In 734 B.C. a coalition was forming to stand against the rising regional star, Assyria. Aram (Syria) allied with Israel to stand against Assyria, and King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah of Israel tried to get King Ahaz of Judah to join them in this alliance against Assyria.
This is the occasion for Isaiah 7-8, in which we have a Messianic word about a virgin being born who will be called Immanuel. Rather than simply extracting out that cool passage, would you read Isaiah 7-8 in order to understand how Yahweh dealt with a bad king, Ahaz, in his fears, his faithlessness, and how he uses Isaiah to speak words of truth to him? Then the Immanuel prophecy will make even more sense to us.
Isaiah's first message from Yahweh was to be "Keep Calm and King On." (Isaiah 7:4) The two kings trying to get him to join them against Assyria are called "smoldering stubs of firewood." Ahaz is told not to fear reprisal if he doesn't join. Yahweh says Judah and Aram are not going to do what they are plotting if Ahaz doesn't agree. Ahaz is assured that if he does not stand by faith in Yahweh, he will not continue as king; he will fall. But be assured also that the Davidic kingdom will indeed continue, and days are coming when a new king will come.
The Gospel of Matthew quotes Isaiah 7:14, saying the virgin birth of Jesus to Mary fulfilled what the prophet said, because Immanuel means God with us and like the word Isaiah, points to the salvation of God for His people.
There may have been a near term fulfillment of this word in Isaiah 7:14, because 7:16 says "before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste." Here is a direct prophecy that Aram and Israel will be destroyed, and he goes on to say that Assyria will be the tool of God -- a razor that shaves head and legs -- to overtake these two countries, and even Judah.
Isaiah is strongly urged, with the "strong hand of Yahweh upon me" to not follow the way of the people. What does all this mean? Judah and Ahaz through Isaiah are warned, strongly exhorted by Yahweh not to form alliances with nations around them, to depend on them more than upon God. Affiliate with Yahweh, not Assyria. Nothing can destroy God's chosen Davidic kingdom, his Holy Hill in Zion (Psalm 2:4-9). Let God rule. And be a faithful king under God's authority.
Yahweh, would you teach us the lesson of Ahaz? He didn't learn that he is not truly the ruler. Even we in our self-sovereignty think we rule our own lives, but we really don't. Yahweh, you rule the universe. As we face an election year in the United States, would you remind us who is truly in charge of the nation, the world? Please show people on the right that we ourselves are not in charge, that we cannot save or rule ourselves. That doesn't mean the state must rule us. So remind people on the left that government is not in charge and can't save us. The truth is neither right nor the left is Yahweh's way (Isaiah 30:21). God is in charge of the world, our lives, and He is the true Sovereign Lord.
Are you addicted to watching television? In particular, are you addicted to election coverage? Are you addicted to financial news? Are you addicted to pornography? Are you addicted to salacious novels, romances, television shows? Is your music on your phone or computer laced with obscene words or demeaning messages to women or men? Consider a fast from media. Did you think I'd forgotten to ask about Facebook? Are you addicted to Facebook. I know some people who fast during Lent from social media. How would that change the next few weeks of your life if you did that? You never know till you try.
Giving helps others, but God doesn't need our money. Dave Ramsey is the first to really ram this home for me. I like how he laughs when he mocks the person who says "God needs our money." No he doesn't! God owns the universe and everything in it. This includes yours and my money. Think God needs us to give it to him for His sake? We give because God knows human nature, our hearts, and people like King Ahaz get greedy and overcome by wealth.
Giving away wealth is ultimately for us and other human beings to share and thus become a community. This doesn't mean we have to rely on government or churches to distribute it for us, but we can grow peaceful about the fact that to a degree in our American society it is normative for some of our incomes to go to taxes that helps create a just society where the helpless, veterans, and elderly are cared for.
This still leaves huge gaps of need, and we do not expect the government to fill our every need! God's people can help one another, and James the brother of Jesus said true religion is this: to care for widows and orphans. Is there someone who is struggling because they have lost a husband, become divorced, just had a baby but has little support system, someone whose main breadwinner died or is in prison?
Do you know of someone caring for a foster child, trying to adopt a troubled child, or someone you know is struggling to make ends meet with several children? Give them a helping hand by taking care of their children at your church for an hour, pay a bill for them, give them a gift card for some books to buy for their children or give them some good books they can read to their children. People living in poverty or having difficulty making ends meet will have difficulty even thinking about buying extras to help educate their children, and you can help.