Isaiah 7-8, 1 Peter 3
If you will not believe, you surely shall not last. – Isaiah 7:9 NASB
Ahaz, the king of Judah, faced a predicament. The kings of Syria and Israel had made an alliance and were threatening to attack Jerusalem. The news was not received well in Judah. “When the house of David was told, ‘Syria is in league with Ephraim,’ the heart of Ahaz and the heart of the people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind” (Isaiah 7:2 ESV). But God sent word to Ahaz through Isaiah, the prophet. “Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let you heart be faint…” (Isaiah 7:4 ESV). It seems that Ahaz’s real problem was not the threat of attack from Syria and Israel, but the danger of failing to trust God. Faced with eminent defeat at the hands of his enemies, Ahaz was encouraged to put his trust in His God. Isaiah warned him to place his hope in Yahweh alone. But it seems from the text that Ahaz had already come up with a plan of his own. He had probably made overtures to the Assyrians, turning to them as his real source of hope and help. But failing to trust God would prove to be far more risky than the mere presence of enemy armies outside the walls of Jerusalem. God said, “If you will not believe, you surely shall not last” (Isaiah 7:9 NASB). God even offered to give Ahaz a sign as proof of His word. But when Ahaz turned down the offer, God provided a sign anyway. By refusing to trust God, Ahaz and the people of Judah would miss out on His divine intervention. God indicted the people of Judah for their lack of trust. “My care for the people of Judah is like the gently flowing waters of Shiloah, but they have rejected it. They are rejoicing over what will happen to King Rezin and King Pekah. Therefore, the Lord will overwhelm them with a mighty flood from the Euphrates River—the king of Assyria and all his glory. This flood will overflow all its channels and sweep into Judah until it is chin deep. It will spread its wings, submerging your land from one end to the other, O Immanuel” (Isaiah 8:6-8 NLT). Failure to trust God would have devastating consequences.
What does this passage reveal about God?
God wanted to spare Judah. He wanted to rescue them from their enemies. But they were going to have to trust Him and allow Him to do it according to His plan and in His own timing. They could not afford to let their fears get the best of them and force them to take matters into their own hands. The presence of trouble in their lives should not have led to abandonment of their God. Instead, it should have driven them to a greater dependence upon Him. Amazingly, when they had the living God at their disposal, they would soon find themselves consulting the dead – using mediums and necromancers as a means to gain insight into their predicament. Loss of faith in God almost always leads to desperation and results in desperate measures. But God was there all along. He was ready to redeem and rescue. He was poised to act on their behalf. But it would require that they “Listen, calm down. Don’t be afraid. And don’t panic…” (Isaiah 7:4 MSG). Big problems require that we have a big perspective of God. Overwhelming odds can only be overcome when we understand the power of our God.
What does this passage reveal about man?
Turning to something or someone other than God is almost a sport for most of us. We do it so easily and so often, that it has become second nature. Most of the time, we don’t even know when we’re doing it. Our tendency to panic in the face of difficulties has trained us to look elsewhere and seek alternative options for our rescue. Tim Keller calls them “counterfeit gods.” Anything or anyone we place our hope in or seek help from becomes a cheap replacement for the one true God. One of the greatest threats to our lives as believers is that we would stop trusting in God. We face that temptation every day of our lives. And we face it in practical, real life ways. Peter knew how difficult it was for the believers in his day to live out their faith in daily life. He knew that they faced trials, troubles, temptation and tests on a regular basis. And he knew that they would be tempted to turn away from God and seek help and hope elsewhere. That’s why he encouraged wives to conduct their lives in such a way that even their unbelieving husbands “may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives” (1 Peter 3:1 ESV). It would have been easy for a believing woman who found herself married to an unbelieving man to rationalize and justify behavior that Peter would have deemed ungodly. It would have been tempting for her to question whether she had to honor her husband at all because of his unbelief. But in a way, Peter warns these women to trust God. Rather than come up with their own solution to their problem, they were to trust God by living godly lives. He told them to “do good and do not fear anything that is frightening. In the same way, husbands were to show their wives honor, whether they deserved it or not. They were to live with them in an understanding and respectful way at all times. To fail to do so would result in a hindered prayer life. There would be times when a man would find it extremely difficult to honor his wife. He would find it easy to rationalize doing just the opposite. But he was to trust God and do things His way.
How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?
It all boils down to behavior. It is our actions that reveal just how much we truly trust God. That’s why Peter calls on his readers to “have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing” (1 Peter 3:8-9 ESV). Ahaz was encouraged to trust God – in spite of everything he saw happening around him. You and I are encouraged to trust God and live out our lives in such a way that our actions prove that we believe His way is the right way – whether it makes sense at the moment or not. Our trust in God must manifest itself in actions that prove we believe what He has promised. We must take Him at His word and live according to His standards, not our own. Peter reminds us, “but even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubles, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy…” (1 Peter 3:14-15 ESV). God did not promise Ahaz an immediate removal of his enemies. He simply said, “It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass…” (Isaiah 7:7 ESV). Ahaz was going to have to trust God for not only His deliverance, but for His timing. Sometimes the immediacy of our problems cause us to falter and faint. We grow desperate. We become doubtful. Then we start making plans of our own. But Isaiah’s words are a great reminder for all of us. “I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him” (Isaiah 8:17 ESV).
Father, I want to learn to wait on You and hope in You. It is amazing how many times I turn to something other than You for help and hope. Please forgive me for my lack of trust. Help me to understand that the problems I face are simply opportunities to put my faith into action. I want to learn to listen, calm down, be unafraid, and not panic. Amen
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men