I. An Alliance that Incited Fear.

A. In the days of Ahaz. Ahaz succeeded Jotham, who “did what was right in the sight of the Lord,” and “prepared his ways before the Lord his God” (2 Chronicles 27: 2, 6). The reign of Jotham is described in 2 Kings 15:32-38 and 2 Chronicles 27:1-9. Apparently, Isaiah gave no written prophecy during these years. He was allowed to speak freely by Jotham.

  1. Ahaz did not do what was right but followed the ways of the kings of Israel and even offered his children in the fire. He followed the ways neither of Uzziah nor Jotham but completely capitulated to the culture around him and did the “abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel” (2 Chronicles 28:1-4)
  2. Syria and Israel had allied against Judah. Edomites and Philistines also had attacked cities and carried away captives. “For the Lord brought Judah low because of Ahaz king of Israel, for he had encouraged moral decline in Judah and had been continually unfaithful to the Lord” (2 Chronicles 28:19).
  3. In a remarkable manifestation of providential mercies and spiritual perception on the part of some leaders of Israel, 200,000 persons taken captive by the invading Israelites were treated with kindness and returned to Judah (2 Chronicles 28:9-15).
  4. In his fear, Ahaz had sought to placate his tormenters by adopting their gods and sacrificing to them (2 Chronicles 28: 23; 2 Kings 16:10-13) He was deaf to the discipline the Lord was pouring out on him and the nation. He refused to hear the words of the prophet Isaiah. He sought an alliance with the Assyrians in his desperation over the threat of Israel and Syria as well as the other attackers (2 Chronicles 28:10). They did not come directly to his aid in Jerusalem but attacked Syria in Damascus.
  5. A war on Jerusalem. -Having been successful in their campaigns against the other cities of Judah, now Israel under Pekah and Syria under Rezin sought to take Jerusalem but could not overcome the city (Isaiah 7:1; 2 Kings 16:5).
  6. The reception of fearful news. When Ahaz heard that Syria and Israel planned an attack on Jerusalem, he was extremely fearful and the city shared his fright (Isaiah 7:2). Isaiah uses the picturesque language, “His heart and the hearts of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake with the wind.”


II. A Prophecy of the Ineffectual operation of human agency against divine purpose. At the time that Ahaz heard of the plan of Israel and Syria to try to take Jerusalem, they began to make preparations. At this time, the Lord sent Isaiah with his young child Shear-jashub to speak to him.

A. The symbolism of the son. The son’s name means “a remnant shall return.” The return of the captured men, women, and children to the number of 200,000 already had occurred. The son was named in light of that evidence of God’s judgment on Judah and his faithfulness in maintaining a remnant as Isaiah had prophesied in 6:11-13. This remnant is a reminder of a covenant made with the House of David.

B. Preparation for an attack. Isaiah found the king “at the end of the conduit of the upper pool,” making plans to preserve the water of the city from the coming attack. He was planning, but not praying, seeking to preserve physical sustenance while destroying lives through child sacrifice and eviscerating the spiritual life of a people who by covenant belonged to God. Such preparation God condemned in (23:9-11). Hezekiah made similar preparation when Sennacherib attacked the city, but also provided great spiritual encouragement to trust in God and not the arm of flesh (2 Chronicles 32: 1-8).

C. Vanquish your spirit of fear (4) – Isaiah was given a message of hope, a message to quell the fears of Ahaz. Such a bad man deserved no such message. Nor do any sinners deserve the gracious intervention of the redeeming purpose of God. Isaiah assured Ahaz that, in spite of all the bluster and appearance of power, these allied enemies of Jerusalem soon would fizzle like a sparkler on the fourth of July [pardon the anachronism].

D. A knowledge of destructive plans. (5, 6) – Through Isaiah, God revealed his knowledge of all the plans of Rezin and Pekah. He knew how they had plotted; he knew the arrogance with which they planned a victory and a replacement of the king with the “son of Tabeel as king.” Not for Ahaz did God scoff at such a plan, but for the “house of David” (2, 13).

E. A direct prophecy of the failure of these plans (7-9). These two faux powers would not expand beyond their borders. As prophesied in chapter 17, Damascus would soon be demolished and the alliance would be meaningless. Chapter 28: 1-13, Isaiah prophesies the fall of Ephraim (Israel, the ten northern tribes who separated from the House of David and the mandated worship in Jerusalem), that they will be “broken, snared, and taken captive.” This would begin in about three years and continue for several decades.

F. Though the prophecy is sure, the failure of Ahaz to believe would mean his continued decline and fearful submission till the day of his death.


III. A Word to the House of David – Given the fact that Isaiah had been sent to speak with Ahaz, this word to Ahaz was given through Isaiah –“The Lord spoke again to Ahaz.”

A. The Certainty of the Covenant –

  1. God instructed Ahaz to ask for a sign that Jerusalem will endure and the line of David will continue. This sign may be related to anything in all of creation. The Lord alone is the true God who created all things and keeps covenant with his people. No sign would be too much for him to perform. The Lord Jesus showed signs of his being the Lord by his command of Sheol, the earth, and the heavens—demons and death, wind and rain, forgiveness and the unforgivable sin. Nothing Ahaz could ask would be beyond the ability of the Lord to perform.
  2. The refusal of Ahaz to ask for a sign (12) was no evidence of his humility or reverence, but an indication of his intent to maintain an alliance with Assyria. He refused a specific act of worship and show of trust in the purpose of God and chose instead his false worship. Putting the Lord to the test means presuming upon him apart from a specific promise. It involves the perversion of promises of divine protection and provision into a presumption of personal privilege completely void of the biblical context and covenantal arrangement of God. God, in this case, tested Ahaz and his understanding of the sole sovereignty of the Lord of hosts and his faithfulness to his covenant promises. Ahaz failed the test for he did not embrace the truth of the covenant.
  3. God, therefore, chose the sign that would be for the future fulfillment of his covenant to the house of David. He chose something that defied all logic and precedence, but a thing necessary for the faithful fulfillment of redemption.
  • In fulfillment of the perpetuity of the house of David and the promise that one of David’s sons would reign forever (2 Samuel 7:12-16), God revealed the necessity of the birth of a son to a virgin (14). He would truly be the son of the virgin, and at the same time be given a name that means God is with us, “Immanuel,” the very reality embodied in the name and person of Jesus, “Jehovah is salvation.” Not only is he with us, having brought humanity into union with God through this incarnation, but he has come to redeem us. He came into union with our nature that he might bring us into a saving union with him.
  • This child of promise would be one who grew and who, in his humanity, came to the age of discerning good and evil with the result that he will “love righteousness and hate wickedness.” He would be the one whose “throne is forever and ever” and the “scepter of righteousness is the scepter of [his] kingdom” (Psalm 45 6, 7).
  • We see the prophecy of the Son again in chapter 9:6, 7 who will fulfill the eternal Davidic reign in perfect righteousness and justice.

B. An Immediate Reprieve – In addition to the preservation of the house of David forever and ever through the birth of a son to a virgin, immediately Isaiah’s son was to be a sign. Before “this boy” will know enough to refuse evil and choose good, the “land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.” A second son soon would be born (8:1-4) and before he could say “mother” and “father” Damascus and Samaria would be falling. Thus, two signs from two of Isaiah’s sons served as confirmation of the prophecy. In about two or three years, the dissolution of those kingdoms would begin (2 Kings 17 1, 5, 6).

C. The Coming of Captivity (17) – Not only would Assyria take away the ten tribes of the north from their land and eventually repopulate the land, but Assyria would be a constant threat and sorrow to Judah (2 Chronicles 28: 19-21) until the defeat of Sennacherib during the time of Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32). The land would be filled with gloom, constant threat, and be void of any comforts from true worship (2 Chronicles 28:25).


IV. Confirmation of biblical themes.

A. God speaks. God has not hidden himself or his purpose from his people. He is a revealing God who exhibits himself in action and in word as holy, righteous, perfectly just, and yet filled with mercy and intent to forgive. He shows his faithfulness to his promises and that he will pursue their fulfillment through all the ugliness of human sin and unfaithfulness.

B. God redeems. His bringing back of the captives served as a timely foretelling of his intent to bring back the captives from sin and condemnation. This finally is accomplished through Christ, “in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sin” (Ephesians 1:7).

C. God will dwell with us, in our nature, for our salvation. The promise of the seed of the woman (Genesis 3:15) now continues in the prophecy that a virgin, in fact a very young Jewish female, will bear a son whose presence will be “God with Us.”

D. God judges. He will not overlook iniquity or unfaithfulness. The whole world will know that the Lord is holy. When sin is passed over it will not be at the expense of God’s justice.

Tom has most recently served as the Professor of Historical Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He previously taught at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School where he was Professor of Church History and Chair of the Department of Church History. Prior to that, he taught at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary. Along with numerous journal articles and scholarly papers, Dr. Nettles is the author and editor of fifteen books. Among his books are By His Grace and For His Glory; Baptists and the Bible, James Petigru Boyce: A Southern Baptist Statesman, and Living by Revealed Truth: The Life and Pastoral Theology of Charles H. Spurgeon.
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