Home » Spiritual Direction » Fourth Sunday of Advent 2022

Fourth Sunday of Advent 2022

Isaiah 7:10-16 God Is with Us

This Old Testament account concerns the meeting King Ahaz has agreed to have with the Prophet Isaiah. Ahaz really does not want to have this meeting. Ahaz was not faithful to God and in fact openly practice idolatry.  The nation was in trouble. Both Damascus and Samaria were threatening Judah. God set Isaiah to comfort Ahaz and let the King know God would protect them. Ahaz did not believe. God tells Isaiah that Ahaz can ask for any sign. Ahaz refused God’s offer on the hypocritical ground, “I will not ask, neither will I tempt Yahweh”.

God tells Isaiah that God will give a sign anyway. A young woman will have a child who will be called Emmanuel, God is with us. Before the child knows good from evil, the two kings that threaten Ahaz will be destroyed.  However, Ahaz still tries to do things his own way and through his foolishness puts the nation under the dominance of Assyria, led by Tiglath-pileser.  This dominance does not last long. Within a short time, Isaiah’s prophesy comes true.

Had Isaiah’s counsel been followed, Tiglath-pileser would have, in his own interests and been compelled to crush the coalition of Damascus and Samaria anyway and Judah would have retained her freedom. Failure to listen to God never turns out well for those who make such a choice.

God’s desire has always been the best for us. God always works to the human advantage. We might not see it and that is the key part of the problem, we cannot always see what God sees and knows. We make decisions from a finite, limited, nearsighted perspective that we have no power to control.

Why is it so hard for human beings to trust God? Why is it so easy for human beings to either engage in self-deception and think we can solve any problem on our own or turn to false gods that seem to provide perceived solutions which usually turn out to make things worse in the long run? Reflect for a moment on what I just said. Is it not true. Is this something you have experienced?

Some say, “Well, if God would just become a visible, tangible, testable object, then it would be easier for us to believe. If God did not call upon us to rely on faith so much, then perhaps human beings would trust God more!”

No, we would not! Human beings create idols (physical, mental, or conceptual) with the thinking that they can influence a god or gods, gain mystical magic or power, in a way which they (we human beings) want things to go.”

What we human beings seek is a means of certainty, of predictability, of control. This is our big mistake. This is wanting to be as God. This is a relational ruse that is our finite flaw, our egotistical error, that is played upon and used to degrade us, debase us, darken our thinking, and eventually destroy us spiritually.

Faith, on the other hand, is a relational revealing, a developing trust that offers an awakening awareness to a God who is there and who wants to be known not as an object, but is ἀγάπη -agape (deep, intimate, caring, available, active love) the verb that is the reality of God. A reality that gives wisdom and knowledge much more real than certainty.

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” (Rom. 1:19-20 ESV)

But God does understand us. God does give us signs. God even, from time to time, allows us to test God. In our world, I am afraid many people will not give God the chance.

God makes promises all the time. Seek and you will find. I will never leave you nor forsake you. I will be with you always. Why would God give these promises if they were not true?

God even gets very practical. God puts it on the line. I know this is a verse many people do not like because it can and does prove God’s word, but it also makes us realize by its being a proving test that we may need to change our lives.

Malachi 3:10 states, “Bring the whole tenth part to the storage house so there might be food in my house. Please test me in this, says the LORD of heavenly forces. See whether I do not open all the windows of the heavens for you and empty out a blessing until there is enough.”

Ours is not a blind call to faith, but an experiential one. And as far as God being distant or invisible, just not so. “God made the nations so they would seek him, perhaps even reach out to him and find him. In fact, God isn’t far away from any of us. In God we live, move, and exist. “(Acts 17:27-28)

In fact, God not only made us in order to see God, but God also became human in order to seek us, in order to offer us a relationship that begins with God’s loving grace and then matures into a true faith. This is what Jesus came to do and is still doing today.  The Gospel of Luke, on the accounts of Jesus’s life given to us to help us have faith, tells us that Jesus, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Lk. 19:10 ESV)

At the time, the fullness of time, at just the right time, God again gives humanity a sign. God again speaks through the prophet Isaiah, to a people alive 700 years after he had spoken to Ahaz. These too are stressful times. These also are days when the people are oppressed, not just by human political power, but by a rise in the influence of the powers and principalities that seemed to feel there was weakness in faith and hope amongst God’s chosen that would bring about their total destruction and in doing so, defeat God.

God would not let this happen. However, this time, God did not send a prophet, God showed up personally. Matthew, one of Jesus’s apostles, writes in his gospel, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). (Matt. 1:23 ESV)

Even better yet, God is with us. This was the sign. This was the fulfillment of the promise of one who would come, one who would be the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed of God who would save us from the darkness.

In Jesus, we see God living the faith we are called to have. God as a baby was vulnerable, weak, and needy, was trusting, dependent, and needed to be cared for and taught about life. God was born to a young girl named Mary. Do you want to see God? You can through the life of Jesus. Jesus reveals God in every way.

One of Jesus’s disciples Philip said to Jesus, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (Jn. 14:8-9 ESV)

Emmanuel, God is with us, came. Jesus came as light and life. Jesus came as the Word of God incarnate. John, another apostle who gives a Gospel in which to see Emmanuel, writes, “The true light that shines on all people was coming into the world. The light was in the world, and the world came into being through the light, but the world didn’t recognize the light.

The light came to his own people, and his own people didn’t welcome him. But those who did welcome him, those who believed in his name, he authorized to become God’s children, born not from blood nor from human desire or passion but born from God.

The Word became flesh and made his home among us. We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (Jn. 1:9-14)

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