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The Immanuel Prophecy
King Ahaz of Judah, was troubled with news of an Assyrian war near the beginning of his reign about 734 B.C. So, the Lord sent the prophet Isaiah to give him a message of comfort saying: “Take heed, and be quiet; do not fear or be fainthearted…” (Isaiah 7:4). Also, the Lord added, “Ask a sign for yourself from the LORD your God; ask it either in the depth or in the height above” (verse. 11). But Ahaz did not want to ask (v. 12) and he did not want to believe in God. The help he sought was that of Assyria not God. In this manner, he revealed his rebellion against God.
However, Ahaz was to have a sign from the Lord in spite of himself. The sign of the Immanuel prophecy was given to encourage those who would remain faithful to God in the coming years of crisis. Isaiah said, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Curds and honey He shall 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 you dread will be forsaken by both her kings” (verse 14-16).
In his narrative nothing is said as to the identity of the “young woman” to whom Isaiah here refers. But it is interesting to note that Isaiah and his sons were “signs” designed of God to have the cooperation of Ahaz and Judah during the years of crisis that accompanied the collapse and captivity of the northern kingdom, Israel.
Isaiah himself declared, “I and the children whom the Lord hath given me are for signs and for wonders in Israel from the Lord of hosts” (ch. 8:18), a declaration whose importance is shown by the fact that it happens in the same prophetic sequence as the “sign” promised in ch. 7:14. The names Isaiah, Shear-jashub, and Maher-shalal-hash-baz—which mean, respectively, “The Lord will save,” “A remnant shall return,” and “Speed the spoil, hasten the plunder”—all spoke clearly of coming events linked to the Assyrian invasions of Judah.
Therefore, some suggest that Isaiah is talking about his own wife, “the prophetess” of ch. 8:3. Thus, the context of Isa. 7:14, in relation to the words “sign” and “virgin,” makes it clear that the prophecy had an immediate application within the historical circumstances.
Prediction of the Messiah
However, there is another application to this prophecy. Matthew’s quote (ch. 1:23) of this prophecy and Luke (ch. 1:31,35) makes it equally sure that this prophecy also points forward to the Messiah. Thus, we can see that many OT predictions have a twofold application such as this, first to the immediate future and then to the more distant future (Deut. 18:15).
Matthew and Luke supply evidence to confirm the truth of the virgin birth: (1) Both confirm that Jesus was born through the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:18, 20; Luke 1:31,35). (2) They announce that Mary was to “bring forth a son” not to be the son of Joseph (Matt. 1:21) but the Son of God (Luke 1:35). (3) Mary continued to be a virgin “till she had brought forth” Jesus (Matt. 1:25). (4) Mary confirmed her virginity to God’s angel (Luke 1:34). Thus, the virgin birth of Jesus is fully proven.
Immanuel-God with us
The Hebrew word ‘Immanu ’El, means “God with us” that is to deliver us from our enemies. The name Immanuel was a sign name given by God to testify to His purpose for Judah at this time and of the nature of future actions. This sign of the Immanuel prophecy testifies to God’s presence with His people to lead, protect, and deliver. While other nations were defeated, Judah would be helped. When Sennacherib came against the land of Judah to destroy it, Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz, no doubt found in Isaiah’s prophecy hope.
And the mention here of eating curded milk and honey means plenty of food. The land was to be desolate, but there would be enough food for the remnant in the land following the Assyrian invasion (Isa. 7:22). Thus, when the child that was to be called Immanuel became old enough “to refuse the evil, and choose the good,” he would have “butter and honey” to eat.
A message of hope
Isaiah had admonished Ahaz not to be afraid of Assyria and its two kings Rezin and Pekah, the “two tails of these smoking firebrands” (ch. 7: 4). Judah need not fear if her leaders would only trust the promise given in the name Immanuel, “God with us.” By the time the sign child Immanuel should be two years or so of age, the reigns of Pekah and Rezin would come to an end.
In His service,
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