Fear gripped the heart of the King. News reached King Ahaz that the Northern Kingdom of Israel was in league with Syria to make war against Jerusalem. Israel was Judah’s brother, but now they were attacking with the enemy. Isaiah reports that “the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind” (Isaiah 7:2).

Have you ever felt your heart shake like a leaf? Fear grips the heart when intimidating circumstances lay just over the horizon. Sometimes fear takes the strongest grip in a time a peace, because we have time to think about what might be coming. In the thick of a battle, who has time to think? But when we receive bad news of impending difficulty, like King Ahaz did, fear IS the battle.

In contrast to the fearful response of Ahaz in Isaiah 7, we have the example of the faithful response of Isaiah himself in Isaiah 8. He faced the same dire circumstances, but look how he faced them:

“And I went to the prophetess, and she conceived and bore a son. Then the Lord said to me, “Call his name Maher-shalal-hash-baz” (Isaiah 8:3).

Surprising. Isaiah’s response was to continue on with ordinary life. As if the threat of war wasn’t barking at the door, Isaiah and his wife live their life as a married couple, and the Lord blesses them with a child. God even tells them what to name the child, which turns out to be quite a mouthful. Why the strange name?

“for before the boy knows how to cry ‘My father’ or ‘My mother,’ the wealth of Damascus and the spoil of Samaria will be carried away before the king of Assyria” (Isaiah 8:4).

The name meant that God was going to deliver his people! The threat that Ahaz feared would not be Judah’s undoing. In the mysterious ways of God, “the cloud you so much dread is big with mercy and shall break.”

But that wasn’t the end of the story. Because Judah didn’t look to God for deliverance, but instead relied upon Assyria, although they would get short-term deliverance, their long-term prospects were still dire. Before too long, Assyria would overrun them. God used Assyria to rescue Judah from Israel and Syria. Now God will use Assyria to discipline Judah.

So, what will Isaiah do now? This time God isn’t promising to take the suffering away. Will Isaiah say with Job, “the Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21)? Or will Isaiah succumb to fear?

“For the Lord spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: “Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, nor be in dread. But the Lord of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.” (Isaiah 8:11-13). The strong hand of the Lord sustained Isaiah’s faith. Isaiah kept his eyes on God and refused to fear what so many in Jerusalem feared.

Isaiah then reveals the secret of his strength. It wasn’t in long hair like Sampson. It was a source of strength that is available to every child of God, no matter the circumstances we are facing.

“Bind up the testimony; seal the teaching among my disciples. I will wait for the Lord, who is hiding his face from the house of Jacob, and I will hope in him. Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are signs and portents in Israel from the Lord of hosts, who dwells on Mount Zion. And when they say to you, “Inquire of the mediums and the necromancers who chirp and mutter,” should not a people inquire of their God? Should they inquire of the dead on behalf of the living? To the teaching and to the testimony! If they will not speak according to this word, it is because they have no dawn” (Isaiah 8:16-20).

While most of Jerusalem’s children were trying to tell the future, Isaiah anchored himself in the Word of God. He preserved it among his family and all the disciples who would rally to it. “To the teaching and to the testimony!” was his battle cry. They ran to the Word. They hid themselves safely in the Word!

The Word of God tells us to “fear not” at least 366 times, one for every day of the year, even on a leap year. The key point is that fearing God means trusting him with our future. In the long term, we all must die and face judgment. But trusting in Christ for the forgiveness of sin and for eternal life removes our fear of death. “Oh death, where is your sting” (1 Corinthians 15:55)? In the short term, we ought not fear circumstances, because however dire they look, it is easy for God to reverse them! If God can send the Assyrians (of all people) to blindside Judah’s enemies to their North, then God can use anything at any time to do whatever He pleases. No situation is ever difficult to God. God doesn’t fret. God’s love isn’t reckless. Everything that happens on earth is completely under His control (Psalm 33:11, Proverbs 16:33, Daniel 4:35).

Church, let’s take the perspective of Isaiah rather than the approach of most of the people of Jerusalem. We are the remnant. Let’s not fear what they fear. Instead, let us rally around the Word of God and support one another with God’s fear-crushing words.

Do you know what it feels like to be a leaf shaking in the wind? Do you, like Ahaz, sometimes tremble that way? You’re not alone. Rich Mullins, like so many Christians, felt like a leaf shaking in the wind, and wrote the following words about it. Let’s close this teaching against fear with what he said:

“Well sometimes my life just don’t make sense at allWhen the mountains look so bigAnd my faith just seems so small
So hold me Jesus ’cause I’m shaking like a leafYou have been King of my gloryWon’t You be my Prince of Peace
And I wake up in the night and feel the darkIt’s so hot inside my soulthere must be blisters on my heart
So hold me Jesus ’cause I’m shaking like a leafYou have been King of my gloryWon’t You be my Prince of Peace
Surrender don’t come natural to meI’d rather fight You for something I don’t really wantThan to take what You give that I needAnd I’ve beat my head against so many wallsNow I’m falling down I’m falling on my knees
And this Salvation Army band is playing this hymnAnd Your grace rings out so deepIt makes my resistance seem so thin
I’m singing hold me Jesus ’cause I’m shaking like a leafYou have been King of my gloryWon’t You be my Prince of Peace
You have been King of my gloryWon’t You be my Prince of Peace”

Against Fear,
Pastor Jeff