This scripture starts off with a kind of story told by Isaiah. In the days of King Ahaz, two kings, Rezin of Syria and Pekiah of Israel (the other half of it actually) joined forces against Judah. They went to battle at Jerusalem but were unable to conquer it. Then the news was brought to Ahaz that Ephraim (Pekiah) and Syria (Rezin) were allies. When they learned this, Ahaz and all his people were terrified (“as trees of the wood are moved with the wind [v2].”). This story is documented in 2 Kings 16, where we are told that Ahaz, who came to the throne at the age of twenty, didn’t follow the ways of the Lord, as his ancestor David had before him (2 Kings 16:2). We learn further in 2 Chronicles, that Rezin and Pekiah had already defeated Ahaz twice previously (2 Chronicles 28: 5-6).
At this time, the prophet Isaiah was sent to meet with King Ahaz. He was to tell the king not to be afraid of Rezin and Pekiah or of their plans to set a puppet king in Ahaz’ place, because their plans would never come to fruition (“It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass [v7].”) Within sixty-five years Ephraim would be wiped out to the point where they would no longer be thought of as a people. This prophecy began to be fulfilled twelve years later when the Assyrians conquered and relocated the kingdom of Israel(2 Kings 17:6). The reason for this was simply that they were led by men, whereas Judah belonged to God and was ruled by Him.
However, the Lord made Ahaz a further offer. He offered him whatever sign he required, from the depths to the heights above. Ahaz declined this offer, saying he had no need to make the Lord prove himself. However, Isaiah knew this for what it was. Ahaz had already made up his mind to reject the Lord. His insistence that he didn’t wish to “tempt God” was just a smoke screen. Isaiah asked Ahaz if it wasn’t enough for him to fool his own people that he should try to do the same thing with God. Then he went ahead and gave him a sign anyway.
The sign given was that of the upcoming birth of Christ among other things. Here’s the list.
- A virgin would conceive and bear a son.
- He would be named Immanuel, or “God with us.”
- He would eat butter and honey (normal food), until he was old enough to know to choose good over evil.
- Before he would do this, the children of Israel would lose both her kings (both Ahaz and Pekiah would be dead).
- Ahaz’ people would become subject to the king of Assyria (even though Ahaz would attempt to bribe him with riches from the palaces and the temple[2 Chronicles 28:19-21].).
- Swarms of looting soldiers, like flies and bees, would afflict Judah from Egypt and Assyria.
- Judah will be completely stripped of people, like a person shaving all his body hair off.
- Such people as used to keep large flocks and herds of animals shall count themselves wealthy if they have a single cow and two sheep.
- However, even with such a small number of cows, there will still be plenty of milk and everyone left in the land will eat butter and honey.
- Land normally used for farming will be rendered useless by thorns and briars. So it will only be good for grazing cattle.
I can’t help but wonder how much differently I might have handled things if the Lord’s prophet came and offered me a sign (not that I’m requesting one). I hope that, in whatever humility I then possessed, I would suggest that the Lord do as he pleased. I, as his servant, would accept whatever gifts he chose to give me, just like the plants in the field accept water from the sky or from sprinklers or watering cans. Ahaz made the mistake of thinking that God was just a story his dad used to tell him to scare him into obedience. Newsflash, Ahaz, ol’ buddy. Do you believe he’s real now?