A Note from Pastor

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”Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14 ESV) Isaiah’s swift words to King Ahaz’s lack of faith and unwillingness to trust the Lord are for us the glorious message of the most profound truth in all of God’s Word – that He is with us – Immanuel! Today at International Lutheran Church, we light the fourth and final candle on our Advent wreath and remember that His Love is our Jesus.

We have been reading through Isaiah and focusing especially on the Advent themes of this important book. Today is very special as Isaiah declares the “advent” of God Himself to King Ahaz in the pregnant image of the birth of a child whose presence and name will be a sign of God’s swift judgement upon Judah and Jerusalem. Yes, that’s right: judgement! The setting of this Word of God spoken by the prophet Isaiah comes as a swift response to King Ahaz’s lack of faith. A quick review of the historical setting of these words in 2 Kings 16 and 2 Chronicles 28 can help us understand the dilemma facing the king. The Syro-Ephraimite alliance of Israel and Syria had come up against Judah in an effort to fight off Assyria. What to do? It was a critical moment as King Ahaz went out to inspect the well to make sure they could withstand the siege. While Isaiah charges King Ahaz to trust in the LORD (Isaiah 7:1-9), instead Ahaz pledges allegiance to the king of Assyria. This leads to King Ahaz’s reluctance to ask for a sign. Though he will not ask for a sign, God will send a sign Himself of His imminent presence – Immanuel – God is with us. Within the time it takes the young maiden to conceive, bear and wean the child, Assyria will destroy the kingdoms he was fearing and come and threaten Judah itself.

Did Isaiah know that this word of God would become the literal sign for all of humanity so that we would trust the LORD – Immanuel? “The virgin will conceive and bear a son – the SON!” God would visit His people, not in judgement, but in the display of His love for all of us! Oh, how these words became the very turning point for a young man, Joseph, as he was perplexed with a serious dilemma of his own (Matthew 1:18-25)! What to do? While Ahaz turned to his own devices, Joseph trusted God’s Word and experienced a completely different reality that God’s presence brings. We can often feel alone, not completely understood or accepted. Sometimes this is made even more pregnant when we are insecure in how we are loved by others – our parents, our siblings, our spouse, our children or even ourselves. Yet this promise is for each of us. His Love is our Jesus! His Name – Immanuel - means that His love is real in every sense of the word. He became like us even taking upon Himself our sin and shame on the cross so that we would know His love is real, full and complete.

Our dilemmas may still abound. We may be faced with difficult choices every day. But His Love for us is higher than Heaven and deeper than Sheol. God’s choice, His preordained sign, is His own “advent,” His own coming! His Love is Jesus in the flesh. His presence with us means that He is always with us, even in our deepest hell. As we prepare to celebrate that holy moment when the Word became flesh, let this Word of God be born in us today – His Love is our Jesus! Immanuel!

Pastor Carl