Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. (Isaiah 11:1-3a)
Prophet Isaiah was in the temple. King Uzziah died, who reigned the kingdom of Judah for 52 years. King Uzziah was wonderfully intelligent and innovative king, under whom the state of Judah prospered. He was used by God to defeat the Philistines and Arabs, he built fortified towers and strengthened the armies of Judah, and he commissioned skilled men to create devices that could shoot arrows and large stones at enemies from the city walls. He also built up the land, and the Bible says he “loved the soil”. The Ammonites paid tribute to King Uzziah, and his fame spread all over the ancient world, as far as the border of Egypt. The people of Judah were prosperous, and their lives were good. Then King Uzziah died, and his son Jotham governed the people in his place. The kingdom of Judah was no longer used to be. The people felt insecurity. Prophet Isaiah came to God where he was able to find peace, although the world was in turmoil.
Suddenly, Isaiah saw God, who was sitting on a sitting on a lofty throne, and the train of his robe filled the Temple. Then he heard God asking, “Whom should I send as a messenger to this people? Who will go for us?”
Isaiah answered, “Here I am. Send me.” Isaiah was overwhelmed by the glory of God. God commissioned Isaiah to the people of Judah, who were stressed and in fear after the death of King Uzziah. God gave hope,
But as a terebinth or oak tree leaves a stump when it is cut down,
so Israel’s stump will be a holy seed.” (Isaiah 6:13b)
Although the people of Judah were like an oak tree stump being cut down, God promised. God would make the stump a holy seed and grow to a new holy tree again. The people of Judah heard the message of God, and they were comforted.
The comfort and peace did not last. When Ahaz, grandson of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Syriaa and Pekah, the king of Israel, set out to attack Jerusalem. The news had come to the royal court of Judah: “Syria is allied with Israel against us!” So the hearts of the king and his people trembled with fear, like trees shaking in a storm. Then God appeared, and comforted Isaiah. Then He sent Isaiah to carry His word:
If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.'” (Isaiah 7:9b)
God told to stand firm in faith, no matter what happened. The king, and the people saw the huge armies of Syria and the northern kingdom, but God asked not to fear, because God was with them. The King and the people together heard God would protect them, but they could not stand firm in faith. They saw the huge armies surrounding them, but they could not see God with their naked eyes in fear of what they saw.
God, who was merciful and full of love, still loved them, and He exactly knew their inability to believe because of the huge armies surrounding them. God sent a message through Isaiah to King Ahaz, “Ask the Lord your God for a sign of confirmation, Ahaz. Make it as difficult as you want—as high as heaven or as deep as the place of the dead.”
The stone-cold hearted king did not believe what was told. He refused and said, “No, I will no test God like that.” What an excuse! It looked great and even Biblical, because “do not test God” was one of the ten commandments. However, in the King’s heart, it was a passive aggression against God. God gave a chance to ask anything even if something was impossible in the King’s eyes. King Ahaz did not ask God.
Why? Did King Ahaz act like as above? King Ahaz and his people had been in a difficult time being surround by the huge enemy. Also they waited long for the promise of God given through Isaiah. Nothing happened. After a long wait, they excepted a good thing. Instead, two countries, who did not believe God, invaded. What a disappointment! They found that the God’s promise was far, and the fearful reality was imminent.
How many times in our lives do you feel like King Ahaz and his people? We believe God and His promise, and waited long. Nothing happens. Instead, a fearful reality is quickly approaching to us like a running train heading straight toward us. No! There is absolutely no way out. We feel like our bodies are tied on the track of the rapidly approaching train. There was no strength nor a desire to ask God because we were completely worn out. We have waited and waited long for His promise without seeing His promise. Has God forgotten us or is He ignoring us? No. God has never forgotten us or He is ignoring us like a mother who never forgets her baby from her womb.
Through the mouth of Isaiah, the merciful God gave His comfort, peace and hope again,
“Listen well, you royal family of David! Isn’t it enough to exhaust human patience? Must you exhaust the patience of my God as well? All right then, God himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’). (Isaiah 7:13-14)
God again gave the promise and the sign to the unbelieving King Ahaz and his people because God loved them. There was no reason that God love them, but God’s love was one-sided. Nobody believed, and even refused to ask God. By that time, they were completely worn out by the harshness of the world, and a disaster followed — the attacking armies of two countries. Yes, it was a truly fearful moment freezing their hearts and minds. Their faith was completely drained. Even so, God did not blame them nor punished them. God promised a sign: “The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son. Not just an oridnary son, but the son, whose name would be Immanuel (“God is with us.”)”
King Ahaz and his people were not worthy for the Son, Immanuel. They refused God, but God gave a promise for the Son, Immanuel as the sign of comfort and peace for the people in fear, pains and hardship. God also protected them. The allied armies of Syria and the northern kingdom could not enter in Jerusalem. Although King Ahaz and his people completely gave up, God saved them as He promised.
God is always faithful to His promise especially to His children. God’s faithfulness never changes. God loves His children even as you read this devotion because He loves us, as He did to King Ahaz and his people. We all suffer on earth, which is not a news. As long as we are in this world while making journey to our Eternal Home, we will never feel at home. We all know this truth, but it is not easy to continue being in faith especially with our own might only. Often than not, our faith seems like a seed landed on a rocky soil or among thorn bushes. Although we try to make our faith deeply root into the soil, rocks are in the way. We try to grow our faith into Him, but the world does not let us alone. Our faith soon withers due to worldly burdens, distractions and pains. We experience again and again that it is impossible to make our faith deeply root into the soil and grow into Him with our own might and effort. We always fail. We always fall short of His glory, which is sadly sin. Yes, sin. We are in sin whenever we fail before God or just fall short of His glory.
Nobody. Yes, nobody can do. It is impossible to be whole before God, because God is holy, and nobody is holy. However, God knows. Our lives are not easy. We are worn out daily in the world. God knows exactly how much we are suffering and wearing out. God is merciful. God simply forgives all our sins. He asks only one thing: come back to God as sinners, not the righteous, and ask His forgives. To forgive and save all sinners (especially, for those who morn for their own sins before God), God promised the Son, Emmanuel. He will be with us forever. We cannot be with the God, because God is holy and we are sinful. God, who is holy, reconciled us by sending his own Son and sacrificed on the cross, which is the sign given to all of us. The forgiveness is given to us not just for our past sins, but all sins from past, now, future, and forever.
Emmanuel, the Son of God on the cross, is the sign for all. Emmanuel. We are no longer alone nor separated from God. Emmanuel, God is with us. God is with us forever. Emmanuel, this is the promise of God that we are His forever children. Emmanuel, God is with us at this very moment and forever. Emmanuel, God is with us. Give the highest praise God, who is always with us from now and forever. We are His beloved children, forever!
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;
but with righteousness he will judge the needy,
with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt
and faithfulness the sash around his waist.
They will neither harm nor destroy
on all my holy mountain,
for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord
as the waters cover the sea. (Isaiah 11:3b-5, 9)