“And the head of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head of Samaria is Remaliah’s son. If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established(v.9)”.
This specific reference to Ephraim and Ahaz is to be interpreted as topical and it also includes the kingdom of Judah at the time of the prophet. God has settled its future history, and of world empires as well as of people, so there was nothing that they could do to thwart the divine Will.
“Moreover the Lord spake again unto Ahaz, saying, Ask thee a sign of the Lord thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the Lord(vv.10-12)”.
God has many ways to buck up the spirit of his servants when down. God sustaining Elijah when he too shelter under the juniper tree is an example. God sent an angel who cooked him a meal and strengthened him (1 Ki.19:4-8). In the case of Ahaz who was noted for worshiping foreign gods the question was appropriate. If he had set his confidence in them he could least give God a chance and find out for himself what God of Israel could do.
Though his heart was far from God like many Christians today, he observed the law and would not tempt God. King Ahaz in his response was typical of his people, of whom Prophet Isaiah would observe, “Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men:(Is.29:13). In the next verse we have the prophet suggesting a remedy: no more observing laws but for worshiping God in spirit and in truth.
“And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
The nation of Israel was aware of Moses who predicted the coming of another great prophet. “The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;(Deut.18:15)”. Israel’s longing for Messiah King was notably honed sharper from Patriarch Jacob’s blessings of Judah (Ge.40:7-12) and it lay centered about the house of David. ‘The scepter shall not depart out of Judah…’In short Immanuel was raised from their midst who would lead them to victory. God among them suited the nation since they had set their blessings from outward signs like circumcision than of the heart(Ro.2:24-28). Prophet Jeremiah also speak in similar vein, “Circumcise yourselves to the LORD, and take away the foreskins of your heart, ye men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem..(Jer.4:4 a)” This superficiality was very much ingrained in their nature most likely by the fact they had the law of Moses and resisted all exhortations from prophets of God to go further. When Sadducees and the Pharisees sought Jesus and asked for a sign they were true to form(Mt.18:4). Their religion never pierced into their heart or worked changes from within. For such spiritual regeneration they had no interest. It was for this reason the outpouring of the Spirit that all in Jerusalem could ‘see and hear’ was set after the risen Jesus was taken to heaven in glory. It had judged the nation that refused to believe him in his first advent.
“Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings. The Lord shall bring upon thee, and upon thy people, and upon thy father’s house, days that have not come, from the day that Ephraim departed from Judah; even the king of Assyria. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall hiss for the fly that is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt, and for the bee that is in the land of Assyria. And they shall come, and shall rest all of them in the desolate valleys, and in the holes of the rocks, and upon all thorns, and upon all bushes. In the same day shall the Lord shave with a razor that is hired, namely, by them beyond the river, by the king of Assyria, the head, and the hair of the feet: and it shall also consume the beard(vv.15-20).
The prophet in the above passage is predicting events that are coming soon. The confidence of Judah in Assriah was as misplaced as that of Israel, for Syria was no better than a smoking firebrand. Shaving the beard and hair was intended as humiliation inflicted by Assyria on Judah.
“And it shall come to pass in that day, that a man shall nourish a young cow, and two sheep;And it shall come to pass, for the abundance of milk that they shall give he shall eat butter: for butter and honey shall every one eat that is left in the land. And it shall come to pass in that day, that every place shall be, where there were a thousand vines at a thousand silverlings, it shall even be for briers and thorns. With arrows and with bows shall men come thither; because all the land shall become briers and thorns. And on all hills that shall be digged with the mattock, there shall not come thither the fear of briers and thorns: but it shall be for the sending forth of oxen, and for the treading of lesser cattle(vv.21-25)”.
The above passage deals with desolation that was about to engulf them from nations as far as Egypt and Assyria. The tenant farmers shall find to their dismay where they were a thousand vines what their backsliding earned was chokeful briers and thorns. In the stream of consciousness the Spirit also has cast a glimpse of the Millennial Reign that shall come, “abundance of milk”, a foreshadow of blessings to come.