With us in the war
“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given.” In the run-up to Christmas, these well-known words from Isaiah 9 will be spoken aloud in churches around the world. But what’s the story behind the prophesy? George Makeen, Director of SAT-7’s Arabic channels, explains the chaotic context into which God spoke His promise of hope:
Around 700 years before the birth of Christ, Israel was in a state of war. The northern kingdom of Israel had split from the southern kingdom of Judah and the two were fighting against each other. Meanwhile, the Assyrian Empire was growing in size and power and launched an attack on both.
In the midst of this chaos, Isaiah had an encounter with the almighty God. The message God ordered the prophet to communicate was harsh and condemned the people’s hard hearts and minds that refused to listen to God’s word. But the final lines of chapter 6 carry hope of a holy seed that will survive in the stump of the tree that has been cut down and burned.
When Isaiah tried to comfort the people and told the king of Judah, Ahaz, to ask for a sign, the king refused. Yet God gave the sign anyway – of a newborn boy, Emmanuel – proclaiming the promise of redemption for the remnants who trust in Him.
Emmanuel reappears in chapter 8 with the assurance that God is with us, regardless of the nations’ wars and plans: “Listen, all you distant lands…. Devise your strategy, but it will be thwarted; propose your plan, but it will not stand, for God is with us.”
The message is still the same, from the time of Isaiah, to the birth of God’s incarnated Word, to our world today. Injustice and corruption make it hard for people to accept any promise of new hope. We believe, though, that evil will be eventually punished, and that God stores hope for those who trust in Him.
My prayer this Christmas is that all of our lives and work will be an illustration of this message – that in times of turmoil and uncertainty, when one doesn’t know where to turn, we will be able to witness God’s full glory and be reminded that He is in control. I pray that we will rush to share His message as Isaiah did, when we hear the call: “Whom shall I send?”
Do you feel like the world is out of control? Do you feel afraid for the future? Read through Isaiah 9:2-7. Praise God that though we still wait for peace and justice, we know that He is with us – Emmanuel.