Advent 4: Waiting for a Sign

In Isaiah chapter 7 we come across the familiar prophecy that the virgin shall give birth to a child and name him Immanuel. This, of course, is part of a larger passage. In it Isaiah goes to King Ahaz of Judah. The empire of Assyria is trying to conquer more of the world including Syria, Judah, and Israel. They're in the middle of the Syro-Ephraim War (what? You didn't get that one in any of your history classes?)Alliances were made, and a long story short, King Ahaz found himself and his kingdom with not too many friends.

So the prophet Isaiah comes along and assures Ahaz that everything will work out if Ahaz just trusts God. Isaiah even lets Ahaz pick what sign he would like God to give him to show him that these words are true.

Ahaz, however, refuses. With some false religious humility, he says he won't put God to the test.

That's because he has already made an alliance with Assyria so that they'll protect Judah. With the temple gold and silver as well as royal treasury, Ahaz made Judah Assyria's indentured servants. When he could have just let God take care of things.

Isaiah says that since Ahaz won't pick a sign, God will do it Himself.  If you clicked on the link in the first paragraph and read that portion of Isaiah, you'll know that in addition to the virgin giving birth to a child named Immanuel, that by the time he is eating curds and honey he will know enough to reject wrong and choose what is right. By that time God will have laid waste to Ahaz's enemies.

The child would be the sign.

Ahaz had opportunity to ask for any sign he desired. God could have moved a mountain, made a camel fly, or done any number of miraculous things. Ahaz was full of fear, however.

God knew what was needed: something small, humble, personal. A child.

What sort of sign do you and I need to know that God's promises are true? To know that He loves us?

If we take the time (which I haven't been good at doing) to slow down and wait during the Advent season, do we even need a sign or will we find we've been given all the signs we need? I think that's why the juxtaposition of our American Thanksgiving holiday right before the Advent season is so wonderful. We acknowledge with gratitude how well God has been taking care of us.

Surely He will continue to meet all our needs both now and in the Kingdom to come.

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