Equipping God's People to Create Missional Culture

O Come, O Come – Part II

A guest post by Debbie Kim

You can read Part I here.

Lectionary Texts: Isaiah 7:10-16; Matthew 1:18-25

Assyria and Ahaz
So how does the birth of Jesus give us hope for an eternity when today and tomorrow look so bleak?

We have a couple readings for today that I hope will help us gain some perspective. In our first lectionary reading, we find ourselves in the middle of the 700s BC. The house of David had long been split into two: Israel in the north, whose capital was Samaria, and Judah in the south, with Jerusalem as its capital. Neither were in a very safe situation—they had the powerful empires of Assyria to the northeast, Syria to the immediate north, the Philistines to the south, Babylon to the east. If you were going to pick a secure place to establish a nation, this wasn’t it. This was bad real estate. Of all the empires at the time, the Assyrians were the most formidable. They were especially known for their highly advanced and brutal warfare tactics. Their cavalry was exceptional, their weaponry made of state-of-the-art iron. They studied war and mastered it. Psychological terror was also their forte, and when they would capture a city, they would decimate the entire population, men, women and children, whose bodies were then hoisted onto stakes and displayed for people to see. Or captives would be flayed and their skin would be used to cover pillars in the middle of the city. Assyria looms over the region like a dark cloud, but poor Judah is even worse off.

Judah’s king at this time is Ahaz, whose father and grandfather were pretty decent guys, but he is the opposite. He became notorious for setting up idol worship wherever he could, whenever he could, and he did evil all the days of his life, including burning his son as a sacrificial offering. As a punishment, 2 Chronicles says that God allowed the armies of Syria and Israel to invade and defeat Judah. Israel’s army killed some of Judah’s finest warriors in addition to one of Ahaz’s sons, and they carried off their brothers from Judah as slaves. God intercepts them at Samaria, saying, “I let you defeat Judah as a punishment for Ahaz, but now you’ve carried it too far.”  As an act of mercy, and because some of Israel’s leadership feared God, they obeyed and returned the captives to Judah, fed, dressed and mended. It was all an object lesson.

Ahaz should have repented, but he did not. Instead he made an alliance with Assyria to protect himself, and he paid tributes to the Assyrian king using the gold, silver and furniture he stripped from the temple of God. But, 2 Chronicles records, not even this helped him.  We will continue with this story tomorrow.

Debbie Kim, a Chicagoan lost in Los Angeles, is a graduate of the University of Missouri. Ignoring her high school English teachers prophecy that she would become a teacher also, she pursued a career in journalism. In 2006, she came to LA to help plant a church and work at a city magazine. Four years later, she has somehow found herself in UCLA’s education program fulfilling that accursed prophecy. When she’s not at the gym pumping iron or at the beach rescuing baby seals, she works as an indentured servant at Kairos West LA. Debbie appreciates good design, Earl Gray tea, butter and bacon, but not in that order.

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