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Unbelief brings downfall

Judgment and Hope

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Sermon Series: Isaiah: Judgment & Hope

Scripture Reading: 2 Kings 16:1-9

Sermon Title: Unbelief brings downfall

Sermon Text: Isaiah 7

Memory Verse: Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told. (Acts 27:25)

MAIN IDEA: Live with the belief that God accomplishes His word.

 

 

NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." This manuscript is provided as a courtesy and is not intended for publication. The recorded audio/video message differs from the manuscript. Thanks for understanding.

 

 

Reference table of kings

Ahaz: son of Jotham; king of Judah (southern kingdom, capital is Jerusalem); ruler “house of David”

Pekah: son of Remaliah; king of Israel (northern kingdom, “Ephraim,” capital is Samaria)

Rezin: king of Aram (Syria, capital is Damascus)

Tilgath-pilneser: king of Assyria

 

Chapter 7 begins another section of Isaiah. From 7:1 to 9:7, Isaiah will deliver a prophecy regarding the Syro-Ephramite war; a war in which Aram and Ephraim ally against Judah. Chapter seven takes place during the reign of Ahaz, son of Jotham. It is around 735bc. We can get the backstory in 2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28.

Ahaz is twenty years old when he succeeds his father, Jotham as king. Jotham does what is right in the eyes of God, but Ahaz does not. Ahaz practices the religions of the surrounding nations. He sacrifices and burns incense to false gods. He makes his son walk through the fire of Moloch, which is sacrificing a child to an idol.

During Ahaz’s reign, Judah’s armies suffer losses and land is taken. Edomites and Philistines are among the enemies. The biggest threat to Ahaz is two kings who war against Ahaz and Judah; Rezin, king of Aram (modern-day Syria), and Pekah, king of Israel (Ephraim the northern kingdom).

Rezin captures an important harbor named Elath. He exiles all the Jewish inhabitants and replaces them with Arameans.

Pekah marches on Judah and brings devastation to Judah. His army slays 120,000 valiant men of Judah in one day. Pekah takes captive 200,000 women, sons, and daughters and great spoils which he brings to Samaria. The prophet Obed tells the leaders of Israel that God is not pleased that they captured their brethren and told them to send the captives back to Judah (which they did).

Rezin and Pekah are successful in getting small areas of land, but they are not successful in overtaking the jewel of the land, the capital city of Jerusalem. They decide to team together. Chapter seven begins with these two kings and their armies poised to overrun Jerusalem.

A Call to Believe (7:1-9)

1 Now it came about in the days of Ahaz, the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Aram and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not conquer it. 2 When it was reported to the house of David, saying, “The Arameans have camped in Ephraim,” his heart and the hearts of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake with the wind. (Isaiah 7:1-2)

3 Then the Lord said to Isaiah, “Go out now to meet Ahaz, you and your son Shear-jashub (name signifies "the remnant shall return." Isaiah gives his sons names representing events which will occur. The names are “signs” to the people.), at the end of the conduit of the upper pool, on the highway to the fuller’s field, (water is very important if there is a siege of Jerusalem. Aram is making sure the water supply will be safe)

4 and say to him, ‘Take care and be calm, have no fear and do not be fainthearted because of these two stubs of smoldering firebrands (like two sticks in a fire which are just about extinguished, they have no potency), on account of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and the son of Remaliah.

5 Because Aram (Syria), with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah (Pekah), has planned evil against you, saying, 6 “Let us go up against Judah and terrorize it, and make for ourselves a breach in its walls and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it,” (they were going to appoint a puppet king who would rule for them)  7 thus says the Lord God: “It shall not stand nor shall it come to pass. 8 For the head of Aram is Damascus and the head of Damascus is Rezin (in other words, God ordains that Rezin’s reign not extend beyond Aram. The head of Judah is Jerusalem and the head of Jerusalem is not Rezin.) (now within another 65 years Ephraim will be shattered, so that it is no longer a people) (God prophesies the end of the northern kingdom), 9 and the head of Ephraim is Samaria and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. (God ordains the boundary of Pekah’s kingdom) If you will not believe, you surely shall not last.”’” (Isaiah 7:3-9)

God will not allow Rezin and Pekah to be successful and if Ahaz doesn’t believe that, he will not last.

A Sign To Believe (Isaiah 7:10-16)

10 Then the Lord spoke again to Ahaz, saying, 11 “Ask a sign for yourself from the Lord your God; make it deep as Sheol or high as heaven.”

The sky is the limit Ahaz! Ask God to show you a sign so that you know what He is saying is true.

12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, nor will I test the Lord!”

Ahaz quotes Deuteronomy 6:16 which says, "You shall not put the LORD your God to the test.” Ahaz is not testing God; God is testing Ahaz. It is not a sin to ask for a sign when God is the one offering the sign. He hypocritically quotes scripture to make himself look better when he has no intention to put his trust in God. He has a pretense of wanting to obey God, “I don’t want to test God,” when what he means is, “I don’t want to trust God.”

The reason Ahaz doesn’t ask for a sign is that he doesn’t want one. He has already made other plans. Ahaz puts his trust in the king of Assyria to deliver him. Ahaz sent messengers to the king of Assyria, Tiglath-Pileser, and pays him gold and silver from the temple. Ahaz is an idolater who prefers the gods of Assyria. In fact, he likes the gods of Assyria so much, he redesigns the temple to look like the temple of the Assyrian gods (2 Kings 16:15-17).

People make the analogy that Aram is like a cat fighting with two other cats. He gets in trouble, so he solicits the Rottweiler dog to come to his aid. We know how that will turn out.

TWO NOTES:

1) Verse 10 says, “the Lord spoke” and verse 13 says, “then he said.” We will see this throughout the book of Isaiah. The way it is written makes it look like there are three people in the conversation, the Lord, Isaiah, and Ahaz. There are only two, Isaiah and Ahaz. Isaiah speaks for God. God gives Isaiah specific words to say. In verse 10, the Lord tells Isaiah what to say, “Ask a sign for yourself …” And in verse 13, Isaiah speaks. Isaiah, being filled with the Holy Spirit, speaks for God even though the quote is not directly attributed to God. In other words, when Isaiah says, “the Lord spoke,” we may understand it as saying, the Lord spoke uses Isaiah as His mouthpiece. And, when Isaiah speaks on his own accord, he speaks on God’s behalf.

2) Read this passage at face value. We will address the New Testament prophecy in just a moment.

Ahaz doesn’t ask for a sign, but Isaiah gives him one nevertheless.

13 Then he said, “Listen now, O house of David! Is it too slight a thing for you to try the patience of men, that you will try the patience of my God as well? (Isaiah responds harshly to Ahaz’s hypocrisy. Ahaz is trying Isaiah’s patience, and we see how the wording shifts to, “my God”) 14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. 15 He will eat curds and honey at the time He knows enough to refuse evil and choose good. 16 For before the boy will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.

Isaiah intends to take a second wife. She is a virgin at the time Isaiah speaks this to Ahaz. Isaiah says that before the boy is at the age of discernment, the two kings you are worried about, Pekah and Rezin, will no longer be a threat. So, within a time-frame of around three years, the threat of these two kings will no longer be an issue.

We see this prophecy fulfilled in chapter 8.

3 So I approached the prophetess, and she conceived and gave birth to a son (she is a virgin at the time of the prophecy, but does not give birth as a virgin). Then the Lord said to me, “Name him Maher-shalal-hash-baz (speed-spoil-booty-hastens – another child with a name which is a sign); 4 for before the boy knows how to cry out ‘My father’ or ‘My mother, (before the age of discernment)’ the wealth of Damascus (Aram) and the spoil of Samaria (Ephraim) will be carried away before the king of Assyria.” (Isaiah 8:3-4)

God will give Ahaz a sign. Isaiah will have a son. Ahaz will see the child and know; he made a big mistake in not trusting God. What Isaiah prophecies about Ahaz, “If you will not believe, you surely shall not last,” will come to pass.

Now, let’s address the issue of the Messianic prophecy of 7:14.

Last week, when we looked at Isiah 6:9-10, we saw Isaiah 6:9-10 prophesies Judah’s national rejection of the Lord in the time of Isaiah. The New Testament writers use the same prophecy to speak of Israel’s national rejection of the Messiah in the church age. Isaiah 6:9-10 is a double prophecy.

In the same way, Isaiah 7:14 is a double prophecy. It refers to the situation King Ahaz is facing. Everything about Isaiah 7:14-16 refers to the boy spoken of in Isaiah 8:3-4. It is a prophecy fulfilled within a few years.

With the circumstances of Mary’s birth, the New Testament writers attribute Isaiah 7:14 (but not 7:15-16), as a greater prophecy of the Messiah, Immanuel.

Isaiah has many passages which are both near and far prophecies. Near prophecies are fulfilled in his lifetime and this gives Isaiah prominence and legitimacy as a prophet. The far prophecies are fulfilled in the future. Some during the time of Christ and others are yet to come.

Punishment for Unbelief (Isaiah 7:17-25)

Isaiah chapter 7 finishes with Isaiah, speaking on the Lord’s behalf. He prophesies to Ahaz the consequences of his unbelief. Because Ahaz does not choose to trust God, the following will happen.

17 The Lord will bring on you, on your people, and on your father’s house such days as have never come since the day that Ephraim separated from Judah, the king of Assyria.”

Ahaz and the people of Judah will suffer like in than the days of the civil war, when the ten tribes of the northern kingdom split from the southern kingdom.

Isaiah gives four consequences, and each is marked by the phrase “in that day.”

18 In that day the Lord will whistle for the fly that is in the remotest part of the rivers of Egypt and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria. 19 They will all come and settle on the steep ravines, on the ledges of the cliffs, on all the thorn bushes and on all the watering places.

We are getting more detail of earlier chapters. Before chapter seven, we knew there was going to be a war. We now know the war will be with the people of Assyria.

Foreigners will fill the land. The fly and the bee are euphemisms for armies. The Egyptian area is known for having a lot of flies and Assyria is known for having many bees. The armies Isaiah is speaking about are the armies of people from the area of Egypt and Assyria.

20 In that day the Lord will shave with a razor, hired from regions beyond the Euphrates (that is, with the king of Assyria), the head and the hair of the legs; and it will also remove the beard.

The armies will come in, and the people of Judah will become captive. It is easy to identify captured people in 700ad; they walk around with shaved bodies. Remember how the Lord promises to humble the people of Judah? This is a beginning of the humiliation. The first consequence is captivity and humiliation.

21 Now in that day a man may keep alive a heifer and a pair of sheep; 22 and because of the abundance of the milk produced he will eat curds, for everyone that is left within the land will eat curds and honey.

This consequence doesn’t sound so bad until we think about it. Whoever is left in Judah will have one cow and two sheep. Imagine visiting a farm to find only one cow and two sheep. This is no farm. The people of Judah are accustomed to having large herds of cattle, not one cow.

There will be an abundance of milk because there will be few people to buy milk. Isaiah has already prophesied that war will bring great losses.  There is no demand for milk because there are no people left.

23 And it will come about in that day, that every place where there used to be a thousand vines, valued at a thousand shekels of silver, will become briars and thorns. 24 People will come there with bows and arrows because all the land will be briars and thorns. 25 As for all the hills which used to be cultivated with the hoe, you will not go there for fear of briars and thorns; but they will become a place for pasturing oxen and for sheep to trample.

The land that was producing great crops is now worthless. If we are an invading army, we choose our place of battle carefully. We don’t want to trample on crops because we may get these crops someday in the battle. But, the invading armies will not care because the land is only worthless plants. Because it is worthless, it becomes a place filled with bows and arrow. Remember what God says in the Garden of Eden, the curse of sin will make the land difficult to yield crops. This consequence is just as God promises Adam in Gen. 3:18.

The sin of Ahaz and his people is that they no longer look to God. Judah becomes indistinguishable from the other nations of the world because the people no longer believe in God. They no longer worship God. They no longer obey God. They no longer trust God for deliverance. They make a horrible choice.

Application

What we read in Isaiah is a description of what happens when a people stop following God. What happens is not a prescription. In other words, these are very special circumstances. We are not to use the birth of babies to predict the downfalls of nations.  The events and outcomes are specific to the nation of Judah. In other words, God doesn’t want us to read Isaiah and apply the events to our life today. What God wants us to do is to apply the principles to our life today.

We don’t live in Jerusalem surrounded by invaders. But, we do have an enemy who seeks to do us harm.

We have no prophet like Isaiah. But, we do have the word of God.

We have no king like Ahaz put in place by God to make sure the nation keeps the laws and commands of the Mosaic Covenant. Today, we have God’s Spirit to help us keep the New Covenant.

Ahaz is given a sign and his name is Maher-shalal-hash-baz. Today, we are given a sign and his name is Jesus!

The main teaching of this passage:

MAIN IDEA: Live with the belief that God accomplishes His word.

There are four ways we may live with the belief that God accomplishes His word.

1-Pray

Ahaz does not call out to God for help. Living with a belief that God accomplishes His word is to live a life of prayer. Praying demonstrates we believe God’s word by asking for His help. We praise God in our prayer knowing He is good and right. We are to pray according to God’s word. We are to be a people devoted to prayer; praying without ceasing.

2-Be doers of the Word

Ahaz knows God’s word but doesn’t live by God’s word. God desires for us to prove that which is acceptable by meditating on His word and applying it in our lives. If we believe God’s word is good, then we can measure our belief by how live and apply God’s word every day. God wants us to prove His word in our lives. He wants us to see how His word is good for our marriage, raising our children, and the workplace. The word of God restores the soul, enlightens the eyes, and makes wise the simple. It is profitable for all things in our life. It will not return void.

3-Be Holy

Ahaz is not set apart. He makes unholy alliances. For us to be holy means, we are to be set apart. What amount of being like the world is acceptable? We are to be a peculiar people. James warns us to keep ourselves unstained by the world. If we are a friend of the world, we make ourselves enemies of God.

Looking different from the world doesn’t mean we have to dress like the Amish. We are to be modest, yes, but we are to clothe ourselves with humility. We are to put others interests ahead of our own. We are taught not to cuss like the world cusses or not complain about our circumstances.

4-Be Hopeful

Ahaz did not have his hope in God. His hope is in the gods of Assyria. When we are hopeful, we know the enemy will attack, but we trust in God. Immanuel, the Messiah of Isaiah 7:14 defeats our enemies. We handle sickness or other hardships with an eternal mindset. We don’t lose our joy just because we lost our job or house because we know we already have gained much in heaven. We live in a way in which people will ask us about the hope we have within us.

 

Conclusion

Living with a belief in God’s word will bring us satisfaction and joy. The word of God reveals our Father in His glory. The word lights our path, so we may see the way home to be with the Lord. Trust and believe in the Word.