St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

God Gives A Sign For All Times

Sermon on Isaiah 7:10-14

Text: Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, 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.”
13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Signs play an important role when we drive down the road. For example, we know that, if we see a red octagon, we know that we have to stop. If we are driving down the interstate, we look for a sign that will tell us when we need to exit. It is not good to ignore these signs. If we don’t see the sign with our exit, we end up going miles out of our way. Ignoring a stop sign is dangerous and can be deadly. Signs help us get ready for what is ahead. God, also, gave signs through the Bible. God gave Abraham the sign of the many stars in the sky to tell him that Abraham would be the ancestor of a great nation. God gave Gideon signs to assure him that he had been chosen to be the next leader for Israel. This morning, we are going to look at another sign that God gave. However, it was not just for one person’s benefit or for one set of circumstances. All people need to be aware of this sign. GOD GIVES A SIGN FOR ALL TIMES 1. To Call Forth Faith and 2. To Identify The Savior.

A bit of background will help us understand the circumstances under which this sign was given. Judah was a small country with very little military might. King Ahaz sought an alliance with Assyria, which was the most powerful country in the region. Judah’s neighbors, Israel and Aram, were forming an alliance to fend off The Assyrians. When Judah refused to join their alliance, her neighbors got ready to attack. The situation looked hopeless for Judah. God sent Isaiah with a message of divine comfort and encouragement. Just prior to our text, God told Ahaz, “Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood.” (Isaiah 7:4)

To further encourage Ahaz, he was told, “Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.” (Verse 11) God gave Ahaz a blank check. He could ask for any sign that he could think of. God was willing to grant it. When Ahaz saw this sign being fulfilled, he could be certain of Judah’s deliverance.

In response to this, Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test.” (Verse 12) When Ahaz said this, he sounded very pious. After all, God had said in Deuteronomy 6:16, “Do not put the LORD your God to the test.” Ahaz seems to be quoting from this verse from Deuteronomy. In that verse God told his people that they were not to test God. Ahaz said that he was not going to test God and ask for a sign. At first glance, you might want to applaud Ahaz.

That is what makes Isaiah’s response somewhat shocking. He said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also?” (Verse 13) Literally, the phrase “try the patience” means “to make tired” or to “wear out.” Ahaz was making God tired with his constant acts of unbelief. Ahaz was not a godly man. In 2 Chronicles 28:24, it says, “Ahaz gathered together the furnishings from the temple of God and cut them in pieces. He shut the doors of the LORD’s temple and set up altars at every street corner in Jerusalem.” He openly promoted the worship of false gods in Judah. More than that, we read in 2 Chronicles 28:3, “He burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and sacrificed his children in the fire, engaging in the detestable practices of the nations the LORD had driven out before the Israelites.” Ahaz was an unbeliever. He wasn’t being pious when he refused to ask for a sign. He stubbornly refused to trust God and listen to his Word. Refusing to ask for a sign was further evidence of the hardness of his heart. He was not willing to take what God offered.

Refusing to take what God offers is a serious sin. For example, we think of the sacraments and what God offers in them. Christ’s body and blood are offered with the bread and the wine for the forgiveness of sins. What is offered there is more than just symbolism. Christ’s body and blood are truly present. In this sacrament, God offers the forgiveness of sins, salvation, and eternal life. Consider how many people despise these gifts, doubt their power, and neglect their use. They show hardness of heart and a lack of faith. We should not imagine that God will look kindly when people refuse to accept what he offers to them.

However, we cannot just look at those people who refuse to accept what God offers them in the sacraments. Do we ever try the patience of God? Do we weary him? For example, God promises good to us. He promises to care for us and to protect us. However, we cry out, “Woe is me!” On the one hand, do we weary God with our thoughts of self-reliance? We find ourselves thinking that we don’t need God to get through things. ‘What I have is what I have worked for. If I try hard enough, I can get through anything.’ On the other hand, do we try the patience of God in our times of despair? ‘Yes, I know that God has promised to take care of me. I even know that God will make everything work out for my benefit, but it just looks hopeless.’ We don’t see any way out of our situation. We should not imagine that God looks kindly at our thoughts of self-reliance or despair. When we do these things, we are not taking what God lovingly offers to us. This is a sin, for which we also deserve God’s anger and eternal punishment. How desperately we need help!

In spite of the fact that Ahaz refused to ask for a sign, God told him that he was going to give him a sign anyway. This sign would not depend on the faith of Ahaz. It was going to happen because God said it would. It says in verse 14, “The Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” What a wondrous sign was given, not just to Ahaz, but to the entire world! God gave him the sign of the Savior who was to come into the world.

In this sign, we see the uniqueness of the one who was to come. First of all, we note that it says, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son.” The one who was to come would be a human being. He would be conceived and born. Secondly, in speaking of the one who was to come, God said that they would “call him Immanuel.” The name “Immanuel” means “God with us.” The one who was to come would be God himself. The “how” this can be does not make sense. How can someone be completely human and completely God at the same time? You have to be one or the other. You cannot be both. God does not explain the “how” to us.

However, the “why” has been made abundantly clear to us. This was exactly the type of Savior that we needed to rescue us. He had to be a human being so that he would be subject to the law, as we are. He had to be God so that he could keep the law perfectly for us. The thoughts of God resided in his mind. The law of God was put into action by his deeds. For example, he trusted that God would take care of him. All of the miracles that he performed while he was on the earth were never for his own benefit. It was never to make his life easier. He trusted in his Father. He did this for you and for me. In speaking of Jesus’ work, Paul notes in Romans 5:19, “Through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.”

Furthermore, our Savior had to be both true man and true God so that he could complete God’s plan of salvation. God says clearly in Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death.” This is the penalty for sin. You and I could never change this, either for ourselves or for someone else. It says in Psalm 49:7&8, “No one can redeem the life of another or give to God a ransom for them — the ransom for a life is costly, no payment is ever enough.” Jesus had to be a human being so that he could die. Though Jesus never sinned, he willing went to the cross to suffer and die for our sins. Since he was God, this suffering and death counted for all people. In Christ’s death, we find the fullness of the love of God. The Father loved you and me so much that he was willing to sacrifice his Son. Jesus loved you and me so much that he was willing to endure all of this so that our sins would be forgiven. This is what John was speaking about when he pointed out Jesus to the crowd by saying, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) Our Savior has come. By his life, death, and resurrection we have been set free from our sins. This is because Immanuel has come. The “how” is beyond our understanding. The “why” is beyond our ability to thank him.

God inspired Matthew to include this verse in his Gospel. After the angel told Joseph that his fiancee, Mary, was expecting a child, who had been conceived by the Holy Spirit, we find this verse quoted, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). (Matthew 1:23) We are getting ready to celebrate the fulfillment of this sign. It is a sign that marks God’s amazing love for us. It is a sign that strengthens our weak faiths. God, who has kept this wondrous sign in the coming of Jesus, will also keep all of the other promises that he has made to us. Also, we want to remember that this sign is not just for a few people. It is a sign that is meant for all people. It is our prayer that more and more people might be amazed by the love the Father has shown to us in the giving of his Son, Immanuel. Amen.