How do you think people will talk about the year 2020 in 50 years? How about 100 or a 1000 years? What about in 2750 years? Isaiah the prophet wrote about an event that took place that long ago. The event he talked about was a time of great doubt and fear, you could even say panic. The kingdom of Judah and its king, Ahaz, were facing a very serious threat to their very existence. Their neighbors all around them had decided to declare war on them. Not only that but in the early battles of the war, Judah had experienced defeat on a massive scale. They had basically been pushed back all the way to their capital and had lost hundreds of thousands of soldiers and many more civilians as slaves. It is hard for us to understand something like this in our day. It’s as if our greatest enemies had invaded the U.S. and conquered almost all our people and territory. Isaiah describes the hearts of the people of Judah like trees shaking in the forest on a windy day.
Can you imagine how you would feel when faced with such an existential threat? While the threat of the COVID-19 virus is serious, I think we can be thankful that at least, at the time of this writing, it is not as serious as the threat that faced the nation of Judah. That said, there are lessons I think we can take from that time period and apply them to our current situation.
It’s easy in times like these for Christians to immediately assume this is a judgement from God on sinful humanity. That might be the case here, but it would be arrogant and irresponsible to jump to that conclusion. But with that said, let us assume for a minute, for sake of argument, that this is a judgment from God. Can we think of any reasons why God would be judging our world? For Christians the answer is easily yes. From abortion, to sexual deviancy, perverted justice, and the oppression of the poor and afflicted. Every country is guilty of these things to one degree or another so there is ample reason for God to be judging our world. The same could be said of the nation of Judah and its king, Ahaz. You see, Ahaz had led the nation away from serving their rightful God, Yahweh, to serve the gods of their neighbors. Ahaz had set up altars and images to Baal and not only worshiped this false god but also lead the nation to serve this false god as well. An essential worship rite of this religion involved infanticide. That’s right, offering your own children to the fires of these demon gods.
We know that it was because of this practice that God allowed Judah to be defeated. You can read of this in 2 Chronicles 28:9-11. Returning to Isaiah, we can see in chapter 7 that God was still wanting to be merciful. In fact, he sent Isaiah the prophet to Ahaz almost offering him the chance to repent and turn to God. Ahaz refused this opportunity to receive Yahweh’s mercy. God told Ahaz to ask for any sign he wanted that the Lord would be on the side of Judah and offer them mercy. Now at this point in the story, I want to pull my hair out and just tell Ahaz to humble himself and return to the Lord. If I had the chance to ask anything of the Lord, I would ask for an amazing miracle that would completely alter the situation. Instead, Ahaz would rather trust in his own wisdom and in the strength of the foreign superpower Assyria to fight his battle. This would not come without a cost because, though Assyria helped Judah defeat her enemies, they would later come and dominate and oppress the land of Judah. Worse than this, the alliance lead Ahaz further into idolatry.
Even though Ahaz had again spit in the face of Yahweh, the God of Israel, God would still be merciful to the nation. This mercy revealed itself in the fulfillment of this prophecy in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” That’s right! The ultimate hope in this dark situation that the nation found themselves in was that God would come and live among them. He would fight for them and deliver them from their enemies. What an awesome hope that is. And the best part for us today is that though the nation of Judah would have to wait 700 years for the fulfillment of that hope, we get to look back and see that God did indeed come to live among us. He also defeated our ultimate enemies, sin and death, in His body on the cross and the resurrection from the dead. And best part of all of this is that He still lives with us today and will live with us forever.
So, as the world reacts to the current situation with fear and doubt, with hearts shaking as trees in a forest on a windy day, we can instead react with confidence that God is on the throne. Our Lord will be merciful and indeed He already has been merciful. Let us point others to the hope found in our great God who will not let His anger burn forever nor will He leave us or forsake us. And as we celebrate the Resurrection this year, more than any other, let us remember the words from 1 Corinthians 15:19-20, “If we have placed our hope in Christ for this life only, we should be pitied more that anyone. But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” Brothers and sisters, our hope does not rest in finding a cure for this disease (though we pray for one), nor is it in the strength of our economy (though we pray for that too). No, our hope rests in the fact that Jesus achieved the cure to the disease of sin, and that we are heirs of the wealth of the King.