God’s Word of Joy
Isaiah 7:1-25: King Ahaz ruled Judah (southern kingdom) from 735-715 B.C., and King Pekah ruled the northern kingdom of Israel from 752-732 B.C. Between 735 and 732 B.C., Israel and Syria invaded Judah (2 Kings 15:27—16:20; 2 Chronicles 28:1-27). At first Pekah and King Rezin of Syria tried to force Ahaz to join them in their battles against Assyria. When Ahaz didn’t cooperate, Pekah and Rezin tried to replace him with a king who would be friendlier to their purpose (Isaiah 7:6). Isaiah tells Ahaz that the Lord will give him a sign to indicate that God would be with Judah and that there would be no need for Judah to seek an alliance with Assyria. Against Isaiah’s advice, Ahaz turned to Assyria for help; but eventually, Assyria also invaded Judah (2 Kings 18:13-37; 2 Chronicles 32:1-19; Isaiah 8:6-8; 36:1-22). The reading concludes with a description of the Assyrian threat of invasion.
A Message for King Ahaz
1 When King Ahaz, the son of Jotham and grandson of Uzziah, ruled Judah, war broke out. Rezin, king of Syria, and Pekah son of Remaliah, king of Israel, attacked Jerusalem, but were unable to capture it.
2When word reached the king of Judah that the armies of Syria were already in the territory of Israel, he and all his people were so terrified that they trembled like trees shaking in the wind.
3The Lord said to Isaiah, “Take your son Shear Jashub, and go to meet King Ahaz. You will find him on the road where the cloth makers work, at the end of the ditch that brings water from the upper pool. 4Tell him to keep alert, to stay calm, and not to be frightened or disturbed. The anger of King Rezin and his Syrians and of King Pekah is no more dangerous than the smoke from two smoldering sticks of wood. 5Syria, together with Israel and its king, has made a plot. 6They intend to invade Judah, terrify the people into joining their side, and then put Tabeel's son on the throne.
7“But I, the Lord, declare that this will never happen. 8Why? Because Syria is no stronger than Damascus, its capital city, and Damascus is no stronger than King Rezin. As for Israel, within sixty-five years it will be too shattered to survive as a nation. 9Israel is no stronger than Samaria, its capital city, and Samaria is no stronger than King Pekah.
“If your faith is not enduring, you will not endure.”
The Sign of Immanuel
10The Lord sent another message to Ahaz: 11“Ask the Lord your God to give you a sign. It can be from deep in the world of the dead or from high up in heaven.”
12Ahaz answered, “I will not ask for a sign. I refuse to put the Lord to the test.”
13To that Isaiah replied, “Listen, now, descendants of King David. It's bad enough for you to wear out the patience of people—do you have to wear out God's patience too? 14 Well then, the Lord himself will give you a sign: a young woman who is pregnant will have a son and will name him ‘Immanuel.’ 15By the time he is old enough to make his own decisions, people will be drinking milk and eating honey. 16Even before that time comes, the lands of those two kings who terrify you will be deserted.
17“The Lord is going to bring on you, on your people, and on the whole royal family, days of trouble worse than any that have come since the kingdom of Israel separated from Judah—he is going to bring the king of Assyria.
18“When that time comes, the Lord will whistle as a signal for the Egyptians to come like flies from the farthest branches of the Nile, and for the Assyrians to come from their land like bees. 19They will swarm in the rugged valleys and in the caves in the rocks, and they will cover every thorn bush and every pasture.
20“When that time comes, the Lord will hire a barber from across the Euphrates—the emperor of Assyria!—and he will shave off your beards and the hair on your heads and your bodies.
21“When that time comes, even if a farmer has been able to save only one young cow and two goats, 22they will give so much milk that he will have all he needs. Yes, the few survivors left in the land will have milk and honey to eat.
23“When that time comes, the fine vineyards, each with a thousand vines and each worth a thousand pieces of silver, will be overgrown with thorn bushes and briers. 24People will go hunting there with bows and arrows. Yes, the whole country will be full of briers and thorn bushes. 25All the hills where crops were once planted will be so overgrown with thorns that no one will go there. It will be a place where cattle and sheep graze.”
“The Lord himself will give you a sign: a young woman who is pregnant will have a son and will name him ‘Immanuel.’”
Reread verses 3-9. What message did the LORD instruct Isaiah to say to King Ahaz? What did the LORD promise? What warning did the LORD give? What is the sign that Isaiah spoke of (verse 14)? The name “Immanuel” in Hebrew means “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23 quotes Isaiah 7:14 in the account of the birth of Jesus, and “virgin” reflects a Greek translation of the Hebrew term for “young woman” as rendered in the Isaiah passage.) Why did Ahaz fail to trust in God and heed Isaiah’s advice? What consequences were foretold (verses 17-25)?
Immanuel, you are indeed God with us. In you, Lord God, I place my trust and hope. Order my steps this day and guide me in the way of your truth. Amen.
Isaiah 8:21—9:7: The prophet Isaiah brings words of hope about a future king.