So Ahaz sent messengers to Tiglath-Pileser king of Assyria, saying, “I am your servant and your son. Come up and rescue me from the hand of the king of Syria and from the hand of the king of Israel, who are attacking me.” 2 Kings 16:17
It’s important to remember that prophecy is launched in a time and a place, with an original author and hearer and situation into which the prophet speaks. Ahaz, grandson of Uzziah, is now on the throne in Jerusalem and is threatened by an alliance between Syria and Israel. Isaiah is sent out to counsel him to trust that these two kingdoms will not stand. The sign of a child that the LORD promises – which Ahaz resisted – will be fulfilled more than once.
This is one of the few narratives in Isaiah, and you’ll notice that it flips between first- and third-person accounts. The underlying themes are fear and faith. When the northern threat emerges, the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind. When the LORD promises Ahaz that Ephraim and Syria will not stand, he warns “If you are not firm in the faith, you will not be firm at all.” Later, when speaking to Isaiah alone, the LORD likewise cautions him, “Do not fear what [the people] fear…But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let Him be your fear, and let Him be your dread.”
As we read earlier from Kings, Ahaz did not head this counsel. Indeed, within a decade, the kingdom of Israel itself will be washed away. And Isaiah, in chapter 8, is given the sign that Ahaz forfeited. But Assyria will not be satisfied with Samaria and Damascus, for the Lord will allow the “River of Assyria” to rise over all its channels and go over all its banks, and it will sweep on into Judah…
Chapter 9 is devoted to the LORD’s anger and judgment against the Northern Kingdom. In fact, just so there is no misunderstanding, in one sequence all the synonymous titles for the Northern Kingdom – Jacob, Israel, Ephraim, and Samaria – come in brisk succession. You’ll remember from the book of Kings that this is not simply because they have risen against Judah, but because they had abandoned the LORD from the very beginning.
But embedded in this is a message of hope for the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, for in the latter time [the LORD] has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations… For the child will be born as promised, and of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore.
Our verse for this week is James 1:22: But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
Isaiah 7 through 9. Now let’s read it!
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.