The Lord Will Give You A Sign
Key Verse 7:14
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
The Bible is many things. But with certainty we can say that the Bible is a Book of Prophecy, which makes it absolutely unique among all the books of religion in the world. And Christmas is one of those prophecies given and prophecies fulfilled. And what makes it most wondrous is that the prophecies are contained within a few verses. And they are as heart moving today as they had been the day they were given to the prophet to proclaim to all people. So we need to consider them carefully, and cherish them in our hearts, because of all prophecies, perhaps the prophecies regarding Christmas are the dearest and most intimate to the very heart of our God. They were about his Son. And they were given to a people in rebellion against God, in the hope of drawing them back into the heart and home of God.
We need Christmas to rise in our hearts as it did for the countless many who for a glimpse of Christmas, even in the form of prophecy, were challenged to face their human limits. They not only grasped Christmas in their hearts, but also lived it. Even the man who prophesied Christmas, Isaiah in this case, did not succumb to the corruption of the time, but gave himself fully to honor and to serve God, the true father of Christmas. Christmas is the best gift of God. It is the grace of God. Christmas is to love even the unlovable. It is to forgive the unforgivable, God gave us Christmas that we might not remain on the empty meaningless side of the world, but that we might cross over to meaning and purpose. Christmas is to be content with what we have, never looking above what God has given us, but rather giving of what we have been graciously given so that others may be blessed. At Christmas, churches are filled with sore and bitter faces, unhappy and critical, anxious and angry. But when Christmas is born in our hearts, we can stop and say thank you Lord that I have a wonderful life, not an easy life, but a wonderful one. I am blessed with precious children. Food to eat and some to spare. A wife who nags me because she loves me. A husband whose eyes are on God and who has eyes for no one but me. And thank you Lord for those children, always ready to make trouble, never listening to sound advice; but they are lovely children who some day will make me proud. Surely to know and to have Christmas in my heart is to know contentment, for when we have Christmas we lack nothing and we have everything. For ultimately, if we have God and his Son we have everything.
Most of us who are not too bitter or stubborn or rebellious—most of us want to know Christmas as God intended it to be. And most of us who are not too thick headed and full of ourselves and our own ideas want Christmas to be born into our heart. We want the innocence of Christmas, the same innocence we had when we were children. And ultimately when we have finally embraced Christmas in our own hearts, and have come to know Christmas as God intended for us to know it, we then want to finally have the courage to put aside our childish ways, and the sins that mark us as ungrateful and joyless, and then have the courage to live even one day in the spirit of true Christmas— to love someone we cannot love— forgive someone we cannot forgive— embrace someone we cannot possibly embrace. We want to get rid of our self righteousness, our pride, our selfish ways, hoarding things, hiding things such as our sins and bad habits. We want to have the courage to try living according to the gospel, because now we have really learned what Christmas is all about. What then is Christmas—the Christmas God prepared for us to have this year and every year from now on?
Let us first read Isaiah 7:10-14.
“Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.’ But Ahaz said, ‘I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.’ Then Isaiah said, ‘Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.'” It happened in the days of Isaiah when the nation of God was besieged and ready to fall to the hands of the enemy. But God would not allow the enemy to conquer his nation. God’s people then and now are always besieged by their enemy Satan who wants to conquer them. But God forbid it. Still they remained terribly afraid. They had every reason to be afraid. But when God commands us not to be afraid, we must listen and not be afraid. Still they trembled before the enemy. So God in his mercy challenged his people to ask him for a sign— a sign to ensure them that he loves them— that he is with them to the end— that they were not going to be defeated— but that they would surely pass on to victory. It was the heart of God crying out to his children to tell them that even in the midst of their defeat and despair, he was there with them to guide them to victory. It was the human equivalent of saying: “we’ll get through this… together. Just trust me.” What more could God do?!
But they were too proud to ask for a sign from God, even though God himself offered one. They were too much in despair even to believe what they were hearing. They were like those who, after assuring them of love and grace, still look to their benefactor with suspicion. They harbored wretched thoughts that rejected the good news even when it was served to them on a platter. The people of Isaiah’s time did not want a sign. They just wanted to be left alone to die in their despair. They wanted to be defeated just so that they might not experience defeat any more. In the long run, afraid or not, in despair or not, believing or not, it all came down to one thing— human pride higher than the mountains. These people looked humble when they stood before God as sinners, but in actuality they were just proud—too proud to believe the words of God— too proud to accept God’s love to ask him for a sign. God so desperately wanted to give them a sure sign of his love and grace and mercy. But they so desperately wanted to go curl up in a corner and die.
God still did not abandon them. He gave them a sign anyway. Read 7:14. “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” Immanuel was the sign of Christmas. It was the most beautiful sign to a proud people. God was with them. God was with them! He would always be with them. It is not in God’s nature to abandon his people. If a sinful father would not abandon his son, how could the holy God abandon them! He can’t. Still these people would not trust God to hold them in the palm of his hand, and guide them out of the arms of danger and into the arms of grace.
God would be with them whether they liked it or not. He would give them a sign whether they believed it or not. This is his marvelous grace. We are so much like these people. When we are on the brink of failure, even when God’s sign is all around us— we do not want to believe. We would rather believe the signs of our own hearts, telling us all kinds of unbelieving words, and the signs we read in other people’s crooked eyes and on their lying lips. Unless we repent of this great sin, Christmas cannot be born into our hearts, neither now nor tomorrow. Christmas is believing in God’s sign, that he is with us. Christmas is also not believing in what we see with our eyes and touch with our hands. How hard it is to turn our hearts away from the worldly signs and to believe the sign of God. How can we? How could they?
Unsurprisingly, God understood his people’s frail and failing hearts. But no matter how much God pressed his loving sign on their hearts in order to help them get up from where they were, still, they themselves had to make an effort to trust God. God’s grace is endless, but not even God vies to interfere in the heart of man, when man is unwilling. It is like forcing someone to trust you and to love you. Even if they do, it would not be genuine. God tried to help them. But the last step should be their own. Read 7:9b. “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” God loves us. He really cares for us more than we can describe. God has done all he should to lift us out of the miry muck and to bring us to the green fields of grace and victory. Even the most wretched has hope when Emmanuel God stands by him to guide him. Even the most wretched can rise to the highest heavens when he or she knows that Emmanuel God is with him. Paul described Emmanuel God best when he wrote, “If God is for us, who can be against us? What can separate us from the love of God”? Truly Christmas is God with us, with me, always, forever, in failure and in victory, in trouble or in safety. In all things God is with us. It is the sign— the everlasting sign that does not weaken nor fade. However…
Even Almighty God will not force us to believe all that God has manifested before our eyes. In his grace, however, he has left us to hold on to faith. It is faith, that God wants us to stand on. It is faith that God wants us to stand on firmly. And unless we stand on faith, we cannot stand at all. Nor can we taste Christmas, or live it as God would have us live it. As I said before, God’s sign is ever so wonderful. It leads us to true Christmas where all God’s blessings are abundant. I am not talking about material blessings—which has become the snare of most people. I am talking about the blessing to see and to touch Christmas as God would have us see it and touch it and live it. But we need faith. We need to engage our faith and stand on it regardless of what the world shows us. With faith, Christmas lives in our hearts. With faith, the promise of the Savior comes to our hearts, not as a story, but as a life-giving Spirit which empowers us to live the spirit of Christmas to the full. When we have faith, to trust God, our children are blessed. When we have faith to believe God, everything we do is blessed. When we have faith, we can tap into the heart of God where the storerooms of blessings overflow from us to everyone around us.
We have Christmas once a year. Most people pass up Christmas without getting even the slightest taste of the glory which God had in store for us. For some, even talking about the true meaning of Christmas makes their hearts wince in unbelief. But we must capture and recapture the heart of this blessed occasion. We must see the sign. We must also believe the sign. And we must then wait on God to fill our hearts with every gift the Savior came from heaven bearing for us. And of all the gifts he came to bear, we must be careful what to hope for. We must examine our hearts to see what is lacking. If we lack forgiveness, let us ask for it. If we lack love and tolerance, let us ask for it. If we lack joy and patience let us ask for them. But most of all let us ask Emmanuel to reveal himself to us, and with that, let us hold firmly to the faith on which God called us to stand.
And for those who are still skeptical of God’s blessed sign, God has given to them Isaiah 7:14, the promise that the Savior to come is no mere child, but that he is none other than the Almighty God who accomplishes this out of his zeal. And praise God that he has! In his zeal he has surely sent his Son to save us, and to pour on us the spirit of Christmas so that we might bless others as we ourselves have been blessed. This Christmas we must not go to the Savior with a shriveled heart and many excuses as to why we could not share this good news with others. We must go the Savior standing firmly on our faith, and deeply believing the sign given. Finally we go to him on our knees and give him a gift of our hearts. May God bless you. Amen.