Please open your Bible to the OT book of Isaiah and turn to chapter seven. I begin today with a reading of verses one through sixteen as I share a message entitled, “A Sign to Israel and the World.” Isaiah 7:1-16.
I pause to remind you of the importance of Israel in the sovereign plans of the living God. The Lord’s eternal plan to bring a Savior into the world of necessity included his plans to form a nation through whom the Savior would come. Israel is that nation and is pictured in Revelation chapter twelve as the woman who brought forth a man child, who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron.
I remind you also the Scripture refers to the one true, living God as “the holy One of Israel” or “the God of Israel” some 233 times with two of those references in the New Testament. The God of our salvation is the God of Israel.
Upon the birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Ghost, and prophesied, saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David; As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began.”
Indeed, blessed be the Lord God of Israel who raised up a Savior for both Israel and the world as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets since the world began!
Now may we read the text from Isaiah 7:1-16 . . .
Couched in this message to King Ahaz, the king of Judah at that time, is the famous prophecy concerning the future birth of Immanuel. Verse 14 says, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign. Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” We will come back to this verse in a few minutes, but first a review of the historical setting in which the Lord gave this mighty prophetic word is necessary.
Ahaz was of the house of David and reigned in the Southern Kingdom of Israel following his father, Jotham. To place some emphasis upon the house of David bear with me a moment while I read the names of the Kings who reigned over the Southern Kingdom of Israel leading up to King Ahaz.
Of course, King Saul was Israel’s first king, and he was followed by David. Most of you are probably familiar with the covenant God made with King David. The Lord determined that he would send the Savior through the house of David. By the Lord’s design, the promised Messiah would be a physical descendent of David.
So, let us pick up again. Following David, King Solomon ruled the nation. And as you may recall, following Solomon’s reign the nation was troubled by a civil war. The war divided the nation into a Northern and Southern Kingdom. The house of David reigned over the Southern Kingdom. Rehoboam was the first to do so. Succeeding sons of the various Kings proceeded to reign as follows: Abijah—Asa—Jehoshaphat—Jehoram—Ahaziah—Joash—Amaziah—Uzziah—Jotham—and then King Ahaz.
Unfortunately, King Ahaz was an ungodly king. He did evil in the sight of the Lord. 2 Kings 16 states, “But he [Ahaz] walked in the way of the kings of Israel (the Northern Kingdom), yea, and made his son to pass through the fire, according to the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord cast out from before the children of Israel. And he sacrificed and burnt incense in the high places, and on the hills, and under every green tree.”
So, Ahaz practiced sordid idolatry. He did not honor the Lord at all. Any reference he makes to the Lord should be understood in the context of just placating the prophet. He pretends to be pious when in fact he is practicing open rebellion against the Lord.
Of course, the Lord was very patient with the house of David. Despite the behavior of Ahaz, the Lord sent his prophet with good news for the king. Rezin King of Syria and Pekah King of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) would not prevail against Ahaz.
Note verses one and two again . . .
So, the Lord sent Isaiah and his son to King Ahaz to say that the plans of those two men to capture Jerusalem and overrun the Southern Kingdom would not stand and would not come to pass (v7).
Now look with me at verse 9 again . . . If you will not believe, surely ye shall not be established. This was the Lord’s way of saying to Ahaz, “you must trust me, and you must not look for help from another nation (whether Egypt or otherwise).”
Now look again at verse 10 and 11 . . .
This is interesting. In his grace the Lord extends to Ahaz the opportunity to ask for a sign that he would deliver the King from the impending threat. In context, it seems to me the Lord is doing so because Ahaz is not a man of faith. He really was not walking with the Lord and he had no personal confidence in the Lord. The Lord knew he needed some confirmation, and in his grace, he offers it. I should quickly add that by design the Lord is setting the table for the great prophetic word found in verse 14.
You see, it may seem at first glance the famous prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 comes out of nowhere as the Lord deals with this king. However, the Lord uses the occasion to draw special attention to the central focus of his relationship with the house of David--namely that the Messiah would come through the house of David.
Consequently, the Lord proceeds to reveal in unmistakable terms the Messiah, coming through the house of David, would have no earthly father. This unique and most unusual circumstance would serve as a sign to the nation and to the world.
Now look again at the response of King Ahaz in verse 12 . . .
This response was deceitful. King Ahaz responded this way because he did not want to be bothered with the Lord! How do I know? Look again at verse 13 . . .
The Lord knew exactly what was in the heart of this King and he was not pleased. His false piety veiled his unbelief, and it wearied the Lord!
However, the Lord uses this occasion to say to Ahaz and to the whole house of David, and for that matter the whole world, I am going to give you a sign anyway. “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
It was over 700 years later when this great sign appeared during a quiet night in a little town called Bethlehem as a young virgin girl named Mary gave birth to heaven’s child. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.
About the time the little baby Jesus was settled from his birth and nestled warmly in the humble garment of his swaddling clothes heaven could not contain itself any longer. In the fields just outside Bethlehem suddenly the angel of the Lord appeared to shepherds as they kept their flocks by night. They came with news of the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14 as the angel said,
“Fear not, for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
Please carefully take note of the exact wording of the angel’s announcement. The angel said a Savior was born who is CHRIST THE LORD. The infant child asleep in that manger was “the Lord!” This is Immanuel. This is God with us. The fruit of the virgin’s womb is the God-man. This is the Son of the living God and it pleased the Father that in him should all the fullness of the Godhead dwell in bodily form. This is the eternal Son made a little lower than the angels in the sense that he took upon himself human nature in the person of Jesus the Christ. This is God’s perfect lamb. Is it any wonder heaven could not contain itself?
Suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men.”
Hear me today: Christmas remains a sign to the entire world. All men everywhere need to take heed to this sign. God has in these last days spoken to us by his Son. Yes, a virgin did conceive miraculously and proceeded to give birth to the only begotten Son of God. Do you believe this good news?
Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ the unique Son of the living God? Do you believe he is Immanuel? Do you understand that God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself? Do you believe Jesus came for your salvation?
I close with the words of Isaiah 7:9 one more time: “If ye will not believe, surely ye shall not be established.” God required King Ahaz to believe his word. Likewise, God requires that you believe the word spoken concerning his Son. The birth of Christ remains a sign for the whole world.