ISAIAH 7:9 | STAND FIRM | NEW YEAR
We have come to the closing moments of 2020. The year 2020 has been one of the toughest years for many of us. Everyone started the year with great expectations but very soon everything turned topsy-turvy with the Covid-19 pandemic. There was a lockdown. All were at home, working, and studying from home. Vacations were canceled. Shopping became online. Then the infection started spreading around the world. Many people lost their jobs, many lost their loved ones, and many of us were infected with the virus. Some of us have been protected by God from the virus. Through it all, God has been good. Now, we are in the final moments of this eventful year. Let’s lift up our hands and thank God for his grace and mercies upon our life.
It is easy to step into the New Year crawling with the difficult experiences of the previous year. You have a choice to either go with the baggage of this year into the new year or step into the new year by faith. As we move forward from this year of the pandemic, let’s look forward to the next year by faith in our Lord.
You may have had a tough 2020, but let it not stop you from a God-favoured, faith-centered 2021.
The theme God has given me for 2021 is: Stand Firm.
No matter what comes across in our life or earth in 2021, God is in control, so stand firm.
In Isaiah 7, Isaiah the prophet spoke to King Ahaz of Judah:
Isaiah 7:9 If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.
This is God’s word for us today. The Covid-19 has caused a maximum impact in the world with infections, death, job loss, quarantine, social distancing. God is asking his people to stand firm in the faith.
In Isaiah 7, an evil king named Ahaz is on the throne in Judah. Judah is facing a crisis.
Ahaz turned away from God and God delivered him to his enemies. Ahaz was Uzziah’s grandson, but he had none of Uzziah’s piety, none of Uzziah’s love for the Lord.
2 King 16:3-4 3He followed the ways of the kings of Israel and even sacrificed his son in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. 4He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree.
And so God gave him over. Because of his sins, God gave him over to his enemies.
2 Chronicles 28:5 Therefore the LORD his God delivered him into the hands of the king of Aram. The Arameans defeated him and took many of his people as prisoners and brought them to Damascus.
Sadly, Ahaz did not learn the lesson. Ahaz thought, “If you can’t beat them, join them in captivity.”
2 Chronicles 28:23 He offered sacrifices to the God’s of Damascus, who had defeated him; for he thought, “Since the gods of the kings of Aram have helped them, I will sacrifice to them so they will help me.” But they were his downfall and the downfall of all Israel.
He had deliberately disobeyed God and as a result his kingdom came under attack from all quarters. King Ahaz is in a very difficult situation in his life now.
Isaiah 7:1-2 1 When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it. 2 Now the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.
Here Judah’s own brothers, Ephraim (Israel) has allied with a foreign nation Aram and is fighting with Judah and their king Ahaz. They were shaken like the trees of the forest is shaken by wind. They could tolerate anyone come to war with them, but when the conflict came from their own brothers, they were shaken.
Friend, if you don’t know God when trouble comes, you too will be shaken to the very core of your being. The only group of people who had hope during 2020 are the believers.
Ahaz had deliberately disobeyed God and as a result his kingdom came under attack from all quarters. King Ahaz is in a very difficult situation in his life now.
Crisis Reveals True Faith
The crises of our lives reveal true character. Even more significantly, they reveal what we are truly trusting in. And so God brings us through crisis sometimes to show us our faith, what we really trust in, and perhaps to show us what we are not trusting in and how we should be trusting in Christ more. These people, including Ahaz, had no solid foundation in the sovereignty of God. They had nowhere to turn, and so they were terrified, fluttering like a leaf.
Instead of turning to the Lord, Ahaz begins to think about partnering with the evil empire of Assyria.
The Lord Intervenes
God doesn’t stand passively on the sidelines of history. That’s not the God of the Bible. Our God steps into our situation. Also, He accomplishes what He decides.
Then, God sent Isaiah the prophet. So Isaiah goes out to confront Ahaz as he is making preparations for battle.
Isaiah 7:3-4 3 Then the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub, to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Launderer’s Field. 4 Say to him….
What do we understand about our God here?
* God is Compassionate and Gracious
I am so grateful for the mercy and longsuffering of God. Are you not? Where would we be today if it were not for the mercy of God that came into our lives? God is gracious, merciful, and longsuffering. God came to Ahaz even though he was in rebellion.
Look at the definition God gave about himself to Moses:
Exodus 34:6-7 6 And he passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.”
Dear friend, perhaps you are facing defeat and the enemy is all around you. You are facing a lot of opposition and hostility. Child of God our gracious God is reaching out to you. He is concerned about your situation. He loves you and He has a message for you.
See the message of the Lord:
Isaiah 7:4 Say to him, ‘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 of the son of Remaliah.
The Lord gave Isaiah instructions on what to say to Judah’s King Ahaz to remind him that trust was more important than intrigue (curiosity). Instead of scheming about how to maintain power, Ahaz was simply to be careful with his actions, stay calm, and keep from being afraid. Why? Because God was in control of the situation. All these years later, the words of God to Ahaz still carry immense value for us.
* Keep Calm
Soccer star Landon Donovan said, “Life isn’t perfect, of course, but we all know it’s how you react to things that count.”
Life is not perfect, in fact it is often messy, chaotic, and confusing. There are big, medium and small storms that come our way. It is in stormy conditions that we become confused and plagued with doubt and fear.
As Christians, we have the comfort of knowing that there is a calm amidst our storms. When you have God you can have calm and peace. The key is not to put your focus on your situation, but rather on God. Learn to trust God enough to take a stand when on the mountaintop or in the valley. The Bible tells us in Psalms 46:1 God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
Isaiah 41:10 So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
God is bigger than anything we will ever face in our lives. In life’s storms, choose to thank God, stay calm, and trust God.
* Do Not Be Afraid
And God gives Ahaz and the people of Judah a command. He says, “Don’t be afraid, only believe.” Today this is what God is telling in our situation, “Don’t be afraid, only believe for 2021.”
So often Jesus does the same thing with his own disciples. In the midst of the storm, he rebukes them and said: Matthew 8:26 “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
So, often we get afraid of the future, and we should be trusting in God. Faith drives out fear and makes us strong and courageous. And so, God gives a command, and he says, “Don’t be afraid, only believe.”
God’s Promise: The Secret Plans Of Man Will Fail
And he gives them a promise as well: “The secret plans of man will fail.”
Isaiah 7:7 Yet this is what the Sovereign Lord says: It will not take place, it will not happen. The alliance of your enemies will not take place.
Many of you are afraid of what the enemy can do to you. Some of you are afraid of what others can do to you. God has made a decision in this matter and this will not take place. It’s a promise. The secret purposes of man will not prevail against you.
Isaiah 54:17 No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord.
“Man Proposes, God Disposes”
You’ve heard the saying, “Man proposes but God disposes.”
God makes the final decision.
Proverbs 19:21 Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.
Daniel 4:17 The decision is announced by messengers, the holy ones declare the verdict, so that the living may know that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes and sets over them the lowliest of people.
Faith must find its resting place in the sovereign power of God. God decrees what will and will not happen. And in that we find our sure security, our stable resting point.
Maybe today some of you are sitting here facing the attack of the enemy. You feel everything is over. You are fearful, afraid, there is no joy. God is saying nothing is going to come of this, do not be afraid. I am going to take charge of this situation and take care of you. So the Lord says: Be quite, be clam, do not be afraid.
But see what the enemy is saying:
Isaiah 7:6 Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it. The enemy comes to tear, devour, destroy, and defeat but God is telling do not be afraid. Whose report do you believe today?
See what the Lord is saying:
Isaiah 7:7-9 7 Yet this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “‘It will not take place, it will not happen, (Lord is saying nothing is going to come of this.) 8 for the head of Aram is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is only Rezin. Within sixty-five years Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people. 9 The head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son. If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.’”
Aram is the king in Damascus. That is all he is going to be. The other man is the head of Samaria, the king of the northern tribes, that is all he is going to be. Your enemies are mere men but I am God, so nothing is going to come of this. I am going to take care of this situation. This is the message many of you need to hear this yearend and for the year. God will take care of you.
See how the message of the Lord ends:
Isaiah 7:9b If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.
Proverbs 29:25 Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.
Stand Firm in Faith
It is one thing to hear the word of God but it is altogether a different thing to trust and have faith in God. Circumstances may be against but stand firm in your faith. Today, will you look at your circumstances and stand firm in faith? Look at that sickness, your condition, look at what others are telling you and stand firm in the faith. It is not over until God says it is over. Let people say anything about you, let people talk against you. God says I am in control over your life, so stand firm in the faith.
Then the Lord says more.
Isaiah 7:10-11 10 Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, 11“Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.” The Lord knows Ahaz is a wicked king, he does not believe God. God is telling, “I do mean what I say; these kings will not be successful but you are in absolute disbelief, you are trying to make some backchannel, diplomatic settlements with your enemy Do not worry, nothing will happen, ask me for a sign. You pick a sign on the depths of the earth or the highest heavens and I will prove that my word is true.”
Ahaz’s response is very interesting:
Isaiah 7:12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test.”
God knows here that this king is very weak and away from him, so God invites the king to ask for a sign. He should have just asked, but Ahaz said, “I will not tempt the Lord.” Listen, he was not a spiritual man. Also, he is in sin and wickedness. He is already tempting the Lord’s longsuffering in his sin, but when he refuses to obey and ask for a sign he is tempting the Lord again.
See the Lord’s response:
Isaiah 7:13-14 13 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? 14 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 says to this king: I will give you a sign that this is not going to happen and my people are not going to be defeated. I am going to send the Messiah through these people. The Lord looked down the road well over 500 years, looks through all the history that is to come in these years and said: “You will not be wiped out; the Messiah Jesus will be born through this kingdom.” As he does so the Lord gives several signs about the coming Messiah in the following verses.
Many of you are in the situation like king Ahaz, you feel everything is over but the coming of the Lord, his death, his resurrection is a sign that no harm of the enemy will overpower you as long as you trust in Jesus as your Lord. Amen! This is the long-term fulfilment of this prophesy, the birth of Christ.
There was also an immediate fulfilment of this prophesy in Isaiah. In Isaiah 8, Isaiah had a son and that became a sign to King Ahaz.
Tragically, however, Ahaz will not listen. Instead, he is going to flee willingly into the arms of the Assyria. He is going to turn away from a loving God and he is going to embrace Assyria to save him.
The greatest danger in the universe is unbelief in Almighty God.
This makes God your enemy. And who can stand before him? Here I perceive also the same issue as the gospel itself.
Romans 1:17 The righteous will live by faith.
Those who refuse to believe in Christ will be destroyed, and they will be destroyed by the very things they trust in, as Ahaz was destroyed by the very nation he trusted in, Assyria.
There was an opportunity there for Ahaz, and he threw it on the ground. He refuses the grace and help that the Lord will give. Judah will be saved, but not by Ahaz. Not by Ahaz.
So the real safety and security for Judah is this: God is with us. The real safety and security for us is God. No matter how much ever the devil works, his works will not stand against a child of God. Stand firm.
God as a powerful eagle protecting the little ones, and none can harm them because he is sovereign and powerful. That’s what Immanuel means, the power of God to defeat all of our enemies.
Ahaz did not listen. God then brought the king of Assyria and defeated Judah. And the bottom line is this: What you trust in, if not the Lord, will ultimately destroy you. Assyria came not to save, but to destroy.
Stand firm in the Lord.
We have seen a very difficult year, as you step into the new year, this is God’s word, “Stand Firm.”
God is walking alongside us. God is with us in the midst of suffering. He is God with us in the trials and temptations. He is God with us in the ups and lows of life, so stand firm in the Lord.
What are you trusting in? What do your trials show you that you were trusting in 2020? How do you react when you get bad news? Whether it’s financial, or medical, relational, spiritual – when you get bad news and your heart is laid bare who are you really trusting in? Is your heart fluttering like a leaf when you get some bad news? Or are you rock solid knowing there is a God who sovereignly overrules your life and nothing can touch you except what is passed through his wise and loving hands.
Stand firm and you will see the wonder-working power of God in your life in 2021.