Isaiah 38:7-8

Sermon preached on November 12, 2017 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2017. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

Many years ago I heard a story about the young lady who had two suitors. Both of them had proposed to her. She was not sure which one she should marry. After much thought she couldn't make up her mind and so she decided that whichever one phoned her next, that would be a sign that he was the one she should marry. Not too long after the phone rang and it was one of her boyfriends. She picked the phone up, heard his voice and quickly slammed the phone back on the receiver. At that moment she realized the one who phoned first wasn't the one she wanted. That sign about the first one who phoned being the one didn't work.

I've heard of people who see signs in things they shouldn't see them. A minister once told me about a guy whose car broke down in front of his church. The man took that as a sign that he should go to that church. He thought that was a sign from God. Was it really? The minister who told me that was a very nice fellow, but he wasn't a Christian. He didn't preach the gospel. So it seems to me that your car breaking down next to a liberal church isn't a sign from God that you should go there. Maybe the man should have taken it as a sign that he shouldn't go there—after all his car broke down there. Something bad happened to him there. But, that too, would be just speculation. The car breaking down wasn't a sign in any way about which church to attend. It might be a sign that he needs to take better car of his car or that he needs a new car. But even then you might be reading too much into an insignificant event.

I had a your couple visit my church in Lisbon. They were looking for a home church and they had tried a few churches and this particular Sunday morning, the one in which they were coming to our church, he was shaving and he said to his wife,

"I'd like to hear a sermon on the Valley of Dry Bones."

That Sunday I wasn't preaching on the Valley of Dry Bones but I did mention it in my sermon. He told me that he nearly fell out of his seat when I said that. He took that as a sign that they should come to our church and they did attend for 3 or 4 years. Was that a sign? I don't think so. I don't think anyone should pick a church on the basis of the mere mention of a certain biblical passage.

Signs. What are they for? Are they for us? Should we look for signs?

In our text Hezekiah was given a sign. From 2 King 20 we see that Hezekiah asked for the sign. After he asked for the sign, he was given the choice of seeing the sun's shadow go down ten steps or go back ten steps on the stairway of Ahaz. Hezekiah chose to see the shadow go back ten steps. Many commentators believe that Hezekiah had good reason for asking for a sign. Robert Bruce writes, (Way to True Peace and Rest)

"Augustine writes that because the prophet made two quite contrary statements within the space of less than an hour, clearly they could not both be fulfilled; therefore, it was right that a sign be given to confirm Isaiah's second pronouncement.""As to his soliciting for such a sign, he did not seek it out of unbelief, therefore he was not tempting God; rather he sought it to strengthen and confirm his weak faith—"

This sign was given to Hezekiah to help his faith.

This was one of the purposes of signs in the Old Testament. Signs were also given for other reasons, but to increase faith was one of the purposes of signs. When Gideon was told by God to go up against the Midianites and save Israel. Gideon replied, (Judges 6:15)

"But Lord, how can I save Israel?
My clan is the weakest in Manasseh,
and I am the least in my family."

Gideon's faith was weak. So before he went out to lead the Israelites in battle, he asked for a sign. He placed a wool fleece on the threshing floor. He said that if in the morning there was only dew on the fleece and none on the ground, that would be a sign that God would save Israel by Gideon's hand. The next morning the fleece was wet and the ground was dry.

But that wasn't enough for Gideon. One sign wasn't enough for him. After the first sign Gideon still wasn't satisfied. He asked God for a further sign. He requested that the next morning that the fleece be dry and the ground be covered with dew. God gave him the second sign.

Are signs for today? Do we have signs from God?

Absolutely. Ever since the flood we have been given the rainbow as a sign. In Genesis 9:11–16 God said to Noah,

"Never again will all life
be cut off by the waters of a flood;
never again will there be a flood
to destroy the earth.
And God said,
'This is the sign of the covenant
I am making between me and you
and every living creature with you,
a covenant for all generations to come:
I have set my rainbow in the clouds,
and it will be the sign of the covenant
between me and the earth.
Whenever I bring clouds
over the earth and the rainbow
appears in the clouds,
I will remember my covenant
between me and you and
all living creatures of every kind.
Never again will the waters
become a flood to destroy all life.
Whenever the rainbow
appears in the clouds,
I will see it and remember
the everlasting covenant
between God and all living creatures
of every kind on the earth."

We see rainbows many times a year. Whenever you see it it's a sign from God. That sign is for this age. It should help your faith.

When you look out at the stars at night they are a sign to you. Psalm 19:1–4 says,

"The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.
There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world."

God gives us signs every day. But they are signs for which God has given us the meaning.

There are other signs that have been given to God's people. In Matthew 24:3 Jesus disciples said to Him,

"Tell us… when will this happen,
and what will be the sign
of your coming and
of the end of the age?"

In Matthew 24:27–33 Jesus said,

"For as lightning that comes from
the east is visible even in the west,
so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
Wherever there is a carcass,
there the vultures will gather.
Immediately after the distress of
those days 'the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies
will be shaken.'
At that time the sign of the Son of Man
will appear in the sky,
and all the nations of the earth will mourn.
They will see the Son of Man
coming on the clouds of the sky,
with power and great glory.
And he will send his angels
with a loud trumpet call,
and they will gather his elect
from the four winds, from
one end of the heavens to the other.
Now learn this lesson from the fig tree:
As soon as its twigs get tender
and its leaves come out,
you know that summer is near.
Even so, when you see all these things,
you know that it is near,
right at the door."

Those things are signs for all Christians.

But the question is:

should we ask for additional

specific signs in our daily lives?

That doesn't seem to be the teaching of the New Testament. Not at all. We aren't told to seek additional signs. Indeed, quite the opposite. We are told to have faith. In 2 Corinthians 5:7 the apostle Paul wrote,

"for we walk by faith,
not by sight."

When Jesus appeared to doubting Thomas, Thomas believed because he had seen Jesus. Jesus said to him, (John 20:29)

"Have you believed
because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have
not seen and yet have believed."

Jesus implies that not seeing will be the norm in the future. Indeed, before that great chapter on faith in Hebrews 11, the writer to the Hebrews wrote, (Hebrews 10:38–39)

"my righteous one shall live by faith,
and if he shrinks back,
my soul has no pleasure in him.
But we are not of those who
shrink back and are destroyed,
but of those who have faith
and preserve their souls."

Indeed, Jesus discounted the value of signs. In the Parable of Lazarus and the rich man, when the rich man, in Hades, asked for Abraham regarding Lazarus, (Luke 16:27–31)

"I beg you, father,
to send him to my father's house—
for I have five brothers—
so that he may warn them,
lest they also come
into this place of torment.'
But Abraham said,
'They have Moses and the Prophets;
let them hear them.'
And he said,
'No, father Abraham,
but if someone goes to them
from the dead, they will repent.'
He said to him,
'If they do not hear
Moses and the Prophets,
neither will they be convinced
if someone should rise from the dead."

Signs are minimized by Jesus. Hebrews 11 also shows us that.

Rather, as a Christian you should have great faith in God.

You are to believe God. You are to believe His promises in the Word. You are supposed to have great faith, such that you don't need signs.

In Matthew 8:7–10 we have the story of the centurion who came to Jesus and told Him that he had a servant at home who was paralyzed in terrible suffering. Jesus said to the centurion,

"I will go and heal him."

The centurion replied,

"Lord, I do not deserve to have you
come under my roof.
But just say the word,
and my servant will be healed.
For I myself am a man under authority,
with soldiers under me.
I tell this one, 'Go,'and he goes;
and that one, 'Come,'and he comes.
I say to my servant,
'Do this,'and he does it.'
When Jesus heard this, he was astonished
and said to those following him,
'I tell you the truth,
I have not found anyone in Israel
with such great faith."

Jesus praised the centurion for his faith. That's the kind of faith you should have. There's no need for you not to have it. Indeed, in one sense you have more information than the centurion had. You have all the New Testament and the promises it contains.

Your faith should be in God, in Jesus, in His word. In 2 Peter 1:19 the apostle wrote,

"And we have the word of the prophets
made more certain,
and you will do well
to pay attention to it,
as to a light shining in a dark place,
until the day dawns and
the morning star rises in your hearts."

David R. Helm writes, (1 & 2 Peter and Jude: p. 216)

"It is as if Peter, on the verge of departing from this world, desires to lift up his voice one final time in an effort to declare to the church throughout all time, 'Listen to me—I was an eyewitness to the saving acts of God in history. And I know that after Christ's death and resurrection God will have no need to ever again perform these things in the presence of another generation. But remember, this in no way means that your faith is inferior to mine [1:1]. We have both been given the prophetic promises of God. We can all read the words written down long ago. They are a more sure light than anything I ever saw or heard. Beloved, my seeing these things is important. Witnesses are essential. But God does not need to appear in the flesh every forty or fifty years to enlighten us and confirm his love to us. Seeing isn't essential for believing—reading God's Word is!' "

Gene L. Green adds, (BECNT)

"Paying heed to the prophets is not simply a good thing to do but indeed the right thing to do."

After I finished seminary in Scotland I came back to Canada and I was looking for a job as a minister. But the Post Office was on strike and I couldn't send my resume to churches. I worked for a few months at a church but when that ended I was concerned about the future. One dark and windy evening I decided to walk to the post office with a letter. Walking down the street a bird fell out of a tree and landed on the street just ahead of me. It was dead. Was that a sign? Well, it reminded me of the place where Jesus said not a sparrow can fall to the ground apart from the will of the Father. (Matthew 10:29) It was like God was drawing my attention to the Word, and what it says, and telling me to believe it.

You see, the Word is vital. Our faith is to be in Jesus. We are to believe Him, His Word.

The sign God gave Hezekiah pointed him to

God's incredible power.

To make it so that the shadow on the steps went backwards. What an incredible sign that pointed to God's power. John Calvin writes, (Commentary)

"And this sign bears a resemblance to the event itself, as all other signs generally do; for it is as if he had said, 'As it is in my power to change the hours of the day, and to make the sun go backwards, so it is in my power to lengthen thy life."

Christians, trust God. Jesus is true. His word is true. His commands, His promises are all true. Trust Him. Trust His word. You don't need additional signs to live for His glory. You have everything you need in Him.