Isaiah 7:11-12: “Ask thee a sign of the Lord, thy God, ask it either in the depth or in the height above. But Ahaz said, I will not ask neither will I tempt the Lord.”
Luke 12:48: “To whom much is given, much is expected.”
Generally, we will not escape this holiday season without hearing Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you sign: Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and call his name Immanuel.” There is no question that this verse is prophetically speaking of the birth of Christ, but I rarely, if ever, hear about the context this verse was written in. We call this passage ongoing prophecy because there was also a fulfillment of this prophecy during the time it was given.
King Ahaz, a very godless king, was facing a real problem. Northern Israel and Syria were forcing Judah to join an alliance to go against the Assyrians who were threaten their land. When King Ahaz refused to join the alliance Northern Israel and Syria united to come against Judah and King Ahaz turned to the arm of the flesh for defense rather than turn to God. He contacted the Assyrians and offered to empty the temple of God of all its silver and gold and turn it over to Assyria if they would come to his aid.
God sent Isaiah to Ahaz to tell him that the Lord had already taken care of this matter and that he did not need to turn to a pagan country for help. Not only that God would give him a sign to confirm this. Ahaz says a very curious thing and that is he does not want a sign nor would he tempt God.
The word used for sign in the Hebrew in this verse is ’oth which carries the idea of consenting or agreeing to something. The word ’oth is often used for a miracle. It would take a miracle for Judah to survive an invasion from the Syria and Northern Israel without the help of Assyria. What Isaiah was really telling King Ahaz is that despite his rejection of God, his worship of idols and his disobedience, God would still give him a miracle.
Now who in their right mind, facing the odds would not accept a miracle? King Ahaz is one and if you really examine your heart, you may be surprised to find that you are another. It is no coincidence that the word sign (’oth) also means a miracle and an agreement.
Years ago someone wrote a book entitled: Face up with a miracle. If you experience a genuine miracle in your life, I mean a real, honest to goodness supernatural event you will never be able to return to your former life. I can say this much for King Ahaz, at least he was honest. He knew that if God gave him this miracle then every time he went to worship an idol, every time he would seek to rest on the arm of the flesh, he would be haunted by the memory of a personal God who could deliver him from any situation. Like it or not you have to face up to a miracle, and you no longer have the luxury of leaning on the arm of the flesh because God has given you a sign.
King Ahaz did not want a sign or a miracle because that meant he would have to submit to the authority of God. He did not want to do this. He also did not want to tempt God. The word tempt as used in Hebrew in this verse could have two possible roots. Most translations use the root “nasah” and means to tempt, try or test. However, I believe the root word would be ’anas which means to compel or urge.
What King Ahaz is saying is that he neither wants the responsibility that a miracle would bring to his life, nor would he be compelled, urged or would he ask God for one. Many people and Christians say God is a personal God but live their lives as if He wasn’t. A personal miracle tends to wake you up to the fact that there really is a God out there who cares and is involved in your life personally. If that is the case, you will feel a real compulsion to clean up your act. Many would like a miracle but in their hearts, they do not want to make the changes in their life that such a special revelation of God would bring nor would they want the responsibility it would bring.
Luke 12:24 tells us that to whom much is given much is expected. This can have a wide range of meaning. Not only does it mean being given much materially and in talents, but also in a personal revelation from God. The more God reveals Himself to you, the more that will be expected from you spiritually. There are some people, like King Ahaz, who would rather not be shouldered with that responsibility.