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     “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.” Then he 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.” Isa. 7:11-14

Dear heavenly Father, the more often and the more carefully I read your Word, the more I discover how little of your goodness I actually “get.” Your irrepressible love shows up everywhere. “Immanuel”—“God with us,” is one of the most well known and beloved titles in our Advent vocabulary; yet I’m reminded today that you gave this promise of your nearness and advocacy at a most unlikely time and to a most ill-deserving people.

What a compassionate and generous God you are. What a story of immeasurable mercy and grace you are telling in the gospel. It was a time of local and international crisis, and King Ahaz had every opportunity to repent and rely on you. You sent Isaiah with words of wisdom and hope. But he refused. Feigning piety, King Ahaz remained addicted to his illusion of control and self-sufficiency.

Father, as I read this story, I realize how much I’m like King Ahaz. Often I go through the motions of acknowledging you on the outside, but on the inside, especially in times of fear and threat, I shift my trust from you to me—and it never works out well. I grieve this illusion of control and self-sufficiency, and I ask you to free me from my unbelief and orphan-like fears.

That’s why the promise of Immanuel is so precious to me. Father, you’ve proven yourself to be a God who is not only with me in Jesus, but a God who is so very much for me in Jesus. Your love for us in the gospel is not only unconditional, it’s contra-conditional; for you’ve met every condition necessary to fulfill your commitment to redeem your pan-national people and restore your broken creation. How praise, bless and adore you!

King Jesus, though I don’t have the Assyrian army outside my door threatening my existence, I do have a number of challenges in front of me this Advent season. By faith, I purpose to rely on you for all the wisdom and strength I will need. You are with us and you are for us, and that’s enough of which to be certain. So very Amen I pray, in your holy and loving name.

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Scotty Smith

Scotty Smith is the founding pastor of Christ Community Church in Franklin, Tennessee. You can follow him on Twitter.

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