By Elizabeth Kendal
AUSTRALIA (ANS) — In 735 BC, as Judah’s neighbours conspired against her, God asked Judah’s King Ahaz to be ‘firm in faith’ (Isaiah 7:1-9) and trust God to be faithful to his promise [the Davidic covenant of 2 Samuel 7:8-17]. He even offered to give Ahaz a sign to help him have faith to believe. Unfortunately Ahaz rejected the Lord’s offer; he did not want to walk by faith for he had other plans. Disgusted, the prophet Isaiah then revealed that the Lord himself would give a sign: ‘Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.’ (Isaiah 7:14) Subsequently, Isaiah forewarned his disciples that Ahaz’s faithless choice would lead to disaster: the Assyrian invasion (prophesied in Isaiah 8, fulfilled in 701 BC). ‘But,’ he added, ‘there will be no gloom … For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end …’ (Excerpts from Isaiah 9:1-7 ESV)
Whilst Ahaz’s son, Hezekiah, was an interim fulfilment of this prophecy, he merely prefigured Jesus Christ, for the ultimate fulfilment is Immanuel. A godly king who revived Judah’s worship of Yahweh, Hezekiah temporarily succumbed to pride before returning to the Lord at the critical moment. As prophesied, the Assyrian army overflowed its banks and flooded the land of Judah, sweeping away all those earthly instruments in which the Lord’s people had vainly put their hopes. With the fall of Jerusalem imminent and inevitable, the godly King Hezekiah humbled himself and stood firm in faith. Donning the sackcloth of mourning, he entered the Lord’s temple and prayed. His prayer achieved what his works could not as God intervened and the battle was turned back at the gate (Isaiah 36-37). The remnant was spared by grace through faith.
Jesus Christ, the king born of David’s line, is the ultimate fulfilment. Like Hezekiah, Jesus has interposed himself between a just and righteous God and a people in need of salvation. Unlike Hezekiah, Jesus is perfect and eternal. Whilst the spiritual battle has already been turned back — for Christ’s victory on the cross has ensured the outcome — local battles will continue ‘until he has put all his enemies under his feet’ (1 Corinthians 15:24-28). Though the ‘mopping up’ is messy, painful and difficult; despite episodes of chaos, darkness and seeming hopelessness; the promise remains: ‘Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end … .’ (Isaiah 9:7) So we will resist despair and refuse to give up. We will press on in faith with witness and intercession believing that ‘the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea’ (Isaiah 11:9). As the angel told Mary, ‘Nothing will be impossible for God.’ (Luke 1:37) May we believe, as Mary believed, that God will fulfil his word (Luke 1:45).
Lord God our Father and Eternal King, we commit ourselves to another year in your service, to intercede in confident faith for your precious, persecuted Church.