Isaiah 7, The Sign, God With Us

Isaiah  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  1:06:35
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What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever faced? What’s your first reaction to fear? Fight, flight, or freeze? Today’s passages offer us two promises and a warning for facing fear. All three of these will teach us faith in Jesus Christ.

When in Trouble, Do Nothing

Trouble came to King Ahaz. We find out about that trouble in verses 1-2
Isaiah 7:2 ESV
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.
But Isaiah was sent with his son, Shear-jashub (“A remnant will return”) to give Ahaz good news.
Isaiah 7:4 ESV
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.
The Lord can see things we can’t see. He sees all of time as one big picture laid out in front of Him. His words to Ahaz in verse 4, if we translated them literally are, “Keep watch, be at rest, do not fear, and do not let your heart be tenderized.” Your shaking in fear is beating up your heart. Be at rest, watch for what God will do. Do not fear, and do nothing.
Here’s what God will do. In just a few years, both the kings Ahaz fears will be gone. And in the near future, the northern tribes of Israel, represented by Ephraim, will all be sent into exile and won’t be a threat to anyone.
Isaiah 7:8 (ESV)
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.
Isaiah 7:9 (ESV)
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.’ ”
This is a test of faith. This is the worst situation Ahaz has ever faced. Raiders from Edom are attacking his eastern side, and the northern tribes under Ephraim have allied with Syria to attack from the north.
When you and I are in trouble, it tests our faith. What is our natural response? If you’re like me, when I’m in trouble, I begin to strategize. How can I fix this, get out of it, send it somewhere else? My heart is shaken and fight or flight kicks in. But if I could see the situation the way God sees it, I would see that the trouble has an end. And what kind of a person will I be when I come to the end? Will I be anxious and fearful, and my heart all tenderized? Or will I be at rest with a story to tell of what I saw God do that I could not do to help me?
All Ahaz has to do is nothing, nothing but rest and watch for what God will do. And the LORD even offers him assurance that He will fulfill this promise. He invites him to choose a sign that God will save him.

Trust the Sign of Salvation

Isaiah 7:10–11 ESV
Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.”
This is the grace of God. If you read about Ahaz in other Bible passages, he’s a pretty terrible person. He was a bad leader, an idolater, and a bad dad. He sacrificed his own son to an idol. God didn’t need to offer him this reassurance. His word should have been enough. But Ahaz hasn’t been known for abiding by God’s word. Which makes Ahaz’s reply so ironic. He pretends to be pious by quoting scripture, “I will not put the LORD to the test.” But really He’s just disobedient, and he’s misapplying this verse. This isn’t a test for the LORD, it’s a test for Ahaz and he’s failing. Isaiah’s response is,
Isaiah 7:13–14 (ESV)
And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also?
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
This is a special name. In Hebrew language and culture, names have meaning. And in Isaiah’s case, each of his children are given names to be signs to the nation. If you thought pastors’ kids have it bad today…We’ve already met Shear-jashub in verse 3. His name means, “a remnant will return”, which was the promise of chapters 4 and 6. Out of all the judgment that’s coming for Israel’s sins, God will save a remnant of the people who are faithful to Him. We’ll see another son of Isaiah with really weird name next week.
But in this case, the sign given to Ahaz is a son born to a "virgin”, a word that can also be translated “young woman”, most likely Isaiah’s wife. The son’s name is Immanuel. Immanuel means, “God is with us”. The sign points to the greater reality, that God is with him. Ahaz may be facing the worst circumstances he’s ever seen as king, as evil as he was. But all he needs to know is that whatever may happen, he doesn’t need to fear or wear himself out strategizing. God is with him.
God already has a plan to overcome Ahaz’s worst fear.
Isaiah 7:16 ESV
For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.
What’s your worst fear? Maybe you’re facing it now. It could be cancer, or loss of a job, or world events that seem out of control. Is God with you in those things? Right now, I believe God is taking away all of our comforts as a society, and as the church in America. I believe He’s destroying our idols, one by one, and trying to send us the same message he had for Ahaz. Don’t fear your circumstances. Don’t strategize your way out of them. Rest in God, and watch for His work. What sign would it take to overcome your fear so you can rest in God?
Maybe a baby boy born to a young woman doesn’t seem all that helpful. So this is Ahaz’s test of faith. Will he trust that this humble sign points to the great reality of God’s salvation? Unfortunately, Isaiah also prophecies the answer is no. Ahaz is already strategizing a way out of his present circumstance. God is able to save Ahaz from the present circumstance, but Ahaz is looking to another savior that isn’t God. And this makes everything worse. And just remember, as bad as things may seem now, they can always get worse.
Isaiah 7:17 ESV
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!”
Sometimes the thing we fear the most in the present isn’t the worst that can happen. This is certainly true for Ahaz.

Fear Faithless Solutions

The rest of Ahaz’s story, which you can read in the Old Testament books of 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles, is that instead of resting in God, he ran to the king of Assyria, Tiglath-pileser, for help. He hired him with to fight against Syria, which Tiglath-pileser did, and he defeated Syria. This got Ephraim to back off too. Ahaz was obviously pleased and went to meet his savior in Damascus. While he was there, he found an altar there to the gods of the Syrians. He had a replica made and used in to sacrifice in the Temple of Jerusalem. And this is how the Bible tells the story.
2 Chronicles 28:22–25 (ESV)
In the time of his distress he became yet more faithless to the Lord—this same King Ahaz.
For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus that had defeated him and said, “Because the gods of the kings of Syria helped them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.”
But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel. And Ahaz gathered together the vessels of the house of God and cut in pieces the vessels of the house of God, and he shut up the doors of the house of the Lord,
and he made himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem. In every city of Judah he made high places to make offerings to other gods, provoking to anger the Lord, the God of his fathers.
And Ahaz’s sin and idolatry led all of Judah into sin and idolatry, and God’s judgment. Here’s the tragedy. When the trouble came, God was with Ahaz. All he had to do was rest, do nothing, but wait on the LORD to help him. Disaster could be averted. But because he gave in to his fear and strategized his own way out, the LORD humbled him, and the very savior Ahaz ran to became his oppressor.
2 Chronicles 28:20 ESV
So Tiglath-pileser king of Assyria came against him and afflicted him instead of strengthening him.
Isaiah prophecies four consequences of Ahaz’s faithless solution.
1. In Isaiah 7:18-19, Isaiah says the land of Judah will be swarming with occupying armies. Egypt and Assyria will fight for control of this land for the next five generations. Their armies will swarm like insects.
2. The second consequence is in verse 20. Isaiah says Assyria will be like a razor that will shave Judah from head to toe.
Isaiah 7:20 ESV
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.
This is an age old sign of humiliation of your enemy of war. The Assyrians of Isaiah’s day were known for shaving half the beard of a defeated king. It’s hard to look dignified and kingly with half a beard. In this case, Ahaz had hired Tiglath-pileser to work for him, and in the end, Tiglath-pileser would rule over Ahaz, an utter humiliation.
When we turn to other saviors besides the LORD God, we end up serving them, rather than being served by them.
3. The next consequence would be food shortages. The one cow and two sheep for each household in verse 21 are far short of what it takes to feed a family, and the curds and honey in verse 22 are the food of poor people. The word “abundance” in verse 22 is irony.
4. The final consequence is that God will turn the Promised Land into a cursed wasteland. Gardens will become wilderness.
How does this apply to us? We are living in troubled times much like those of Ahaz. World powers are on the move, rising, and falling. Everything feels uncertain and unstable. God is removing our comforts here in America. And as a church, He is tearing down our idols of comfort and cultural favor. It will cost you more to be a Christian in the next twenty years than in the previous two hundred. How will we respond? Will we give in to fear, will we strategize solutions? Will we rest in God and look to the sign of salvation He has provided us? What is that sign?
There was another period of time like the days of Ahaz. The freedom, peace, and security of the people of Judah was threatened by a cruel, sadistic empire. And in that context, Jesus’ disciple Matthew reads Isaiah 7 and realizes something. The sign God gave Ahaz was given a second time.
He realizes as he writes an account of the life of Jesus the Messiah that just as in Isaiah’s day, Jesus was the child born to a young woman, and this time, truly a virgin. This meant He was the greater fulfillment of the sign, “God is with us”.
Isaiah’s child, Immanuel, was a sign to Ahaz, that God was sufficient to save him from danger. God in His sovereignty could control world empires to save Ahaz and his people. But maybe Isaiah didn’t even realize that following the sign farther down the road, there would come another savior who would save the whole world. Jesus, whose name means, “God saves”, is God in the flesh. He really did come to be with us.
Just like Ahaz, we all face the test of faith. We are in troubled times. We can strategize and turn to the ways of the world around us to fix our problems. Or we can look to the sign that God has already given that He is with us, we have nothing to fear, don’t let your heart get tenderized, but rest in God and watch Him work.
Paul, the Apostle of Jesus, says,
Romans 8:28 ESV
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Romans 8:29 ESV
For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Romans 8:30 ESV
And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.
Romans 8:31 ESV
What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?
Romans 8:32 ESV
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Romans 8:33 ESV
Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
Romans 8:34 ESV
Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.
Romans 8:35 ESV
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?
Romans 8:36 ESV
As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
Romans 8:37 ESV
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
Romans 8:38 ESV
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,
Romans 8:39 ESV
nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
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