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.
We recently read about being careful not to boast. Here Paul says, “If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am.” When we boast of our weaknesses it is often to show our victories in God. Some people find joy in wallowing in their misfortune. That’s not what I’m talking about here. Paul wasn’t either. His accounts of his trials were not to gain sympathy or to complain. They were to show the power of God to sustain him.
As I write this, the whole planet is under watch or attack of a pandemic virus. You can’t have a conversation, turn on the television, peruse social media, or even read your email without mention of this “trial” of life. It is affecting everyone differently. For those close to it, with loved ones affected, I have no words. Families are being torn apart and unable to comfort each other. People are dying alone because there is too much fear of spreading this virus. For those of us staying indoors, limiting our contact with other humans, there is less concern. Yet, we are all in a place of weakness. We all need Jesus’ power to sustain us.
I might have been shaking in my boots (or sandals). Jesus’ directions to his followers were thorough yet frightening. Why frightening? Because it was new territory for them. They had seen Jesus healing and teaching, and now he was kicking them out of the nest, so to speak. Jesus felt they were ready to take the Good News to the people of Israel. The lost ones.
Did they feel ready? Were they equipped? How would they know what to do? Sometimes we need to get pushed out of our comfort zone. It’s been said that great things never came from comfort zones. If we’re growing, we are most likely out of our comfort zone. If Jesus thought they were prepared, there should be no hesitancy. They will go. We should go, too.