Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14
Yesterday we dealt with the New Testament appearance of this passage from Isaiah and today we are going to deal with the actual Old Testament passage that yesterday’s passage was based on. In order to give you a little bit of context to today’s passage we need to back a few verses to the beginning of Isaiah 7. Which begins with these words:
When Ahaz son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, was king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and Pekah son of Remaliah king of Israel marched up to fight against Jerusalem, but they could not overpower it.
Now the house of David was told, “Aram has allied itself with Ephraim ”; so the hearts of Ahaz and his people were shaken, as the trees of the forest are shaken by the wind.
Then the LORD said to Isaiah, “Go out, you and your son Shear-Jashub, to meet Ahaz at the end of the aqueduct of the Upper Pool, on the road to the Launderer’s Field. Say to him, ‘Be careful, keep calm and don’t be afraid. Do not lose heart because of these two smoldering stubs of firewood—because of the fierce anger of Rezin and Aram and of the son of Remaliah. Aram, Ephraim and Remaliah’s son have plotted your ruin, saying, “Let us invade Judah; let us tear it apart and divide it among ourselves, and make the son of Tabeel king over it.” Yet this is what the Sovereign LORD says:
“‘It will not take place,
it will not happen,
for the head of Aram is Damascus,
and the head of Damascus is only Rezin.
Within sixty-five years
Ephraim will be too shattered to be a people.
The head of Ephraim is Samaria,
and the head of Samaria is only Remaliah’s son.
If you do not stand firm in your faith,
you will not stand at all.’”
Again the LORD spoke to Ahaz, “Ask the LORD your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights. ”
But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the LORD to the test. ”
Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? Isaiah 7:1-13
As you can see the Kingdom of Judah is under attack from the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Aram. God has told the King of Judah through the prophet Isaiah that Judah will not fall to either the Kingdom of Israel or the Kingdom of Aram. What occurs next is one of only two places in the Scriptures where God asks someone to put him to the test (the other beginning in Malachi dealing with tithes and offerings). However, the King of Judah (Ahaz) refuses to ask God for a sign, because he claims he does not want to “put the LORD to the test”. While this may appear as a sign of great humility, it is in fact a rejection of God’s promise that he will deliver his people from their oppression and bondage. Which leads us up to today’s passage.
In today’s passage we see God’s response to Ahaz’s rejection of God’s promise of deliverance and his deciding to seek deliverance through his own means. God through the prophet Isaiah gives Ahaz the first of many Messianic prophecies. God tells Ahaz “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will him Immanuel.” The word “virgin” here can mean either one who has had no sexual relations or “a young woman before marriage”. Usually both meanings applied when this word was used. Like all Biblical prophecies this sign had both immediate and future applications. The immediate application refereed to a new bride, who would have been a virgin until the time of her marriage. And before her son was old enough to know right from wrong, the kings Aram and Israel would be destroyed (v. 16)
However, this prophecy’s final and highest fulfillment came through the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. Mary was a virgin and remained a virgin until after she gave birth to Jesus. Jesus was conceived through a miracle of the Holy Spirit rather than through the sexual involvement of a man. And the virgin’s son was to be called “Immanuel”, which means “God with us”. That name was understood with new and deeper meaning when Jesus Christ, God’s one and only Son, came into the world. Because when Jesus came into the world God was truly with us and because of Jesus’ redemptive work on the cross God is still with us. Which is why we celebrate Christmas.