Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Isaiah 7: 5-9

Because Aram, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has planned evil against you, saying, “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,”  
thus says the Lord God: “It shall not stand nor shall it come to pass.  
For the head of Aram is Damascus and the head of Damascus is Rezin (now within another 65 years Ephraim will be shattered, so that it is no longer a people),
and the head of Ephraim is Samaria and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. 
If you will not believe, you surely shall not last.”’”

You may wish to review last week's post if last week's names have escaped you. We'll be picking up our story of the pending war against Jerusalem in Isaiah, Chapter 7, right where we left it. In fact, God reviews the story for us in verses 5 and 6. Aram [Syria, under Rezin] and Israel [Ephraim--10 Northern tribes of Israel, under Pekah] have joined forces to launch an attack on Judah--all to strengthen themselves against the mighty presence of King Tilgeth-Pileser of Assyria.

A new piece of information that was not in last week's passage is the last part of verse 6: "...and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it." It is unclear if Tabeel resided in Aram or Ephraim, but the son of this man is the allied invaders' choice to place in the throne after Ahaz is deposed. Interestingly enough, Tabeel means "God is good" in Hebrew.

And God says, "It ain't happenin'!"

Not only does Judah's King Ahaz hear that he should not fear or be fainthearted, but the plans of these opposing kings will not go forward. God tells him so.

"Why are the nations in an uproar
And the peoples devising a vain thing?
The kings of the earth take their stand
And the rulers take counsel together
Against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying,
'Let us tear their fetters apart
And cast away their cords from us!'
He who sits in the heavens laughs,
The Lord scoffs at them."
--Psalm 2: 1-4

Beyond His affirmation, He explains to Ahaz that He has determined the boundaries for Rezin and Pekah, and they do not extend beyond the turf they already have. "The head of Aram is Damascus [capital city] and the head of Damascus is Rezin...," (vs 8) "...and the head of Ephraim is Samaria [capital city] and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah [Pekah]." (vs 9)

"...As God has appointed men the bounds of their habitation (Acts 17:26), so he has appointed princes the bounds of their dominion, within which they ought to confine themselves, and not encroach upon their neighbours’ rights."
--Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible

Not to mention that there is judgment coming down on Israel that will have a major influence on such plans. The prophet Amos foretold Israel's collapse at God's hand after their rampant idol worship. ("Since Israel is stubborn like a stubborn heifer, can the Lord now pasture them like a lamb in a large field? Ephraim is joined to idols; let him alone."--Amos 4:16 and 17) Isaiah says that within 65 years, "Ephraim will be shattered...." (vs 8) Although there is some confusion as to whether that is a solid 65 years and from what point in time it begins, the prophets' words would prove true, and collapse did occur. Assyria swoops in to take the Israelites to captivity in 722 B.C., replacing the land with foreigners.

"The king of Assyria brought men from Babylon and from Cuthah and from Avva and from Hamath and Sepharvaim, and settled them in the cities of Samaria in place of the sons of Israel. So they possessed Samaria and lived in its cities."
--II Kings 17:24

For me, the most powerful line of today's passage comes in the second half of verse 9: "If you will not believe, you surely shall not last." God was speaking of all of Judah, but, He also was cutting straight to Ahaz's heart with this statement. Even with all of the good word Isaiah had given to the king, God knew that he wasn't going to take what He said without some thought. God knew the faith block to Ahaz's heart stood strong, yet he offered the king the opportunity for relationship, even as He was offering him and God's people safety.

Even if he had trouble accepting God's word straightaway, would Ahaz consider his plight through the example of King Jehoshaphat--8 kings of Judah before him--who faced a similar situation? With Moabites, Ammonites and Edomites all threatening, Jehoshaphat expressed fear, but "turned his attention to seek the Lord, and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah." (vs 3, from II Chronicles 20, the chapter from which all of the following quotes are taken.) He led the people in prayer: "For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” (vs 12b)

The Lord responded to Jehoshaphat's faithfulness and prayerful response saying that Judah did not need to fear, "for the battle is not yours but God’s." (vs 15) The king then turned to the people, saying, "Listen to me, O Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem, put your trust in the Lord your God and you will be established. Put your trust in His prophets and succeed.” (vs 20) God then set ambushes which caused the enemies to destroy themselves, leaving nothing but corpses by the time the forces of Judah had come forward to attack.

King Ahaz had the opportunity to keep the people of Judah "established" where they were, to bring success in His trusting of God's word through His prophet. He had been told how the "smoldering firebrands" would not leave their ashen mark upon him, the people or the land. Did Ahaz believe? How did Ahaz respond?

"Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;
Take warning, O judges of the earth.
Worship the Lord with reverence
And rejoice with trembling. 
Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,
For His wrath may soon be kindled.
How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!"
--Psalm 2: 10-12

We'll find out next week. (Doh! Sorry, I know, another cliff-hanger!)

"The Child Immanuel"--Ahaz's response brings one of Isaiah's most important prophecies to the surface.... 'Til next Wednesday!


* * *

Next week: Isaiah 7: 10-16

Note: I read from the New American Standard Bible translation,
specifically, The MacArthur Study Bible (NASB).
I will quote other sources if used in a post.

I also use
Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible
(with notes from the King James Version).