David and his men faced their worst nightmare when they arrived home and found a burned-out village and that their wives and children were gone. Thankfully, they didn’t come home to dead bodies, too. There was hope they were alive.
David’s men were furious and blamed David for this misfortune. It was time for David to turn to God rather than try and take matters into his own hands. He called for the ephod from the priest so he could be sure the word was truly from God. And God said, “Go!”
Probably the most well-known of all Bible stories we learned as children was the story of David and Goliath. All sorts of images pop up for me, from the felt board stories of my wee years to play acting the story with children with costumes and sound effects when I was Children’s Ministry Director.
We are going to take our time as we walk through this story. Maybe new messages will pop out for us. Sometimes we tend to rush through things, especially when they are familiar. I guess we want to conserve our “energy” for handling the more complex or new things we encounter each day.
Moab was a region to the east of the Dead Sea. I understand that the inhabitants there had a relative connection to the Israelites. Generations ago, Lot, the nephew of Abraham, had an incestuous relationship with his daughter. The result of that relationship was a son named Moab. There had been plenty of power plays with the Israelites over the years as their territories were in close proximity.
We see that God is still caring for his own to some degree by calling out a prophecy of what the fate is for that side of the family. It doesn’t look good. There will be some Moabites who will be knocking on the doors of Israelites seeking refuge. We see that kind of behavior today. Groups of immigrants moving to other countries happens frequently as they seek asylum in other cultures.
It might help to know that Ahaz was not a good king, in terms of being devout in following God. He was evil and self-serving. Yet God tried to protect him because he was in the line of David and part of the kingly promise. Isaiah tells him God is okay with him asking for a sign to be sure it is really God who is speaking to him. Ahaz puts on a bit of a show of piety here when he says, “I will not test the Lord like that.” He knows that it is sinful to test the Lord. But he is being given “permission” to do so here and still refuses. Ahaz has obviously made up his mind he can do it on his own, or at least with the help of Assyria.
Then Isaiah says this. “All right then, the Lord 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’).” This is recognizable to us as Christians. We find it also in Matthew 1:23. From the sources I reviewed, however, it is unlikely that Isaiah’s reference was strictly a pronouncement of the coming Messiah. Double prophecies happen, and I think that is what we have here. For purposes of the illustration given to Ahaz, it was a sign he could see with his own eyes rather than wait generations for fulfillment.
Have you ever had your motives questioned? Maybe you were trying to help a neighbor in need and someone else looked at what you were doing and thought you were taking advantage. Or maybe you were serving at church and somebody thought you were only worried about your “own” agenda and not what was best for the ministry. If it sounds like I’ve “been there, done that,” it’s true. Those are real life examples, and it hurts.
Paul seems to be having a little of the same “shame” going on. He shouldn’t. He is listening to the voice of God and is there to help. People will be people. Doubting. Judgmental. Perhaps even jealous. As leaders, we open ourselves up to criticism. We can’t please everyone and many times that’s enough to keep good people from taking leadership roles. Even in the church, especially in the church, you would think we’d be safe from this questioning behavior. Paul shows us it was happening even then.