Here Judah sits as the King of Aram and the King of Israel approach with their armies and threaten a likely defeat. Tensions are high and hope is at an all-time low as Judah’s army is no match for the partnership between the Arameans and the Israelites. (Note: This is when the kingdom of Israel is divided – the Northern Kingdom: Israel, and the Southern Kingdom: Judah).
In the seventh chapter of Isaiah, the prophet is sent to the terrified king of Judah to warn him, and subsequently the people of Judah, that they’ve misplaced their trust.
Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”
But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”
Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
God wanted to offer a sign. Ahaz missed the flashing lights. But still, God gives the sign he intended to give. He makes the grandest promise. I’ll come to you, He says, as a child, and the child will be Immanuel, God with you.
Isaiah goes on in chapter 9,
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder.
For as in the day of Midian’s defeat,
you have shattered
the yoke that burdens them,
the bar across their shoulders,
the rod of their oppressor.
Every warrior’s boot used in battle
and every garment rolled in blood
will be destined for burning,
will be fuel for the fire.
For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.
The zeal of the Lord Almighty
will accomplish this.
When Isaiah references Midian’s defeat, what is the going through the mind of those who are hearing this prophecy in real time? Do you remember Gideon, one of the judges of Israel? You may recall the account in Judges 7 when God calls Gideon to go to battle against the Midianite army, which was grand in number.
You watch as the scene opens and the main character stands on a dark hill overlooking the valley below where hundreds of thousands of people gather late into the night to launch their attack on the one you’re quietly but anxiously rooting for.
Over the next few minutes you watch the reasons for hope flicker and soon your heart resolves to watch as the last stream of smoke whisks away the last bit of confidence that you had in your hero’s chances at survival, much less victory.
The odds are so small.
You watch as the crowd below seems to multiply spontaneously and you scan again the team that you believed in.
Three hundred compared against an army settled in the valley, thick as locusts. Their camels could no more be counted than the sand on the seashore.
The darkness continues to settle like a wet blanket, and standing under its ever-growing weight adds layers of despair. Your grip on hope is weak.
you hear a shatter
and 299 of the same sound
at the same time light pierces the darkness to the left, and to the right, and on the far side of the hill across from where your hero stands.
He holds a torch in hand, a shofar in the other,
the sound is deafening and the firelight so bright that your eyes haven’t had time to adjust.
The 300 torch-bearing, horn-blowing soldiers stood in their place
and that army in the valley below, the innumerable men and camels that had sucked almost all hope from your heavy heart,
they destroyed one another
and the ones that remained?
while the 300 rejoiced at the victory that was surely miracle.
Isaiah paints this picture, drawing the mind of his audience back to Gideon’s battle against the Midianites, and the growing hopelessness that many of the people of Israel felt as God limited Gideon’s army from 32,000 men to 10,000 men, to 300.
The Lord said to Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me.’
He knows the tendency of the human heart.
He knows my heart to believe that my own strength is the reason for any success in my life.
He knows that the human mind cannot comprehend His power and authority, and certainly not the depth of His love.
So, hundreds of years later, when he speaks to Israel, through Isaiah,
He promises a seemingly impossible salvation
but artfully reminds the original hearers that He’s done this before.
In 2017, we know that He can save and He did completely when Christ came as a helpless baby boy and lived a life of fellowship with God the Father and died a death cut off from the Father and He did all of it selflessly, for the glory of the Father and ultimately that each of us might share in that glory.
Sister, is there a challenge before you today?
Is God gently walking with you, asking you to remember His past faithfulness and to trust in His current faithfulness?
All throughout Scripture, He calls his people to remember and to trust Him who is able.
Practice this art of remembering today.
Rest in His faithfulness
Remember the countless accounts.
Deuteronomy 8, Psalm 40 + 41, remember when He reveals to a despairing Elijah in 1 Kings 19 that He sees a picture so much grander than our limited eyes can see.
Dear one, may His character stand firm in your heart and mind and you traverse the hills, mountain-tops, and deep valleys of life. May you look back at His past faithfulness and look trustingly forward to His certain future faithfulness as you walk out your days with Him. May you know it is HIS faithfulness and HIS love that carries you. You can’t earn this greatest gift. He gives it freely so that it cannot be stripped of its power and worth – His Presence. Treasure Him today, treasure Immanuel. Your God is with you. Always.