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confidential advice

Then Isaiah said, "Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel........."         Isaiah 7: 13,14  [Circa 732 BC]


Jersey's success as an international finance centre rests on a small number of key issues. Confidentiality is one. Much of what will be discussed and told in interview and board rooms this week will be confidential - available to very few people, perhaps only those in the room.

The same applies with equal force to advice to Ministers this week. The cry for "freedom of information" is often on the lips of those not at the meeting. But, if everybody hears the advice, all sorts of eruptions can - and will - arise.

After the meeting - sometimes straight away (especially in government?) - the advice comes out. That's what happened in 732 BC with regard to the Isaiah's statement to 20-year-old King Ahaz that a virgin would become pregnant with a son whose name would be Immanuel - "God with us".

This confidential advice was given in a very fraught situation.. Young King Ahaz, King of Judah, and his people were shaking "like the trees in the wind......” because war had been declared on him by two neighbouring kings.

So Isaiah, God's messenger of truth, arranges a confidential meeting with him.

Ahaz is encouraged to ask Almighty God, the God of his people, for a sign that will give him confidence, even certainty, that the LORD will move heaven and earth to aid his ancient house of David that was now in Ahaz's hands.

Ahaz says: NO WAY. "I will not ask and I will not even try to engage the help of the LORD." Instead, Ahaz would ask the help of the king of Assyria - the world power that was huge at that time - and nearby.

Advisors in meetings like that (especially in government) draw deep breaths and attempt to point out the consequences of decisions.

As did Isaiah.          The consequences included three things –       

1.        The LORD will demonstrate to all that he is Almighty: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and his name will be Immanuel - God with us. (The Hebrew word for virgin is unequivocally that.)

2.        The lands of the two kings whom Ahaz dreaded would soon be deserted.

3.        The LORD would bring total disaster on the Ahaz’s dynasty - the house of David. And the LORD would do that through Assyria. Ahaz, by seeking Assyria's assistance, had taken the tiger by the tail.

On 2, the lands were very soon devastated - by Assyrian troops. On 3, the tribute Ahaz paid to Assyria year-on-year brought the house of David to penury – and to more than a century of vassalage. Worse, in 701 BC, that house of David was virtually wiped out for non-payment of tribute. Then trampled on by the Babylonians, Persia, Greece and Rome.

King Ahaz's decision was like many of ours - it took account of the facts of the ‘real world’. But it was the point of no return for the dynasty he represented. He had abandoned trust in the Almighty; the Almighty abandoned him.

On 1, nothing was left of Ahaz's dynasty when Jesus Christ was born (under Roman rule) in Bethlehem of Judea in AD 0 to a virgin whose name was Mary. But Isaiah's sign from the Almighty was recalled from their history books. Along with 2 and 3, that sign confirmed to many men and women of Judah in AD 33 and beyond that Almighty God had not forgotten His promise that a virgin would be with child: Immanuel; God with us; God for us and not against us.

Will we in Jersey this Christmas also see this sign? Or, like Ahaz, shall we continue to say NO WAY and, instead, take by the tail the most ‘powerful’ tiger we can find to help us ......... ?

‘To profit from good advice requires more wisdom than to give it.' (Churton Collins, English literary critic, 1848-1908)
‘Wicked men may not think they are serving God's purposes: but they are serving his purposes all the same, even by the most wicked of their acts.' (J Gresham Machen, American Theologian, 1881-1937)
Richard Syvret

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