“A Virgin Shall Conceive, and Bear a Son”

Historic Context, Present Reality, Future Hope

King Ahaz Sets Back the Messianic Clock Seven Hundred Years

Jackson Snyder

 

 

 

Isaiah 7:14-17  Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.  also excerpts from Matthew 2, Luke 1 & 2


Could it be, had a king of Judah not disobeyed a direct command of Yahweh, that the Messiah might have been born seven hundred years earlier that we now know?

Prayer:  Father, send forth your light and truth and let them lead us into full light and all truth, through your son Yahshua, in whom we pray.  Amen.

 

Ahaz, Isaiah, and Four Nations at War

   Most of us know a passage from Isaiah 7 by heart because we hear it every year at Christmas.  “For this shall be a sign unto you; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”  But the rest of the chapter is hard ground to dig into unless it’s first been plowed up some.

   There are four nations involved in the chapter:  There’s Judah with its capital at Jerusalem.  The king of Judah is Ahaz, a devious tyrant who gives lip service to Yahweh, and who keeps a prophet of Yahweh named Isaiah, but Ahaz’ practice betrays his unbelief: he’s modified the Temple of Yahweh to accommodate pagan gods; he’s set up altars to the dragon god Molech, and he’s burned up his first son as a heathen sacrifice.  Yahweh isn’t pleased with Ahaz, but preserves him because Ahaz would beget Hezekiah, a king who’d turn hearts back to Yahweh and true worship.  And the line of Ahaz would also bring forth several great saints, one among which is the most famous saint of all: Jesus of Nazareth.

   The second nation mentioned is Aram, known also as Syria in your Bible.  Aram is allied with Israel, the third nation mentioned, which had split from Judah years earlier. Israel is called Ephraim in your Bible. So Ephraim and Aram are colluding to make war against King Ahaz and Judah.  In our passage, King Ahaz gets word that their armies are gathered on Judah’s border.  Ahaz knows his enemy’s intention is to replace him with their own man.  Scripture says that “Ahaz’ heart and his people's hearts shook like forest trees shaking in the wind” (Isaiah 7:2b).  But Ahaz doesn’t rely on the Mighty One for help; he goes instead to enlist Assyria – a very dangerous ploy; for this fourth nation mentioned is the greatest military power of all.  But Ahaz is more afraid of Yahweh than of any nation because he’s betrayed his god in such abominable ways.

   Isaiah the prophet receives a word for King Ahaz.  This is that word:

Don’t be scared of Aram and Ephraim; they’re only two smoldering matches.  Although they’ve been plotting to replace you, it will never happen – it will never occur.  Aram has only sixty-five more years.  Ephraim will cease to exist at all.  (Isaiah 7:4-8 excerpts)

Then Yahweh adds a postscript, “Ahaz, if you will not take your stand on me -- you will not stand” (vs. 9b).  This prophecy should have been wonderful news.  To receive such a favorable word though they’d done everything possible to betray the Sacred Name should have turned the King’s heart back to true worship.  But it didn’t.  Ahaz wouldn’t even acknowledge the word of the L-rd, so deep was he steeped in sin.

 

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To Choose or Not to Choose

   In his vast mercy, Yahweh gives Ahaz another chance, and speaks directly to him: “Ask me for a sign in heaven or earth!”  Then Ahaz makes a decision that will ultimately bring ruin to Judah and Israel for the next twenty-six hundred years.  He tells the Almighty Yahweh, “I will not ask for a sign from you!”  So Ahaz defies Yahweh and causes a change in plan, for Yahweh had two outcomes in mind for this dangerous situation.  Had Ahaz repented, accepted Yahweh’s advances, turned back, and called for a sign, the following good tidings were promised: 

Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel {El-With-Us}. On curds and honey will he feed until he knows how to refuse the bad and choose the good.  Before that, the lands whose kings are frightening you will be deserted. Yahweh will bring good times for you such as have not been seen since Ephraim broke away from Judah. (Isaiah 7:14-17 KJV / NJB)

   Had Ahaz made a choice for Yahweh, Yahweh might’ve then said, “O house of David, you might’ve had perfect peace.  You might’ve had reunification, prosperity and freedom from the threat of any enemies.  You might’ve had a paradise here on earth, and a worthy King like your ancestor David – a man after my own heart.  But instead, you’ve chosen to ignore me, defy me and dishonor me.  So this favorable outcome I’ll save for a future generation and people who will be in expectation of my word and heedful of my voice.  No, this isn’t for you.  Instead, this is what you’ve chosen”:

I Yahweh will whistle up mosquitoes from Egypt and bees Assyria, and they will settle on your streams, on your rocks, on your rose bushes and water-wells.  With the king of Assyria’s razor I’ll shave your head and legs, and take off your beard, too.  For your country will be nothing but brambles and thorns and stubble. (Isaiah 7:18-24 excerpts).

   Of course, this latter prophecy did come to pass, for when Ahaz refused the help of Yahweh and turned to the Assyrians in the east, they did eventually send envoys to shave the legs and beards of all Israel, leaving nothing of Davidic rule or Judean lands but brambles and stubble and Bedouin trash, just as Yahweh predicted.   However, Ahaz himself was preserved, for through him the rejected prophecy was to be fulfilled some seven hundred years later, in a time when there were no kings of the house of David, but kings and queens in the spirit of Yahweh who sought the predicted child born of a virgin.

 

Three Wise Kings

   Now in regard to these spiritual kings an queens, give heed:  A new envoy travels westward out of Assyria, taking the arduous journey through Aram and it’s capital Damascus and on to the highest city on earth – Jerusalem – once, generations before, David’s Royal City.  Leading the caravan are magi – prophets – whom later tradition would affirm to be three wise kings – with their precious cargo of gold, frankincense and myrrh.  For Yahweh had spoken the word to these descendants of David in the east, whose ancestors had been disbursed there as slaves 586 years before, when the Assyrian (Babylonian) armies shaved the beards of Israel.  Their race held precious all the unfulfilled prophecies of Yahweh; they had hopefully waited and watched all this time, generation after generation.  And now the promise was being fulfilled – the unmistakable sign of Balaam shone overhead:  “A star!  A star!  Dancing in the night with a tail as big as a kite’s!”

   “Where is he who is born King of Judah?  For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him,” they inquire (Matthew 2:2).   The bloody King Herod, so-called King of the Jews, pretender, also knows these prophecies, that

there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Scepter shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Sheth. (Numbers 24:17)

and King Herod fears, because the people consider him to be that Moabite who is to be smitten and destroyed.  Herod took great enough stock in these Assyrian magi of the house of David, and in the ancient prophecy given Ahaz, to hatch a plan of murder for all children born for the last two years in hopes of getting the one born of a virgin.

 

Hail Mary!

   Indeed, there is a child in the making, and a fulfillment of the prophecy spoken of at the very beginning of this talk, when Gabriel, the messenger of Yahweh, appears to a righteous virgin of the tribe of Levi, living in Nazareth of Galilee, announcing:

Hail Mary, full of grace!  Blessed art thou among women.  Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Yahshua (which is, in translation, “Jesus”). He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of El Elyon: and Yahweh shall give unto him the throne of his ancestor David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.  Therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of G-d.  (Luke 1:30-35 excerpts)

The girl isn’t afraid.  She has seen and heard this messenger before.  And now she confirms the Scripture by asking the angel a piercing question: “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?”

 

Hail Joseph!

   In the meantime, Yahweh speaks to an ancestor of King David of the tribe of Judah, who also lives in the town of Nazareth – a righteous old man – in a dream, saying,

Hail Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 1:20). 

 

Fear Not, Zecharias!

   Seventy miles to the south, in a secret room in the Jerusalem Temple called “The Holy Place,” Yahweh’s messenger Gabriel tells a righteous priest of the tribe of Levi,

Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.  He shall turn many of the children of Israel back to Yahweh their god.  (Luke 1:13-16 excerpts)  

This is a rather unlikely prophecy, since Zecharias’ wife Elisabeth is almost beyond the years of childbearing.  However, when the virgin Mary travels from Nazareth to Jerusalem to care for Elisabeth her kinswoman, Mary greets Elisabeth with the words, “Hail most blessed mother Elisabeth,” and the elder woman proclaims,

Yea, blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.  For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.  And blessed is she who believed there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by Yahweh.  (Luke 1:42-44)

 

Fear Not, Bedouins!

   In the fall of the year, a few miles south of Jerusalem in the countryside around Bethlehem, a poor and wretched clan of Bedouin trash is camped for the night.  Though they were of the royal tribe of Judah, they were still outcasts among their own people.  It was most unlikely that a throng of angels would appear in this rustic campground.  But first, the angel of Yahweh materializes and prophesies to these pariahs:

Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Yahweh’s Anointed.  And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  (Luke 2:10-12)

And this was the sign that King Ahaz refused so many centuries before, casting his people into slavery and oppression they endured until this very century.  So, suddenly then, a multitude of the heavenly host materializes right there in that crude camp, and shepherds and angels cry in unison, “Glory to El Elyon, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

 

Anna’s Changed Her Entreaty

   In the Court of the Women at the Jerusalem Temple, there’s a familiar old woman who’s been seen there every day for as long as anyone’s been alive in the entire province.  Everyone knows Anna, a prophetess of the tribe of Asher, because she publicly fasts and prays, and recites to everyone she meets a passage of Scripture that she says will soon come to pass.  ¿The Scripture she proclaims?  “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel: Elohim-with-us.”  But now, after all these years, she’d changed her entreaty, attracting attention and telling everyone that this prophecy is no longer to be, but has now come to pass.

 

Simeon, Departing in Peace

   A suckling child is brought into Jerusalem with much fanfare – only eight days old – a first-born – to be consecrated to Yahweh through the rite of circumcision.  A certain young man came to dwell in the temple courts because Yahweh told him to stay there and watch, for the prophecy of the virgin bearing the “Immanuel Child” would come to pass in his lifetime, and that he would see the salvation of Israel.  Now Simeon, of the tribe of Simeon, is a very old man that everyone knows.  He’d spent his entire life – watching children being carried across his pathway for consecration; watching for the child.  And when he spies Mary and Joseph bringing this child forth, his old knees hoisted him up, and he steels the child from the arms of his mother, hastily lifting the infant to the sky, and crying out,

O Yahweh, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.  Amen and amen.  (Luke 2:29-32)

 

A Prophecy For Today

   Today – this same virgin has conceived in our lives, and this holy child has been born in our hearts, and this light has dawned in our souls, and this prophecy has been fulfilled again just as it has been year after year, heart after heart.  We know this child not only as the righteous teacher, the Savior of the world, but as the sacrificial lamb that made a way for us, strangers, pagans, heathens, sinners and trash, to enter in upon the highway of his holiness toward the bosom of Yahweh that illuminates the Eternal City of Love and Light.  And his light and life are not just matters of faith to us, but as the prophets foretold, he has shown us how to choose the good from the evil, he has given us a share in his household, he has strengthened us to tear down walls and build bridges, he has blessed the fruit of our wombs.  In his presence, our spirits leap for joy, for we can see him in each other and rejoice in our salvation with the host of heaven.  And when it’s time to go, we go in peace, to the eternal kingdom prepared before the face of all people.

 

A Prophecy For the Future

   As for the future, Yahweh has left us his promise: “I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.”  Like King Ahaz, we have a destiny-changing choice to make, a selection that may affect our families for the next seven hundred years.  It’s a choice for freedom – or for bondage; for heaven or for hell; for Millennium or for judgment.  Yahweh says, “If you will not take your stand on me – you will not stand.”  We must be wiser and more humble than King Ahaz in our choice.  Beloved, if you haven’t taken your stand on him, if you’ve refused him or turned your back on him, if you’ve only given him second place or some small compartment in your heart, now is your time to say yea or nay to the sign of his coming – that a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, the sign that is now imploring you to come and worship.  Come and worship.  Come.  Amen.

 December 25, 2003