Isaiah wrote some of the most famous lines in the Bible. For example, Isaiah 11:6 – “In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard will lie down with the baby goat. The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion, and a little child will lead them all.”
Jesus held up Isaiah as one of the greatest prophets, alongside Moses and Elijah. In Hebrew his name is Yeshayahu, which is almost the same as Joshua and Yeshua. It has the same root, and means ‘God saves’.
Isaiah follows the three prophets we have just looked at. Unlike them, Isaiah was born in a palace. He was the grandson of King Joash and the cousin of King Uzziah. Isaiah was well educated, rich, and of high rank. Compared to Amos, Jonah and Hosea, Isaiah seems an unlikely choice for a prophet.
We can deduce from his name that Isaiah had faithful parents. And we see that he attended the temple in Jerusalem, his home town. His calling is related in Isaiah 6. He had a vision while he was in the Temple. Verse 1 says, “It was in the year King Uzziah died that I saw the Lord.” Isaiah was probably a teenager at the time, maybe in his early twenties.
During this vision in verse 8 is where we have a famous conversation between God and Isaiah.
I heard the Lord asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?”
I said, “Here I am. Send me.”
God’s warning to Israel through Amos and Hosea a few years earlier had been rejected. This is now the time of its fulfilment. It came about this way. The king of Israel and the king of Damascus wanted to confront Assyria. Judah in the south did not want this and decided to remain neutral. The king of Judah at the time was Jotham, son of Uzziah. Uzziah, remember, was Isaiah’s cousin. So the two kings decided to attack Judah, fearing the presence of an unsupportive neutral state to the south when the opposed Assyria.
The newly liberated nation of Edom to the south joined in the fun and also attacked Judah. Not to be left out, the Philistines to the West saw an opportunity and also launched attacks. This is all explained in 2 Kings 16. Enemies are attacking on three sides. The desert wilderness is on the fourth side. King Ahaz, who’s father King Jotham has just died, is in a panic.
In verse two of our reading today (Isaiah 7:2) we read of this moment.
‘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.’
King Ahaz decided that the best thing to do was to ask Assyria to help. Up to this moment, ever since the visit by Jonah, Assyria has been quiet. When King Ahaz asks for help, they leap into action and send a massive army to save him. This army marches all the way south to the border of Egypt, which is now a weak and divided nation. This is the army that wipes out the ten tribes of Israel, as was prophesied. Assyria occupies the land and deports the people, except those who escape to Judah as refugees. Damascus is defeated.
When the invasion was over, Israel remained as a tiny territory under the thumb of Assyria. It might have survived if the vassal king had not asked Egypt to save him. That was suicide. Egypt was powerless, but Assyria was angry and finished the destruction of Israel.
Because Judah had sided with Assyria, it survived. It was not a free nation though. After this happened, we read in 2 Kings that King Ahaz introduced changes in temple worship. They began to worship foreign gods.
2 Kings 16:10 – “King Ahaz then went to Damascus to meet with King Tiglath-pileser of Assyria. While he was there, he took special note of the altar. Then he sent a model of the altar to Uriah the priest, along with its design in full detail. Uriah followed the king’s instructions and built an altar just like it, and it was ready before the king returned from Damascus.”
Under the rule of King Ahaz all manner of pagan worship multiplied. It is charged that King Ahaz even sacrificed his own son. Also due to the damage done by the invasions and loss of territory and the pressure of paying taxes to Assyria, the economy of Judah was in an awful state. Isaiah spoke out loudly against the spiritual corruption. As bad as it was, and it was very bad, things were still better than they had been in Israel.
What is really sad is that none of this need have happened. It was all entirely avoidable, and God went to great pains to lead his people away from the impending doom. They refused. There was no way to avoid the consequences.
Isaiah prophesied to King Ahaz, son of Jotham and grandson of Uzziah.
God sent Isaiah to Ahaz with this message: “Tell him [King Ahaz] 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.” (Isaiah 7:4)
God’s word to Ahaz is clear. Do not trust politics. Do not trust military power. Do not rely on your own understanding. Trust only in the Sovereign Lord. God says, ‘This invasion will never happen; it will never take place.’
The way to avoid it is simple. King Ahaz must trust God. King Ahaz must have faith. King Ahaz must believe. This is the way to avoid the danger. It is the way for us to live. We too must live by faith. By faith we are saved, not by works. King Ahaz tried works instead, and he almost destroyed Judah.
King Ahaz was given a choice. The first part of the prophecy would only come true if he did what he was told to do by God.
Isaiah 7:9 – “Unless your faith is firm, I cannot make you stand firm.”
The word in Hebrew that is translated as ‘firm’ is the word ‘âman. It is the root of our word amen. It has a broad meaning that includes to stand firm, to trust, to be certain, to believe in. It is used in Genesis 15:6 – “Abram believed the Lord, and the Lord counted him as righteous because of his faith.”
‘âman underlies all the words translated faithful in the Old Testament. It is the first and commonest Hebrew word translated faithful occurring twenty times. However faithful is not the commonest rendering of ‘âman, it is rendered believe or a derivative twice as often.
We are saved when we believe. Judah would have been saved if the king and the people had believed. Nineveh was saved because the king and the people believed.
Jesus came to save us and he said the same thing as Isaiah. We must believe to be saved. We must believe in Jesus.
John 3:16 – “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”
However many troubles come in this world, just believe. When there is war, don’t reach for a gun but for your faith. Don’t run, trust in him. Whatever the hardship you are now experiencing, Isaiah has the answer. If your faith is firm, God will ensure you stand firm. God will save you if you believe.