Advent Midweek 4 | Isaiah 7.10-17
King Ahaz has a very full plate.
Syria and Ephraim, i.e. the Northern Kingdom
Are threatening Judah and sieging Jerusalem.
They are rich and powerful, and wield immense power.
Ahaz is right to fear them.
He’s right to fear them because while he has a full plate, he has an empty heart.
Despite the prophet Isaiah’s words of comfort and encouragement,
Delivered just before our text this evening, Ahaz is faithless.
Though God has told him not to fear them –
That they are as threatening as two stumps smoldering in a fire,
He sees no way out.
The armies are just too big.
But the LORD would very much like for him to believe and trust Him.
So He invites him to give it a go.
Ask anything. It can be as deep as Sheol. It can be as high as heaven.
It can be the craziest thing you’ve ever imagined. Just ask.
All God was inviting Ahaz to do,
Was call Him on His promises, and then act accordingly.
“Oh, no. I couldn’t do that,” says Ahaz.
I wouldn’t want to put Him to the test.”
That sounds really quite faithful of, but it is a fake piety.
He doesn’t want a sign.
If Ahaz receives the miraculous sign, if he sees it, then he must believe and act.
If Ahaz gets the sign he ask for, he must go take on a pair of armies –
Armies that, according to any strategist, would be sure to destroy him.
He would have been granted any sign he asked for, but he refuses.
And so the Lord gives Ahaz a sign that he didn’t ask for:
“Hear, then, O house of David!”
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.”
For Ahaz this means that in the short time it would take to wean a newborn child,
God would deliver Judah from the two kings threatening them.
In fact, before such a child could mature,
Both those kingdoms would be decimated by Assyria, and put into exile.
But because he would not believe, the same enemy that would conquer the enemies of Judah, will now also conquer them;
And not just conquer them:
The subsequent war with Assyria would be the worst thing to happen ever since Israel was split into two kingdoms.
God promises that He will eventually rescue Judah from the Assyrians as well,
And that, too, came to pass.
Ultimately, God was concerned with more than rescuing Judah from a political enemy. The fullness of this sign and promise is told not to Ahaz, but to others of David’s line –
To a pair of the House of David who do receive the promise, who say yes.
You heard it this last Sunday.
The angel spoke to Joseph concerning Mary:
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
And, as the angel of Luke 2 says: “This shall be a sign unto you.”
In the manger lays a sign we could never have asked for.
Not us, not shepherds, not Ahaz, not Mary, not Joseph – no one.
But we have received it. We have received Him – this One of whom Isaiah spoke.
And Saturday night, when we join the angel’s chorus, we will receive Him again.
Emmanuel: God with us;
God as one of us;
God as a Man; even more, a Child.
That He would come and live our lives, and die our deaths.
This is too wonderful a sign; too great a promise; too grand a gift.
We could never have dreamed it.
This Holy Child, born of a virgin, when He grows up, He too will give us signs.
He gives a sign as deep as Sheol, for
He was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell.
He gives a sign as high as the heavens:
The third day He rose again from the dead;
He ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of God the Father Almighty.
The scary part about that –
That God, in Christ Jesus, has won the victory over sin, death, and the devil –
The scary part about that is that, like Ahaz,
God would very much like for you to live in the victory He has won for you.
He knows that most days you live as if His promises, however grand
Are just not enough to deliver you from the Enemy.
And so, like Ahaz, you would make sign an agreement with your sins and the sins of others.
He won’t force you.
That’s not His style.
But He does invite you to live in His victory.
Even more, He has called you to that life by His own Holy Spirit.
Through the Word of His prophets,
The proclamation of His Pastors,
Strengthened by the martyrs of His Church from forever,
With the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God
And all the witnesses of His resurrection,
With His Apostles and Evangelists,
With wise men from far away.
In your Baptism,
Where you were dragged to Sheol, crucified with Christ, as Paul writes,
And raised to the heights of heaven, to new life with Him.
A sign you didn’t ask for.
Jesus the Christ:
In the Font,
In the Manger
On the Cross,
And in the arms of Mary.