Today's Scripture Reading: Isaiah 7:1-14
Watching the news lately, it seems that every report is of immediate or impending disaster and doom: threats of violence; screams of hate; devastation by natural disaster. It’s all too much sometimes, and we find ourselves asking “How long, oh Lord?” and “Why?”
These are not new feelings. In Isaiah 7, you hear them in the panic among the Jewish people as seemingly certain defeat loomed outside their fragile borders. As nearby armies were actively plotting their takeover of Judah, Isaiah brought a message to their leader Ahaz. The essence of that message was to be still, have no fear and stand firm in faith in Yahweh. Then he instructed Ahaz to ask for a sign from the Lord, which Ahaz refused to do. He was not willing to trust in the Lord’s plan and provision. He wanted to solve the problem his own way.
Despite Ahaz’s lack of faith, God still offered a sign…”the virgin will conceive and bear a son, and will call his name Immanuel.” Immanuel…God with us. For the people who heard Isaiah’s message, it was meant to be a reminder of God’s promise to dwell with them and to keep his covenant with Abraham to provide a remnant of his people. God would be with them and would not allow plotting armies to destroy them.
Hundreds of years later, Isaiah’s prophecy took on new meaning when the Holy Spirit conceived a son within a virgin named Mary. God’s promise to dwell with his people and to save and redeem them from sin was fulfilled through the birth of Jesus. God was indeed with us. He himself took on flesh and was born into poverty. He lived perfectly, despite enduring temptation, heartache, insults, torture and, of course, death. He felt it all and experienced the despair that sin caused to his beautiful creation. But, through his death and resurrection, he defeated sin and death and provided ultimate victory, a victory we could never have achieved on our own. He was and is our Immanuel…the promised one who not only can be trusted to walk with us through suffering, but who has provided an eternal peace and assurance for all who trust in him. Let us set our eyes on Jesus, and walk confidently with the God who chooses to dwell with us, that we might dwell forever with Him in glory. And, let us stand firm in faith during trying and frightening times while we wait for his return, for he has promised, “in this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”