Isaiah could tell that King Ahaz was worried. And when the young king was worried, he usually made bad decisions. Ever since his reign began, King Ahaz had been concerned about Assyria, the most powerful country in the world. Ahaz was tempted to pledge allegiance to Assyria to avoid being attacked. Isaiah strongly advised him against such a move, for it threatened both the autonomy and the faith of the people. He assured the king that Assyria was not the least bit interested in attacking the little country of Judah. Again and again Isaiah encouraged the king to trust in God’s help and protection.
But now the king had a new worry. Israel and Syria wanted Judah to join them in an alliance against Assyria and were threatening to attack Judah if it did not agree. It was a fool’s gambit. Israel and Syria could no more withstand Assyria than a pair of lambs could challenge a lion. The crazy plan had made King Ahaz even more worried than usual. He was now at the upper pool checking the water supply in case there was a prolonged siege.
Isaiah rushed to join him there to try to calm his fears and remind him, once again, that God would watch over things. “Don’t even worry about those two smoldering stumps!” Isaiah said of the feckless leaders of Israel and Syria. “Those two countries are long past their primes. Don’t let them force your hand.” But it was too late. Ahaz had already decided to become a vassal of Assyria, and Isaiah mourned the path the king had chosen for his beloved country.
We need to take the words of Isaiah to heart. As a nation, we recognize forces in the world that threaten our safety, but we should not compromise our values in an attempt to protect ourselves. We might be tempted to bomb civilian populations in hostile countries or make alliances with powerful regimes that disregard human rights. Closer to home we might be tempted to ignore the civil liberties of those whom we fear. We need to resist those temptations. We remember who we are and who God calls us to be. We continue to defend human life, human rights and the due process of law even when it makes our own situation more precarious. We trust that God will continue to watch over us.
As individuals, too, we need to avoid giving in to fear. Over and over again, Jesus encouraged us not to be afraid. Sickness, injury, unemployment, violence and natural disasters all pose real threats and we should respond to them as best we can. But we should not be ruled by fear. Jesus invites us to continue to live the lives to which we have been called, always trusting in God’s help and protection.