Isaiah begins with his indictment of Judah's behavior and a prophesy of their future which is also a parallel to the end times. Then we flash back to read about his calling. Now we are back in his historical timeline with the kings of his time.
The chapter opens in regards to King Ahaz, king of Judah. This is the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah. Uzziah was a great king who regarded himself too highly and took credit for the blessings of the Lord. It cost him dearly and he spent the last part of his life in isolation while his son, Jotham was his co-regent on the throne.
But this does give us the timeline. Isaiah has his calling in the year Uzziah died, 740 B.C. So we know this comes much later.
In verse 1, the kings of Aram and Israel attacked the city of Jerusalem; but could not conquer it.
II Kings 16 and II Chronicles 28
For more information on the events in Isaiah, we flash back to II Kings. Uzziah has died, as has his son, Jotham, who both were considered "good" kings, even though they made big mistakes.
The King of Israel, Pekah, had been in power 17 years when Jotham's son, Ahaz, became king of Judah.
Ahaz was 20 years old. He reigned 16 years. He does not get credit for being good; but did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord. Ahaz followed after the way of Israel and even did the unthinkable and sacrificed his son to the god, Molech. He also sacrificed in the high places. II Chronicles adds that he made molten baal images and states that he burned sons, plural, not just his firstborn.
Verse 5 mirrors Isaiah in describing the kings of Aram and Israel coming against Ahaz. (Chapter 15 states that the Lord began to send them when Jotham died.)
II Chronicles describes heavy casualties suffered by Judah at the hands of Israel (Ephraim) and Aram, including many hauled off as captives, as well as spoils. Kings and Isaiah emphasize that the walls of Jerusalem held; but these must have been the surrounding area.
II Chronicles adds a really interesting story not covered in Kings or Isaiah. When the soldiers approached home with their captives and spoils, a lesser known prophet named Oded met them on the road and told them that they won the battle because God was punishing Judah; but taking the captives was too far and God was now enraged with Israel. Some leaders in Israel took heed and clothed and treated the captives and returned them to Jericho, along with the spoils.
Then Ahaz sends word to Assyria and begs the king of Assyria to save him, rather than crying out to the Lord. Along with the request, he cleaned out the Temple gold and silver , as well as the treasury in the King's house.
All of that blessing. All of that provision. Given to the enemy.
I really hate to think about how often I have done this. And probably still do this in some areas of my life (food).
When we spend money on the things of the world trying to find the joy, peace, and love provided by the Lord; this is exactly the same as Ahaz trying to buy his way out of something God wanted to fix for him for free.
What an amazing cautionary tale for all of us. If we're worshiping the wrong god and seeking help from the enemy, our story isn't going to end well.
So the king of Assyrian agreed to Ahaz's bargain and send troops to defeat Damascus, carry off its people, and kill King Rezin. It must have looked like a pretty wise deal for a minute.
Ahaz goes to meet the king of Assyria in Damascus and sees an altar there he wants to copy. He sends the specs back to his priest to copy it. Then when he got back to Jerusalem, he made a sacrifice on his new altar. Then he brought out the Lord's Temple altar and his new altar and placed them near each other with instructions on how to sacrifice on both of them.
In the Wiersbe commentary, Be Distinct, he points out that "remodeling" still happens in the church and in our personal Temples today. We see something in the world we like and try and shoehorn it in next to the altar God has given us for His design. We bring in a second altar and think the Lord will appreciate our sacrifices from the world; but as He informed Saul, He wants our obedience, not our creativity in mixing our will and design with His.
Then he dismantle the baths the priests used to be clean before entering the Temple. He did all of these things to find additional funds to pay additional tribute to the King of Assyria.
Then he died and his son, Hezekiah, became King of Judah.
Back to Isaiah 7
Well, that was depressing.
His patience with us really is inconceivable. His faithfulness is only due to His grace. We do not deserve that kind of grace. It's so easy to see how appalling Ahaz's behavior was. But it's pretty easy to see the same sins in my own life. I really want to remember the image of all that he gave away to the King of Assyria that wasn't his to give. It had been a blessing from the Lord to His people.
And now we're going to find out it's even worse than the II King version appears because we find out that the Lord was openly willing to fight and win the battle for free.
In verse 2 of Isaiah 7, we learn that the king and all the people were shaking with fear from the attack of Aram and Israel.
The Ryrie Study Bible footnote says that the reason for the attack was that Israel and Aram were ready to try to brush off the Assyrian rule and wanted to conscribe Judah into helping, even if that meant overthrowning Judah and placing a puppet king on the throne.
In verse 3, the Lord sends Isaiah to meet Ahaz and Isaiah's son with a message. (Isaiah's son's name was Shear-jashub, which means "a remnant shall return".)
Isaiah tells Ahaz to be calm and not fear. He lays out the plot by the kings of Aram and Israel to breach the walls and set up the new king. Then the Lord assures Ahaz, via Isaiah, that this will not come to pass.
However, in verse 9 He does make it clear that although that scenario wouldn't come to pass, if Ahaz didn't believe in the Lord, he would not be established.
Then the Lord makes an amazing and extremely rare offer- ask anything from me as a sign and I will prove myself to you.
Ahaz decides to get cute with God and replies with the biblical command that he will not test God. It reminds me of the Pharisees who try to tell God what He can and cannot do. He refused help from God because he thought he had all the help he needed from Assyria--which cost him every bit of wealth and the furniture required by God for the priests to enter the Temple and communicate with Him.
In verse 13, after Ahaz's refusal, Isaiah broadened his message to the whole House of David.
Isaiah replies that God will provide a sign of His own choosing. A virgin (or chaste maiden) will have a child named Immanuel (God with us.)
Both the Ryrie footnote and the Wiersbe commentary state that the "virgin" was an unwed, chaste woman who became Isaiah's second wife and bore him a son. This son lived amidst the people as a reminder that the Lord was with the people of Judah. Wiersbe quote Isaiah 8:18 as the verse that Isiah and his sons were a sign to the people.
It goes on to say that this son will eat curds and honey. The Ryrie footnote explains that these are foods of nomadic people-which is a way of describing the devastation facing the people of Judah that is coming.
This boy will also know to refuse evil and choose good.
Verse 17 promises the Lord will bring on Ahaz's house devastation to rival the split in the kingdom.
Verses 18-20 includes symbolism about a fly from Egypt and a bee from Assyria overrunning every bit of Judah; and a razor shaving all the hair from Judah.
The Ryrie footnote explains this as the war between Egypt and Assyria in 701; and Assyria hired to be the razor. (Ahaz does hire Assyria to be the razor of Damascus.)
Verses 21-25 describe a poor, devastated, and desolate land of Judah.
Wiersbe points out that this devastation to the land came to Judah at the hands of Assyria, who left only herding and wild animals as food. So although it seemed like Ahaz bet and won playing the Assyrian hand...it was not the long-term victory his people needed. That only comes from the Lord.
I think the conclusions for these chapters are clear. My help comes from the Lord, Maker of heaven and earth.
My helps come from the earth and the results are (at best) good in the short run and wildly devastating in the long run.
Lord-I believe. Please help me with my unbelief. May I rely on You, Your wisdom, Your prompting, and Your outcomes. You are my Creator, my High Ground and Rear Guard. But mostly, You are the lord of the Universe and Your plans are perfect. May I submit to you in full obedience for Your Name's sake alone. Amen.
It occurred to me, upon rereading my post, that I failed to mention the obvious...Immanuel, God with us, ultimately prophesized Jesus the Christ. The Son who made a way for all of us to return to the Lord. Born of a virgin, Son of David, Lord and Savior. May we overflow with gratitude to our Lord.