Do You Take God at His Word? – Isaiah 7:1-14, 16
By Pastor Lee Hemen
January 26, 2014 AM
James had to lay off some workers, there was no other way for his store to survive but he refused. He told his accountant, “I know it makes good business sense to layoff some workers at the store; but I can’t. Take Fred, for instance, his wife is pregnant with their second child, and he needs this job. Fred cares about our customers, and I care about him. James’ accountant told him to do whatever he thought was best, but he did not see how they would survive. James Cash Penny responded, “We’ll find a way. We can trust God to get us through this tough time. God always has proven faithful, and I trust Him to help us again. Let’s pray now.” While this tale about JC Penny is fanciful, it reflects who the man was. After the 1929 stock crash, Penney lost virtually all his personal wealth, and borrowed against his life insurance policies to help the company meet its payroll. The financial setbacks took a toll on his health. Penney checked himself into the Battle Creek Sanitarium, where he was treated. After hearing the hymn “God Will Take Care of You” being sung at a service in the hospital’s chapel, Penney became a born-again Christian. He lived his life by taking God at His Word.
We all face times of fear when circumstances are beyond our control. Isaiah teaches us how we can trust God by taking Him at His Word. Let’s discover how…
During a dark time in Judah’s history, Isaiah encouraged King Ahaz to trust in God. When Ahaz refused, God provided the sign of Immanuel. He informed Ahaz his current enemies Syria and Israel soon would be destroyed by the greater enemy Assyria, who then would dominate Judah. Isaiah teaches us to take God at His Word when we are…
I. Facing fearful circumstances! (Vv. 7:1-2)
1. Ahaz, who ruled Judah from 735 to 715 B.C., faced a crisis brought on by the rise of the Assyrian Empire. Tiglath-pileser III became king of Assyria in 745 B.C. and immediately began to solidify and expand his empire. Rezin of Syria acknowledged Assyria’s dominance by paying tribute, but soon he began trying to break free. When Tiglath-pileser III turned his attention to rebellions in other sections of his empire, Rezin struck. He enlisted Israel (the Northern Kingdom), Edom, Philistia, and other small nations to join in an alliance against Assyria. He was hoping their combined strength could defeat Assyria and restore their independence. Of course, this was impossible due to the size and might of the Assyrian forces. However, Rezin urged Judah’s new king Ahaz to join but Ahaz refused. Rezin and Israel’s king Pekah joined together in an attack on Judah to force Judah to join their alliance. So, they “marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it.” Ahaz and his people faced fearful circumstances. As the alliance’s troops approached Jerusalem, terror seized Ahaz and the city’s inhabitants, “so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.” They had forgotten the admonishment of King David who sang, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” (Psalms 20:7 NIV) Like so many do in our day and age, they had begun to trust in themselves and look to their leaders for their personal deliverance instead of the Lord God. The object of David’s faith was the name of the Lord. God’s “name” is His nature, His reputation and character. David’s faith came from meditating and pondering on the known reputation of God. Ahaz had a choice to make, trust in God or trust in himself. We have the same choice as well when we face fearful circumstances. Yet, here in Scripture, Isaiah teaches us to take God at His Word when we are facing fearful circumstances!
EXAMPLE: Christians today often display a Sunday morning faith. They want to trust Jesus on their terms when they need Him and He should not muck up their lives in-between. We all want to trust God when times get tough, but it is during the good times we should show God just how much we truly trust Him. Crying out to God only when the enemy is at the gates or when the rope is short does not display our commitment or faith in God. We forget that often the tough times come because sin exists, we live in a sin-fallen world, and we may be paying the price of our poor choices. However, isn’t it great to realize that we can take God at His Word when we are facing fearful circumstances!
We do not face the peril Ahaz and the people of Jerusalem faced but the events of world history affect our lives just the same. We also face difficult decisions regarding our future. Loss of job, loss of health, family tragedy, and crime create fear and uncertainty. God has not promised to spare Christians from life’s difficulties, but He has promised to be with us and to help us move beyond loss to rebuild life. Isaiah teaches us to take God at His Word by…
II. Hearing the Lord’s promise! (Vv. 7:3-9)
1. God instructed Isaiah to “Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub, to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman’s Field.” This pool was a reservoir that held water from the Spring of Gihon near Jerusalem. Ahaz was there to inspect the city’s water supply in anticipation of an attack by Aram. Without a secure water system, a besieged city could survive only a few days. Ahaz was preparing for the worst. Isaiah’s son’s name means, “A remnant will return”. Isaiah counseled calmness. Isaiah compared Rezin and Pekah to dying embers in a fire. They had burned brightly for a time but now had almost burned out. Their alliance would not succeed. Ahaz could confidently ignore them and rule his kingdom. Ahaz was to “Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood!” Even though “Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son” had plotted Ahaz’s ruin, by saying, “Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.” Ahaz had nothing to fear, he could depend upon God’s promise! Isaiah was to remind Ahaz what the Sovereign Lord had spoken, “It will not take place, it will not happen, for the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is only Rezin. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people.” While they plotted to invade Judah and take its spoils of war, they would fail. Syria and Israel intended to conquer Judah and set up a puppet king who would submit to their control and fight against Assyria. But Isaiah brought a comforting word. Syria and Israel’s plans would not succeed. Within 65 years, God declared, Ephraim (the Northern kingdom) would be too shattered to exist as a people. Just 12 years after Isaiah’s prophecy, Assyria conquered and destroyed the capital city Samaria, effectively destroying the nation. In 670 BC, Assyria deported most of Ephraim’s population. Isaiah mockingly reminds Ahaz, “The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son.” And then warns him, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” God challenged Ahaz to believe what Isaiah was telling him. Isaiah teaches us to take God at His Word by hearing the Lord’s promise!
EXAMPLE: My father asked my brother, “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you follow?” Ed had to learn to trust in his father who loved him, not the voices of friends who did not have his best interests at heart. Isaiah employed a brilliant wordplay to guide Ahaz as he decided how to lead his nation. Using a word that means both to trust and to stand firm, Isaiah stated if Ahaz did not stand firm in his faith—trust God to keep His promise—He would not stand at all. Rezin and Pekah had made their decisions to rebel against God and Assyria based on political pressures and selfish dreams. They would suffer the consequences of their poor decisions. Ahaz had the opportunity to make the right choice based on trust in God. Isaiah teaches us to take God at His Word by hearing the Lord’s promise!
Do we take God at His Word, knowing His faithfulness in the past indicates He can be trusted concerning the present and future? Do we trust God’s promise to bring us through difficulties? Will we build our life on the shifting sand of self-satisfaction, fading fads, and empty promises? Isaiah teaches us to take God at His Word by…
III. Following the Lord’s command! (Vv. 7:10-14, 16)
1. Isaiah continued his conversation with Ahaz, providing him another opportunity to take the Lord at His Word. “Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, ‘Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.'” Usually we are not to test God by demanding something from Him, but here God asks Ahaz to do so! This is why Ahaz responds, “I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test.” God wanted Ahaz to ask Him so He could strengthen Ahaz’s faith. By not doing, what God had asked him to do immediately, Ahaz was trying God’s patience! God desired to give Ahaz a sign, Ahaz feigned piety to cover up his insecurity in God’s Word. Deuteronomy 6:16 states one should not test God; but that passage refers to rebellious people testing God, believing He can do nothing. God did offer signs to those who believed in Him to strengthen their faith. We can quote passages out of context and misuse God’s Word to support our lack of faith. Disobedience characterized Ahaz’s life. Isaiah bluntly tells Ahaz, “Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also?” Despite Ahaz’s refusal, God would provide a sign, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” The Messiah, the Salvation of Israel would come and Ahaz would eventually see the truth of God’s word, “But before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.” Ahaz ignored Isaiah’s words and God’s sign, choosing to trust in the military strength of a greater enemy to defeat lesser enemies. He and his nation would pay the price. We take God at His Word when we follow His command!
EXAMPLE: How do children learn to make good choices in life? Sometimes as parents, we can do everything we can possibly do to ensure our children grow up making the correct choices for their lives, but at some point, all good parents must allow their children to suffer the consequences of their poor choices. Most parents want to think their child would never lie, cheat, or steal; but given the opportunity, we all make either good or poor choices in our lives. When children are not held to a higher standard, they will often strive for the lowest bar set. This is why we find folks in society waiting for others to continually bail them out of the circumstances they have placed themselves. Growing up I knew when my father said “yes” he meant it just as firmly as if he had said “no”. I could trust my father’s word. As believers, we show our trust in God when we take Him at his Word and follow His command!
We take God at His Word when we face fearful circumstances, when we hear His promise, and when we follow His command!
This article is copyrighted © 2014 by Lee Hemen and is the sole property of Lee Hemen, and may not be used unless you quote the entire article and have my permission.