The Purpose of Work

I. Introduction

Welcome back, everybody. I think it feels weird to see people again.
We’re still not back to normal, though. Diane & I were blessed during this lockdown. I was able to work from home, and I got an extra hour of sleep because I wasn’t commuting and we saved on gas. But at the peak of the lockdown, 43 million Americans filed for unemployment. People that I reached out to last year when I was looking for work are now reaching out to me.

I’ve returned to work at the office, but we’re at 25% capacity with the rest still working from home. Maybe you’re affected. Maybe you’ve been furloughed, maybe you’ve filed for unemployment. If you haven’t, it’s likely you know somebody who has.

Which I find amazing that God has a word for us today to talk about work. Our key scripture today, Ecclesiastes 9:10,

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might, for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in Sheol, to which you are going.

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We’re going to take this verse apart and put it back together, but first, let’s talk a little about the book of Ecclesiastes. Most theologians attribute the writing to Solomon, who, blessed with more wisdom that anybody in history, found wisdom provided no meaning to life or any comfort.

Whatever we have here on earth, we see from a limited perspective, and only God’s perspective will give us true wisdom and comfort. The book begins in verse 1:2 with

Meaningless! Meaningless!

And ends in verses 12:1 and 12:13,

Remember your Creator.
Fear God and keep His commandments.

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In between these two verses, man can find comfort and meaning to life. And in between these two verses, the book of Ecclesiastes talks about “work” frequently. Our work can be frustrating and sometimes feels meaningless. Why are we working? What are we trying to accomplish? Will it mean anything after I’m gone? In between “Meaningless! Meaningless” and “Remember your Creator; Fear God and keep His commandments, Ecclesiastes 9:10 has a lesson for us about the design of work, the dignity of work, and the delight of work.

II. The Design of Work

So Ecclesiastes 9:10 begins with,

“Whatever your hand finds to do…”

Let’s face it, it’s really hard to do nothing. If you were at home during the lockdown, maybe you started feeling a little stir-crazy.

We are designed by God to do work. God created us in His image, and God is a creative and working God. God creates. We, too, are creative beings, designed to create and designed to work. The capacity for work is part of our DNA. The ability to work is part of our DNA. The mentality to create and to work are part of what it means to be a human made in the image of a working and creative God.

When God created humanity, God’s very first command to Adam was to get to work. Genesis 1:26-28,

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Get to work, Adam. And in Genesis 2:15,

The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

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Get to work, Adam. You have to read another 10 verses before Eve, his helper, makes an appearance. And the Fall of Man is still another chapter away. So before marriage, before family, before sin of man ejected Adam from the Garden of Eden, God created man to work. Adam tilled the ground, managed the garden, named the animals, and was appointed steward over God’s creation. Get to work, Adam. In working, we are practically demonstrating the image of God on earth.

“Whatever your hand finds to do…”

The phrase “your hand” represents our capacity to work, but also our individuality. And the phrase “finds to do” means there is always something that we can do. We are to be good stewards of this earth and contribute to the flourishing and development of this world. It is in our DNA to do something.

But we’re not all cut from the same cloth. We are not a cookie cutter design. I am different from Chris. And Tony is different from everybody.

We, by our design, are uniquely created for a specific type of work. God not only created us with the capacity to work in general, He also created us to complete certain types of work in particular. God designed each of us with different abilities and personalities. We are not the same. We do not all have the same serial number. Rather, God made each of us unique for our unique work.

This means that God did not design everyone to be a teacher or a preacher. God did not design everyone to be a car mechanic or a counselor. Instead, God designed people to be engineers, lawyers, teachers, anesthetists, IT technicians, accountants, geologists, dentists, and writers. For humanity to truly have dominion over all of creation, God endowed different types of people with the unique ability to govern over, serve in, and contribute to virtually every area of life.

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Each one of us is attracted towards an area of work that we are particularly equipped to accomplish. We each have God-given strengths, skills, leanings, passions, and spiritual gifts that naturally lead us into one ‘profession’ or ‘vocation’ or ‘work’ over another.

And everyone of us has struggled at some point in our life with the question, “What is God’s will for my life?” or “What is my personal calling?” We all want to figure out what our role and contribution ought to be in our short time on earth.

How do we our purpose for work? We can find our purpose at the intersection of 3 main things: our abilities, our affinities, and the affirmations of others.

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  • Our abilities refer to our God-given strengths, our gifts, personality, and skills.
  • Our affinities refer to our interests and what brings us the most amount of joy and energy.
  • And affirmation of others means that other people can testify whether our perception of our skill is an actual, substantial strength.

All three, working together, can help us draw out our purpose from our own guesswork. In other words, do what you do best for the glory of God.
God has specifically designed us – our abilities, affinities, and affirmations – to strategically position ourselves for the greatest impact for His glory. When we follow God’s design, our work will not only become more personally enriching, but our work is our witness and our examples of our excellent and creative God.

So the phrase “Whatever your hand finds to do,” are instructions, it reveals how we should evaluate ourselves, evaluate purpose so that we can enjoy work, serve others well, and contribute to God’s kingdom.

III. The Dignity of Work

In the second part of the verse, “do it with your might,” God challenges us always to do our best with the gifts He has given us. There is dignity concerning work.

There is value in work with the best we have to offer. The reason for engaging wholeheartedly is not simply because that is what we ‘ought’ to do. We should engage wholeheartedly as a response that work itself is a gift from God and a dignifying responsibility on its own terms. There is no work that is undignified.

We should not approach work because we’re threatened, or somebody may condemn us, but because all work is good.

Back in Genesis 1, every time God created something He called it ‘good;’ then He created mankind and called us ‘very good.’ God has selected us do work as He does, and when we manage His creation to His glory, it is a high and noble honor. Work is one way that demonstrate Christ within.

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So work is more than just our duty. It is a privilege. The only right response to the reality of work, and serving God in our work, is to expend our might and to give our best, which is an act of worship.

Work, then, becomes primarily a response of stewardship and faithfulness. However, when work becomes something different than a responsibility of stewardship and faithfulness, it decays and maligns everything else in its path. Hence the next part of our verse, “do it with your might.”

Our work should be done for the sake of work itself. Not for our own significance, not to make us important, not for other’s approval. Not even for money. A biblical view of work as the means to something else. Work well for work’s sake.

When work becomes a means to an end, when we are working for something other than work, we may find ourselves bowing at the feet of an idol. There is nothing wrong with financial stability, providing for your family, or approval from others. However, when we see our work primarily as a means to achieve these, we have ruined the very essence of what makes work beautiful on its own terms.

Sometimes when I watch an old movie, the mom brags to her neighbor that her son is a doctor or lawyer. Always a doctor or a lawyer. Now, there is certainly nothing wrong with being a doctor or lawyer. But 90% of the workforce should not be doctors or lawyers. And I’m pretty sure God did not create 90% of people to serve as doctors and lawyers.

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So, why the obsession to be a doctor or lawyer? It is because those two professions in our American society are associated with status, stability, and prosperity. Who would not want those things? And so, becoming a lawyer or doctor becomes the means to attaining status, stability, and prosperity.
So many then, who strive to be a doctor or lawyer, are sacrificing their God-given skills and passions to join a a profession they do not like or have no skills in, just because they feel like they must do so to attain the ‘good life.’ Not only do these people become embittered and finding no satisfaction in their work, but their God-given skills and passions are left unused and they begin to atrophy. People unhappy with their work also make those around them unhappy. In other words, instead of working for the dignity of work and to God’s glory, they work for themselves, and the design and dignity of work suffers. It was never intended to be for them after all. It’s all for God’s glory. God’s call is for us to “do it with your might” and not with or for anything else. When work is done with any other purpose or motive, it becomes defective and destructive.

Regardless of your vocation, there is dignity and purpose when seen in the light of God. It is not about the kind of work you do; it’s about how you do the work. With dignity as a Christ follower.

IV. The Delight of Work

Our scripture verse then says,
“for there is no work or thought or knowledge or wisdom in [death].”
Your translation may say “sheol” as a location for death.

So I have news for you. You’re going to die. You have an expiration date. So do I. Eventually, you and I are going to run out of the one precious resource we cannot replenish: Time.

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Time is a limited resource. We all desire more of it. We wish we had more time in a day to finish that project. We wish we did not have to sleep as much so that we could maximize our productivity. And so our available time limits our capacity for accomplishment and completion. It humbles us, and it sobers us up to realize that we may never get to finish it. Time marks the end of our work, and the end of our lives.

This is a short life. Once we’re dead, whatever happens in Heaven and the glory we shall see when Christ returns, this life is over. Rather than doom and gloom, the calamities in this life enrich us, they challenge us, they are God’s way of getting our attention, they are opportunities for us to grow and to show the world that, regardless of the calamities, the hardships, the pain and suffering, that we are enjoying our limited life. Our life gives us the chance to choose our eternal destination and to share the joy of living as a child of God to others that do not yet know the Lord. We live out our limited life in the hope of continuing in our eternal life.

And it is our eternal life which we should value. The time is so short, and eternity goes on, well, forever. That’s the definition of eternity, and our lives continue through eternity, compared to this very short time here on planet earth. So why am I not afraid of Covid-19? Because Covid-19 can only change my expiration date on earth. If I depart early, I begin eternity with the Lord Jesus Christ sooner.

Jesus said in John 9:4,

As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.

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I once went to an estate sale my wife had organized for an elderly couple. They had collected years and years of Asian art, sculptures, beautiful furniture, but in their last few years they decided to move into assisted living, limited space, and it was time to relinquish their material possessions. At the estate sale I couldn’t help but notice that all this art, loaded with their memories was being sold for pennies on the dollar. All these memories, once this couple was gone, were meaningless. We can’t take it with us, and we leave almost nothing behind.

The message is that we live in a world plagued by frustrations towards the completion of our goals, aspirations, and work. But in God’s economy, when our work is done with hearts and hands bent on God’s Kingdom and eternity, our work means something, whether it was completed in this life or not. Without God and eternity, all things ‘under the sun’ simply have no meaning or lasting impact. But with God and eternity, even our smallest efforts matter and carry into eternity. Our work means something to God. This knowledge ought to give delight, that what we do, when done for the glory of God, pleases Him and we will understand that in eternity.

In Timothy Keller’s book, “Every Good Endeavor, he writes the following:

If this life is all there is, then everything will eventually burn up in the death of the sun and no one will even be around to remember anything that has ever happened. Everyone will be forgotten, nothing we do will make any difference, and all good endeavors, even the best, will come to naught.
Unless there is God. If the God of the Bible exists, and there is a True Reality beneath and behind this one, and this life is not the only life, then every good endeavor, even the simplest ones, pursued in response to God’s calling, can matter forever. That is what the Christian faith promises. “In the Lord, your labor is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

How can we truly delight in our work? It comes from the assurance that God values us and our work; and in the Lord, our labor will carry into eternity. He infuses our work with meaning and eternal significance in a way that we simply could not on our own. Only the Christian is privileged to enjoy his or her work in this way. And in light of this, we can rejoice.

V. Conclusion

God works, and therefore, work on its own terms is a good thing. It is a glorious extension of His attributes. And when God created us in His own image, He made us both agents of work (giving us the capacity for work) and regents of work (entrusting us with the responsibility to work). Work is part of what it means to be human. God has in store a certain design, dignity, and delight for us in the privilege of working.

When we do not work, we simply become less than what God designed us to be. If work according to God’s design is humanizing, then not working at all or not working according to God’s design is dehumanizing. As Christians, we realize that our work is not our ultimate worth, stability, security, or satisfaction. Christ is. Under this framework ‘under heaven’ our work, becomes redeemed to being what it was always meant to be all along: work.
When we live according to God’s will for work, we will find God’s unique design for work, His special dignity in work, and His particular delight for us to enjoy within work. His plan truly becomes our purpose. Let nothing deter you from the work God has for you. Do it with joy, with gusto, with purpose, and love.

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To God be the glory.

Late for Work

I was late for work this morning with a new and unusual excuse. First, let me setup the scenario.

It’s a little stressful around the house right now. Last Tuesday we received nearly 10 inches of rain in about 5 hours. I woke up that morning to find an inch of water in the study. Fortunately, the floor isn’t completely level and the computer gear was on a tiny island. Unfortunately, the closet absorbed a lot of water and all the boxes on the floor. And we’re sure the walls have absorbed water and will have to be replaced.

There was eighteen inches of water in the garage. Shop vac, camping stove, other minor stuff was ruined, but the water was high enough to cover the floorboards of both cars.

So I’ve been talking to the insurance company a lot this week. Homeowner’s insurance, flood insurance, townhome group insurance, and two separate auto insurance claims come into play. Last night, a remedial company drilled holes in the water and sprayed anit-mold chemicals and set up two noisy air dryers. The house is noisy and smells funny.

I dropped my car off last week to be repaired; my wife’s car is still pending because the rental car company only seems to make a car available for an hour before saying “oops, sorry, it’s rented already.” And I’m driving a smelly, beatup rental car that reinforces my believe that Enterprise Rent a Car supplies only trashy vehicles.

On top of that, I’m working 65 hours a week, trying to hit an important, expensive deadline.

So this morning, I’m up a little early. I’m going to de-stress and pick up a latte on the way to work and count it as my protein for the morning. And I chill, relaxing in the car, listening to AM 700 talk radio.

After a while, I glance at the clock. It’s 7:00 on the nose.

After a while longer, I glance at the clock. It’s still 7:00 on the nose.

And I realize it’s not 7:00am. It’s 700AM. What I thought was a digital clock was actually the radio station readout. It’s likely to be 700AM all morning.

And that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.

Act on Revealed Truth

An Antebellum era (pre-civil war) family Bible...
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Introduction

Last week, Michelle taught from Isaiah 6. This week, the lesson covers Isaiah 7-23. When I first started studying, I though, whoa, we’re supposed to cover 16 chapters?

I spoke to Fred about this last Saturday; he said there was no problem covering all 16 chapters, he would enjoy a thorough lesson. So I thought we’d cover chapters 7-10 first, then break for lunch. Come back and read chapters 11-20 and then break for dinner. That would leave us plenty of time to cover 21-23 this evening.

Actually, I’ve noticed that the bible is an amazing book in that the closer or further away you get, there are different lessons. Isaiah 7-23 has many, many lessons for us. Isaiah 7-12 is a warning to political leaders; chapter 7 talks about hope, chapter 8 is a warning of judgment, 9 is a promise of mercy, and so on. Chapters 13-23 are prophecy and fulfilled prophecy, showing that the Lord is in control. Yet we can also focus on a single sentence and get a life-changing lesson from it, the Word of God is that powerful.

We’re just going to focus on Chapter 7 this morning. In Chapter 7, Isaiah reminds us that we are to trust in God in times of stress. We are God’s people, and we are to do things God way. God’s will be done; we can participate, or God will do His will without us. Yet, stubborn as we are, we often choose to be controlled by our circumstances rather than listen to the Lord. And that’s the lesson from the Lord today – to have faith in Him and not things of the world.

It’s time to make a decision. You can go one way, or you can go another. You can ask for help, you can go it alone. You can help a friend, but it means breaking a confidence. You can accept a new job, but it means moving away from church. What are some difficult decisions we face today, as a nation, as a church, as a class, or as a family?

Here’s a story from Los Angeles City College. In a class teaching public speaking, students were given an open assignment in public speaking. Here’s an excerpt from the news article –

On Nov. 24, 2008, Los Angeles City College speech professor John Matteson reportedly interrupted and ended Jonathan Lopez’s presentation mid-speech and called the student a derogatory name in front of the class for speaking about his faith, which included reading the dictionary definition of marriage and reciting two Bible verses.
Instead of allowing Lopez to finish, Matteson reportedly told the other students they could leave if they were offended. When no one left, Matteson dismissed the class. Refusing to grade the assigned speech, Matteson wrote on Lopez’s evaluation, “Ask God what your grade is.”

One week later, after seeing Lopez talking to the college’s dean of academic affairs, Matteson told Lopez that he would make sure he’d be expelled from school.

What are Mr. Lopez’s options? How would you respond?

Obviously anti-Christian, the teacher inadvertently asked a very appropriate question. “Ask God what your grade is.”

In Isaiah 7, King Ahaz is faced with a similar dilemma. He’s faced with a threat and has to make a decision. David’s kingdom had long since split in two after the death of Solomon. Israel to the north had routinely strayed from the lord. Judah to the south, sometimes followed the Lord and sometimes they didn’t, depending on the king at the time. Northeast of Israel was the nation of Aram (also called Syria), and north of that was the rising Assyrian Empire.

Under King Uzziah, Judah flourished. Aram and Israel had wanted to form an alliance with Judah, but Uzziah had resisted. Isaiah preached that the Lord would save, and Judah should remain neutral. Uzziah was dealing with raids from the Philistines from the west and the Edomites to the south, and if Uzziah moved troops to face the Assyrians, the southern attacks would succeed. Uzziah stayed neutral, and under King Uzziah, Judah flourished.

Uzziah died, and his son Jotham took over. Jotham was also a strong leader and kept Judah neutral, but died young. And Ahaz, 20 years old, took over. It’s now about 735 B.C.

Isaiah also spoke to Ahaz about relying on the Lord to save, but Ahaz didn’t listen. Ahaz was not a righteous king; in 2 Kings 16:2-3 we’re told Ahaz offered sacrifices to Baal and pagan idols. As a weak king, Israel and Aram gave up on the alliance idea and decided to attack Judah. Their goal was turn Judah into a puppet kingdom and become large enough to defend themselves against the Assyrians. Isaiah brings Ahaz a message to depend on the Lord and remain neutral. Isaiah tells Ahaz that Israel and Aram are too weak to be a threat, and that the Lord will protect Judah. Instead, 2 Kings 16:8 says Ahaz gave away treasure from the temple of the Lord to the Assyrians as a bribe to protect him from Aram and Israel.

Instead of listening to Isaiah’s word from the Lord, Ahaz tried to appease evil. How well did this work out? Assyria used the treasure to finance the war to conquer Aram and Israel, and then in 2 Chronicles 28 we’re told the Assyrians continued their march and conquered Judah, too, with the help of the Edomites from the south.

Isaiah told Ahaz to trust in the Lord. As Christians, we’re also taught to trust in the Lord. Like Ahaz, though, we attempt to resolve problems using our own human strength. Ahaz made several mistakes we can learn from.

I. Misplaced Focus

Let’s look at Isaiah 7:1-2.

When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it.

Now the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.

Ephraim was the largest of the ten northern kingdom, and is used here to represent all of Israel being united. Ahaz gets word that Israel and Aram have become allies, and Ahaz is scared, shaken by the wind. Ahaz has been given the word of the Lord, but he fears men. He has misplaced focus.

Oswald Chamber wrote, “The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God you fear everything else.” We face many fears in a world of sin and uncertainty. Finances, disease, natural disasters. We may face danger. We may face fear that someone we love will be hurt. Something may challenge our emotional or spiritual strength. We are tempted to give in to fear, to find a worldly solution.

Our focus should be on the Lord. What would the Lord have me do in this situation? How do I obey His commands in this time of trouble? When we turn to the Lord, fear of the world is replaced by faith in a faithful God. Our God is a powerful God. Why should we fear anything else? In Matthew 6:25-34, Jesus teaches us to remember that the Lord knows our needs, that He will take care of us. Do not worry about what we eat or drink, or what we should wear. Put the Lord first, and He will provide what we need.

What was Ahaz’s fear? Was his fear justified? Have you ever been in a circumstance where you were afraid? Have you ever asked for someone’s advice and wish you hadn’t? At what point did you turn from your fears and turn toward the Lord for strength?

II. Misplaced Confidence

Isaiah 7:3-9 –

Then the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub, to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Washerman’s Field. Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood — because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying, “Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.” Yet this is what the Sovereign LORD says:

“‘It will not take place,
it will not happen,

for the head of Aram is Damascus,
and the head of Damascus is only Rezin.
Within sixty-five years
Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people.

The head of Ephraim is Samaria,
and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son.
If you do not stand firm in your faith,
you will not stand at all.'”

The Lord says to Ahaz that the attack from the north will be unsuccessful. The leaders of those countries are only men, and He is the Lord God. The Lord knows the plans of evil men, and the Lord tells Ahaz that He is in control. The Lord says that these two countries are like sticks that have burned up, and there’s nothing left of them. Their flame may have once been bright, but now they’re dying. Both kings would be dead within two years.

Isaiah’s specific prophecy was that within 65 years, Israel would be too shattered to be a people. In 722 BC, Assyria conquered Israel and deported the people. 2 Kings 17:24 says foreigners came into the land to replace them, and Ezra 4:10 says later even more foreigners arrived.

Ahaz had misplaced confidence. His confidence is in himself. Ahaz puts his trust in a political alliance with Assyria. God is with Judah, but only if Judah is with God. Ahaz is trusting in the strength of an enemy to save him from other enemies. Where is Ahaz’s faith in God?

If we do not place our faith in the Lord when times are tough, then we have no faith at all. That’s what the Lord says – if you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all. But God is infinitely stronger than any problem we face. He is aware of our needs, and He is aware of those that plot against us. And God will help, but we must place our faith in Him first. Our primary confidence must be in Him, not ourselves, not other people, not worldly wisdom. God allows us to be tested in order to increase our faith in Him, and we demonstrate that faith when we give Him control and do not worry.

I notice also that Isaiah the prophet is faithful to share God’s word. But I also note fulfillment of prophecy that Michelle taught last week in Isaiah 6. Isaiah’s message falls on deaf ears, and Isaiah’s vision is unintelligible to blind eyes.

III. Missing Integrity

Isaiah 7:10-12,

Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, “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.”

In Matthew 4, Satan tempts Jesus. Satan takes Jesus to the highest point of the temple of Jerusalem and tells Jesus to throw himself off. Satan says this will prove Jesus is the Son of God because scripture says angels will protect Jesus from any harm. And Jesus answers, “It is also written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'”

Why is Ahaz’s response wrong, but Jesus’ response was right? Ahaz was exhibiting false religiousity. Ahaz wasn’t testing the Lord; the Lord was testing Ahaz.

Both Ahaz and Jesus quote Deuteronomy 6:13. There’s a difference though – God wants to protect Judah, and all Ahaz has to do is place his faith in the Lord. Here is the kind of man Ahaz was, from 2 Chronicle 28:1-4 –

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 walked in the ways of the kings of Israel and also made cast idols for worshiping 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 the LORD had driven out before the Israelites. He offered sacrifices and burned incense at the high places, on the hilltops and under every spreading tree.

The Lord commanded Ahaz to ask for a sign. Ahaz refused. Ironically, Ahaz probably had been asking for signs from Baal and other deities; the Lord God says, “ask for a sign from me.” When Ahaz said he wasn’t going to test the Lord, what he was really saying was that he wasn’t going to trust the Lord. Ahaz used scripture to keep from obeying the Lord; he had missing integrity. While calling for Isaiah’s counsel, Ahaz had no faith in the Lord. To ask for such a sign from God required a faith from Ahaz that he didn’t have. He gave the appearance of being a religious person, but he was willing to sacrifice to idols, sacrifice his sons, make political alliances with enemies, anything at all. He had no integrity.

Integrity is the opposite of hypocrisy. Hypocrisy is saying you believe or feel one thing, but then do something else. You are two different people; you do not practice what you preach. Integrity is being one person. You are the same person on the outside as you are on the inside. When we are a hypocrite, we are not being honest with God. We’re not even being honest with ourselves.

IV. Misplaced Faith

Isaiah 7:13-14,

Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? 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.

Through Isaiah, God challenged Ahaz to ask for a sign, but Ahaz refused. Pious, fake religiosity; Ahaz refused to test God. In truth, Ahaz didn’t want a sign from God, because then Ahaz would have to be obedient to God or expose his own hypocrisy. Ahaz had already decided to place his faith in men; Ahaz had already requested help from Assyria.

God’s answer is to the entire house of David. Notice also that Isaiah refers to “my God,” perhaps recognizing that Isaiah’s God is not Ahaz’s god. God provided a sign anyway, even though Ahaz would not ask. God’s ultimate sign of His authority will be His Son, Jesus. The Hebrew word for virgin is complex; for Isaiah’s time, it probably means, “young woman of marriageable age.” In the next chapter, Isaiah chapter 8, Isaiah is talking about his own child, Maher Shalal Hash Baz, which meant “Quick to the plunder, swift to the spoil.” Partial fulfillment of this prophecy meant that Assyria would plunder the Aram and Israel before the child was old enough to know right from wrong.

We know there’s more to the prophecy, though. There is partial immediate fulfillment, but there is eventually ultimate fulfillment. Isaiah’s wife, the prophetess, was probably a real nice lady, but she wasn’t a virgin. She and Isaiah already had one child together. Also, Isaiah’s prophecy is not given to Ahaz, but the House of David, and he uses the plural “you”. The literal and ultimate fulfillment of this prophecy is in our Lord Jesus in Bethlehem. The apostle Matthew 1:22 says that “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call his name Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.”” The Greek word used here is not ambiguous; it means virgin, a woman who has never had sexual relations.

Our faith should be in the Lord, not in people, places or things. In 2 Samuel 7:16, the house of David was assured that David’s house and kingdom would endure forever, yet Ahaz placed no faith in that promise. God teaches us through trials to trust in Him and Him alone.

God will work out His plan, whether we participate in His plan or not. Ahaz certainly didn’t; Ahaz had faith in himself and in the world, and placed no faith in the Lord. As a result, Judah eventually fell and was plundered by the Assyrians. But look at Matthew 1:9 at the genealogy of our savior. The lineage of Jesus begins with Abraham through the line of David, then through Uzziah, Jotham, and Ahaz. God provided a savior; God fulfilled prophecy. God is faithful, even when we are not.

When a crisis comes, don’t misplace your faith; learn to place your faith in God. Don’t misplace your confidence; our God is bigger than any crisis that comes. Be honest with the Lord, ourselves, and other; when we respond in faith, it pleases the Lord and encourages others when they see how the Lord responds in our lives. If we do not stand firm in our faith, we will not stand at all.

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