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22 December 2013

Sermon: Advent 4A (OT)

22 December AD 2013

Title: Testing or Trusting (MP3 Audio)

Satan Tempting Jesus on the Temple's Pinnacle Summary: God clearly commanded Israel, “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah. (Deuteronomy 6:16)” Centuries later, Jesus turned this admonition against Satan, the original tester of God (Matthew 4:7).

Yet in today’s text, when the prophet commands Ahaz to do just such a thing and the king refuses to “put the Lord to the test,” Isaiah rebukes him. Why? Because there are two ways of “testing” God and Ahaz rejected the proper way while persisting to do so improperly.

To falsely test God is to try His patience by persistent complaining, doubting, and open rebellion. Ahaz was a master of such behavior, importing false gods and shameful worship practices, going so far as to sacrifice his own children in the fire (see 2 Chronicles 28:1-4). Yet when offered the opportunity to seek a sign — even one of incredible proportions — Ahaz declined. And while seeming to be acting in piety, it’s clear that he actually did so in confirmed unbelief.

God wants you to test Him. Not, of course, by seeking frivolous signs nor by continuing unbelief and sinful activities — He invites you to hold Him to His promises of forgiveness, life, and salvation. He dares you to say, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner! (Luke 18:13)” He challenges you to ask for all that He wants to give you, trusting that you will receive.

All of this He does for the sake of Immanuel, His Son. For in Jesus’ human flesh, God tested Himself to the very limits of endurance. He challenged Himself to remain faithful, to rely only on what the Father provided, and to bear the pain of punishment for all mankind’s sins. He dared to face rejection, abuse, torture, and death to pay for all of your improper, impious testing of your God. Now He asks that you righteously test your God, calling on Him to grant everything that Jesus won for you in His days of testing and trial on earth.

Virgin Mary Text: Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.”

But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.”

And [Isaiah] said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also?

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.

“The Lord will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah — the king of Assyria.” Isaiah 7:10-17

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Audio: Click to hear the MP3 of Testing or Trusting.

NB: For some reason, a few people have had problems trying to play the inline audio if Windows Media is their default MP3 player. If this occurs, you can either change to QuickTime or another default browser player, copy and paste the link directly into a selected player, or download it to your computer, where it seems to work regardless of which player. Several folks have suggested VLC Player from VideoLAN.

Other Readings: Psalm 24; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-25

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