Isaiah, 2

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The Promised Deliverer

Isaiah 7—9

Some like to refer to the Old Testament prophetic book Isaiah as “the Fifth Gospel,” for it emphasizes many themes found throughout the four New Testament Gospels.  Themes like God is the Savior, the coming Messiah and its frequent use by the Gospel writers all make the ancient book of Isaiah seem a lot newer than it really is.

A coming deliverer or Messiah is a common theme, not only Isaiah, but all throughout the Old Testament.  His eventual coming was Israel’s great hope—an event all Jews look forward to and long for.  No other prophet captured this longing more than Isaiah, and his book contains a prophecy of the Messiah’s coming that is like a lightening rod, drawing the attention of liberal and conservative Bible scholars since the dawn of Biblical higher criticism.

The deliverer is with us, Isaiah 7:14—16; 8:14, 15; Matthew 1:22, 23; Luke 20:17, 18

The prophecy in question is one we hear and sing about every Christmas season.  It’s hard to believe these verses are so controversial, but they are.

All right then, the Lord himself will choose the sign—a child shall be born to a virgin! And she shall call him Immanuel (meaning, “God is with us”).  By the time this child is weaned and knows right from wrong, the two kings you fear so much—the kings of Israel and Syria—will both be dead.  (Isaiah 7:14—16  TLB)

A little history lesson

A common trait in predictive prophecy is that it very often mixes together different times and eras in one prophecy.  In other words, when a certain prophecy deals with future events, it may actually have more than one fulfillment.  It may have an immediate fulfillment (during the prophet’s lifetime, for example) as well as a future fulfillment.  Such is the case with the so-called Christmas prophecy.

The prophecies of Isaiah 7 to 12 were all given during the reign of King Ahaz, at a time when the kingdom of Israel was actually split into two smaller kingdoms, Israel to the north and Judah to the south.  Pekah, evil king of Israel, had joined forces with Syria to take over Jerusalem and the southern kingdom of Judah.  This worried King Ahaz, monarch of Judah.   Not only that, the Assyrian army, much greater than the combined forces of Syria and Israel, was massing on the horizon.  God, through His prophets, had promised that Judah would be delivered from all enemies, but still Ahaz was fearful.  In order to calm Ahaz’s nerves, God directed him to seek for a sign.

Ask me for a sign, Ahaz, to prove that I will indeed crush your enemies as I have said. Ask anything you like, in heaven or on earth.  (Isaiah 7:11  TLB)

The promise of Immanuel

The sign the Lord gave Ahaz was a curious one:  a virgin would conceive and give birth to a son, and before that child would be able to talk, the kings of Syria and Israel would both be dead.  The child’s name would be Immanuel.

The word “virgin” used in Isaiah’s prophecy has two meanings:  “a young woman” or “a virgin.”  We steadfastly deny the liberal interpretation of this prophecy, which says it only refers to an immediate fulfillment in Isaiah 8—

Then I had sexual intercourse with my wife and she conceived and bore me a son. And the Lord said, “Call him Maher-shalal-hash-baz.  This name prophesies that within a couple of years, before this child is even old enough to say ‘Daddy’ or ‘Mommy,’ the king of Assyria will invade both Damascus and Samaria and carry away their riches. (Isaiah 8:3, 4  TLB)

Remembering that predictive prophecies often have more than one fulfillment, we see this as the immediate fulfillment.  Isaiah used his own son as a sign from God to King Ahaz.  So, before Isaiah’s son, Maher-shalal-hash-baz (Baz for short), was old enough to talk, the kings of Syria (Damascus) and Israel (Samaria) would be eliminated, thanks to the Assyrians.  Judah would be spared.

The spiritual name of Baz, Immanuel, meant simply that God was with Judah and fighting for Judah, at least for the foreseeable future.  Ahaz got his sign, thanks to Mr and Mrs Isaiah and their soon-to-be-born son.

God with us, Matthew 1:22, 23

So how do we know the liberals are wrong and we’re right?  Aside from the fact that liberal theology is always wrong, there is the plain testimony of Scripture!  Matthew, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, uses the Christmas prophecy in a direct application to Jesus Christ!

This will fulfill God’s message through his prophets—‘Listen! The virgin shall conceive a child! She shall give birth to a Son, and he shall be called “Emmanuel” (meaning “God is with us”).’  (Matthew 1:22, 23  TLB)

It has been said, “the Bible is its own best interpreter.”  So we see that the prophecy has two meanings—one for Isaiah’s day and one for the future.  A son was born during Ahaz’s time, but he was just a sign of God’s deliverance; he was not the deliverer himself, but he did prove that God was with His people.  Matthew, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, saw the birth of Jesus as evidence that God was still with the people of Israel, but that this Child, unlike Isaiah’s son, would prove to be much more than merely a sign. This Child, born of a young woman who was a virgin, would be the promised deliverer.

Jesus perfectly fulfills His spiritual name, Immanuel, “God with us.”  The virgin birth of Jesus means that He had no earthly father, therefore God is His Father.  Somehow, Jesus is both human and divine at the same time.  In Jesus, God clothed Himself with human flesh.  Through His Son, God truly lived among His people.

And Christ became a human being and lived here on earth among us and was full of loving forgiveness and truth. And some of us have seen his glory—the glory of the only Son of the heavenly Father!  (John 1:14  TLB)

It is quite true that the way to live a godly life is not an easy matter. But the answer lies in Christ, who came to earth as a man, was proved spotless and pure in his Spirit, was served by angels, was preached among the nations, was accepted by men everywhere, and was received up again to his glory in heaven.  (1 Timothy 3:16  TLB)

“God with us,” the great prophetic name of our Lord, sets forth His deity and His humanity.  In Him, God is always with us.

Jesus, our rock, Isaiah 8:14, 15, Luke 20:17, 18

He will be your safety; but Israel and Judah have refused his care and thereby stumbled against the Rock of their salvation and lie fallen and crushed beneath it: God’s presence among them has endangered them!  (Isaiah 8:14, 15  TLB)

That’s a terrible indictment on people who should have known better!  Those who work against the Lord, or align themselves with those who work against Him, will find defeat.  The cleverest plans that go against God’s will cannot ever prevail (verses 9 and 10).  The Law made it clear that God’s people should never consort with those who would do evil:

Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong.  (Exodus 23:2a  NIV)

The northern kingdom of Israel had done this, and they would pay dearly.  But Judah at times had done the same things, and that’s the point of this prophecy.  God wants to protect His people, but if His people refuse His care, they will suffer.  God’s presence is like a double-edged sword; He will either be a sanctuary or a stumbling block.  Both Israel, and later Judah, will stumble and fall because of their fear of man rather than their fear of God.

Over in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus took Isaiah’s words and applied them to His own ministry.

Jesus looked at them and said, “Then what does the Scripture mean where it says, ‘The Stone rejected by the builders was made the cornerstone’?” 18And he added, “Whoever stumbles over that Stone shall be broken; and those on whom it falls will be crushed to dust.”  (Luke 20:17, 18  TLB)

Our Lord is the chief cornerstone; the foundation block. He is our rock.  But for those who refuse to follow Him, He becomes a stumbling block.

Divine governance, Isaiah 9:2—7

Light, verse 2

The people who walk in darkness shall see a great Light—a Light that will shine on all those who live in the land of the shadow of death.  (TLB)

Isaiah’s (and Judah’s) real hope rested in the God who IS salvation.  The wonderful prophecy of chapter 9 ranks high on the list of favorite prophecies.  This prophecy is full of promises discouraged followers of God needed to hear and need to hear.  There will be a spiritual revival when the Messiah is born and reigns.  It’s a daring vision, to be sure.  People, so long in “darkness,” spiritual and otherwise, will at last see God’s Light; they will experience God’s real hope.

“The people” refers to the faithful remnant.  Yes, there weren’t many left, but there were a few faithful followers of Yahweh left in the land.  It was the same the night Jesus was born; there weren’t many still looking in earnest hope, but there were a few—a very faithful remnant—and to those, the birth of Jesus was bright light, indeed.

Joy, verse 3

For Israel will again be great, filled with joy like that of reapers when the harvesttime has come, and like that of men dividing up the plunder they have won.  (TLB)

This will be Israel’s “golden age,” and it will occur when Jesus Christ returns as the rightful king and heir to David’s throne.  This hasn’t happened yet.  This prophecy is over 2700 years old, but both Jews and Christians alike are waiting for it to come to pass.

Deliverance, verse 4

For God will break the chains that bind his people and the whip that scourges them, just as he did when he destroyed the vast host of the Midianites by Gideon’s little band.  (TLB)

When the Messiah assumes the throne, all oppression and tyranny will finally come to an end.  God’s people will finally be free—forever free!

On the spiritual side of the ledger, believers in Jesus Christ today, be they Jews or Gentiles, may experience total deliverance from all sin and oppression from the Devil!  This is real deliverance that any repentant sinner may experience.

So if the Son sets you free, you will indeed be free…  (John 8:36  TLB)

But it will happen in reality at the Second Advent.

Peace, verse 5

In that glorious day of peace there will no longer be the issuing of battle gear; no more the bloodstained uniforms of war; all such will be burned.  (TLB)

Again, there is an obvious spiritual application of the verse; believers may be at peace with God through their relationship with Jesus today, but in the prophetic future, this refers to real and lasting peace.  Imagine, a world where war has become a dim memory.  No more fighting.  No more bloodshed.

The birth of hope, verses 6, 7

For unto us a child is born; unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder. These will be his royal titles: “Wonderful,” “Counselor,” “The Mighty God,” “The Everlasting Father,” “The Prince of Peace.”  His ever-expanding, peaceful government will never end. He will rule with perfect fairness and justice from the throne of his father David. He will bring true justice and peace to all the nations of the world. This is going to happen because the Lord of heaven’s armies has dedicated himself to do it!  (TLB)

All this hinges on the birth of one Child.  The birth of this Child took place 2,000 years ago, at Christ’s first coming.  His universal reign has not yet taken place.  That will happen when He comes back the second time.  A Child is born (Jesus’ perfect humanity) and a Son is given (His absolute deity) perfectly captures the two natures of our Lord.

We live in a day and age where praise comes cheap.  Even among Christians.  But when we read Isaiah’s stunning words concerning the Messiah, we see that no human being can compare.  The more we get to know Jesus, the more we will want to praise Him.  Isaiah wrote some wonderful words, but he never experienced the wonder you and I may experience in a personal relationship with Him through faith.

In him lie hidden all the mighty, untapped treasures of wisdom and knowledge.  (Colossians 2:3  TLB)

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