Isaiah's First Message to Ahaz - Part I
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Open your Bibles, please, to Isaiah, chapter 7, verse 1:

Isaiah 7

1And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem to war against it, but could not prevail against it.
2And it was told the house of David, saying, Syria is confederate with Ephraim. And his heart was moved, and the heart of his people, as the trees of the wood are moved with the wind.
3Then said the LORD unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shearjashub thy son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool in the highway of the fuller's field;
4And say unto him, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands, for the fierce anger of Rezin with Syria, and of the son of Remaliah.
5Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against thee, saying,
6Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it, even the son of Tabeal:
7Thus saith the Lord GOD, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass.
8For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin; and within threescore and five years shall Ephraim be broken, that it be not a people.
9And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah's son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.
10Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying,
11Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.
12But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD.
13And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?
14Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
15Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.
16For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.
17The LORD shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father's house, days that have not come, from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah; even the king of Assyria.
18And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall hiss for the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.
19And they shall come, and shall rest all of them in the desolate valleys, and in the holes of the rocks, and upon all thorns, and upon all bushes.
20In the same day shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired, namely, by them beyond the river, by the king of Assyria, the head, and the hair of the feet: and it shall also consume the beard.
21And it shall come to pass in that day, that a man shall nourish a young cow, and two sheep;
22And it shall come to pass, for the abundance of milk that they shall give he shall eat butter: for butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the land.
23And it shall come to pass in that day, that every place shall be, where there were a thousand vines at a thousand silverlings, it shall even be for briers and thorns.
24With arrows and with bows shall men come thither; because all the land shall become briers and thorns.
25And on all hills that shall be digged with the mattock, there shall not come thither the fear of briers and thorns: but it shall be for the sending forth of oxen, and for the treading of lesser cattle.

You will remember when we began our study of the book of Isaiah and when we were discussing the analysis of the book itself we said that the book could find itself naturally divided by certain points of emphasis related to dates and related to time. For example, we noticed the first date mentioned in the book of Isaiah, chapter 1, verse 1. We noticed the second date mentioned in chapter 7, verse 1. We realize that the first six chapters of the book of Isaiah are related to the first section of the book, and the second section of the book begins with chapter 7, verse 1, which says:

Isaiah 7

1And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham…

The Book of Immanuel

You will recall that the first six chapters were delivered in the days of Uzziah and in the days of Jotham. Jotham has now gone to be with his father; Ahaz is on the throne. The first verse of chapter 7 reminds us we are beginning a new section of the book of Isaiah and a new period in the life of this faithful prophet of God.

The next date that you will find in the book of Isaiah will be found in verse 28 of chapter 14. In this verse we find that Ahaz dies, and we recognize that everything that we are going to find between chapter 7 and chapter 14, verse 28, is going to be related to the days of Ahaz. That will make a very definite section of this book all by itself.

Chapters 7-12 are going to make up the major portion of the book for reasons which you will see before we are through with this discussion. We will discover that this particular portion of the book is going to be called the Book of Immanuel . The reason for that is that the word Immanuel is mentioned in every chapter, or [notice carefully what I am saying] there is some reference to Immanuel in every chapter in this particular portion of the Word.

The Law of Double Reference

Keep that in mind as I tell you that the Book of Immanuel provides a very good illustration for a very important principle related to the study of prophecy. That principle is what we refer to as the law of double reference . Get that phrase fixed in your mind. You will never be able to understand the prophetic Word without taking it into consideration—the law of double reference .

The law of double reference simply means that the Holy Spirit of God inspired the prophet to speak of something that is related to his immediate day, but the circumstances of his immediate day will not exhaust the statement that he has made. It means that there is something related to that statement that will be fulfilled yet in the future. Let us put it another way. The prophet makes a statement. In that statement is a definite reference to a thing that exists in his day, but he also has in mind something that is going to happen even at a later date.

Perhaps you are wondering how that could possibly be. How could a prophet talk about something that is happening today and something that is going to happen 700 years from the day that he is speaking in the same breath?

Turn in the New Testament to II Peter, and you will find the answer to the suggestion that I have just made. In II Peter, you are going to find in the first chapter a statement that will help us to understand what we are talking about:

II Peter 1

19We have also a more sure word of prophecy…

Literally, that is, “We have also a word of prophecy made more sure, a word of prophecy that no one need doubt.”

II Peter 1

19…whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:

Notice, please, the phrase “until the day dawn.” That is a phrase that you will find often in the Word of God to refer to the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Notice the phrase, “the day star arise in your hearts.” The day star always makes its appearance before the dawning of the day, and that phrase is a reference to the fact that many believers, when they heed this sure word of prophecy as a light shining in a dark place, have the hope of the coming of the Lord become a reality in their heart.

Notice verse 20. Peter continues:

II Peter 1

20Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

That phrase means that no individual who makes a prophecy makes it in his own strength; no individual who makes a prophecy makes it in his own power. When Isaiah wrote the words which we read today, he was not speaking of himself. When Isaiah wrote the words which we are going to notice in chapters 7-12, which declared the appearance of Immanuel, he was not writing in his own power. How then could he do it? Look at verse 21:

II Peter 1

21For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man…

The prophecy of the Old Testament did not come by the will of man. It did not come by the strength of man. How did it come then? Look at the remaining statement:

II Peter 1

21…but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

Holy men of God—Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel—wrote as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.

Look carefully at that word moved . It does not refer to inspiration as we think of it. Inspiration is certainly included, but it does not refer to inspiration. It means more than that. It doesn't mean that Isaiah was inspired to write these words. Listen carefully to what I am saying so that you do not misunderstand. Isaiah was inspired, but this word does not mean only that he was inspired. It means, literally, that Isaiah, by the Holy Spirit, was able to project himself into the future and tell exactly what was going to happen.

Sometimes when you are making a plan and you want to know all of the details in relation to it, you will have what is known as a projection . You write down the things that are going to happen in the future, and you consider all of the possibilities related to it. You call that a projection .

That is exactly what happened here. Isaiah, by the power of the Holy Spirit, projected into the future where he could write about the appearance of Immanuel that did not occur until some 700 years after he wrote the words.

Someone says, “I can't buy that.” Well, if you can't buy that, you can't buy the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and you can't buy the divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ, and you can't buy the omnipotence of God, and you don't have anything at all to rest on, and the Bible is worth no more than what anybody else has written at any time.

Why We Refer to These Chapters as the Book of Immanuel

Go back to the book of Isaiah, chapter 7, once again and notice with me why we refer to these chapters as the Book of Immanuel . We will not be thinking about all of these chapters today, but we would like for you to be reading chapters 7-12 between this lesson and the next, and we would like for you to be able to recognize the reason we refer to this section as the Book of Immanuel . Notice verse 14:

Isaiah 7

14Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.

Immanuel means “God with us.”

Look at chapter 8, and glance over to verse 8:

Isaiah 8

8And he shall pass through Judah; he shall overflow and go over, he shall reach even to the neck; and the stretching out of his wings shall fill the breadth of thy land, O Immanuel.
9Associate yourselves, O ye people, and ye shall be broken in pieces; and give ear, all ye of far countries: gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces; gird yourselves, and ye shall be broken in pieces.
10Take counsel together, and it shall come to nought; speak the word, and it shall not stand: for God is with us.

Here the translators, for reasons known only to themselves, put the phrase, “God is with us,” instead of the word Immanuel . Remember, Immanuel means “God with us.”

Glance over at verse 6, of chapter 9, and we read:

Isaiah 9

6For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
7Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

You do not see the word Immanuel in these two verses, but those of you who are familiar enough with your Bibles to compare Scripture with Scripture will know that these passages of Scripture are referring to Immanuel, for Immanuel is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, and these two verses are referring to Him as well.

Turn to chapter 10, and notice verse 17:

Isaiah 10

17And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day;
18And shall consume the glory of his forest, and of his fruitful field, both soul and body: and they shall be as when a standard-bearer fainteth.

Notice in verse 17, the phrase, “the light of Israel, his Holy One.” This, too, is referring to Immanuel; it is, too, referring to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Look at chapter 11, and notice verses 1-5:

Isaiah 11

1And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch [notice the word Branch is capitalized] shall grow out of his roots:
2And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;
3And shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:
4But with righteousness shall he judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and he shall smite the earth: with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.
5And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.

These verses, of course, are speaking of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Glance over at chapter 12, and recognize with a mere glance that the entire chapter is talking about Immanuel; the entire chapter is talking about the Lord Jesus Christ. So, we recognize the reason this particular section is referred to as the Book of Immanuel .

Isaiah Carries a Message to Ahaz

Let's go back to chapter 7 and see what we might be able to learn from it, as we lay the foundation for the prophetic Word. Keep in mind the principle of the law of double reference. If you will glance at the first two verses of chapter 7, which we read a moment ago, you will understand that Ahaz, a young man twenty years of age, had ascended the throne in very troubled times.

Word had come to him that Israel—that is, the ten tribes of the nation of Israel; Ahaz was ruler over only two of the tribes because the twelve tribes had split by this time—and the king of Syria had made an alliance to dethrone him. They wanted to dethrone him because they had asked him to enter into an alliance with them against Assyria, and he wouldn't do it. Assyria was a formidable power of that day, and Ahaz didn't think it was a very wise thing to do. So Israel and Syria said, “If we can't get Ahaz to do it, we will dethrone him and we will put on the throne in his place the son of Tabeal. Then we will be able to have our way.”

This is the old principle of infiltration—to gain power by those on the inside who are disloyal enough to cooperate with those on the outside. You see, some of the methods that are being practiced today are not as modern as we think they are. They are as old as Ahaz.

Ahaz and all of the people within the city trembled. They trembled like the trees in the wind, because they knew that they did not have much of a chance. However, they thought they ought to do something about it, so they decided to check their water supply. Ahaz and some of his company went into the upper fields, according to verse 3, to check the water supply and make sure that there would be enough for the siege when it began.

God knew all about this. He knew what Ahaz was doing. He knew the condition of the heart of Ahaz, and so He said to His servant Isaiah, in verse 3, “You go up there where Ahaz is checking the water supply and give him a message for Me.”

Isaiah went. He carried two messages. One of them he carried in his mouth. He would speak it in a moment. Another he carried by his hand, because he took his little boy up there with him. Look at verse 3 and notice that God told him to do it:

Isaiah 7

3Then said the LORD unto Isaiah, Go forth now to meet Ahaz, thou, and Shearjashub thy son…

Why do you suppose God told him to take his little boy up there? Do you remember when we first began the study of the book of Isaiah we pointed out to you that Isaiah was a testimony to Israel in many different ways? One of the ways that he was a testimony to Israel was in his own life and the life of his family, even in the names of his children. Do you know what Shearjashub means? It means “the remnant shall be left”—everybody is not going to be destroyed. When Ahaz looked at that little boy—he knew what his name meant—he could take courage. The battle is going to be rough. It is going to be a tough one, but God is not going to fail you. A remnant shall remain.

The oral message that Isaiah was to deliver was interesting as well. Look at verse 4:

Isaiah 7

4And say unto him, Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither be fainthearted…

Then down in verse 7:

Isaiah 7

7Thus saith the Lord GOD, It shall not stand, neither shall it come to pass.

Look at the last statement in verse 9:

Isaiah 7

9…If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.

Put yourself in the place of Ahaz for a moment. Here comes the preacher, and he said, “Ahaz, you're worrying about nothing. Be quiet; fear not; don't be fainthearted. This thing that is being planned will not stand; it won't come to pass.

Ahaz said, “What do you mean, ‘it won't come to pass?' They are already outside the walls; they are already gathered; the armies are already there. In a moment the battle is going to start, and you come up here with some silly advice and tell me to be quiet and not be afraid. You tell me it isn't going to happen. What do you mean by that?”

Isaiah said, “You look upon these people as terrible. You look upon them as formidable. You look upon them as somebody to be feared. But, do you know how God looks at them?”

For the answer to that, look at verse 4. He looks at them as two tails of smoking firebrand. Do you know what that means? He looks at them as a piece of wood that has just about burned itself out. Oh, it is still glowing a little bit. It still has a little heat to it, but it is about to burn itself out.

Don't you wish we could see things as God sees them? How many times does something seem great big to us and simply overwhelming? It looks like a great big blaze that is going to devour us, but God says, “Don't be afraid.”

We say, “I don't see how God can talk like that. Look at that thing.” God says, “I have. It might look like a great big blaze to you, but it is just a little ember that has already started to smoke. It is about to go out.”

He gave him additional words of encouragement in verse 5 when he said:

Isaiah 7

5Because Syria, Ephraim, and the son of Remaliah, have taken evil counsel against thee, saying,
6Let us go up against Judah, and vex it, and let us make a breach therein for us, and set a king in the midst of it…

God said, “I know all that,” but he said in verse 8:

Isaiah 7

8For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin…

What did he mean by that? The capital of Syria is Damascus, and the king that is living in Damascus is Rezin, and that is the way it is going to be. Nothing is going to change, and on top of that, Ephraim, of whom you are so afraid, is going to be completely broken so that it will not even be recognized as a nation within seventy-five years. You are awfully scared now, but you are scared because you don't know the end from the beginning.” God does.

Then, he recognized and re-emphasized the same thing in different language in verse 9, but Ahaz wasn't believing him. He said, “Ahaz, if you don't believe, you won't be established. If you don't believe, you are going to go right on being fearful, and you are going to go right on [this is the important part] playing into the hands of the enemy.”

Do you know what Isaiah was concerned about? He wasn't so much concerned about the people who were at the gates of the city; he was concerned about those people way out in the north who were not close. But Ahaz was playing footsie with them. He had even sent them money. Yes, they had foreign-aid programs back in that day. He said it was cheaper to send the money than to stand up and fight.

He was sending money afar off to Syria. Yes, he was sending money that he didn't even have. Do you know where he got it? He took the gold off the walls of the temple and had it smelted and sent to Assyria. He took the silver vessels that were dedicated to God and could have been used for a holy purpose and used them in his foreign-aid program.

You see, it wasn't too new at all, and Isaiah was worried about it. He said, “If you keep up with them, something terrible is going to happen to you. I want you to put your trust in God.” Isaiah was saying to Ahaz, “You don't have to have an alliance with Assyria. If you will put your trust in God, He will be a match for these people who are outside the city walls.”

Isaiah Attempts to Encourage Ahaz's Faith

My, how gracious God is. In verse 10, God says to Isaiah, “Isaiah, Ahaz finds it hard to believe. He doesn't have a whole lot of faith. Let's encourage his faith. You tell Ahaz to ask me for a sign that I will do what you are saying I will do. Tell him I'll be glad to give him a sign and encourage his heart.”

There are some stalwart souls who can walk by faith and never need a sign. Then there are some of us, even though we believe, who find it really helpful to have a little encouragement along the way. You know, God is good; God is gracious. He encourages us, and He gives us a little help along the way. He said to Ahaz, “Ask Me a sign. I will give you a sign.” He didn't put any strings on Ahaz. In verse 11, He said:

Isaiah 7

11Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.

The Hypocritical Piety of Ahaz

“Ask for a thunderstorm or an earthquake. It doesn't matter. I'll do it.” Look at what Ahaz said in verse 12:

Isaiah 7

12But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD.

My, he got pious all of a sudden. “Why, I wouldn't think of tempting God by asking a sign of Him. I wouldn't dream of doing a thing like that.” Well, the old hypocrite. He didn't want to do it because he didn't want anything to interfere with his plans to make an alliance with the Assyrians.

Listen carefully to what I'm saying to you because there is an application that needs to be made. There are some of us as individuals who would almost rather be right than for God to answer our prayers. We would almost rather God didn't work than for us to be proven wrong.

I will never forget how concerned I was some years ago when one of our presidents was asked, in the midst of a very great struggle, to request a day of prayer. Do you know what he said? It is a matter of history. He said, “I wouldn't think of doing that. It might give people the idea that we are in worse shape than we are.” Some people would rather maintain their reputation than to see God answer prayer!

Isaiah was a little irritated by this time, and he said, in verse 13:

Isaiah 7

13And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?

When he said, “house of David,” he was speaking to Ahaz, because Ahaz was the king of the house of David. Isaiah was saying, “We might put up with your hypocrisy and we might put up with your false piety, but do you think God is going to? Do you think God doesn't know what you are doing?”

The Sign of a Virgin Birth

Notice what he said in verse 14:

Isaiah 7

14Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; [God will give you a sign whether you want it or not. Herein is the law of double reference.] Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
15Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.
16For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.

What is he saying? “Ahaz, God is going to permit a virgin to give birth to a son, and He will live a normal life. Before He has reached the age of accountability, before He knows how to choose good, the land of which you are so afraid—the two countries of Syria and Ephraim—will be forsaken of both their kings.”

Herein comes a problem. Theologians wonder who this virgin was. They try to identify her and so they turn over to the next chapter where there is a record of Isaiah and his wife having a child and they say that is who the virgin was. Well, you see, Isaiah's wife wasn't a virgin. She had already had one child.

“Oh,” someone says, “that word doesn't really mean ‘virgin.' It means ‘young woman.' That is what the Revised Standard Version says. So of course there is no problem.” If you let the Bible comment on the Bible, which is the proper way to study the Scriptures, you will find in the first chapter of the gospel of Matthew that the virgin that Isaiah was talking about was really a virgin, because Matthew quotes this passage of Scripture in the first chapter of his gospel and he uses a word in the Greek text which can mean nothing but a virgin. That is all that it can mean.

Who was this virgin? The virgin was Mary, and herein lies the law of double reference. Isaiah said, “Ahaz, you don't want a sign, but I am going to give a sign to the whole nation of Israel. God is going to send somebody to the whole nation of Israel and eventually to the whole world who will be a match not only for those two little armies that are gathered outside your city walls, but will be a match for anything and everything that opposes and exalts itself against God.” Then he said, “By the way, Ahaz, by the time an ordinary little child is able to discern good and evil—in Israel's history it was at the age of three. We think it is twelve. We are a little bit slower than they were. The Bible doesn't say it is twelve—these countries won't even have a king to rule over them. Here you are worrying about absolutely nothing.”

Isaiah Predicts Ahaz's Downfall By Assyria and Egypt

In the next paragraph, he says, “I'll tell you, you had better worry about something, because this nation of Assyria, with whom you are playing footsies and to whom you are sending foreign-aid, is going to be your downfall.” He said, in verse 17:

Isaiah 7

17The LORD shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father's house, days that have not come, from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah…

“In all that time, you have never seen anything like what is going to be brought when God brings against you the king of Assyria.” Ahaz said, “Why, he is my friend. He has been taking my money.” God said, “I know he has, but there is going to come a day when I shall hiss for a fly that is in the uttermost parts of the rivers of Egypt and I shall hiss for a bee that is in the land of Assyria. Assyria and Egypt are going to bind themselves in an alliance to bring about your downfall, and they will.”

Then to emphasize it, we see in verse 20, He uses another figure of speech which has always been a little bit amusing to me—God's razor :

Isaiah 7

20In the same day shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired, namely, by them beyond the river, by the king of Assyria, the head, and the hair of the feet: and it shall also consume the beard.

Here was a dignified Israelite. How proud he was of his beard. How proud he was of his hair, the sign of a real scholar, and what did God say? God said, “I am going to rent a razor and I am going to move in on you. I'm going to shave you and when I am through, you will be bald from head to toe. The razor is going to be the king of Assyria.”

The last paragraph says, “When Assyria gets through with you, the land of Israel, the city of Jerusalem around which you built this little wall, will be nothing more than a hunting ground. People will come with their bows and arrows to hunt instead of to enjoy the conveniences of a city.” This was God's judgment upon a man, because he would rather put his trust in nations that did not even care for him than to put his trust in God.

Conclusion

Beloved, these things are written for our profit. The Holy Spirit said so. That is, whenever you see a parallel in the Word of God to any personal situation, you should sit up and take notice and make application of the truth. Whenever you see a parallel in the Word of God to any national situation, you should sit up and take notice and become concerned.

History does repeat itself and, nationally speaking, if we continue the way we are going, the same that happened to Ahaz is going to happen to us, because it is on the same principle. Thank God it doesn't need to be. God says, “He that believeth shall be established.”

God saved the city of Nineveh, even though He had already proclaimed its judgment, because she put on sackcloth and ashes and cried to God. God was willing to save the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah if five people had been willing to do business with God. Let's learn our lesson now, and let's ask God to remember, in the midst of judgment, His mercy.


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