So God sends the prophet Isaiah to Ahaz to comfort him, saying, “Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint…” (7:4). Isaiah tells Ahaz that the attack shall not come to pass and that in sixty-five years, Ephraim (Israel) will be shattered and no longer a people. He concludes with, “If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all” (7:9).
What? You want me to wait sixty-five years?
It appears that Ahaz continues to tremble, because God, in his never-ending love, commands Ahaz through Isaiah to ask God for a sign, any sign he wished, just to encourage him. But Ahaz refuses because he does not want to put God to the test – Ahaz thought this was obeying the Law! But this enrages God, who says that he will give Judah, the house of David, a sign whether they like it or not: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (7:14).
This does not sound threatening at all on the surface. God goes on to say that, yes, he will eliminate the two kings Ahaz fears, but then he gives a chilling warning that he will then bring on the worst possible adversary Ahaz could imagine – the King of Assyria! The remainder of Chapter 7 and all of Chapter 8 is the full prophecy of unmitigated disaster awaiting Judah.
But in Chapter 9:1-7, God takes a time out from the whipping to encourage Judah to look to the future. This beautiful passage underscores God’s never-ending love, regardless of the harshness of his judgment to come:
“For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (9:6).
What God did not reveal was that it would be seven hundred long years before this child, Jesus, would be born. The irony of this story is that Ahaz thought he was obeying the Law by not testing God in asking for a sign from God. But God commanded him to ask for the sign as a demonstration of faith! That was the time for asking for a sign.
Our Pastor Jack McCullough is leading our church through a study of the Gospel of Luke, and over the past week we came by sheer coincidence to Luke 11:29-36. This is the story of a crowd who accuse Jesus of healing people with the power of the Devil. And they demand a sign to prove who he says he is, even after he has already performed many miracles. To which Jesus replies that he has given all the signs they need already, which have caused many other people to repent, including the men of Nineveh and the Queen of Sheba. All these will testify at the final judgment against those who have asked a sign from God.
So when is the right time to ask for a sign from God?
Never, unless God commands you to! Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, let not your heart be faint.
Why? Because the world now has the sign of Jesus and that is quite enough.