Isaiah Week 4: Asking for a Sign and Rejecting Fake Piety

(December 18, 2022)

Bottom line: the LORD sometimes wants us to ask for a sign. God, show me that you exist. Reject false piety like saying "I don't want to be like those hypocrites who go to church and then do bad things." .

This Advent we have focused on the prophecies of Isaiah. We have seen three: 1) They shall beat their swords into plowshares, 2) A shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesus and 3) The desert will bloom. Today we see the fourth and greatest prophecy. Before stating it, let's look at the context. First, Isaiah says this to Ahaz, King of Jerusalem:

The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying: Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God; let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky!

Sometimes God does want us to ask for a sign. In his book Ten Prayers God Always Says Yes To, here's the first prayer "God, show me that you exist." If you ask sincerely, God will show you that he exists. People, especially young people, tell me that they sometimes doubt God's existence. That's understandable considering all the confusion and suffering in our world. On the other hand, there are good arguments for God's existence. Still, sometimes best of all is to simply ask him, God, show me that you exist.

That's not so easy. Instead of asking God for a sign, King Ahaz responded,

"I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!"

What we see here is false piety. Sometimes people use fake piety to reject God. I remember once inviting a guy to church. He pointed outside and said, "This is my church." He was trying to say that he experiences God outside, maybe taking a walk through beautiful creation. That might be, but I noticed the guy spends a lot more time with his cell phone, that he does outside on quiet walks. On Christmas, I'll give the example of a famous person in our state who used false piety as an excuse to avoid God.

Isaiah calls the king on his hypocrisy:

Then Isaiah said: Listen, O house of David! Is it not enough for you to weary people, must you also weary my God?

Abraham Lincoln said you can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of time. But, you know, we can never fool God. We can fool our own selves, but we cannot fool God. As Samuel said, "man sees the outward appearance, but the LORD sees the heart."

God then does give the king this sign:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.

Next weekend we will see the fulfillment of this prophecy as we celebrate Christmas, Jesus' birth. Don't miss it - and invite your family members and friends.

For today, recognize that sometimes the LORD sometimes wants us to ask for a sign. God, show me that you exist. Reject false piety like saying "I don't want to be like those hypocrites who go to church and then do bad things." And keep in mind God's own sign - a virgin shall conceive, bear as son and shall name him Emmanuel. Amen

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Resisting Happiness Week 2 - Tourist or Pilgrim? (Audio homily for Second Sunday of Advent, Year A 2016)

Faith & Inclusion (Audio homily for Second Sunday of Advent, Year A 2013)

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From Archives (Homilies for Second Sunday of Advent Year A):

2016: Resisting Happiness Week 2: Tourist or Pilgrim?
2013: Faith & Inclusion
2010: Silence, Sin, Spirit
2007: That We Might Have Hope
2004: The Leopard, the Lion and the Wolf
2001: Change Your Life!
1998: Holy Spirit and Fire

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