Pay Close Attention to “The Sign”

November 28, 2021

Isaiah 7:14 NIV

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Today's Reading: Isaiah 7:14

Devo Author: Russell Dorch

Date: November 28, 2021

As the sun fell behind the horizon on the lava fields of the big island of Hawaii, my wife, Dana, and I were desperate for some indication that we were on the right path. Even with headlamps, it was dark, really dark; but we were determined to see the two lava tubes that had opened up just prior to our arrival. Despite signs warning the use of boots, long pants, and hand protection, we traversed the glass-like lava mounds in shorts and running shoes in pitch-black darkness. After hopping mound to mound for nearly an hour, there they were. Glowing in the distance was the destination we were hoping for; just a few hundred more yards and we would be as close as one can get to this awesome expression of God’s power.

As we approached, we began noticing changes in the mounds. Their color shifted from black to a powdery white and the cracks “connecting” the mounds started glowing an orangish-red, carbon equivalent of our goal taunting us in the distance. With stubborn resolve, I urged that we press on–surely, we wouldn’t be allowed to be there in the first place with any known, imminent danger. But the smell of rotten sulfur became undeniable, the cracks increased their glowing as if imbued with new vitality, and we became enveloped with warmth from our rocky foundations. A hundred yards from the prize, it was clear that we missed the signs. It was over.

Disappointed, we shared our story with my sister and brother-in-law, residents of Hawaii. Once beyond the initial shock, my brother-in-law counseled us as to the danger and lack of wisdom inherent in our choices. I can’t express the shame I felt putting my wife at risk. I ignored the signs.

So did Ahaz. Isaiah 7:14, a passage inseparably woven into our Christmas tradition, was actually delivered to a king amidst the terrifying threat of war. Fearful of an alliance formed against him, Ahaz, King of Judah, was far more inclined to place his trust in the gods of other nations rather than in the one true God. The Sovereign Lord over ALL nations promised Ahaz that Judah would not fall to this threat and gave a sign (7:14), sealing His promise, declaring His nearness to His people. In Ahaz’s fear and uncertainty, God invited him to an intimate trust that transcended his circumstances and gave Ahaz a sign–“Stand strong in your faith. I am with you. I am enough. You can trust where I am leading you.” But Ahaz prostituted his future to false gods and empty alliances that ultimately prevented him from experiencing the fulfillment of God’s promised deliverance. He ignored the sign. It would be his son, Hezekiah, who would see God miraculously deliver Judah from the Assyrians at the very gates of Jerusalem.

Matthew 1:23 refers to this very same passage, declaring Jesus as Immanuel, the definitive sign of God’s nearness to His people. Under heavy Roman oppression and the ultimate oppression of sin, the children of Israel received a sign: “Jesus is the embodiment of God’s nearness that you have been waiting for, desperate for. Every promise made by God through Abraham, David, and the prophets, is fulfilled in Him. He will point you to the Father.”

Many are desperate to see God in their circumstances, for a clear sign or direction pointing to at least relief, if not a miraculous change in their condition. Whatever your circumstances, in His infinite love for you, God has provided you a sign of His nearness. It’s the very same sign put before Ahaz and the children of Israel. It points to a path of real forgiveness, real relationship, and abundant life (John 10:10). If you place your faith in Jesus, He is the sign that gives sure confidence in where you are going (John 14:1-6). Are you afraid? Is the path uncertain? Pay close attention to “The Sign”–Immanuel, God with us.