When king Ahaz was ruling over the people of Judah, he and his people turned away
from God in such a way that in 2nd Chronicles 28 (NIV) we read: "Ahaz was twenty
years old when he became king, and he reigned in Jerusalem sixteen years. Unlike David
his father, he did not do what was right in the eyes of the Lord.... He...made cast
idols for worshipping the Baals. He burned sacrifices in the Valley of Ben Hinnom and
sacrificed his sons in the fire, following the detestable ways of the nations... He offered
sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading
Then, one day the king of Israel and Aram (today's Syria) joined forces to attack Juda and
Jerusalem. The people and their godless king Ahaz got terrified. Therefore their gracious
God sent them a message through the prophet of Isaiah saying: "Be careful, keep calm,
and don't be afraid. Do not loose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of
firewood - because of (how they) ...have plotted your ruin... It will not take place, it
will not happen... If you do not stand firm in your faith you will not stand at all.
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."
said, 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." We read in Isaiah 7:4-14 (NIV)
Meaning that God permitted the united Israeli and Syrian army to scare Juda and their king
to the point that "the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as trees of the forest are
shaken by the wind." (verse 2) But when he saw their terror, he had mercy on them and - according
to our text - sent a calming message to the king and even promised him victory
over the enemy saying: "Be careful, keep calm, and don't be afraid. Do not loose heart
because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood... because of (how they)... have
plotted your ruin... It will not take place, it will not happen!" But also added: "If you do
not stand firm in your faith you will not stand at all." Then - to provide king Ahaz total
peace and strengthen his faith - the Lord even let the prophet recommend him to ask for
a sign. But he refused this kind, divine offer saying: "I will not ask; I will not put the
Lord to the test." Why? Could it be that he trusted in his own creative plans more than in
God's promise and power, even though that is quite a dangerous step to take? Or did he
try to act like a humble saint? Or could it be that he didn't believe in the divine promise,
and therefore didn't dare to rely on it?
Either way, afterwards the Almighty turned to the
people declaring that in spite of the king's refusal: " 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
Of course, this promise was only fulfilled much-much later; but it was fulfilled! For,
God first carried out his previous word which said: "If you do not stand firm in your
faith you will not stand at all." Letting Judah loose that battle and suffer many more
hardships; just because of their lack of faith and obedience. But - many years after
king Ahaz's death - the promised Messiah was finally born. While, during the long years
of waiting and horrible trials people could find solace in the knowledge that sooner or later,
the "sign" will be fulfilled.
The promised Savior will arrive and will straighten out
everything for those who believe in him and obey him.
Then, when Jesus Christ was
actually born in Bethlehem, from a virgin; the promise of the Father was clearly fulfilled.
The "sign" was realized and - ever since - remains a faith strengthening "sign" to all
who believe or would like to believe in him. For, our loving God gladly assures,
encourages, and strengthens us.
In addition - based on this story - we may even conclude that God's children are allowed
or sometimes even encouraged to ask for a sign. But only if they totally trust the
Lord, and obey his instructions.
Like Gideon of Judges 6, did. In his time the people of Israel were still united, yet deeply
involved in pagan worship. Therefore God gave them over to the Midianites for seven
years. As a result, they had a very hard life. Then, in their distress, they called upon God,
and he heard their plea, and decided to miraculously deliver them through Gideon. Thus,
he sent an angel to Gideon, who greeted him by saying: "The Lord is with you mighty
warrior." But Gideon couldn't even imagine that the Lord was with him, nor that he was a
strong warrior, when so many problems were surrounding him. Yet, the angel assured him
by saying: "Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not
sending you?" At that point, Gideon humbly asked for a sign. "...give me a sign that it
is really you talking to me." - He pleaded. In other words, he wanted to be sure that he
heard God's instructions. And his request was granted. For, he asked his guest to wait
there till he went home for a while and returned back to him. Then, "Gideon went in,
prepared a young goat, and... made bread without yeast. Putting the meat in a basket and
its broth in a pot, he brought them out and offered them to him under the oak. The angel of
the Lord said to him, 'Take the meat and the unleavened bread, place them on this rock,
and pour out the broth.' and Gideon did so. With the tip of the staff that was in his hand,
the angel of the Lord touched the meat, and the unleavened bread. Fire flared from the
rock, consuming the meat and the bread." Which Gideon took as the sign of the fact that
he was truly talking to an angel of the Lord. Then later, when the enemy was real close,
he asked God for another sign to make sure that he is truly the one the Lord wants to
use to deliver Israel. First he requested that when he places a fleece of wool on the
threshing floor, the fleece should be wet from the dew and the ground dry. Next, he asked
for the opposite. In both cases God complied. Thus - at this time - he received a couple
of signs which convinced him to believe the word of God and obey it. Which then
lead to a great victory, proving to us that God's children are allowed to ask for a sign.
But only if they completely trust in him and his word, and obey his instructions.
ARPAD FULOP'S SHORT BIOGRAPHY (1903-1987)
Several times, I mentioned already that when my father - as a young Jewish man - was
looking for a job in Budapest, Hungary; he only found one as an apprentice in a Christian
printing shop. There he had to print the whole Bible and several great theological books.
As a result the question arouse in him: Is the promised Messiah of the Old Testament
truly the Lord Jesus Christ of the New? Then, he began to ask God to show him the truth.
Finally, one night he decided that he will not go to bed, till he finds the answer by
comparing the prophecies of the Old with the events of the New Testament.
For example, he opened up Isaiah 7:14 where he read:
"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." Then, in Luke 1:31 of the New Testament he read
the story where the angel Gabriel went to a virgin called Mary and said: "...you will be
with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus." In addition, in
Micah 5:2, which talks about the birth place of the Messiah, he read: "But you
Bethlehem... though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel..." While - according to Luke 2 - just around the time
Mary’s baby was to be born - due to a census - she and Joseph had to go to Bethlehem;
where she had her son. Thus, this prophecy was fulfilled also.
Furthermore, in Psalms 22,
he found the description of the sufferings of Jesus, which were fulfilled in the New
Testament too. And I could go on and on about the Scripture passages my father studied
both in the Old and New Testaments, till around dawn, he was convinced that Jesus Christ
truly is the promised Messiah, or the Savoir of the World. Why? Because he received
clear signs or proofs of that from the Bible. Which in turn immediately inspired him to
invite Jesus into his heart, ask for his forgiveness, and yield himself to him. Then, served
him faithfully to the end.
"Ask the Lord your God for a sign..." - Encouraged the prophet Isaiah king Ahaz, but he
refused. Could it be that he trusted in his own ideas more than in God's promise or power?
Or did he want to seem more religious than he really was, when he said: "I will not ask: I
will not put the Lord to the test." Or did he doubt God's promise and power? No matter
what; he and his people had to pay for his decision when they had to face what God
forewarned them about saying: "If you don't stand firm in your faith, you will not
stand at all." Still, our loving Lord promised him a sign, which became the hope of
every generation ever since. Namely that one day - in spite of all hardships and
sufferings - the Messiah will come to earth and will restore everything and everyone
who believes in him and obeys him.
As a result we may conclude that - even these days - whosoever believes in him and
is willing to obey him, may ask for a sign. Just like Gideon and my father did, and
received some, they were able to claim and stand on.