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Isaiah 7:14 says, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and call his name Immanuel (which means God with Us).” Prophecy can have a near, partial fulfillment and a future, greater fulfillment. In Isaiah’s day a young girl was a virgin. She would get married, cease being a virgin, have a child, and name that child, Immanuel. There is nothing miraculous about this birth, other than God predicted it. When Ahaz saw this child named Immanuel, he would think of Isaiah’s words and the child would serve as a sign that God would deliver Judah in the future. Seven hundred years later, Mary gave birth to Christ as a virgin and He was literally, “God with Us.”
Table of Contents
- Family Worship Guide for The Virgin Shall Conceive and Bear a Son, Immanuel
- Sermon Notes for The Virgin Shall Conceive and Bear a Son, Immanuel
- Lesson One: Some people don’t want to believe.
- Lesson Two: Jesus is the true and greater Immanuel in that He (part one) was born of a virgin.
- Lesson Two: Jesus is the true and greater Immanuel in that He (part two) is literally God with us.
- Lesson Two: Jesus is the true and greater Immanuel in that He (part three) gives us victory over the greatest Enemy.
Family Worship Guide for The Virgin Shall Conceive and Bear a Son, Immanuel
Directions: Read the verses and then answer the questions:
- Day 1: Isaiah 7:1-13, Hebrews 11:1—Who is Ahaz, Rezin, and Pekah, and what is the relationship between them? Where does Ahaz want to turn for help and why? What does Isaiah’s son’s name mean and why is it significant? How did Ahaz view Rezin and Pekah and how did God view them? What is the significance of them trying to put Tabeel on the throne?
- Day 2: Isaiah 714, Matthew 1:21-23, John 1:14—Why did God want to give Ahaz a sign? Why did Ahaz not want to ask for a sign? Why did Ahaz not want to believe, and why do you think some people choose not to believe? Describe the sign God gave Ahaz. What does it mean that prophecies can have a near and partial fulfillment and a future, greater fulfillment? Describe how that occurs with this account. Can you think of any other examples in Scripture?
- Day 3: Isaiah 7:2 cf. Hebrews 2:14-15, 1 Corinthians 15:26, 54-57—How is Jesus the true and greater fulfillment of the prophecy? How is Jesus literally God with us? Describe the enemy Ahaz faced versus the enemy we face. The child in Ahaz’s day served as a sign of victory over what enemy? In what way does Jesus serve as a sign of a greater victory?
Sermon Notes for The Virgin Shall Conceive and Bear a Son, Immanuel
The title of this morning’s sermon is, “The Virgin Shall Conceive and Bear a Son, Immanuel.”
You can probably tell this is the message I was going to preach on Christmas if I didn’t get Covid. I wanted to preach it today, because I think it works just as well on any Sunday.
We are going to learn about one of the most amazing, and familiar, prophecies in the Bible, but just to let you know ahead of time, it’s going to involve learning the background to it. This is important, because without the background we can’t appreciate the prophecy.
There are three names in this account that I want you to be able to keep straight, so I put them in the bulletin:
- Ahaz is the wicked king of Judah. He worshipped other gods and even sacrificed his son to Molech. One commentator said, “He was a cowardly, superstitious and hypocritical ruler, one of the worst kings Judah ever had.”
- Rezin is the king of Syria and he’s also bad
- Pekah is the king of Israel (also called Ephraim throughout the account) and – you guessed it – he’s bad too.
Rezin and Pekah are allies and they attacked Ahaz. Ahaz wants to turn to Assyria for help instead of turning to God. God sends the prophet Isaiah to Ahaz to try to get him to trust Him instead of Assyria.
With that in mind look at verse 1…
Isaiah 7:1 In the days of Ahaz the son of Jotham, son of Uzziah, king of Judah, Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it, but could not yet mount an attack against it.
This is a summary verse. Rezin and Pekah wanted to conquer Judah but were unable to and the rest of the chapter explains why.
Isaiah 7:2 When the house of David (which is another way to refer to Ahaz and his people) was told, “Syria is in league with Ephraim (another way to refer to Israel),” the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.
When the combined forces of Syria and Israel approached Judah, it terrified Ahaz and all the people. They knew they could not withstand these armies.
So God sends the prophet, Isaiah, to Ahaz…
Isaiah 7:3 And the Lord said to Isaiah, “Go out to meet Ahaz, you and Shear-jashub your son, at the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer’s Field.
God told Isaiah to meet Ahaz and bring his son, Shear-jashub, with him.
Names often have meanings in Scripture and Ahaz’s son, Shear-jashub’s, name means, “A remnant shall return.”
Can you see why this son would be significant?
Shear-jashub is a walking message. Ahaz thinks his nation is going to be wiped out, but when he sees Isaiah coming with his son it communicates that things are not as bad as they looked. Judah would survive. There would be a remnant.
Also, sometimes you see a detail such as, the end of the conduit of the upper pool on the highway to the Washer’s Field, and you might wonder why it’s there. Let these details serve as reminders that the Bible is an accurate historical account. We are dealing with real people who went to real places and really did the things we are reading.
Look what Isaiah says to Ahaz…
Isaiah 7:4 And say to him, ‘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 (referring to Pekah).
When a true prophet shows up speaking for God, that’s not the time to talk. That’s the time to listen carefully and quietly as Isaiah said.
Also, even though this was a terrifying situation, God told Ahaz not to fear because Israel and Syria looked terrifying to Ahaz, but God saw them as two smoldering stumps of firebrands.
They were nothing more than smoke without fire. Smoke is annoying, it can get in your eyes and make you cough, but without fire it’s not very deadly.
The same is true of these two Kings. They were annoying, but they were not deadly.
Also, smoldering stumps are about to die out, so this hints at their coming destruction.
Look what God says Pekah and Rezin were planning to do….
Isaiah 7:5 Because Syria (referring to Rezin), with Ephraim (again Israel) and the son of Remaliah (again Pekah), has devised evil against you, saying, 6 “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,”
Pekah and Rezin planned to remove Ahaz from the throne and replace him with the son of Tabeel.
You might remember in a recent sermon I told you that in the ancient world if a new king was not descended from the previous king, it was customary for the new king to execute the previous king and all his relatives to prevent anyone from rising up and trying to reclaim the throne.
So Ahaz knows that not only is his life in danger, the lives of his entire family are in danger too. It’s one thing when you think you might die, but it’s another thing entirely when you think your entire family might be wiped out. That’s what Ahaz is fearing.
Let me explain why this is much worse than it sounds…
Ahaz is from the house of David, which means he’s one of David’s descendants, which means he’s in the lineage of the Messiah. Listen to these verses…
Matthew 1:1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
Then you go down to verse 9…
Matthew 1:9 and Uzziah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the FATHER OF AHAZ, AND AHAZ the father of Hezekiah,
You go down to verse 16…
Matthew 1:16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, OF WHOM JESUS WAS BORN, WHO IS CALLED CHRIST.
So here’s the point: if you remove Ahaz, you remove the Messiah’s line. If you don’t have Ahaz, you don’t have what we’re celebrating this week: the birth of Christ.
So let me tell you what it LOOKS like is happening, and then tell you what is ACTUALLY happening:
- It looks like two wicked kings, Rezin and Pekah, are doing what wicked men do: attacking other nations and trying to gain more power for themselves
- Here’s what is ACTUALLY happening: this is nothing less than another satanic attempt to destroy the messianic line.
And here’s why it’s important to know this…
Ahaz was such a wicked man, we could easily wonder why God would deliver him. But God didn’t deliver Ahaz for, or because, of Ahaz. God delivered Ahaz to be faithful to the covenant he made with David, and to ensure His Son would come into the world.
It is this threat to the messianic line that provides the background for this sign that Immanuel will be born. Or here’s another way to say it…
When it looks Rezin and Pekah will prevent the Messiah from being born, God provides this sign that Immanuel, or God with us, will be born.
Look at these wonderful words that God shared with Ahaz…
Isaiah 7:7 thus says the Lord God: “‘It shall not stand, and it shall not come to pass. 8 For the head (or capital) of Syria is Damascus, and the head (or king) of Damascus is Rezin. And within sixty-five years Ephraim (or Israel) will be shattered from being a people.
God declared that within 65 years Ephraim, or Israel, would be destroyed. This occurred when Assyria conquered the northern kingdom and resettled the nation. They brought in foreign people who intermarried with the Israelites and created a new group of people that was half Israelite and half Gentile, and they were known as the Samaritans. Essentially, this brought the Israelites to an end, which is why the end of the verse says that Israel would be shattered from being a people.
Isaiah 7:9 And the head (or capital) of Ephraim is Samaria, and the head (or king) of Samaria is the son of Remaliah (referring to Pekah). If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.’”
God promised Ahaz victory, but only if he remained firm in his faith. Sadly, Ahaz did not remain firm in his faith. God delivered Judah, but Ahaz turned to Assyria for help, and Assyria later turned against him.
It is a good example of how we turn to sin for help instead of turning to God, and the sin ends up punishing us in the end.
Now here’s what’s important and many of your Bibles might make this point…
In verses 9, 13 and 14 the word you is plural. It’s like if you were talking to a room of people and said, “I can see all of you.”
The point is this…
God said, “If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all,” and he said this as much to us as he said it to Ahaz.
And isn’t this true for us?
If we are not firm in faith, we will not be firm at all. We will be double-minded.
God wants Ahaz to be firm in [his] faith, so he gives him a sign. Look at verse 10…
Isaiah 7:10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.”
This is pretty dramatic, isn’t it?
God asks a wicked man what miracle he wants to see performed to bolster his faith. And God said the sign could be as deep as Sheol or high as heaven, which means there were no restrictions.
This is an incredible moment for a human, somewhat like when God told Solomon to ask for whatever he wanted.
Interestingly there is also a note in many Bibles that the word your has gone back to the singular. God stopped speaking to all of us and is now speaking directly to Ahaz. In other words, God told Ahaz to ask for a sign, but he has not told all of us to ask for a sign.
But, sadly, look how Ahaz responded…
Isaiah 7:12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.”
This doesn’t look like it makes sense, does it? Who wouldn’t want to ask for a sign, or a miracle, from God that strengthen belief?
Someone who doesn’t want to believe…and this brings us to lesson one…
Lesson One: Some people don’t want to believe.
Ahaz was an unbelieving king who didn’t want a sign, because he didn’t want to have to trust God to deliver him. He wanted to trust Assyria.
A few weeks ago in Sunday school I thought Jamison made a great point about the reasons young people go off to college and say that they are no longer Christians:
- They say that it’s because they no longer believe. Then they provide different reasons why Christianity doesn’t make sense.
- But Jamison made the point that these reasons are excuses to cover their sin. The real reason they don’t believe, is because they want to continue drinking, fornicating, and doing things they shouldn’t.
In other words, it’s not that they no longer believe. It’s that they don’t want to believe.
Our beliefs shape our actions. We do what we do because of our beliefs. Believing certain things produces certain actions.
If these young people believed, they would have to live different lives for Christ.
In Ahaz’s case, if he received the sign he would have to believe God would deliver him. But he didn’t want to believe that, because it would mean breaking his alliance with Assyria, and he wanted to put his faith in Assyria instead of God.
You say, “Why would he want to trust Assyria instead of God?”
Basically, he could see Assyria!
Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things NOT SEEN.
Faith requires believing things that are not seen. If they can be seen, they don’t require faith.
Ahaz doesn’t have faith, so he isn’t going to believe something he can’t see…such as God.
He wants to put his trust in something he can see, such as the Assyrian kingdom and their earthly Army.
Now for a moment, think about what Ahaz can NOT say…
He cannot say, “I don’t want a sign, because I don’t want to believe.”
That would make him look bad, so he has to say something spiritual, such as, “I don’t want to test God.”
And this sounds spiritual, doesn’t it?
Our minds go to Jesus’s temptation in the wilderness when He responded to the devil…
Matthew 4:7 Jesus said…“You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
But this is fake spirituality from Ahaz and God sees through it…
Isaiah 7:13 And he (this is Isaiah) said, “Hear then, O house of David (referring to Ahaz, because he’s descended from David)! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also?
Ahaz wearied men in that he had been a bad king to the nation of Judah, but now he wearied God also. Because God told Ahaz to ask for a sign, to do anything less was disobedient.
Ironically, Ahaz said he didn’t want to test God, but by disobeying Him, that’s exactly what he did. He tested His patience.
Here’s something interesting…
God needs to deliver Ahaz to preserve the messianic line, but Ahaz doesn’t want to be delivered by God, so what is God going to do?
He is going to deliver Ahaz anyway!
Even if Ahaz won’t ask for a sign, God gives him one. Look at verse 14…
Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (which means God With Us).
Let me get you to notice two things about verse 14…
First, we are back to the plural form of the word you. God isn’t talking just to Ahaz. He is talking to all of us because this sign is for everyone.
Second, notice the word behold in the middle of the verse. This is is always used to draw special attention to something God is saying that is extra significant, and this is extra significant.
For this to make sense I want to introduce you to the principle that prophecy can have a near, partial fulfillment and a future, greater fulfillment. Let me say that one more time: prophecy can have a near, partial fulfillment and a future greater fulfillment.
And there is a near and partial fulfillment of this prophecy in Isaiah’s day, and a future, greater fulfillment found in Christ.
And this brings us to lesson two…
Lesson Two: Jesus is the true and greater Immanuel in that He (part one) was born of a virgin.
First, let’s talk about the near and partial fulfillment in Isaiah’s day, and then we will talk about the future, greater fulfillment found in Christ.
I need to ask you to listen carefully…behold 😊.
In Isaiah’s day there was a young girl who was unmarried and had not had a relationship with a man. Although she is unnamed in the account, I suspect Ahaz knew her. Maybe she was in the royal court.
One commentator wrote, “Many commentators think that this was immediately fulfilled when a young woman in the royal household shortly married, conceived a son, and unknowingly named him Immanuel.”
She would get married, cease being a virgin, have a child, and name that child, Immanuel. To be clear, there is nothing miraculous about the birth of this child, other than God predicted it.
When Ahaz saw this child and learned he was named Immanuel, Ahaz would think of Isiah’s words and be convinced God would deliver Judah. That’s how the child would serve as a sign.
How is the future fulfillment found in Christ greater?
Mary gave birth to Christ as a virgin. It literally, physically was a supernatural, miraculous birth.
The next part of lesson two…
Lesson Two: Jesus is the true and greater Immanuel in that He (part two) is literally God with us.
Listen to Isaiah 7:14 quoted in the New Testament…
Matthew 1:21 [Mary] will bear a son, and you SHALL CALL HIS NAME JESUS, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL” (which means, God with us).
You might have noticed something confusing: twice it says Jesus’s name would be Immanuel.
So which is it? Is his name Jesus or Immanuel?
We already know His name is Jesus, so that just makes us wonder why it says his name would be Immanuel.
Do me a favor and briefly turn two chapters to the right to Isaiah 9:6. This is another famous prophecy associated with Jesus’s birth.
Isaiah 9:6 For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and HIS NAME SHALL BE CALLED WONDERFUL COUNSELOR, MIGHTY GOD, EVERLASTING FATHER, PRINCE OF PEACE.
We know Jesus didn’t get all these names. Instead, they’re titles He fulfilled. They describe Him. It’s like saying, “He shall be called doctor, lawyer, or teacher.” Those aren’t people’s name, but they’re fitting titles.
Here’s another example…
Jeremiah 23:6 In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And (referring to Jesus) THIS IS THE NAME BY WHICH HE WILL BE CALLED: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
Jesus was never called the Lord is our Righteousness, but it’s a fitting title, because He is our righteousness.
- 1 Corinthians 1:30 You are in Christ Jesus, who became to us…righteousness
- 2 Corinthians 5:21 [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
When the angel Gabriel visited Mary, he said…
Luke 1:32 [Jesus] will be great and WILL BE CALLED THE SON OF THE MOST HIGH.
Jesus’s name wasn’t Son of the Most High, but he could be called that because that’s who he is.
And He can be called Immanuel, because that’s who he is: God with us.
Let me ask you to think about something…
Just as Isaiah’s child, Shear-jashub, served as an object lesson, or just as his name communicated a message, so too did the child, Immanuel, in Ahaz’s day communicate a message: God was with Ahaz and the Jews during this terrifying time. Ahaz and the Jews could look at the child Immanuel and be reminded that God was with them. The child would’ve been a great encouragement to the people.
But here’s what I want to ask…
Was this child TRULY God with them?
But Jesus literally, physically, was God With us.
In Isaiah’s day you could look at Immanuel and say, “Oh how cute, a little boy whose name means God With Us” but with Jesus you’d say, “Whoa. God became a Man in the Person of Jesus Christ, and He really, literally is God with us.”
John 1:14 The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The next part of lesson two…
Lesson Two: Jesus is the true and greater Immanuel in that He (part three) gives us victory over the greatest Enemy.
The child in Isaiah’s day represented victory over the enemies, Rezin and Pekah, that threatened the Jews. Every time Ahaz and the Jews looked at Immanuel, his birth served as a sign of the victory God would give them over the enemies they faced.
Can you see where I’m going with this?
Just as Immanuel’s birth served as a sign of the victory God would give the people over their enemies, Jesus’s birth serves as a sign of the victory God has given us over our enemy. Let me say that one more time: Just as Immanuel’s birth served as a sign of the victory God would give the people over their enemies, Jesus’s birth serves as a sign of the victory God has given us over our enemy.
Let me show you something. Briefly look back at the second half of Isaiah 7:2…
Isaiah 7:2 …the heart of Ahaz and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind.
This is how Ahaz and the people felt because of the enemy they faced: terrified.
We face an enemy too, and that enemy is Death.
And guess how this Enemy causes us to feel?
Listen to these two verses…
Hebrews 2:15 [Jesus] delivers all those who THROUGH FEAR OF DEATH WERE SUBJECT TO LIFELONG SLAVERY.
This doesn’t say that we are slaves of Death, although that is true. This says that we are so terrified of death, that our fear makes us slaves.
Keep this in mind and turn to 1 Corinthians 15.
Look at verse 26…
1 Corinthians 15:26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death.
In many Bibles, the word Death is capitalized, because God wants to personify it, or make it seem like an enemy that Jesus defeated.
Look at verse 54…
1 Corinthians 15:54 When the perishable (referring to our earthly bodies) puts on the imperishable (referring to the glorified bodies we’ll receive), and the mortal puts on immortality (when we receive eternal life), then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY (we experience victory over our enemy, death).” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting (in other words, death can no longer hurt us)?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who GIVES US THE VICTORY THROUGH OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.
Let me get you to think about it like this…
Ahaz faced Rezin and Pekah.
We face Death.
In Ahaz’s day, the birth of the child, Immanuel, served as a sign of the victory God would provide over the enemies they faced.
In our day the birth of Jesus, the true and greater Immanuel, serves as a sign of the victory God provides over the true and greater Enemy we face: Death.
Think about this…
The child born in Isaiah’s day pictured the deliverance God provided from two evil kings, and this is a great deliverance.
But let me ask you…
Even if the people were spared from Rezin and Pekah they could still go to hell, so how good was the deliverance…really?
Jesus provides an even greater eternal deliverance from eternity in hell.
But here’s the thing…
Jesus only provides this deliverance for those who have repented of their sins and put their faith in Him:
- If you have done that, then Jesus provides you with this victory. Jesus serves as a sign of your salvation.
- If you haven’t done that, then Jesus has NOT provided you with this victory. Jesus serves as a sign of your condemnation.
I will be up front after service, and if you have any questions about anything I’ve shared or I can pray for you in any way I would consider it a privilege to speak with you.
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that we celebrate Christmas on 12/25 as a means of superseding the pagan festival of Sol Invictus (Unconquerable Sun). It was a pagan solstice festival, celebrating that the tide had turned and the days were getting longer. So, since Jesus is the light of the world, it seemed appropriate to the ancients to place the feast of the coming of the light on an existing feast of the returning of the light. Very economical.
Greetings again Kevin,
Actually, no, I didn’t know Christmas related to Sol Invictus; I thought the day was chosen from Saturnalia, the winter solstice…unless that is Sol Invictus? When Rome was “Christianized” the Roman Church converted Saturnalia to a “Christian holiday” to celebrate Christ’s birth. At least that was my understanding?
By the way, I’ve begun checking out your blog and the commentary you’ve made available.