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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
But Isaiah was sent with his son, Shear-jashub (“A remnant will return”) to give Ahaz good news.
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
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.
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.
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)
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