December 1, 2010
A Sign For Us
God spoke through the prophet Isaiah, “Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
The “therefore” is where this prophetic verse fits in history. At the time of this prophecy Ahaz was king of Judah. Ahaz was not a godly man. For sixteen years he led God’s people in a long list of sins. Whatever perverse immorality a person could dream up became common in their culture. Ahaz led Judah in the practice of child sacrifice - the cruel murder of innocent children. God’s law, given through Moses, was willfully rejected. Politically, Ahaz is enmeshed in an unwinable war in which 200,000 Judeans have already been led off into captivity. Ahaz, rather than turning to God, bankrupts the nation to form an alliance with Assyria.
Does that sound familiar? Godless leadership leading a society farther away from God? An increasing focus on sexual perversity? The murder of innocent children? The nation at war and the economy in shambles?
God, through Isaiah, tells Ahaz that “the Lord Himself will give you a sign” - a unique sign to demonstrated that God is in sovereign control of what will happen to Ahaz and Judah and Assyria. A sign with world shaking significance that clearly demonstrates that God is in control of all history - past, present, and future. A sign that all the peoples of the world for all time will know about so that even in the midst of the worst of what can happen to us in life it will remain a sign of hope and reassurance for God’s people - even in the degrading circumstances of our times.
Some 750 years after this prophecy is given to Ahaz, the angel Gabriel comes to a young Jewish virgin named Mary with the fulfillment of God’s promise. “You will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:30-32). Matthew writes, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ’Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and His name shall be called Immanuel’ (which means, God with us)” (Matthew 1:22,23).
In the midst of where we live our lives we need to wrap our hearts around the bottom line of this astounding reality. God - Almighty Sovereign Holy Creator of the Universe - is “with us.” The Hebrew meaning behind “with” focuses on relationship. God with His people - dwelling with them - present with them - past, present, and future - to the depth of relationship that God is one with His people. God is not some foreigner who lives as a stranger in the midst of His people. He is who His people are. He is one of us.
The birth of Jesus is the real time reality of God’s consistent undeserved love toward us. When we can begin to wrap our hearts around how much God loves us, each of us as we are, then we can begin to realize that we are not alone in this present darkness. God is with us.
The angel Gabriel tells Mary (Luke 1:31 above) that she “will conceive” (future tense). She hasn’t conceived yet. God will do this for you. But you must choose to let Him. Permission must be given.
Ahaz knew about God. He had the prophet Isaiah speaking God’s word to him. Ahaz chose to trust the Assyrians and his kingdom was left desolate. Mary had the angel Gabriel speaking God’s word to her. She chose to trust God and we see the results.Each of us has a choice. We hear the words, “a virgin shall conceive” and we know the fulfillment: “Immanuel… God with us.” How will we respond? Regardless of your circumstances will you trust God with your life?