Damariscotta Baptist Church
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

04/22/18 Sermon - God With Us

“God With Us”

Isaiah 7:10-25

Last week we read the first part of chapter 7 and discovered that Syria and Israel were planning to attack Judah. We were not told exactly why they were doing so. It could be that they wanted to make sure they could make King Ahaz, the king of Judah at the time, join them so they could increase their forces against Assyria. Or it was possible that King Ahaz had already made an alliance with Assyria and they were out to punish him for doing so. For whatever reason, the two neighboring kingdoms were attacking with the expressed thought to replace King Ahaz with someone named Tabeel.

God had told Isaiah, the prophet, to go out to the main water hole, outside the gate and speak with the King. Was Ahaz out there inspecting the water supply of his city to come up with a plan to protect it should the city be attacked?

Judah was surrounded by a giant wall, but should an enemy take over the source of the city’s water, that could be a reason for defeat.

Once Isaiah meets up with King Ahaz, he encourages King Ahaz, to put his trust in God. According to God, the two leaders who were planning an attack, were but smoldering logs. They had no fire and would not win. Isaiah tried to assure King Ahaz that he did not need to worry about the water source for Judah but that he needed to trust in God. King Ahaz had to make a choice, put his faith in God and what God said through the prophet or give way to his fear and trust in humans.

Then comes today’s Scripture, which begins with Isaiah offering King Ahaz a sign to prompt his faith. The LORD knows that Ahaz has doubts and so He offers Ahaz the opportunity to ask God for a sign, the sign could be as high as heaven or as low as hell, God was prepared to respond.

Yet, rather than accept God’s challenge, because, think about it, should Ahaz take the challenge, and God makes it happen, Ahaz will be forced to follow God. Instead, King Ahaz refuses God’s challenge with, of all things, an appeal of piety, by claiming that to test God was something forbidden in the Torah. This was a twisting of God’s law used by Ahaz to meet his own purposes. God was asking King Ahaz to obey His command and step out in faith, in His promises, which was nothing like the rebellious actions of those in the desert, where the Israelites doubted God’s goodness and so they dared God to do what He said He would.

Isaiah hears King Ahaz’s ridiculous pious statement and let’s Ahaz have it. Out of frustration, Isaiah has had enough of King Ahaz trying, not only the patience of the Israelites, but now the patience of God. Okay, it is one thing for the people of Judah to have to live under a pro-Assyrian king, but when one tests the patience of God Almighty, watch out!

So God chooses to give King Ahaz a sign anyway. Many of us know this verse from Matthew’s identification of its fulfillment in Christ, (Matthew 1:23). However, what does it mean within this context? What does this sign mean for King Ahaz? On the surface the sign states that

  • before a child conceived at the time Isaiah was stating this,

  • was to turn twelve years of age,

  • the two nations that threatened Judah,

  • would be destroyed.

Okay, so what? Well, when we go deeper into the meaning of the Hebrew words that Isaiah used we discover some curious thoughts regarding some details about this sign.

First, God had asked King Ahaz to come up with a sign, and He challenged him to create a remarkable sign, one that was out of this world to perform. The surface explanation of this sign doesn’t reveal anything remarkable about the sign God gave Ahaz.

Second, normally the word used in Hebrew for the mother of the child would have been “woman” (issah) or “girl” (na’arah). Instead, the word (‘almah), which means “young woman of marriageable age” is used, and this Hebrew word is translated with the word “virgin” (pathenos) in the Septuagint, the first Greek version of the Bible.

The third interesting fact about this sign is the name of the child, Immanuel, has no immediate historical relevance. Whereas, the other children’s names, in chapter 7 and chapter 8 have direct relevance to what is happening.

These three distinguishing features give credence to this sign being not only relevant to King Ahaz, but having a double meaning for all humans that “Immanuel,” God is with Ahaz and God is with us, just as Matthew explained, and we need not fear what other human beings may do.

For King Ahaz, the sign revealed that before this child who was to shortly be conceived and was “able to reject the wrong and choose the right”, Syria and Israel will be destroyed.  At that point, all that would be left to eat was curds and whey, which had an ironic twist, because at the time of Isaiah’s prophecy, curds and whey were the food of royalty. So, Isaiah was alluding to the fact that there would be so few people remaining after the destruction and depopulation that they would be able to eat like kings. At this point, the sign holds a dual effect. This young boy would not only see the day when Judah would not have to fear Syria and Israel, but alas, ultimately he would see Assyria wipe out nation after nation, in a matter of about fifty years.

Woe to King Ahaz and the kingdom of Judah.

Sure, King Ahaz may have won the battle with the two smaller nations, but by joining an alliance with Assyria instead of relying and trusting in God he would experience what a mistake it was to leave God out of his plans and his life, because of fear.

Ahaz chose to trust something else, instead of God, and by doing so, discovered that in reality, God was with him, and God used the very thing Ahaz put his trust in, against him. The bottom line seemed to be that Ahaz was ruled by fear, not by his trust in God. Decisions made out of fear, almost always turn out to be bad ones. Decisions made with assured calmness due to an explicit trust in an Almighty God, tend to be thoughtful and reasoned and more reliable.

And what about this Immanuel sign?

It was not fulfilled in the short term until several years into the future, and its fulfillment in the long term occured seven hundred years later! It would be difficult to prove that Isaiah had a full understanding of the details of the person Jesus Christ and His fulfillment of “God with Us.” That goes for many of the predictions of the coming of the Son of David that we will read as we go through the book of Isaiah. Peter comments on how little the prophets knew in 1 Peter 1:10-12 (the Message)

The prophets who told us this was coming asked a lot of questions about this gift of life God was preparing. The Messiah’s Spirit let them in on some of it—that the Messiah would experience suffering, followed by glory. They clamored to know who and when. All they were told was that they were serving you, you who by orders from heaven have now heard for yourselves—through the Holy Spirit—the Message of those prophecies fulfilled. Do you realize how fortunate you are? Angels would have given anything to be in on this!

Do we realize how fortunate we are? The idea of God’s being with His people has been around since the Garden of Eden, all through the Old Testament. God is a person. A person who desires to be personally present with His creatures. In His presence we experience protection, fulfillment, and livelihood. When we are not in His presence, well, the result is disaster.

We live in a world today that informs us that not only do we need to make decisions quickly, but we should be making decisions in order to make sure we are going to come out on top, or to promote our passions or even worse, our greed. And yet a lot of our decisions are often made out of fear, that we will not receive those things.  

As Christians, we should be making decisions remembering “God is with us.”

But what does that look like?

Here is what I think today’s Scripture teaches us.

First, we need to seek God’s Word. We need to seek the Scriptures and seek godly elders. King Ahaz didn’t. We need to make sure we don’t do what King Ahaz did. We need to avoid deciding what we want first, then asking God if He could not please bless what we want. Instead, we need to come to God first, with the blankest page possible and ask God to fill it up, with His will. With the confidence of God’s Word, and Godly advisors guiding us, we can go forward with a clear conscience, confidently walking in faith.

Secondly, we need to make sure we are not substituting piety for faith. In 2 Timothy 3:5 Paul relates it to having a form of godliness but denying its power. King Ahaz demonstrated the danger in doing so. Having faith in God, includes a relationship. Without the relationship, doing godly things in deed, makes you pious, however, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a relationship with God.

Piety is the by-product, not the end product.

Many times we think that the things we do are what give us standing with the eternal holy God, when in reality on their own, they are like building your house on a sandy land. When we choose to walk “with God, with us” trusting in Him, we will be doing pious things, but they will be the product of the relationship with have with Immanuel, not substitutes for it, as was the case with Ahaz.

The concept of God with us, is different for us after the resurrection. In the Old Testament, God was with the Israelites, in His temple, in the center of camp. After the birth, death and resurrection of Immanuel, God lives “in” us. Jesus had this in mind when he said that the Spirit would come, in John 14: 16-17

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.  

If God is in us, who can be against us? Suffice it to say, that God with us, was significant for those who lived during the Old Testament and by itself would be now even if Christ had not come. However, there would always be the grave, death, to conquer,  which by becoming one of us, Jesus Christ has done. In Christ, God has gone with us all the way, into the tomb and brought us back out with Him. This is a reality. God has taken on flesh, and in that flesh has taken on our sins, that is why the enfleshed God is to be called, “Immanuel - God with us!”

Once we believe that God is with us and accept that God is with us,  we are in relationship with God, our Creator. Then, the difficult part begins, remembering God is with us, and then allowing Him to be in the driver’s seat.

Let’s pray.