Summary: Like Ahaz before us, we don’t want a sign from God--at least a sign that leaves God running the show. What Ahaz did on the outside, we do on the inside. We like things just the way they are, if it leaves us in charge.
Isaiah’s prophecy of the Virgin giving birth was a sign against King Ahaz. It’s also a sign against us, all fallen humanity. Ahaz was a young Israelite man gone bad. He was of David’s line, but not of David’s faith. And he had become king of the Southern kingdom of Israel, Judah.
Ahaz had plummeted into the darkness of sin and even slaughtered one of his sons to the pagan god, Moloch. He had a pagan altar built in the Temple, the Temple meant only for worshiping the one, true God: Yahweh. As king, Ahaz looked around and saw two looming threats to his nation of Judah: Aram and, would you believe it?, the northern Kingdom of Israel. In the thick of such threats, Isaiah told Ahaz to trust the LORD. “Ask God for a sign,” he said, “no matter how remarkable it may be.” But faithless King Ahaz looked elsewhere for his help and refused such an usual request from God.
Isaiah’s prophecy was a Word, a sign, against Ahaz’s false, do-it-yourself religion. It is a Word, a sign, against our natural idea that we have to do something to please God, to make Him smile on us. We don’t normally hear the words, “a Virgin will conceive” that way, do we? Yet it’s true: Jesus taking on human flesh in the womb of the Virgin is a sign against our impotence, our absolute helplessness, when it comes to our salvation.
Like Ahaz before us, we don’t want a sign from God--at least a sign that leaves God running the show, leaving us sidelined and powerless. What Ahaz did on the outside, we do on the inside. We like things just the way they are, if it leaves us in charge and in control.
Who wants to give up his power and hand it over to God--especially to a God that often looks weak and powerless in our eyes? Ahaz saw the army of Aram chalking up the victories. We also see those who mock God winning victories in this fallen world every day. So signs from God can stay where they are: safe and far away. We secretly say, “God, don’t give me a sign if it means that I have to step out in faith. Don’t give me a sign if it means going against everything that my senses and experiences are telling me.”
Ahaz had his plans. He was afraid for his life and for his country--but he also had a strategy. He would play off his enemies, one against the other, and outfox them. Ahaz presumed he needed something practical, a real and pragmatic plan, not some sign from a prophet’s mouth, from a loser of a God, as he saw it.
The sharpness of steel and the clash of armor were not imaginary--they were real! And so Ahaz rejected God’s Word and sign. He lived in the real world after all, just like us. Besides, he already had everything figured out, thank you. He didn’t want God interfering with his best-laid plans.
Turn from such wanton foolishness, for we are the same as Ahaz. Like Ahaz, we think that we have everything under control--or that we can if we try hard enough. God is weary of us standing on our own strength and our well-worn rationalizations to explain away our lack of faith in the hidden corners of our hearts. God is weary of us twisting His Word into what we want it to say.
Yes, the spirit of Ahaz is strong and alive with us, strong like a malignant cancer, taking no prisoners. Like Ahaz, the problem with us is us--not God. Like Ahaz, we don’t trust God’s Word to do its work, and so we look elsewhere. We don’t trust God’s timing and His ways. Like Ahaz, we throw ourselves into flimsy ventures, because deep down it feels like God has abandoned us.
You fear. You worry. You live amid the most prosperous earthly blessings ever enjoyed by man, and yet you are afraid. You worry that God won’t take care of you, your family, or this church. And so you scheme, plot, plan, and manipulate to make sure everything will be all right, that things will go just as you design. Do you realize what your actions are saying? They say you don’t trust God.
You allow your troubles to preach false doctrine and theology into your heart. We listen to our aches and our sorrows, thinking that we hear the heart of God toward us in such troubles, and not as sufferings needed for our eternal good. Sometimes, we only have an abstract, head faith, and fear, worry, and despair stir within our anxious hearts. Like Ahaz, we also don’t trust God.
As unbelief always does, it causes us to sin. We secretly think God and His Word are defenseless against the onslaught of this world and its ways. And so like Ahaz, we seek out the successful-looking false gods of this world. In the fissures and recesses of our hearts, we doubt God will take care of us. In the nighttime of our hearts, we doubt God will work good and blessing in every situation. So like Ahaz, we yank control away from God, wanting to be God in place of God.