Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test. Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.
He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.
I remember very clearly an iconic line delivered multiple times by Jack Nicholson’s Joker character from the 1989 version of Batman: “Have you ever danced with the devil by the pale moonlight?” By this, the Joker was asking Batman if he had ever “faced his demons,” and if he’d ever given in to “the dark side,” perhaps doing so for the right reasons, but still doing so nonetheless. This is a theme quiet common in literature and film, and all too common on the stage of history. Unholy alliances almost never work out. The logic of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend,” almost never works out in the end, unless, of course, two former enemies learn to truly be friends and, in the process, change their ways.
In this brief passage, King Ahaz of Judah is ruling an affronted and assaulted people. They have little hope to stand against the combined might of Israel, Syria, and the Phillistines. However, God sees them through one siege and through the Prophet Isaiah, delivers a promise to continue to see them through safely. Unwilling to accept this message of waiting and hoping, Ahaz brokers a deal with the regional power Assyria who promptly conquers Israel (remember they were God’s people too . . . ), Syria, and the Phillistines. Soon, though, Ahaz and Judah were stuck paying extremely high taxes to their new overlord Assyria. Eventually, Ahaz even commissioned idols of Assyrian gods to be made and set up all over Judah including, even, in the temple in Jerusalem. All of this was to please the Assyrian King Tiglath-Pileser III. In response Isaiah tells Ahaz that another is coming to rule, and by the time he’s ready, Ahaz’s land will be deserted – and it will be all his fault!
I think this passage is far too relevant today. Isaiah’s Advent message of wait, trust, and hope didn’t set well with Ahaz. He failed. Will we? At a time that all sorts of alliances are being brokered to try to stave off the marginalization of the Church in North America, we must be careful. We must be careful seeking power and glory, especially through unholy alliances. God never promises us, or the Church, that life will be easy. In fact, He promises the opposite. We shouldn’t seek after marginalization or persecution, but when we make deals with bad people in hopes of holding on to or securing power, what should we expect?!? We must learn from Ahaz: trust and wait, for Immanuel is coming.
Today, ask God to reveal to you your fear of marginalization and persecution – both for yourself and for the Church. These are understandable fears. Understandable as they are, though, we must give them to God. Give them to God in prayer, and ask God how you should respond? Are you to fight against this marginalization and even persecution, or are you called to something different? Are you, perhaps, called to wait, trust, and hope like Ahaz, like all of God’s people, in fact, as they waited for the Messiah to come, and as we wait for Him to return? Perhaps, rather than taking our lives into our own hands, we are to give our lives to and for others in the name of Jesus Christ, trusting that He will deliver and vindicate us. Ask God today to expose your fears, and then to speak to you about how you should best handle them.