The Hope of the Advent—Isaiah 7:14 (Part 2)
Moses recorded the ancient prophecy in Genesis 3:15 about 1445 BC. After Adam and Eve gave into temptation, they were given consequences for their decision to sin. The sin of our first parents could not be undone apart from God's gracious redemptive plan. Romans 5:12-17 records the history of sin and its devastating effect upon humanity. However, it also records the story of Jesus, the difference-making Son of God, given as a Messiah for all who will receive him. All mankind died as a result of Adam's sin, but Jesus made a way to forgiveness and eternal life through his perfect sacrifice and victorious resurrection. The Scriptures explains, "Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ." I thank God for the free gift of Jesus Christ. It amazes me how God was able to make way for the Messiah through a virgin birth.
In my last blog post, I wrote about the introduction of the first mentioning of God's plan of deliverance through the seed or offspring of the woman, as recorded in Genesis 3:15. It is really the first time the scriptures mention anything remotely close to the virgin birth as a means of salvation for humanity and final punishment for the wicked, including Satan. Much happens between Moses' writing of the Pentateuch and the time of the great prophet Isaiah. However, we should not think that God is absent from his people. He indeed acts as Immanuel as Israel is delivered from Egypt, wanders in the wilderness, battles for the promise land, and sets up a tabernacle and eventually a temple. God was also with the leaders he appointed over the 700 year span between Moses and Isaiah. He guided and empowered prophets, priests, and kings to shepherd his people. By the time Isaiah records his book, under the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the nation of Israel has long split into two parts; the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Isaiah wrote during the latter part of the 8th Century B.C. His time as a prophet would cover the span of four kings. The state of the Southern Kingdom during this time was in decline in every way. King Ahaz, leader of the Judah, was facings a dilemma in Isaiah 7:1-14. Two kings from the North, Rezin, and Pekah, were plotting against him and sought to replace him with their puppet king. Isaiah tries to assure King Ahaz that this will not happen and that these men would be overthrown. He also writes that there will be a time, 65 years from the time of prophecy given in Isaiah 7:1-9, that the nation of Israel would be captured. The prophet Isaiah challenged Ahaz to ask him for a divine sign to affirm his bleak prophecy, but he proudly refused. Some believe that Ahaz had already requested help from the Assyrian emperor just before the prophecy. Regardless of his reason, Ahaz did not ask for a sign. The Lord, through the prophet Isaiah, rebuked Ahaz and gave Ahaz a sign anyway. Isaiah 7:14- 17 says, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. 15 He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. 16 For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. 17 The LORD will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father's house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria!"
The sign given to Ahaz was for fulfillment in his lifespan, but it also alluded to a much more significant fulfillment some 700 years later, as recorded in Matt. 1. In the immediate, a child would be born of a virgin and be named Immanuel. The Hebrew word "Virgin," as used in Isaiah 7:14, is the word "Almah" (used approximately nine times in the OT), which can refer to virgins (Gen. 24:43). Still, some translators argue that it was also used to refer to young maidens or young women who were not necessarily virgins (Prov. 30:19). In other words, as context would define it in Isaiah 7:14, a young woman would bear a son to be called "Immanuel" or "God with Us." In Isaiah's day, this young child would be raised during a time where the political landscape would negatively shift, and the economy would suffer much. Eventually, the threat of Assyria would overtake Judah as the child of the prophecy grows older. However, as it was in Genesis 3:15, hope arises from the seed of a woman and the assurance that God will be with us amid redemption.
It is sometimes difficult to understand biblical prophecy. There is often an immediate fulfillment that becomes apparent to the prophet and their contemporaries. And yet, there can be a further out fulfillment in some prophecies. In Is. 7:14 the longer fulfillment was the virgin birth of Jesus by the Virgin Mary. In Matthew 1:18-25, the Angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and assured him that his betrothed, Mary, has not been compromised in her virgin purity. Then, under the Inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Matthew records the angel's words as an ancient fulfillment of Genesis. 3:15 and Isaiah 7:14. Matthew 1:20-23 says, "But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23"Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel" (which means, God with us)." In just a few words, the angel ties together the ancient prophecy with the fulfillment of Jesus as the coming Immanuel born of a virgin.
The Isaiah passage, as it is fulfilled in the New Testament, reminds us of several vital lessons.
1) The Virgin Birth was a Miracle Born of Necessity. It is a miracle that Jesus was born of a Virgin. It is also of Necessity that the Father transformed the womb of Mary under the power of the Spirit. Jesus was able to maintain full divinity and full humanity. In doing so, he could be humanity's representative and perfect substitution for our sins.
2) God is fully capable of sovereignly directing time to fulfill his Word. God is not limited by time, space, power, or wisdom to accomplish his plans for his people.
3) No obstacle is so great to thwart the plan of God for his covenant people. Governments, rulers, time, and space cannot stop God's purposes from being fulfilled for his people.
Pastor Jamie McClanahan