Wednesday 07 December 2016

Bible Book:

“Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” (v. 14)

Isaiah 7:10-14 Wednesday 7 December 2016

Psalm: Psalm 68:24-35


Will King Ahaz avoid giving in to the threats of Ephraim andAram whilst, at the same time resist a deepening alliance withAssyria (see yesterday's passage). Will he fully put histrust in the promises of the Lord? This is such a vital moment thatthe Lord invites Ahaz to ask for a sign - any sign - to assure himof God's faithfulness. Ahaz declines the offer in beautifullysounding pious words about not testing God (verse 12), but theimplication is that Ahaz does not want a sign because he does notwant to believe! The divine frustration is clear as Isaiah suggeststhat not only are his people tired of the king, but that he is evenmanaging to "weary my God" (v. 13).

Dismissing the protestations of Ahaz, the Lord offers a signanyway: "Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son,and shall name him Immanuel". The adoption of this sign inMatthew's Gospel (Matthew 1:23) as finding fulfilment in thecoming of Christ has made the promise controversial with many. Atfirst sight, the promise of the birth of a child could beunderstood as simply saying 'by the time this child is twelve, thepowers you fear will be no more'(see Isaiah7:16). But that is to overlook a number of interesting andilluminating elements.

  • Firstly, the Lord urges Ahaz to ask for a remarkable sign. Sosurely the sign chosen by the Lord would be expected to fulfil thatremit: an ordinary young woman having an ordinary baby (miraclethough new life is) perhaps falls short of those expectations!
  • Secondly the word translated as 'young woman' is not the mostcommon one for 'woman' or 'girl', but is much rarer word indicatinga 'young woman of marriageable age'.
  • Thirdly, the name given to the child (Immanuel) must surelyhave significance given the use of children's names in otherrelated passages and yet does not seem to have a direct relevancehere. Perhaps like so many prophetic words this sign has a singlemeaning but a double significance. The promise 'God with us' wouldof course offer assurance to the King  (should he choose tobelieve it) when faced with uncertainty and opposition fromsurrounding nations.

The same promise is a blessing to each of us too in our ownexperiences. And yet the promise surely finds unique illuminationthrough the breaking in of God in to our world in Christ. With thebirth of Immanuel at Bethlehem, God is miraculously and completely'present' with God's own people. Perhaps Ahaz was not overjoyed toreceive the sign from the Lord - but we have reason to be.

To Ponder

  • Can you recall a time when the experience of 'God with us'became real for you in moments of crisis? What happened?
  • How have you found the 'Immanuel' promise real for you thisweek?
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