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The Sign - Part 1

Tom Pennington Isaiah 7:1-17


If the Lord wills, we will return in January to our study of Ephesians. But over the next three weeks, leading up to Christmas, I want us to examine together one of the most magnificent prophecies of our Lord's birth in all the Scripture - the prophecy that is found in Isaiah 7.

You're familiar, of course, with the heart of that passage. Isaiah 7:14 says, "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel." We often quote that verse, and we sing about it, as we have done just a few moments ago. But if we're honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we really have no idea of the context in which that prophecy is made. But God didn't just drop this amazing promise into the Bible at random. It has a biblical context. It has a historical context - a context that the Holy Spirit believed was very important. In fact, you cannot fully appreciate the depth and the richness of this prophecy without first understanding the circumstances in which it was given, and the person and people to whom it was given. That's what I would like for us to do, over our time the next several weeks.

Isaiah 7:14 is one of about 30 prophecies in the book of Isaiah that were fulfilled during our Lord's first advent, during His time here on earth. Thirty prophecies made some 730 years before His birth, all exactly and minutely fulfilled in the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

The passage that we want to examine, chapter 7, sits in the middle of a larger section that runs from chapter 6 through chapter 12. The theme of this section of Isaiah is that Israel's true hope will be found only in her messianic king - in the Messiah. In fact, this section has even been called by some The Book of Immanuel.

How does it fit into the larger context of Isaiah's prophecy? The entire book of Isaiah, the entire message of Isaiah, is that God will provide salvation to those who deserve His wrath. It's been called the Old Testament gospel.

And this salvation that Isaiah promises will come through a specific person. He's a somewhat mysterious figure in Isaiah's writings. He's called Immanuel. He's called the Servant of Yahweh. He's called the Anointed One, or in Hebrew, Hamashiach - the Messiah. But we first meet this person in Isaiah 7:14.

We need to back up to the beginning of the chapter to get the flow of its context. Chapter 7 opens in the midst of an extreme crisis in the nation. And it's in the darkness of that moment of crisis, that God promises (and a wicked king) to send a Savior. It's really a remarkable setting. We want to look at the entire section beginning in Isaiah 7:1 and running all the way down through verse 17. Now, when you look at that section, it easily divides into three parts or, since its narrative, we could say three scenes. There are three scene changes, if you will, as we flow through those 17 verses.

The first scene is found in verses 1 and 2. We could call scene one: man's desperate need of salvation. The second scene is verse 3-9. We could call scene two: God's gracious offer of salvation. The third scene begins in verse 10 and runs down through verse 17. And this scene is appropriately called the miraculous sign of salvation. And it's in this third scene, that we get to the prophecy itself, which we hope to look at in detail next week. But I want us to look at the first two scenes because they set the stage to understand what comes in verse 14.

The first scene we've called: man's desperate need of God's salvation. Look at verse 1. "Now it came about in the days of Ahaz, the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah..." Stop there for a moment. Now, I have to give you just a little bit of historical background for you to fully appreciate what's going on here. In one sense, I hesitate to do that because I don't want to lose some of you. On the other hand, it's imperative to understand this, to really understand what's going on here. So, stay with me for just a moment.

For 120 years, one king reigned over the entire nation of Israel - one king at a time. Three men, whose names are familiar to you - King Saul, King David, and King Solomon. Each one ruled over the entire nation of Israel and for 120 years there was, what we call, the United Monarchy. But after Solomon's death in 931 BC, Israel divided into two separate kingdoms. There were two tribes in the south, in the southern portion - Benjamin and Judah. It's usually called - this southern kingdom is usually called the South or Judah because Judah was the largest tribe of the two. Then in the north, was the kingdom of the realm of the other ten tribes. And the northern kingdom is variously called Samaria because that was the capital city eventually. Sometimes it's called the North. Sometimes it's called Ephraim because that was the biggest tribe of the ten. And sometimes it's simply called Israel because the bulk of the nation resided in the north - those 10 tribes. So, with two tribes in the south and ten in the north, this period of Israel's history is called the Divided Monarchy. One king in the North and one king in the South - separate kingdoms, separate lives, separate worship, separate in almost every way. It's in that period of Israel's history when Isaiah served as prophet in the South - to Judah, to those two tribes, where Jerusalem was. And that's where he begins his story.

So, verse 1 says that at this time in Israel's history, the king of the South was a man named Ahaz. Isaiah begins with Ahaz's lineage - his spiritual heritage, if you will, and it was a rich one. You see, during the life of the South (the southern kingdom), there were 19 kings and one queen. And out of those 20 rulers, only eight of them, by God's standards, were good. But this man Ahaz was extremely blessed because he followed two good ones. He came from two generations of genuine believers. His grandfather was a man named Uzziah and his father, a man named Jotham. And Kings tells us that both of these men did what was right in the eyes of the Lord.

So, Ahaz was born into a rich spiritual heritage, and he had great influences upon him, in his life and family. Maybe you, like I, have those same kind of rich privileges and influences. Ahaz did. But when he came to be king, at the ripe old age of 20, he decided to take a different path - a different path than what he had learned from home from his father and his grandfather. He wanted to be his own person. He wanted to make his own decisions.

He grew up in a very affluent time. His grandfather, Uzziah, had ruled for 50 years and under his rule, the nation had enjoyed greater prosperity than any time since Solomon. There was huge increase in military strength and might, as well as in personal wealth. And all of that produced in the people a proud sense of self-assurance and self-confidence. It led to moral corruption including drunkenness, and materialism, and a list of other sins that Isaiah addresses. It also led to political corruption and to social injustice and especially it led to spiritual idolatry. Sadly, tragically, Ahaz was far more influenced by the culture in which he lived, than by the godly heritage that he had known in his home. So, he made some tragic decisions.

Turn to 2 Chronicles 28, where the chronicler tells us exactly what these decisions were. 2 Chronicles 28:1. He says, "Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do right in the sight of the Lord as David his father had done. But he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel [in other words, in idolatry]; he also made molten images for the Baals." He supervised and promoted Baal worship.

Verse 3: "Moreover, he burned incense in the valley of Ben-hinnom and burned his sons in fire..." One of the gods that was worshipped by the Canaanites was Molech. And Molech was worshipped by offering your children in human sacrifice. And Ahaz, in spite of his heritage, in spite of what he knew, did exactly that.

Verse 4 says, "He sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, on the hills and under every green tree." It's hard to really appreciate the depravity that's in verse 4. You see, those high places where debauched places of religious prostitution and all kinds of debauchery and depravity. And he promoted those, and he indulged himself and was involved in all of that. That was the life of Ahaz.

Now, turn back to Isaiah 7. Isaiah 7:1 says, "Now it came about in the days of Ahaz... [The second half of the verse], that Rezin the king of Aram and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up to Jerusalem to wage war against it..." Again, get the historical setting. In the South we have Ahaz. In the north is a man named Pekah. And Pekah goes and makes a military alliance with Rezin the king of Aram. Aram is simply modern-day Syria. Imagine that! War in the Middle East. So, Rezin of Syria and Pekah of the North combined their forces and went against Jerusalem to wage war against it, but verse 1 adds: "but [they] could not conquer it." In other words, they attacked the city of Jerusalem, they laid it under siege, but they were unsuccessful at actually taking the city.

Now, if you really think for a moment and put yourself in Ahaz's shoes, the situation sounds desperately bad. But trust me, you don't begin to know how desperate his situation really was. Both Kings and Chronicles serve as sort of color commentators on this situation. In 2 Kings 15 we learn that Rezin and Pekah, these two kings, had combined and begun to harass Judah even before Ahaz took the throne. But once he took the throne, the situation went from bad to worse in a hurry.

Look back at 2 Chronicles 28 again. 2 Chronicles 28:5. Because of those terrible decisions Ahaz made, because of his sin, verse 5 of 2 Chronicles 28 says, "Wherefore, the Lord his God delivered him into the hand of the king of Aram; and they defeated him and carried away from him a great number of captives and brought them to Damascus. And he was also delivered into the hand of the king of Israel, who inflicted him with heavy casualties. For Pekah the son of Remaliah slew in Judah 120,000 in one day, all valiant men, because they had forsaken the Lord God of their fathers. Verse 7 tells us that the king's son died, the ruler of his house, and even the second in command. Verse 8: "The sons of Israel carried away captive of their brethren 200,000 women, sons and daughters; and they took also a great deal of spoil from them, and brought the spoil to Samaria." By a demonstration of God's grace, verse 9 says that there was a prophet in Samaria named Oded. And he urged them not to keep the Israelites as slaves, but to return them to the land (the 200,000) which they did.

But I want you to put yourself in Ahaz's sandals for a moment. Early in his reign, while he is still in his 20s having made these terrible decisions about his own personal life and worship, 2 kings with larger armies attacked his country and besieged the capital city in which he dwelled. 120,000 of his soldiers died in a single day's fighting. To put that in perspective, that's about the same number the US lost through the entirety of World War I. It was more than 30% of Judah's army. In addition to that, 200,000 women and children were initially taken as slaves. The ruler of his house had been killed. His second in command had died. And worst of all, even his own son had died in the conflict.

But that's not all. Look back at Isaiah 7:2: "When it was reported to the house of David, saying, 'The Arameans have camped in Ephraim'" ... Remember Ephraim is just another name for the 10 tribes in the north. This probably refers to a fresh offensive - a new offensive against Jerusalem. After the alliance had unsuccessfully put Jerusalem under siege, after they had killed 120,000 soldiers, after they had returned the captives and much of the spoil, they apparently have second thoughts. And they gather again, they reassemble in Israel, to come again at Judah. Verse 2 says, "When it was reported to the house of David, saying, 'The Arameans have camped in Ephraim,' his heart and the hearts of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake with the wind."

Why was this happening? Why was this happening to Ahaz and to Judah? Well, from the standpoint of human responsibility, we have to ask the question: Why are there wars? And James tells us. James 4:1 he says, "What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel." Ultimately, wars are often between nations doing exactly what individuals do. And, at their root, it's the pursuit of self-satisfaction and self-fulfillment and self-promotion. The leaders of these nations were responsible for these sins against God.

But from God's perspective - listen carefully - from God's perspective, this war was at the same time an act of His own judgment against Judah's sin. You remember the verse I read just a moment ago from 2 Chronicles 28: "Wherefore, the Lord his God delivered him into the hand of the king of Aram..." God clearly brought these circumstances against Ahaz and against Judah because of their sin. But at the same time - and this is how God always in wrath remembers mercy - at the same time, while this was a judgment on their sin, it was as well an act of God's grace. You say, "Grace? How could this be grace? Look at what's happened to this man and to his country? Where's grace in that?" This is how God often works. God often brings us to the bottom. He brings us to the end of the rope, to the end of ourselves, before we will look up. God has a way of bringing us to the end of our own resources as an expression of His grace. And that's exactly what He's doing with Ahaz and with Judah, because He intervenes in the midst of that terrible situation with a message of hope and a message of grace. He's got them where He wants them - at the very bottom where maybe they'll respond.

This is a pattern of God's. You see it in Psalm 107. Turn there for a moment. This is one of my favorite Psalms, perhaps yours as well. In Psalm 107 there are these four vignettes of people who find themselves in the most desperate of situations and God, from that, draws them to Himself. Look at Psalm 107:10. This is my favorite vignette. The Psalmist writes, "There were those who dwelt in darkness and in the shadow of death, / Prisoners in misery and chains..." Why? Verse 11: "Because they had rebelled against the words of God / And spurned the counsel of the Most High. Therefore He humbled their heart with labor; / They stumbled and there was none to help." God bringing men to the extremity of themselves, but it's His grace. Look at verse 13: "Then [once they find themselves at the very end of their resources, then] they cried out to the Lord in their trouble [and because our God is by nature a savior]; / He saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death / And broke their bands apart. Let them give thanks to the Lord for His lovingkindness, / And for His wonders to the sons of men! For He has shattered gates of bronze / And cut bars of iron asunder." The Psalmist reveals one simple fact about God, and that is, that He is by nature a savior, a rescuer. And He often brings people to the bottom so that they'll look to Him as savior.

That's where He brought Ahaz and the nation. No matter where you are, no matter who you are, your biography resembles Ahaz. The names, the events, the places are all different but we all naturally find ourselves like Ahaz - in desperate need of being rescued. Rescued from the mess we have made with our lives. Rescued from ourselves and our pride and our selfishness. Rescued from our slavery to sin and from the sinful habits that control and dominate our lives. But, most of all, we need to be rescued, God says, from God Himself.

You see our sin accumulates against us, wrath. Paul puts it like this: you are storing up wrath for yourselves for the day of judgment. At the end of that great third chapter of John, where we learned John 3:16, it ends like this: "He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God [the anger of God against his sin] abides on him." Paul says in Romans 5:9 - this is what we need to be saved from. He says, "having now been justified by His [Christ's] blood, we shall be saved [we'll be delivered, we'll be rescued] from the wrath of God through Him."

How could our need for rescue be any greater than that? Like Ahaz, we find ourselves in a desperate situation, an impossible situation. And with that, the curtain drops on the first scene. Man's desperate need of salvation.

We find the second scene in this drama in verses 3 through 9. We call it: God's gracious offer of salvation. Look at verse 3: "Then the Lord said to Isaiah, 'Go out now to meet Ahaz, you and your son Shear-jashub...'" He sends the prophet Isaiah and his son. And God sends them to meet Ahaz. Get the point here. Ahaz is not looking for God. Ahaz is not trying to find God's prophet. Ahaz is not wondering what God has to say. He's made his choice. He set his course, and he's not looking back. But God sends Isaiah to hunt down Ahaz. Isn't that the way it is with all of us? We were on our own path, doing our own thing, and God seeks us out. He sends his prophet.

At the end of verse 3 God tells Isaiah where he will find Ahaz. He says he's "at the end of the conduit of the upper pool, on the highway to the fuller's field..." It's an important note because it means that Ahaz was outside the city walls, preparing for the coming siege - the one he expected, according to verse 2. He's inspecting the water supply for the city. You see, it was from these pools on the west side of the city that the city of Jerusalem received its fresh water. They were vital to the city's survival when they were under siege. So, there by the upper pool, Isaiah finds Ahaz inspecting the water supply and shaking like a windblown leaf, because of the terror that has gripped his heart.

Now, notice the message of God's grace that he brings to Ahaz. We've already seen what kind of person Ahaz is. But notice what God tells Ahaz through his prophet. Verse 4: "[Isaiah here's what I want you to say to him] say to him, 'Take care and be calm, have no fear and do not be fainthearted because of these two stubs of smoldering firebrands, on account of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and the son of Remaliah..."

Take care. It's a very simple Hebrew word. It simply means "I want you to think carefully. I want you to think carefully about what you're planning to do." It's God's way of saying, "Don't act, Ahaz, without consulting Me." And be calm. That means "maintain an inner sense of tranquility, based on your confidence in Me." Take care and be calm. And Isaiah adds "have no fear and do not be fainthearted".

Now, think about that for a moment. Remove yourself from the biblical text and think about what Ahaz has just been commanded. On the face of it, it seems like an unreasonable request. What if you had been through what Ahaz has just been through? What if you're facing another siege like he's facing and the risk of losing his kingdom and his life, and God says, "Be calm. Don't worry! Don't fear! Don't be fainthearted!"?

It reminds me of the sign one of my roommates had on our wall in college that said, "If you can remain calm in a situation like this, you must not really understand the situation". How can you respond like God's commanding to respond to that kind of crisis? Very simply, you have to look at the situation through God's eyes. You have to see it from His perspective. From Ahaz's perspective, Rezin and Pekah were two powerful kings with large armies that, most likely, were going to ruin his life and his kingdom and put him to death.

How did they look to God? Notice how he describes them like "two stubs of smoldering firebrands". You know what a firebrand is? It's the stick that you use to stoke the campfire. And when you've used it, that end of the stick gets burnt and black. The wood gets charred. All the energy there has already been consumed. It may smolder a bit. It may give you a small burn if you touch it to you. You get a little smoke in your eyes, a little smoke in your lungs, but you can't get hurt badly from a firebrand. It cannot threaten your life. And that's how God viewed these two kings.

And then God goes on to explain what they're up to. What are they doing? Verse 5: "Because Aram, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has planned evil against you, saying, 'Let us go up against Judah and terrorize it, and make for ourselves a breach in its walls and set up [a puppet king] the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it'". What's going on here? Well, the world power of the time was the empire of Assyria. And these two kings, Pekah and Rezin, said, "Let's get together, form an alliance. Let's put a puppet king on the throne in Jerusalem that'll go in with us and together, we can all amass our armies and perhaps stand against Assyria." This was the plan.

E.J. Young, the commentator, writes, "We've heard the council of Syria. Let's now hear the council of the Sovereign One who alone has power to carry out His designs." Look at verse 7: "thus says the Lord God [Isaiah says, 'Let me tell you God's decision about this']: 'It shall not stand nor shall it come to pass.'" In fact, verse 8: "For the head of Aram is Damascus and the head of Damascus is Rezin (now within another 65 years Ephraim will be shattered, so that it is no longer a people), and the head of Ephraim is Samaria and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah." That is a Hebrew way of saying, "They're going to continue to be kings of their respective countries, but there's no way they're going to annex Judah and Jerusalem." Not going to happen! In fact, in 65 years, Ephraim (or the north, the 10 tribes in the north), in 65 years, they will cease to exist.

This is an incredible prophecy in and of itself because when Isaiah speaks this prophecy, it's about 734/735 BC. Twelve years later, in 722 BC, Assyria comes and takes many of the northern peoples captive. But the northern kingdom still existed, although a shadow of its former self. There were still Israelites living there in the land. But it was in 669 that an Assyrian king sent his own people back into the north, repopulated it, and settled it, and that's when it truly ceased to exist. And guess what? That was 65 years, to the year, of when Isaiah made this prophecy. It was at that point they became no longer a people.

What's God doing here? Through Isaiah, God was offering physical deliverance to Judah – physical deliverance from this alliance. But He was offering so much more. He was offering them spiritual rescue - spiritual salvation as well. Look back at verse 3: "Then the Lord said to Isaiah, 'Go out now to meet Ahaz, you and your son Shear-jashub.'" Now, that's an interesting command, isn't it? I mean, we can understand why God sent Isaiah. He had to deliver the message. But why did God send Isaiah's son? Son doesn't say anything. He doesn't contribute to the confrontation. Why?

Well, the answer, Isaiah gives us over in chapter 8. Isaiah 8:18. He says, "Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion." He's saying, "Listen. I and my children are signposts to spiritual realities." In what way? In their names. You see, Yahweh was preaching the gospel to Ahaz in the names of the two men that He sent. You know what Isaiah means? Isaiah means Yahweh is salvation. Yahweh saves. He rescues. He delivers. And Isaiah' son, Shear-jashub, literally means "a remnant will return". A remnant, a small number, will return. That's a play on words. On one hand, it means God is going to bring a small number of His people back from exile, back into the land. But there's another meaning. The word "return" is one of the Old Testament words for repentance. It's used most commonly for repentance, in fact. In other words, what his name means - Shear-jashub - his name means that there will be some, a small number, who will truly turn to God with all their hearts. So, when Isaiah and Shear-jashub meet Ahaz, God is reminding Ahaz - listen carefully. God, through their names, is reminding Ahaz of what he had learned from his father and from his grandfather. That if he will return to the Lord is God, if he will repent, Yahweh will save him and rescue him from his sins.

God was, in essence, extending an invitation to Ahaz and He does to us as well. Later in Isaiah's prophecy - turn to Isaiah 55. The classic invitation that Isaiah lays out - Isaiah 55:1. He says, "Ho! Every one who thirsts, come to the waters; / And you who have no money come, buy and eat. / Come, buy wine and milk / Without money and without cost." You know what he's saying? He's saying, "I've got an offer of true bread and true milk, that which truly sustains. And if you don't have any money, it's okay because no money is required to buy this. It's a free gift."

And then he presents the gospel in the clearest Old Testament terms, down in verse 6: "Seek the Lord while He may be found; / Call upon Him while He is near." That's a call for faith. Turn to God. Put your faith in Him. Seek Him. And then repentance (verse 7): "Let the wicked forsake his way / And the unrighteous man his thoughts [turn from what you know to be sin]; / And let him return to the Lord [there's our word. A remnant will return. Let him return to the Lord], / And He will have compassion on him, / And to our God, / For He will abundantly pardon." How should Ahaz and the people respond to this gracious message offering salvation? They should respond in faith and repentance, as we see here in Isaiah 55.

Turn back to Isaiah 7. Look at the end of verse 9. Here's how Isaiah puts it to Ahaz: "If you will not believe, you surely shall not last." That is, in essence, a command to believe. And it's addressed, not just to Ahaz, but it's addressed to the nation because, in the Hebrew text, the "you" is plural. "Not just you Ahaz, but all of you here in the court, and all of you nation of Israel, believe in the message of physical rescue that I've given to you. You will be rescued from these kings. And for all of us, believe in the message of spiritual rescue. Lean on it. Put your trust in God's trustworthiness. Ahaz, stake your kingdom on it. And for all of us, stake our lives upon it. And stake our eternity upon God's promises of salvation." That's what it means to believe.

And if you don't, notice what God says at the end of verse 9: "you surely shall not last." You know what God was saying to Ahaz and the people of Israel that time? "If you don't believe in My promise of physical rescue of your nation, then like the north you too will one day cease to exist" - which is exactly what happened. That was a crucial moment. That day, as Isaiah stood before Ahaz, it was a crucial moment in Israel's history. Kyle, the great Old Testament commentator, puts it like this: "In that very hour in which Isaiah was standing before Ahaz, the fate of Jerusalem was decided for more than 2000 years." If you will not believe, you will not last.

But there was also the spiritual side of that message. "If you don't believe, Ahaz, if you don't believe, Judah, if you don't believe, everyone, in My offer of spiritual rescue, then you will ultimately face My wrath. If you will not believe, then you will not last." It was really the gospel that Isaiah shared with Ahaz in that day, complete with the promise of the savior in verse 14.

How did Ahaz respond? We don't know what he said to Isaiah. It's not recorded for us here, but we do know how Ahaz responded. Turn back to 2 Chronicles 28. 2 Chronicles 28. Here's how he responded to that wonderful offer of salvation extended to him that day, in the moment of his extremity. Look at verse 16: "At that time [in the midst of that] King Ahaz sent to the kings of Assyria for help." He says, "No, God! No, Yahweh! I don't want Your rescue. I don't want Your help. I'm going to go find it on my own. I'm going to find it in the kings of Assyria, in the mighty world power that exists. You can't help me but they can."

Verse 19: "For the Lord humbled Judah because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had brought about a lack of restraint in Judah and was very unfaithful to the Lord. So Tilgath-pilneser king of Assyria came against him and afflicted him instead of strengthening him. Although Ahaz took a portion out of the house of the Lord and out of the palace of the king and of the princes, and gave it to the king of Assyria, it did not help him." He bribed him to come and rescue him. And he did for the time, but he didn't come to help Ahaz. He came to get what he wanted. Verse 21 says, "it did not help him".

Now, here's the indictment. Verse 22: "Now in the time of his distress [when God brought him to the end of himself, wanted him to look up and respond to the offer of salvation, in the time of his distress] this same King Ahaz became yet more unfaithful to the Lord. For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus which had defeated him [Syria!], and said, 'Because the gods of the kings of Aram [Syria] helped them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.' But they became the downfall of him and all Israel. Moreover, when Ahaz gathered together the utensils of the house of God, he cut the utensils of the house of God in pieces; and he closed the doors of the house of the Lord and made altars for himself in every corner of Jerusalem. In every city of Judah he made high places to burn incense to other gods [those wretched, debauched places of sexual sin], and provoked the Lord, the God of his fathers, to anger." That's how he responded. God graciously offered Ahaz his deliverance, his salvation. And Ahaz said, "No, thanks! I'm on my own."

You know in many ways, by nature, we resemble Ahaz and the people of Judah. Left to ourselves, we would ignore the rich spiritual heritage that some of us have. We would set out to choose our own path, to make our own way. We would worship the idols of our own heart or ourselves. With reckless abandon, we would pursue self-satisfaction and self-fulfillment and self-promotion.

But God, in His grace and mercy, doesn't leave us there. In an act of grace, God will often bring into our lives, desperate times. He will bring trouble into our lives to humble us, to bring us to the end of ourselves, so that we'll look up. And he gives us, in the moment of that darkness, a message of hope and a message of grace and a message of forgiveness and rescue, through His Son. Many of us have found ourselves, at that moment, that moment of decision. We face that moment that Ahaz faced that day. And by God's grace, we have responded to the good news of Christ by believing it.

But undoubtedly, there are some people here this morning, in this room, during this hour, who were facing again that moment of decision. Perhaps you faced it many times before as God, in grace, has confronted you with the gospel and with your sin. And He said, "I'll rescue you. Call out to Me."

As God played with Ahaz that day, through Isaiah, He is pleading with you today through Me and this message. Will you be part of the remnant, the few who turned to God? Will you return? Will you repent and seek God? Will you cry out to Him to rescue you from your sin? Or will you respond like Ahaz? The price is too high. The cost is too great. I'll solve it myself. I don't want to walk in the way of the spiritual heritage I have. I don't want to walk in the path of my parents or my grandparents. I want to live life my way. I plead with you today - don't make the same mistake Ahaz made. Don't be the shipwreck that he was. Don't come to the end and be lost forever. Cry out to God because God is, by nature, a savior. He delights in rescue.

I think it would be appropriate for us to end this study by turning to Isaiah's own words Isaiah 45. Listen to how Isaiah puts it, how God speaks through Isaiah. This is really God speaking in the mouth of Isaiah. Isaiah 45:20: "Gather yourselves and come; / Draw near together, you fugitives of the nations; [Now God isn't just speaking to Ahaz and He isn't just speaking to Judah. He's speaking to the whole world. He's speaking to you.] They have no knowledge, / Who carry about their wooden idol / And pray to a god who cannot save. Declare and set forth your case; / Indeed, let them consult together. / Who has announced this from of old? / Who has long since declared it? / Is it not I, the Lord [Yahweh]? / And there is no other God besides Me, / A righteous God and a Savior; / There is none except Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; / For I am God, and there is no other." That was the message, the invitation extended to Ahaz. And it's the invitation extended to you as well.

Next week we'll look at the third scene, the miraculous sign, and then we'll meet the Savior himself. Let's pray together.

Our Father, we thank You for this passage. We thank You for this encounter that You sovereignly intended Isaiah would have with Ahaz. Thank You for the powerful lesson it is to us of our own sinfulness. Lord, left to ourselves, we're all like Ahaz. His story is our story. But we thank You Father that You intervene in mercy, that You extend the wonderful offer of salvation and, by the power of Your Spirit, You draw us to Yourself and make us Your own. We have turned to You because You have drawn us. Father, we pray for those here this morning. Undoubtedly, there are a number here this morning, who are walking in the steps of Ahaz and will meet the same end. Father, may they respond even today to Your gracious offer of salvation, ultimately, accomplished in the Son that's promised even in this passage. Father may this be the day. We ask for the glory of Your Son and it's in His name we pray, Amen!