Salvation in Isaiah 7 (Week 2)
We are told today by nutritionists that we should not eat too much butter. Some people, whose cholesterol levels in their bloodstream are too high, are advised never to eat butter. For this reason today’s clever inventors have produced a low calorie and cholesterol free butter free, non-dairy butter! There is a Brand actually called “I can’t believe it’s not butter!” which contains 9% fat only.
Isaiah had no such worries when he pronounced his prophecy concerning the Messiah the one who was called Immanuel. God with us or with us is God was the promised person who would be conceived supernaturally by the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin girl. Yet this prophet Isaiah saw it as an accomplished fact.
Then he described prophetically what this very special person would be like – verse 15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.
1. His food.
What is so special about butter and honey? Nothing really – it is the food that every child in Israel would have been fed in infancy. As now the first food that any child receives is milk – either from the child’s mother, or from a nursing mother, or from animal milk. The first thing about this supernaturally conceived child will be that he will be born naturally and nurtured naturally. He would not be given angel’s food. What is angel’s food? There is one reference to it in Psalms 78 v 25
Man did eat angels’ food: he sent them meat to the full.
The common interpretation of this term is that it was manna – the special food supplied by the Lord God supernaturally every day for nearly 40 years, to the Children of Israel when they wandered in the desert. It was that special bread like substance that was supplied on the ground every day with twice as much on every day before the sabbath – so that the gathering of it did not need to be made on the Holy Day of Worship – the seventh, the Sabbath day. If the manna was stored then it became polluted, breeding worms and quickly going off – EXCEPT on the day before the sabbath – when again supernaturally one day in seven it did not go off!
But since the manna was for man to eat why does Psalm 78 call it angel’s food? One suggestion is that God’s servants, the angels, delivered the manna every day of the six days of the week to the desert – so it became known as the food provided by God’s angels – angel’s food.
Interesting though this is, Immanuel was not fed on manna. The supply of manna ceased on the day that the people of Israel with their army entered the promised land of Canaan and began to eat of the harvest of corn and wheat that they found there.
Immanuel, the Messiah, the child Jesus was fed with milk and honey – butter is a derivative of milk as we know – milk and honey. Now this phrase itself reminds us of another Old Testament promise – from God to His people –
Exodus 3 v 17 And I have said, I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt unto the land of the Canaanites, and the Hittites, and the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, unto a land flowing with milk and honey.
Leviticus 20 v 24 But I have said unto you, Ye shall inherit their land, and I will give it unto you to possess it, a land that floweth with milk and honey: I am the LORD your God, which have separated you from other people.
These were foods of promise. Dr Gill says that These foods are not to be confined merely to the abundance of cattle fed in Canaan, and the plenty of milk they produced, or the number of bees that swarmed there, and the quantity of honey they made; the land abounded with other good things, and excellent fruit, as corn, and wine, and oil, and with figs, pomegranates, palm trees. But this is a proverbial and hyperbolical expression, setting forth the great affluence of all sorts of good things in it, for the necessity and delight of human life:
The Immanuel, the person of God living amongst men as a man, would be fed the same food as us. There is an important point that Isaiah is making here that is clarified by a verse in the New Testament – Hebrews 2 v 14 – 17
14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. 17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
That phrase in verse 17 emphasises the normal upbringing of the man Christ Jesus –
Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren,
Behoved means that Christ found it His duty to behave as a man being the real man that He was. He grew through all the stages of infancy, childhood, boyhood, youth and into manhood, all the while growing and developing with no different diet than everyone else. His growth would be marked by wisdom and stature and shall wax strong in spirit as Luke 2 v 40 testifies that he did. No one can ever accuse the Lord Jesus Christ of special privileges in His developmental years and say that He was unable to truly suffer for us as a man.
Another aspect of this prophecy in Isaiah is the length of time that it takes from birth to weaning from milk to solid food – such as honey. 2 to 3 years is the average time for this to happen in a normal child. And this was about the time frame that would see the King of Syria and the King of Israel forsaking their lands according to the end of verse 16. In the time that is takes for a young child to be weaned that was how quickly things would come to a head for King Ahaz – God would deal with his enemies – God would overthrow them – they will not be allowed to attack Judah and Jerusalem – and King Ahaz would merely have to believe the word of God through the prophet Isaiah and not do anything. Belief and faith were key to this prediction and its meaning.
But as we noted last week, Ahaz took the matter into his own hands and teamed up with the King of Assyria.
But we must not let Ahaz’s unbelief eclipse the real importance of the Immanuel prophecy. For even though the event of the birth of Christ through the virgin called Mary did not occur until 700 years later, yet the promise was powerful – and demanded the King and people to believe it!
Now we can project ourselves in history those 700 years to the time when Immanuel came. Did Jesus come to a land flowing with milk and honey? In one sense yes – He was born in the Promised Land – in Bethlehem. But it was not in peace time – he came to a war-torn situation – with an occupying Roman garrison in every large town. Cultivation of crops was disrupted – the local King Herod was on the rampage – and Jesus and his parents went to Egypt – there he was raised and the weaning process began.
What was King Ahaz to make of this? That, as verse 20 following say, hard times were ahead for this king. The only food available would come from the milk of domestic animals – not meat, but milk. However there would be a remnant of people who would be left behind after the invasion. They, according to v 22, would have enough milk to turn the surplus into butter – and butter and honey would once more be available – butter and honey meaning abundance of everything.
Away from Ahaz and his troubles and back to Immanuel.
Our text also speaks of something else.
2. The Promised One would refuse certain things.
15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. 16 For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.
There was a period of history in our land when people really thought that children were born perfect. Indeed it probably is still the case that the age of innocence as it was called, is in people’s minds as babies come into the world. However this verse illustrates the principle that children need to be taught the difference between good and evil, so that eventually a child will know how to choose good rather than evil. This is what child training is all about – this is the aim of every parent not just Christian parents. It would seem in our society today that belief in this fact has gone astray. It was accepted that there will come a time in a child’s life that the choosing mechanism, choosing good rather than evil, will be in place. He will know not to put his hand in the fire; not to jump off a 40 foot cliff; not to eat certain berries and items found in the wild and so on. These choices have to be taught and learned. It all starts at the earliest age. Further on from this there must be training in moral choices too – and to a certain extent this can be done in most cases, even though we know that the heart of a human being is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.
The point of Isaiah’s prophecy here is an illustration of time – by the time a child, an ordinary child has been born, fed milk and honey and then successfully achieved that training that enables him to select good and refuse evil, there will be a certain amount of time – say 3 to 4 years. And this was the time that Ahaz was told about – within a period of this order the enemies will be gone.
But what about the case of the special child mentioned in the prophecy who would appear 700 years later?
Now He is different. From the earliest age the Lord Jesus Christ would have always chosen the good and always refused the evil. This is based on the fact that He is God. He was subject to His parents and obeyed them. They pointed out what was good and he always chose it. They pointed out, as parents, what was evil and he always refused it – and he learned obedience as it says Hebrews 5 v 8
Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
In all his life from the beginning the Lord Jesus Christ was perfect – yet the wonder is He was trained in the early stages to make right choices.
So that when it came to the call to commence His ministry – he chose the good. And when He came to be tempted of the devil with his subtle snide challenges and offers, Christ knew how to refuse the evil and the evil one.
3. The Promised One would choose the good.
We have been thinking a lot about choice over the past 2 weeks – and principally God’s choice of us His people.
But now let us think of the choices that the Lord Jesus Christ made with us in mind.
1. He chose us before the foundation of the world.
Several scriptures tell us this and we are familiar with then having heard them recently.
2. He chose to do His father’s will.
An Old Testament and a New Testament verse to remind us of this -
Psalms 40 v 8 I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart.
Matthew 26 v 42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.
The Lord Jesus Christ was ever the obedient Son of His Father. He never rebelled against His father’s will and in this He is a worthy example for us all – he chose to do the Father’s will.
3. He chose to please His Father.
John 8 v 29 And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.
The Lord can never be accused of wanting to please Himself – he chose to please His Father, such was His love for His father – again a worthy example for us to follow.
4. He chose to die for His people.
What a choice this was. When the covenant of grace was agreed in heaven before the world was made it was God the Son who chose to come to earth and to die for His people. Notice what the Lord said in John 10 v 17
Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. 18 No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father.
He chose to lay down His life - He chose to atone for His sheep, His people.
5. He chose to love us and secure us for all eternity.
John 15 v 13 Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
Romans 5 v 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
John 10 v 28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
The Lord Jesus Christ chose to give eternal life to us and to make sure that we will be safe for ever.
What good things the Lord Jesus has chosen for us.
Since then the Sovereign Lord Jesus Christ has made these tremendous choices what does this mean for us? How are we to respond?
1. We must respond with thanksgiving – that He chose the good and refused the evil. Are we thankful for the choices that our saviour made for our benefit?
2. We must stand amazed that he loved us so much as to die for us. Does this not speak to your soul my friend? Perhaps you do not know that you are loved by such a God as this – by such a saviour. Maybe it is because you have not yet come to know Him. And maybe you do not know him because you have not heard His voice calling you in your inner being.
Perhaps you cannot hear His voice because your sins are in the way. It can so easily happen that a person struggles to hear God’s voice but that person is deaf – because the lawbreaking and self-centredness screams so loudly in life that God cannot be heard. Or it could be that the occupations and pursuits in life are so much in the person’s focus that he cannot see what Christ has done in dying on the cross.
Nothing short of stopping where you are and repenting of sin can make any difference. Clear away those things that stop you hearing and seeing the wonderful person who chose the good and refused the evil.
Only then will you be able to receive the blessing of forgiveness and pardon that He offers to sincere seekers of Him and His truth.
15 Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.