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Friday, 4 August 2017

Isaiah 7:1-17: A message for Ahaz

Uzziah died. A strong king, although unfaithful to God and stricken with leprosy. His death brought Ahaz to the throne, and God's call to Isaiah in the same year.

We are now a little further on - a couple of years into Ahaz's reign, and he is facing his first big crisis. The Northern kingdom has joined forces with Aram to attack Judah. Israel and Aram were old enemies, now forced to be friends in the light of a bigger aggressive force - the empire of Assyria. The two kings know they can't defeat Assyria, but maybe they can take Judah down, and so strengthen their hand.

We can imagine the anxious arguments and discussion in the royal court in Jerusalem: What's going on? Why are they doing it? What are their chances? How can we defend Jerusalem?

Interestingly, God arranges a meeting between his prophet and his king, not in the city, not in the royal palace, but outside at their point of weakness. At this stage in Jerusalem's history, the city's water supply is brought in on an aqueduct from outside the city walls. Later on, it was put into a tunnel, so that enemies couldn't cut the water off. But as of now, Ahaz knows, if it comes to a siege of Jerusalem, this aqueduct is their weak spot.

So Isaiah has a message from God: Keep Calm and Carry On.

He seems to have forgotten the name of Israel's king - you know, what's his name? Remaliah's lad. Saying it like this diminishes him. If you can't even remember his name, you can't be too worried about him.

The essence of God's messages is unexpectedly political: don't worry about Israel and Aram - they're nearly burnt out. Pretty soon Assyria's going to crush them like a twig. Believe me! I'll prove it to you. Ask me for a sign.

Ahaz draws himself up and says, "No! I will not ask my God for a sign."

"Don't be an idiot," replies God. "I'll give you a sign anyway. Imagine a young woman giving birth to a son, calls him Immanuel. (which of course means 'God with us.') Before that boy has finished with his mother's milk, those enemies of yours will be as nothing.

Faith isn't a leap into the dark. It's a leap into the light.

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