The word “with” is a really small word, a simple word, but it communicates a life-changing idea. The word “with” simply means, “accompanied by another person.” And sometimes that knowledge can be enough to change your life — just knowing that someone is with you.
When you’re the new kid at school and someone asks you to join in with their group or to sit at their lunch table.
When you’re grieving and your best friend drives all through the night just to show up, just to hold your hand and join you in your pain.
When your friends and family gather around to celebrate a birthday or an anniversary or just to be together.
These moments are powerful because these are the moments when we are with our people.
When my children were younger and they had to do something they didn’t want to do, they’d often ask, “Daddy, will you go with me?” And even as we grow older, we continue to find comfort in being with our people in some of those key moments in life.
So it’s only natural that we would bring this same idea into our relationship with God. At the heart of so many of our prayers, we ask God to be with the people we love: during times of great pain and loss, this is our prayer; but also in times of joy and celebration. I think I’ve prayed the same prayer at every funeral I’ve done over the last 20 years: “God, please be with this family in their hour of grief.” And I’ve prayed a version of this same prayer at every wedding ceremony over which I have officiated: “God, please be with this couple and the new family that begins here today.”
The most comforting thought we can imagine is God being with us.
In the book of Isaiah, God speaks to this expectation with a powerful promise. It is the promise that God will be with His people. God says, “I will never leave you, never forsake you. I will be with you forever.” And this is a promise that endures in every season of life.
King Ahaz, king of Judah, was being opposed by an alliance of Syria and Israel. It seems that these two nations banded together to pressure Ahaz to join their efforts to oppose the Assyrians. But God sends Isaiah to deliver a word of comfort to Ahaz: this opposition will not succeed.
In the days of Ahaz…the king of Syria and…the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not yet mount an attack against it. When the house of David was told, “Syria is in league with Ephraim,” the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.Isaiah 7:1-2
Even though Syria and Israel had not been able to score a decisive victory against Judah, Ahaz and the people were scared to death. So God sends Isaiah to go speak with the king. But God tells Isaiah to take his son with him. That’s kind of odd — the Bible’s version of “bring your child to work” day. But it’s right there in Isaiah. And although the child doesn’t really say anything, his presence is significant. Isaiah’s son was named Shear-jashub, which in Hebrew means, “a remnant will return.”
In Isaiah, the idea of a remnant is really important. Isaiah preaches quite a bit about the threats that God’s people would face: whether it’s the Assyrians or the Babylonians or even the judgment some of them would experience on the Day of the Lord, Isaiah never pulls his punches in talking about these things. But through Isaiah, God always reminds the people that a faithful remnant will endure. Even though God’s people have to persevere through some difficult days, God is always working to preserve a remnant.
No matter how bad it gets, God promises to deliver those who put their trust in Him.
Isaiah is so sure of God’s promises that, as one scholar puts it, “he made the word of God become flesh in the person of his son.” Shear-jashub’s name reflects Isaiah’s strong belief that God will do what He says He will do: He will deliver His people who trust in Him.