When Isaiah goes to visit Ahaz, he says things like, Do not fear and do not let your heart be faint (7:4). God knows that it is dangerous when we’re controlled by our fears, so His word to Ahaz is the same one He repeats throughout the Scriptures: do not fear. Isaiah goes on to tell Ahaz that the alliance between Israel and Syria won’t last because these two nations are like two smoldering sticks. Isaiah encourages Ahaz to put his trust in God and he closes with a line that we discussed a few weeks ago: Isaiah 7:9, If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.
A couple of things are interesting about this verse. One, it’s a plural statement. If y’all are not firm in faith, y’all will not be firm at all. It’s not a statement delivered simply to King Ahaz — it’s intended for all the people of Judah. Therefore, I believe this is a word intended for us as well. God is saying to the people of Isaiah’s day: “Hold tight. I’ve got this. I won’t let Israel and Syria succeed against you. So y’all just continue to firm in your faith because without this nothing in your life is really firm at all.” This is just one of thousands of verses in the Bible that tell us that trust in God is more important than anything else.
Another interesting point is that these two lines actually rhyme in the original Hebrew — something we lose in our translation into English. This is kind of a crude translation, but the original would’ve sounded something like “trust or bust” — “In God y’all need to trust or else y’all are going to go bust.” Something like that.
And then God does something truly amazing: He tells Ahaz to ask for a sign that he might rest assured in God’s promises.
Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.”Isaiah 7:10-11
Think about how many people throughout history have asked God for a sign. And God gives Ahaz the green light here, essentially saying, “Ask for anything from the highest heights to the deepest depths.” But Ahaz refuses this invitation, which I think indicates that he’s not interested in trusting in God — he has his own plans for getting out of this dilemma. Nevertheless, God gives a sign. Even if Ahaz won’t have eyes to see it, God’s faithful remnant will.
Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.Isaiah 7:14
The sign God gives is a child named Immanuel — which means “God with us.”
Isaiah speaks of a young woman — we don’t know exactly to whom he is referring, but obviously Ahaz would have known her. This young woman is a virgin at the time God speaks these words through Isaiah. And this young woman will get pregnant over the course of time — not supernaturally, as in the conception of Jesus centuries later, but by natural means. And God goes on to say that before her child is very old, Israel and Syria will not be a threat to Judah any more.
This is a good place to talk about an important principle of biblical prophecy: partial fulfillment vs. ultimate fulfillment. There’s a sense in which this prophecy finds ultimate fulfillment or its greatest fulfillment in Jesus — the gospel writer of Matthew tells us as much. Jesus is God’s ultimate sign that He is with us once and for all. But there’s also a sense in which this prophecy was at least partially fulfilled by the events in Ahaz and Isaiah’s day. This young woman will become pregnant — again, not supernaturally. That kind of supernatural conception and birth is reserved only for Jesus. The unique circumstances of His birth will parallel the unique circumstances of His death. But in Isaiah’s day, while this little boy is still young, the threat of Israel and Syria will go away.
For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.Isaiah 7:16
This is the “sign” God promises — a child called Immanuel. God with us.