It takes more of a Bible geek than me to know, just off the top of one’s head, who King Ahaz was and what he did. Want to take a shot? Do you know? We’ll wait.
Time’s up. King Ahaz of Jerusalem appears in the book of Isaiah and is key to the explanation of the “Therefore” that precedes the prophetic Isaiah 7:14 passage foretelling God’s sign of Immanuel (Emmanuel, if you prefer) noted above.
The word “Therefore” always makes us ask, “What’s it there for?”
Without replaying the whole passage, Ahaz feared an attack on Jerusalem – in part by other Jews in the tribe of Ephraim – and God told Ahaz not to worry: “It will not take place” (Isaiah 7:7), and “Stand firm in your faith” (Isaiah 7:9). Ahaz was unconvinced Jerusalem could be saved. In verse 10, God commands Ahaz, “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.” Ahaz refused, saying, “I will not put the Lord to the test” (Isaiah 7:12).
Oy. God graciously invited / commanded Ahaz to ask for proof. Ahaz – evidently figuring he already knew everything he needed to know about God – said, “No.”
In verse 13, Isaiah notes that it was a terrible idea to refuse God’s grace and sign, disobedience which also cost Ahaz the peace God was offering. Then comes verse 14 and the prophecy of the sign above all Godly signs to come: Immanuel – God with us – being conceived of a virgin. God Himself would appear among man.
Now let’s fast forward 700 years or so to the quiet Bethlehem manager where Joseph and Mary would bring into the world the baby Jesus. Jerusalem again was being wildly disobedient to God. Israel’s attention was entirely taken up with legalistic reconfiguration of God’s commands and fear of the conquering Romans. God’s sign, Jesus, is revealed in the humble environment of a baby in a manger while Israel would ignore all prophecy of His coming, hoping instead for a power to conquer the world.
Jesus came to conquer our sin, to reveal the true God, to restore humanity to its original relationship with God and His Kingdom, to share the truth of God’s love, to prove the worth of our faith in God, to offer hope of God’s ever-abiding presence and power, to invite humanity into eternal life, and to allow us in this life to know God is real. His truth, the real truth, would come to life. Talk about tidings of comfort and joy …
Isaiah is a complex book, but Ahaz’s disobedience is a message that survives simplification. Notice that Joseph did not argue with God, he obeyed. Mary obeyed. Jesus obeyed. And in obedience they, like us, found and find the gift of God’s glory.
Christmas is about God Almighty come to save us – in love, not in punishment.Isaiah and Jesus – the names – both mean, “The Lord saves.” Isaiah foretold God’s coming sign of salvation, Jesus, who saves God’s own glory and saves our lives.
That’s what He’s doing here; Jesus is the proof, the sign, of God’s saving grace.
All I can say to that is Merry Christmas!
Walters (firstname.lastname@example.org) asserts that “Peace on Earth” is an affirmation of the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ in our hearts. Graciously, let’s keep it there always. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.