Sunday, June 06, 2010

Isaiah 7 - Immanuel: God with us

The last verse of Isaiah 6 gives us an introduction to a Holy Seed who will be the hope left in the Land. Then begins the ‘book of Immanuel’ as some scholars have dubbed it, from Isaiah 7:1-12:6, focusing on the Messiah and his Messianic Age. In Isaiah 6, Isaiah is called and told that his hearers would not listen to him, and beginning in chapter 7 it starts with King Ahaz.

But Isaiah’s reality was living in the Middle East of the 8th century B.C. and there were dangers all around. The year is 734 BC. Syria (Aram) and Israel (Ephraim, the ten northern tribes) had allied to attack and divide up Judah. Their motivation? For some time they Syria and the breakaway 10 northern tribes of Israel have seen the danger of the growing menace to their northeast, Assyria, and they have been pushing Judah, the house of David, to join them in an anti-Assyrian coalition (2 Kings 15-16), but Judah’s King Ahaz will not agree.
English: Ahaz was king of Judah, and the son a...
Ahaz  king of Judah. (Wikipedia)

Fear overcame the new king of Judah, Ahaz, but Isaiah met King Ahaz to tell him that Judah need not fear (Isa. 7:1-9). Ahaz is so shook up over everything that he shows his disbelief by refusing to ask Isaiah for a sign to authenticate Isaiah’s encouragement not to fear (Isa. 7:10-12). Isaiah then launches into a prophecy that combines God’s near-view promise to deal with the immediate international geopolitical situation and the far-view promise that God will fulfill his covenant commitment to David through a virgin-born child (Isa. 7:13-16). Since Ahaz has chosen to trust Assyria rather than the Lord, God will devastate the land of Judah (Isa. 7:17-25).

Pray and Read:  Isaiah 7

Key Truth: Isaiah wrote Isaiah 7 to teach Israel to trust the Lord who is with us, and is trustworthy, for fear is costly.

Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about trusting God and not your fears.

Sermon Points:
  1. Do not fear for God is trustworthy (Isa. 7:1-9)
  2. Do not fear for God is with us (Isa. 7:10-16)
  3. Do not fear for fear is costly (Isa. 7:17-25)
Exposition:   Note well,

Seal of Ahaz, king of Judah
a.   Isaiah 7:1 – Ahaz (reigned 735-715 BC) was one of Judah’s wicked kings, and his reign was marked by instability because he faced invasion. . When King Rezin of Syria (Damascus) and King Pekah of Israel (Samaria) went after him for refusing to join them against Assyria, Ahaz got scared and appealed to the growing superpower Assyria like a tattle-tale. He got Assyria’s attention, but Assyria was the bully on the block, and that nation didn't really care about any of these nations except what it could get out of them. So Assyria would devastate Syria and Israel, but would also attack Judah! (2 Kings 16:2-5; 2 Chron. 28:1-5). Their chosen replacement for Ahaz was a Syrian named Tabeel, meaning “good for nothing.”
b.   Isaiah 7:2-4 – Ahaz sets out to check the city’s water supply, but the Lord sends Isaiah to him with a message to keep calm and don’t be afraid. Isaiah’s son goes at the Lord’s command. His name means, “A remnant shall return.” The name now takes on a special significance (Isa. 6:11ff). Assyria had barely paid attention to Judah, but now Ahaz proposed to ask for Assyria’s help against the Syrians and northern Israelis (2 Kings 16:7f), making Judah a vassal state, and any future revolt against Assyria would mean invasion and deportation, so Shear-Yashub took on a new meaning.
c.   Why did God allow that? What about his promises to his Chosen People? When Ahaz submitted to the Assyrian Tiglath-Pileser III in Damascus, Ahaz did a wicked thing and adopted foreign deities. Ahaz sold out not only his people, but his people’s God, and that brought the curses of Deuteronomy 28 on him and his nation.
Tiglath-Pileser III of Assyria
d.   Isaiah 7:9 – Stand firm – Isaiah encourages Ahaz to stand firm in his faith or he will not stand at all. Isaiah knows it would be devastating to turn to Assyria for help (2 Kings 16:7). Over and over the history of Israel has shown that faith in God is more important than the size of the nation’s army or arsenal (2 Chron. 13:2-18).
e.   Ephesians 6:10-18
f.    Feelings of inferiority, fear (Judg. 7:3; 2 Kings 6:15-16; Jer. 1:7-8; Luke 12:32) and doubt (Judg. 6:36-40; 2 Kings 7:1-2, 18-20; Luke 1:18-20) are the three main enemies of the servants of the Lord  because they all reflect a lack of trust that prevents us from acting boldly for God. That is why these emotions are sometimes treated as synonymous with sin.[1]
g.   APPLICATION: Are you struggling with fear this morning? Fear over your job? Fear about your children? Fear about your health? Fear over this country? Fear about your marriage? Do you have fears that run wild and seem uncontrollable? Our God is trustworthy. You can trust the Lord.
2.   DO NOT FEAR FOR GOD IS WITH US (Isa. 7:10-16)
a.   Isaiah 7:10-12 – Putting the Lord to the test – Sounds pretty magnanimous and holy on the surface, doesn’t it? “I will not put the Lord to the test,” quoting Moses (Isa. 7:12; Exod. 17:2, 7; Deut. 6:16). Ahaz may have sounded pious, but Ahaz was commanded by the Lord to ask for a sign – a clearly supernatural event that would confirm Isaiah’s promise of safety to Judah. Asking for a sign from God is often evidence of a lack of faith (Matt. 12:38-42; Heb. 11:1-2), but here Ahaz’s refusal to ask after being commanded to do it, is instead evidence of his lack of faith. Ahaz was being disobedient to a direct command from the Lord. He demonstrated unbelief, not piety.
b.   The Lord Himself provides a sign to validate Isaiah’s prophecy of safety – the birth of a child. The message? The end of Judah’s enemies. This child will have enough to eat, and before he is old enough to know right from wrong, these two kings will be laid waste (Isa. 7:15-16).
c.   In the historical context of Isaiah 7, who was this child? There is a lot of speculation. One that makes sense to me is that he was a son of Ahaz, possibly Hezekiah his successor, who was one of the most faithful kings of Judah, and a descendant of David (2 Kings 23:25; 1 Kings 2:4). In the long view, though, this prophecy refers to Jesus Christ directly. Both Matthew and Luke make much of the fact that Jesus was born of a virgin (Matt. 1:18; Luke 1:26-35), and Matthew calls him Immanuel, connecting to this verse (Matt. 1:23).
Seal of Pekah, king of northern Israel
d.   Isaiah 7:14 – Immanuel – King Ahaz refused to seek a sign, but a sign is given nevertheless to the House of David (Isa. 7:13). The sign was to be a virgin pregnant with child who would be named Immanuel (Isa. 7:14). Before nine months expired, Judah’s invaders (Syria under King Rezin and N. Israel under Pekah) would have departed Judah.
e.   Scarcely any verse in the Bible has been more debated over 2000 years than Isaiah 7:14. Many controversial issues arise. What precisely is the sign itself? Does the Hebrew noun ‘almah signify ‘young woman’ (RSV) or virgin (KJV, NIV)? Does the passage demand an immediate fulfillment or not?
f.    No Christian who takes Matthew 1:20-23 seriously can deny an ultimate fulfillment in Christ; but two options still remain open. Was it a single fulfillment in Christ or a double fulfillment, one in Ahaz’ lifetime and also a Messianic fulfillment? The latter option seems a better one because a ‘sign’ requires a reasonably early fulfillment. The prediction may be long-term, but the sign is a contemporary pointer to the more distant event.
g.   Most scholars generally say that there is no Messianic prophecy here at all. This was only a child born to in Ahaz’ time, perhaps even Hezekiah, but the prophet is looking farther into the future. Most evangelical scholars look at the historical context of the passage only. They do not look at the literary context, or they read it out of context with the passage. They often as a result do not see this verse as prophetic of the Priest-King to come.
h.   The context is key to understanding this verse. We have the destruction of the Land and the holy seed from the stump (Isa. 6:13).At the end of chapter five there are six woes, then the seventh woe is found in Isa. 6:5: “Woe is me” before the Priest-King high and lifted up, ending with the holy seed in the stump.
i.     Then we enter Isaiah 7 in which a Child is born, but he is a strange child. First, his name is strange, Immanuel. The name means ‘God with us.’ But the unusual order of the words indicates an emphatic, “WITH US is God!” Thus this word captures the awe and wonder of the Incarnation, and the unimaginable fact that the God of the universe entered the world through a virgin’s womb to become like us and become one with us. Then this child refuses evil and chooses good (Isa. 7:15-16) twice. This has never been seen in human history. It is in contrast to Israel (Isa. 5:20) which calls evil good and good evil and rejects the Torah of the Lord twice (Isa. 5:24; 8:6). This Child is unique in all of Israel.
j.    We also see desolation and abandonment before the Coming of the Child (Isa. 6:11-12). Isaiah is seeing into the future, as we see from his taking his son, Shear-Yashub, meaning, “a remnant will return.”
k.   Ahaz will not ask for a sign, but he gets one anyway. God commands Ahaz (Isa. 7:11 uses 2nd person masculine singular imperative), but he is disobedient. God then turns to the whole house of David and will give “you all House of David” a sign (Isa. 7:13 uses 2nd person common plural).
l.     Isaiah 7:14 – “Behold the virgin” (ha almah). This is the key word. The almah is pregnant and will give birth to a son, and she will call his name ImmanuEl. An almah is a young, never-married woman in Scripture (used of Rebekah in Proverbs 30:19), so this pregnancy of an unmarried woman caused by a divine intervention must be a virginal conception. There is no word in Hebrew for virgin, virgo intacta. The Rabbis, in an effort to deflect the obvious problem that this verse creates for them in Yeshua (Jesus) being the Messiah, say that betûlah should have been used if the text meant virgin. The problem for the Rabbis is that betûlah does not mean virgin either. It means “a woman of marriageable age.” The Rabbis use Deuteronomy 22:13-21 as proof of the definition virgin, but Gordon Wenham has shown convincingly that his word means a woman with a regular period when she was betrothed. It is also used of Esther after her overnight stay with the King (Esther 2:17, 19). Further proof comes from Joel 1:8 where the word is used in reference to a married woman, “Wail like a betûlah.”
m. The Greek Septuagint (LXX) reads parthenos, a word meaning virgin. It was translated in 150 BC, a century and a half before Jesus was born, so the Jews recognized almah as meaning virgin at that time. Because their own Greek translation of the OT betrayed their claims, Isaiah 7:14 is the reason the Jewish synagogues gave up use of the Septuagint and went back to the Hebrew.
n.   The sign is that “the never-married young woman is ‘with child.’ Putting all this together, she must be a virgin, and the Jewish translators of the LXX interpreted almah in that way.
o.   This one verse of Scripture is fought by the Rabbis so ferociously because this one verse, if interpreted the way the Jews did in 150 B.C., would, by its implications in Isaiah, bring the entire nation of Israel to see Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, the Son of David to come.
p.   Before this boy would be at an age of accountability, the land of Damascus and Samaria would be desolated, but the boy would continue to eat butter and honey, the food of a desolated country (Isa. 7:22). The house of David would survive the threat. The son of Isaiah, Shear-Yashub, “a remnant will return,” is not Immanuel, but Shear-Yashub a sign to the House of David that it will survive.
q.   Tree imagery: Israel will be ashamed of their sacred oaks and gardens, and they will dry up (Isa. 1:29). He will bring down every lofty cedar and oak (Isa. 2:13). But the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious and fruitful (Isa. 4:2). He will destroy his vineyard (Isa. 5:5-7). The roots will decay and their flowers blow away (Isa. 5:24). The great terebinth and oak will be cut down and left as stumps, but the Holy Seed will be the stump in the land (Isa. 6:13). Ahaz and the house of David shook in fear as the trees in the forest are shaken (Isa. 7:2) at two smoldering stubs of firewood. Their vineyards would soon become briers and thorns (Isa. 7:23-25) and the forests will burn (Isa. 9:18)
r.    Fire imagery: The mighty man and his work will become tinder to burn with no quenching (Isa. 1:31), but the Lord will cleanse Jerusalem’s bloodstains with a spirit of judgment and fire (Isa. 4:4), for the Lord will be a flaming fire and smoke over Mount Zion (Isa. 4:6). His fiery anger will burn against those who deny justice to the innocent (Isa. 5:23-25).  But the seraphs (the burning ones) praise the King continually, shaking the doorposts and filling with smoke (Isa. 6:1-4). Rezin and Pekah are nothing but smoldering stubs of firewood (Isa. 7:4), already smoking with their own destruction. For war equipment will be burned (Isa. 9:5), and wickedness burns like a fire (Isa. 9:18-19).
s.    The same thing can be done with water and light/darkness imagery.
t.    The Sons: The King-Priest of Isa. 6:1 is the Holy Seed (Gen 3:15; Gal. 3:16) in the Stump (Isa. 6:13) and the Immanuel Child (Isa. 7:14) and the Mighty God of Isa. 9:6-7. There is no mention of a son after King Uzziah dies (Isa. 6:1-2). There is the Priest-King. He is the Son of Isa. 7:14 and Isa. 9:5-7. Despite the attempt by Pekah and Rezin to install their own ‘son’ Tabeel (meaning good for nothing) on Judah’s throne, there is a Son of David that will rule.
u.   Further details on this child are found in Isaiah 9. His birth there is assurance that warfare and oppression for Israel will end. Note the parallels between Isa. 7:14 and Isa. 9:5. The Immanuel child does not represent only the presence of God, but he is in fact the Mighty God (El Gibor) (Isa. 9:6). Thus, the King-Priest of Isaiah 6 is a future Davidic Ruler who is Deity in his essence.
v.   Justice and Righteousness: The prophecy opens with a promise that Zion will be redeemed in justice and righteousness (Isa. 1:27). The Song of the Vineyard in ch. 5 ends with a vain search for justice and righteousness (Isa. 5:7) though the Lord of hosts will be exalted in justice and righteousness (Isa. 5:16). From Isaiah 1-12, this word pair is only found one other time, at Isa. 9:6-7 as the foundation of the eternal kingdom ruled by the divine Son. Only through this king will God be pleased with what he finds in his vineyard.
w. Isa. 7:16 – Before the boy knows enough – The boy mentioned here is a type of the promised son of the virgin. A Jewish boy was bar-mitzvahed at 12 or 13 years at which time he was considered a moral adult, responsible for his own actions to reject wrong and choose the right. Thus, the sign proving Isaiah’s words about salvation coming through Immanuel born of a virgin would be the destruction of Israel and Syria by the Assyrian within a dozen years. That is exactly what happened, Syria and Israel were gone, laid waste, conquered by Assyria Syria in 732 BC, and northern Israel in 722 BC, just thirteen years after Ahaz became king.
x.   Isa. 7:16 – An unusual child – rejects the wrong and chooses the right. What child has ever done that? None! Except one! A Holy Seed from a stump (Isa. 6:13), the Hope, the Holy One of Israel who is high and lifted up.
y.   APPLICATION:  John 15 tells us to rest in Him, to abide in the Vine. Matthew 28:20 tells us he will be with us always
3.   DO NOT FEAR FOR FEAR IS COSTLY (Isa. 7:17-25)
a.   God will use Assyria and Egypt against Judah’s enemies (Isa. 7:17-20) and Judah herself. Pekah would be assassinated in an Assyrian-backed plot. Syria (Aram) was annexed by Assyria in 732. Damascus was overthrown, and Rezin was executed. The Assyrians would lay waste northern Israel. The inhabitants of Israel will be deported beginning in 733 B.C. and the final destruction of Samaria in 722 BC during the reign of Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:9-12). But there is a price for Judah to pay. The desolation they cause will make agriculture give way to animal husbandry, and previously large flocks will be reduced to no more than one cow and two goats (Isa. 7:23-25).
b.   But the coming of Assyria would spell worse trouble for Judah too than she had ever known in her history as a separate kingdom. The temporary relief from Judah’s enemies would be more than offset by the domination and oppression of Judah’s new ally, Assyria.
c.   Isa. 7:21-25 – curds and honey – curds are more like butter since it was produced by churning (Prov. 30:33) (ghee, butterfat produced when cow butter is melted, boiled, or strained. Honey could be from bees or syrup from dates and figs.) . This is a direct reference back to verse 15, and a reversal. Here, Judah will be so depopulated that all there will be to eat will be curds and honey. Civilization as they know it will be gone. But a remnant will return.
d.   APPLICATION:  Fear will cost you time. It will cost you money. Fear will cost you your friends, your relationships, your children. Fear will make you a person who will not trust or love. But perfect love casts out fear (1 John 4:18).
Tokunboh Adeyemo, gen ed. Africa Bible Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.
Robert Cole, “Isaiah,” OT Survey notes, SEBTS, 2005.
David F. Payne, “Isaiah.” International Bible Commentary, F.F. Bruce, ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1986.
Lawrence O. Richards, Bible Reader’s Companion. Wheaton: Victor, 1991.
Walton, Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Old Testament, 593-4.

[1] ABC, Isaiah 7:9.