Read Isaiah 7:10-16.
This scripture presents a tension between God and Ahaz. God wants to provide a sign to demonstrate divine sovereignty. Ahaz claims he does not need one. In reading, you may find yourself solidly on team Ahaz here. We do not often question God’s sovereignty. We are trained to respect some sources without hesitation, such as our parents’ authority growing up. We intuitively understand Ahaz’s motives to refuse.
What is fascinating is Isaiah’s insistence that God provides a sign anyway. It is almost as if God needs to provide a sign to satisfy God’s needs rather than the needs of Ahaz. Does God have needs like we do? God is so self-sufficient and so complete; however, the sign is one of simultaneous wisdom and humility – it is a woman with a child that will demonstrate the power of God. The power of God is in the “Immanuel.” In other words, the power of God comes from God’s solidarity with humanity. We recognize God as one who shares wisdom with us in humble ways.
Of course, this is the way that many of us learn best as well. We recall encounters with others who said the right thing at just the right time, far more than we remember theorems that we memorized from text books. Our future (and our present) has been completely shaped by after school talks with teachers, late night coffees with friends, and long walks with people who know us well. With this sign, God is inviting Godself into those common places and consecrating those encounters as transformative and holy.
Holy God, most of the time I do not need a sign or symbol to remember your goodness to me. However, when I do, please be generous with your signs. Show me who I am and who you are. Give me humility and wisdom. Amen.
Chaplain, Hastings College
Editor’s Note: Check out our Sunday Companion Guide for some more context on this Scripture reading, discussion questions prompted by the reflection, and Advent candle lighting liturgies inspired by this year’s Where We’re From theme.