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Advent 2013 #2 The Immanuel Prophecy


The Immanuel Prophecy 

Text.  Isaiah 7:10-17 (14Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.)

We have two main tools to help us in our hermeneutics…

*The Rule of Context.  We pay attention to the context.  We never get a notion in our head, then look for a verse to back it up.  We don’t read ourselves into the text.  We don’t pick single verses and join them up with other, unrelated verses to come up with some strange belief.  We keep the scriptures in context.  We learn why the book was written and why the passage was written and what it means, and we view the individual verse in the overall context of its passage and its book.  

* The Rule of Reference.  We allow Scripture to interpret Scripture, and we read the OT in the light of the revelation of God in the NT.  That’s why your Bible should have a good centre reference system.

There are other tools, like the biblical languages and textual grammar etc, but those are the two main rules.  So, what do you do when those two rules seem to disagree?  It looks like that really happens in this text!  So, let’s look at the historical setting of the prophecy and at the NT relevance of it:-

1. The Historical Background.

Who can you trust in times of trouble and difficulty?  That’s the question that so worried the King of Judah, Ahaz, during Isaiah’s ministry.

Jerusalem under deadly threat!  Faced with two ferocious enemies Ahaz didn’t know what to do.  It was around the year 733BC and to the north of his kingdom, Judah, a great army was amassing – the kings of Syria and Israel had aligned themselves against Judah. V1  

Jerusalem’s Decision.  There were two possible solutions being offered to Ahaz.  Ask the king of Assyria for help or trust the Lord.’

Which do you think he chose?  Well, he did what sinners always do, he chose evil instead of good and he chose man’s way instead of God’s way.    But God, speaking through his prophet, Isaiah, is merciful with Judah and with Ahaz.  He pleads with them to trust him, giving them assurances that if they just trust him and wait patiently, these armies shall be no more. Then, in order to give some confidence to Ahaz, and to assure him of his sovereignty, he even goes so far as to offer them a sign.  V11  Ahaz refuses.  V12-14,   So, God promises them a sign wether they want one or not.  Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.  Within a short space of time the prophet’s wife has given birth, and they give him a strange name, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz.   (The spoil speeds, the prey hastens)

2. The New Testament Fulfilment.

Matthew 1:23 Behold, a virgin η παρθενος shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.

But could the prophecy just refer to the prophet’s son?  Only in a partial sense.  With the fulfilment of the Messianic prophecies in the incarnation of Christ, we now know who exactly the prophet Isaiah was speaking about.  So let’s turn to the NT:-

The sign is fulfilled in Christ.  God promised Ahaz a sign.  The sign was fully given in Christ.  No further sign is needed and none  is necessary!

No sign for unbelievers.  In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, the beggar died and was in Heaven, while the rich man was in torment in hell.  He pleaded with Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his family and friends, to give them a sign, that they would not follow him into a lost eternity.  The answer is stark, Luke 13:28-31  

No sign for believers.  There are still so many Christians looking for a sign, a sign of the second coming…   Jesus tells us that his coming will be without warning.  Paul tells us it will be like a thief in the night.  1 Thess 5:2,  We are distinctly warned not to look for a sign. Matthew 16:4.  

God has given us a sign already.  That sign was the incarnation of his son Jesus into this world, his sinless life and atoning death on the cross for sinners.

2. The supernatural birth is fulfilled in Christ. The Hebrew word used here for virgin is the word ALMAH.  Sometimes it is used to mean a young woman of marriageable age – but the LXX, translated by Jewish scholars around 100BC uses the Greek η παρθενος which can ONLY mean virgin, so we can be certain that the proper translation is VIRGIN. It assures us:-

Of His deity. and in his unique birth we are reminded…

Of his worthiness to be our Saviour.

3. The supreme name is only fulfilled in Christ.  His name is Immanuel!  God is with us!   thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.

3. The Application of the Immanuel Prophecy.

Finally, I would like you to see the synergy in application that lies between the OT account and the NT account of the Immanuel prophecy and it’s fulfilment.

In both testaments there is a dreadful enemy.

In both testaments the enemy is defeated!

In both testaments there is opportunity to repent.

In both testaments there is hope.

So Isaiah spoke God’s will to Judah in his day, and addressed the situation, giving the king opportunity to repent and turn from the path he was on.  But the Holy Spirit used his words to prefigure a greater, future deliverance for those who would repent of their sins and trust Jesus, the baby who would be born in the manger at Bethlehem, and who would die on a cross for sinners.

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