First Reading: 1 Is 7:1-9
Psalm: 48:2-3a, 3b-4, 5-6, 7-8
Gospel: Mt 11:20-24
Ahaz, King of Judah, a royal prince of David’s line, was caught in a political quandary. The powerful kingdom of Assyria was looking southward, threatening the kingdoms of Israel and Damascus. The kings of Israel and Damascus wanted to depose King Ahaz from Judah’s throne and put a puppet in his place. Then with Israel, Damascus and Judah united, they thought that they would be able to withstand the threats of Assyria.
Ahaz was terrified by the thought of war with Israel and Damascus. The only way he could meet this threat and prevail, he thought, would be to enter into a vassal relationship with the powerful King of the superpower, Assyria. This, of course, Yahweh, the God of Judah, did not want.
It is often said that the Old Testament God was a jealous God. He certainly was. He was furious whenever his people turned to the gods of the pagans. He staunchly opposed any alliance between Judah and a pagan kingdom. Alliances of this sort denied that Yahweh was the most high King of Judah; these alliances also tempted the people with their pagan shrines and shameful practices.
Yahweh sent Isaiah to King Ahaz to dissuade him from making an alliance with of Assyria. Isaiah told Ahaz to be confident in the strength of Yahweh, to refuse all foreign entanglements, to trust in the promises Yahweh made to David. “Stand firm in your faith,” Yahweh urged Ahaz. “If you do, only then will you and your house stand firm.”
Ahaz, nevertheless, made an alliance with Assyria. Judah and King Ahaz were made to pay the price. Eventually they suffered shame and defeat at the hands of Assyria, to whom they had looked for salvation rather than to Yahweh.
God demands that we trust him; he urges us to believe that it is not by our own efforts but by his supportive grace that we will prevail over those who would destroy us. Salvation is from God and from him alone.