As I mentioned before, when Ahaz son of Jotham took the throne in Judah, he led the people further into idolatry. It says in Kings and Chronicles that he started making idols for worshiping the Baals and that he even sacrificed his sons in the fire, perhaps to win the gods’ favor in his conflicts with Aram and the northern kingdom of Israel.
The king of Aram and the king of Israel had allied themselves together to attack Jerusalem, and it says in Isaiah that when Judah heard about this,
The hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind. (Isaiah 7:2).
Because of this, Ahaz apparently started thinking of starting his own alliance with Assyria.
And at this point, Isaiah stepped in. He met Ahaz and said,
Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood — because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and the son of Remaliah. Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin…[but] it will not take place, it will not happen….’ (Isaiah 7:4-5, 7).
Then Isaiah told Ahaz, “Ask for a sign that you may know God will do this.” (Isaiah 7:11).
But Ahaz refused saying, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.” (Isaiah 7:12)
This sounds very pious, but the truth is Ahaz didn’t want to know if Isaiah’s words were true or not. He was determined to make his alliance with Assyria, and to put his trust in them, not the Lord.
Isaiah got very frustrated with Ahaz as a result, saying,
Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel…Before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste. (Isaiah 7:13-16)
Of course, we know that Matthew uses this passage to point to Jesus (Matthew 1:21-23). But Isaiah seems to also be pointing to a more immediate birth (many people think it refers to the birth of Isaiah’s next son as noted in chapter 8, verses 3-4).
He then warns Ahaz against putting his trust in Assyria. That though God would indeed use Assyria to take down Aram and Israel, they would also take down Judah (Isaiah 7:17-8:10). And that’s exactly what would happen.
When Aram and Israel once again attacked Judah, it says in Chronicles that King Ahaz sent to Assyria for help. The king came, but “gave him trouble instead of help.” (II Chronicles 28:20). Assyria did help deliver Judah, but it came at a heavy price as Judah would become a vassal of Assyria (II Kings 16:7).
And things just spiraled downward from there. He started offering sacrifices to the gods of Aram and after a period of perhaps trying to syncretize the true faith with false ones, he eventually gave up completely on the true faith, shutting down the temple, and instead setting up altars at every street corner. (II Chronicles 28:22-25)
The lesson? Be careful who you fear. Be careful who you trust. Ahaz didn’t fear the Lord, and because of that, when circumstances turned against him, he feared his enemies. And because he didn’t trust the Lord, he put his trust in untrustworthy people and worthless idols. And eventually, it destroyed him.
How about you? Who do you fear? Do you fear people and what they think about you? Do you fear economic and financial problems. Do you fear all that the world fears? Or do you fear God?
Who are you putting your trust in? In money? In your own wisdom and abilities? In the end, these things cannot deliver you, and like Ahaz, you will fall.
As Isaiah told Ahaz,
If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all. (Isaiah 7:9)