by Dr. Foster H. Shannon
“In the days of Ahaz [735-715 B.C.] the son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but they could not conquer it.” (Isaiah 7:1)
After the death of Solomon (931 B.C.), the nation of Israel was divided between south and north: Rehoboam succeeded his father as king of Judah and Jeroboam became king of the ten tribes (north), which kept the name of Israel. Frequently there were costly wars between the two kingdoms. Judah continued with the Temple and the system of worship that had been given to them by God. Jeroboam, being fearful of losing the allegiance of his people, lest they should go down to Jerusalem for worship, devised a new religion for the ten tribes of the north. The priests were no longer the descendants of Aaron; the Levites remained with Judah, so new sacred assistants were invented by Jeroboam along with religious practices contrary to the instructions given by God.
In Isaiah, chapter 7, we see Judah threatened by a frightening alliance from the north: Israel and Syria.
“The heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.” (Isaiah 7:2)
Today, we worry about the serious troubles and conflicts presently in Syria and Iraq. The powers and forces of evil seem to be overrunning a vital part of our earth. Our nation has experienced many wars from the Revolutionary War to the present conflicts in the mid-east and beyond. It is very easy to ask questions: Why does God allow this? Why doesn’t God do something about it?
The prophet, Isaiah assured the people of Judah that God would be their protector:
“Take heed, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint…” (Isaiah 7:4)
Through Isaiah, God tells Ahaz and his people that the attempted conquest of Jerusalem will fail and that in sixty-five years, the northern kingdom (Israel) will be no more.
Ahaz, and many of his people, had trouble believing in the reassurances of God. As a consequence, God told the people of Judah that they would have to deal with a much more devastating army (Assyria). The lesson is evident: in difficult times we are to trust in God, we are to stay with him. I am impressed by that passage in John’s gospel when Jesus had given his followers a tough message, and many of them departed from him (John 6:52-59). Jesus turned to his disciples and asked them if they would also go away. Peter said:
“Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)
I think that the message is that we are (fortunately) stuck with our God! When we see his blessings we are to rejoice and give thanks to him. When things go the wrong way for us, we are to trust in him all the more.
“Fear not, for I am with you, be not dismayed for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)
“Fear not, little flock, for it is you Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” (Luke 12:32)
“and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch themout of my hand.” (John 10:28)