Salvation in Isaiah 7
The role of a prophet as God’s mouthpiece is a very difficult one indeed. We are given a glimpse of the way that God speaks to certain individuals in history, and in particular in Jewish History, in the pages of prophecy recorded by such men as Isaiah. These were direct revelations from Almighty God, placing in the minds and hearts of His servants, the things that he wished to say to His people. It was hard for ordinary men to speak to eminent men, such as powerful kings and rulers, and to tell such men what God thought of them and what God planned to do with them.
In the 7th Chapter of Isaiah he brings a predictive message to King Ahaz of Judah. We may recall that last week the events of chapter 6 – the call of Isaiah – occurred at the close of the reign of King Uzziah. Chapter 7 jumps 2 generations – for King Ahaz was Uzziah’s grandson. It appears that there were quiet times between prophetic utterances when God said nothing that has been recorded during the reigns of some of the other Kings. Uzziah’s son, Jotham, received no direct new revelation from a prophet during his years of Kingship. We can assume that God’s silence was an approving silence – simply because of the testimony that we read of king Jotham in 2 Chronicles 27 v 1 – 6
1 Jotham was twenty and five years old when he began to reign, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem. His mother's name also [was] Jerushah, the daughter of Zadok. 2 And he did that which was right in the sight of the LORD, according to all that his father Uzziah did: howbeit he entered not into the temple of the LORD. And the people did yet corruptly. 3 He built the high gate of the house of the LORD, and on the wall of Ophel he built much. 4 Moreover he built cities in the mountains of Judah, and in the forests he built castles and towers. 5 He fought also with the king of the Ammonites, and prevailed against them. And the children of Ammon gave him the same year an hundred talents of silver, and ten thousand measures of wheat, and ten thousand of barley. So much did the children of Ammon pay unto him, both the second year, and the third. 6 So Jotham became mighty, because he prepared his ways before the LORD his God.
Jotham was a good king, seeking to lead his people into conformity to God’s laws and ways.
However Jotham’s son was a different prospect! This man Ahaz was openly defiant of God. He was a rebel in his heart – he loved the idolatrous things of the pagan nations around him and he led the people of Judah in the same way. Read 2 Chronicles 28 v 1 – 4 to see what is recorded about him.
A new set of prophecies were given to Isaiah to deliver to the King of Judah and his people.
Verse 1 –
And it came to pass in the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, the son of Uzziah, king of Judah, that Rezin the king of Syria, and Pekah the son of Remaliah, king of Israel, went up toward Jerusalem to war against it, but could not prevail against it.
Ahaz and Judah are in deep trouble. The King of Israel Pekah, leading the northern tribes of Israel, teamed up with Rezin the King of Syria, in order to attack Jerusalem and Judah. However God frustrated their attempt to do so – because God is sovereign – as we saw this morning.
Verse 2 – The reaction of Ahaz and his people at the news of the threatened invasion was trembling. They were like the trees moved by the wind – a picture of a quivering fear – a tree cannot move away from the stormy blasts of wind and can only stand and be shaken – so it was with Judah.
Verse 3 – God told Isaiah to go to King Ahaz with a message. Isaiah was instructed to take his son with him – whose name was SHEARJASHUB. As we have seen before names have significant meanings in Jewish culture – Isaiah’s son’s name means, “The remnant shall return or turn.” The name was designed by God to be an inducement to Ahaz to TURN to God and seek forgiveness and restoration. But in the message to Ahaz there was also a warning that if he refused to listen to Jehovah, then Ahaz would have no part in the restoration of that part of the nation described as the remnant. In spite of Ahaz’ rebelliousness and iniquity, yet God would overthrow the Northern Confederacy of Israel and Syria – verse 8 says that Ephraim would be broken in pieces. Isaiah’s message then was this – Ahaz! Turn back to God!
Ahaz – be warned – if you refuse to do so you will be discounted and you will have no future.
As events turned out within 65 years Israel was carried off into captivity and Syria would be overrun and destroyed by the rising Assyrian Empire.
God spoke directly to Ahaz through the prophet Isaiah. My friends God still speaks today – through His word the Bible. And the message is exactly the same – turn to God, turn away from sin! Turn away from following the world and follow the pathway set down by the Lord God – to love Him, to serve Him, to seek that he may be central in life and be glorified – and to honour Him in the keeping of His commandments. Turn from materialism – turn from idolatry however it presents itself in this modern world – God told Ahaz to turn – and he tells us the same!
Verse 10 – 11. Another message came to Ahaz through Isaiah. Ahaz – have faith in God’s promises. God said that he would give Ahaz the opportunity to prove that God was speaking to him by giving him a sign - ask for a sign Ahaz – anything you like, anything that will convince you that I mean business and will do what I say I will do. Ask for a sign.
Signs are very useful things. There are road signs. In the last war most of the road signs were removed in order to confuse an invading enemy. Signs are so helpful when you are a stranger to an area. There are direction signs on public buildings, which help us to know where to go. God has put the sun, moon and stars in place for signs, Genesis tells us. We discovered an interesting sign in Southern Ireland, which certainly communicated a clear message.
The Jewish people loved to have their signs. Paul identifies this in 1 Corinthians 1 v 22
For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:
Often the Lord Jesus Christ himself was pressed by the Jewish leaders to demonstrate some miraculous sign in order to convince them of God’s dealings with Jesus and the people. They asked and they asked –
Matthew 12 v 38 Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. 39 But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas:
Matthew 16 v 1 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. 3 And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? 4 A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed.
There were other occasions too when he was asked – but notice how He answered them – he pointed to a prophet – called Jonah – the prophet Himself would be the sign and the Lord Jesus would be the fulfilment of the sign – as Jonah was three days and three nights inside the great fish, so would the Lord Jesus Christ be in a grave – dead – until His resurrection to life supernaturally.
There is a sadness in all this – that even after the Lord Jesus had been put to death, buried and raised to life again, they still opposed the fact that this was the Messiah – that Jesus was the Christ – the sign proved nothing to these men – for they did not want to see the sign and read the sign. It would be like us arriving on the link road and seeing the sign Barnstaple and saying I don’t believe it – this is not Barnstaple – this must be somewhere else. It is so easy to miss or refuse to believe the signs.
Back in Isaiah 7 – and verse 12 – we find King Ahaz doing just that - refusing even to be given a sign. He refuses to ask – and therefore to listen to God.
He refuses to prove the Lord in His promises and to test the Lord and His truthfulness.
Ahaz was pious and hypocritical. “I couldn’t possibly ask the Lord anything like that. I wouldn’t dream of asking God like this or tempting the Lord this way!” It sounds good doesn’t it – but in reality Ahaz had already made up his mind to seek the help of the King of Assyria, a growing nation, gaining more and more power as the days went by. 2 Chronicles 28 v 5 has the detail and its parallel in 2 Kings 16. Ahaz sent money and treasures from the Jerusalem temple to pay for the services of the King of Assyria, He stripped the temple of its costly treasures – to buy his help. It did not work and he did not get his money back!
We are capable of the same – we also can refuse to ask God for what we need. We fail to pray. We think that we can be strong enough without God’s help – then we ignore Him and His offers of help. Are we submitting to God’s plans or are we making our own? Do we know what is right but we determine to do our own thing?
This was Ahaz’ strategy – but it should not be ours. May we listen to God’s plans and directions in His word.
Then we come to verses 13 – 14 – the sign is announced! BEHOLD. Behold in Isaiah always introduces something relating to future circumstances. Look! See! Take notice! What an important verse this is!
The Hebrew word for virgin here is absolutely crucial. It is ALMAH and always refers to a young woman who is mature, of childbearing age and ready for marriage. There is another Hebrew word BETHULAH which indicates a maiden who was still living with her parents and whose marriage was not impending. So simply and clearly ALMAH means virgin. This is supported by the Bible translation from Hebrew to Greek – PARTHENOS – VIRGIN. Neither word means a young girl only. Isaiah and Matthew agree perfectly – Matthew 1 v 19 – 23
19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just [man], and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. 20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. 22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
Sadly modernist scholars have denied the virgin birth despite the clear wording of the prophecies in the Old and New Testaments. Mary was a virgin – the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ was supernatural – a miracle. The Birth of Immanuel is a sign. First it was a sign to Ahaz – or rather a challenge to Ahaz. God intended to reveal Himself in an earth shaking startling event some time in the future. That a virgin should conceive and bear a son would be in the realm of God’s power involving both heaven and earth. So those who render these words as “a young woman who was pregnant” take away the miracle of the sign. What is special about a young woman becoming pregnant? Nothing – but when she is a virgin – there is a sign; there is a miracle – there is God’s mighty hand – only a creator God can do that!
Late in time behold Him come, Offspring of the virgin’s womb; Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail the incarnate deity.
The birth of the Lord Jesus Christ did not occur until 700 years later - but Isaiah speaks of it as an accomplished fact! Isaiah believed these words to be a sign to Ahaz – that God had power to act! What would Ahaz have thought? Could God do such a thing? Could God rescue him from the Israel/Syria coalition? If God could do one then surely He could do the other!
Here is the relevance for us.
Isaiah was right and Ahaz was wrong. Within 10 years Assyria moved in from the North and Egypt moved in from the South. Pekah King of Israel died and Rezin King of Syria was overthrown. Verse 18 describes this pictorially – bees and flies.
Ahaz should have noted this miracle and attributed it to God. It was a sign for him.
But more than this he should have seen the prophecy as a sign. A virgin’s son would be born to save His people. God Himself would come through this supernatural birth.
Another thing that Ahaz missed was this – verse 11 – in the height and in the depth. Immanuel, God with us would come from the height of His glory in heaven – being very God Himself.
What does ‘in the depth’ mean? Immanuel would be the one who would condescend to become man, and to go to the depths of a terrible experience – down into the depths of paying vicariously for His people’s sins. He would come down in order to be raised up – upon a cross – He would come down in order to go to a grave, suffering, bleeding and dying – on behalf of others and so that they may not have to die themselves.
The wonderful thing is that this Immanuel, God with us, did come just as the prophecy foretold. Ahaz did not see it – it was after his time. Isaiah did not see it either with physical eyes – but in his heart he knew that God always kept His word.
Now we are 2000 years further on in time. What does Immanuel mean to you my friend? If He is God with us, is he God with you? Is He your saviour? Is there any sign of true and vibrant spiritual life in you, my friend?
Immanuel came – born of a virgin – born to die – but raised again from the dead.
Does his cross have any significance for you? Or are you still dead in your sins? Do not be like Ahaz – do not refuse this message that God sends to wake dead souls up by His power. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and His unique work of dying for sinners. Leave your sins – repent of them – and come to the Lord. Tell Him that you are ready to confess your unworthiness of His mercy – but ask Him for it nevertheless. He has promised to be merciful to genuine seekers, who want to know Him and His Immanuel.
May he be merciful to you tonight and may this be a sign for you tonight to trust Him with all of your heart soul and mind, and come to love Him.