The Sign Of Immanuel
Dear Lord, in this Christmas season, my soul takes its rest in You. It is enough that You are for me, with me and within me.
Read ISAIAH 7:1–17
When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it.
2 Now the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.
3 Then the Lord said to Isaiah, “Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub, to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Launderer’s Field. 4 Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood—because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. 5 Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying, 6 “Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.” 7 Yet this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
“‘It will not take place,
it will not happen,
8 for the head of Aram is Damascus,
and the head of Damascus is only Rezin.
Within sixty-five years
Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people.
9 The head of Ephraim is Samaria,
and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son.
If you do not stand firm in your faith,
you will not stand at all.’”
10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”
12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”
13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 15 He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, 16 for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. 17 The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on the house of your father a time unlike any since Ephraim broke away from Judah—he will bring the king of Assyria.”
New International Version (NIV)
Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Exult in Immanuel: thank You, Immanuel that You are with me always, everywhere, forever, for time and for eternity.
Fascinating historical, geopolitical and grammatical questions crowd in upon me as I read this chapter, some of them explained in the footnotes of my Bible. The background to this chapter can be read in 2 Kings 16. Ahaz, king of Judah (house of David) is warned by Isaiah not to worry about the plot by Rezin, king of Damascus (capital of Aram, Syria) and Pekah, son of Remaliah, king of Israel (Ephraim) to replace him. Isaiah contemptuously dismisses these two kings as spent forces (4; “smoldering stubs of firewood”). Ahaz, however, has other plans—to protect himself against two smaller enemies by allying himself with his biggest enemy; to escape from wolves into the arms of—the bear! (2 Kings 16:5–9).
I turn from these questions to Isaiah’s counsel and his sign. Ahaz is exhorted to be vigilant and calm and not to be faint-hearted (4), because “It will not take place, it will not happen” (7). Isaiah was a king’s counselor. “But is it practical”—one can imagine Ahaz saying—“to bring God into weekday politics?!” I reflect on my own practice: is there a cleavage between what I affirm on Sundays and the way I live on weekdays? Does trusting God extend into the whole of my life?
The birth of a child to a young woman is given as a sign to Ahaz. Before this child grows to the age of moral discernment, Ahaz’s enemies will be laid waste. And so it came to pass: Syria was crushed in 732 B.C.; and Samaria was destroyed in 722 B.C. My heart leaps as I, with all Christians, celebrate at this season the young virgin who offered herself to God’s call and the more transcendently wonderful child, Immanuel, whom she bore to be our Savior (Luke 1:26–38; 2:1–7). How much this salvation cost her and him!
What situation are you facing that frightens you now? What forces are involved? How are you trusting God in the situation?
Lord, in difficulties I tend so quickly to trust in my own resources. Show me what trusting in You really means.
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