convenient pieties — holding Christ at arm’s length

King Ahaz of Judah has a problem.

Actually, King Ahaz of Judah has a number of problems. But the most pressing problem is that two neighbouring nations are threatening war against him. The northern kingdom of Israel, under King Pekah, and the neighbouring nation of Syria under King Rezin have made an alliance and are threatening to attack. It is no idle threat. We read in Isaiah chapter 7 that when they heard about this military threat, “the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.”

King Ahaz and the people of Judah are afraid. King Ahaz is not confident in the strength of his own forces. He’s not confident in the capacity of his soldiers to repel this military assault. He is deeply fearful that this will mean death and destruction and defeat for himself and for Judah. “The heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.”

Into the middle of all of this comes Isaiah the prophet. And he comes with a word of challenge and a word of warning. His message from God to Ahaz is this: “If you do not stand firm in faith, you shall not stand at all.” Continue reading

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fear in its place…

King Ahaz is afraid. We know what that feels like. Fear has touched each of our lives.

Perhaps you have a childhood memory of finding yourself suddenly alone in a public place – you have lost sight of your mother or father – you can’t find them. Your chest tightens in fear. Panic sets in. You run – you search.

Perhaps as an adult you have encountered or known someone who is prone to anger and violence. If so, that experience of clammy hands, of a pounding heart, and of weak legs is something you know well.

On the other hand, perhaps your fear is not quite so visceral, not so full-bodied – maybe your fear is more of a steady anxiety about life, about your health, about your children, about your future.

Continue reading