The story of King Ahaz, the Syrian threat versus the Assyrian hope, the Immanuel promise, and the names of Isaiah’s sons all point to one amazing truth: This suffering world is the venue for sorting people both by their deeds and by God-given faith.
King Ahaz has an amazing opportunity. He meets with Isaiah not only to hear the direct word from God, but also to respond. As Joshua had commanded the people, “choose this day whom you will serve,” Ahaz is given hope and a choice. Isaiah’s son Shear-jashub comes with him to the meeting, his very name that of hope: “a remnant shall return.”
Isaiah presents to Ahaz an opportunity to prove his mettle. Pleasure and peace or war.
“Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two…” (v4).
We hear echoes of Moses and Joshua speaking to trembling Israel.
“Do not be dismayed or discouraged for the Lord is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
God recognizes the enemies are fearsome:
“two smoldering stumps of firebrands…fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah…. Syria has devised evil against you” (v4).
In spite of this God presents Ahaz with a great opportunity to throw in his hope onto God’s side. This is his only opportunity for success.
“If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all” (v9).
Then King Ahaz is given the option of choosing proof. Like with Gideon, God condescends to strengthen the faith of Ahaz with a sign of God’s presence.
“Let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven” (v10).
How many of us would love such an opportunity for divine proof? Yet Ahaz declines.
So God gives a promise that will come about in double-time:
“Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (v14).
The child will be named “God with us.” Can you hear Handel’s version of this playing in your head?
The immediate fulfillment of this proof happens in the next chapter, but with a twist. God tells all the signs of sorrow and suffering that will come upon Israel, with Sheer-jashub standing right there. To the hope of the remnant is added the hope of God with us.
What will Ahaz do? His decision is our decision. His choice pushes us to look inwardly. What would I have done? What do I do in my desperate times?
Ahaz is being sifted, shaken, stirred. How does he come out in the face of suffering? Ahaz chooses to put his faith in Assyria. This nation promises to help Israel against Rezin and Syria, but Israel has not considered the dear cost.