Sunday, December 05, 2010

Isaiah 7:14 - The Virgin Shall Conceive

Opening thoughtMerry Christmas! For all the “peace, good will toward men” that Christmas is about, there is one Christmas verse that has stirred ire for two millennia. This morning we will look at what is historically the most controversial verse of Scripture in the Bible. 

Key Truth: Isaiah wrote Isaiah 7:14 to encourage Israel that the House of David would be preserved (2 Samuel 7:11).
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about the Virgin Birth.
Key Verse: Isaiah 7:14
Pray and Read:  Isaiah 7:10-16

Contextual Notes:
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 would not agree.

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.

Fear had overcome the new king of Judah, Ahaz, but Isaiah met the monarch to tell him that Judah need not fear (7:1-9). Ahaz is so shook up that he shows his disbelief by refusing to ask Isaiah for a sign to authenticate Isaiah’s encouragement not to fear (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 (7:13-16). Since Ahaz has chosen to trust Assyria rather than the Lord, God will devastate the land of Judah (7:17-25).

Key Truth: Isaiah wrote Isaiah 7:14 to encourage Israel that the House of David would be preserved (2 Samuel 7:11).
Key Application: Today I want to show you what God’s Word says about the Virgin Birth.
Key Verse: Isaiah 7:14
Pray and Read:  Isaiah 7:10-16

Sermon Points:
1.   The Lord Himself will give you a Sign (Isaiah 7:14a)
2.   Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son (Isaiah 7:14b)
3.   And shall call His name Immanu-El (Isaiah 7:14c)

Exposition:   Note well,
a.   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 (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 is near for Judah’s enemies. This child will have enough to eat, and before he is old enough to know right from wrong (is bar-mitzphahed at age 12), these two kings will be laid waste (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 (and the focus of the Text), 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).
d.   APPLICATION: Let me ask you a question. In your own context, who is this Child? Is he your Savior? Is He your Lord? Is He the one you obey and refer everything in your life to? Matthew and Luke, inspired authors, make their case from today’s passage that He is Lord and Savior and the one that will rule in the place of David. Who is he to you?

a.   7:14 – THE virgin shall conceiveKing Ahaz refused to seek a sign, but a sign is given nevertheless to the House of David (7:13). The sign was to be the virgin (not a virgin) would be pregnant with child who would be named Immanuel (7:14). One particular virgin (ha almah) shall conceive. Before nine months expired, Judah’s invaders (Syria under King Rezin and N. Israel under Pekah) would have departed Judah.
b.   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?
c.   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.
d.   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.”
e.   Today the Rabbis, operating from Medieval rabbinical teaching that use Deuteronomy 22:13-21 as proof of the definition of virgin, but Gordon Wenham has shown convincingly from Scripture that his word actually means a woman who is physically matured to the place where she is capable of carrying a child (with a regular period) at the time she was betrothed. It is also used of Esther after her overnight stay with the King (Esther 2:17, 19), not really a proof of virginity. Further proof comes from Joel 1:8 where the word is used in reference to a married woman, “Wail like a betûlah.”
f.    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 one important reason the Jewish synagogues gave up use of the Septuagint and went back to the Hebrew.
g.   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.
h.   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.
i.     APPLICATION: Jesus said that every jot and tittle of Scripture was important, and we see it here. It is a particular virgin, THE virgin who will conceive, and it is the closest word that can mean virgin in all the Hebrew language. Why is that important? Because you can trust every word of this Book. The Bible is, Paul says in 1 Timothy 3, God-breathed, therefore, he says we should preach the Word. It has no error. It has the authority because the one holding all authority in heaven and earth has inspired it (Matthew 28:18).
j.    And another thing, you can trust the Good News, the Gospel. Every part of it, even from the conception of Jesus Christ, we see everything was planned and executed on plan to prove Jesus the Messiah.

a.   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.
b.   The context is key to understanding this verse. We have the destruction of the Land and the holy seed from the stump (6:13).At the end of chapter five there are six woes, then the seventh woe is found in 6:5: “Woe is me” before the Priest-King high and lifted up, ending with the holy seed in the stump.
c.   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 (7:15-16) twice. This has never been seen in human history. It is in contrast to Israel (5:20) which calls evil good and good evil and rejects the Torah of the Lord twice (5:24; 8:6). This Child is unique in all of Israel.
d.   We also see desolation and abandonment before the Coming of the Child (6:11-12). Isaiah is seeing into the future, as we see from his taking his son, Shear-Yashub, meaning, “a remnant will return.”
e.   Ahaz will not ask for a sign, but he gets one anyway. God commands Ahaz specifically (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 (7:13 uses 2nd person common plural).
f.    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.
g.   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 (6:13), the Hope, the Holy One of Israel who is high and lifted up.
h.   The Sons: The King-Priest of 6:1 is the Holy Seed (Gen 3:15; Gal. 3:16) in the Stump (6:13) and the Immanuel Child (7:14) and the Mighty God of 9:6-7. There is no mention of a son after King Uzziah dies (6:1-2). There is the Priest-King. He is the Son of 7:14 and 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.
i.     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 (7:22). The meaning? The house of David would survive the threat. The son of Isaiah, Shear-Yashub, “a remnant will return,” is not Immanuel, but Shear-Yashub instead is a sign to the House of David that it will survive.
j.    Further details on this child are found in Isaiah 9. His birth in that chapter is assurance that warfare and oppression for Israel will end. Note the parallels between 7:14 and 9:5. The Immanuel child does not represent only the presence of God, but he is in fact the Mighty God (El Gibor) (9:6). Thus, the King-Priest of Isaiah 6 is a future Davidic Ruler who is Deity in his essence.
k.   APPLICATION:  If you know Christ, this Sign, this Virgin Born Child, is your Savior who has come to redeem you. His miraculous birth testifies to His person and work. John 15 tells us to rest in Him, to abide in the Vine. Matthew 28:20 tells us he will be with us always.
If you are not in a submitted relationship with Christ, this Virgin Born Child, He is your Judge who has come to bring justice. Won't you respond to his call to you now?