1–7 November 2015.
Chapter 7 starts a new and complicated section in the Book of Isaiah, one full of political details about different empires and kings and their battles against each other. During that time, the place we think of as “Israel” was actually divided into two kingdoms: Judah in the south and Israel in the north. Even though both kingdoms had been united before for a short time, they spent most of their history at war with each other.
So the story opens with Judah’s king Ahaz in a panic because Israel has teamed up with Syria to come attack Jerusalem. Isaiah sees the panic of the people and their king, so he goes to Ahaz to comfort him with a message from God: keep calm, don’t be afraid, and don’t lose heart (v. 4). Even though Ahaz should make sensible plans for battle, he should still trust in God and not fear Israel’s attack.
But Ahaz panics before the oncoming army, and refuses to trust in God. 2 Kings 16 tells us that Ahaz uses all the money from the palace and temple treasuries to buy the support of the Assyrian king. He even sacrifices his own son to gain the support of foreign gods!
With Assyria’s help, Ahaz wins the battle. But the cost is so high: he abandons God, he stains the faith of his people, and sells his kingdom into terrible Assyrian control.
We often think that faith is a personal thing, just my own personal relationship with God. But here we see that faith is much more than that. While God cares about our personal lives, he also cares for our social and national life together. And as we see in Ahaz’s example, our faith doesn’t just influence our lives, but also the lives of everyone around us. For leaders, their faith can influence the fate of a whole nation.
But perhaps the most important thing we learn from Ahaz is that even though we must use all our abilities to solve life’s problems, we should never forget that God is there for us. So when troubles come along, don’t panic, don’t be afraid; instead keep calm and trust in God to lead you through.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis