A Sermon for Series A 4th Sunday in Advent – 2016 “Where do you put your trust?”

Old Testament Lesson  Isaiah 7:10-17

Second Lesson  Romans 1:1-7

Gospel Lesson  Matthew 1:18-25

Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  The text for our meditation this day is the Old Testament lesson just read.  [Isaiah 7:10-17]

Why didn’t Ahaz ask God for a sign?  Isaiah spoke for God.  Ahaz knew that.  If Isaiah told Ahaz that God wanted to give him a sign, a visible means of showing Ahaz that God was with him, protecting him from every danger, then why wouldn’t Ahaz ask?

Was he afraid to ask?  Did he think he might step over the line and unwittingly put himself in the position of testing God?  He did say to Isaiah: “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.”  But, God wanted him to ask!  He was waiting for him to ask!  The kings of Syria and Israel were bearing down on Judah.  They were going to crush Judah.  But God was ready to rescue his people, ready to rescue those who put their trust in him.

He was ready and he didn’t want Ahaz to doubt.  He was ready, and he wanted to give Ahaz a sign; to make it crystal clear that he had nothing to worry about.  Judah would be safe in the hands of the Lord.

But Ahaz couldn’t ask for a sign.  Asking for a sign would be an admission that he trusted in God’s deliverance … and he didn’t.  Instead of trusting in God for help and deliverance, Ahaz had already sought help from another man.  He’s made an alliance with the king of Assyria to the north.  He didn’t trust God for help, but he didn’t want Isaiah to know that, so in order to fool Isaiah he proudly, piously announced that he wouldn’t put God to the test.

Talk about being blind to the facts … was he really so blind that he didn’t realize that God could see into his heart?  Did he really think he was getting away with something here … not asking for a sign … as if God didn’t know that Ahaz had chosen to trust the king of Assyria’s strength over the strength of God?

Of course God saw into his heart; and God gave his own sign:  Immanuel.  Oh, but Ahaz wasn’t going to be confused by the facts.  He listened to God’s words, proclaimed by Isaiah, and then when his own wife gave birth to a son, he convinced himself that his son must be the fulfillment of God’s promised sign.

God had sent his prophet to the king of his chosen people.  God wanted to give Ahaz a sign.  God wanted Ahaz to know that he could trust in him, and he didn’t have to worry; God would take care of him.

But Ahaz had already made up his mind.  He preferred to trust in himself, and in things he had direct control over.  God’s intervention would’ve been all Ahaz needed to ensure victory over his enemies; but Ahaz chose to go his own way.  It was almost like he was saying to God, “I’ve already made up my mind, don’t confuse me with the facts.”  Sometimes that’s the response God gets in our world today.

God has sent mankind a sign in the life, death and resurrection of his Son; but many in our world don’t want to acknowledge it.  Perhaps it’s because people today are blinded by a world view that’s contrary to the scriptural view.  They try to explain the existence of the world without giving credit to the true Creator who made it.  They look for assistance and support from everyone and anyone, other than their loving heavenly Father who truly provides for all their needs.

They look for salvation in manmade religions, or in things they do themselves, instead of looking to the gracious Lord who already provided eternal life for them through his Son, Jesus Christ.  They’ve already made up their minds, and they don’t want to be confused by the facts.

What about us?  We make our plans as though we had control of the future.  How often do we make plans without praying and consulting God for direction and guidance?  How often do we find ourselves trusting in our own strength or in the strength of our own alliances rather than trusting in the Lord?    How often does God offer to give us a sign and we refuse to ‘put the Lord to the test’; because we know how we really trust?

We trust our income, our bank accounts, our retirement funds, and when they look like they’re failing us, we panic.  We trust the government, to provide for our needs, and when it shuts down, we panic.  We trust in our military strength and the strength of our allies to ensure peace; but when we experience war and violence, not just in other parts of the world, but right here in our own neighborhoods, we panic.

God is with us every minute of every day.  He’s promised to be with us, and he always keeps his promises.  God has given us the sign of Immanuel; but we say, “I’ve already made up my mind, don’t confuse me with the facts.”

Don’t tell me that God has fulfilled all prophecy in one person, in his Son; and his Son is my Savior.  Don’t confuse me with the fact that the virgin did conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the child, born of Mary, is true God and true man; a man his mother named Jesus because he will save his people from their sins.  Don’t confuse me with the fact that he truly is Immanuel: God with us; and don’t confuse me by telling me that this all happened for us; I’ve already made up my mind and I don’t want to change it.  Don’t confuse me with the facts; because if I really believe the facts I won’t be in control of my day to day life, and I need that feeling of being in control.

I need that feeling of being in control and if I ask God for a sign then I’d be acknowledging that I’m trusting in God, giving over control to God, and everything in the world around me says that’s a scary thing to accept. Is ‘letting go and letting God’ something we can really do?

How open are we to letting God and his word shape our lives?  How open are we to letting God guide our decision making?  Look at the facts! [Hold Bible up]  Stop telling yourself this is just a book of great stories, and acknowledge that these are the facts. Stop telling God not to confuse you with the facts and instead embrace the sign that he gives you.  God has given you the sign of Immanuel.  God is with us to defend us, to protect us, to care for us.

The sign of Immanuel is both a blessing and a call to repentance for all who trust in their own strength, their own way, their own works, their own world view; because, apart from Jesus, apart from God with us, there is no other way, no other rock, no other salvation!

The sign of Immanuel is a call to repentance for those who want to trust in Jesus and follow him as his disciples.  It’s a reminder that we need to consider our own alliances and friendships … the places that we trust in and fix our hope in, realigning our trust and faith in Christ alone.

The sign of Immanuel, the sign God’s given to us, is a sign of hope and promise, a sign of grace and mercy, for Jesus has come … to be with us; bringing forgiveness, bringing life, bringing salvation.  He’s with us even when everyone is against us.  He’s with us when the bottom falls out and we freefall into despair.

He’s come from heaven to earth to rescue us and he’s with us through the tragedies of life and even as we walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  He’s with us even beyond death; taking us through death to that place in heaven where we share his glory with him.

Matthew tells us: Behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. Those are the facts.  Put your trust in them.  Amen.

In Christ’s service,

Pastor Huelle