The Virgin Shall Conceive
November 30, 2017 | by: Dale Thiele | 0 Comments
Posted in: Pastoral Encouragement
The birth of Christ, perhaps, was the most promised and anticipated event in the history of mankind. For centuries, the Jews heard and held onto prophecies of one to come who would bring deliverance from oppression, justice, peace, and a kingdom. Part of the wonder of Christmas is seeing those prophecies fulfilled in the birth of Christ. God promised, and God fulfilled. Our faith in the promise-keeping God is bolstered by celebrating the “good news of great joy” of the birth of Christ. This month, let’s consider a few of those Old Testament promises and their fulfillment in Christ. This is part one of a four-part series.
In Matthew 1 we read about the angel of the Lord appearing to Joseph in a dream. The angel informs him that the baby Mary carries is conceived from the Holy Spirit; his name shall be Jesus, “for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). After the vision Matthew states, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’” (Matt. 1:22-23).
This prophecy is quoted from Isaiah 7:14. In the original context, this promised “sign” was not looking first at the coming Messiah. We read in verse 1, “Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the king of Israel came up to Jerusalem to wage war against it.” The year is 735 BC. In reaction, “the heart of Ahaz (king of Judah) and the heart of his people shook as the trees of the forest shake before the wind” (v. 2). Ahaz was a faithless king who rejected God and his ways. He did not turn to the Lord for help in this situation. He went to the king of Assyria (see 2 Kings 16:7).
The Lord, in his kindness and covenantal love for David and the Israelites, sent Isaiah to woo Ahaz back to faith in God. He says, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God…” (v. 11). Ahaz refused to ask for a sign, perhaps out of guilt over his faithlessness. The Lord responds, “The Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (v. 14). Interestingly, the “you” in verse 14 is plural, while the “your” in verse 11 is singular. God shifts his attention from Ahaz to the rest of the people who would hear this prophecy.
What can we glean from this prophecy?
- The Lord keeps promise. God has made a promise to David (see 2 Sam. 7) that God would establish one of his descendants on the throne forever. Ahaz was one of David’s descendants, but he rejected the Lord. Faithlessness from the people could not, however, nullify God’s promise. He declares in verse 13, “Hear then, O house of David…[I] will give you a sign…” This sign points to God’s faithfulness to his promises.
- The Lord cares for his people. The people were threatened by the marching armies. Ahaz, their king, chased after allegiances with foreign kings. The Lord, however, would not abandon his people. He cares for them. The sign of a virgin bearing a son and naming him “God with us” was a reminder to the people of Judah that God was caring for them. He was protecting them. He was with them. If Ahaz would be faithless, the people could still see the sign and be bolstered in their faith.
- The sign has double fulfillment. The siege of Jerusalem in 735 BC foreshadows a darker and more menacing siege on the people of God. God gave a sign in 735 BC of his deliverance from that siege; that sign, though, had a greater, second fulfillment that spoke of God's deliverance from the darker siege. This is what Matthew highlights. The angel told Joseph, “You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). And then Matthew states that this is the fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14. The darker, more menacing siege on God’s people is sin. The birth of Christ (of a virgin) confirms to the people of God that he will not abandon them. He will deliver them from this siege.
How do you respond to God’s promise of deliverance? Ahaz rejected God and looked for deliverance elsewhere. Many of the Jews in Jesus’ day, especially the religious leaders, rejected God’s deliverance and looked elsewhere. The sign of the virgin birth points us to God’s faithfulness and love for his people. Let’s trust in him and his deliverance.