14. Don’t be Afraid

MEDITATIONS IN ISAIAH – No.14

Isa 7:4 Say to him, `Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood–because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah.

Have you ever had circumstances conspire against you and you realise you are facing a most difficult time of life, and some bright character comes along and says, don’t be afraid, you’re a Christian, the Lord is with you? It is natural to be afraid in such circumstances and you can only overcome that fear by revelation from the Lord. We won’t overcome it by pretending it is not there and, in fact, we need to confront it with the Lord’s help.

In chapter 7 of Isaiah we move on at least sixteen years to when Ahaz is king of Judah, following his father Jotham (who had reigned sixteen years after Uzziah). Now when we look up Ahaz in 2 Chronicles we don’t find a very good picture painted of him: Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. Unlike David his father, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD. He walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and also made cast idols for worshiping the Baals. He burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and sacrificed his sons in the fire, following the detestable ways of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree.” (2 Chron 28:1-4). Now I include that lengthy description to try and catch something of the awfulness of this man’s testimony.

Now what is therefore surprising is the good way God comes to his aid at this time. Let’s look at what happened. When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it.” (7:1) Armies from Aram and Israel march south to conquer Jerusalem. War has always been one of the effects of sin in mankind and at this point of history, Judah and Jerusalem get the attention of these two armies who want to impose their will on the south. It is as simple as that – or is it. As part of the covenant blessings that God had declared over Israel in response to their obedience, we find, “The LORD will grant that the enemies who rise up against you will be defeated before you. They will come at you from one direction but flee from you in seven.” (Deut 28:7) That wording seems to suggest that for no reason (other than sin) there would come from time to time, opposition against the people of God. The blessing, though, promised victory and for the moment, these two kings seem unable to overcome Jerusalem.

However when these two armies came, the word came ahead, Aram has allied itself with Ephraim”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.” (7:2). Ephraim was shorthand for the northern kingdom, Israel. So the word came that they were going to be attacked by these two ‘nations’ from the north, and that left them seriously worried. But then we find the Lord intervening; “Then the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub, to meet Ahaz.” (7:3). Now it is significant that the Lord tells Isaiah to go and meet the king and to take his son along. In Scripture, Hebrew names often had a significant meaning and the meaning of Shear-Jashub you will find from the footnote in your Bible is “a remnant will return.” Whatever would happen to Judah in the coming years, Isaiah’s son was to be a constant reminder that God would always save the faithful remnant.

But the Lord sends him with a message: “Say to him, `Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood–because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah.” (7:4) THAT is a word of encouragement! Look at it: “Be careful.” It is easy to lose our sense of peace if we lose focus and lose contact with God. Oh no, be careful to make sure that doesn’t happen. “Keep calm.” In other words, there is no need to panic; it’s all right. “Don’t be afraid”. Fear comes from a sense of being along and facing an overwhelming invader but, actually, you don’t have to be afraid because you are God’s people and God is with you. “Do not lose heart”. To lose heart means to feel weak and inadequate. Yes, we the people of God may be that, but God isn’t! So hold on to the truth, our God is for us and with us.

So, all right, Israel and Aram have plotted your downfall (v.5,6), but listen to what the truth is: Yet this is what the Sovereign LORD says: ‘It will not take place, it will not happen,’” (v.7). Wow! If God says that, then indeed there is no need to worry – but can you believe it? That is the whole point. Can you believe God? Is your knowledge of His history as seen in the Bible sufficient to bring you total confidence in Him? He tells of Israel’s limited future (v.8) and then brings a final warning: “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” (v.9b) This word from God does require a response of faith. It should produce a thankfulness in Ahaz, a sense of God’s goodness and love for them which will draw this king closer to the Lord.

Yes, we’ve seen what Ahaz turned out to be but that was not because of the Lord. The Lord had reached out and sought to draw him in love into a relationship with Him, but Ahaz wouldn’t have anything of it. He was stupid. That is the only way to describe someone who clearly has God on his side and has been promised security, IF he will only believe it – but he didn’t. He ends up in false worship even sacrificing his own sons. How terrible and what a waste! Here we’ve seen the Lord in His love reaching out to Ahaz but he submits to the folly of sin instead. How crazy! Let it be a lesson for us.

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