Vicar Matt Doebler
Matins Devotion: December 1, 2022
The kingdom of Judah was in crisis mode. The Assyrians were invading. And to the north, the kings of Israel and Syria had issued an ultimatum: Fight with us against the Assyrians or we will destroy you ourselves. But, at the eleventh hour, the prophet Isaiah comes to Judah’s king Ahaz with an incredible message of hope. Isaiah tells King Ahaz that the ultimatum made by these two northern neighbors is a just a paper tiger. Within a short time, both of these kingdoms will be shattered. Ahaz only needs to stand firm and believe what the prophet of the Lord has spoken. Deliverance is just over the horizon.
And then Isaiah makes this wonderful announcement even more amazing. He invites the king to ask the Lord for a sign. It can be anything—no matter how deep or how high. But Ahaz refuses. He tries to play it off as piety, but the truth is that he’s already got his own plan for how he’s going to get out of this mess. He intends to cut a back door deal with Assyria in exchange for protection. It’s a decision that will come to haunt him. Isaiah tells Ahaz that, because of his unbelief, one day the Lord will whistle for Assyria—that nation that Ahaz thought he could bargain with. And the Lord will use Assyria like a razor in his hand to shave both the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Judah bare.
But despite Ahaz’s refusal to trust in the Lord’s promise—the Lord himself remains faithful. Isaiah tells Ahaz that the Lord will provide a sign. A virgin will conceive, and the child will be called Immanuel—a name meaning “God is with us.”
Today there is no king named Ahaz. There is no kingdom called Judah. There is no empire called Assyria. Those political kingdoms have long since disappeared along with their faithless rulers. Yet one thing remains true. Today, God is still with us. Immanuel still dwells amongst his people. Among us. No enemy can drive him away. No sudden crisis can catch him unawares. Not even death can separate you from his grip. That’s why the culminating cry of Advent is “O come! O come! Immanuel!” And why the glory of Christmas Day makes us long for the Last Day. Therefore, stand firm and believe the promise that the Lord has spoken. Your deliverance is just over the horizon. Immanuel is coming.