set out to attack Jerusalem. However, they were unable to carry out their plan.
2 The news had come to the royal court of Judah: “Syria is allied with Israel against us!” So the hearts of the king and his people trembled with fear, like trees shaking in a storm.
A Threatened Crisis
There were some major events in the world at this time that help us understand the circumstances a little better. The Assyrian Empire was growing. Because Syria and Israel (the Northern tribes) were closer to Assyria they were prime targets for the Assyrians to gobble up. The Kings of Syria and Israel wanted to make a united stand and wanted Judah (Ahaz) to join them. When Judah declined, they thought they would attack Judah and put in their own King who would align with them. Ahaz felt he was no match for these two armies. He was afraid.
3 Then the Lord said to Isaiah, “Take your son Shear-jashub and go out to meet King Ahaz. You will find him at the end of the aqueduct that feeds water into the upper pool, near the road leading to the field where cloth is washed. 4 Tell him to stop worrying. Tell him he doesn’t need to fear the fierce anger of those two burned-out embers, King Rezin of Syria and Pekah son of Remaliah. 5 Yes, the kings of Syria and Israel are plotting against him, saying, 6 ‘We will attack Judah and capture it for ourselves. Then we will install the son of Tabeel as Judah’s king.’ 7 But this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
“This invasion will never happen;
it will never take place;
8 for Syria is no stronger than its capital, Damascus,
and Damascus is no stronger than its king, Rezin.
As for Israel, within sixty-five years
it will be crushed and completely destroyed.
9 Israel is no stronger than its capital, Samaria,
and Samaria is no stronger than its king, Pekah son of Remaliah.
Unless your faith is firm,
I cannot make you stand firm.”
It is uncertain why Isaiah was to bring his son with him to the aqueduct to meet Ahaz. Most likely Ahaz was there checking the water supply of the city. Armies would often put a city under siege (in other words no one and nothing (like supplies) came in and nothing went out.) If an invading army could get hold of the water supply the siege would not last long.
Isaiah passed on a message from the Lord: The English Standard Version says,
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. (ESV)
Notice the four imperatives: Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart faint (or be discouraged). In other words its is as if he was saying
· Stop and reflect
· Listen to the Lord
· Stop being afraid
· Be Courageous
The wisdom of such words is self-evident. Isaiah told Ahaz that God said, the invasion was NOT going to happen and that these two Kings were not going to last. Both of those nations would fall.
The end of verse nine is the key: “Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand.” This is like trying to help someone stand up who doesn’t want to stand. They make their legs rubbery and fight you all the way. No matter how well intentioned or capable you are, you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped. You can’t help someone who isn’t willing to trust that you can help them. God was willing to help Ahaz but not unless He was willing to be helped. The same is true for us.
Proverbs 3:5-6 says,
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
6 Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take
The Lord promises to protect His people but . . . His people need to trust Him. He wants us to see His sufficiency for every need. He wants us to trust in His strength rather than our schemes.
Is this not a major issue in our own lives? If life doesn’t go the way we expect it to we panic and despair. God says, “Trust me. Trust my wisdom, my power and my sufficiency. Trust my love for you.” Perhaps finances are tight or the demands of your life are overwhelming you, and Jesus says, “Seek God’s Kingdom first and I will take care of the other things.” But what do we do? We come up with plans and schemes to figure out how we can pull ourselves out of the situation. We try to fix things in our own strength. The result, at best, is the crisis doesn’t get worse. Why? God is waiting for you to trust and rely on Him.
Ray Ortlund helps us see what is going on with greater clarity,
Inevitably God brings us into crisis. Sooner or later this question presses itself upon us: If I put my trust in God, will he save me? Will he be true to his promises in the gospel when it really counts for me? Our answer to that question will either be an agonized struggle back and forth, as we are unable to make up our minds, or our answer will be a clear yes. And the larger point Isaiah is making is that God’s people don’t trust him as they should, and they pay a price for it. But his grace will have the last word on their behalf—the triumph of his grace over their failure.[1]
This is why in anxious moments we must ask ourselves the question, “Do you trust Him or don’t you?” It’s a tough question. Part of our problem is we don’t know what God is going to do if we trust Him. Will things turn out the way we want them to turn out? Which then raises a second question: “Isn’t God’s plan is always the best plan?” He sees what we do not. So, the question remains, “Do you trust Him?”
A second problem is God’s timing. If it is different from ours that is unacceptable to us! We want what we want, RIGHT NOW! “Again, the question is do you trust His wisdom, His timing, His power, His love?”
The better we know God, the more we will see how trustworthy He is. This is why we keep harping on personal and group times of Bible Study. The Word of God helps us to see God more clearly. The positive impact of that is it will lead us to trust Him more fully.
God’s Challenge to Ahaz
10 Later, the Lord sent this message to King Ahaz: 11 “Ask the Lord your God for a sign of confirmation, Ahaz. Make it as difficult as you want—as high as heaven or as deep as the place of the dead.”
12 But the king refused. “No,” he said, “I will not test the Lord like that.”
13 Then Isaiah said, “Listen well, you royal family of David! Isn’t it enough to exhaust human patience? Must you exhaust the patience of my God as well? 14 All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’). 15 By the time this child is old enough to choose what is right and reject what is wrong, he will be eating yogurt and honey. 16 For before the child is that old, the lands of the two kings you fear so much will both be deserted.
Isaiah returned a second time to see the King. Obviously, the King was reluctant to trust the Lord. God gave Ahaz an incredible offer: “Ask for whatever sign you need to show God is trustworthy.” It is an amazing offer by the Lord.
Ahaz responded with a reference to Deuteronomy that we should not put the Lord to a test. It sounds pious. The difference here is God INVITED Ahaz to come up with a test! This was Ahaz’s way to avoid asking God for a test because, Ahaz did NOT trust God.
Since Ahaz would not ask for a sign, Isaiah gives him a sign that has become a point of comfort and controversy for Christians for years. Matthew quoted this passage to say the supernatural birth of Jesus was predicted in Isaiah and he quoted this passage. A supernatural birth was necessary so Jesus would be born without our sin nature. But the sign raises some questions.
1. How is the Virgin birth of Jesus a sign to Ahaz? How could a baby born 700 plus years from this point serve as a sign about the present crisis with Syria and Israel? The answer must be that this was meant as a sign for the present that pointed to an ultimate sign in the future. At times in the Bible the prophet gave a sign that was for the present but was given to the prophet by the Holy Spirit to point to a future day.
2. Who was the woman who was going to have a child named Emmanuel in Ahaz’s time? We don’t know the answer to that question. Some have said it was one of Isaiah’s children, others say it was a child Ahaz would have with a new wife, but we are not given the woman’s identity.
3. In Hebrew the word used for virgin in this text refers to a young-unmarried-woman some who want to dismiss the notion of a supernatural conception of Jesus point this out as not affirming what Christians affirm: that Jesus had a supernatural birth. The word used for virgin however is NEVER used for a married woman. This word is the perfect choice because it allows for a present fulfillment of a newly married woman having a child and for the supernatural fulfillment in the miraculous birth of Christ. Much of the controversy you read about online related to this Hebrew word is contrived, distorted, and designed to cast doubt on prophecy by people who do not believe in anything supernatural..
God was not happy with Ahaz. The Lord laid it out before Him, and Ahaz didn’t want anything to do with it. God told Ahaz that before this child was grown, both Israel and Syria would be destroyed and no longer an issue. The final words are a very negative view of what is going to happen.
17 “Then the Lord will bring things on you, your nation, and your family unlike anything since Israel broke away from Judah. He will bring the king of Assyria upon you!”
18 In that day the Lord will whistle for the army of southern Egypt and for the army of Assyria. They will swarm around you like flies and bees. 19 They will come in vast hordes and settle in the fertile areas and also in the desolate valleys, caves, and thorny places. 20 In that day the Lord will hire a “razor” from beyond the Euphrates River—the king of Assyria—and use it to shave off everything: your land, your crops, and your people.
21 In that day a farmer will be fortunate to have a cow and two sheep or goats left. 22 Nevertheless, there will be enough milk for everyone because so few people will be left in the land. They will eat their fill of yogurt and honey. 23 In that day the lush vineyards, now worth 1,000 pieces of silver, will become patches of briers and thorns. 24 The entire land will become a vast expanse of briers and thorns, a hunting ground overrun by wildlife. 25 No one will go to the fertile hillsides where the gardens once grew, for briers and thorns will cover them. Cattle, sheep, and goats will graze there.
History tells us that Syria and Israel were both destroyed by the Assyrians. We will see next week that instead of getting into an alliance with Syria and Israel Ahaz went to Assyria to make an alliance with them!!! It was a foolish move, and we will read about God’s response at the end of this section in Isaiah.
King Ahaz was not unique in the decision he had to make. His battle is one we all will face. It may not be an invading army, but it might be
· A health issue
· A desperate financial need
· A relationship problem
· A bad work environment
· A Professor who threatens to fail or ridicule you if you do not abandon your faith
· Or someone who wishes to persecute you for being a believer
Anything that unnerves us, or makes us fearful, is where we must make our choice. Of course, God does not promise that everything bad in life will be made fine if we trust Him. Instead, He asks us to trust that He knows what He is doing, even when we do not. His power is superior to any opponent we face, His love for us is greater than our love even for ourselves. The question we must face over and over again is: do I trust the Lord; will I put my hand in His; will I rest by giving it to Him, or won’t I?
Resist that urge to lie to yourself by saying, “Of course I trust Him!” when that trust is wavering. When it is wavering, this is when we must get alone with the Lord and with His Word and confess that we believe but need His help in our areas of unbelief.
We live in a country where people want to be self-sufficient. They want to do things on their own and don’t want to be dependent on anyone . . . including the Lord God Almighty. This is leading to our downfall, our stress, and our anger (because we don’t like people getting in our way). We must resolve this issue. We must learn to give Him a problem and then trust Him to do what is right and good.
Second, don’t miss the fact that God had our salvation planned long before the Lord ever stepped on the earth. There is nothing that surprises Him; nothing takes Him off guard. God has left us breadcrumbs (or prophetic hints) about His plan throughout the Bible. We see these in the garden after the fall; when God was making His promise to Judah, to Abraham, to Moses, to David, and to Ahaz. What is happening in our lives is not his back-up or even revised plan. God created us so He could show us His character, His love, and His compassion. His goal in redemption is to have a relationship with us.
Like I said last week, we need to renew our sense of wonder when it comes to the Lord and His ways. The more we see of His greatness (as opposed to His “usefulness” in helping us get what we want in life) the easier it will be to turn and trust Him.
It takes a great deal to get us to trust someone. They have to prove themselves trustworthy. May I ask: How much more does God need to do to warrant your trust?
[1] Raymond C. Ortlund Jr. and R. Kent Hughes, Isaiah: God Saves Sinners, Preaching the Word (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2005), 87.
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