At this time of year at Carol Services and other Christmas events the prophesies of Isaiah in chapters 7 and 9. The first being the sign of Immanuel and the second being the one with “for unto us a child is born.” Let us put them in their historical context. In chapter 7 Isaiah confronts King Ahaz of Judah and the prophecy concerning Immanuel is given after Ahaz refuses to ask God for a sign. Isaiah then rebukes him by saying “hear now the house of David! Is it not enough to test the patience of men? Will you test the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Now Ahaz was one of the bad kings of Judah and because of that we tend to forget about him and concentrate on the good guys whom we can use as role models. So let us step back and consider what else Scripture says about him.
In 2 Chronicles 28 the whole chapter is a catalogue of the bad things he did and the setbacks Judah suffered as a result of them but instead of repenting of his sin decided to worship the gods of his enemies and shut up the doors of the Lord’s temple. On the other hand 2 Kings 16 has him seeking help from the king of Assyria against the king of Aram who had invaded Judah. After Assyria destroys Aram, Ahaz goes to Damascus to visit the King of Assyria. When he saw an altar there he sent a priest named Uriah to sketch it and produce a copy of it and replace the existing altar to the Lord. Also that Ahaz made sacrifices on it. But it would appear that from 2 Chronicles that these sacrifices were made to the gods of his enemies and not the Lord. Did Uriah know this was Ahaz’s intention from the start, if so why did he not object? Or was he duped? Was he, in effect, a turkey voting for Christmas?
We live in an age when there are many oppose the worship of the one true God, of course, they will rarely admit it up front. They will say things like that the Church is behind the times and needs to modernise. True, the Church is a living entity and not a fossil, however, an organism reproduces according to its DNA and not its feelings or the latest fashion. Sadly, too many churchmen, and women these days, are too keen to be politically correct to object strongly when traditional biblical values are challenged. Like Uriah the priest they are all too keen to follow the pattern of this world rather than the pattern shown by God.
Returning to Isaiah’s prophecy in chapter 9, “for unto us a child is born,” who is the “us”? Is it just the good people like Isaiah, or does it include people like king Ahaz? The babe that was born in Bethlehem came for all, good or bad, Jew or gentile. Sadly there is no evidence that king Ahaz ever repented of his sin, so I fear that he will meet Jesus as his judge and not his saviour. Those of us still in this world have the opportunity to do so if they have not already. That is the true meaning of Christmas that the Christ came to give the opportunity to look at the Crucified one and live.
David Rose, 2019.