I was listening to the radio today about the crisis in Aleppo, Syria and the fragile truce that has been established to let people leave that war-torn city. How sad to be in the midst of a brutal war. How sad to hear the bombs, feel the earth shake, smell the smoke, see the fire, and live amongst the rubble. And yet, this seems to be the norm for the Middle East. I was reading recently in the Old Testament about another war involving Syria found in the book of Isaiah.
In the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not yet mount an attack against it. When the house of David was told, “Syria is in league with Ephraim,” the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.
And the Lord said to Isaiah, “Go out to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer’s Field. And say to him, ‘Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah. Because Syria, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has devised evil against you, saying, “Let us go up against Judah and terrify it, and let us conquer it for ourselves, and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it,” thus says the Lord God:
“‘It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass. For the head of Syria is Damascus, and the head of Damascus is Rezin. And within sixty-five years Ephraim will be shattered from being a people. And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah. If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.’” Isaiah 7:1-9, (English Standard Version or ESV).
Isaiah had a duty to God as His prophet to speak to the King of Southern Israel, King Ahaz. How do we know that King Ahaz was a king over Israel? The text tells us a part of his genealogy and also refers to his kingdom as the house of David a reference to King David. Ahaz heard from someone that Syria was making a pact with Ephraim, the Northern Kingdom of Israel. This frightened the King greatly because he had no love for Syria. Ephraim was preparing his troops for war with Syria against King Ahaz and the Southern Kingdom of Israel. There is a long history involved in these verses and I recommend the following link if you are interested in learning more about it: http://biblehub.com/commentaries/isaiah/7-2.htm The point that I want to make is that there seems to have been war many times involving Syria and yet God sent His prophet to give a word of encouragement to His people concerning the pending war. God had a plan and told a bit of it to King Ahaz through the prophet Isaiah, so let’s see what is promised.
Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: “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.” And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also?
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. The Lord will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria!”
In that day the Lord will whistle for the fly that is at the end of the streams of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria. And they will all come and settle in the steep ravines, and in the clefts of the rocks, and on all the thornbushes, and on all the pastures. In that day the Lord will shave with a razor that is hired beyond the River—with the king of Assyria—the head and the hair of the feet, and it will sweep away the beard also. In that day a man will keep alive a young cow and two sheep, and because of the abundance of milk that they give, he will eat curds, for everyone who is left in the land will eat curds and honey. In that day every place where there used to be a thousand vines, worth a thousand shekels of silver, will become briers and thorns. With bow and arrows a man will come there, for all the land will be briers and thorns. And as for all the hills that used to be hoed with a hoe, you will not come there for fear of briers and thorns, but they will become a place where cattle are let loose and where sheep tread. Isaiah 7:10-25, (ESV).
You see, today we still see war involving Syria but we also see that the Middle East is struggling in many ways. War has torn it apart, false religion has blinded many and kept them from the truth about God and Jesus Christ, and yet, even in the midst of war there is hope. This is the hope that was predicted to come by Isaiah in his words of comfort to King Ahaz. The hope that we all have in this uncertain world is as a result of the birth of Jesus and the life He lived, and the death He overcame. That is the hope for you and for me and it is also the hope for the poor people stranded in the midst of a war in Aleppo, Syria today. We will always have war and according to Jesus, such wars will escalate.
As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains. “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:3-14, (ESV).
But the good news is that Jesus was born, did live, did die, did rise from the dead, and has a Kingdom that no person of the world can understand. We are His sheep, we are His and He takes care of us regardless of what is going on around us. I am thankful that Jesus was born and I am thankful that we can celebrate during this Christmas time and pause to remember that Jesus was born, just like you and I were. I can remember that Jesus grew up just as you and I have. I can remember that Jesus died, just like the generations before me did and one day you and I will also die, but Jesus rose again and dealt death a blow it is still sore about and one day you and I will rise from death because we put our faith in Jesus Christ! Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Nothing can change this fact, not denial, not rewriting history, nothing! And soon we will all be celebrating Christmas with our friends and families. May you pause to remember our brothers and sisters around the world who are caught up in a war that God will protect them. May you hold your loved ones close and give them the best gift of all, Jesus. Merry Christmas everyone!
Until next time…Katherine