Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz: "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." And he said, "Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:10-14)
In this context, King Ahaz of Judah is terrified because Syria and the northern kingdom of Israel have joined forces together against the southern kingdom of Judah (7:1-2). Judah is very small in comparison and Ahaz knows that by itself Judah doesn’t stand a chance. Thus, God sends Isaiah to encourage King Ahaz and let him know that God stands with Judah and will come to her aid. He should not fear the kings of Syria and Israel (vv.3-4). To bolster Ahaz’s faith, God commands him to ask for a sign, any sign, and God will cause it to happen to assure King Ahaz that God is faithful and will not abandon Judah (v.10). Ahaz, however, does not ask for sign, saying, “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test.” Ahaz believes he is being humble in not asking God for a sign; however, when God commands someone to ask for a sign, to not do so is not humility but disobedience. God takes it as an afront to his authority and power and so says to Ahaz, “Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also?” In other words, do you think God is not able to do whatever sign you might ask? Nonetheless, God will give Ahaz a sign anyway. “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” This is the sign God will give to show that he is ever faithful to his promises, that he is ever faithful to his people. A virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and his name will be called Immanuel. This name in the Hebrew literally means “God is with us” (immanu = with us + El = God).
Seven hundred years later, an angel will appear to a Jewish carpenter in Nazareth through a dream saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." The apostle Matthew then adds, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus” (Matt. 1:20-25). In the birth of Christ, we celebrate not just the birth of a king, not just the birth of God’s son; we celebrate the incarnation of God himself--Immanu El—God with us. In the birth of Christ, God takes on human form and is born in Bethlehem in order to redeem a people to himself, to fix what Adam and Eve had ruined. This is what Advent is all about.
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