- The first young man has major struggles. He was raised in a Christian home and spiritually is fluctuating between bitterness against God and uncertainty if God really exists. Major struggles…. I can only pray for him because in the end he refused help….
- The other young man, Elton, was a delight. Ivan and Anne Oakes were honored to host him their home one night. He is 27, born to an alcoholic mother, raised in a foster home and is the primary care giver for his ailing foster mother because he is so grateful. (what a powerful story of the difference a foster parent can make). Elton is committed to the Lord Jesus Christ. Several of us got to hear his story at the Coffee Hour on Wed. and the Thurs Bible Study… he works with youth on the Yakima Reservation. He has a passion for Christ and showing others the better way, that you can be a member of the Yakima nation and a Christian. He got stuck in Sumas a few days because he was on a road trip with friends to visit other friends in Canada and he did not have proper documentation to get into Canada ~ he chose our church ramp to get out of the wind while he waited for them to return. I enjoyed so much spending a part of three days with him….
In between Uzziah and Ahaz is King Jotham. Jotham served as King before he was king for 13 years in place of Uzziah because Uzziah was struck with leprosy and sent away. Jotham served another 3 years after Uzziah died. Jotham lived a life of integrity and success. He rebuilt parts of the temple and wall of Jerusalem, also towns and military posts throughout Judah. (Jotham's story: 2 Kings 15:32-38; 2 Chron. 27). Sometimes steady successful responsible people don’t make the best stories….that’s Jotham…
Ahaz is the grandson of Uzziah a faithful King (but he was not perfect ~ prideful) and a steady father in Jotham. Yet Ahaz chose to turn away from God. Why? It does show faith is not inherited, children make their own decisions… I do not know why some people run to Jesus Christ and others run away.
Ahaz’s story is found in 2 Kings 16 and 2 Chron. 28, and Isaiah 7. Is. 7:1 begins, “When Ahaz, son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, was King of Judah….” I love the 2nd half of Is. 7:9 as a guiding principle to understand the story of Ahaz: “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” There is nothing more important than faith in God…. Ahaz’s story is one of rejecting God, only to find his world collapse on himself.
The crazy reality of Ahab that sums up the King’s life and decision making is found in 2 Chron. 28:22: “In his time of trouble King Ahaz became even more unfaithful to the Lord.” Why do some people reject God? Why do they run away? Why do they oppose Him? I don’t get it. God spoke to Ahaz through the prophet Isaiah, “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” Yet the Bible tells us, time after time, “In his time of trouble King Ahaz became even more unfaithful to the Lord.” You have a choice to run to God or away from him. Surrender to God or resist God! Ahaz chose to oppose God.
I don’t know why Ahaz opposed God, but Ahaz was warned and given a choice. The first verses of 2 Chron. 28 describe Ahaz’s character. WALK THRU 2 Chron. 28:1-4. Isaiah lays out the choice for the King and warns him of the consequences if he rejects God.: “If you do not stand firm in your faith you will not stand at all.” We are always given a choice!, accept or reject God. There are always consequences… Put up the map…
- READ 2 Chron. 28:5a. Rejection of God means a collapsing world. Chaos. Drama. Chaos is opposite of peace… (SIDENOTE: I learned Damascus is considered by many to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. Today it is the capital of Syria… Assad is the leader… the refugee crisis…Trump recently announced a pull out of troops in Syria…) Last week Chad showed how Uzziah expanded Judah, today it is about the collapsing territory of Judah…just as pride isolates… not standing firm in God causes us to stumble…
- The collapse continues: READ 2 Chron. 28:5b, 6… Pekah is the King of Israel. Israel is blue on the map…
- There is reprieve. God will not let Judah be completely destroyed. He still has his hand on the nation. Verses 7-8 describes how one of Israels solders from the tribe of Ephraiam captured 200,000 wives from Judah and children… 2 Chron. 28:9-15 says God sent a prophet to Israel and convinces them to send the wives and children back to Judah. It is ironic Israel is more faithful than Judah! Israel returns the captives and adds compassion: READ vv. 14-15…. Jericho on map…
- 2 Chron. 28:17 says Edom (yellow on map) also attacks Judah…
- 2 Chron. 28:18, the Philistines (in red on map) pile on Judah with more attacks…
Ahaz rejects God… A great contrast with one of his ancestor’s, King Jehoshaphat, when faced with crisis ended his prayer, “We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you.” (2 Chron. 20:12)
I don’t know why some people run to the Lord when troubles come and others run away. Ahaz digs in his heels and makes matters worse. Ahaz doesn’t turn to God, he turns to the King of Assyria (see top of map). as Ahaz’s world collapses, he panics. His solution: pay Assyria. READ 2 Kings 16:7-11. The rest of 2 Ki. 16 describes the price Ahaz pays as he turns away from God and adopts practices of the Assyrians.
2 Chron. 28:22-23 describes the same event with a bit more commentary: READ.
Isaiah 7 also enlarges the desperation of Ahaz. READ Is. 7:1… Is. 7:2 tells us Ahaz is afraid. READ. As is so common in the Bible, Is. 7:4 says, “Do not be afraid, do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood… (Assignment for some of you this week. When somebody makes you mad, I dare you to call them a smoldering stub of firewood… ) You know why the Bible tells us so often to not be afraid? Because it is so common!
Is. 7:7 emphasizes to Ahaz that in the long run Aram and Israel will not stand. They are nothing but a smoldering stub of firewood…. They may look imposing at the moment but they will burn out, READ Is. 7:7-9. The crisis of the moment is real, but faith in God means knowing there is a future of peace and wholeness beyond what we can see. This is the moment of decision for Ahaz. The command is clear: Keep faith in God.
Isaiah brings Ahaz to a decision. READ Is. 7:10-11… What is God saying to Ahaz: Look for me. Cry out for me. Search for me. Lift up your eyes. I am here. I will reveal myself. Give me a chance to show myself. Turn your heart to me. Even a spark of faith is enough. Later in the N.T. Jesus says faith the size of a mustard seed is enough. Ask for a sign!
Ahaz’s response: READ Is. 7:12. Why do some people seek the Lord, and other people resist? I can’t figure it out. I met two people this week with two opposite responses to God…. Clearly the Bible says when you are in fear, when you are feeling your world collapsing, when you don’t know which way to turn, to seek him. Look for him. Test him to show himself in some way…. Ahaz digs in his heels and becomes even more unfaithful to God as he completely rejects the Lord.
Isaiah goes on to speak one of the towering prophecies of the Bible. You hear Is. 7:14 every Christmas. Now you know the rest of the story ~ the story of Ahaz who refuses to seek God, as his world is collapsing he is confronted with a warning to Stand firm and he says I won’t do it… This mega-prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 is GRACE because God says you may not be asking for a sign, but I am going to give you a sign anyway, God’s revelation of himself is here even for those not seeking. READ Is. 7:13-14. Immanuel means God is with us. God speaks to us even when we are not asking. God reaches his hand down to those who reject him. God’s ultimate sign to a lost world is Jesus Christ, who was born of the virgin Mary. Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of the promise to David that the King of Kings would sit on the throne and bring salvation to all who give their heart to Him.
Is. 7 goes on to outline the results of rejecting God… the defeat of Israel and Amon by the hands of Assyria (Is. 7:17-8:4). I don’t know exactly how Ahaz understood the prophecy of a coming child born of a virgin, for the complete fulfillment did not come for another 700 years when Jesus Christ was born, but even in Ahaz’s lifetime….
- The prophecy should have been enough for him to have hope and expectation.
- The words were enough for him to put his faith in God to reveal a sign to him that God is faithful and he will provide an answer to bring salvation and peace.
- The words were enough for him to be able to understand that God is reaching out to us with his promises even when we reject him.
- The words of Isaiah were enough to understand that God is a God of Grace and will not give up on us.
- The prophecy is enough to know a choice needs to be made: accept or reject God.
I don’t know why some people run away from Christ and others run to him. That’s good because I am not God and so I cannot judge who will resist Christ and who will surrender to Him. Just as God gave a sign to Ahab even when he said he did not want a sign, so Jesus Christ is still waiting for those who seem to be rejecting him. When the world collapses, some run towards God and others run away. Yet the gift of Jesus Christ is for both. Those who seek him will find him. Those that reject him, as long as there is breath, God is not giving up on them and they may still, in time, turn to him…
Ahaz was unfaithful to God from beginning to end. His world collapsed. He was warned. “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” He was invited to seek God by looking for a sign. He refused. That does not have to be your story or anybody else, because God gave a sign anyway by sending Jesus Christ. When the enemy attacks you always have a choice: run away from God or run toward Him. Amen.