The Fourth Sunday in Advent
December 22, 2019
Isaiah’s Advent Gift of—
Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, “Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test.” Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? 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. (NIV1984)
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Trust me. That is perhaps one of the most powerful statements in the English language. Trust me. Those two little words have the power to evoke emotions that range all the way from doubt and disdain to safety and security. Trust me. If the person who speaks those words to us has failed us in the past we may doubt them when they come to us again and say, Trust me. If the person who speaks those words to us has used those words to gain our trust and then turned around and betrayed that trust we may even feel disdain towards that person every time we hear them say, Trust me. On the other hand, if the person who speaks those words to us has proven themselves to be trustworthy then we cherish the safety and the security that we feel every time we hear that person say to us, Trust me.
“Trust Me!” In essence that is what the good Lord is saying to us this morning through His servant Isaiah. As we conclude our Sunday morning Advent sermon series this morning let’s see how this portion of Isaiah proves to us that our God is indeed trustworthy. With that in mind let’s look at the evidence that we can indeed trust our God as we study this text under the theme: Isaiah’s Advent Gift of— A Sign!
Once again the historical background of our text is critically important to the proper understanding of our text. In the opening verses of Isaiah chapter seven we learn that Aram (which is another name for Syria) had joined forces with the northern Kingdom of Israel to fight against the southern Kingdom of Judah. While the first campaign against Judah achieved some significant success (See 2 Chronicles 28:5-8) Isaiah tells us that the beloved city of Jerusalem did not fall. Sadly, when Ahaz, the King of Judah, found himself in the crosshairs of both Aram and Israel he turned to Assyria for help. As you can imagine that did not turn out well. (See 2 Chronicles 28:16-21)
Some time later, we’re not exactly sure when, Aram and Ephraim (the northern Kingdom of Israel) were preparing to attack Judah once again. Since this coalition had already inflicted heavy losses on Judah we’re told that news of this second military campaign caused the hearts of Ahaz and his people to be “shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind” (7:2).
It was at this point that the Lord sent His servant Isaiah to deliver a message to King Ahaz. Amazingly, even though Ahaz was one of the most wicked kings who had ever sat on David’s throne in Jerusalem (See 2 Chronicles 28:1-4, 22-24) the Lord’s message to Ahaz was not one of judgment! No, rather, the Lord’s message to Ahaz was— “Trust Me!” And to prove to Ahaz that the Lord could be trusted the Lord gave to Ahaz an astounding command. Look at the opening verse of our text, “Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, ‘Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.’” Can you imagine a more amazing offer, my friends? The God of heaven gave this wicked king carte blanch to ask for a sign— any sign he wanted— so that Ahaz would know that he could trust the Lord God to deliver him from the hands of his enemies! That’s grace! That’s grace that goes beyond our human comprehension!
How did Ahaz respond to God’s offer? Did he respond with gratitude and relief? Not at all! Ahaz responded to God’s offer with disdain! Look at verse 12, “But Ahaz said, ‘I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test.’” What astounding hypocrisy!
How did the Lord respond to Ahaz’s hypocrisy? Look at verses 13-14 of our text, “Then Isaiah said, ‘Hear now you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? 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.’”
It boggles my feeble little mind that the hypocrisy of unbelief served as the catalyst for the Lord to give us one of the most amazing signs ever— “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Did these words of Isaiah resonate through the heart and mind of Joseph when the angel said to him, “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” (Matthew 1:20)? It would not surprise me at all! In essence God was saying to Joseph exactly what He said to Ahaz— “Trust Me!” But whereas Ahaz’s unbelief led him to react to God’s promise with disdain, Joseph’s faith led him to react to God’s promise with trust. As Matthew tells us, “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus” (Matthew 1:24-25).
“Trust Me!” That’s what the Lord of heaven is still saying to you and to me, my friends. “Look at My track record,” the Lord says to us. “Look at how faithfully I have fulfilled all of my promises and trust Me!”
Wouldn’t it be nice, however, if the Lord would give us a sign to prove that we can indeed trust Him? Think of the comfort we would have, think of how safe we would feel if only the Lord would give us a sign— some kind of rainbow in the sky that we could look to when we are experiencing the storm clouds of hardships and difficulties and disappointments in our lives. (Long pause) He has given us a sign, hasn’t He. In fact, I can think of at least four signs that the Lord has given to you and to me— four signs that enable us to trust the Lord our God.
The first sign is, of course, the Child of Bethlehem. The virgin has conceived. The virgin has given birth to a Son. His name is Immanuel, which means, “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). That precious little Baby whose birth we are about to celebrate once again is God’s undeniable “sign” to us that He not only had a plan to save us from our sins, but He has also fulfilled that plan by sending His very own Son into this world to be our Savior! (Matthew 1:22) Yes, Christmas is God’s “sign” to you that you can trust Him!
Understood correctly we can also say that the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion are God’s “signs” to us, “signs” that bring us safety and security. Whenever we bring a child to be baptized with water in the Name of the Triune God the Lord Himself is saying, “Trust Me!” “Trust Me when I say that through this holy Sacrament I am washing away all their sins. Trust Me when I say that through this holy Sacrament I am adopting this child to be My own dearly beloved son or daughter.” When we come to the altar of the Living God to receive the holy Supper of our Lord, God Himself is saying to us, “Trust me!” “Trust Me when I say, ‘This is my body given for you’ (Luke 22:19). “Trust me when I say, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins’ (Matthew 26:28).” “Trust Me! Trust what I have given to you! Trust what I have done for you!” That’s what the Lord now says to you and to me every time we administer His holy Sacraments, His holy “signs” of Baptism and Holy Communion.
That leaves just one more sign— and you know exactly what it is, don’t you. What sign has God Himself given to us to prove that we can trust Him? What sign has God Himself given to us to prove how deeply He loves us? What sign has God Himself given to us to prove that all of our sins are completely forgiven? That sign is— the cross of Jesus Christ! (Pointing to the cross)
Think about it, my friends. Think about the comfort and the confidence we receive every time we lift up our eyes to the cross. Think of the safety and the security we experience as we continue to cling to the old rugged cross. Even during the darkest and most difficult days of our lives the cross is God’s “sign” to us that He has everything under control. The cross is God’s sign to us that everything will be okay. The cross is God’s sign to us that we can indeed trust our God for everything we need— not just for our lives here on this earth, but especially for our eternity.
Trust me. That is perhaps one of the most powerful statements in the English language. Sadly, we probably all know people who have abused our trust and therefore we no longer trust them. Hopefully, we all know people that we can trust because they have proven themselves to be trustworthy. “Trust Me!” That is what the Lord was saying to Ahaz so many years ago. “Trust Me!” That is what the Lord was saying to both the virgin Mary and to Joseph through His holy angel. “Trust Me!” That is what the Lord is saying to you and to me— as we celebrate Christmas, as we baptize our loved ones, as we receive His holy Supper, as we stay focused on His cross. “Trust Me!” says the Lord, our God.
To God be the glory!