Powers and Principalities
Wed, Dec 06, 2017


Our scripture readings and sermons on both Sundays and Wednesday nights throughout the month of December will be drawn from the prophet Isaiah around a theme, “The Prophet Foretold Him.” This evening we turn to Isaiah 7:10-16 which is a dialogue between the prophet and King Ahaz about a sign. Let us hear this Word of God.
10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, 11 Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven. 12 But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test. 13 Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? 14 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. 15 He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 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.

This is the Word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, for you are our rock and our redeemer. Amen.

There were once two men from the city who decided they wanted to go hunting. They had never really been in the woods before, so they bought blaze orange coats and hats, they purchased a gun and some ammunition. Early one Saturday they drove out into the country until they found what seemed to be a good spot. They got out of the truck and began walking along. Suddenly one of them looked down and stopped. He told his buddy, “Look, I see some tracks.” His buddy looked down and said, “You are right! Those are deer tracks.” The first guy shook his head and responded, “You don't know what you are talking about; those are bear tracks.” No, those are deer tracks. You’re crazy, they are bear tracks. Deer tracks! Bear tracks! They were still arguing when the train came.

You got the joke right, the tracks were not deer or bear; they were train tracks. Yes, the moral of the story is that it is very important to be able to understand the signs.

In our text for tonight the prophet Isaiah tells king Ahaz to ask the Lord for sign. Earlier in chapter 7 we learned that Ahaz is contemplating two military alliances. He is feeling threatened by the Assyrians and believes an alliance with his neighbors is the best hope of saving Israel. However the prophet has another idea, a more faithful idea. Ahaz and Israel need to trust in the Lord.

Now Ahaz has enough respect for the office of the prophet to at least listen before he disobeyed. So when Isaiah tells the king to ask for a sign, Ahaz tries to politely decline. Remember, he can ask the Lord for whatever he wants - riches, an army, the sun to stop in the sky, blindness on an enemy or even to shut up the mouth of this prophet - anything he wants. But Ahaz says, “No, I'd rather not bother God with this.”

Isaiah insists. Ahaz is going to get a sign whether he wants one or not. And the sign is this: a young woman is already pregnant. She will bear a child. She will name him Immanuel which means “God is with us.” Do you see that the child's name is an answer to Ahaz’s problem? He does not trust that the Lord is with them so he seeks to make military alliances for security and protection. And yet the name of the child is an assurance that God is with them after all.

But even more than that, once the child is born, the sign continues. Before the child is old enough to eat regular solid food and choose between good and evil, the nations that Ahaz believes will save him will be brought to ruin. The child will continue to grow and will know how to refuse evil and choose good. For all who remember way back in Genesis the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, you might recall that the one prohibition God gives them is that they are not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However, the serpent convinces them that if they eat of the fruit of the tree, “they will not die for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Yes, being able to refuse evil and choose good has been the problem from the beginning of time. It is Ahaz’ problem right now - he has decided to choose the evil of alliance with foreign powers and refuse the good of trust in the Lord. He cannot read the signs and he is going to get run over by the train.

But there is a child to be born who will grow to be a good king … not an evil king like Ahaz. Yes, a child to be born who will refuse the evil and choose the good because … he is good. Yes, a child to be born who judge the people … with equity and truth. Yes a child to be born who will not just be called Immanuel … but will truly be God with us.

My friends, the train is always on the tracks and threatens to run us down; but may we may we keep our eyes open to the signs of Christ’s presence with us. For he is here with us. His touch might just feel like the handshake of a good friend, or appear in a phone call at just the right moment, or in a card that arrives just in time. He may show up the eyes of stranger in need of help or a loved one who is always there. But yes, he is here. Not necessarily in the miraculous, but certainly in the ordinary birth of a child God is with us. Throughout this Advent season let us keep our eyes open for him, for he is here, just as the prophet foretold.

Thanks be to God.

Let us pray: