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.”
Often God tells us to pray, and sometimes He even tells us how to pray. It is very foolish not to listen and obey! This particular passage, being the prophecy of Immanuel, is frequently read around Christmas, but this lesson about prayer is certainly applicable year-round. Ahaz was in a very dangerous situation, and Isaiah had confirmed the danger but then had given a strong word of encouragement that God was still in control. I have always liked the line immediately before these verses: “If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.” (verse 9) Ahaz was being put to the test, and frankly, he failed. However, as Paul reminded Timothy, “If we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13) The prophecy of Immanuel was probably fulfilled once in the short term soon after this, but we don’t know the details of that. What we do know is that it was fulfilled for all eternity in the birth of Jesus, many years after Isaiah spoke it. All of that said, we are back to the fact that Ahaz was told to ask for a sign and he refused. On the face of it he was being very pious, because “putting God to the test” was very poorly spoken of in the Pentateuch, but this was refusing a direct instruction from God by way of Isaiah. It’s probable that he didn’t trust that Isaiah was hearing God accurately, but that’s a poor excuse, particularly considering Isaiah’s track record up to that point. This brings to mind one of Jesus’ most famous teachings: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8) We aren’t to be selfish or greedy, but after all, God tells us to ask!
This is of course as close to home for me as it is for anyone. I couldn’t begin to tally up all the things God has granted that I have asked for, but at the same time, there have been many that God said were not what I needed, or was best. I couldn’t calculate the ratio between the affirmative and negative answers, but in the process I have come to the absolute conviction that God has my best interests in mind. Just yesterday I watched a video of a man talking about his near-death experience, and the best word he could come up with to describe it was love. The longer I live in faith, the more sure I am that is correct. As Bill Gaither wrote, The Longer I Serve Him, the Sweeter He Grows. I want to obey His every command, because I know that every one stems from His love, that was strong enough to cause Him to give His Son to die in my place. He says ask, so I will ask!
Father, thank You for this reminder. Help me recognize what You are saying to me at all times, and be quick to respond in obedience, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!