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We are in Advent, and we look forward to celebrating the birth of the Messiah. But we must do so as biblically based Christians—always building on the bedrock of the Word.


Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying, Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD. And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. 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 (Is. 7: 10-16).


King Ahaz of Judah was distressed over threats of a confederacy of Syria and Israel (vv. 1-2). Isaiah the prophet was sent to him with a message of encouragement. But before he gave his second oracle, he invited Ahaz to set the terms of it—to specify a sign. A prophet of God invited Ahaz to stipulate a sign, and Ahaz refused to do so because he said that this would be tempting God. Isaiah responded that his refusal, if was not tempting God, was certainly wearying Him. And so then Isaiah gave the sign, which was that a virgin would conceive, have a son, be called Immanuel, and that before this boy grew to years of ethical discernment, the kings that Ahaz was so worried about would both be gone.


Clearly the sign that Isaiah gave to Ahaz was a sign that would be helpful to him. If this prophecy is about the birth of the Messiah only, this help is difficult to see. The Messiah was to be born about 700 years later. What good did it do Ahaz to be told that by a particular point, many centuries later, the two threatening kings would be dead? So would Ahaz, and Isaiah, and lots of other people. It is obvious that Isaiah was prophecying that a woman at that time would conceive, would name her son Immanuel, and that by the time this boy was weaned, the kings would no longer be a threat.

But this means that the situation back then was a type of the Christ who was to come. Isaiah prophesied then, the fulfillment happened then, and that fulfillment was itself a typological prophecy.


What does Isaiah mean? How are we to take this prophecy? We should consider the words of Matthew (1:18ff).

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a publick example, was minded to put her away privily. 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. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 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. Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife: And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS (Matt. 1:18-25).

What are we to learn from this?

          First, the prophecy is applied by Matthew, unambiguously, to Mary and Jesus. Whatever the initial fulfillment centuries before, the primary fulfillment is here.

          Second, the name Immanuel is equated with Jesus, and we are told the meaning of both. Immanuel means “God with us,” and Jesus means “saving the people from their sins.” These two names must be understood together. The kings of the earth who trouble us will be no more.

          Third, the Greek word for virgin here is parthenos, which means virgin. The Hebrew word is almah, which is less specific. But in the LXX, a translation of this uses parthenos. The Bible teaches the virgin birth of Christ.


The virgin birth is an important handmaiden, pointing to the central miracle itself, which is the Incarnation. The thing that should stagger us is “God with us” part, and not the virgin birth. The virgin birth points to this great miracle. And because God is with us, thus we are saved. There is no other salvation, no other way.


Jesus is God, and God is our Savior.

Review Question:

Why is it important to always keep your word?

            Because there are many times when you need to be both faithful and believed.


Catechism Question:

What does Jesus mean?

            The name Jesus means that He will save us from our sins.

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