“Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test. Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted. The Lord will bring on you and on your people and on your ancestral house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria.” Isaiah 7:10-17
Sign of Hope
By Daniel Marolf
Most of you (myself included) upon reading this passage were probably confused until you got to verse 14. “What does this have to do with Adven… Oh! There it is! It’s Jesus!” But before we get to Jesus, let’s take a second to consider the other seven verses. For that, I need to tell a brief story (also found in 2 Kings 16:5-20). The story begins in the 8th century BC when Ahaz is the king of Judah. During his reign, the kings of Aram and Israel rebel against the king of the supremely-powerful Assyria, and they want Judah to help them in their fight. When Ahaz refuses, these two kings turn their attention first towards Judah, hoping to overthrow Ahaz by force and put their own king in place. Enter Isaiah (and our passage). Isaiah is telling Ahaz that all he needs to do is trust in Yahweh for help, not call upon Assyria (which he later does). The sign for Yahweh’s deliverance will be the birth of this baby boy, whose name would mean “God with us.” Isaiah explains that before this child is old enough to tell right from wrong, Yahweh would have delivered them from the hands of these two kings, whom Ahaz dreads. The birth of Immanuel was to be a sign of hope. Why does this matter? Fast-forward several centuries to the birth of Jesus, whom we, as Christians, declare with Matthew 1:22-23 to be “God with us.” The 1st century experience of the Jewish people was not a whole lot better than 8 th century experience. They were subject to Roman oppression and domination, able to worship Yahweh, but only on the terms of the Romans. When Jesus was born, his birth became a sign to everyone that God had not forgotten them. In fact, God was literally with them. The ancient predicament might sound similar to our modern predicament. With so much death, violence, and hatred throughout our society and our world, sometimes it seems like God has forgotten us. But then, we remember Jesus – “God with us.” As Christians, we believe that this world is not how it ought to be – that this death, violence, and hatred goes firmly against the plan God had for his world. Jesus is our sign of hope, reminding us constantly that God is working to make the world right.
Lord, thank you for being a God who is for us, who works through us, and who most importantly is with us. During this Christmas season, may we fix our eyes on Jesus and remember that you have not forgotten us and that you are working to make the world right. May your advent – your coming – this season be to us a reminder not only that you came, but that you are coming back. Praise the Lord!