Fourth Sunday In Advent December 17-18, 2022
“Go Ahead; Test Him” Isaiah 7:10-17
Rev. John R. Larson Ascension Lutheran Church Littleton, Colorado
I have something new to tell you today. In fact, I’m going to say something that will shock you. Here it is: Go ahead and sin.
If you are mad at somebody, just give it to them. Don’t hold back. Holler, swear, put your finger in their chest and keep poking.
If you are disappointed in how someone has treated you, forget about putting the best construction on everything. Don’t worry about diplomacy, tact, moderation, just tell them that they didn’t do what you wanted them to do.
If you want something take it. Go back to those days when you were just a kid and you fought with your brother or sister over who was going to get the toy that they held in their hand. Sure, go ahead and sin.
I can hear what you’re thinking – finally, pastor, you said something that I agree with.
I’m exaggerating here. So don’t do what I just said. But I find a portion of this text that we read from Isaiah a little disturbing. I was always taught when I was a kid that you weren’t supposed to put God to a test. It was sinful. It was wrong. If I was doing something dumb, foolish, or reckless – standing too close to the ledge that would most certainly bring me to the conclusion of my life – driving way too fast on the highway – someone would say – “You know you really shouldn’t be tempting God.”
When Jesus was in the desert for 40 days it says that the devil tempted Him. Remember? Stones into bread. Bow His knee to the devil and the devil would give Jesus all the kingdoms in the world. And then this one, “Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. ‘If you are the Son of God’, he said, ‘throw yourself down.’ ‘For it is written: He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ Jesus answered him, ‘It is also written: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (Matthew 4:5-7)
I was being facetious about giving you permission to sin. But I’m being truthful about not putting God to the test. Except I read the account between Ahaz, the king of Judah, who ruled about 700 years before Christ and his conversation with God. God asks Ahaz to test him and Ahaz won’t do it. “Again the Lord said to Ahaz, ‘Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.’ But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.’” (Isaiah 7:10-12) Good for Ahaz, right? He knew he shouldn’t put God to the test. It says it right in the Bible.
But God wanted Ahaz to test Him. He wanted Ahaz to come to Him with his biggest demands – a sign from the highest heights to the lowest depths. Ahaz and the people of God in Jerusalem were in trouble. Their enemies were going to hurt them and fight against them and God wanted a part in their deliverance. Ahaz had plans for deliverance but they excluded God’s part in it.
Ahaz had abandoned God. Ahaz had lost his faith in God. Ahaz didn’t want God interfering in how he was going to handle this catastrophe. With a pious platitude Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”
Ahaz wanted God out; God wanted in. God wanted into that soul of that king before his heart became too hard, before he reached the point of no return. So I’m saying, “Go ahead and test God” – see if He can do what He said He can do. He does not want to be an absent God in your life. After Ahaz, an unbelieving and quite wicked king, said that he would not ask put God to the test, Isaiah speaks this, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:13-14) God wanted to be Immanuel – God with them.
God wants to be Immanuel – God with us. But many of us, at some time in our life, wonder if God is really with us. We face great difficulties and wonder if God really cares. We encounter things we can’t explain or understand and wonder if God really exists. Are we just making Him up? We cry out to God on our knees but hear nothing in response other than our own sighs. I bet sometime in your life, maybe in the darkest moment, you have wondered if God was simply absent.
The word about this Immanuel, this God with us, came to Jeremiah with these words, “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is there anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:26-27) To put the Lord to the test means that we trust Him and rely on Him. It means that we have things too great for us but not great for Him. Go ahead – test God. Is there any sin that He can’t forgive? Is there any problem that He can’t solve? Is there any struggle where He can’t give us His hope? Is there any part in our life that He can’t improve? Is He limited to His help for our life now, or can this help go on after death?
Isaiah 7 is quoted in the reading from Matthew 2. Mary and Joseph were being tested here. Mary is a virgin, who is pregnant. Those two never go together. The natural order of conception was interrupted this one time. Her words about this were, “How will this be, since I am a virgin.” (Luke 1:34) Joseph, when he found out that Mary was pregnant, knowing that he had not fathered a child, wanted to leave and begin a new life without Mary. Matthew says of this, “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.” (Matthew 1:18-19) Both of them were tested. This wasn’t easy for either of them. But they were told that God would meet their needs. Both of them could put God to a test and find that He was in control and would provide for how things would be in the future.
I don’t know what all your needs are. I don’t know all the burdens and worries that might exist in you. I don’t know how heavy some sin may lay on your heart or if the thought of death causes you fear, not hope. I may not know. But God does. And God has done something about all that you and I face. He sent Jesus – Immanuel – God with us. Whatever test we face we don’t face it alone. We face such tests knowing that Jesus came to be our Savior. We face such challenges knowing, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)
God wanted the king of Judah, Ahaz, to rely on Him and not some foreign, unbelieving nation, for their rescue. He wanted to be tested because He would meet the test. I was reading this about Louis IX, who ruled France in the thirteenth century. Louie was a strong believer in Christ and he signed his name “Louis of Poissy”, not “Louis IX, King of France” (which would have been the traditional way for kings to sign letters and documents). When asked why he did this he pointed out that Poissy was the location of his Baptism. Louie said, “I think more of the place where I was baptized than of Reims Cathedral where I was crowned. It is a greater thing to be a child of God than be a ruler of a kingdom. The last I shall lose at death, but the other will be my passport to an everlasting glory.” (Concordia Pulpit Resources, Volume 33, Part 1, Series A, Page 4) Louie knew his trust in God’s work was well founded.
Go Ahead; Test Him. Go Ahead; Trust Him. He sent the Savior, Jesus, born of a virgin. This is Jesus, Immanuel – God with us. He is the one who does more for us than we can ask or even imagine. He passes our test now and even forever. Amen!!