The Wonder of Christmas – Asking for a Sign
Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”
12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”
13 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? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 15 He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, 16 for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.
“It means so much to me that I have a good shepherd”. Me too. It means so much to me that we as a flock of sheep have a good shepherd. Without his words, his Spirit, his dying and rising in love for me and us, we would run off a thousand cliffs to our doom and destruction.
All the way through the witness to God and his leading of people in the Old Testament, people behave like skittish and rebellious, unaware sheep. We have a prime moment of this human problem in King Ahaz.
Ahaz shows himself to be a bull-headed ram who would not bring himself to invite God into his calling, and it would cost him and his people everything.
As king he has the responsibility of leading his people to good food and peaceful pastures. The king is meant to be a good shepherd working for his people so that they enjoy justice, prosperity and safety.
But he is also called to keep God’s Law (Deuteronomy 17:18-19).
When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. 19 It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees (Deuteronomy 17:18-19)
So, Ahaz is meant to listen to God speaking and do what God says to fulfil his calling in life – not merely for his sake, but for the sake of the flock of God.
Ahaz is under-the-pump! The mighty Assyrian empire is in full flight. The northern kingdom of Israel already a mere puppet state of Assyria. Israel is giving up dollars, dignity and their lives every day. Same for the other nation under the Assyrian thumb, Syria.
Syria and Israel are now forming a partnership to try and throw off the yoke of the Assyrians. For more strength, they press Ahaz, king of the southern kingdom, Judah, to join them in the fight.
Ahaz refuses to join in. So, Syrian and Israeli forces invade Judah (2 Kings 16:5; 734BC). Their plan is to gain control of Judah’s Jerusalem, and replace Ahaz with a new king, who will back their bid for independence (Isaiah 7:6).
Isaiah calls it what it is, and shows Ahaz the future. These two kings of Syria and Israel are just playing a deadly political game. They are ‘smouldering stumps’ (Isaiah 7:4). They are nothing to you, Ahaz. In two years their lands will be empty (Isaiah 7:16). God has already decreed against their plan (Isaiah 7:7). The northern kingdom has embarked on a path to its own destruction (Isaiah 7:8).
What path will the king of Judah choose, Ahaz? If you want to see your kingdom stand, if you crave a descendant on the throne of Judah, who will be its Good Shepherd into the future so they have a future, one thing only is needed, Ahaz.
The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
A whole new era of way for God to be close and clear and connected with the world would come and has come.
In the baby’s cry God talks. We want signs of power and promise and help and healing, and here it is – or, here He is.
Friend, read the sign. Ask for this sign. Jesus is the living sign of a Good Shepherd God who welcomes the black sheep, finds the lost sheep, raises the dead sheep and sets us together as his flock among wolves.
Go ahead, this Christmas, ask God for a sign for what is troubling you, haunting you, angering you, testing you. He will keep on talking to you.
To all in the Barossa who are loved by God and called to be his holy people:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ, the sign of God with and for us.