The annunciation of the Lord

I will not tempt the Lord! (Isaiah 7:12)

In today’s first reading, King Ahaz is being offered something that he may not want—a victory that comes not from fighting but from passive waiting. Commissioned by God, the prophet Isaiah has given him an unexpected set of directions about a dangerous military threat: Sit tight, and wait for God to act. Don’t be afraid. In fact, don’t do anything! (Isaiah 7:4,7-9). But with enemies massing on his northern border, Ahaz is scared witless. All the evi­dence tells him that their attack will succeed and that Jerusalem will fall. How can he sit idly by as his king­dom teeters on the edge of such a precipice?

When God tries to bolster his faith—Ask me for a sign, any sign!— Ahaz refuses. But he does so in words that sound so very humble: “I will not ask! I will not tempt the Lord!” (Isaiah 7:12). It’s more likely that this pious protest is really a cover for stubbornness. Ahaz insists on going his own way, ignoring the word from Isaiah and pursuing foreign alliances instead—and with unfortunate con­sequences. By rejecting the offer of a sign, Ahaz is also rejecting God’s direction.

Ahaz’ response could hardly be more different from Mary’s yes. Unlike Ahaz, she is ready to trust and act on God’s every word. No crip­pling fears, no stubborn agenda, no false humility. When Gabriel reveals God’s plan to her, Mary has no thought of refusing. Rather, she wants to cooperate! Her puzzled question: “How can this be?” is not a protest but a way of seeking guidance about how to proceed. And though Mary doesn’t ask for a sign, she immedi­ately accepts the one that Gabriel offers (Luke 1:36-37).

Few of us will face decisions as momentous as the ones Mary and Ahaz confronted. Or if we do, they will be very few and very far between. But at the same time, we do face less earth-shaking choices every day. How important it is to get into the habit of telling God: “Thy will be done”! Then, when faced with the bigger decisions, we will find it that much easier to trust and obey our faithful God—just as Mary did!

“Lord, I welcome everything you want to give me. I trust you with all the situations that I find most difficult and perplexing.”

Psalm 40:7-11; Hebrews 10:4-10; Luke 1:26-38