Here's Your Sign
Good morning! Welcome to the Vineyard. If this is your first time, my name is Kevin and I’m the pastor here. Our vision at the Vineyard is simple - we want to embody Jesus to our neighbors. This happens by growing in three ways, through what we call our pillars.
First, is Presence. We want everyone to experience the presence of God. This is what transforms us to love him and others. God’s presence is where we become fully alive. We want you to know the Father.
Then, Formation. God doesn’t just love us; he is forming us to be his people who can carry his life and love to those around us. Formation is where we learn to embody the Jesus way of life. We want you to imitate the Son.
Finally, Mission. Being on mission is how we join God in the work he is doing to bring his reconciliation, justice, and mercy to earth. This is how he is bringing healing and renewal to the world. We want you to partner with the Spirit.
Presence. Formation. Mission. Be thinking about your next step. Where is God calling you to go deeper with him?
Today is the final Sunday of Advent, where we light the candle of love. I’ve called the message this morning Here’s Your Sign.
Do ya’ll remember Bill Engvall? He became a well-known stand-up comedian in the mid-90’s with his routine of making fun of things people said or did that were so dumb that they needed a sign to warn others. It wasn’t particularly nice - but it was funny!
One day I locked my keys in my car and as I was standing there with a hanger halfway through the top of my window, a guy walks up and says, Lock yer keys in the car? Without missin' a beat I said, Nope, Just washed it and was hanging it up to dry. Here's your sign.
A truck driver was driving along on the freeway. A sign comes up that reads, Low Bridge Ahead. Before he knows it, the bridge is right ahead of him and he gets stuck under the bridge. Cars are backed up for miles. Finally a police car comes up. The cop gets out of his car and walks to the truck driver, puts his hands on his hips and says, Got stuck, huh? The truck driver says, No, I was delivering this bridge and ran out of gas. Here’s your sign.
I was taxiing to the runway when the plane I was on hit a deer. I called my wife up on the cell phone and said baby you aint gonna believe this, i go, we just hit a deer with the airplane. and there was a silence on the other end of the line followed by.. OH MY GOD.! were you on the ground? I said nope, santa was makin one last run. Here’s your sign.
We’re going to see this morning that the message is “King Ahaz, here’s your sign”. It’s not a sign he asked for, not a sign he wanted. But it’s a sign that promises that God is trustworthy and faithful to fulfill his promises. In the end it would be a sign of God’s faithful love. The question this morning is “Who will you trust.” The answer is that We should trust in the faithful love of the One who keeps his promises. Go ahead and turn in your Bible to Isaiah 7.
Some backstory is necessary. At this time the nation of Israel is now split between the northern kingdom ruled from Samaria and the southern kingdom, called Judah, ruled from Jerusalem. Ahaz is the king of Judah. The Assyrian empire has begun to move west from Mesopotamia toward Syria and the northern kingdom of Israel. The leaders of those two northern countries appealed to Ahaz to join them in resisting the Assyrian threat, but he refused. So now the rulers of Syria and Israel are threatening to attack Judah and depose Ahaz, putting someone on the throne who will cooperate with their coalition.
Ahaz is trying to figure out a solution. Understand that Assyria is the boogeyman - they have conquered every nation they’ve come against. The whole near eastern world is living in fear of them. He doesn’t think this coalition of Israel and Syria can stand against the might of the Assyrians, even if he was to join them, but he also doesn’t think he will be able to withstand these two kings if they decide to invade and depose him. His options are limited, and he is on the verge of making a pragmatic decision to submit to the Assyrians and become a vassal state. This is the context for these opening lines.
Read Isaiah 7:10-11 “Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, saying, Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.”
God comes to Ahaz through the prophet Isaiah to assure Ahaz that this northern coalition won’t be successful, nor does he need to fear the threat from Assyria. Ahaz needs to put his trust in God alone. God does something that’s very rare - he invites Ahaz to ask for a sign that what he is saying is true. Any sign he can think of - as high as heaven or deep as hell.
Ahaz is at a crossroad: who will he trust? Will he entrust his future to the king of the Assyrians, or will he entrust it to the loving God who has faithfully preserved the nation so far? Will he trust God to keep his promises?
Here we need to stop and examine our own life, maybe you’re at a crossroads as well: Who will you trust? Who or what is the Assyrian that you are trying to make peace with? What has become larger than God in your life? Where are you trying to solve your own problems rather than trusting in the faithful love of the One who keeps his promises?
Read Isaiah 7:12 “But Ahaz said, I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.”
On the surface this seems pious. Putting God to the test is when we refuse to trust him at his word. When we demand a sign before we will give God credibility. Again, on the surface, this seems like what Ahaz is doing - he doesn’t want to be guilty of putting God to the test. But really this just hides his unbelief. God is inviting him to ask for a sign, and in Ahaz’s refusal he is really showing that he does not believe that God can help him.
I think this raises another question we need to ask ourselves: Does a false piety mask our own unbelief? Are we hesitant to ask God for big things because deep down we don’t believe he can deliver? Who will you trust?
Read Isaiah 7:13-16 “Then Isaiah said: “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary mortals, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey by the time he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the child knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land before whose two kings you are in dread will be deserted.”
We get the sense that this was Ahaz’s last shot. He’s shown that he is going to trust in his own devices instead of the Lord. And so God gives him a sign, one he didn’t ask for - it’s been called the Immanuel sign. This passage has raised lots of debate, mostly around who the woman is Isaiah had in mind. There’s no clear answer, but whoever she is, she’s going to have a child, and by the time that child reaches the age of accountability, this northern coalition that Ahaz fears will be no more. In other words, in 12-13 years these northern kingdoms will be taken away into exile. Most likely, the child that Isaiah may have in mind is his own, but knowing exactly who it is doesn’t really matter.
It’s what this son will be called that gives it a deeper meaning. Immanuel - literally God with us. While there will be some son whose birth will begin the countdown to the exile of the northern kingdom, the prophecy looks further down the road to another son who will herald the beginning of a new age - an age where God is once again with his people. In the end, this isn’t a sign for Ahaz but for us, to put our trust in the faithful love of the One who keeps his promises.
We now live in a time when this promised sign has been fulfilled.
Read Matthew 1:18-25
Matthew retells Isaiah’s vision, but this time it isn’t just any young woman who bears a son, it is a virgin. Mary is her name. As a virgin she will conceive - no big deal, virgins get pregnant all the time - but while still a virgin will deliver a promised child. This is a child conceived without the agency of man. Mary was to call this child Jesus. In Hebrew, Jesus’ name would have been Yeshua, a shortened form of Yehoshua, which means God will save. Jesus is Immanuel, the promised sign that God is once again with his people, and that he has come to save us.
Jesus comes to save us from sin and the death consequences it incurs.
Jesus comes to save us from trying to rely on our self.
Jesus comes to do battle with our Assyrians - those things that seem bigger than God in our life.
And the question for us is the same as for Ahaz: who will you trust? Who will you put your trust in when the Assyrians come to call? Will you trust in your own self-reliance or will you trust in the one who keeps his promises and shows us his steadfast love through the birth of this son. Jesus is the proof that God always keeps his promises. Who will you trust today?
Have you ever said yes to the gift of forgiveness and new life God offers us in Jesus? He came to put an end to that which has held you in fear and bondage - namely sin and death. By his cross and resurrection he has freed you from these things, and he invites you to now put your trust fully in him. If you’ve never done this I want to ask you to do that now. (show next steps slide).
Jesus is Emmanuel - God with us. If you have invited Jesus into your life, you never need to do life on your own. You never have to try and figure things out by yourself. God is with you and lives inside you by the Holy Spirit. Here’s your sign - put your trust in the faithful love of the One who keeps his promises. Amen.