The second part of chapter 7 of Isaiah brings more bad news for national Israel. Last time we saw that YHWH had told Ahaz he would fall if he was not firm in his faith. Like Peter sinking into the waves when took his focus off Christ and fixed his eyes on the storm; he was not firm in his faith. So Ahaz, with disastrous results.
Our passage opens with God speaking to Ahaz. Isaiah 7:10-11 (HCSB) Then the LORD spoke again to Ahaz: “Ask for a sign from the LORD your God—from the depths of Sheol to the heights of heaven.” Ahaz put on false humility: Isaiah 7:12 (HCSB) But Ahaz replied, “I will not ask. I will not test the LORD.” Note this: obedience to what God has commanded does NOT put God to the test; it puts man to the test. The Creator is not pleased with this creature’s attitude. His prophet replies.
Isaiah 7:13 (HCSB) Isaiah said, “Listen, house of David! Is it not enough for you to try the patience of men? Will you also try the patience of my God?” God’s patience was tried by the creature’s disobedience. By addressing Ahaz by his covenant identity, YHWH is reminding him that he (and the house of David) have been blessed by God unlike any other nation; and now he is rebelling against the One Who has been their provision.
Isaiah 7:14-17 (HCSB) Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel. By the time he learns to reject what is bad and choose what is good, he will be eating butter and honey. For before the boy knows to reject what is bad and choose what is good, the land of the two kings you dread will be abandoned. The LORD will bring on you, your people, and the house of your father, such a time as has never been since Ephraim separated from Judah—the king of Assyria ⌊is coming⌋.”
This well-known prophecy, “a virgin will conceive and her son will be named Immanuel – God with us!” is couched in the middle of bad news for national Israel. We see this son will learn obedience (Heb 5:8) and will be poor (eating butter – or sour milk – and honey was a sign of poverty). While He is growing into manhood (we speak of His human nature) both north and south Israel will be destitute – YHWH will send Assyria to punish them for continued disobedience. Rome would rule Israel by the time Jesus walked its streets.
The closing passage on this chapter talks about the judgment that will come on national Israel, using the phrase, “On that day,” four times in announcing bad news.
Isaiah 7:18-19 (HCSB) On that day the LORD will whistle to the fly that is at the farthest streams of the Nile and to the bee that is in the land of Assyria. All of them will come and settle in the steep ravines, in the clefts of the rocks, in all the thornbushes, and in all the water holes.
The Creator is sovereign over all creation – even bugs. He sent flies and bees to swarm over the entire kingdom that had been given to the people He had created.
Isaiah 7:20 (HCSB) On that day the Lord will use a razor hired from beyond the Euphrates River—the king of Assyria—to shave the head, the hair on the legs, and to remove the beard as well.
To be shaved clean was a mark of shame in that day. YHWH sends Assyria to bring shame to national Israel.
Isaiah 7:21-22 (HCSB) On that day a man will raise a young cow and two sheep, and from the abundant milk they give he will eat butter, for every survivor in the land will eat butter and honey.
National Israel will be thrown into poverty; those who survive will have sour milk and honey; hallmarks of lack rather than abundance.
Isaiah 7:23-25 (HCSB) And on that day every place where there were 1,000 vines, worth 1,000 pieces of silver, will become thorns and briers. A man will go there with bow and arrows because the whole land will be thorns and briers. You will not go to all the hills that were once tilled with a hoe, for fear of the thorns and briers. ⌊Those hills⌋ will be places for oxen to graze and for sheep to trample.
On that day, what was once bright and valuable will be as weeds and goat heads. Hunters will find nothing, farmers’ work will yield nothing. Oxen will graze there and sheep will trample everything. The lost sheep of Israel, waiting for their Shepherd.
There is One Shepherd, one sheepfold. The everlasting kingdom is not your country, it’s not of this world. His kingdom is spiritual and will be fulfilled on the new earth when He returns, not to deal with sin but to gather those who eagerly await Him. Are you looking for Him, being faithful with what He’s given you? Are you grumbling because you don’t have enough stuff? Someone more mighty and awesome than the king of Assyria is coming. Do you know Him? Are you ready?