Damariscotta Baptist Church
Thursday, May 24, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

04/15/18 Sermon - Stand Firm

“Stand Firm”

Isaiah 7:1-9


We are beginning a new section of the book of Isaiah. The first five chapters described the people that lived in Judah and Jerusalem. Isaiah told us about the problems in their nation, in their religion, and in their society, which ultimately resulted in punishment from God. Chapter 6 was a transitional chapter, it answered the questions implicit in the first five chapters and also works as an opening chapter for this new section, chapters 7-12, as well as for this entire division of chapters 7-39.


The theme for this division is:

“Trust in God” instead of human nations.


Isaiah has been called to prophesy the vision God gave him to a nation that has stopped looking at Yahweh as their King.

Isaiah was to tell the people of Judah and Jerusalem that they needed to put their trust back in their God, the Holy One of Israel. Isaiah was trying to relay the message that if the Israelites could get a vision of God,


that revealed He was great enough and wise enough and capable enough to be trusted,


then there would be hope for them as a nation.


Isaiah was faithful at proclaiming the message, but unfortunately, the message fell on deaf ears and blind eyes. And although those to whom he was speaking did not benefit from his prophecy, those of us in later history are beneficiaries of his faithfulness to God’s message.


Today’s passage presents Isaiah’s call for trust. The chapter begins with the nation of Israel and Syria combining to attack Judah. The king of Judah at the time was King Ahaz and he was a wicked king.

He worshipped other gods and in 2 Kings 16 you can read where he sacrificed his own son to Molech, a god of the Ammonites. King Ahaz did manage to have a good son, named Hezekiah, who was one of the few good kings of Judah.


At this time, Rezin, the king of Syria and Pekah, the king of Israel had created an alliance and attempted an unsuccessful attack on Jerusalem, which is described in 2 Kings 16.  This particular attack may have been unsuccessful but the war against Judah had caused severe damage. 2 Chronicles 28:5 & 6 documents the damage: the Syrian army carried away a great multitude of them as captives. For Pekah the son of Remaliah killed one hundred and twenty thousand in Judah in one day, all valiant men, because they had forsaken the LORD God of their fathers. Judah had been devastated. The combined armies were on their way to Jerusalem and things didn’t look good. King Ahaz was challenged to trust God when things were bad, and it looked like soon, all would be lost.

(PAUSE)


Where is our Isaiah? The Person who reminds us to trust in God when things look bad and we think soon all will be lost?

Would that each of us would have someone in our lives that we could trust who would tell us when we are walking away from what God wants for us and calls us back to trust in God.


Or are we like Ahaz? For as we read next, even though King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel had marched against Ahaz, they did not prevail. Isaiah is telling us the results of the prophecy, before he even gives the prophecy. This is one of the frustrating facts of Hebrew Scripture. They have no problem presenting history out of chronological order.



If we go to 2 Kings 16:7-9 we read that Ahaz was saved from this attack because he entered into a ungodly alliance with Tiglath-Pileser, king of Assyria, and even paid T-P off with silver and gold that he found in the house of the LORD.  If you continue to read in 2 Kings you will discover that while on his trip to Damascus, Ahaz saw the pagan altars and places of sacrifices and he liked them so much, he returned to Jerusalem and remodeled the temple of the LORD in the pattern of the pagan temple in Damascus. Ahaz is the epitome of someone with power who chooses to enter an alliance with someone of an ungodly reputation for a “good”reason and in doing so, becomes corrupted in the process. In verse 2 we read, the heart of King Ahaz and the hearts of his people were moved as the trees of the woods are moved with the wind. Instead of putting trust in God, Ahaz and his people react with fear. They took matters into their own hands and thought they knew how to make things happen the way they wanted them to.


Notice that the people of Judah are now the people of Ahaz not the people of the LORD. God was not shaken or frightened by the threat of this attack. Had the king of Judah and the people of Judah put their trust in God instead of an earthly king, they too would have had the peace of God in this conflict.  


God told Isaiah to take his son Shear-Jashub, with him to meet Ahaz, as a walking object lesson, because Shear-Jashub means, “A Remnant Shall Return.” We have a fairly detailed description of where Isaiah is to meet Ahaz, at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman’s Field, only to show that this event happened to real people, at a real time, in a real place. This isn’t a fairy tale, but a real story. And what Isaiah was to tell Ahaz, stands the test of time.


V. 4  Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood -


You will find this verse on a slip of paper in your bulletin. Take it home, memorize it. Place it somewhere you can read it when you need to pay attention, (be careful), when you need to stop talking about the problem (keep calm), when you need to trust in God (don’t be afraid) and need to take courage in the LORD (do not lose heart).

There have been and will be, times when calamity and devastation seem to take over our lives and we stop trusting in God, we begin to think, “Why am I in this mess at all? Why should I trust in God? Isn’t He the one who allowed this mess to happen? Whenever we start to think like Ahaz, we need to read Isaiah’s words from God.

(PAUSE)

Why was it so hard for Ahaz to follow Isaiah’s prophetic words?


Because Ahaz didn’t see the situation the same way the LORD saw it. From God’s point of view, those attacking were like smoldering logs, smoke, no fire. Ahaz saw them as a terrible threat.

In fact, Isaiah’s prophecy continues to say that the plans of the king of Syria and the king of Israel of attacking Jerusalem, defeating the capital of Judah, disposing of Ahaz and setting up their own king was not going to happen. God was letting Ahaz know that these nations being led by two ungodly men, were not going to take over Jerusalem, it was God’s promise.


Then, Isaiah calls Ahaz to trust in the LORD and in His promise. He says at the end of verse 9,

“If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.”

Now mind you, should Ahaz not stand firm in his faith, it would not affect the outcome of this attack against Jerusalem. Because God had already stated this attack was not going to work. No, should Ahaz not stand firm in his faith, the effect would be on the course of Ahaz’s life and reign as king.


As it happened………..I will tell you the ‘rest of the story.’

Ahaz did not believe. He did not put his trust in the LORD, but instead Ahaz put his trust in the king of Assyria. Jerusalem was spared, just as the prophet had said, and you can bet, Ahaz believed he was successful because his plan worked. But Ahaz did not take into account, that by not standing firm in his faith, it did not cost him this battle, but it did cost him a blessing. Instead, Ahaz received what he earned, a battle won, but the cost was he was not personally blessed.


How different are we at times than Ahaz and his people? We get into predicaments, we don’t have an answer, at least not right away, and we become afraid. And it is during that emotional state of fear, that we start to look for a quick fix to the problem. We entertain answers to our problems, that were we not afraid, we wouldn’t have given the time of day. Rather than trust in God, we go for the quick answer and end up losing.

If only we would heed the word of the LORD Isaiah spoke to Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct from the upper pool, on the highway to the  Fuller’s Field,


Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart…


If only we would stand firm in our faith….

So that we can experience the blessings.


Let’s pray.