Summary: Matthew, despite the protests of his critics, is right in declaring that this verse was fulfilled by the birth of Jesus.
Isaiah 7:13-25 Immanuel the Sign
1/14/01e D. Marion Clark
It looks like Isaiah has lost his patience. But then, Ahaz would have needed a lot of patience if he had had to wait as long as you have to hear Isaiah’s response! It has been eight weeks since we broke off from this conversation between Ahaz and Isaiah. Let’s review for a moment what is going on.
The time is 733-32 B.C. Ahaz rules Judah. His father, Jotham, is still alive though soon to die. Judah is being threatened by Israel and Damascus; the specific intention of those kings are to get rid of Ahaz. He has good reason to be nervous, because they’ve already attacked once and soundly defeated Ahaz’ forces. He has a plan, though, which essentially is to sell him and his country out to Assyria. Isaiah has come to encourage Ahaz with the promise of God’s protection, provided he trusts in the Lord. In a gracious gesture and to bolster Ahaz’ faith, Isaiah tells him he may ask for any sign for God, whatever it takes to shore up his confidence in Yahweh. Here is Ahaz’ opportunity to leave his past history of idolatry and rebellion, and enter into the protection and favor of God. His response: No thanks. What follows is Isaiah’s response.
13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of men? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign…
Ahaz has crossed the line, so to speak. He has gone too far in his hypocritical rebellious ways. All along he has been an idolatrous king who has strayed from the righteous paths of his fathers, especially David. Remember that Judah was a theocracy. It was a nation formed in covenant with God to follow his ways and be his people. Ahaz, as king, should, of course, have led his people to be good followers.
In spite of that, God shows him grace by promising to save him and his country and even by giving him a sign to prove his faithfulness. The sign would serve not only to give Ahaz assurance, but to reconcile him with God. Here is the chance to get right with God. And he rejects it. Truly he is trying the patience of God.
14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign… It is evident that Isaiah is not telling Ahaz that God will overlook this slight and grant him a sign anyhow. He knows Ahaz is embarrassed to ask and so he takes the initiative. The sign serves not as a blessing to Ahaz but as a rebuke.
But note, too, that he addresses Ahaz as “house of David.” Furthermore, the “you” in Hebrew is in the plural. Isaiah is not simply speaking to Ahaz as Ahaz, but as the representative of the line of David with whom God had made a covenant. Remember, God had made a covenant specifically with David that his line would remain on the throne of the covenant nation forever. Not only was Israel to be a nation unto God; the house of David was to be the royal family for God. And (this is essential), out of that line was to come the Messiah. Each time a first-born son is born, it was possible that he was the one; each king understood that his son might be the one.
But Ahaz basically says, “I’m not interested. I want out.” In that context Isaiah says, “You are going to receive a sign that testifies against you. You are not, even in your rebellion, going to break the covenant relationship with God and block his promises. Here is the sign. The Messiah will be born. You will know it when he is born to the virgin.” The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
Matthew, despite the protests of his critics, is right in declaring that this verse was fulfilled by the birth of Jesus. First, “virgin” is the correct translation. Critics say that the word, “alma,” should be translated “young maiden,” because there was another word for “virgin,” “bethulah.” But alma normally means an unmarried woman, which in that culture would have been understood as a virgin, unless specifically noted that she was immoral. The term identified the woman as an unmarried virgin who was eligible for marriage, which, by the way, was the case for Mary when she conceived.
Second, he is named Immanuel – God with us – a term used for no one else, and which points to the child’s divinity. God would be with his people in this child. His presence would come in a way never known before.