God is With Us

By Rev. David Wilson Rogers |  December 17, 2016

            The king was afraid and many of his kingdom along with him. The marauding armies of their enemies were poised for invasion and conquest. His small armies would be inadequate to fight off just one of the massive military machines threatening to overrun the nation, but with multiple fronts to defend, it was evident the deck was stacked. Judah was doomed.
            Amid the torrent of fear and a very doubtful future, God offered King Ahaz a sign. Yet, the king abruptly refuses the assurance from God. The decline has the outward appearance of humility, but it actually betrays a deep lack of trust in God.  
Perhaps the king was afraid of what God would say. Perhaps he was aware of his own lack of faith. Perhaps he was ashamed of the mistakes of his past. Perhaps he was afraid of the challenges God would offer. Perhaps he saw divine intervention as impractical and considered such faith irresponsible. One thing was fundamentally true, rather than seek God and God’s guidance, King Ahaz was not about to trust God more than he could trust his own presumed ability to control the situation. When faced with his own doubts, fears, and sins, he was also confronted with the reality that living in faith was not an option he truly wanted to consider.
            In spite of the king’s resistance, God still offered the sign. “Look!” God prophetically called out to the king. “The young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.”
            The identity of the woman and the explicit way in which the eminent dangers facing the king would be resolved are not revealed in this prophesy. In many ways, it is a prophetic vision that asks more questions than it answers. Yet, amid the ambiguities, the prophesy recalls one very powerful and prominent truth—a truth that all people of God would do well to heed!
            In a world that is permeated by fear and uncertainty, trusting God can be a challenge. In a world where practicality and probability dominate the way people anticipate future events, holding faith against the odds can seem foolish at best, or downright reckless and dangerous at worst. In a culture where people desire absolute certainties rather than accept vague ambiguities, hope may seem a fanciful waste of time. Such was the world and reality that King Ahaz faced.
            Several hundred years later, the Gospel writer recalled the words of Isaiah 7:14 and re-interpreted them to give meaning to Christ’s birth. With Matthew’s account of Isaiah’s prophetic vison recorded in verse 23 of his opening chapter, the church has often limited Isaiah’s prophetic vision to refer only to Jesus. Yet, to make such an absolute connection robs the original assurance of its relevance and prominence and limits its power. The sign God provides in Isaiah 7:14 does far more than point to a divine birth several hundred years in its future. It speaks to Ahaz and his kingdom with powerful words of reassurance and prophetic wisdom for their day.
            Some unnamed and unidentified woman in Ahaz’s day was pregnant and the pending birth of her son will come with a prophetic reminder. His name would be “God is with us.” In hearing the news from God that this unborn child would be named Immanuel, King Ahaz is reminded that God will not depart from him, in spite of the great fear and uncertainty he legitimately feels. It is a reminder that rang true that day, and continues to be true today.
            God is with us. When there is doubt and fear, God is here. When there is shame and failure, God is here. When there is uncertainty and nothing seems clear, God is here. God is with us no matter what. The real lesson of Isaiah is not a prediction of Christ, but a question that Ahaz could not face. God is with us, but are we willing to place full trust in God’s presence?