Thank you to David for this message
Isaiah 12 : 2
Surely God is my salvation;
I will trust and not be afraid,
The Lord, the Lord himself is my strength and defence;
He has become my salvation.
Isaiah 7 verse 10 – 16
Who can we trust?
These last four years President Trump has demonstrated that if you shout something loud enough and long enough some people will believe what you are saying whether it is the truth or not. On the other hand your opponent’s word can be undermined by a constant affirmation that they only purvey fake news. The skill of “spinning” the telling of bad news so that it doesn’t sound too bad is now an accepted part of political communication.
Can we trust the information we receive about Covid 19?
Can we trust the information we have been given about the vaccine?
Who can we trust to tell the truth the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
Ahaz did not trust God
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.”
Ahaz, king of Judah and a descendant of David was being threatened not only by the superpower of the day, Assyria, but by his immediate neighbours and he wasn’t sure what to do. As he represented the house of David with its Covenant relationship with God he should have turned to God for guidance but Ahaz lacked faith and was unsure what to do.
God sent Isaiah to encourage Ahaz to ask God for a sign of his love and support. There was no limit to what God was willing to do to encourage Ahaz to listen to him and plan the nation’s future accordingly. Gideon had been similarly nervous and had asked God for reassurance by leaving a fleece out (see Judges 6 : 36). Indeed God was patient enough to repeat the miracle to bolster Gideon’s faith in God to give him victory.
Ahaz flagrantly refused to even listen to God, looking further back in time to justify his lack of faith, remembering when the escaping people of Israel tested their God by doubting his ability to care for them by providing water at Massah and Meribah (see Exodus 17 : 1).
Isaiah’s response revealed his frustration, referring to Ahaz as “house of David” with all its covenantal meaning, he accused him of not only trying the patience of the people, who were looking to him for leadership, but of God himself. Whether he wanted it or not Isaiah told Ahaz that God would give him a sign.
The sign of Immanuel
14: 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.
Immanuel means “God is with us” or “God with us” or “God be with us”. Over generations Bible scholars have tried to work out what this sign actually meant for Ahaz in his immediate situation and many ideas have been put forward but we don’t really know, and at this distance in time and place, any theory can only be conjecture. For us Christians, however, Matthew provides our definitive understanding that this was a sign for a later generation looking for the coming of the Messiah who would be born from the line of David. He would be the very presence of God in the world and by only eating curds and honey, he would live in comparative poverty.
Matthew 1 verse 18 – 24
18: This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.
19: Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.
20: But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.
21: She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22: All this took place to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet:
23: “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”–which means, “God with us.”
24: When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.
25: But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
The virgin conception
The word for virgin, in Hebrew “almah”, which Isaiah used can also be translated as “a young sexually mature woman who is unmarried”, which by definition of the day, meant a virgin. Why is this so important to us Christians?
We believe that Jesus at the incarnation was fully human through the DNA of Mary his mother. On the other hand we also believe that through the power of the Holy Spirit he was and is the very fullness of his Father God.
Colossians 1 : 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell,
This belief that in Jesus the nature of God and humans was uniquely blended, enabled him to fully experience the human condition and yet being divine and sin free he became the perfect sacrifice for our sins. Our traditional creeds of faith emphasise that “Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary”, so this sign given to Ahaz all those years ago echoes down the ages and finds its fulfilment in the birth of Jesus on that night in Bethlehem.
Who can we trust? Despite his heritage and the history of his nation Ahaz could not bring himself to trust God in his time of crisis. We as Christians read these scriptures through the lens of the coming of Jesus and the full revelation of God he brings to us. Sadly there are many who reject the call of God and refuse to put their faith in him despite all that he has done for us in Jesus who said:
Matthew 12 verse 31 – 32
31: And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32: Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
It is through the voice of the Holy Spirit that God calls us. If we hear and ignore that call, the call spoken through grace and love to repentance, and forgiveness of sins, we are rejecting the very source of forgiveness and therefore can only remain unforgiven, the sin of rejecting the Holy Spirit results in eternal judgement.
Shirley and I were looking for Christmas cards that reflected the truth of the Nativity but found that there were very few available. There is a great deal of bemoaning the fact that families cannot get together in large numbers but the presence of the Christ child sadly seems incidental to the festivities.
Heavenly Father we thank you for Isaiah who spoke your word to Ahaz and gave him your sign of Immanuel so that when Jesus was born people would know exactly who he was and the purpose of his coming to be our Saviour. We praise you that through his life, death and resurrection the barrier of sin has been broken down and we can become your loved and cherished children. Help us during this Christmas time to remember the real meaning of the season and be witnesses for you in our community. In the name of Jesus our Saviour, Amen.
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