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.