Summary: Thankfully, the LORD does offer second chances...
BEHOLD, A VIRGIN SHALL CONCEIVE
The northern kingdom of Israel/Ephraim, along with her ally Syria/Aram, intended to force the Davidic kingdom of Judah into their alliance against the Assyrians (Isaiah 7:1), by setting up a puppet king - a ‘Son of No Good’ (Isaiah 7:6) - in Jerusalem. The LORD instructed Isaiah to take his son and confront King Ahaz of Judah, who was busy taking stock of the water supply for a possible siege of Jerusalem (Isaiah 7:3). There the LORD’s word to Ahaz was meant for comfort - not so much ‘Let go and let God’ on this occasion as ‘Take stock, don’t panic, vanquish fear… and trust in the LORD’ (Isaiah 7:4; Isaiah 7:9).
The name of Isaiah’s son faced Ahaz with the alternatives: was it ‘A remnant shall return’ or ‘It returns in pieces’? Or even, more pertinently to the immediate situation, ‘A remnant shall repent’ (Isaiah 7:3)? Thankfully, the LORD does offer second chances:
“Moreover, the LORD spoke again to Ahaz” (Isaiah 7:10). The words were still intended to embrace the stubborn king: ask a sign - any sign - of the LORD “your” God (Isaiah 7:11). Ahaz, however, had already decided to lean not on the LORD, but on Assyria, and feigned piety to cover his faithlessness (Isaiah 7:12).
Isaiah was close to losing his temper with this awkward character. Will you also weary “my” God as you are wearying me (Isaiah 7:13)? Then the LORD stepped in and gave him a sign anyway (Isaiah 7:14).
The irony of the sign for Ahaz is that, since he had decided not to trust in the LORD, he just could not see or understand what it meant - even in the short term (cf. Isaiah 6:9-10). The kings whom Judah feared were nothing to the LORD (Isaiah 7:16; cf. Isaiah 7:7-9): butter and honey would be readily available in the city before very long (Isaiah 7:15). Ahaz trusting Assyria, however, would ultimately bring the king of Assyria to the very gates of Jerusalem (Isaiah 7:17)!
The young woman who would bear a son called Immanuel, God with us (Isaiah 7:14), was not ultimately the queen bearing Hezekiah (2 Kings 18:7), nor yet Zion bearing the remnant, but Mary bearing Jesus the Saviour. Matthew is clear: reading from the Greek translation of the prophecy, this woman is “the virgin” - and her child’s name Immanuel means “with us the God” (Matthew 1:23). The definite article is emphatic, leading us away from any other mother than the virgin Mary, and any other so-called ‘god’ than the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
As we approach Christmas, what life-changing choice will we make at the manger of Jesus (cf. John 1:11-12)?
Which path will we choose to follow (cf. Joshua 24:14-15)?