Day 4

Christ’s Birth Prophesied

from the Advent 2017: Joy to the World reading plan


Isaiah 7:10-14, Jeremiah 23:1-8, Matthew 1:22-23, 1 John 4:7-10, Revelation 21:3-5

BY Guest Writer

Scripture Reading: Isaiah 7:10-14, Jeremiah 23:1-8, Matthew 1:22-23, 1 John 4:7-10, Revelation 21:3-5

“The only reason I will do this is if God writes it in the sky.”

From time to time, throughout my journey of faith, I have made this stubborn declaration. Once to my parents. Once to my husband. Most recently, to some friends. I knew God was leading me in a particular direction, but the risk was big, the stakes were high, the likelihood of failure was strong. I didn’t think it was possible, so I wanted to be sure. I needed a sign.

Even after being a Christian for a long time, it’s easy to reach this point in our faith journey where we desire a sign from God, perhaps even more than we desire Him. We want to trust in something concrete, clear, and undeniable. Something we can point to and believe that, “Yes, God is real, and I can trust Him with this.”

Wouldn’t faith be easier that way?

That’s what makes Isaiah 7 such an interesting story. In verses 10-14, King Ahaz of Judah is facing terrible odds. His enemies are strong and their armies are powerful. The fate of God’s people looks grim. And so, in a display of love and goodwill, God offers Ahaz a sign of His trustworthiness. Any sign Ahaz desires, God will do it.  

However, rather than accept God’s generous offer, Ahaz does something startling: he rejects it.

Instead, Ahaz quotes Scripture back to God, as if he is holier and more knowing: “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test” (v.12). It’s a stunning moment of human pride, which Old Testament scholar John Goldingay explains this way: “The offer functions to expose Ahaz as a man who did not want to trust God even if he had the evidence.”

God nevertheless promises a sign to His people: a child born of a virgin, called Immanuel (v.14). The sign, in short, will be Jesus.

This story is a prophecy foretelling the birth of Christ, but it also challenges us with two truths. The first is to beware of our desire for a sign. Too often, our hearts are like Ahaz’s. We aren’t earnestly interested in trusting God more, but in trusting God less. Even if the sign would come, our circumstances would still be difficult. The odds would still be tall, the risk great, the darkness deep. Faith would still be required. A sign changes nothing about the situation, or God’s character; it only clarifies the source of our trust. If we need a sign to trust God, then we don’t trust God.

The second lesson this story teaches us is that a sign has already been provided. In Christ, we have the definitive sign of God’s faithfulness and love. Immanuel, “God with us,” is God’s proclamation to the universe that His intention is always redemption. Jesus is all the evidence we need that God is trustworthy and good. No additional sign could possibly supplement the bright, blazing promise of the Messiah come near.

That’s not to say God won’t provide occasional signs of discernment to guide us toward His will, but our faith cannot stand on these things. When it comes to trusting God with our families, our futures, and our lives, the sign has already been provided, once and for all, and His name is Jesus.

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Sharon Hodde Miller is a writer, speaker, pastor’s wife, mom, and she holds a PhD on women and calling. She blogs at SheWorships.com, and is the author of Free of Me: Why Life Is Better When It’s Not about You.

Post Comments (157)

157 thoughts on "Christ’s Birth Prophesied"

  1. Kelsey Bender says:

    I shared my testimony with someone recently and I had said out loud, “How ignorant am I to question the Lord’s plans for me?” In that moment, I realized why I was so stressed. Letting go of ignorance and trusting Him really is the only way towards peace.

  2. Angelica Ging says:

    This devotion was so eye opening and a great reminder. In trial I tend to ask God for a sign or to feel his presence. So thankful that he is Immanuel. He is our constant even when we aren’t. He had no need to prove Himself yet he gives us “signs” anyway. Thank you Lord for loving us even when we don’t deserve it.

  3. Emily Lange says:

    This is such an interesting perspective that I’ve never dwelled on before. Even if we were given a sign we still might not accept it. And yet God had given us his Son as his sign of redemption.

  4. Michelle Gonzales says:

    This was a hard one to hear.
    “If we need a sign to trust God, then we don’t trust God.”
    I often feel like I am in his will. I am very involved in my church and work at a Christian campground and challenge other people and there walk all the time. Yet I struggle with really trusting God to provide and challenge me to grow and open up new opportunities. I want that flashing sign in the sky moment. Even though I know it’s wrong. I need to trust that God will be in whatever I put my heart to.

  5. Vanessa says:

    “It’s easy to reach this point in our faith journey where we desire a sign from God, perhaps even more than we desire Him”.
    “If we need a sign to trust God, then we don’t trust God.”

    Going in 2018, I will now be self-aware of when I look more for signs than I do for God. It was important for me to hear that. It also made me realize where I wasn’t trusting God. It’s just REALLY hard to focus on someone or something non-physical. I feel silly closing my eyes whispering to what feels like air saying, “I trust YOU.” Who am I even talking to? It’s easier to lean on a sign or even a person in real life that makes a promise. I don’t know how to just wait around hoping He will answer my prayers. What if I’m praying wrong? That’s why a sign would be nice, so I know I’m not praying to the skies.

    1. Melanie says:

      Such a tough one! I struggle with this, too. Do you think it would help to ask God to show you more of Him in your circumstances instead of asking for signs? Or ask for wisdom instead of signs? These are things I think I’m going to try incorporating into my prayers. What do you think? Are there things you can be seeking God for rather than signs?

      Be encouraged! God wants to draw you closer to Him in the coming year <3

  6. God with us… always. In the good times and in the hard times we’re not alone

  7. Carlie says:

    Love this devotion!!!

  8. Nancy says:

    Dear Barbara, Believe this, through my years of walking with Jesus, there have been many times I have been blessed with the appearance of a cardinal or cardinals in our yard. Eleven years ago my own mother passed on because of a severe cancer. I endured her illness with her for 11 months, along with my husband and brother. The illness was not so much the difficulty, it was that my mother was fiercely opposed to Jesus. I would be standing at the kitchen sink cooking or washing dishes and suddenly there would fly into my tree a lovely, brightly colored cardinal. I promise that this bird would look directly at me and not fly away until he was sure that I saw him. This happened frequently and the sweet surprise always reminded me of the hope we have in Jesus. I call this kind of an occurance “a wink from Heaven”. I agree, we do not always need a sign and Jesus is God’s sign to us, but he also knows my frame and knows I am but dust and he cares so deeply that he sends reassurance in a way that is personal and intimate because that is how The Holy Spirit cares for us.
    Oh and just the last week of my mother’s life on earth we were with her evedyday, We played hymns
    and talked to her about Jesus. My husband was very close to her and he took the opportunity to tell her about his conversion experience. She listened and didn’t resist his words. He then told her
    “Mom, I know you don’t want to need Jesus, there was a time I didn’t want to give my life to him either. The truth is, you do need Jesus and I will pray with you now to receive him.” My mother agreed and they prayed together. She went home to be with Jesus two days later.

    1. Jennifer says:

      Nancy and Barbara, Those are beautiful stories of God, His faithfulness, and His great care for us. I can relate to both your stories. After going through a very difficult year of separation from my husband, I can attest that our loving Father God is all around us. If we look to him in faith, we will see Him. He pursues us constantly. He is always there. He never leaves us. All we have to do is look! Whether it’s a cardinal, verses that keep popping up, rainbows, encouragement from people… he is there. Some people call them signs- all I know is that God loves us and is all around us!

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