11 October 2007Isaiah 7:1-9
"If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all." (v.9)
At the time these verses refer to, the Assyrians had begun to
threaten the kingdoms of Israel and Judah with invasion - they had
already swallowed up several other territories. This is a time
somewhat earlier that the incidents described in the passages from
2 Kings that featured earlier this week.
King Ahaz of Judah thought that the best plan was to seek an alliance with Assyria, but the rulers of Israel (also called Ephraim) and Syria (also called Aram) saw this as treachery and so planned to depose Ahaz in order to install an anti-Assyrian puppet king in Judah to strengthen their resistance.
Isaiah found himself caught between his loyalty to Judah and his concern for Israel, because this northern kingdom was also historically part of God's 'chosen' people. Now he is given the task of taking a message of reassurance to Ahaz that God will not allow the coalition of Syria and Israel to defeat Judah.
It is significant that Isaiah is told to take his son with him, because the name of the son, Shear-jashub, has a special meaning which is 'a remnant shall return'. However, we can interpret this in two, almost opposite ways!
The positive interpretation is that, even if the kingdom eventually falls, a remnant of the people will one day return to rebuild the land. Subsequent history would seem to vindicate this view.
However the name could be seen as an omen of warning, only a remnant shall return - disaster looms and very few will survive! Similarly, the words of verse 9 contain both threat and promise.
What are the situations in which you are motivated by a threat? Which is the better way to persuade people to act in certain ways, the 'carrot' or the 'stick', or a bit of both?
Do you think of God acting in this way? In what circumstances?