Today is the Fourth Sunday of Advent. I am preaching a series of messages during Advent on the Old Testament Scripture Readings that I am calling, “Advent in Isaiah.”
After the death of King Solomon, his son Rehoboam became king. However, he was unable to retain leadership of the north, and the kingdom divided into two kingdoms, Israel in the north, and Judah in the south, in 922 BC. Only two of the twelve tribes of Jacob, the southern kingdom of Judah, remained loyal to the throne of David.
Almost 200 years later, God called Isaiah to be his prophet “in the year that King Uzziah died” (Isaiah 6:1). That was about 740 BC. By the time we get to Isaiah 7, our text for today, it was 735 BC, and a major crisis was developing. The vaunted Assyrian Empire was flexing its muscles and was conquering many nations on its way to battle Egypt. Israel in the north and Judah in the south stood in the way of the Assyrians, and they were in danger of being overrun.
God sent Isaiah to speak to King Ahaz of Judah to encourage him to trust God even though circumstances may have seemed hopeless and discouraging to him.
Let’s read about the sign of Immanuel in Isaiah 7:1-17:
1 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. 2 When the house of David was told, “Syria is in league with Ephraim,” the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.
3 And the Lord said to Isaiah, “Go out to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer’s Field. 4 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.’ ”
10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15 He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. 17 The Lord will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah – the king of Assyria!” (Isaiah 7:1-17)