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Posted: December 16, 2010 6:25 p.m.

Grace Notes: What will you do with the promise?

What if George Washington had lost? Would you still know his name, or would Benedict Arnold be the guy that all the third grade history projects are on?

What if Christopher Columbus had been wrong and fallen off the face of the flat earth? Would we still be reciting poems about him, or would he just be a footnote in history whose name is only known because it is occasionally used as a slur against someone who makes foolish and deadly decisions?

History is full of individuals who have been faced with a defining moment, encounters that either put them in the history books or in the graveyard. Our text from Isaiah 7 shows us the defining moment for a guy named Ahaz, and really a defining moment for each of us reading this too, as we come face to face with the same thing Ahaz did: a promise. So here is your defining moment: What will you do with the promise?

Read Isaiah 7. Long story short: God promised Ahaz special protection and victory in a battle if he just trusted him. This was that defining moment for Ahaz, right? He had two clear options: He could trust God’s promise through the prophet and see what happens, or he could trust in his own political savvy and align himself with the king of Assyria, his false gods and his strong army. He chose his pride over God’s promise. Think about that – God’s promise.

But what’s even more shocking than Ahaz throwing out that promise, is what God does while Ahaz is wrestling with it. God tells Ahaz through Isaiah basically: "Ask me for any sign that will help you trust this promise, anything whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights, and I’ll do it."

But Ahaz is too proud. He didn’t want to have to share any glory with God. So God says, "Fine, I’ll give the glory to a humble virgin girl" and then shakes the world with the next promise he gives: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel."

Realize what just happened. God made so very clear that this whole issue of trusting God in physical things is really a spiritual issue.

So here we are, faced with a promise, actually faced with all sorts of promises. The Bible is full of them. "Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you." "I am the good shepherd." "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you." "I am the way and the truth and the life." One after another, promise after promise. So we’re back to the question: What will you do with the promise?

This is important. So let’s be real. I’m sure Benedict Arnold could have given you a list of reasons and defenses for why he did what he did, why he helped the British and betrayed the Continental forces. But you don’t buy them, do you? If you know nothing of him but his name, you know he was a traitor, one of the "bad guys" of history.

Arnold had his reasons. Ahaz had his reasons. What are yours? Why do you not rely on the promises?

Why have you ever worried? God promised he knows how many hairs are on your head and he cares for you. There’s no reason to worry. Why have you ever been mad at something that happened to you? God promised that all things are working together for your good, even your trials and tribulations. Why don’t you trust his promises?

It’s not because he’s not strong enough to hold you. You fall for the same reason I fall. We are sinners, hard wired with pride. But that’s why the promise in our text is so vital. "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel." Immanuel means "God with us." We are sinners. We deserve to be sent away from the Holy God forever. For refusing to lean on his promises, for seeing our strength as somehow more reliable, we deserve all the wrath God can muster.

But instead, God comes to you with a promise, with Christmas. God with us.

Even as you daily wrestle with holding God to his promises…Out of the blue each year God adds promise on promise. The Lord himself will give you a sign. The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel.

If God can do that for you, everything else is a piece of cake for him. He maneuvered heaven and earth for the divine to take human flesh and let our eyes that can not see God and live see God in Jesus, because he said so, because he promised it: God with us.

So what will you do with his promise? Believe! Then come join us at church to celebrate those promises and what they mean.

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