“Israel is no stronger than its capital, Samaria. And Samaria is no stronger than its king, Pekah son of Remaliah. You do not believe me? If you want me to protect you, learn to believe what I say.” - Isaiah 7:9
When King David and his son, King Solomon, had passed away, their magnificent kingdom split in two—Israel to the north, and Judah to the south. During that period, the Assyrians became the dominant force in the region. To combat them, Israel formed an alliance with Aram (Syria). But Judah declined to go along and actually showed signs of siding with Assyria. This prompted Israel and Aram to attack Judah, but they were unable to capture Jerusalem. The inhabitants of Jerusalem “trembled with fear, just as trees shake in a storm” (Isa. 7:2). And with good reason, because the northern allies threatened to attack again, intent on capturing Jerusalem, overthrowing the king, and installing their own ruler.
Isaiah lived in Jerusalem, and he was instructed to go speak to Ahaz, the frightened king of Judah. He took with him his son, whose odd name (Shear-jashub) meant “a remnant shall return.” The boy’s name was a message of both good news and bad news. The good news was that whatever happened a remnant would survive. The bad news? It would be a remnant, and it would be returning!
The Lord gave Isaiah a message for Ahaz: “Tell him to stop worrying. Tell him he doesn’t need to fear the fierce anger of those two burned-out embers” (7:4). The embers in question were the king of Israel and the king of Aram, along with their forces. No doubt not worrying was easier said than done, but it was God’s message nevertheless. So King Ahaz was presented with two alternatives: He could seek a political solution to his predicament—a treaty with Assyria, which would frighten off the northern kings and preserve him from Assyrian attack. Or he could choose a spiritual solution and trust that the Lord would intervene on his behalf and protect Ahaz’s kingdom from harm.
Should he seek a political solution or a spiritual solution? Probably none of us is called to make such a decision about such an important matter—the fate of the state—but we do find ourselves in predicaments where a decision needs to be made. The choices often appear to be either to make a deal or to trust the Lord! Easy answers are usually not available in such situations. Yet there is one thing that we can learn from Ahaz’s predicament. The Lord told him through Isaiah, “If you want me to protect you, learn to believe what I say” (7:9). The key is knowing what the Lord is saying, or has said, about a situation. If there are clear instructions, do what God says. If he says “do nothing except trust me,” then that is the way to go. In other cases, God’s instruction may be to take a certain course of action.
Trusting God to act on our behalf may seem more heavenly-minded than of earthly use, but it does have the advantage of turning out right every time!
For Further Study: Isaiah 7:1-9