TEXT : Isaiah 7: 1-10
TITLE : “ Be careful , be quiet , do not fear …”
DATE PREACHED : The Lord's day, 5th December 2010
Let me begin with a short biographical sketch on the prophet Isaiah.
His name (Yeshayahu) means “ God saves”. Nothing much is known about Isaiah except what we read in this book . Isaiah Chapter 6 contains his famous call or commission in the year that king Uzziah died . He lived in Jerusalem and his prophetic activity extended at least from 742-701 BC . He was the son of Amoz (1:1) and he was married . The greatest political event of his prophetic career would have been the fall of the Northern kingdom ( Israel) at the hand of the Assyrians in about 722 BC .
No other prophet in the Scriptures has prophesied more concerning the Messiah than Isaiah . He reveals the Messiah as Immanuel , the incarnate God (Isa 7-11). We know this with the hindsight of Matthew 1:21-23. He also reveals the Messiah as the suffering servant (Isa 53) who was wounded for our transgressions.
Chapter 7 contains the prophecy of the virgin birth of a son called Immanuel (7:14). This “ Immanuel “ is as mysterious and unique as the king Melchizedek in Genesis 14:17ff (who is without father or mother or genealogy , having neither beginning of days or end of life…” – Hebr 7:3). The Lutheran commentator H.C. Leupold gives this section the title “ Immanuel book”. These are rich Scriptures foretelling the conception and birth of Immanuel . The gospel of Matthew makes a direct connection to this text with Jesus Christ. The mysterious Immanuel is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ .
I must give you some further historical background to Chapter 7 . Here we read that God commands Isaiah to speak to king of Judah , King Ahaz, who is presently in a real quandary . We read in 7 :1- 2  :
“In the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not yet mount an attack against it. When the house of David was told, “Syria is in league with Ephraim, ( i.e. Israel or the NK) the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.”
King Ahaz was clearly very afraid ! The language is very picturesque : ”the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.”
Isaiah was commanded by God to speak to Ahaz and the people about this fear :
“ And say to him, ‘Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah. 5 Because Syria, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has devised evil against you, saying, 6 “Let us go up against Judah and terrify it, and let us conquer it for ourselves, and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it,” 7 thus says the Lord God: “‘It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass.8 For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin. And within sixty-five years Ephraim will be shattered from being a people. 9 And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.’”
Isaiah found king Ahaz at the upper pool . Jerusalem’s water came from outside the city and so it could be easily cut off by an enemy. No water - no hope ! Ahaz was worried what the enemy could do . Isaiah was sent by the Lord to give Ahaz courage , faith and hope .
Now keep in mind that in Isa 6:9,10 Isaiah was told that that “ the hearts of this people would be dull…. Their ears heavy and their eyes blind…” . Men like king Ahaz would not believe any word that would come to them from God. But , no one must accuse God of not being patient with rebellious people . He sends His servants into His vineyard time and again (Parable of the tenants of the vineyard : Matt 21: 33-46)
So it appears that King Ahaz already had his mind made up. He believed that only Assyria could help him now. He would even give away the temple treasury ( the things devoted to God) to save his neck . In 2 Kings 16:7–8 we read : 7 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.” 8 Ahaz also took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the Lord and in the treasures of the king's house and sent a present to the king of Assyria.
This sort of thing appears to be disturbingly habitual among those who call themselves God’s people . In Isa 30:1-3 we read of a similar mindset where God’s people were wanting to trust in Egypt rather than in the LORD their God :
“Ah, stubborn children,” declares the Lord,“ who carry out a plan, but not mine, and who make an alliance, but not of my Spirit, that they may add sin to sin;2 who set out to go down to Egypt, without asking for my direction, to take refuge in the protection of Pharaoh and to seek shelter in the shadow of Egypt! 3 Therefore shall the protection of Pharaoh turn to your shame, and the shelter in the shadow of Egypt to your humiliation.
… and these following words in Isa 30: 12-16
12 Therefore thus says the Holy One of Israel, “Because you despise this word and trust in oppression and perverseness and rely on them, 13 therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a breach in a high wall, bulging out, and about to collapse, whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant; 14 and its breaking is like that of a potter's vessel that is smashed so ruthlessly that among its fragments not a shard is found with which to take fire from the hearth, or to dip up water out of the cistern.”
15 For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, “In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength.” But you were unwilling, 16 and you said, “No! We will flee upon horses”; therefore you shall flee away; and, “We will ride upon swift steeds”; therefore your pursuers shall be swift.
The message to Ahaz was simple : Stop worrying ! I am in control of these events : Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands.
See how much God is for Ahaz .
This is apparent in the fact that God sends a prophet with the true Word of God to him . Oh how God loves us when He does not withhold His word from us .
Remember too that Ahaz, the son of Jotham, was a son of David. Pekah of the Northern kingdom was not of the line of David. He murdered the previous king Pekahiah and seized the throne of Israel. He ruled 20 years before Hoshea the son of Elah killed him and took the throne from him (2 Kings 15). The point is that the Lord had no covenantal dealings with the kings of the Northern kingdom . Pekah was merely the son of Remaliah. In contrast to this, Ahaz could have rested in God’s promise, “… I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever” (2 Samuel 7:14).
Sadly, this king born into the Davidic line could not see that a great and mighty God was committed to fight his battles for David’s sake – for His own glory’s sake . Ahaz only saw these two immediate threats – these two earthly kings , who from God’s perspective were described as smoldering stubs - where the fire had died and all that was left was the smoke !
Ahaz should have been comforted by this message . He should not have been intimidated by their threatening words ( see v.6) ; he should have taken comfort in the Word of the Lord . He should have remembered the truth expressed in Isa 40 :15-17 : 15 Behold, the nations are like a drop from a bucket, and are accounted as the dust on the scales; behold, he takes up the coastlands like fine dust. 16 Lebanon would not suffice for fuel, nor are its beasts enough for a burnt offering. 17 All the nations are as nothing before him, they are accounted by him as less than nothing and emptiness.
Ahaz had to do nothing but to stand firm in His faith in the God of his father David . It was not a leap in the dark . It was a faith that was tested and tried by his many godly predecessors. Not to stand in faith in this situation would mean the downfall of the nation.
As it happened in the course of history , it was not only so that the Northern kingdom would be taken into captivity by the Assyrians in 722 BC , but that 150 years later the Southern kingdom would share the same fate , being taken into captivity by the Babylonians .
See how much God is for Ahaz !
Next week (D.V.) we will consider an incredibly generous offer from the LORD God to this spiritually weak king Ahaz . God says to Ahaz through the prophet “Ahaz , ask for a sign to prove that I am the faithful God that will protect you and sustain you …” ( 7:10) . We shall see that Ahaz fails to make an opportunity of this. And we shall see that despite his unbelief God Himself will give a sign – “Immanuel” to prove that He is the faithful God who will deliver His people from their trials and tribulations . But , as I said , that will be the subject matter for our next sermon on Communion Sunday , the 12th December 2010 .
Right now I want to conclude with some application .
This is the month and time of the year when we remember the birth of our Immanuel – the Living Word , who was given for our release from fear and anxiety – from darkness .
We too are currently living in a very fearful and anxious age . Many people are sick and stressed . In Jesus day , He saw that many were sick and distressed and demon oppressed . And like the woman who had a constant flow of blood and had exhausted her finances ( Mk 5:26) to find a cure to her ailment , people are harassed by all sorts of fears and emotional ailments leading to all sorts of psychosomatic diseases. They crowd the consultation rooms of the doctors and psychologists. They are religious like Ahaz . They go to church , but their demons of fear and anxiety remain .
And the main problem is this : They hear but do not understand ; they keep on seeing , but do not perceive …” ( Isa 6:9) . Like Ahaz and the people of His day they do not respond to the word of the Lord because they think more of their enemies than about the Lord .
They will not hear the Word of the Lord speaking into their fears . They do not want to believe these words from the Immanuel book, because they believe the false prophets , the false words around them more than this WORD .
Therefore they do not hear these words : ‘Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands…”
God is theory for them … their fears and existential anxieties are their realities!
Our generation is not firm in faith ! We know very little of what it means to live by faith . We may not be atheists , but we are practical atheists
We trust our purses and we pay for the opinions of secular life coaches , motivational speakers , psychologists , doctors to get rid of our fears and anxieties. We are pumped full of anti depressants and drugs and other stimulants. We cover our emptiness by pleasure seeking.
We are not a generation that listens to God . We accumulate for ourselves teachers to suit our own passions , and we easily turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths ( 2 Tim 4:3,4)
We are not committed worshippers . We do not work from the center of a God ordained , biblical fellowship. We do not disperse from the prayer meeting full of faith and power .
We are Ahaz’s . We do our own thing . We are intimidated by people and their opinions . God’s Word does not seem to touch us as it ought to .
Brothers and sisters : In every faithful sermon God calls us to faith and obedience ! But we are deaf and blind .
We need Immanuel to come and restore us . This whole passage begs for a divine solution . Thank God that He holds the key to our every crisis .
Turn with me now to Him in prayer .