Isaiah 7:1-9; Psalm 47(48):2-8; Matthew 11:20-24
Isaiah is far from the prophetic voice of one single person - the span of Isaiah covers three phases and possibly five - scholarly discussions have not fully resolved this. The distinctions come from the literary style which strongly suggests at least three authors, and the emphasis of the content changes also: Up to Chapter 36 Isaiah is prophesying against bad behaviour, then there is an historical interlude until we hear prophetic voiceless again, but this time of deliverance and a time of freedom in Chapter 49 onwards.
For the first few days of this week we are hearing from the early Isaiah, on Friday we hop into Historical Isaiah. Following the golden days of David and Solomon, Israel entered a long and prosperous period into which Isaiah spoke against the drunkenness, idolatry, greed and oppressive behaviour towards the poor that often characterises affluent and peaceful nations (we need to reflect on our own nation here!). Todays' prophesy includes remarkably precise directions which point to a pool and channel that still have archaeological traces on the ground today. The message is clear - we have two enemies approaching our boarders, but if we remain faithful to God and do not waver in our trust, they shall be destroyed by an even greater force (Assyria). Ahaz it turns out does not listen and throws his kingdom into the hands of Assyria, trusting in their human might rather than in God's.
Prophetic readings are meant to make us think - they are far from predictions of future things to happen (history in reverse).. Do we have fears that we allow to over-run our lives? Are we worrying about the winter ahead with fuel prices, high inflation, political uncertainty and even war in Europe again? Do we trust in human remedies of power, possessions or influencers, rather than in God's way of humility, openness and vulnerability? Well, remember that God does uphold his city forever (Psalm 47). One last point - the Kings' son is given the name Shear-jasub, which means 'a remnant will return'. Perhaps this was penned as a reminder that Israel did return from the Exile: in our contest it may mean that God will always be with us and will always bring us home from whatever trials befall us.