Isaiah 7 Faith Under Attack

Sun, 18/10/2015 - 10:30 -- James Oakley

So, who’s your daddy? We can easily tell with Araya? She’s a spitting image of Stuart. We can all see who her daddy is.

Although whether she’ll live up to the family name is something we’re all going to have to wait to see.

It’s one thing to look like your parents. But the real thing we care about is whether someone behaves like their parents, or at least lives in a way that reflects well on the family name.

That’s the question that’s running through Isaiah chapter 7. Who’s your daddy? This time, the question is not being asked of Araya, but of king Ahaz.

King David

The daddy under discussion is King David. King David ruled over Israel and Judah about 1000 BC, 250 years before this Bible story took place.

King David was special. He was a good king, but he’s famous for the one who came after him. God promised him a descendant who would rule forever, and who would bring perfect peace. This king from David’s line would even be God’s own son on earth.

That was an amazing promise. David’s son was called Solomon. He, too, was a good king, but he couldn’t fill the boots of that promise. And so, from that time on, that promise was in the air in ancient Israel. There was great expectation. This is why the crowds were so excited when Jesus turned up. They asked: “Could this be the son of David?” Because that is what the word Messiah means.

Crisis for Ahaz

Our story involves King Ahaz. He was a direct descendant of King David. That was not in doubt. The big question was: Would he look like King David? Would he act like King David?

Because there’s a crisis, and it’s going to test his mettle.

Here’s verse 2: “Now the house of David was told, ‘Aram has allied itself with Ephraim’; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.”

Their stomachs were all a flutter. In this period, there were two superpowers in that part of the world: Egypt and Assyria. Caught in between the two were a number of smaller nations, including Judah with king Ahaz, but also Aram and Ephraim. They were tiny pawns, regularly invaded by the two superpowers. By themselves, they were far too weak to defend themselves. So here’s the plan: Club together, stick together, fight together, and see off the aggressor.

Well, Aram and Ephraim had formed an alliance. But Judah didn’t want to join in. So plan B was to invade Judah. Take her over, put a puppet king in charge, and then she’ll have to join the alliance.

And so reports reach Jerusalem that the allied troops are massing. And mass panic begins to set in.

Challenge to Ahaz

So God sends Isaiah to meet Ahaz.

Verse 4: “Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smouldering stubs of firewood – because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. 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.’ Yet this is what the sovereign Lord says: ‘It will not take place, it will not happen.’”

You know when you light a match, and let it burn. Just before it goes out, you’re holding a little stick of crumbly charcoal with no decent wood left. And so the flame just, flickers out. Those kings who are about to invade you, Ahaz – they’re like that. They’re on the way out, as good as gone. They’re only human. This plan of theirs won’t happen. So take care – be careful not to panic.

And so the challenge to Ahaz comes at the end of verse 9: “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” Ahaz has two choices. He can stand firm in his faith. He can trust God to deliver him. If he does this, he’ll survive the crisis. He’ll be left standing. Or his faith could crumble. He could try and solve things another away.

God is kind. To help him, he offers him a sign. Verse 11: “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.” Ahaz can name his miracle, and God will do it to prove that he’ll look after him.

But Ahaz refuses. Verse 12: “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”

Which sound dreadfully pious, doesn’t it? “I wouldn’t want to test God!” But actually it’s not pious. It’s downright unbelieving. He would have been fine to ask for a sign. God had offered him one. But Ahaz won’t ask for a miracle, because he knows full well that he’d have to believe it if it happened, and he’s already decided he doesn’t want to do that.

Picture the scene. It’s family evening meal. Mum, Dad, and Susannah – aged 3. “You need to eat your greens, Susannah,” says Mum. “I don’t want to.” “Well you won’t get any pudding if you don’t eat them!” “I don’t want any pudding,” says Susannah.

Of course she does. But she cannot admit to wanting pudding, because then she’d have to eat her greens.

Ahaz cannot ask for a sign. Because then it would happen and he’d have to trust God. So he sounds all pious: “I don’t want a sign!”

Whose son is Ahaz?

Now, do you see the question that’s really being asked of Ahaz here? Coming to fight you is Remaliah’s son. Isaiah could have used his name, which was Pekah. Instead, he calls him “Remaliah’s son”. They want to install a puppet king to replace you. We don’t even know his name – only that he’s “Tabeel’s son”.

Remaliah’s son. Tabeel’s son. Whose son are you, Ahaz?

Oh, I know you occupy David’s throne, I’ve seen your family tree on the wall of the palace. That’s not in doubt here. The question is: Will you act like the son of David? David trusted God. He’s been promised a son who will rule forever; he will trust God. What will you do? Whose son are you?

A failure of faith

Do you want to know what happens? Isaiah doesn’t tell us, but 2 Kings 16 fills in the gaps. Ahaz sells the family silver. He goes into God’s temple, takes the most valuable silver and gold he can find, and sends it off to Assyria as a present for the king. “There’s plenty more where this came from,” he’s saying. “We’ll be your subjects. We’ll send you regular parcels of precious metals. But please come and fix the mess we’ve got here with Aram and Ephraim.”

Ahaz refuses to trust God. Instead he puts his hope in a political alliance with Assyria, the superpower to the north.

And that will be his undoing. The chapter ends with a terrifying picture of Assyria invading Judah. Not a corner of the land, not an inch of a person’s body is left untouched. The land will be ravaged, the people humiliated, plunged into famine and poverty.

Ahaz doesn’t take the warning. Ephraim had allied herself with Aram, and would soon be destroyed. So Ahaz in his turn makes the same mistake. He turns to Assyria for help. Only he’ll discover that he’s just grabbed a tiger by the tail. And there are teeth at the other end.

It’s a sad story. He lives by political alliances, and not by trust in God. And so, just as God said, he’ll be undone.

David’s line

So much for Ahaz.

But there’s a bigger question hanging: Is that the end for David’s line?

The answer is no. Ahaz doesn’t want a sign that God will deliver him. So God gives him a sign that he’s not pleased with him. Verse 14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: the virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right.”

A child will be born, who will be given the name Immanuel. That means “God with us”. With the birth of this child, God himself will come and live among us. God’s going to keep the promise he made to David. His own son will come to earth. Indeed, he’ll be born to a virgin, which is the word here.

But the sign is this: He’ll grow up on a diet of curds and honey. Curds and honey are the food of poverty. The child will be brought up on starvation rations.

Thanks to Ahaz, the kingdom of Judah will be devastated, and when God’s promised son comes he’ll be born into poverty, with no throne to call his own. You can blame Ahaz for that.

And sure enough, when Matthew wrote his gospel, he quotes this very verse. Jesus is born, Immanuel, God with us. But he’s born into a working class family, in a stable, when the nation is under Roman occupation. And he’s born to a virgin named Mary, in case you’ve forgotten the story.

Ahaz refused to trust God. He tried to get ahead by working out for himself what would work.

Jesus was different. The devil tempted him to do exactly that, but he refused. Instead, he followed the path that God his Father had chosen, even though that led to his own death. But because he stood firm in his faith, God made him stand. God raised him from the dead, and he’s still alive today, and he’s the rightful king of heaven and earth.

Ahaz may not have lived up to the throne he sat on. But one day, the promised son of David, the Son of God no less, would come. God’s plans would not be forgotten. There would be a king, a son of David worthy of that name.


The question for us is this: Where will we put our confidence?

There are two ways to go through life. And any new parents need to choose which path they’re going to try and set their children on.

One way is to get ahead by our own plans and schemes. It’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Line things up. Manoeuvre yourself into pole position. This week, the 11+ results came out, and the Secretary of State for Education gave a green light to a Sevenoaks annex for the Weald of Kent Grammar School. Now, whether grammar schools are a good idea – that’s a whole other debate. Let’s not go there today. But it’s all so competitive. Parents jockeying to try and get their little ones into the best possible school, as if that was the way to get the best out of life.

It’s a little snapshot of the many ways we see life as all about trying to get ourselves ahead.

But there’s another approach. The difference is not about what school you go to. It’s about where your put your confidence. And it’s this: Go through life trusting God and his promises. Know that he looks after his own. Difficult times will still come, but God knows what he’s doing even then.

After all, there is now a king on David’s throne. He can be relied upon absolutely, because that king did things God’s way, and is now established as God’s chosen king over the world. The question is whether we will rely on him?

So, actually, we face the same challenge as Ahaz. Will we trust God and his promises? Or will we approach life by lining things up for ourselves? As we bring up our children, where do we place our hopes for them?


So the question we’re being asked is the one we started with: Who’s your daddy?

Within the story, who has the true likeness of that great king, David? Not Ahaz. But Jesus, Immanuel, does!

And so the question for us becomes: Who do we look like? Do we have the family likeness to king Jesus? Do we live life with a calm trust in God and his promises, or do we think that everything relies on the choices and the alliances we make?

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