Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.” Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
Points to Ponder:
As the curtain rises at the opening of Isaiah 7, Ahaz – king of Judah at the time – is shaking in his royal boots. He’s just received word that an enemy of the land is planning an all-out attack on his nation. God sends His message via Isaiah that although the king should take proper precautions, there is no need for worry or fear; the LORD will deliver this enemy directly into the hands of Judah.
We don’t know, of course, how well Ahaz listened to Isaiah’s words; the passage simply indicates that Ahaz was less than convinced by what he did hear. Actually, we could say that Ahaz wasn’t fully convinced that God was with him. To be fair, fear and a lack of faith – not to mention the thundering sound of enemy hoof beats – can blatantly drown out the sound of divine peace that accompanies the presence of God. But (to be equally fair) this drowning only occurs when a believer lets it occur. Perhaps this is one of the reasons Isaiah grew impatient with the refusal of Ahaz to answer God’s invitation to speak in today’s passage.
Intentionally or not, Ahaz in a very real way rebelled against God when he refused “to put God to the test” after God instructed him to do so. God in a very real way extended mercy to Ahaz by giving a sign despite the refusal of Ahaz. The final sentence of today’s passage reveals that sign in what the Church fathers deemed the Annunciation of our Lord.
Through the Annunciation found in verse 14, we are reminded of the angel’s visit to Mary during which it was announced that she would bear the very Son of God who would redeem the world. This stands as yet another example of yesterday’s theme that God remains forever unchanged and always delivers on the promises He makes. This particular promise even holds an ironic twist in regard to the seeming reluctance of Ahaz to place faith in God’s presence, an irony that I hope the king picked up on at some point. God tells Ahaz that this virgin will have a Son “and will call His name Immanuel.” Immanuel means – get this – God With Us.”
So, other than yet another prophecy of the birth of Christ, why should we consider Isaiah 7 and the response of Ahaz to the invitation from God as we celebrate the Advent season? The main reason is that the birth of Christ cast one of the founding steps on the pathway that would eventually afford mankind a completely revised platform concerning the methodology of repentance and forgiveness. In essence, this interchange in which God called Ahaz to look toward Christ’s birth was His way of assuring the king reminder that He was, is and would always be actively with and for His people. Christ Himself directs our attention of His followers to His cross and the resurrection as a reminder that He was, is and will always be actively with and for us. One writer explains it very well like so:
“God is with us not just at Christmas, wrapped in carols, candles, and good wishes that may make it easy to feel God’s presence. God is with us in dark days too. God is with us when [like Ahaz] we doubt, when we sin, and even when we try to hide…”
Think of the implications tucked securely into that quote; first and foremost that it boldly underscores the fact that God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is with us even when we may not want Him there. He is there in those dark days, the ones when the enemy capitalizes on emotions like self-pity, anger or misplaced guilt to suggest that God has abandoned us. Once we put aside such feeling and focus instead on what we know to be the Truth that is Christ, we realize that God is as close to our sides as he has ever been. What’s more, we find him sitting by us not as Judge, but as much as the comforting Parent reaching out and eager to forgive a wayward child who is exhausted and ready to repent.
Christ’s followers remember His birth and look expectantly toward His second coming, then, as we set out along the spiritually redemptive path that leads from our repentance to the cross and then to the resurrection. No matter our place along that path, no matter how often we falter or fall, He – Immanuel – will be God With Us.
– Copyright 2016, Carole Anne Hallyburton. All Rights Reserved.
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Focus for Reflection:
Can you in any way identify with the reaction of Ahaz to news of the impending attack by his enemies? If so, in what ways?
Do the words of Isaiah 7:10-14 in any way shape or reshape your outlook as you wait expectantly for Christ’s second coming?
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