Summary: A brief study of Isaiah's prophecy promising the birth of a child known as Immanuel.

“The Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” [1]

Signs loom large in the Word of God. I don’t mean to imply that there is a plethora of signs, though there are many signs provided in the Bible, for various reasons; I do mean that perceptive readers will want to pay careful attention to the multiplied signs since they point to significant events. In the text before us, the LORD God was speaking through the Prophet Isaiah. He addressed a godless king named Ahaz. Things in Judah were rather dicey; the northern kingdom of Israel had formed an alliance with Syria to invade Judah. That was disquieting, to say the least. Whether Judah could survive was very much in question.

God sent the Prophet Isaiah to Ahaz, the godless king of Judah. Isaiah was to take his son, Shear-jashub, to meet Ahaz in order to convey God’s message to the king. Isaiah’s message was to counsel the king, “Be careful, be quiet, do not fear, and do not let your heart be faint because of these two smoldering stumps of firebrands, at the fierce anger of Rezin and Syria and the son of Remaliah. Because Syria, with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah, has devised evil against you, saying, ‘Let us go up against Judah and terrify it, and let us conquer it for ourselves, and set up the son of Tabeel as king in the midst of it,’ thus says the Lord GOD:

‘“It shall not stand,

and it shall not come to pass.

For the head of Syria is Damascus,

and the head of Damascus is Rezin.

And within sixty-five years

Ephraim will be shattered from being a people.

And the head of Ephraim is Samaria,

and the head of Samaria is the son of Remaliah.

If you are not firm in faith,

you will not be firm at all.”’”

[ISAIAH 7:4-9]

God said, “Ask a sign of the LORD your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven” [ISAIAH 7:11]. Ahaz, never known for piety, responded, “I will not ask, and I will not put the LORD to the test” [ISAIAH 7:12]. The LORD bristles at this pious and responds by pointing to the coming Redeemer. “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. The LORD will bring upon you and upon your people and upon your father’s house such days as have not come since the day that Ephraim departed from Judah—the king of Assyria” [ISAIAH 7:13-17]!

Think of that! During a time of national crisis, God promised deliverance. The promised deliverance was no doubt welcomed, but it was the divine statement concerning timing that would comfort mankind for generations to come. Those who heard that prophecy, and no doubt for centuries afterward those who would read the words of that prophecy, could not have understood how it would touch all mankind. God works that way. The Lord God works, and only occasionally do we realise the universal impact of what He says. In this instance, an otherwise obscure prophecy that would normally be ignored holds incredible comfort for all mankind throughout the long ages since that Word was delivered.

PIETY? PRIDE? OR UNBELIEF? Why would Ahaz not respond to God’s gracious offer? Wouldn’t you give God an answer if He invited you to ask for a demonstration of His power? What could make the king refuse to answer God when invited to see His power? Was it piety? Was it pride? Or was it raw unbelief? The Word of God doesn’t tell us why the king was silent. Despite whatever thoughts we may have, it is impossible to say why the king refused to ask God for a demonstration of divine power when the Lord had invited him to ask; nevertheless, the king refused to seek a sign.

It raises the question of why people, even staunch followers of the Master, doubt God. Can it be a sense of false piety that keeps people from seeking assurance? The king voices a pious reason to avoid asking God for a sign. We do have the Word of God that provides rich promises; yet, even conscientious Christians on occasion will remain silent when invited to seek God’s presence or power. But, why should anyone be silent when God invites us to ask?

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