ISAIAH SESSION 9 — WHO DO YOU TRUST?

Text: Isaiah 7:1-25

When God’s people go astray, He sends His prophets to frankly and bluntly warn them of their sin and admonish them to repent and return to Him. Again, when I speak of God’s people, I am speaking of the church, Jewish believers, and Jews that do not yet believe that Jesus is their Messiah.

In the days of Isaiah, God’s people are headed for disaster —  exile (separation from His presence), and even death and condemnation. Oh, but if they will repent as I did, the Lord and I will rejoice and sing (Zephaniah 3:17)!

The LORD does not desire for any to perish, but all to come to repentance (2Peter 3:9). So, He sends Isaiah to speak to Jerusalem and Judah. And He assigns me to speak to today’s believers.

If I were going to give this a title, I would borrow from John Oswalt, commentator for Isaiah in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament — “Who Do You Trust?” 

Your answer determines whether you receive the Lord’s mercy, or His discipline and punishment. As I have said throughout this study, His aim in discipline and punishment is that you turn back to Him!

Verse 1 — 

King Jotham had reigned for 16 years after Uzziah. Now Uzziah’s grandson, Ahaz, reigned as king of Judah. King Ahaz faced a threat from Syria, which had joined forces with northern Israel (Ephraim, pronounced Ef-RAH-yim) against Jerusalem, to wage war over it and conquer it. But they would learn that it is the LORD who determines what will happen to His people, not man.

King Ahaz had sought help from Assyria, and had made a deal with them, in order to defeat Israel and Syria (2Kings 16:7-9). There were spiritual implications to the deal, per Oswalt. In order to receive help from Assyria, King Ahaz had to agree to recognize the Assyrian gods as being real, and agree that he would come under the “lordship” of these false gods. Thus, his deal with Assyria was a total defection from the LORD!

Foolishly, King Ahaz did not seek help from the LORD, but from Assyria, whose king would later threaten Judah’s existence. When the church and individual believers seek man’s help, and when they make deals with the world, there are always spiritual consequences

Do you see that today’s believers and churches commit the same sin as King Ahaz, by making deals with the world, by accepting and welcoming practices and beliefs that are completely contrary to the Lord, and by trusting in man and in the things of the world? 

Do you understand that such things are a spiritual defection from the Lord? Do you see that the price of your defection is discipline, punishment, and exile from His presence? O church! O believer! I pray you have ears to hear this truth, and that you repent.

Verse 2 — 

When King Ahaz heard that the Syrians had encamped in Ephraim (northern Israel), his heart and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake with the wind. What a picture Isaiah paints, with this word from the LORD!

Prior to this threat, King Ahaz had been defeated by Syria’s army, and separately, had been defeated by northern Israel’s army, and suffered great losses in those battles. Now, Syria and Ephraim had joined forces against Judah! King Ahaz and the people of Judah and Jerusalem had reason to fear total annihilation in the natural. 

How amazing that they still did not repent and return to the LORD, but how often I see it, even in today’s believers! Many hold fast to their sin, rather than to the LORD.

Verse 3 —

The LORD instructed Isaiah to meet King Ahaz, specifying that both Isaiah and his son Shear-jashub (only a remnant will return) should go. They were to meet him at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the fuller’s field. 

Oswalt theorizes that King Ahaz was there to assess the vulnerability of Jerusalem’s water supply, which was always a target when any enemy threatened and attacked. But I believe that it was simply a meeting place between Jerusalem and her enemies, per 2Kings 18:17, Isaiah 7:3, and Isaiah 36:2. The bottom line was that Isaiah was ordered there by the LORD to prophesy to and warn Ahaz.

In addition, the name of Isaiah’s son was a promise from the LORD of impending doom for Judah and Jerusalem, but not at the hands of Ephraim or Syria, or even Assyria. The LORD had already planned for Judah and Jerusalem to be overrun and taken into exile by Babylon. But the name of Isaiah’s son was also a promise to Judah and Jerusalem that  a remnant would return after the 70-year Babylonian exile.

Verse 4 —

The LORD instructed Isaiah to say, Take care (take heed) and be calm (be at rest), have no fear and do not be fainthearted because of these two stubs of smoldering firebrands, on the account of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram, OR the fierce anger of Pekah, the son of Remaliah, king of Israel. 

Their fierce anger meant nothing to the LORD. They could not change His plan regarding Judah and Jerusalem. In the LORD’s eyes, they were the burned-out stubs left after the fire, for God had already judged them. They could do no harm, because they had burned out. The fire of His judgment weakened them, and they would be easily broken by the LORD. 

Verses 5-7 —

These burned-out stubs had planned evil against Jerusalem and Judah, to terrorize  and set up their own puppet king, Tabeel, in Jerusalem. Therefore, the Lord GOD said, It shall not stand nor shall it come to pass. 

Verses 8-9 —

Damascus was Syria’s capitol. Rezin was only a king of Syria, and his throne was in Damascus. Samaria was Ephraim’s capitol. Pekah, the son of Remaliah, was only king of Ephraim. Both Syria and Ephraim would be destroyed. Isaiah prophesied that Ephraim would go into Assyrian exile within 65 years. As a result, Northern Israel would no longer be a people. The LORD already had their judgment ready, per Verse 16, and it would surely come to pass, for He is King, not them!

No enemy is able to foil the LORD’s plans for His people — even His plans to discipline and punish. His plans were for Judah and Jerusalem to go into Babylonian exile. He chooses who becomes their conqueror — not their enemies!

But if Ahaz would not believe in the sovereignty of the LORD, pledged by the LORD through Isaiah. he surely would not be established. Either he would entrust himself to God, or he would continue to shake in his boots. He would either trust Assyria, or take hold of the promise God offered, that He would rescue Judah and Jerusalem, for the time being.

Verse 10-12 —

The LORD directly asked Ahaz to ask Him for a sign from “the LORD your God.” No matter what sign Ahaz asked for, the LORD would do it!

But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, nor will I test the LORD!” It was false humility from King Ahaz, who regularly rebelled against the LORD. How foolish! God can see right through false humility. And It was the LORD who instructed Ahaz to ask. Even in this, Ahaz rebelled against the LORD!

Verses 13-14 —

So, Isaiah rebuked Ahaz. Listen now! Is it too slight a thing to try the patience of men (Isaiah himself, who has warned Ahaz again and again)? He was weary of prophesying to Ahaz! Must you also try the patience of my God, Isaiah asked? 

Therefore, here is the sign I will give you, says the LORD. I am sovereign, and I will give you a sign anyway! 

Behold! Look and see! Pay attention! A virgin will be with child, and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel (“with us” God). Matthew confirms that Jesus’ birth fulfilled that prophecy —

Matthew 1:19 And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”

In speaking of a child to be born to a virgin, he LORD confirmed that the Jews would not be entirely wiped out by the coming Babylonian invasion. A remnant of God’s people would return to the land, and the descendants of King Ahaz would see a miraculous sign — a virgin would give birth to a boy! 

What would His name be? God with us, Immanuel! In the distant future, 700 years from when Isaiah prophesied, the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ, would come by a most miraculous means!

Verses 15-16 —

And this “God with us” would eat curds and honey, which were abundantly available as food. By the time the child reached the age of moral accountability (12 years old), both northern Israel and Syria would no longer exist as nations. 

The last of northern Israel would be taken into captivity in 722 B.C., over seven hundred years before Jesus Christ was born. Isaiah had not been shown by the LORD the exact arrival time of this child, but certainly, this word from the LORD through Isaiah was to show King Ahaz of Judah that in the future, these nations would be totally eradicated, their governments never to be rebuilt.

Verses 17-20 —

In 5:26, the LORD spoke through Isaiah that God would whistle for nations, to come against Israel. Now He specifies that the nations to whom He will whistle.

In that day, when Ephraim will be judged by Him, He will whistle for the bee of Assyria, and the fly of Egypt. They will be like vast swarms of insects, suffocating and overwhelming Ephraim. 

The description of Ephraim’s demise was a warning from the LORD to Judah and Jerusalem. They would be just as vulnerable to Babylonian invasion as northern Israel was to Assyrian invasion, unless they turned back to the LORD!

These bees and flies would be hired by the LORD, whistled for by Him! Assyria would be the agent of the LORD, to mete out discipline and punishment to Ephraim and Syria. The LORD would “shave with a razor the head and the hair of the legs,” and even shave off the beard. Ephraim would be disgraced. 

Verses 21-22 —

Indeed, in the day when the LORD judged Ephraim, each man would keep alive only one heifer and a pair of sheep. These animals would produce milk for curds, enough to survive. And honey was available from bees. But in the end, the people of Ephraim would be killed or carried off by the Assyrian armies.

Verses 23-25 —

The LORD gave Isaiah a vision of the extreme devastation of northern Israel Thousands of valuable grapevines would be replaced with briars and thorns. 

The formerly fruitful land would only be suitable as a hunting ground. It would no longer be suitable for farming. All the land that had been cultivated with hoes would be avoided, because it would be overrun by briars and thorns. Oxen and sheep would graze there, trampling down everything in their path.

The LORD’s warning through Isaiah is also a warning to today’s church. Much of the church relies on man’s ways to try to shore up its attendance statistics. Leaders are chosen based on measuring instruments devised by men, rather than on the LORD’s wisdom. 

Now is the time to return to the LORD, O church, O believer, for if you do not, He will surely deal with you, just as He promised five of the seven churches in the Book of Revelation —

Revelation 2:5 ‘Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place — unless you repent.”

Revelation 2:16 ‘Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth.”

Revelation 2:22 ‘Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.

23 ‘And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.”

Revelation 3:3 ‘So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you.”

Revelation 3:15   “‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. 16 ‘So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of (vomit you out of) My mouth.”

Lord, may Your church and all believers heed this warning from You through Isaiah to King Ahaz, for it is directed to them as well. May they repent of their reliance on men and on the world. May they turn back to you, and rely on and trust in You and You alone. Amen. So be it.

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