Isaiah 7:10-14, Romans 1:1-7, Matthew 1:18-24
What It Means to have deep Trust in God.
There was a particular cultural display that happened in one of the eastern parts of the country. It was a big cultural event where people come together to display their talents and cultural heritage.
Many people came from far and wide to witness this glamorous event. After many people have displayed their talents to the applause of many who gathered there.
The last one marvelled the crowd. At this time, a man came, holding a long rope. This long rope was tied between two different-storey buildings lying adjacent to each other.
After a few minutes, the man climbed only on top of the rope and was walking on the rope, from one end of the rope to the other to the amazement of all.
Imagine such a scene to see someone walking only on a rope at almost a very far distance from the ground, many people were clapping.
As if that is not enough, the young guy took his only Son and placed the son on his shoulder and still repeated, wow what a sight to behold. Many people were clapping with enthusiasm.
After completing the second distance, he did the third yet with the little boy, there was great applause. The crowd beamed with dancing, joy and great applause.
They rushed to the man, embraced him and many took photographs and selfies with him and shook hands with him.
Something happened later, the man took the microphone and said to the people who were watching him, ‘do you believe I can do this again and again?’
the crowd shouted “of course, you can, we trust your words”
The man asked again, “Do you truly believe in me, do you trust what I can do?”
The crowd shouted yes yes. Now comes the challenging moment, the man now said to the crowd, who can give me his baby, the baby will sit on my shoulder as I did with my son, and we shall walk on the rope”, there was a dead silence.
He said Okay “who among you will walk with me on the rope, I will make sure you walk on the rope without falling, the story changed. Some said “with this kind of distance, on a rope, God forbid, it will never happen”, the man asked them “but you said you trusted me?” some of them responded, “ we trust you but not in this one”.
The man said to them “but this is your belief, and not mine, trust me, I know I can do it, what you have to do is to trust what I said and did before you”, the people responded “abeg if this is temptation, you won’t get us oo, God forbid, it will never happen”.
Beloved what did you grab from this, this is actually what we do when it comes to our relationship and trust in God.
We trust God can do this, we have read and heard the miracles, healing, breakthroughs and open doors that he did, we shout that we trust and believe in God, yes we may believe in God but when it comes to reality and practical challenges, we do not trust Him.
There is a difference between trust and belief. We may believe there is God, but we do not trust Him.
If we trust in God, why then do we worry, cry, lose faith, stop praying, be afraid, etc when reality faces us? Joseph teaches us what it means to trust God deeply.
The Sign that is to come.
A sign is an object, pointer, or event that indicates the probable presence or occurrence of something else.
In the first reading, the Lord speaks to Ahaz, “ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or the highest heights.” But Ahaz replied, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”
Then instead of accepting what Ahaz said, Isaiah proceeded to say what this sign is. Isaiah said though Ahaz does not want a sign the “Lord God will give you a sign. Behold A virgin shall conceive and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
The name means “God is with us”. This has been interpreted to speak about the coming of Jesus Christ who is to be born through the Virgin Mary for the salvation and freedom of His people but to understand this passage very well, let us go to an in-depth analysis.
i. This particular passage is not in any way present Ahaz as a good person because He says He does not want to put God to the test.
King Ahaz was never a righteous king. He is one of Judah’s most wicked and unrighteous kings. He worshipped false gods and forced the people to follow his steps.
Ahaz became king at the age of 20 and reigned over Judah for 16 years. During His time, He set up idols and so many images of foreign gods. He turned away from God completely and worshipped false gods (2 Chronicles 28:2-3).
2. So, during his reign, Assyria was renowned as a very powerful nation that moved from one city to the other, plundering the nations and destroying them. Many kings were afraid of Assyria.
So, during this time, Rezin the King of Aram and Pekah the King of Israel formed an alliance because of the threat of Assyria.
So, they wanted King Ahaz to join their alliance to form a formidable force, but he refused. Because of this, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah of Israel marched up to attack Judah (Isaiah 7:1-2).
When the people were told of this attack, they became afraid. This is when God sent the prophet Isaiah to tell Ahaz not to be afraid but to believe and have deep trust in the Lord.
He said to him “Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smouldering stubs of firewood—because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and the son of Remaliah” (Isaiah 7:4).
Isaiah told Ahaz that God would not allow Rezin and Pekah to conquer Judah. So such a thing will never take place (Isaiah 7:7). Hence, Ahaz does not believe in what God says. He ignores the Word of God.
3. It is then that God asks Ahaz to ask for a sign so that such a sign will prove to him that what He says will come to pass. This is where the text of today begins.
God allowed him to seek any sign that He wants, and He will fulfil it for him just to strengthen his faith.
4. Yet Ahaz says that He will not ask. He says Any sign that Ahaz wants, God is going to give to him. Yet Ahaz says “I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test” (Isaiah 7:12). The truth is that we are not challenging God to a test, we are mere humans.
But Ahaz does not say this because he loves God but because He does not believe in God. He prefers worshipping idols.
In this scenario, God wanted him to ask for any sign that He is ready to do it. God is ready to prove to Ahaz that He is the mighty one, whose words always come to pass. Yet Ahaz refuses to listen to Him.
5. So, this is the reason, Isaiah said to the people “are you not satisfied with trying the patience of men, without trying the patience of my God, too?
Ahaz was abusing the Lord’s patience. The point is that our patient God certainly wants all men to come to repentance.
He is patient with all and wants us to come to trust in Him and repent, but when we refuse to listen to Him still, We invite eternal damnation to ourselves.
5. Therefore, instead of waiting for Ahaz, Isaiah proceeded to strengthen the faith of the people. So, even though Ahaz refuses to ask for a sign, God will still give them a sign, that a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, who is to be called “Immanuel” a name which means a name which means “God-is-with-us.”’
6. This is a sign that God is with them even in times of trial, challenges, etc. since He is with them, there is nothing the enemy in Rezin and Pekah can do. These formidable forces attacked Jerusalem but could not overpower it (Isaiah 7:1).
Therefore, the birth of the Son the Immanuel is a sign pointing that this birth indicates that the time of salvation is here, victory is here, deliverance, power over the seen and unseen enemies is here with us.
Therefore, God has done His part, what we have to do is to trust in what God says. We have to trust that God is now with us through “the Immanuel”.
7. Therefore, what it means to trust God deeply is to have complete assurance and reliance that God is with us always even in those times we think He is not with us.
It is a firm trust and confidence in God’s saving power in times of trouble. So, as we prepare to celebrate the coming of Immanuel, let us not only shout that we believe in God, like the crowd in the introit story but also have a deeper trust in our heart that He is with us.
Let us not also ignore His words like Ahaz even when God tries to use many avenues to bring us closer to Him, yet we close our hearts and lose faith.
Let us also prepare our minds to have a deep trust that He is always with us both in Good and bad times.
The Immanuel With Us, The Messiah that is coming.
The next questions we have to ask ourselves are: Is Jesus the Immanuel? How is the birth of Jesus connected to the promise of this Messiah who will rescue the people from the bondage of their formidable forces? How is Jesus the Immanuel? These questions were answered by Paul in the second reading.
1. First point here is to know that the name Immanuel does not refer actually to a name of a person but the nature, role and function of that person when He comes.
So, “God is with us” is describing the nature of Jesus. He is God who has become a human. He took flesh and became man, therefore, to become man, He has become one with us. This is what Saint Paul tries to capture in the second reading.
2. Saint Paul in the second reading of today, says “From Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus who has been called to be an apostle and specially chosen to preach the Good News that God promised long ago through his prophets in the scriptures.
This news is about the Son of God who, according to human nature he took was a descendant of David: it is about Jesus Christ our Lord who, in the order of the spirit, the spirit of holiness that was in him, was proclaimed Son of God in all his power through his resurrection from the dead.
Therefore, with this statement, Saint Paul affirms that the coming of Jesus was promised long ago through His prophets. And that this person that though He is of divine origin, the Son of God, He takes human nature as the descendant of David. By taking human nature, He is now one with us, which is the fulfilment of Immanuel.
3. In the gospel, Matthew also refers to this prophecy after the angel tells Joseph, that the virgin He is to marry will give birth to a son and He must name him Jesus because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’
In other affirm that this promise is a fulfilment of the Immanuel prophecy, Matthew further says that “Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and they will call him Emmanuel, a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.
This also inevitably affirms what Paul says in the second reading that Jesus is “specially chosen to preach the Good News that God promised long ago through his prophets in the scriptures. Therefore Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah.
4. Now the forces that Jesus is coming to conquer are the formidable forces of Rezin and Pekah but the formidable forces of sin and death, the forces of the kingdom of darkness, and the forces of evil. John says that He is The light that shines in the darkness, and the darkness can not overcome it. (John 1:5).
Joseph, the Man of Deep Trust in God.
The gospel presents to us what it truly means to have deep trust in God. Therefore, it is not only saying and shouting that we have deep trust in God but reality proves otherwise. In the gospel, Joseph teaches us what it means to have deep trust in God.
1. In the gospel, Matthew tells us that the Blessed Virgin Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they could come to live together she was found to be pregnant already with a child through the Holy Spirit.
But Joseph as a man of honour wanted to save her public image but divorce her publicly. Now the questions are “how could they not have been living together and Joseph is already talking about divorce?
The Bible only talks about betrothal, is betrothal marriage? Did Joseph later want to start living with Mary before he finds out that she is pregnant, why could not he do that? So, to understand this, let us go to another in-depth analysis.
2. In the Jewish tradition, there are two processes of Jewish marriage. These two processes create a legal relationship without the mutual obligations between the couple.
The first of these is called betrothal. This betrothal ceremony is known in Hebrew as Kiddushin . This ceremony is only a marriage pact arranged for the individuals by the parents.
3. Kiddushin in Hebrew means sanctification. It is highly binding more than ordinary engagement as we understand it today.
Once the kiddushin is complete the woman is legally the wife of the man. This is why the angel says “do not be afraid to take Mary as Your wife” because Mary was found to be pregnant after the betrothal.
The relationship created with betrothal is so binding that the pact can only be dissolved by death or divorce. This is why Joseph was considering divorce in the first place.
3. So, after the betrothal ceremony, the couple will not begin to live together, the man and woman will continue to live with their parents for one year. This waiting period is a time of strong decision, and to demonstrate how faithful they would be to each other.
4. This will now lead us to the second part. The second process is the nissuin which happens a year later and includes the marriage feast, after which the groom in a grand processional march takes her bride home.
The mutual obligations of a marital relationship do not take effect until the nisuin is complete. The nisuin (elevation) is what finalizes the marriage process. The husband brings the wife into his home where they begin their married life together.
5. So, it is in this one-year waiting period after the betrothal ceremony with Joseph that Mary becomes pregnant. After this one year, when Joseph wanted to take her to his home. He discovered that Mary was pregnant already.
Joseph was disappointed to see that His wife is already pregnant, without the nissuin completed. So, instead of disgracing her, He wanted to privately save her image.
6. So, It was while He was worried over this that the angel appeared to Him in a dream. Joseph obeyed the voice of the angel and kept to God’s word. He could not mind what people would say, the image they would portray, He accepted God’s will over his will.
To have deep trust in God, we must learn how to consider His word first before ours. We must learn how to put God first and trust whatever He is doing in our lives, even if it is against our will. This teaches us that our will must not supersede.
Yes, we want a better life, we want health, good life, etc, but when God says otherwise, we have to accept.
Before, the Gethsemane, Jesus prays to God that if it is His will, let this cup pass him by, it was as if God was so silent. On the cross, He even shouted “God God why have you forsaken me?” It was as if He replied with more silence.
The message is that God’s will must always come first. He knows the reason, you are passing through what you are passing through, He knows why everything is happening, therefore, Joseph may not understand exactly what God is trying to do, but he just hung His trust on God.
He understands that the will of God is always the best despite the suffering, and the heartbreak he may have experienced. Let us always learn from this man. We believe in God, yes, but we lack trust. We must have deep trust in God if we truly believe in Him.
1. Despite the sin of Ahaz, God came down to rescue his people from the formidable forces of Pekah and Rezin. He promises the people that He will be with them.
This shows how God so much loves us. He thinks of us so deeply that He sends His son to us and saves us from the formidable forces of sin, death and eternal damnation.
The angel said of Jesus that “he is the one who is to save His people from bondage. Therefore, His thoughts for us are always for freedom, salvation, deliverance and breakthrough, even when he sends us challenges, they are all for good.
In Romans 8:28, Paul says that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, and to those who are called according to His purpose.
If there is a purpose God calls you, do not be afraid, lose faith or worry when He is training, sharpening and preparing for the work ahead.
2. Therefore, what we owe God is a deep trust in whatever He is doing in our life. There is no hatred in God, God does not hate.
We are the people who have abandoned Him and never have his time. But when a problem comes, we come back to blame Him.
God is with us but we do not have his time. Sometimes because we do not understand what He does, We lose faith. Let us develop a deep trust in God.
3. Joseph also teaches us how to relate with our fellow human beings. He is an example of married life also. Imagine how broken Joseph would be when he saw that the blessed virgin Mary was pregnant. Yet his intention was not to destroy her image.
If we were Joseph, many of us would have used that opportunity and destroyed the image of the other person.
Joseph was ready to save Mary but today, when your wife could not conceive, You accuse her of witchcraft and send her out of your house.
The marriage responsibility is not that of one person, to conceive a child is not only that of the woman but also the responsibility of both couples.
4. Joseph also teaches us the need to listen to the word of God and do whatever God says. In the gospel, Joseph was only instructed through dream.
He may decide not to accept since it was only a dream. But he knows that such a dream is not ordinary and he was able to follow the message. But when God speaks to us daily through His word, we reject him, close our hearts and never have his time. Let us learn from this man.
5. The angel tells Joseph, “do not be afraid to take Mary as Your wife, because she has conceived and what is in her is by the Holy Spirit”.
What this means is that we do not have to be afraid of when God is working in us.
So, we do not have to be afraid of what people would say. We do not have to fear what they think about what is happening around us.
We do not have to lose faith when God is yet to finish. Just as the conception of Jesus is through the Holy Spirit, what is happening to us could still be the hand of God doing His work. Let us have deep trust in God.
6. The problem is that many people don’t want to believe in God or trust His Word. Many Christians today, choose which portions of God’s Word they want to believe.
They also disagree with which portion of the Bible they think they don’t need to follow. Therefore, we are telling God what to believe and not to believe.
God has given us the most important signs through his Word. This is the sign that God gives to Ahaz, the sign of Immanuel.
Many times we hear the message of God’s Word every Sunday morning. Then ignore that message the rest of the week. Still we look for a sign for God to prove that He loves us or is with us.
Therefore, to know how powerful, loving and faithful our God is to us, let us always read His word and be convinced.
May God never forsake you. Happy Sunday